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Philosophical Psychology II (Study of the Philosophical Proofs for the Soul)

Philosophical Psychology II (Study of the Philosophical Proofs for the Soul)

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Published by ThomisticPhilosophy
These are the notes from the Philosophical Psychology II course from a major Pontifical University. The philosophical point of view of the teacher was the Thomistic school.
These are the notes from the Philosophical Psychology II course from a major Pontifical University. The philosophical point of view of the teacher was the Thomistic school.

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Published by: ThomisticPhilosophy on Dec 22, 2009
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06/07/2010

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Philosophical Psychology II(Study of the Philosophical Proofs for the Soul)Class Notes
(Taken at a Pontifical University)
First Lesson:
First general definition of the soul according to St. Thomas:
“The soul is the first principle of life.”Questions 75-76 of Summa Theologica
(ST); Content:
First problem
: Incorporeality/immateriality of the soul seen from different points of view. Then he moves on to itsbeing a form and a substance.
Second problem
: Simplicity of the soul. From there he goes to the incorruptibility of the soul (he is not talking aboutimmortality of the soul).
Third problem
: Union between soul and body (human person) and the number of the souls we have.
Question 75, 1
st
article:
“Whether the soul is a body.”This sounds strange because you could rephrase the question as “Is the immaterial material?” and you might want toask first whether there is a soul in us at all. But according to St. Thomas’ definition of the soul the question makessense, because we don’t find anything as immateriality in his 1
st
definition of the soul. So Thomas needs a proof for the immateriality or materiality of the soul. Thomas is not a materialist. He accepts material and spiritual dimensions of reality. But his division is not exhaustive, because he admits the existence of the human person, which is partiallymaterial and immaterial reality. This kind of reality (the human person) is due to the fact that we have a particular kindof soul according to Thomas.Proving the immateriality of the soul Thomas engages in a dialogue with the old philosophers, starting with theSophists. They claimed whatever exists is a corporeal reality, what is not a corporeal reality does not exist. In doing sothey confused two things: They confused what is a
material source of the vital activities
with what is
the firstprinciple of life
. There is a difference between these. As an example Thomas talks about seeing: There can be abodily principle of the vital activity (seeing), which is not a cause of life. In order to perform a vital act (an act, whichspeaks about life) we have to use bodily organs. So parts of our bodies are material sources of our vital acts. “A bodycan be seen an a material source of life.” There the ancients were right from a particular point of view, because in thislimited dimension we can say that the body is a principle of life. But nobody would say, that the eye (being a materialsource or vital act) is a soul. Because the eye is only the material principle needed in order to perform an act, but it isnot the source of life. Imagine an eye separated from the living organism. It will not perform a vital act, because it isnot the first principle of life, or the root of life. So Thomas says it is clear that some principles of life are of bodilynature, but body as such is not the soul, therefore not the first principle of life. The soul answers the question “Whatmakes the body capable of performing vital acts? What makes it alive?” This is not the body, because the body out of itself does not make itself alive. Thomas concludes the argument saying that there is no soul of whatever kind(vegetative, sensitive, rational), which can be identified with corporeal reality, which would be a body. If a soul is in
 
some respect corporeal, it is not in virtue of its own corporeality. “The soul is the first principle of live, of things thatcan potentially perform vital acts. It is the first principle of an organized body.”Since it is not material, it has to be a formal principle of life: The soul is a form.
Question 76, 1
st
article:
“Whether the intellectual principle united to the body (rational soul) is the body’s form.”Positive answer: The soul is a form!Man is a rational animal. There is the specific difference of rationality. The genus is animal. The specifying element isidentified with a form. The “rational” has to be a formal element, because it is a specifying element in us. The soul isout of which we act in a specific way. This element has to be identified with a formal principle. Soul: “This in virtue of which something acts in a specific way.” Nothing acts unless it exists actually. Whatever exists actually, exists under aspecific form. Animals and plants have souls the way we do. But they do not have the soul that is spiritual in the waythe human soul is. Yet Thomas denies strongly that the souls of plants and animals are simple material realities. Inplants and animals the soul is a formal element, too. Thomas speaks of the soul in terms of incorporeality (the soulnot being a corporeal reality), not immateriality. Even in case of plants and animals the soul is not a body. There hasto be a body to perform vital acts, but this body is not the soul, the first principle. There is a formal element alwayspresent in each being belonging to the material world.
Difference
between plants/animals and humans: The humansoul has
the capacity to exist on its own
, separated from the body. Immateriality here for Thomas is first in terms of non-materiality or form, not in a sense like Plato (the forms, which can exist by themselves, have an act of existenceon their own). Thomas is working on Aristotelean notion of form. For Aristotle the form is the reality that cannot existindependent from matter, the other co-principle of reality. So the form stands in opposition to the body, is immaterial.Yet it is not immaterial in the Platonic sense.
Incorporeality is the first aspect for immateriality of the soul
.
Question 75, 2
nd
article
: “Whether the human soul is something subsistent.”Subsistence of the soul:
Second aspect of the immateriality of the human soul
and an aspect proper only to thehuman soul.We already have: No soul of whatever kind can be identified with something corporeal.Human soul: This what is distinctly human activity: Rationality. So when he speaks about the human soul, Thomasspeaks about rational soul. He speaks about its immateriality not only in negative terms (being non-corporeal). Hedefines immateriality of the human soul in affirmative terms: It is a subsistent reality. It has an independent existence.It can act independently from the body and exist independently from the body. That’s the meaning of “subsistent”.Argumentation towards subsistence of the soul: He takes up arguments from Aristotle, from the analysis of theintellectual acts, the rational thinking. Two claims:
1)
The human person by means of his intellect can know allmaterial things, the whole material universe.
2)
The faculty that can reach the cognition of certain things cannot havein itself those things in its nature, cannot have anything bodily in itself.
1)
There is no limitation to what we can know. We are able to grasp the nature of all corporeal realities. Doesn’t meanthat we do know every particular thing but rather that no corporeal reality exists that is not potentially an object of our intellect. We can make potential distinctions between different kinds of existence.
2)
The presence of matter implied in organs gives a determined nature to an organ preventing if from knowing allmaterial things. Our corporeal organs are limited (sight, touch etc.). But we have the potentiality to know everything.Therefore the principle of knowledge, intellect, cannot directly make use of a material organ. If this was the case our intellect would be limited in our capacities of knowing as our senses are. It would be complex, but by being corporealit would be limited. Our mind is extrinsically dependent on the body. It depends on our bodily organs for the materialfrom which it can abstract the concepts and formulate judgments and begin to reason. Intellect is kind of using the
 
