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J. Obi Oguejiofor

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Oguejiofor, J. Obi (Josephat Obi)

The philosophical significance of immortality in
Thomas Aquinas / J. Obi Oguejiofor.
p. cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
I. Immortality (Philosophy)-History. 2. Thomas, Aquinas,
Saint, 1225?-1274. 1. Title.
BD421.038 2000 I 29-dc2I 00-048857 CIP

ISBN 0-7618-1910-X (cloth: alk. ppr.)

e~The paper used in this publication meets the minimum

requirements of American National Standard for Information
Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials,
ANSI Z39.48-1984

Contents v
Preface vii
Acknowledgements ix
Introduction xi



1.1. Immortality and Philosophy in the Early Thirteenth

1.2. Doctrinal Impetus to the Discussions on Immortality 3
1.3. The Example ofS!. Albert the Great 11
1.4. Some Trends in the Defence of Immortality before St.
Thomas 14
1.5. The Issue of Latin Averroism 21


2.1. The Man of Aquinas 33
2.2. The Human Soul: A Subsistent Form 38
2.3. Body and Soul 50
2.4. Problems ofthe Intellect 55
2.5. The Soul in Activity 62


3.1. Method and Intention of the Arguments 77
3.2. The Arguments: 86
I. In the Scriptum super libros sententiarum II 86
2. In the Summa contra gentiles 98 Preface
3. In the Questiones quodlibetales 107
4. In the Summa theologiae III
5. In the Questiones disputate de anima 118 Though philosophical discussions on the question of uninterrupted
existence of the human soul post mortem is today very few and far
6. In the Compendium theologiae 127
between, the doctrine is still a widely held conception about the human
. destiny. This fact alone merits the issue of immortality a serious place
in the scheme of philosophical endeavours. This is because it is a
4.1. The Question of Death 139 vaunted characteristic of philosophy not to exclude a priori any aspect
4.2. Why are Brute Souls not Immortal? 146 of reality from its embrace. That is perhaps why the question of
4.3. The State of the Separated Soul 151 immortality found a place in the philosophy of many epochs. Still a
4.4. Resurrection and Immortality of the Body 159 most perfunctory survey of the history of philosophy indicates that
4.5. Immortality and the Platonism of Aquinas 164 debates on the reality of immortality have been uppermost in times of
special philosophical awakening.
CHAPTER 5 AQUINAS, IMMORTALITY AND THE The thirteenth century is in a special way one of the most sigoificant
SCOPE OF PHILOSOPHY 175 centuries in the history of such philosophical aWakening. The
importance of the century in the history of philosophy immediately
5.1. Reappraisal of the Arguments for Immortality 175
brings to the fore the relevance of examining the question of
5.2. Some Critics of Aquinas: Scotus, Pomponazzi immortality in the philosophy of the time, and especially how the most
and Cajetan 182 towering thinker of the century, Thomas Aquinas, attempted to show
5.3. Subsequent Trends in the Question ofimmortality 192 through the power of reason that immortality is tenable.
5.4. Immortality and the Scope and Limit ofphilosophy 201 The philosophical reinvigoration of the century encountered many
obstacles occasioned by the consequences of the integration of
CONCLUSION 211 Aristotelian naturalistic philosophy into the then prevalent scheme of
BmLIOGRAPHY 215 thought. Many of the problems arose from the new conception of man
INDEX 229 and his soul engendered by this naturalism, and its logical implications
for the doctrine of immortality. Aqninas played a pivotal role in the
eventual triumph of Aristotelian philosophy not ouly in his time, but
also much later. This study attempts to explore how he tried to solve the
problem of immortality within the context of Aristotelian philosophy. It
highlights the importance of the issue in the century, starting from the
philosophical forebears of the angelic doctor. It also examines how the
question of immortality can be said to be one of the most determinant

vi vii

A remarkable feature of studies on Thomas Aquinas, even those

devoted specifically to the question of the soul, is the perfunctory
treatment that is given to the question" of immortality. This is partly
because the question of metaphysical immortality has in recent times
progressively been of very peripheral interest in philosophy in general.
This tendency has a lot to do with the growing disinterestedness in
religion, coupled with the religious undertone which the whole question
of immortality has had since its inroads into philosophical discussions:
A consequence of this tendency is that medieval scholarship has very
" often also been affected by the desire to work within the mainstream,
and to concentrate on themes that are aIdn to the dominant
philosophical interests of the age. While such an influence has very
positive aspects, it can also have the effect of relegating to the sideline
a doctrine which perhaps more than any other was determinant in the
shaping of the philosophical movement of the thirteenth century.
The relatively few studies of immortality in the philosophy of
Thomas Aquinas have other features which are no less remarkable. In
the first place, they are mostly published in the form of short artieles,
whose amplitude is obviously not enough to allow a comprehensive
overview of the issues, let alone determine their importance. Second,
most of them take account only of the few arguments outlined in the
Summo thealagioe, and consequently, the significance of the theme in
Aquinas, as in the general philosophical trend of the thirteenth century
pales under this background. Another feature is that the context of the
thirteenth century, in which Aquinas worked, and which had enormous
influence on his treatment of immortality, is often not given due weight.
Vet the question of the immortality of the rational soul detennined
more than any other single factor the history of Aristotelianism in that
century. Again, due to the style of argument in which most of the
discourses of the angelic doctor are couched, those studies have either
been aimed at raising problems with regard to the tenability of the

xii The Philosophical Significance a/Immortality, in Thomas Aquinas Introduction xiii

proof, or at showing in what ways the proof is acceptable as adequate of the thinkers of the time to defend the doctrine with diverse
demonstration of immortality; not to mention the current of opinion arguments. The inconsistencies that are prevalent in their positions,
which seeks to show that Aquinas never intended that his argwnents marked by the juxtaposition of Aristotelian and Neoplatonic doctrines,
were rational proof ofimmortality. are indicative of the inadequate internalization of the influx of
With this background in view, we have tried in the following pages doctrines, which already started in the twelfth century, and the level of
to provide as much as possible a comprehensive understanding of the their philosophical aWareness. Some sparks of originality, nevertheless,
issue of the immortality of the human soul in the philosophy of Thomas emerge from the efforts of these thinkers to prove immortality On
Aquinas, and also to review the importance of the theme in philosophy rational grounds: the spinning of doctrines and principles to suit old
in general. Our view is that this aim is served better by a more global argwnents, the spinning of new argwnents, the rejection of some older
understanding of the influence of the theme of immortality in the epoch i proofs, as well as the grading of demonstrations according to their
which forms the immediate background of Aquinas' philosophy, and by
reference to the thoughts of the authors preceding him on the issue.
i perceived convincing power. The so-called Latin Averroism is ./
reviewed to show that it -is a factor which the inunediate predecessors
This will give more insight into the sources of the angelic doctor, while
highlighting his originality in the treatment of the age-old problem. A
special study of the thought of Aquinas on immortality acquires special
I of Aquinas may not have been fully aware of, but which exerted an
important influence on Aquinas' discourses on immortality.
Aquinas' philosophical anthropology is very much influenced by the
importance because of his special position in the reintroduction and doctrine of inunortality. Man is a hylemorphic composite in the best
integration of Aristotle's philosophy in the West in the thirteenth tradition of Aristotle. Though the soul and the body are so intimately
century. Aquinas was among the first scholastics to accept fully the united, Aquinas' philosophy of man is not much more than his ideas
conception of the soul as form of the body. Tinough the length and about the soul. That these are also very much affected by the issue of
breadth of the volumes of his works he argues resolutely for the inunortality is seen by a review of his conception of the soul as a
tenability of this conception and for how it is in consonance with the subsistent form, the plurality of forms and individuation in the human
Christian faith, including the inunortality of the soul. The absence of composite, as well as the nature of the intellect, the process of
any clear doctrine of inunortality in Aristotle, and the fact that the intellectual knowledge, and the nature of knowledge itself. These issues
Neoplatonic idea of the soul is a much more comfortable background are examined in the second chapter with the aim of highlighting the
from which to defend inunortality meant that special efforts were often hidden nuances and slants given to them which can, in the final
needed to wade through the obvious difficulty that is consequent upon analysis, be taken as preparation for the defence of inunortality.
the full acceptance of apparently disparate positions. Still there is no The study of his view of man and his soul is all the more necessary
doubt that one of Aquinas' most important contributions to philosophy because most of what he said on immortality is encapsulated in the
is his conception of the human nature which comes out of these passages in several of his works where he expressly defends the
seemingly conflicting backgrounds. Given the influence of the question doctrine with proofs. These proofs are reviewed in chapter three. They

