Sobre los sueños de Aristóteles

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2020
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30-04-2021
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Abstract
Title On Dreams of Aristotle Introduction The general subject of my research work is about the psychology of Aristotle, focusing on the aspect of dreams. But, insofar as dreaming is a phenomenon that happens during sleep, and both are mutually related, it is unavoidable to deal also with the subject of sleep. So, the core of my work is based on De Insomniis, which forms an indivisible whole with De Somno et Vigilia, and De Divinatione per Somnum, in the Parva Naturalia treatises of Aristotle. Moreover, as we are dealing with psychology, the backdrop throughout will be De Anima, basis of our author’s psychological ideas, and reference text for all the work. Objectives I will do a deep study of the De Insomniis, with my translation, philological analysis, interpretation and commentary. I will also translate De Anima, and the passages of De Somno et Vigilia and De Divinatione per Somnum, as needed. De Somno et Vigilia is primarily a physiological treatise. De Divinatione per Somnum deals with the precognitive aspect of dreams; very present in the society of his time, that related dreams to divinity, and attributed divinatory and healing powers to them. Therefore, a commentary about Antiphon the Sophist, and Artemidoros of Daldis is also included. In this connection, I think it is appropriate to comment on the significance of the phenomenon of dreams in ancient Greek culture. An important aspect of my philological work is the analysis of the Greek vocabulary on sleep and dreams –that forms chapter 5. To the extent that Aristotle makes use of the ideas of his predecessors, that he considers acceptable, I include a general overview of the thinking of these authors –mainly, Homer, the Presocratics, Hippocrates and Plato. For a better understanding of the Aristotelian thought, a few brushstrokes on his style and method will be added. Notwithstanding the primarily philological aim of this research and, taking into consideration that it is framed in the psychology of Aristotle, I will devote chapter 9 to contrasting our philosopher’s ideas with the findings of contemporary research into sleep and dreams. As far as the φαντασία is a determining element for the origin of dreams, in Aristotle, an appendix will be added, relative to this faculty, in our philosopher. Methodology My research work will be primarily based on the texts of Aristotle, also of his commentators, and other specialized studies –primary and secondary sources. As stated above, I will translate De Anima, De Insomniis, and some passages of De Somno et Vigilia, De Divinatione per Somnum, and other texts of Aristotle and other authors, whenever necessary. Throughout my work, there will be a permanent reference to the fundamental axes of Aristotelian philosophy, which are the backbone of his thought. In all the research, and especially in chapter 5 (‘The vocabulary of sleep and dreams’), I will use different philological instruments, of a computerized nature, and also printed; including: ‘Διογένης Searching Tool of Ancient Texts’ (version 3.2.0), (P.J. Heslin, 1999-2007), data Thesaurus Linguae Graecae; Word Study Tool (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/) Greek and Latin; ‘Index Aristotelicus’ (Hermannus Bonitz, 1870); ‘Lexicon Homericum’ (H. Ebeling, Vol. I, 1885, Vol. II, 1880); in addition to the various Greek and Latin, Indo-European and etymological dictionaries; and other lexicons of Greek culture, which will be indicated in the Bibliography. For chapter 9, in which the thought of Aristotle is contrasted with current research on sleep and dreams, I will use the most recent bibliography of current researchers, as well as articles recently published in specialized journals.   Conclusions Aristotle carried out the first systematic and scientific study of antiquity, on the subject of sleep and dreams, with an almost total lack of technological resources and means of experimentation. Despite this, many of his postulates are in line with what current research supports, and some of his claims have been corroborated by modern neurophysiology. At the heart of his psychological ideas is his theory of the soul, as the first ἐντελέχεια of an organized natural body, which has life in potentiality. In our philosopher the emergence of empirical consciousness is already taking place –a fundamental fact for psychology. The κοινὸν αἰσθητήριον has the common faculty of all senses, by which we realize that we perceive. Aristotle’s study of dreams is devoid of the character of divine transmission and free from superstition. It considers dreaming a natural phenomenon, the result of physiological and psychic processes, inherent in human nature, that take place within the person. It explains the dream phenomenon, in relation to sensory perception. Dreams are generated from the residual impressions of sensation, by the action of the φαντασία. Aristotle’s treatise De Insomniis is the best study on the physiology of dreaming, of antiquity. Not in vain does Freud consider the philosopher ‘the founder of oneiric science’. In De Divinatione per Somnum, the Stagirite accepts precognition in dreams, but gives an explanation of natural origin. He creates his own theory of waves, based on the theory of the effluvia and simulacra of Democritus, and anticipates the extrasensory perception, or telepathy, of contemporary parapsychology. Aristotle states that sleep is produced by a cooling. According to modern neurophysiology, the sleep–wake cycle depends on a homeostatic thermoregulation mechanism: when the brain temperature exceeds a certain threshold, drowsiness occurs, which leads to cooling. For our author, the origin of sleep is initiated by the process of digestion. Although this postulate is not correct, a certain relationship between the digestive process and sleep has been demonstrated experimentally. And, also, that sleep is a universal phenomenon, as Aristotle argued. Current research corroborates our philosopher’s general thesis that sleep serves the restoration of the animal, and the correct execution of its vital functions. Broadly speaking, the general postulate of Aristotle’s dreams is in line with the results of current research, although there are notable differences in physiological processes. They coincide in being an internally generated process, when the paths of the particular senses are disabled. Also, in that the waking experience provides a basic material to compose dreams. There is a parallelism, in the explanation of deceit in dreaming: “because the main and judging part is disabled” (Aristotle) / “because the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is deactivated during sleep (current neurophysiology). Our philosopher anticipates “lucid dreaming”, by admitting that sometimes, while we are sleeping, we are aware of being dreaming. Likewise, Aristotle admits –albeit somewhat hesitantly–, as current research shows, that we may always dream, but we do not remember our dreams. Interestingly, he also attributes to other animals the ability to dream. Although current neurophysiology recognizes some polysomnographic features, which accompany REM sleep, in some animals; however, this conscious experience cannot properly be considered dreaming, since these animals do not have the verbal capacity, nor the abstract and logical thinking, necessary for their cognitive processing. Our author does not assign any purpose to dreams, as he considers them a “weakened sensation”. Current neurophysiology maintains that dreaming brings benefits to the human being (emotional adaptation, maintenance of psychic balance and of our personal identity, memory reorganization, the function of brain development and the consolidation of neuronal synapses). Another important benefit of dreaming is the creative aspect, since the hyper–associative character of dreaming helps to find solutions to problems. Aristotle had already recognized that dreams open the way to actions that are carried out during waking. The philosopher also affirms the prodromal nature of dreams, showing signs of barely incipient diseases. This aspect has also been corroborated by current research.
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