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I need to understand Aristotles role in the history of psychology
-- Jennifer Oatla (email@example.com), July 30, 2002
Aristotle wrote the first book (that we know of) specifically on the topic of the psyche (_Peri Psyches_ in Greek, though it now usually goes by its Latin title _De Anima_, or the English translation _On the Soul_). For Aristotle the psyche is not just the "mind," but is also the formal, final, and efficient "causes" of the living animal, incl. humans. (The body is the material "cause"). The psyche is not, for Aristotle an immaterial "spirit" in the Christian sense (which is why _On the Soul_ is a very misleading translation of the title).
He tries to clarify the psyche's relation to the body through a series of metaphors. First, he compares it to the relation of a house to the pile of bricks of which the house is made (403a-b). Later, in Book II, he compares the relation of the body and psyche to that of a lump of wax and a pattern stamped into it. It would seem somewhat strange to ask whether the wax and the pattern are two separate things. Similarly, Aristotle says, "we should not then inquire whether the psyche and body are one thing, any more than whether the wax and its imprint are..." (412b). He immediately moves on to another related metaphor. He says, "if some tool, say an axe, were a natural body, its substance would be being an axe, and this would then be its psyche" (412b, italics added). Finally Aristotle presents a fourth analogy. He says that "if the eye was an animal, then sight would be its psyche" (412b). "So just as pupil and sight are the eye," he goes on, "so, in our case, psyche and body are the animal" (413a).
The book also covers a number of "psychological" (as we understand the term) issues as well -- perception, desire, movement, imagination, and thought. The details are too complicated to go into them here. Aristotle's thought was the basis of much Medieval scholarship, especially Thomas Aquinas and after, and it hada revival again in the 19th century. Today Joseph Rychlak's work on psychology as a "rigorous humanism" has its roots in Aristotle as well. Two collections of very good essays on Aristotle psychology can be found in Michael Durrant's _Aristotle's De Anima In Focus_ and in Nussbaum & Rorty's _Essays on Aristotle's De Anima_.
I hope this helps.
-- Christopher Green (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 30, 2002.