Aristotle's Cognitive Science: Belief, Affect and Rationality

Aristotle's Cognitive Science: Belief, Affect and Rationality

Ian McCready-Flora

Language: English

Pages: 42

ISBN: 2:00178257

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

I offer a novel interpretation of Aristotle’s psychology and notion of rationality, which
draws the line between animal and specifically human cognition. Aristotle distinguishes
belief (doxa), a form of rational cognition, from imagining (phantasia), which is shared
with non-rational animals. We are, he says,“immediately affected” by beliefs, but
respond to imagining “as if we were looking at a picture.” Aristotle’s argument has
been misunderstood; my interpretation explains and motivates it. Rationality includes a
filter that interrupts the pathways between cognition and behavior. This prevents the
subject from responding to certain representations. Stress and damage compromise the
filter, making the subject respond indiscriminately, as non-rational animals do. Beliefs
are representations that have made it past the filter, which is why they can “affect [us]
immediately.” Aristotle’s claims express ceteris paribus generalizations, subject to
exceptions. No list of provisos could turn them into non-vacuous universal claims, but
this does not rob them of their explanatory power. Aristotle’s cognitive science resolves
a tension we grapple with today: it accounts for the specialness of human action and
thinking within a strictly naturalistic framework. The theory is striking in its insight and
explanatory power, instructive in its methodological shortcomings





















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