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On the Time of the Intellect: The Interpretation of De Anima 3.6 (430b 7–20) in Renaissance and Early Modern Italian Philosophy

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This article argues that an original debate over the relationship between time and the intellect took place in Northern Italy in the second half of the sixteenth century, which was part of a broader reflection on the temporality of human mental acts. While human intellectual activity was said to be ‘above time’ during the Middle Ages, Renaissance scholars such as Marcantonio Genua (1491–1563), Giulio Castellani (1528–1586), Antonio Montecatini (1537–1599) and Francesco Piccolomini (1520–1604), greatly influenced by the Simplician and Alexandrist interpretations of Aristotle’s works, proposed alternative conceptions based on the interpretation of De anima 3.6 (430b 7–20) according to which intellectual acts happen in a both ‘undivided’ and ‘divisible time’. In order to explain Aristotle’s puzzling claim, they were led to conceive of intellectual activity as a process similar to sensation, corresponding to a certain lapse of time (Castellani), an instant (Montecatini), or a mix of instantaneousness and concrete duration (Picco­lomini), depending on their theoretical options.

Affiliations: 1: University of Liege


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