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Disambiguation needed[edit]

The article states that James used Nous to signify mental activities in general.

While that is handy to know, it would be even more informative if it linked to the particular person referred to rather than the rather large list of people named James. I could hazard a guess but it would be no more than a guess. --Spondoolicks 11:04, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Ah, it seems to have been vandalism. I looked back in the history and until had a go at it the sentence was Homer used Nous to signify mental activities in general.. --Spondoolicks 11:08, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Recent rewriting of this article[edit]

I am concerned about the quality of this article after recent edits. However, contrary to Doug's claim at the deletion discussion for Good sense, I am not trying to instigate the deletion of Nous. I think nous is an important topic that deserves a good encyclopedia article. Before the recent changes, it was not particularly good and certainly needed enhancement. But these recent edits are somewhat problematic, in that an editor has added a lot of material in subject areas about which he obviously has read and knows very little if anything (for example, Neoplatonic philosophy and Greek language). For example, he has taken my answers to questions on the reference desk and here turned them into encyclopedia content (e.g., I told him he might be interested in the usage of phronimoi in the New Testament in response to a confused question about "common sense" in the Bible; the use of my answer in this article is not appropriate, since my ref. desk postings are not a reliable source to which such information can be attributed, and anyway Doug has introduced an error, confounding parts of speech, in how he interpreted my ref. desk answer). Besides the extremely obvious errors, there are many others here, for example the routine omission of letters with macrons in transliterated Greek I provided Doug at the ref. desk, so that we get wrong Greek words like noma. I don't need to ponder the motives for which we've been given this article on nous: it does not matter per se that this is part of some obsession with the subject of "good sense" and "common sense." But it does matter to me that it is so ill-informed, and the most important parts of an article on nous need to be based on a knowledge of the philosophical texts that develop it as a philosophical term, not on this ungainly hodgepodge. Given the major non-attribution problem, someone might well be justified in deleting large amounts of the error-riddled content here. I hesitate to do so because important topics are raised, and so I am hopeful that some editor with more expertise may feel like boldly sorting out and recasting what is usable. Wareh 18:02, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

A couple of corrections need to be made if I turned answers from the reference desk into encyclopedia content. There is nothing in the editing where I used anyone's wording from any reference desk as a source; however I have used material sources (i.e. encyclopedias or lexicons) where it was pointed out where the information could be found. The information on the word phronimoi is from a lexicon, not anyone's wording of a reference desk. The actual wording from Wareh on the reference desk was below, which I never used; however did use the information from the lexicon as well as the several encyclopedias recommended for reference.
where the ones who have the good sense (phronimoi) to prepare prudently come out better. <-- this wording is not in the article, nor the words "prudently" or "good sense"!
Wareh further pointed out (which I am very thankful for) certain sources that I then used for the improvements done on this article. Below is his actual wording recommendations and from this you can see I did not use his actual wording as an "encyclopedic source", but used the references themselves for the material for these improvements:
For some background on Neoplatonic Nous, see Lloyd Gerson's SEP article on Plotinus (Nous is discussed under the name "Intellect" in the section "The Three Fundamental Principles of Plotinus' Metaphysics"). Also discussed under "The Intelligence" in this article. If you have subscription access to the Routledge Encyc. of Philosophy, see also here. (Plotinus is the fountainhead of Neoplatonism, which is why I'm referring to expositions of his ideas.)Wareh 11:45, 23 April 2007 (UTC)
The reason Wareh is unsuccessful to get other editors to find much fault (only a few minor edits ever done) with the improvements is because most has been obtained from various encyclopedias, lexicons, and other reference books (many of which were recommended by himself); while some was already in the article.--Doug talk 21:19, 2 May 2007 (UTC)
I wouldn't count on that, Doug. The reason why no one's responded yet is because this is a complex topic that requires a lot of background knowledge, and because the article as it stands right now is a big mess, and it's difficult to know how to fix it. But I can tell you straightaway that a Wikipedia article shouldn't be based on definitions from lexica/dictionaries. --Akhilleus (talk) 21:49, 2 May 2007 (UTC)
Out of curiousity, which Section or part is "a big mess" (which is a general term). Can you be specific? Maybe then I can furnish further where I got the material. Thanks.
Form of Good
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Related Words
Appreciate the part of the lexica/dictionaries, you are correct. Looking closer of the lexicon definition for the word phronimoi it is showing presence of mind. Turns out I did not use that definition or even the words sensible or prudent. As far as I can tell, it turns out I didn't use any of the definitions. --Doug talk 22:29, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