of immorality in Aquinas' view of man - his nature, his specific are mostly founded on the philosophical presuppositions that had
activities, and his ultimate aim - to study his philosophy while not become the patrimony of the thinkers of the period, on the assumption
adequately taking account of the question of immortality is to neglect of the accepted principles of the time, and on appeal to the conscious
one of the most potent influences on his philosophy. experience of humankind. Thomas follows very faithfully in his
In view of this, we will try first to situate Aquinas within the argwnents the thirteenth century style of outliuing objections to issues
philosophical context of his time by reviewing briefly the emergence of
the question of inunortality within the intellectual ambience of the early ! at stake, as well as the contrary position before seeking re_conciliation.
Very often the objections highlight important difficulties in the
thirteenth century, the doctrinal factors which made this emergence discussion. Where it is deemed that such objections are of weighty
possible and how some of these factors played in the works' of the t import, they are also analysed, together with the answers given to them
thinkers who flourished just before him. Albert the Great is cited as an where doing so is thought to bring out more clearly the stance of
example of how a conception of the soUf is heavily influenced by the Aquinas in the text concerned. Before then however, there is an effort
doctrine of immortality. The concern for inunortality, which is a special
feature of the first half of the thirteenth century, resulted in the efforts
xiv The Philosophical Significance of Immortality, in Thomas Aquinas Introduction xv

to ascertain the intention of St. Thomas about the proolS in order to of Aquinas, John Duns Scotos, Pietro Pomponazzi, and Cardinal de Vio
settle the contention that he never intended to prove immortality. The Cajetan, are examined to see some of the reasons why they thought that
review of the arguments fol\ows the established chronological order of the issue of inunortality is not one that philosophy can determine with
the writing of the texts of Aquinas. This is done in order to facilitate the any measure of certainty. This section naturally leads to the
tracking of the evolution of his thought and method on immortality and continuation of the history of the theme in philosophy by a brief
other issues touching on it. Special efforts are made in the weighing of overview of how subsequent major philosophers - Descartes, Berkeley,
each of the arguments to throw it back to its immediate sources in the Hume, Kant, Voltaire, Mill and some contemporary thinkers - see the
immediate predecessors of the angelic doctor, and also to observe the question of inunortality. The general view of philosophical minds about
difference in the employment of the same principles by Aquinas and his the theme of immortality leads to a brief reconsideration of the place of
immediate predecessors. In al\, the analysis attempts to balance the immortality in the scheme of philosophy in general as well as a re-
over-critical stance of total rejection of the proofs without taking examination of whether the failure to arrive at generally acceptable
account of the import of the project as a whole, with the over-
sympathetic reading that gives special privilege to some proofs as real\y t
proofs disqualifies the topics of immortality from being a candidate for
philosophical reflection. .
demonstrative of inunortality without taking sufficient note of the l In general we have tried to adopt a critical, historical, contextual and
problems involved. This balance will be struck through a broader
appreciation of the project of demonstrating immortality, not only in St. I comprehensive approach in analysing the arguments of Aquinas, in
determining its place in the whole of his thought, and in arguing for the
Thomas, but also in other thinkers of his time.
Our balancing act is not however intended to cloud the presence of
some serious problems in the effort to demonstrate immortality in a
philosophical manner. There is first the question of death, which in a
!I place of the question of inunortality in philosophy. Given the
importance of the theme in any background understanding of Aquinas'
philosophy, the paucity of comprehensive works on the theme of
inunortality shows a lacuna in a balanced appreciation of his whole
way speaks against the close-knit hylemorphic unity between the two philosophy. It is hoped that the following pages will make some
principles in the human composite. The question of whether animal contributions in achieving this balance.
souls are inunorta\ is also raised by some of the arguments which
Aquinas employs, and even where other arguments preclude the
immortality of sensitive souls, it is seen that some of such arguments
are built on foundations which are very tendentious. The state of the
separated soul is not less problematic, especially its ability to know,
separated from the body, which has telling implications on the
meaningfulness of its existence in act in that state. Aquinas' use of the
principles of Aristotelian philosophy to explain the state of separation
of the soul from the body links his theory of immortality to the
Cluistian doctrine of the resWTection, but the resurrection also implies
the inunortality of the body. In wading through all these issues under
the context of immortality, Aquinas draws very close to Platonism,
/ notwithstanding that the whole of his anthropology is expressly directed
against the philosophy of Plato. We shall examine how closely Aqninas
draws to the teaching of the Greek, and how far he succeeded in freeing
himself from it, while defending a doctrine which is best defended with
the presuppositions of the main principles of Plato's philosophy.
The last chapter of the work starts with an overview of the
arguments employed to defend inunortality, asking specifically whether
he succeeded in proving inunortality in accordance with what we have
identified as his intention. The opinions of some of the classical critics
Chapter 1



1.1 Immortality and philosophy in the early 13th century

The thirteenth century is by all computations a watershed in the

history aod evolution of philosophical thought inthe West. There is no
doubt that one of the most enduring aod most influential legacies of that
century is the philosophical aod theological syothesis of Thomas
Aquinas. Aquinas himself was in turn a product of his time, aod of the
convergence of factors that ineluctably gravitated towards the
reinvigoration of learning. It is perhaps a mere coincidence, but a very
consequential one, that the rediscovery of aocient Greek philosophy was
contemporaneous with the restructuring of wllversity learning, aod the
dissemination of Arab aod Jewish thinkers together with the spectacular
work of translators of all these sources. The confluence of all these, aod
other factors, not only assured the presence of a new impetus to learning,
but also more importantly ensured that what was available was first
assimilated, then internalized aod ahnost inevitably exerted indelible
influence in the shaping of both philosophical aod theological learning.
One prominent feature of the century, which has been described as
the century of philosophical revolution, ' is the interest of maoy thinkers
in the queslion of immortality. This interest has been noted by historians
of the century. 2 However, the importaoce of the theme of immortality in
the philosophy of the epoch should be judged more from the influence it
2 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality in the 13th Century 3

