Thursday, May 22, 2008


The word nous is somewhat ambiguous, a result of being appropriated by successive philosophers to designate very different concepts.

* Homer used nous to signify mental activities in general, but in the pre-Socratics it became increasingly identified with knowledge and with reason as opposed to sense perception.

* Anaxagoras's nous was a mechanical ordering force that formed the world out of an original chaos. It began the development of the cosmos.

* Plato described it as the immortal, rational part of the soul. It is a godlike kind of thinking in which the truths of conclusions are immediately known without having to understand the preliminary premises.

* Aristotle asserted that nous was the intellect, as distinguished from sense perception. He divided it into an active and passive nous. The passive is affected by knowledge. The active is an immortal first cause of all subsequent causes in the world.

* To the Stoics, it was the same as logos. This is the whole cosmic reason. It contains human reason as a part.

* Plotinus described nous as one of the emanations from divine being.

* Some modern followers of the God Antinous consider him the oppossite of nous, the irrational, Dionysian aspect of Spirit.

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