Doug, I might have time later to go through specific points, but a basic problem right now is that there are no inline citations anywhere in the article. So I have no idea where to go to verify any of the information in the article. If you added something based on the Stanford encylopedia, there should be a footnote indicating which article you got the information from. --Akhilleus (talk) 22:47, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

It is from various encyclopedias. Can you be more specific on the "big mess"? Actually I take that as a compliment. If the background knowledge material is so complex that it takes scholars some time to figure out what I wrote as "a big mess", then I must have a lot of background knowledge on these subjects in order to have stumped the scholars. Where in the world do you suppose I got this "complex" material? Shouldn't you already know which material is not correct without the footnotes?--Doug talk 23:01, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

Doug, you shouldn't take it as a compliment. Clarity is a virtue. So is citing your sources. --Akhilleus (talk) 23:45, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

You are correct. Give me some time and I will fill that in. I'll go back through my notes and see if I cann't put footnotes to these so that all will know where I got this information. Yes, much did come from Stanford, however I used other encyclopedias as well. I'll work on providing footnotes in the next few days, since I will have to go back to the library a few times to look them up again. Just thought maybe you knew off the top of your head which was wrong, if anything; since it was called "a big mess".--Doug talk 23:58, 2 May 2007 (UTC)


I agree with merging Divine Nous here. The other article would need a significant amount of content to justify its separate existence. And some of the references there seem dubious. Dan 06:01, 16 June 2007 (UTC)

Well, dubious material is very much at home in the current form of the article, so go ahead and merge. --Akhilleus (talk) 17:03, 16 June 2007 (UTC)
It's probably better to delete Divine Nous, as there is nothing good there. The first three footnotes at Divine Nous refer to modern-neo-Pagan-occult nonsense. Wareh 15:20, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Actually I don't disagree with a merge here. I think it is a good idea, then if there are different viewpoints on Nous they all can be presented in the same article. It appears that Plato and Aristotle had different viewpoints on this subject, so there will probably still be different viewpoints and debates over this to this day. In various articles I notice that there are several Wikipedians that have not objected for years to the Nous as emanating from the One or emerging from the world-soul, which gives rise to the manifest realm (being one of the viewpoints). Even in the article itself, it points out that there are several ambiguous meanings (viewpoints) to Nous by well know scholars of philosophy. --Doug talk 16:35, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Divine Nous has been deleted, so there's nothing to merge. Accordingly I have removed the notice. --Akhilleus (talk) 03:51, 24 June 2007 (UTC)


The article currently states that Nous, "outside of philosophical contexts", is used in the meaning "common sense". This is certainly incorrect for the Greek language. The text should make clear that the meaning "common sense" appears only in the English language. It should also be made clear that this is not the only meaning of the term, "outside of philosophical contexts", e.g. shrewdness, a synonym for mind, etc. (And, by the way, the plural in "contexts" looks a bit clumsy to these eyes...) -The Gnome 07:42, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

Please do supplement the information if you can. I'm not sure I completely understand the Greek/English point. The main philosophical usage, though a Greek-derived bit of jargon, is discussed as English not Greek; if philosophical texts in English did not speak of Nous, we'd have no article. Are the items in your "not the only meaning" list all examples of the British word rhyming with "louse"? The point of the parenthesis is to keep those together and separate (since in American English, the term is only used as philosophical [etc.] jargon with its Greek pronunciation). ("Contexts" feels best to me, but then again I may have written it back when we were cleaning up a far messier and confused presentation.) Wareh 14:47, 9 November 2007 (UTC)
OK, I did. I believe the definition is simple and succinct now. -The Gnome 09:10, 10 November 2007 (UTC)
If the colloquial use of nous rhyming with "louse" is confined to British English, shouldn't you make this clear? --NigelG (or Ndsg) | Talk 20:50, 11 June 2008 (UTC)
"Common sense" seems to me a terrible way to cash out nous. In English common sense strikes the ear with heavy connotations of "what most people believe" or "what is most obvious". I mean, I get that there is a synonymous sense of "common sense" but one rarely distinguishes that sense from all the others, which should be obvious if you go look at the wiki on [common sense]. Far better terms would be "getting it", "understanding", "discernment", "intuition" or "mother wit". 'Intuition' ought to be avoided, since it has other philosophical uses, and maybe "mother wit" because the dictionary will refer you straight to "common sense" when you look it up, but they're all better than "common sense". (talk) 05:43, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

redirects, disambiguations, etc: intellect[edit]

A discussion has started elsewhere which editors of this article are invited to comment about. But please respond here.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:58, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

update on recent editing efforts[edit]