had on the reflections of the thinkers of the thne than from the mnnber of preponderant because the medieval Church was the sole custodian of
pages consecrated to it. Even then, a perfunctory survey of the history of acadentic learning. F. Van Steenberghen notes that the preponderance of
texts on immortality reveals a spectacular increase in interest on the Augustinian theology retarded the development of philosophy, and that
subject starting from the tum of the twelflh century and going on well by offering men a vision of the world which satisfied their natural
into the first half of the thirteenth century and beyond. Most major curiosity, the Church obviated the need for any serious quest about man's
authors of the thirteenth century devoted pages to the question. origin and his destiny, invaluable stimuli towards philosophical
The preponderance of texts on innnortality is in fact one of the research. IS
distinguishing marks of thirteenth century philosophy. As R.-M. Martin The neat thought-scheme generated by the dominance of Augustine
pointed out many years ago, neither in Greek nor Latin patrology, nor in and thinkers of his ilk was to experience a crack with acquaintance with
the philosophical literature of the high Middle Ages do we find a wide more sources of philosophical learning, especially Aristotle and
choice of texts on immortality.3 Augustine's De immortaZitate animae Avicenna at the begiuning of the thirteenth century. The inroads of such
was to wait more than seven centuries for another treatise on the same influence could not naturally go without a fight from more conservative
theme.' Cassiodorns wrote De anima around 540 A.D., but exhibited no quarters. The ban on the libri naturales of Aristotle in 1210, and its
appetite for the discussion of innnortality. For him, it was enough that reaffirmation by Robert of Curcon in 1215 is only an indication of the
the book of Genesis mentioned that man is created in the image of God, situation on the ground. It is evident that even before the ban, the
and this would not be possible if the human soul were to perish at dealb.' relationship between the faculty of arts, which was the first recipient of
Like Cassiodorus, such an eminent thinker as Anselm of Canterbury the new influences, and the faculty of theology was not at its best, and
devoted just one cursory paragraph to show that the soul is innnortal.' the question of the soul is a flashpoint in the discord. John Blund started
Gilbert of Poitiers held that only by the grace of God are angels and his De anima written around 1208 with an argument over whose
human souls innnortal,' while Peter Abelard and Peter Lombard said specialty it was to inquire about the nature of the soul. I' For Blund,
virtually nothing on the subject. Nor did Hughes of St. Victor, Aicher of theologians should occupy themselves with the question of merit and
Clairvaux, William of SI. Thiery and Isaac of Stella, even though the last demerit, and what conduces to salvation and what to perdition. The
two wrote treatises such as De natura corporis et animae, and Epislo/a question of the nature and the essence of the soul, to what predicament it
de anima, which would ordinarily be appropriate for the discussion of belongs, when it is infused into the body, should be reserved to arts
the innnortality of the soul. masters.
Viewed from this background, the preponderance of discourses on Blund's treatise was the last such treatise written by a notable arts
innnortality in the thirteenth century stands out prominently. Within the master till Siger of Brabant, well into the second half of the century. Still
early decades of the thirteenth century, John Blund and Alexander the theologians who occupied themselves with the question of the soul
Nequarn wrote treatises in which they argued for the innnortality of the and its innnortality were not strangers to the arts faculty and the new
soul.' After them Philip the Chancellor, John of La Rochelle.' Alexander sources. They were, thanks to the organization of wrlversity learning,
of Hales,1O Odo Rigaldus," Bonaventure," Albert the Greatl' devoted graduates of the arts faculty, and in spite of the repeated ban on
varying lengths of their work to the issue. William of Auvergne wrote the Aristotle, these theologians continued to read the new sources and used
De immorlalilale animae, and gave more than half of his large De anima them in their writings. They were therefore adequately exposed to the
to the question. I' doctrinal turns, which regenerated the question of the innnortality of the
The structural organization of the universities, which was one of the soul.
factors that indirectly engendered interest in the question of innnortality,
was accompanied by a change in the content of university learning in 1.2 Doctrinal Impetus to the Discussions on Immortality
general. Before the thirteenth century, theology dominated university
study. Philosophy was not much more than logic, and the Neoplatonism Most prominent among the sources that exposed the thinkers of the
that Augustine gave a Christian interpretation determined the early thirteenth century to new doctrines, and hence to new ways of
fundamental thought structure of the age. This was made all the more thinking, was Aristotle. The Stagirite came in a retinue of ancient
commentators including Alexander of Aphrodisias, Themistius and
4 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality In Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question Of Immortality in the 13th Century 5

Simplicius. Major Moslem thinkers like Algazeli, Alkindi, Avicenna and the Phaedo, he attributed the argument from motion to the dialogue, an
Averroes had also studied his writings. There was a plethora of pseudo- argument found in the Phaedrus.
Aristotelian works, among them the very influential Liber de causis, By the turn of the century, Aristotle was no longer known merely as
which was regarded as the height of the theological expression of the logician. The prohibitions of his libri naturales indicate that more of
Aristotle's metaphysics. Plato was present in the rimaeus, the Phaedo his doctrines had become known at the University of Paris.
and the Meno. But the omnipresence of his doctrine was assured by a Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that acquaintance with his works did
host of Neoplatonic thinkers, among them Plotinus, Augustine, not initially engender disturbing reactions with regard to immortality.
Macrobius, Marius Victotinus and Boethius. To all these must be added Most authors of the early thirteenth century took Aristotle as a defender
the works of Jewish thinkers, the most prominent among which were the of immortality, and the difficulty of interpretation latent in his doctrine
Fans vitae of Solomon Ibn Gabirol and the Guide of the Perplexed of of the intellect was not initially evident to scholars of the century. Albert
Mosche ben Maimon. The influence of most of these sources on the the Great cited him as One of the authorities who defended immortality,
reinvigoration of interest in immortality is indirect. It consists mainly in and in the Summa de creaturis, concluded a section of his discourse with
bringing to the fore certain teachings whose consequences were logically the statement that philosophers have two inspirations, Platonists and
inconsistent with the docttine of immortality. Aristotelians, and both agree that the soul is immortal. 22 Aquinas himself
One of Plato's books, widely available in the Middle Ages, the would later inveigh against the interpretation of Aristotle's teaching on
rimaeus. contains a mythical account of creation and immortality. In the the intellect in a manner that entails' the mortality of the hwnan soul.
rimaeus, the creator gave the gods the power to create men and gave William of Auvergne used ad nauseam the phrase Aristoteles et
them immortal parts, thus ensuring that if men lived well, they would sequaces eius in, his De anima, but when arguing for immortality, he
enjoy everlasting life." The Phaedo and the Meno, in which Plato made one direct reference to Aristotle's De anima in cotUlection with the
argued most consistently for immortality, were not widely read in the theory of the intellect. William warns about the opinion that Aristotle's
early 13th century. It still remains a matter for conjecture and words meant that only the intellect is separable from the body, and
disagreement why these dialogues that lend themselves so well to the immortal. For him, there is no sense at all in talking of parts of the soul,
defence of immortality were hardly used. It is possible, as C. Steel said, since the absence of such parts constitutes one of the bedrocks of his
that it is because Plato's teachings were already widely known among the defence of incorruptibility."
medievais,18 and the novelty of Aristotle and his commentators drew However, as Aristotle's philosophical theories gradually sipped into
attention away from the translation of Heuricus Aristipus made around the philosophical heritage of the time, disquiet gradually emerged about
1150. G. Wieland also alluded to the scientific development of theology certain aspects of his doctrine. This fact was compounded by the
at the time for which Aristotle's system, in spite of its naturalism, was obvious admiration of most thinkers for him, and was by no means
more suitable.19 Still such reasons may not say all, or even much, given clouded by the repeated ban on aspects of his philosophy. Alexander
that such sources as the Liber de causis, which was mainly Neoplatonic Nequam praised him in well-chosen hyperboles: Doctor Athenarum, dux
in character, were very widely used both in philosophy and theology in caput, arMs honas.24 For Alexander, to try to laud Aristotle is like trying
the guise of genuine Aristotle. It would perhaps be beneficial to weigh to increase the luntinosity of the sun with torchlight." Albert the Great
seriously the influence of limited circulation on the use made of these must have appeared very strident in reminding his contemporaries that
books of Plato. Aristotle was a hwnan being, and consequently fallible. 26 There is no
There are nevertheless some brief references to Plato's Phaedo in the doubt that the attitude of these thinkers towards Aristotle prepared the
works of Albert the Great and William of Auvergne. Albert in one of his ground for their obvious eclecticism. One of the points in which this
passages on immortality cited Plato's statement that philosophy is the eclecticism appeared was in their conception of the soul.
practice of death.' William cited the third argument of the Phaedo in At the beginning of his De anima, Joim Blund set out to define the
defence of immortality, but the hesitation he exhibited in the passage soul, but was immediately presented with the problem of its immortality
{puto hone fuisse intentione Platonis}" indicates that he may not have on the supposition of Aristotle's defiuition. Blund raised a possible
had direct acquaintance with the two works of Plato. Again, while citing objection and problem:
Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality in the J3th Century 7
6 The" Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas

