«Aquinas' Theory of the Soul» - Free Essay Paper

Aquinas' Theory of the Soul


The development of science in the XIII century has led to the emergence of a theory of two truths, one of which presented the faith and the other corresponded with the science. However, the Thomism theory was designed to protect the faith from the already existing scientific evidence. Trying to reconcile science and faith, Aquinas emphasized the fact that this theory presents the issue of two different truths, but if the truth of science contradicts the truth of faith, science must cede to it. Many eminent scientists of the time were followers of Aristotle, arguing that their interpretation of this theory is the only right one. Thomism was formed in opposition to spontaneous materialistic interpretations of Aristotle, in the depths of which the concept of dual truth originated. Still, the soul should be understood as a substantial form of a human being. Therefore, it is impossible for a man to have some other substantial form than the thinking soul. St. Thomas argued that if it were assumed that the thinking soul is united to the body not as a form, but only in the form of an engine, it would be necessary to admit that in man there is another substantial form. However, if the thinking soul is united with the body as a substantial form, it is impossible to find some other substantial form besides it. The essay discusses the immortality of the soul as a substance through the definition of the soul and its role in the theories of science and faith, according to Aquinas. 

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The Concept of the Soul in the Teachings of Thomas Aquinas

The notion of the soul itself is much broader than that of a human soul. In the most general sense, the concept of soul can be defined as the first act of a body, having some organization and being able to perform vital functions. Therefore, it is an act like any form. According to the position of any act, it cannot be known directly, but it has an inductive inference from the judgment of its consequences. According to St. Thomas, a corpse is not a living body. The body exists as such due to the presence of soul in it. The soul collects and organizes the elements, which are called biochemical nowadays (organic and inorganic, but always formless elements), forming one living body. A single substantial form or rational soul fulfills the human substance. It is the reason that this human being exists, has a bodily nature, is alive, and has a perceptual knowledge. Every individual understands the mind and creates solutions. Consequently, every person exists in a single molding that can be called a shape, and that is what is called the soul. Therefore, the soul is not standing next to a ready-made body as distinct from its element, but it prepares the body in all its functions. At the same time, it has its own actions connected with the body, but in essence they are purely spiritual.

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In the Aristotelian tradition, St. Thomas understood the soul as a form of organic nature and as a valid premise of that essence. The soul of a human being is the consequence of a man. It is the rational soul, because rational knowledge is a feature that is inherent in man and distinguishes him from the animal world. However, a person manifests itself with other actions: for example, the comprehend the world through the senses. The uniqueness of the form was one of the provisions of St. Thomas. He could not abandon it, because he was convinced that a person as a single substance should have a single form. The whole soul is present in the entire body of each particle. The soul, according to Thomas, is the concept life on earth created by God at the conception moment, which for an average human being is the moment of birth. The soul acquires knowledge not because of memories, but through sense perception, in which the idea of knowledge illuminates the intellect. The rational soul performs the function of the form in relation to the body. The soul informs the existence of the body and animates it from the act of being. Every individual or thing has one substantial form, which determines the characteristics of the generic environment to which it belongs. Individual differences in the appearance of identical items due to the matter are serving as an individualized form of beginning.

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In the interpretation of Aquinas, the concept of individuality is a personal unity of soul and body. The soul has a life-giving power of the human body and it is immaterial and self-existent. The soul is a substance found only in the unity of the body. However, physicality has the essential significance. The soul is always unique, and it emphasizes the personal traits of character. According to Aquinas, the bodily principle of human beings organically participates in the spiritual and mental activity of a person. It turns out that thinking, experiencing, and goal setting are not coming from the body and the soul itself, but in their mergers unity. Aquinas had the idea that since some people have particularly finely arranged bodies, then their souls are more powerful. The concept of personality by Aquinas is noble in the entire rational nature.

St. Thomas was loyal to the idea of the immortality of the soul. Christianity has never considered the man in the Platonic tradition, according to the body is the shackles and the tomb of the soul. Such confidence does not correspond with the Platonic doctrine of the soul as the essence of man. The soul is the form of the body in its completeness and relevance. Man, according to Thomas Aquinas, is a single substance, so the body and the soul are not different substances. The soul needs the body as one of the entities of a start in life. It is not surprising that an individual always understands an animate creature. Being animated and being alive is the same thing, according to Saint Thomas. The soul is the principle of life, and it cannot exist without having to make life in an inert matter, so the soul cannot exist without the body. Human soul is imperishable, but only in terms of the future. Thomas believed in immortality, but denied the pre-existence of the soul prior to its invasion of the body.

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As a form of organized matter, the soul itself is not material and incorporeal, like any form of even the most insignificant issue. The human soul has not only physiological, but also cognitive functions. In particular, it recognizes the existence of district property bodies. To be able to know something, an individual needs to be that something. More precisely, in order to know things, humans need to learn not to belong to one of the species belonging to the genus. God creates the soul, and from the very beginning it relates to the fetus in the womb. This correspondence of the soul and the body is inviolable and eternal. St. Thomas stresses this situation significantly. If the soul is eternal, and it must be eternal, then the whole person is the only actual person. It is obvious that a person is constantly changing, but at the same time it has something to be preserved. That is the soul and it is appropriate for a particular body.

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The Role of Intelligence in the Teachings of Thomas Aquinas

Speaking about the human soul, St. Thomas often uses the expression «humanis intellectus", which means the concept of human intelligence. Sometimes the term refers only to human cognitive ability, but sometimes it covers cognitive abilities and desires in humans. Initially, the objects of human knowledge are material things, but the mind is potentially open to all sphere of knowledge. Furthermore, thinking or imagining are the spiritual essence of the mind. According to Aquinas, it cannot use images, which depend on the sensory perception. The reason for this is the status of the rational human soul as the form of the body. The human soul is a life-giving principle of the body. Due to this circumstance, it is an amazing substantial form, which is naturally associated with the human body.