body. It is an objective dependence in regard to the corporeal element. From the subjective point of view (what themind is in itself, in its own act of abstracting/understanding/judgment/reasoning) the intellect is independent fromcorporeal organs. According to Thomas the intellect (what we can do in virtue of having a rational soul), the highestvital act is performed without the use of corporeal organs. From there Thomas concludes the subsistence of the soul.He makes use of a classical principle of traditional metaphysics. Only what can exist by itself can act by itself (capacity of operating per se). If I wasn’t able of a substantial existence I would not be able to perform my own acts.The human soul responsible for the acts of reasoning, has to have the capacities of existing by itself, because it isable to perform the act of thinking independent from the body.Only what exists on its own can act on its own. The human soul does not only in-form the body but has additionalperfections. It also has the perfection of subsistence, because it neither mixed with nor dependent on matter. It is ableto exist apart from the body, which it informs. The soul is so closely united with the body that it is its form, yet it is ableto exist apart from the body. Here we are speaking about a different notion of the form, going beyond Aristotle. Wehave here a meaning of the term “form” that is understood as this reality, which informs the matter making it aspecified body, but goes beyond the opinion that the form always is a co-principle without independent existence. Butbecause of Thomas’ discovery of another dimension of being (which is the act of being) we can make the distinction.For Thomas the biggest difference is not matter and form, but act and potency.The immateriality of the soul in all cases means non-corporeality (being a form) and in the second place only for humans it means that it is a subsistent reality. Souls of animals and plants are non-corporeal but not subsistent.
Question 75, 3
rd
article
: “Whether the souls of plants and animals are subsistence?”Answer: Nope!Because they do not have an act which can be performed independently from the body. All vital acts of animals andplants are always performed mainly using the corporeal organs. These acts are made in dependence of the body.Nothing acts by virtue on its own, therefore the souls cannot exist on their own.
Question 75, 5
th
article
: “Whether the soul is simple?”Is the soul composed of matter and form? Sounds weird, again. But if we know what Thomas speaks about, itbecomes clear: If we take the definition of matter not as extended and tangible, but as potential, then the question isnot out of place. The immaterial realities, which are the soul can be questioned/analyzed from the point of view of itsbeing composed. If something is immaterial it doesn’t mean that it is not composed. Bonaventure, someone fromThomas’ time, claimed that the soul is immaterial but also is composed. Thomas’ question was directed at people whohad another definition/interpretation of what is the material co-principle of reality. They interpreted material principlenot as extended and tangible but as potentiality, a capacity of undergoing changes or assuming new qualities. Fromthis point of view it could be said that the soul has a corporeal element, because by means of the act of living beings itis assuming new qualities (ignorance to knowledge i.e.).According to Thomas this is not correct. Strictly speaking it is not the soul passing from ignorance to knowledge butthe human person, because the act of knowing presupposes the preparatory stages (bodily) of the sensorialapparatus. Even if Thomas says that if someone a) assumes that the soul is a concrete entity and b) definesmateriality as potentiality, there seem to be no good reasons to deny that the soul is composed of matter and form.But making a correct distinction of different types of potentiality, we will see that Bonaventure is not correct. There arethree different levels of contrast between actuality and potentiality:- The substance is in potency toward accidents- Prime matter is in potency towards substantial form

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