But there is the objection that form gives being. and that matter in itself types of souls is owed to the diversity of matter that enters into their
is imperfect. Hence perfection comes from form. Therefore if the soul is composition. On intellection, he stated in the De anima that the agent
the perfection of an organic body with the potency of having life, the intellect is responsible for the evolution of the material intellect into the
soul is fonn. But no form exists separately from substance. Therefore if habitual by making material forms intelligible. As the agent intellect is
the soul is form, it cannot be separated from the body. but perishes with the highest material form, it communicates its intelligibility to other
the body.17 lower intelligibles. Actual abstraction is, of course, carried out by the
human intellect, but this act is enabled by the agent intellect conferring
Thus Aristotle's definition of the soul hung like an albatross around on intelligible objects the propensity to be amenable to the abstractive
the neck of most of the philosophers of the thirteenth century. Blund's powers of the human soul." In the De intelleetu, the noetic function of
escape route was to align himself with Avicenna's teaching that the soul the agent intellect was slightly altered. It no longer acts on the potential
is in a substance, but has a specific function of vivifying the body with objects of intellection, but rather on the material intellect itself to endow
which it is united, and it is because of this function that it can be called it with abstractive power. In the De anima, Alexander further identified
the perfection of the body. Blund therefore had to rally round on the the agent intellect with God or the first cause of Aristotle, and following
substantiality of the soul in order to preserve its inunortality, while at the Aristotle, enumerated its characteristics as separate, impassable, and
same time retaining the definition of Aristotle. Most authors of the thue unmixed, being completely outside the realm of matter. It is also
followed the style of Blund in affirming the substantiality of the soul and immortal because it is always in act, and therefore independent of all
its nature as form. Philip the Chancellor did not use the definition, but potentiality.
indicated he was aware of it, and did not raise any objection against it. 28 The logical implication of Alexander's exegesis of Aristotle is that the
Albert rejected the definition of the soul as form,29 and we shall see that material and the habitual intellects are perishable. He nevertheless
when he did so, it was essentially in the name of immortality. One was to asserted a kind of inunortality for man, arising from the identity between
wait till Thomas Aquinas to see the complete acceptance of the the thinking subject and the object of thought. If the object of thought is
definition of the soul as form, coupled with an effort to justify by material form, it is inextricably bound up with matter and is perishable.
argumentation why it is not a normal form, but rather a self-subsistent When on the other hand the object is intrinsically intelligible, and hence
form. All the members of the early Franciscan School accepted imperishable, the intellect, which is its subject, becomes similar to the
Aristotle's definition in the company of other definitions without making imperishable and becomes immortal. 33 For Moraux, what is actually
any serious effort to dissipate the inconsistency of an independent imperishable is in Alexander's not the human soul, but rather the idea of
substance that is at the same time described as form or perfection of the the divine which the human intellect acquires in its contemplation of the
body. divine.J4 This circuitous theory of immortality did not, however, filter
However, if Aristotle's bare definition of the soul proved disquieting down to the Latin West by the beginning of the thirteenth century. By
to the doctrine of immortality, it is really the interpretation of the details that thue, the complicated exegesis of Alexander had become very much
of his theory of the intellect that was to be the touchstone of the simplified by Moslem thinkers, and the he was known simply as that
discussions of the doctrine of immortality before the time of Thomas philosopher who taught that the intellect arises from the body and dies
Aquinas. One such interpreter who cwiously exerted enormous influence with it. For Christian thinkers, he became known as the philosopher
was Alexander of Aphrodisias. In late antiquity the commentary of whose doctrine was most opposed to Christian teaching and to all raison
Alexander on Aristotle's teaching on the intellect elicited reactions from d'litre of religion."
thinkers like Themistius and Philoponus. 30 In the medieval times, The teaching of Alexander had exerted enonnous influence on the
Moslem peripatetics allied with Alexander to attest that the separate thinkers of the early thirteenth century. Auvergne and Albert attacked his
agent intellect was the source of intelligibility, but parted company with teaching on the nature of the soul, not so much for the content of his
him over the corruptibility of the material intellect. 31 theory as for the adoring following it was apparently commanding.
Alexander of Aphrodisias distinguished three types of intellect: the Albert described them as peripateticos graecos, cuius doctrinam multi
material, the habitual and the active. The soul is a mixture of'the de peripateticorum schola sequuntur. 36 For William, Alexander's
elements that are constitutive of material entities. The difference between doctrine would not have merited any reply if not for the disciples that it

8 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality in the 13th Century 9

