Aristotle on Time and the Soul

Title: Aristotle on Time and the Soul
Authors: Striowski, Andra
Date: 2016
Abstract: In this thesis I seek to explain a simple and yet quite difficult point about the nature of time: time is not motion, despite the fact that time and motion seem to be intertwined and interdependent. Aristotle calls time “something of motion (ti tēs kinēseōs).” His most concentrated account of time is presented within his treatise on physics, which is devoted to the study of motion and its principles and causes. The challenge of interpreting Aristotle’s account of time is to understand how it is fitting both that 1) a discussion about the nature of time emerges within the Physics, and that 2) a full and adequate account of time must exceed the scope of physics. Such a challenge obliges our attention not only as readers of Aristotle, but is furthermore relevant to anyone who seeks to give a coherent account of time, as one must in any case confront the ways in which time differs from motion while being an indispensable condition of it. Near the end of his account of time in the Physics, Aristotle presents us with an aporia that speaks directly to this challenge when he asks whether or not there can be time without soul. I suggest that a negative answer to this question – if time cannot exist without soul – means that the nature of time properly extends beyond physics. Aristotle has left it up to us to explore this possibility, since he does not pursue it explicitly himself. He merely formulates it in the Physics as a question. However, I argue that the absence of a definitive answer to this question there is not a sign that the nature of time is somehow beyond the capacity of Aristotle’s thought. After examining Aristotle’s account of time in the Physics, I look at his corpus more broadly, paying close attention to the way that Aristotle distinguishes the soul from the rest of nature at the beginning of the De Anima. The distinction between the living and the non-living is not made in the Physics, because it is not required for that study. In the Physics Aristotle studies what is shared by living things and the elements that sustain life within the ordered cosmos. As such, the focus of the Physics is on the causes of motion and change as what connects and distinguishes embodied individuals within this whole. But what it would mean to say that time depends on soul, and not simply on motion, cannot be addressed adequately in the Physics, since what distinguishes the activities of living from the incomplete activity of moving does not pertain to the main concerns of this treatise. By paying respectful attention to the structure of distinctions that organize Aristotle’s works as such, I make the case for time’s dependence on soul. I examine Aristotle’s accounts of animal and human awareness of time in the De Anima and Parva Naturalia and find that certain activities of the soul – sensation, memory, and deliberative reasoning - provide resources that can help us come to understand the most perplexing features of his account of time in the Physics, precisely those features that the analogies between time and motion or magnitude fail to explain: the simultaneity of diverse motion, the sameness and difference of the now, the differentiation of time into parts, and the way that time contains and exceeds (“numbers”) all possible motions. Thus I conclude that there cannot be time without soul, because the soul’s active nature must come into view in order to explain the features of time that distinguish it from motion.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -