Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 March 2022
This is a close scrutiny of De Anima II.5, led by two questions. First, what can be learned from so long and intricate a discussion about the neglected problem of how to read an Aristotelian chapter? Second, what can the chapter, properly read, teach us about some widely debated issues in Aristotle’s theory of perception? I argue that it refutes two claims defended by Martha Nussbaum, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Sorabji: (i) that when Aristotle speaks of the perceiver becoming like the object perceived, the assimilation he has in mind is ordinary alteration of the type exemplified when fire heats the surrounding air, (ii) that this alteration stands to perceptual awareness as matter to form. Claim (i) is wrong because the assimilation that perceiving is is not ordinary alteration. Claim (ii) is wrong because the special type of alteration that perceiving is is not its underlying material realisation. Indeed, there is no mention in the text of any underlying material realisation for perceiving.