was raking in. Nevertheless, it is not certain that both Albert and point. It means that other influences were at work, and here we would
William, together with their contemporaries, had any direct knowledge like to mention the universal hylemorphism of Solomon Ibn Gabirol.
of Alexander's writings. The teaching of Gabirol became available to the West through the
Gerald of Cremona (d.lIS?) translated the De intel/eetu within the translation of the Fans vitae by John of Spain and Dominic
second half of the twelfth century, but the De anima of Alexander was Gundissalinus in the twelfth century. For Gabirol, God excepted, all
not available in Latin till William of Moerbeke translated it in the second beings are composed of matter and form. There is in creation a potential.
half of the thirteenth century. One obvious source of the knowledge of and universal essence made up of universal form and universal prime
Alexander was Averroes' commentary on the De anima of Aristotle." matter. Each being is the bringing into actualization of this common
Averroes took issue with Alexander because of the latter's materialist essence. While this philosophy was a handy tool with which Christian
conception of the huroan intellect. In the process of his criticism, theologians made a distinction between God and creatures, it introduced
Averroes outlined the essentials of this materialism: that the material a disturbing element into the usual conception of the soul as a simple
intellect is only a corporeal faculty with which it perishes at death. It is spiritual substance. In universal hylemorphism, spiritual substances are
mainly on this issue that Auvergne and Albert attacked Alexander. The also composed of spiritual matter and form, which explains adequately
two schoohnen wrote well after Averroes had been translated into Latin, the facts ofindividuation and change in them.
as it is evident from their knowledge of the Moslem philosopher. However, the mingling of spiritual matter in the metaphysical
William of Auvergne's summary pf Alexander's teachiug about the composition of the soul detracts from its simplicity, and any attenuating
origin of the soul indicates that he was well aware of the essential of simplicity seriously endangers the immortality of the rational soul.
content of the doctrine." He employed a host of arguroents against him, Matter is after all the principle of corruption in organic beings because it
but when he came to attack his noetics, he revealed a yawning gap in his introduces contraries in these beings. To accept matter as an essential
understanding of the teachiug of the peripatetic. 40 When Auvergne later composition of the soul was therefore very uncomfortable. Many authors
outlined arguroents for immoriality, he made no reference to the of the time rejected the theory of Gabiro!. Albert the Great equivocated
Aphrodisias, though it is clear that such extreme materialism as on the issue and then put forward an alternative theory which amounts to
Alexander's was the object of his criticism in many passages. On the its acceptance. From Odo Rigaldus on, the doctrine was repeatedly
other hand, Albert left no doubt that his arguroents for immortality in the . accepted by a succession of Franciscan thinkers. In any case, whether
De natura were directed against Alexander. The passage preceding the they accepted the theory or not each of the thinkers had to tackle the
arguments was headed De errore alexandri de statu animae post mortem disjunctions it hrought in connection with the tenet of immortality. John
et dissolutionem corporis. Like William, Albert endeavoured to present Blund, for instance, was very circumspect lest the doctrine got in the way
both Alexander's teachiugs and the impossible consequences that would of consistent defence of immortality. He outlined the arguroent of the
result from them. However, it is instructive that Albert gave evidence proponents of the doctrine as follows:
that there was no other major figure whose thought the Christian thinkers
of the early thirteenth century were attacking on the question of Among the things created by the first cause in effect there are two types
immortality when he wrote that only Alexander of all philosophers of causes, one of which is corporeal and the other spiritual. But it is
denied that the soul was immorial.41 such in the corporeal that their essence is constituted from matter and
fonn. But spiritual essences are even' more constituted. Therefore when
Yet there were other philosophical ideas whose implication aroused
the more stable have being, they have this by way of stronger being in
reactions in defence of immortality. In fact Averroes' De anima from effect through spiritual m"atter and spititual fonn. When therefore the
where the Latin West learnt the doctrine of Alexander was not available soul is one of the spiritual creatures, it will have composition from
in Latin translation until around 1225, and other thinkers who attempted matter and fonn, and so the rational soul is composed of matter and
to confirm immortality did not mention Alexander nor did they give fonn.42
adequate sign that his theory was a threat to the doctrine. Alexander
Nequam, John of La Rochelle and Philip the Chancellor are cases in Furthermore, the objector argues, the soul is a substance, and should
therefore contain the requisite composition of substantiality: matter and
10 The Philosophical Significance o/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality in the 13th Century II

definition, relationship to the body, and intellectual capacity was the

form, as every species possesses the defining characteristics of the genus doctrine of immortality which the system supports so well. 45
to which it belongs.
In reply, Blund raised the possibility of infinite regress if indeed the 1.3 The Example of Albert the Great
soul were to be composed of matter and form. The two components
must either have life essentially or not. If they have life, their life must Moody's conclusion about Auvergne's analysis of the human soul is
come from a soul, and this soul must in turn be composed of matter and even more applicable to St. Albert the Great. According to V. Schall
form, and if they have no soul, they cannot be alive. However, Blund immortality is in fact the line that runs through all of Albert's philosophy:
does not reject Gabirol's theory completely. He asserts that the soul
derives its simplicity from its nearness to the first cause in the order of The central theme in Albert's philosophy is indeed immortality.
being, and thus that the matter-form composition does not apply to it. Inunortality is to Albert what the One is to Plotinus, the Unmoved is to
Yet universal hylemorphism can be allowed in John Blund with the Aristotle, doubt to Descartes, changelessness to Plato and Augustine.
proviso that the incorruptibility of the soul is not hampered. Immortality is the thread that constantly links his thinking into an
intelligible whole. 46
And even if there were spiritual matter and spiritual form in the soul. it
will nevertheless not be corruptible, since it lacks contraries, which are We have already remarked that Albert was among the rare figures of
the cause of corruption.43 the thirteenth century who rejected AriStotle's popular definition of the
soul. A fair-minded thinker that he is, he reviewed two definitions drawn
The attitude of Blund shows that his ulterior concern was the from the Stagirite. The first definition, which views the soul as the first
preservation of immortality. That same attitude would mark the act of an organic body with the potency oflife, he accepts with measured
philosophical works of most of the thinkers of the thirteenth century, reservations. To be the act of the body is, for him, intrinsic to the nature
including Thomas Aquinas. Some of the factors we have outlined were of the soul. However, the definition is an attempt to comprehend the
not directly seen as posing a problem for the doctrine of immortality, and soul from the perspective of its substantial activity. The soul can be
again they did not have an equal impact on all the authors. There is understood from two perspectives: from its relationship with the body, in
much to be said about the view that with the rigidly structured university which case it is actus corporis physici. The second way is to take the
education, and then with the interdependence of the thinkers on one soul in itself, in its essence as soul. From this second point of view, the
another, a stereotype in the explanation of the soul and the defence of its soul's relation with the body is secondary or accidental to its essence,
immortality became quickly widespread. Still the philosophy of the even though it is also pennissible to define the soul a posteriori from the
major thinkers was deeply marked by the question of immortality. point of view of this relation.
William of Auvergne strongly rejected any doctrine that would either Albert turned to Avicenna in order to appreciate Aristotle's definition.
bring the soul into too close a contact with the body or the world of He borrowed the Persian philosopher's simile of the soul as a mover.
matter. He thus rejected the theory of abstraction in order to be able to Whatever is moved has a mover. A mover can be defined from the point
argue that the soul is completely independent in knowledge. Again, in of view of his activity of moving or in so far as it has its proper existence
order to preserve its simplicity and consequently its immortality, he as a substance. The soul considered as a mover has something essential
rejected the idea that the soul has different types of intellect to it over and above its function as a mover. It not only functions in the
distinguishable one from ,the other." E. Moody rightly expresses the body, but has also its own existence and activity independent of the
tailoring of Auvergne's doctrine to fit immortality: body. Albert thus makes a complete turn to Plato's idea of the soul
occupying the body as a sailor his ship.47 But his line of argument is not
The doctrine of inunortality fits fairly easily into William's system; the capricious. It has an underlying logic, the logic ofimmortality. The soul
arguments he advances are like a review of the different topics viewed as a fonn would not have an independent existence, and that is
previously dealt with and they reveal the fact that one of the dominant why Albert refused to accept Aristotle's first definition as adequate,48
influences guiding William's analysis of the soul, with respect to its
The second definition that is regarded as acceptable states that the
soul is "principium et causa hujusmodi vitae, scilicet corporis organici."

