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De anima 2.0: Aristotelian Psychology in the Hands of Alexander of Aphrodisias 200 AD


Admission requirements

This course is open to students enrolled in MA Philosophy, or MA / Research MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations (track Classics).

Students in philosophy must be admissible to one of the following programmes:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: History & Philosophy of the Sciences, or Philosophical Anthropology & Philosophy of Culture.

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: Philosophy of Humanities, Philosophy of Natural Sciences, or Philosophy of Psychology.

Basic knowledge of ancient philosophy, esp. Aristotle, is required.


The seminar involves the student in a detailed study of one of Aristotle’s most influential works, the De anima (On the soul). The student reads large sections of this work together with the state-of-the-art in Aristotelian studies and compares them to parallel passages in the De anima written by Alexander of Aphrodisias around 200 AD. Which questions does Alexander have in common with modern readers: materialism, causal determinism, the mesh of reason and emotions? Which answers are his contribution to philosophy: soul-body hylomorphism, the faculty of the imagination, the single divine intellect that starts our thinking? In the seminar we will see the wheels of philosophical development in motion and we will inspect up close how a different time and age has influenced an intelligent reader of one and the same text. And how well do we fare ourselves, while we grapple with the classical questions of life, imagination and desire?

Course objectives

This course aims to give students:

  • detailed knowledge of Aristotle’s psychology and its place in his philosophy;

  • detailed knowledge of Alexander’s psychology and its place in his philosophy;

  • experience in critically evaluating text interpretations, both ancient and modern;

  • research experience in reconstructing the methods and aims of a late ancient commentator on Aristotle.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • psychology of Aristotle and Alexander:

  • the relations and discrepancies between the two;

  • factors that influence the reception of a philosophical text and thereby the historical development of philosophy.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • interpret complex primary texts;

  • assess differences and agreements between philosophical positions and arguments;

  • reconstruct ancient debates on the interpretation of Aristotle;

  • critically assess modern literature and recognize its dependence on ancient traditions of interpretation;

  • argue convincingly for his/her own interpretation of ancient philosophical texts.


See Timetables MA Philosophy 2015-2016

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hrs = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars: 14 × 3 hours 42 hours

  • Weekly preparation: 12 × 6 hours = 72 hours

  • Presentation: 66 hours

  • Concluding paper: 100 hours

Assessment method

  • Active participation in class (10%)

  • Paper presentation (15%)

  • Final paper (75%)


One resit will be offered, covering the final paper. The grade will replace previously earned grades for subtests. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.


Blackboard will be used for messages, and for sharing additional materials, powerpoints, bibliography.

Reading list

  • Various English translations of Aristotle De anima available on the internet.

  • An unpublished translation of Alexander of Aphrodisias’ De anima will be provided.


Please register for this course via Study administration system uSis
See also Registration for lectures and tests

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof. dr. F.A.J. de Haas