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Aristotle's De anima in the Middle Ages: A History of the Mind–Body Problem(s)


Admission requirements

Sufficient background in philosophy.

Toehoorders / à la carte-studenten hebben alleen toegang tot deze cursus met toestemming van de docent.


Aristotle’s De anima is by far the most influential work in the history of philosophical psychology. Despite Descartes’s efforts of getting rid of the Aristotelian tradition once and for all, philosophers continued to developed Aristotle’s views of the soul, or: mind, body relation, even up to this day. It is, however, not an easy work to interpret. Aristotle has been read as defending functionalism, emergentism, a sui generis theory, and even substance dualism. In other words, name a theory in philosophy of mind and it has probably been attributed to Aristotle at some point. How is this possible? This seminar explores the question by turning to the medieval commentary tradition on the De anima . The medieval commentators developed and transformed Aristotle’s sometimes sketchy ideas into competing sophisticated psychological theories. Topics include the difference between soul and mind, the nature of the soul body relation, the interactions between sense cognition and abstract thought, and the possibility of self-knowledge. Turning to the medieval commentary tradition also allows us to address a methodological question: to what extent is it useful to apply contemporary labels such as functionalism to ancient and medieval views. Do these help us or hinder us?

Course objectives

Course objectives will be posted on Blackboard by the start of the course.


Friday, 13:00-16:00

Zie Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2011-2012 , BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject).
See Timetables Philosophy 2011-2012 , Timetable Undergraduate Courses in English

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Final paper



Reading list

A list of seminar readings will be made available.


Please register for this course on uSis.

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

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Na aanmelding ook inschrijven voor cursus en tentamen(s) via uSis

Contact information

Dr. ing. S.W. de Boer


Specialisaties (BA Wijsbegeerte): Geschiedenis van de filosofie, Theoretische filosofie.