12 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question oj Immortality in t,~e 13th Century 13

To say that the soul is the source of life leaves undisturbed ils essential affecls the accident leaves the substance intact. By so doing, Albert
independence of the body. Indeed, f9r Albert, it is first and foremost prepared the ground for the rational defence of the immortality of the
because the soul is a source of life that it can serve as the life-giver. the soul at the disintegration of the body.
first act or the perfection of the body. Thus its essential parts are not If the soul is an independent substance and substance, in the best
sununarized by the function of perfecting the body. This enables Albert tradition of Aristotle, is composed of form and matter, what of the
to hold that the soul is a separate and independent essence, without composition of the soul? Some thinkers of Albert's time accepted the
denying that it has a basic link with the body. In the De anima"Albert universal hylemorphism of Ibn Gabirol as a convenient way of
pursued the same argument on the grounds that a higher being embodies explaining substantial composition in the soul conceived as substance.
the perfection of the lower being. Hence it is impossible that an essence Alberi rejected the doctrine without reservation. In the Summa de
that is not separable from the corporeal should be the subject of a creaturis, he argued that beings that are subject to generation and
separable essence. On the contrary, operations can flow down from a corruption are composed of matter arid fann. Man, for instance, is
separate spiritual power to a corporeal being, just as the separated prime composed of body and soul. The soul is the form of the body, but in the
mover is the cause of movement in the first mobiles. In the same way, state of composition, the soul plays an additional role. It delineates the
the separable rational soul can perform its normal function in the body common nature of the composed substance: the nature of man. It is as
while remaining essentially an immortal substance. though another form emerges over and above the form that is called the
When he came to the structure of the soul, Albert also reasoned with form of the body in hylemorphic composition. This is the form of the
the logic of immortality as an ulterior intention. For him the soul is a human being. Albert named this form the forma totius. He agreed with
simple substance, and though it is also vegetative, sensitive and rational, Boethius that spiritual beings must be composed in some manner to
all these powers exist in the soul only potentially as a triangle exists distinguish them from the Creator, who alone is absolutely simple. But
potentially in a rectangle. Just as the potential existence of triangles in a the composition present in spiritual beings carmot be that of matter and
rectangle does not compromise the nature of the latter, so the presence in fann, rather it is the composition arising from potency on account of the
the soul of the sensitive, vegetative powers in the rational soul does not privation in their being. He explained this special composition as that
compromise the substantial unity of the soul. between the suppositum andforma totius. Theforma totius of the solil is
In relation to the unity of the soul, Albert distinguished three types of rationality. The soul is thus a substance in the Aristotelian sense because
wholeness. The first is tatum universale, exemplified in the universal it is a subject (suppositum) determined by rationality (forma tolius).
which applies to many individual, concrete things. The second is tatum This special composition is not hylemorphic because there is no presence
integrale, the wholeness of a thing composed of integral parts. None of of matter of any kind. On the contrary, the subject that is determined by
these two explains the unity of the soul which is rather understood as rationality is a simple subject. Albert understood this composition in
tatum potentiale, midway between tatum universale and integrale. The terms of the quod est and quo est distinction. Quo est is equivalent to the
soul is completely present in each of its faculties, as it is appropriate for determining characteristic of the subject. In man, it is rationality. In
a tatum universale, yet each of these faculties can, in a certain manner, spiritual beings this determining quality or principium intelligendi is
b~ named a soul. The soul carmot also be dismembered; as it is possible equivalent to form in material composition. It means that because of the
Wlth a tatum integra/e, but it is at the same time true that its perfection is absence of matter in spiritual things, their forma totius is not
not realized completely in any of its faculties. distinguishable from their substantial form, contrary to what is found in
Albert used the analogy of political power to explain the unity corporeal beings.
between the vegetative, sensitive and rational soul. In a political entity, Needless to say, Albert's new type of composition does not lay to rest
the highest authority embraces the power of subordinate officials as it is the problem raised by universal bylemorphism, and by the mere
the ultimate unity of power that makes a political entity what it is: Much avoidance of the description, spiritual matter, does not seem to do away
in the same way, he tried to unite the diverse powers that the soul with Ibn Gabirol's theory completely. It has been pointed OU~50 for
possesses in one indivisible substantial entity. Isolated, the powers of instance, that whatever name that is given to the suppositum of Albert, it
the soul are no more than accidents, with the impllcation that what plays exactly the same role as Ibn Gabirol's spiritual matter. Still, it is
remarkable that Albert was led by the concern for immortality to
14 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality in the 13th Century 15

propound what to him is a new theory about the metaphysical possible intellect that has reached the level of the universal becomes
intellectus adeptus, which, being the repository of pure knowledge, is
composition of spiritual beings. To introduce the nebulous concept of
spiritual matter would somehow introduce contraries into the soul, and immortal and perpetual. The possible intellect which is mixed up with
the sensible, inasmuch as it makes use of reminiscence, is corruptible.
contraries are the cause of corruption. Like all the authors of his time,
Albert believed that agere sequitur esse, and therefore if the soul is But considered as a part of an indivisible soul, it is incorruptible.
immortal, this must clearly be shown in its operation, especially in its However, it is the state of intellectus adeptus, with its possession of
principal act of knowledge. In Albert's system, knowledge results from perfect knowledge and contemplation, that is the root of inunortality. It
the coordinated working of the possible and the agent intellects. Heavily is in that state that the soul is able to obtain felicity post mortem. 53
influenced by Islamic thinkers, he taught the process of the transmutation For Albert, the agent intellect, as the efficient cause of knowledge,
of the possible intellect from pure passivity (hylealis), to the stage where makes what is potentially intelligible to be actually so. In its process of
it gains the power of knowing principles (habitus prineipiorum), and perfection, the possible intellect continually receives the light of the
thus becomes intelleetus in habitu. Actualization of this power makes agent. Abstraction involves the continuous illumination of the' possible
the intellect intel/eetus in effeetu, and when the acquired knowledge is intellect by the agent. This illumination, which takes place within the
applied in operations, it reaches the highest possible level of its capacity soul, is made possible because the agent intellect is pure intelligibility,
to become intelleetus speculativus. For Albert, the agent intellect is part having in itself the ideal form of all things. Indeed the real nature of the
of the SOul,51 and in fact the agent together with the possible intellect agent intellect is no more than the totality of all these forms. In a way,
constitute, strictly speaking, the whole intellectual soul. therefore, the illumination of the possible by the agent intellect is not
In spite of his theory of the intellects however, Albert could not much more than the reception of the agent by the possible. Only when
extricate himself from almost extreme Platonism. Man as man, he says, the reception is total, that is to say, when the possible becomes the agent
is the intellect (homo secundum quod homo solus intelleetus sit). The intellect can the latter become adeptus and at the same time become the
mixture of this intellect with corporeal powers shrouds its contemplation ground of inunortality. Why then did Albert say that all natural
of the truth. Still Albert's theory of abstraction is almost the one that will knowledge begins from the senses if indeed the agent intellect possesses
become classical in Thomism. Abstraction is necessary in intellectual a priori the ideal forms of all things? The answer is that for Albert these
knowledge because all that is understood must be simple and devoid of fonus do not exist in a distinctive manner in the agent intellect, and the
matter. Albert distinguished two types of matter: matter that is subject phantasms are therefore necessary for their detennination; otherwise,
to motion and matter that is not. The former is the matter of each thing these forms will be received as undifferentiated by the possible intellect.
which in hylemorphic composition is perfected by the form of that thing. The mainly Aristotelian noetics that is outlined above is very much
The latter is the matter described as materia substans universali. The tempered when Albert later emphasized divine intervention in the
intellect abstracts from matter that is subject to motion. It is matter in knowledge of supernatural objects," and also the insufficiency of the
the sense of forma totius, that is the rationality of a thing, and is not light of the agent intellect in abstraction." But from the brief outline of
therefore subject to abstraction. Man, for example, can be abstracted some of the theories we can see that Albert's philosophy, especially his
from the idea of this particular body, but not from the idea of the body in philosophical psychology, can be described as a seam of different
general" because the body enters into the very idea of man. All natural doctrines, which on completion naturally grows into the immortality of
knowledge begins from the senses. This beginning can either be mediate the soul. His explanation of the metaphysical structure of the soul, his
or immediate. When we perceive sensible fann, we have an immediate theory about the perfection of the intellect, and also his statement that
knowledge of the subject of that form. On the contrary, we can know the man as man is in fact only the intellect are all geared towards the defence
subject of motion through the perception of motion, but only mediately. of the doctrine of immortality.
It is in the mediate manner that the human intellect comes to know God
who is infinitely distant from the sensible. That is why such knowledge i~ 1.4 Some Trends in the Defence of Immortality before St. Thomas
imperfect. Knowledge from abstraction goes from experience received
from the senses to memory, and from there to the nniversal. The Albert's quest for doctrinal consistency in his philosophy is mirrored
by all the prethomistic writers of the thirteenth century in their defence
The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality In the J3th Century 17

