Public Defense of Attila Hangai on Alexander of Aphrodisias on phantasia: An Aristotelian account of mental representation in 2nd-3rd centuries CE

Doctoral Defenses
Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 4:00pm
Add to Calendar
Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 4:00pm to 7:00pm

The Department of Philosophy cordially invites you to the Public Defense of the PhD Dissertation
Attila Hangai
Alexander of Aphrodisias on phantasia: An Aristotelian account of mental representation in 2nd-3rd centuries CE

Supervisor: István Bodnár
Members of the Defense Committee:
Frans de Haas (Leiden University)
Victor Caston (University of Michigan)

Chair: Hanoch Ben-Yami


I analyse the account of phantasia of Alexander of Aphrodisias. I argue that Alexander proceeds from an Aristotelian framework of parts and capacities of the soul, but unlike Aristotle, he posits a distinct capacity for phantasia. I identify his main reason for this in his polemic against the Stoics. The distinct status of a phantasia-capacity in itself modifies the architecture of the soul in comparison with Aristotle`s theory. But in addition Alexander makes important changes in the framework: he makes capacities as basic (and rather modular), and parts and the soul as sets of capacities.
The object of phantasia is the residue from perception in activity. It is internal object, I show, insofar as it is a physical process in the body. Again, I argue that it is the causal object of phantasia: it is the item that provides content to the phantasia-activity by triggering the activity. But the residue is not an intentional object: it is a representation of something else. I give a reconstruction of Alexander`s account how the residue may be representation. Accordingly, it is a representation in virtue of preserving fully a perceptual content (something that had been perceived); or in virtue of functioning as an equivalent of a fully preserved residue insofar as phantasia completed an incompletely preserved residue. The latter case explains a wide range of cases, in general the fact that phantasia is more prone to error than perception.
Finally I analyse the activity of phantasia. I argue that its content is propositional, in particular it is ‘S is P’: a predication of a perceptible feature P of a thing that caused a perception S, e.g. ‘this is white’. The two positive evidences I analyse: (1) Alexander`s account of the truth-conditions of phantasia: phantasia is about an existent thing, S; and it is such as the thing, P. (2) The account of simultaneous perception (of several perceptibles) entails propositional content, and even uses examples as ‘this is white’.
The phantasia-activity is krisis, which I take to be judgement: because its content is propositional. I argue that it is a certain type of judgement, perceptual, in contrast to conceptual judgements of the rational soul-part: esp. opinion. However, phantasia-judgement may be distinguished from perceptual judgement only because they are concerned with different objects: internal vs. external.