COLLOQUIUM: Matt Walker, Yale-NUS, "Psychic Immortality in Aristotle’s Eudemus?"

Thursday, September 27, 2018 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

402 Cohen Hall

Following a tradition of ancient commentary, some contemporary scholars have suggested that fragments from, and testimony about, Aristotle’s lost Eudemus provide strong evidence for thinking that Aristotle, at least at some point, accepted the soul’s unqualified immortality (either in whole or in part). On the basis of the (scant) available evidence, I challenge the current consensus about the dialogue’s commitment to unqualified immortality. We need not, I argue, infer that Aristotle was committed in this work to the soul’s unqualified immortality. Although the Eudemus apparently did somehow address the soul’s unqualified immortality, its doing so provides little evidence for holding that Aristotle himself, as its author, was committed to the soul’s unqualified immortality. On the contrary, we can formulate an alternative, deflationary hypothesis to explain why Aristotle might have been presenting arguments for the soul’s unqualified immortality. On my hypothesis, the Aristotle of the Eudemus could well have been sympathetically presenting common beliefs about the soul that the De Anima and the Parva Naturalia address more scientifically.