Τhe psychology of Aristotle:
Α psychoanalytic therapist’s perspective
Karnac, London, 2011:166
There are some aspects that are unique in Aristotle. The diversity of subjects he excelled in, from poetry to astronomy and from mathematics to ethics, and the reference to him as “the” philosopher, are clear recognition and appreciation of his immense contribution.
Professor Charalampos Ierodiakonou, a distinguished Professor of (significantly) the “Aristotelian” University of Thessaloniki, deals with the psychology of Aristotle. He is one of the most apt persons to do so, being a sychoanalytically oriented psychiatrist, a gifted scholar, a charismatic teacher, and the author of several well-received books on Aristotle.
The book is divided into five parts: Part I deals with the soul-body problem about which Aristotle accepts a psychosomatic unity (like today’s psychobiological model).
In Part II the mental functions are described in detail. The ancient philosopher distinguishes senseperception, thought, judgement, volition, psychomotor function, affect, memory and consciousness as the main psychic processes. One is astonished at Aristotle’s ability to observe not only what is evident on the surface, but to explain intrapsychic phenomena with theories and ideas which are very close to the object of modern dynamic psychology, e.g. repression.
In Part III the views of Aristotle concerning the formation of personality are examined. The philosopher accepts different constitutional potentialities for each individual, but the significant influence of the parental environment and teachers in the shaping of a child’s personality is clearly expressed.
Part IV concerns the interpersonal relations, since Aristotle in many of his books considers Man as a social and political being (zoon politikon). Mother’s relationship with her children is considered by the philosopher the ideal love, the one that offers everything “in joys and in sorrows”. Friendship also is approached by Aristotle from many angles. He underlines the psychosocial necessity of friendship for everyone. Aristotle connects erotic love with the passion and drives of youth and describes many emotional manifestations of love affairs. His approach is what we would today call bio-psycho-social.
The last Part V deals with observations and theories of the philosopher which are very close to psychoanalytic ideas or concepts, e.g. repression, hedone, latent dreams etc.
I feel confident that this new book will bring Aristotle’s teaching closer to us and will enhance our understanding of the ideas of the philosopher on a diachronic aspect of life – the human psyche.
George N. Christodoulou,
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry
Vassilis P. Kontaxakis,
Professor of Clinical and Social Psychiatry