of immortality. That they sought doctrinal consistency indicates. that his highly metaphysical proof of innnortality was used only by Albert,
they all intended to pursue their discourse and their ar~ent on rat~onal who virtually copied the argument and designated it as a necessary
grounds. That is why their philosophy was in gm:eral ~allored ~o swt the argument in defence of innnortality. It is possible that the sophistication
philosophical defence of the doctrine. While therr attitude powts to the and obscurity of the argument precluded an easy addition of it in the
growing recognition of the philosophical method, or what one would plethora of arguments outlined. One example of Avicetma's proofs61
generally regard as arguments of reason, it also shows that they were states that whatever is destroyed possesses the potentiality of corruption,
aware of the fact that the challenges to immortality did not arise from and before this corruption is effectuated, the actuality of persistence.
other sources than from philosophical doctrines and their ~nfluen~es. Corruption and persistence cannot be simultaneously in one and the same
They attempted to challenge the perceived dangers on philosophical thing because the two concepts are contradictory. However, in beings
grounds. It is therefore not surprising that hardly any ~uthor of the ear~y that are composed, the actuality of persistence can exist with the
thirteenth century drew direct conclusions from scnptural sources m potentiality of destruction, but in silnple separate entities, this is
support of immortality. Odo Rigaldus :","S amon~. the rare fi~es who impossible. Strictly speaking, the actuality of persistence and the
referred to the Scripture while enumerating authontles that are m support potentiality of destruction cannot coexist in a being which has a urdtary
of the doctrine. 57 Albert the Great, the only writer who followed essence, because anything which persists with the potentiality of
Rigaldus in giving simple and unargumentative. enumer~tion of corruption has persistence in potency only, since its persistence is not
authorities (autorititates philasophorum) in support of unmo~ahty, e~en necessary. When the actuality of persistence and the potentiality of
avoided notable Christian writers on the subject. The ten phil~so~hical destruction exist in one entity, they do not thereby become the same
authorities he named did not include Augustine. But Albert mdicated reality, since the actuality of persistence is the same thing that occurs to a
that his avoidance of Christian writers was far from oversight when he being with the potentiality of existence. The usual consequence is that a
stated that the saints said everywhere (saneti ubique dicunt) that the soul being that has the two qualities must also have at least two components,
is immortal." Consequently, he did not feel the need to enumerate them from one of which it derives actual existence. It can thus be said that if
as well. Aristotle is named five times; Algazelli, Avicenna, Averroes the soul is not composed it will not admit of corruption, since it will not
and Plato are mentioned two times each. Authors mentioned once possess the actuality of persistence together with the potentiality of
include Constabulus, Pythagoras, Ptolemaeus, and Macrobius. William destruction. In beings that are composed, the potentiality of corruption
of Auvergne on his part priced what he ca!Jed the theo~ogical. ar~ents is due to their material component and not to their substance as such.
as having stronger convincing power. Yet neIther m his De Therefore the assertion that all that is generated is subject to corruption
immortalitate nor in his De anima did he give them any pride of place. due to its finltude is applicable only to beings composed of matter and
The authorities cited both by Rigaldus and Albert would be taken as a fonn.
clear indication of the sources of the thinkers. In this regard, it is Of course, the kernel of Avicennats argument is found here and there
remarkable that St. Augustine's arguments for innnortality in th~ De in many writers, especially in the fonn of the assertion that the soul has
immor/alitate and the Soli/oquia were not repeated, and there IS no no material component, and that destruction is due to contraries in
evidence to suggest that the reasons for the absence. of these ,,:orks were matter. Again, Avicenna's famous example of disembodied man was
difficulties inherent in the arguments used by the BIshop of HIppo. The dear to such thinkers as William of Auvergne. But no one went into any
same could be said of the arguments of Plato in the Phaedo, and the detailed explanations of Avicenna, leaving the bland assertion of
Meno, although it must be added that in spite of what w~ ~ave called ~e incorruptibility on account of matter with the uncertainty of its origin.
possible accidents of circulation, the doctrine of renumscence, .which Avicenna's argument presupposes the simplicity of the soul which he
Plato's discourses on innnortality presupposes, would be reprehensIble to argued for before arguing for its immortality. With the exception of
the Christian writers. There are sigus that some of the proofs of the Blund and Albert, authors of the early thirteenth century did not provide
Enneads of Plotinus60 were used; for instance, the arguments drawn from any prior proofs of the soul's simplicity. They argned straight for its
the simplicity of the soul, and the conception ?f the ~oul a~ the .source of innnortality with some of the arguments which other writers, including
life. But it is most surprising that despite AVlcenna s obvIOUS Influence, Avicenna, employed in favour of simplicity only, in most cases with the
18 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality in the J3th Century 19