I've obviously started trying to find time to work on this article recently, and hopefully most of my efforts are basically uncontroversial copy-edits, structural work, and adding of sourced material. (Some material has been deleted here and there but normally only because I was replacing it with something similar I could source better.) Please of course feel free to raise concerns, but also of course be easy on me because this is slow going and the subject is easy to write up in a distorted and misleading way. My reason for making a note right now on this talk page is to mention a structural principle I am seeing take shape:-

  • One based on how the article was, I've kept a basic chronological structure.
  • However, within nearly every section, the same sections come up: the nous in soul of an individual, the nous as cosmic order, and any doctrines about links between these two. Maybe I should add doctrines relating to immortality of the soul.
  • The recognition that the same categories keep coming up raises a question of whether these categories might one day provide a better structure to the article, instead of a chronological one.
  • For now, I continue with chronological.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 11:13, 21 March 2011 (UTC)

PS, concerning material I intend to get to, perhaps it helps to already note that I intend to work through each section, but I already know we need to add mention of Themistius into the post Aristotelian section, and the whole Arabic philosophical thread from Al Kindi to Averroes, which is currently completely missing. Concerning structure one area where the chronological idea explained above won't work strictly is the Middle Ages, where it will probably end up continuing to need being broken up into religions, but I think we'll need to be careful how we do that. Nous is probably one subject where various types of Christianity are going to be hard to treat as one creed! --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 11:19, 21 March 2011 (UTC)

Article order[edit]

Right now the sequence is:

  1. Gnosticism
  2. Medieval Islamic, Jewish, and Christian Averroist philosophy
  3. Christianity

Does this seem logical to you?

Kramden (talk) 21:13, 27 January 2013 (UTC)

Anything can probably be improved, but nothing is perfect and I see nothing really illogical about it? It would be good if you could give more concrete concerns and proposals but here are some notes:
  • In effect this is a Middle Ages section of the article. MayIn the Middle Ages, nous came to be handled as a religious subject.
  • Gnosticism is not just a type of Christianity. There were Gnostic versions of several religions in late antiquity, but clearly it is one movement with common themes coming from Neo Platonism.
  • Neo Platonism is the section immediately proceeding, so Gnosticism comes after it, and this has a chronological and narrative logic.
  • The middle section is really about early Islamic philosophy. Maybe the title should be tweaked. It was influenced by Neo Platonism too, and Jewish and Averroist philosophy were influenced by it.
  • Catholic and Orthodox Christianity were less influenced by Neo Platonism, at least in the forms that won out, and so it fits easier at the end. In terms of chronology, although its early influences are in late antiquity, its lasting an recognisable forms came into their own after Gnosticism and early Islamic philosophy were fading memories.
  • Narratively also, Christian philosophy leads us to modern Europe, which is the section next.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 09:38, 28 January 2013 (UTC)

Corpus hermeticum[edit]

Along with the Neoplatonism section, one should also cite the Corpus Hermeticum, which makes extensive use of the term. Some translators have muddled the Hermetica pretty badly by translating Nous as "mind." I don't have the background to dive into this particular "mess," (perhaps that will become a Wikipedian term of art) so I won't try to fix it myself. Freeman (talk) 17:27, 3 April 2013 (UTC)


Xenophon, the less famous of the two students of Socrates whose written accounts of him have survived, recorded that he taught his students a kind of teleological justification of piety and respect for divine order in nature. This has been described as an "intelligent design" argument for the existence of God, in which nature has its own nous.[1]

Described by whom? Why are we even talking about the first theological argument for 'intelligent design'? MrSativa (talk) 05:08, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

"Are you, then, of the opinion that intelligence (nous) alone exists nowhere and that you by some good chance seized hold of it, while - as you think - those surpassingly large and infinitely numerous things [all the earth and water] are in such orderly condition through some senselessness?" and later in the same discussion he compares the nous which directs each person's body, to the good sense (phrone-sis) of the god which is in everything, arranging things to its pleasure. (1.4.17).

This is neither creationism nor intelligent design. Talk of 'intelligent design' has no place on a page dedicated to the concept of Nous.MrSativa (talk) 05:08, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
The answer to your first question is in the source quoted. More generally, on Wikipedia we base ourselves upon what published sources say, and as explained in the article, the concept of Nous (intelligence) is/was associated with the concept of a cosmic intelligence that ordered and/or constantly orders nature, or in other words creates nature or at least nature's order. Hence this passing reference to intelligent design creationism.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:03, 13 January 2014 (UTC)