The Five Categories of the Soul

Here’s a recent piece on Greek concepts of the truth from The Conversation. It is part of a series developed with WBUR’s On Point, called “In Search of Truth” (here’s the first episode)

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1139b

“Let’s discuss about these matters, starting from a deeper point. Let it stand that the soul has five categories in which to establish or deny the truth: these are skill, knowledge, prudence, wisdom, and intelligence. The mind is likely to deceive itself through supposition or opinion.”

Ἀρξάμενοι οὖν ἄνωθεν περὶ αὐτῶν πάλιν λέγωμεν. ἔστω δὴ οἷς ἀληθεύει ἡ ψυχὴ τῷ καταφάναι ἢ ἀποφάναι πέντε τὸν ἀριθμόν· ταῦτα δ᾿ ἐστὶ τέχνη, ἐπιστήμη, φρόνησις, σοφία, νοῦς· ὑπολήψει γὰρ καὶ δόξῃ ἐνδέχεται διαψεύδεσθαι.

Aristotle, On the Soul 404a

“Thus Anaxagoras also said that the soul makes movement—along with the rest who argued that the soul moved everything—but not exactly the same way as Democritus. For Democritus simply said that the soul and mind are the same and that truth is as things appear [subjective]. For this reason, he thinks that Homer described well when he has “Hektor lying there thinking differently”. He does not use the word “mind” [noos] as the power for discerning the truth, but he says that the soul and the mind are the same.”

Ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Ἀναξαγόρας ψυχὴν εἶναι λέγει τὴν κινοῦσαν, καὶ εἴ τις ἄλλος εἴρηκεν ὡς τὸ πᾶν ἐκίνησε νοῦς, οὐ μὴν παντελῶς γ᾿ ὥσπερ Δημόκριτος. ἐκεῖνος μὲν γὰρ ἁπλῶς ταὐτὸν ψυχὴν καὶ νοῦν· τὸ γὰρ ἀληθὲς εἶναι τὸ φαινόμενον· διὸ καλῶς ποιῆσαι τὸν Ὅμηρον ὡς “Ἕκτωρ κεῖτ᾿ ἀλλοφρονέων.” οὐ δὴ χρῆται τῷ νῷ ὡς δυνάμει τινὶ περὶ τὴν ἀλήθειαν, ἀλλὰ ταὐτὸ λέγει ψυχὴν καὶ νοῦν.

“Aristotle” by Justus van Gent (1476)

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