THE METAPHYSICAL POETS: DISSOCIATION – CRITICAL …

He was concerned with the process that he saw (some decades ago) in courses where the critical faculties of students are systematically destroyed. He first asks us to picture a civilisation where respect for truth is a powerful belief and systematic thinking is prized in intellectual and practical pursuits. Each feature of this civilisation would have characteristics derived from that prevailing habit of mind.

Pseudo Critical Thinking in the Educational Establ

Ultimately, though, Aristotle does come to the conclusion that thereis a faculty of desire (orektikon) whose occupation it is toinitiate animal motion. (Perhaps his initial reservations pertainedonly to one species of desire considered in isolation.) In any case, hesays plainly: “It is manifest, therefore, that what is calleddesire is the sort of faculty in the soul which initiatesmovement” (De Anima iii 10, 433a31–b1). He understandsthis conclusion, however, in tandem with another which also serves as aqualification of his earlier finding that mind cannot be the source ofmotion. He holds, in fact, that it is reasonable to posit two facultiesimplicated in animal movement: desire and practical reason (DeAnima iii 10, 433a17–19), though they do not work in isolationfrom one another. Rather, practical reason, broadly construed toincorporate the kind of image-processing present in non-human animals,is a source of movement when it focuses upon an object of desire assomething desirable. So, practical reason and desire act corporately asthe sources of purposive motion in all animals, both human andnon-human (De Anima iii 10, 433a9–16), even though,ultimately, it is desire whose objects prick practical intellect andset it in motion (De Anima iii 10, 433a17–2). For this reason,Aristotle concludes, there is a faculty of desire whose activities andobjects are primarily, if not autonomously or discretely, responsiblefor initiating end-directed motion in animals. What animals seek inaction is some object of desire which is or seems to them to begood.


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In these, as in countless other cases, the explanation of animalaction, human and non-human alike, easily and unreflectively appeals todesire. This is why Aristotle does not end his De Anima with adiscussion of mind. Instead, after discussing mind, he notes that allanimals are capable of locomotion, only to deny that any one of thefaculties of the soul so far considered (viz. nutrition, perception, ormind) can account for desire-initiated movement. Although he hadinitially identified only these three faculties of soul (DeAnima ii 2, 413b12), Aristotle now notes that something mustexplain the fact that animals engage in goal-directed behavior in orderto achieve their conscious and unconscious goals. The wantedexplanation cannot, he urges, be found somehow in the nutritivefaculty, since plants, as living beings, have that power of soul, butdo not move themselves around in pursuit of their goals; nor is it dueto perception, since even some animals have this faculty without evermoving themselves at all, in any way (Aristotle evidently has in mindsponges, oysters, and certain testacea, Historia Animalium i1, 487b6–9; viii 1 588b12; Partibus Animalium iv 5, 681b34,683c8); nor again can it be a product of mind, since insofar as it iscontemplative, mind does not focus upon objects likely to issue indirectives for action, and insofar as it does commend action, mind isnot of itself sufficient to engender motion, but instead relies uponappetite (De Anima iii 9, 432b14–33a5). Indeed, using the sameform of reasoning, that a faculty cannot account for purposive actionif its activity is insufficient to initiate motion, Aristotle initiallyconcludes that even desire itself (orexis) cannot beresponsible for action. After all, continent people, unlike those whoare completely and virtuously moderate, have depraved desires but donot, precisely because they are continent, ever act upon them (DeAnima iii 9 433a6–8; cf. Nicomachean Ethics i 13,1102b26). So their desires are insufficient for action. Consequently,he concludes, desire alone, considered as a single faculty, cannotexplain purposive action, at least not completely.