Philoponus' Potentially Ensouled Bodies

Jorge Mittelmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In commenting on Aristotle’s ‘most common account’ (κοινότατος λόγος) of the soul – which portrays it as ‘the first actuality of a natural body having life in potentiality’– Philoponus suggests that seeds and embryos are not potentially alive bodies, despite ‘having become ready to receive life from the soul’ (209.17). To the extent that something’s suitability to be ensouled turns it eo ipso into a potentially alive thing, Philoponus’ remark may betray a contradiction, that can be handled by tinkering with the scope of a closely attached adverb. This paper argues that no such intervention is required, however, and that apparent inconsistencies vanish as soon as Neoplatonic embryology and Philoponus’ lexical background are given their due.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195 - 218
Number of pages24
JournalAncient Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023


  • Soul
  • Potentiality
  • Actuality


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