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The Powers of Aristotle's Soul$
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Thomas Kjeller Johansen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199658435

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658435.001.0001

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The Definition of Dunamis

The Definition of Dunamis

(p.73) 4 The Definition of Dunamis
The Powers of Aristotle's Soul

Thomas Kjeller Johansen

Oxford University Press

Capacities depend definitionally on the activities they are capacities for. Several questions are raised by this dependency. First, since the activities only arise in certain circumstances should those circumstances enter into the account of the capacities themselves, and if so in what way? Aristotle includes some external factors in his accounts of the capacities of the soul, most importantly their objects, but ensures explanatory economy by limiting the number of psychological capacities. Second, given that the activities are changes that are either active or passive and belong to either the category of substance, quality, quantity, or place, questions arise over how to characterize the psychological capacities accordingly. The capacities of the soul are also constitutive of the nature of living beings as their inner principles of change. A difficulty is addressed which arises for this characterization from Metaph. Θ's distinction between capacities and natures. Finally, in extension of the role of the soul's capacities as nature, they work as final, formal, and efficient causes of life activities. None of these causes are properly understood subject to the charge of explanatory vacuity, as levelled by the so-called ‘virtus dormitiva’ objection.

Keywords:   principle of change, active/passive, categories, natural, four causes

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