Memory, imaginary and Aristotelian epistemology. On the nature of apterous fly

Claudiu Mesaros


Ioan Petru Culianu has written a book about the emergence of modern science and religious behavior starting from the Aristotelian concept of phantasia. An essential premise for discussing problems of modern cultural and religious importance is the proper understanding of memory and philosophical grounds for such concepts as memory and recollection. Aristotelianism has been repeatedly mentioned as a main source of memory concepts, along with Plato, later Roman tradition and then mediaeval reconsiderations of Aristotelian texts.

In my study I am following in parallel both Aristotle’s theory of memory and imagination and modern theories concerning Aristotelian epistemology and build arguments for the thesis that modern theories concerning the importance of induction in Aristotle’s epistemology miss an important link, namely, the key function of memory techniques for understanding the whole of Aristotle’s theory of knowledge. Memory is the domain of technique or art (techne) but not the grounding site for science.

Truth and false are not an issue for Aristotle’s theory of knowledge because sensibility and theoretical intellect cannot be false. Memory, imagination and recollection as functions of an intermediary link are the most fluid and uncontrollable parts of the cognitive psyche, as they function as necessary bridges from corporeal sensitive knowledge to intellectual formal understanding. Memory is still corporeal as a function but delivers images for the intellectual activity. The whole process of knowledge depends on such a fluid and non rigorous function. Aristotle suggests natural memory can be pointed as the very cause for imperfection of knowledge. Human being is thus an insolvable epistemic duality since science needs memory but memory itself is rather the object of custom, art and technique. Science and religion have, according to such Aristotelian premise, a necessary common imaginary.


memory, recollection, imagination, epistemology, mnemonic techniques, Aristotle, judgments, intellect

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