Aristotle on Illusory Perception: Phantasia without Phantasmata

Ancient Philosophy 21 (1):57-71 (2001)
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In De Anima III.3 Aristotle presents his official discussion of phantasia (“imagination” in most translations). At the very outset of the discussion Aristotle offers as an endoxon that “phantasia is that in virtue of which we say that a phantasma occurs to us” (428a1-2). Now a natural reading of this claim, taken up by many commentators, can pose a problem for Aristotle’s overall account of perception. Here I argue that, although it would be silly to deny that Aristotle considers phantasia to be that in virtue of which a phantasma occurs to someone, it is not silly to deny that phantasmata are present in every case in which phantasia is operative. This suggestion bolsters the idea that, according to Aristotle’s account of veridical perception, we can understand the world as making itself perceptually manifest to the perceiver.
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