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Metaphysics mind or reason, esp when regarded as the principle governing all things



one of the basic categories in classical philosophy, representing a generalization of all the laws of the meaning, reason, and thought that prevail in the universe and in man.

In ancient Greek natural philosophy (sixth to fifth centuries B.C.), nous is closely associated with the sensual and material cosmos. According to Democritus, nous is a “god in a globe of fire.” Epicharmus asserts that the sun is “wholly nous,” and Archelaus, that “god is air and nous.” During this period the most developed conception of nous was provided by Anax-agoras. With regard to nous in the human soul, Greek natural philosophy gradually made the transition from an undifferentiated understanding that equated nous with knowledge, opinions, and sensations in the soul to a conception that juxtaposed nous to the affective-volitional aspect of sensory perceptions and ideas, to the body (Democritus) and the eyes (Empedocles).

The idealistic conception of nous as the principle of world order and harmony was developed by Plato, who treated the relationship between nous and the universe dialectically. Aristotle believed that all the ideas of things form a world whole, or world nous, which is the form of forms and feeling of feelings—the actually thinking eternity in which every sensory thing has its idea. Aristotle thought that these ideas are eternally effective and constitute the eternal and immovable nous, which he called the prime mover. Thus, with the doctrine of the nous, Aristotle, rather than Plato, is the remote precursor of Neoplatonism.

The Stoics, who considered nous the divine principle or fate, treated it pantheistically as something fiery that penetrated everything, even the smallest parts of the universe. However, already in the second and first centuries B.C. the Platonic representatives of the Middle Stoa, Panaetius of Rhodes and Posidonius, ceased to regard nous as something material and fiery and transformed it into the world order, beginning with the pure and absolute nous and proceeding through all the stages of material being to natural phenomena and man. Numenius, who was close to Neoplatonism, viewed nous as a demiurge. One of Plotinus’ teachers, Ammonius Saccas (third century A.D.), clearly distinguished nous from everything spiritual and corporeal.

Plotinus (third century A.D.), who reworked the teachings of Anaxagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, developed the doctrine of nous as the eternally self-motioned relationship of Being to itself. In Plotinus’ works nous is distinguished from the One and from the “soul” and is characterized by the identity between subject and object. The luminous nature of nous was explained on the basis of Platonic concepts. Plotinus expounded a detailed doctrine about the inner ascent of man to the ultimate luminous concentration in nous and through nous to the concentration in the One.

The disciples and followers of Plotinus strove to differentiate and define precisely the subject-object relationship within nous. Proclus (fifth century A.D.) proposed a triadic division of nous: that which is thought and is, or the image; thinking ideas; and the synthesis of both, which is understood as life.

The classical theory of nous historically had enormous philosophical significance. It contributed to the creation of a unified concept of a cognized, lawlike principle juxtaposed to all that is accidental, chaotically transient, and empirical.


References in periodicals archive ?
2), which is itself dependent on a metaphysics of participation in the divine mind.
In fact, the denial that the divine mind is a substance was to be found in the philosopher Proclus, who had criticized Plato himself for implicitly attributing "being" to "the one.
But after a close examination of the statement we see that Arminius is emphasising the "external act of predestination" and "the Divine mind.
It was sincerely believed that the human being (or, to be a little more explicit, the male human mind) was a finite copy of the infinite Divine Mind, and that the concepts through which we think are little copies of the unchanging Divine Ideas.
It is when he declares not the common intelligibility of the common world, as it is to be measured by the divine mind, but the interior world of his own will, which, while it may itself be measured by both the divine truth and the divine will, is not itself in its immediacy a rule for any other created intellect.
Because he wanted to create a system of universal memory, and because the human mind is a mirror of the divine mind and the divine mind manifests itself in its immutable laws in the course and disposition of the stars, Bruno probably deemed it necessary to produce, as the substratum of his art, a geometrical system capable of representing that very same structure.
The contrast between Neoplatonic intellectual salvation and how in 'sonship the mind meets God face to face as he is participable, not in his supereminence' (159), which connects both with the Christian understanding of the Platonic Forms in the divine mind (37ff.
Furthermore, she retrieves an understanding of the universe itself as a body, held together by the divine mind (nous), which functions in the same way as the soul (pneuma) in the individual body.
As he wrote, the exemplars of all forms were in the divine mind and appeared to mortals as shadows.
Religious believers have often held that this order, especially as manifested in the means-end adaptation exhibited by biological organisms, makes it reasonable to infer that the universe has been created or shaped by a divine mind.
According to this tradition, the intelligibility of the sensible world, including our capacity to have thoughts about it, is grounded in the divine mind and its thoughts.
Momus agrees to believe in the idea of a pure, divine mind of which Chiron is half a representation, although making it clear that his belief is held only to please Jove: in other words, he has no choice.