13 May 2005

Friday Recap

Recall where we are. We judged that the 'default meaning' for the term opsis in DA should be the faculty or capacity of sight, and now we are investigating whether that term can intelligently be read at 425b12-17 as having that sense. Strictly, we want to know whether what Johansen and Caston agree to call the 'moderate capacity' reading can be sustained, viz. that Aristotle in the passage mentions activities or actualizations, precisely in order to investigate capacities or faculties.

Caston claims that in the phrase au)th_ au(th~j, 'it is of itself', the referent of 'it' must be the same as the referent of 'itself'. If the one stands for a faculty, then so must the other; if the one stands for an activity, then so must the other. And yet--Johansen and Caston both agree--the 'moderate capacity' reading has to take 'it' to refer to the faculty and 'itself' to refer to the activity or actualization of that faculty. Caston claims that this disqualifies the moderate capacity reading. Since (as Johansen and Caston again both agree) the 'pure capacity reading' is not sustainable, that would leave, as the only alternative, Caston's 'activity' reading.

Johansen's reply, in sum, is that Caston presents a false alternative. It's not quite correct, Johansen insists, to say that a reference to the activity or actualization of vision cannot be, at the same time, a reference to the faculty, if the actualization is an actualization of that faculty--and he gives Aristotle's own manner of arguing, at b17-20, as an example.

One also might have a doubt as to whether the sharp distinction between activities and capacities which Caston insists upon, and even the language of 'perceptions' (as he renders aistheseis), isn't more at home in the tradition following Locke, where perceptions are treated as in principle detachable, and indeed it becomes problematic (especially in Hume), why they should be traced at all to faculties or to 'substances' in which they might be thought to inhere.

I argued, along somewhat different lines, that it seems to be Aristotle's usual procedure to analyse what might seem to be a 'simple reflexive claim' (as we might call it), ostensibly holding between an unity and itself, into a claim about the relationship between parts of that thing, and that this indeed seemed to be Aristotle's procedure here as well. In that case,
au)th_ au(th~j, 'it is of itself', would serve merely to block out something for further analysis--which, it seemed, Aristotle provided in his resolution of the aporia affecting that expression.

Let's assume that these replies are adequate. Then the next question is whether the 'moderate capacity reading' can make sense of Aristotle's regress argument.