“Aristotelian” Themes in Husserl’s Logical Investigations

  • Richard Cobb-Stevens
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 164)


In 1683, Nicolas Malebranche and Antoine Arnauld began an extended and sometimes acrimonious debate about the viability of Aristotle’s claim in the De Anima that in its cognitive function “the soul is somehow all things.” According to Malebranche, the principle of physics that there can be no action at a distance applies also to the domain of cognitive activity. It is therefore unreasonable to believe, he observes, that our minds are literally in the sky when we contemplate the stars: “It is not likely that the soul should leave the body to stroll about the heavens, as it were, in order to behold these objects.”1 Neither is it believable that our minds are capable of “walking about” even in more familiar spaces, for example, that they leave our bodies in order to see houses at a near distance. In defense of Aristotle, Arnauld responds that it is inappropriate to construe intentional presence in terms of spatial or local presence. Were God to allow our mind to leave our body and to travel to the sun in order to see it, our mind would have made, Arnauld says, “a great and very useless voyage.” It makes no difference whether bodies are present or absent, nearby or distant: “... it is for the mind the same thing.”2 Malebranche then responds that Arnauld, lacking a sense of irony, had taken his criticism too literally. The critique of the “walking-mind” had been intended only as a “good-natured ridicule” whose target was really the notion that the mind can know better what is closer, i.e., things that its body touches, or even the body itself. His point, he adds, was that the objects of the mind are intelligible, not material. The mind is not extended; it operates only within the realm of rationality, a purely intelligible realm which excludes everything material. Arnauld retorts that an intelligible sun is nothing other than the material sun as known. The point of Aristotle’s claim, he insists, was that the primary objects of our cognition are things and persons in the world around us, be they nearby or distant, present or absent.3


Logical Investigation Intentional Object Intentional Content Metaphysical Foundation Transcendental Logic 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Cobb-Stevens
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston CollegeUSA

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