The "Summa Theologica" states that intelligence is an efficient basis of knowledge in a form of the human body. St. Thomas considered his theory of the soul as the body shape in a serious way in order to prove that, separated from the body, the soul is not the human personality. That is an unnatural condition for the soul, because by its nature it is a form of the body. As St. Thomas admits, the immortality of souls in this case requires future resurrection of the body. In other words, his understanding of the universe suggested that the human soul should not be left in a state contrary to its nature. However, since the soul is a substance, it exists through itself. Therefore, the soul cannot be subjected to decay. Meanwhile, this is exactly what could happen if the death of the body entails the death of the soul, as is the case of plants and non-human animals.

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Thus, this confirms the opinion that the soul is a substance and exists by itself. As a substance, the rational soul is not subject to degradation due to the dissolution of the body, because the body exists only together with the soul, while the soul exists without the body. Moreover, Thomas accepts the Aristotelian theory of the soul as the form of the body, so it is quite natural that he rejects the explanation of the relationship between them. The soul and body are one living, feeling, willing, and thinking organism. In addition, it may well seem that the natural conclusion is that the human soul, as well as other kinds of substances, dies when the body dies.

Aquinas, however, wanted to use Aristotelian psychology, which is the belief in personal immortality. Thus, he argues that some of the activities of the human soul are the superior force of matter, which reveals the spiritual nature of the human soul, so the soul does not die when the body dies. If the soul exists after death, it is not a complete human person, just as the remains of a human body are not. The remains have a relic and the unit cells, which have substantial unity when they enliven the soul. St. Thomas says that the remains are only symbolically called the body because they are similar in appearance to the body, but they are no longer a human body. Therefore, the soul itself is the reason for the perishability of the soul. According to the provisions of nature, the soul of man is not an angel. However, it experiences the highest spiritual functions of an angel, which are the knowledge and the desire. Only the human soul is the border for the spiritual and physical natures. It brings a person «primitiae spiritus», which are the initial glimpses of the spiritual life.

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The Contact of the Soul and Body

The man has a substantial relationship of the soul, which is the form, and body, which is the matter. This bond is indissoluble, as the body and soul form an integral substance of the individuality of a man who is, thus, defined as a mentally corporal being. Although the soul is separated and can exist after the death of the body, the soul as the human body is needed, because it needs a sense of the perception to cognition. Thus, a person is in the midst of creation, as thanks to the intelligence an individual is involved in the world of pure spirit and through the body to the world of matter. The human soul as a form takes its place in the hierarchy of beings ascending from non-living things through plants and animals to humans. The soul contains different abilities, such as vegetative which is life force and sensitivity. Moreover, it has instinctive-willed, motivic, and rational features. The ability to sense is divided into individual feelings. The general feeling is embracing a sense of the individual items, while presentation capacity is storing single sensory images. There are always the concepts of the sensual power of judgment, which are aimed at specific situations and the active memory. The mind is divided into active and potent. Thus, a distinction between the cognitive ability of humans and the reality is the actual knowledge. The cognitive process can be represented as the body, which generates an image in a separate sense organ. From there it goes to the general feeling that is imprinted in the view as a separate image. It happens as long as an individual remains in the sphere of sense. However, the total active intellect is actuated. It abstracts the general shape of the sensory unit and enables knowledge in mind potential.

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The main manifestation of life is the possibility of movement and cognition. The soul is not a material substance, but there is the entelechy of the body. The soul is not eternal, as God creates the soul for each individual. The soul is created by God for a specific body and is always proportionate to it. Therefore, the soul does not lose its identity after the death of the body, as it is the personality adapted to the particular body. The soul can exist separately, but this existence is flawed and incomplete, because no flesh is a complete substance. The soul without a body is living an incomplete life in the anticipation of the Last Judgment and the general resurrection of the dead. Then, the soul designed for a particular body will regain it and the totality of substance would be restored.

In his understanding of the humans, Aquinas shared Aristotle's position that the soul of man is the totality of plant, animal, and reasonable portions. Aquinas calls them vegetative, sensitive, and the intelligible. Unlike Aristotle, St. Thomas did not see the differences between these parts or potencies of the soul as the soul is the substantial form of the body. It gives the existence and the unity to the body. However, because of these issues, there is a definite beginning, which cannot account for several beginnings. An individual differs from other animals only because the soul can perform all three functions: nutrition and growth, report of the human passions and feelings through the sensuous soul, and ensuring the rational and reasonable knowledge. Among the creatures of the earth, the human soul occupies a higher place and is at the lowest place of the intelligible soul among intellectual substances. The soul of humans is different from the angels and cannot comprehend the truth itself. The nature of the soul is that it knows the truth only through the senses.












In the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, the logical judgment and proofs generally remain the same as they were in the logic of Aristotle. Moreover, St. Thomas kept the Aristotelian concept of "science" and "learning" and understood them as a body of conclusions derived from the principles of the necessary syllogistic reasoning. The rejection of traditional knowledge gives the priori evidence of the existence of God, coming from the immediate given of the human consciousness. This issue is based on mystical pantheism, which represents the belief that the human soul is the direct presence of God. Since the soul performs the functions, which are not involved in the body, it represents a completely uninvolved substance. They can act through themselves and can exist separately, because existence is the cause of action and every issue is valid. Therefore, there is the presence of an individual through substance. Consequently, the human soul is an immaterial substance, which has to be proven by arguments.

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