chapter  VII
18 Pages

The Matter of Thought

WithCalvin G. Normore

A doctrine very widely, though not universally, held by philosophers within the Aristotelian tradition is that the intellect is immaterial. Indeed it used be said that John Locke had been the first philosopher since antiquity to broach the possibility that matter might think. This is of course far from the truth. The view that the intellect was material was associated in both the Arabic and Latin Middle Ages with Alexander of Aphrodisias and it was widely and seriously discussed. In many minds the doctrine of the immateriality of the intellect was closely associated with that of the immortality of the intellect and even of the immortality of the soul, and, perhaps, since those who rejected the immortality of intellect (whether it be an individual intellect or an intellect for the entire human species) were few, they were also few who asserted that the intellect was material. Yet the possibility intrigued thinkers throughout the medieval period.