inunortality, even though most of them cannot withstand serious

presupposition that the simple must be incorruptible, lacking the criticism. '-
principle of destruction - matter. Joim Blund is adept at drawing out the logical implication~' of
Most of the arguments were taken from thinkers of previous times. supposedly accepted principles. He contrived an argument with the
There were arguments from the conception of the soul as an incorporeal meaning of death and the idea of corruption (Mars sit corruptio, et
and spiritual substance;62 from the idea of an ontological order of being corruptio sil mulatio). For him the fact of change requires that a
which is linked together like a chain, and whose most important link is substratum remain when the process is completed. It means that change
assured by the hwnan soul;63 from the soul as imago dei/4 as an does not imply reduction to nothingness. Thus if there is no subject on
unceasing source of life (fans vitae), and of motion." They also argued which change would inhere, then there cannot be any change. If deatlf;
for immortality from the operation of the soul in knowledge. The soul is understood as a type of change in the soul, then there will be an impasse
a receptacle of knowledge that is universal and imperishable;" it shows as to what remains after the soul has died, or changed. 71 Presupposed, 'of
its natural distaoce form the perishable through abstraction;" it has an course, in Blood's reasoning is the idea that the soul is an indepen4,~nt
uniimited desire to acquire knowledge;" it is self:knowing, knowing substance, and a simple substance, a conception he had earlier attempie.d
itself as simple and uncomposed;" it can becolI!.e all things in to argue for in his De anima.
knowledge. Again the soul has by nature the desire for the most Alexander of Hales, whose discourse on immortality is. not
comprehensive knowledge and infInite happiness,70 and nothing in nature extraordinary, spectacularly rejected the argument very dear to William
is futile. of Auvergne that the soul is the source of life (fons vilae), and therefore
Many of the arguments were repeated, and their underlying ideas used immortal. 72 For him, if indeed the argmnent were correct, then there is
to fashion new arguments. What the early thirteenth century owed their no reason why the same principle should not apply to vegetative and
sources was not so much ordered arguments as principles, the sensitive souls. In Alexander we find one rare instance of rejecting an
consequences of which were drawn in an attempt to prove immortality. argument already used for immortality. His position would in effect
Generally such principles were not demonstrated because they were imply a rejection of all considerations of the soul as a substance the
either assumed to be acceptable to all or to be supported by authorities nature of which is life, as found in st. Augustine, in St. Albert, and also
which needed no further justification. Such for instance is the saying to a large extent in St. Thomas Aquinas. However, Alexander also used
that whatever is received is received in accordance with the nature or a peculiar proof. He combined the presence of the instinct of self-
condition of the receiver; or that the intellect is self-knowing (Aristotle), preservation with what he takes to be the demand of the virtue. of
and again that one needs a ship to reach a port but does not need one to fortitude to prove that there must be immortality. The instinct of self-
stay there (Augustine). The immediate prethomistic authors exhibited preservation entails that no mortal creature desires its own death, and the
individual originality in their dexterity in applying such principles. Such virtue of fortitude enables individuals to accept death willingly. If then
for example is the use made by Philip the Chancellor of the well known the will to die is an endowment of fortitude, it follows that by virtue of
golden chain of being to fashion many arguments for immortality. Many self-preservation such death cannot be the end of the soul as well,
of the discourses were lifted from previous authors. La Rochelle's otherwise the lie is given to the natural instinct 73 Alexanderts reasoning
arguments are almost all to be found in the Summa de bono of Philip and here is reminiscent of Plato's statement that philosophy is preparation for
the Quesliones of Alexander of Hales. Alexander Nequarn aimost death, and is also evocative of Socrates' acceptance of death on account
copied word for word the argument of Robert of Melun. It is not to be of an unjust judgement. Still this reasoning does not hold much water, as
forgotten that through the renewal of learning and also the restructuring Alexander's understanding of fortitude is not defensible. Fortitude
of the seats of learning, there came to develop more communication enables the individual in extreme circumstances to accept death instead
between intellectuals, and more exchange of written sources. And again, of compromising fundamental religious or human principles. Whether
the question of plagiarism had another meaning and implication for men this can be in any guise described as desire for death is to say the least
of the time. Still it is within such circumstances that some sparks of very questionable.
originality emerged and left in their wake a host of new arguments for La Rochelle devised another peculiar argument from the comparison
of prime matter with the rational sou1. 74 According to him, prime matter,
20 The Philosophical Significance a/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality in the 13th Century 21

which is the ultimate matter, is incorruptible, and so must its opposite in arguments. Auvergne, of course, following Gundissalinus, mentioned
the realm of forms, or perfection - the rational soul. Prlme matter being that he was following Aristotle's arguments because of the weakness of
susceptible to every corporeal form, and the soul being receptive to all Plato, but he did not prove to have understood the teachings of any of
intelligible and spiritual forms attests to this correlation. The kernel of these Greeks. La Rochelle was the first to distinguish the arguments into
John of La Rochelle's argument is found in Philip the Chancellor" where what he called rah'ones commune and rationes proprie, but was silent on
it is used to establish a parallelism between prlme matter and rational the criteria for his grouping and on the relative weight he assigned to
sou~ and to show why prlme matter should be a correlate of the rational each of the groups. Only Albert the Great made clear distinctions on the
soul. However the two arguments do not seem to go far enough in convincing power of his arguments. In the Summa de creaturis, he
sorting out the right correlates. If prime matter is in fact understood as named autoritate philosophorum, and later divided his arguments into
pure potentiality, which is in any event conceptual, there is no reason signs (signa) of immortality, probable, and necessary arguments. In the
why its correlate in the realm of forms should not be pure actuality, De natura, his discourse is merely entitled "Necessary arguments in
lacking all potentialities, which is not the case with the rational soul. defence of immortality." It is instructive that many of the proofs
The two writers were of course referring to the order of nature alone. designated as signum and as probable arguments are used by other
But here again, why not extend the correlation to the universal chain of writers of his rlme without any specific designation. Thomas Aquinas
being which at least Philip the Chancellor used to good effect in his was not to follow Albert's innovation in this matter, but we are to see that
discourse? some of the trends we have seen in the defence of immortality in the
Our emphasis, however, is the ingenuity of the eclectic early early thirteenth century are abundantly replicated in his own philosophy.
thirteenth century writers who attempted to use all the resources at their
disposal to argue for inunortality. Albert, for example underlined the 1.5 The Issue of Latin Averroism
phenomenon of human culture and religion as indicative of
immortality.76 For him, there is an essential affinity between the subject The above trends do not indicate that the prethomistic thirteenth
and its object of quest to make natural attraction possible. Honourable century masters had any interest in explaining what type of inunortality
things are naturally attractive to man, and so is religion which is the they were talking about. There is hardly any single author of the time
worship and care for the divine. Such tendencies, according to Albert, who as much as tried to define the term inunortality, nor tried to show
are not found in beings, unless the object perfects them, and unless they even obliquely how the term is to be understood in relation to the human
have a certain affinity with the object of their desire. Again the love and soul. The need was to show that the soul must be inunortal, and the
quest for the honourable and the religious is not owed to the body, which understanding and reception of new theories were tailored by this need.
is naturally directed towards the material and cannot rise above it. If It was therefore enough that there was any sign, any believable inflection
indeed such tendencies were corporeal, other animals would also possess of doctrine which would add to the conflrmation of this doctrine already
them. It follows that whatever pines for the honourable and the material taken to be certain on grounds of Christian religious convictions. The
does not depend on the body. Consequently the rational soul does not question of which type of inunortality that answers the need of
depend on the body and does not perish. philosophical proofs would be more clearly raised in the second half of
The obvious weakness of some of these proofs points to the state of the century, and it would be a question which not only affected
the philosophical development of the age, and the failure of the thinkers profoundly the academic community, but also Aquinas' treatment of the
to resolve conflicting theories into a coherent system. Their discourses question of the soul, and specifically its immortality. The problem arose
especially their arguments, are not however to be taken in isolatio~ in the context of the upsurge of the movement which has come to be
because the authors did not seem to have taken them as such. Their known as Averroism. 77
method was rather to call to witness any conceivable principle, theory Or The background to the problem of Averroism in the thirteenth century
saying deemed to be generally acceptable, and to draw from such the is the continued assimilation of the new sources of learning. In spite of
conclusions that could be shown to speak for immortality. This is why the fact that the ban of 1210 was not lifted a host of thinkers both in the
most of the authors did not weigh the strength or weakness of the faculties of arts and theology continued the utilization of the available
works of Aristotle including the libri naturales. A prominent thinker

22 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality in the 13th Century 23

like Albert the Great was to declare his intention of making all the works taught by Siger before the condemnation of Etienne Tempier, the then
of Aristotle intelligible to the Latins. There was no donbt thet the ban on Bishop of Paris in 1270." On the crucial issue of the intellect, Siger in
Aristotle was a rule kept in the breach, and even with the confirmation of his Questiones in tertium de anima 84 followed Averroes' interpretation,
the ban, together with the statutes of the University of Paris in 1263 by with the intention, no doubt, of reaching the thought of Aristotle. The
Pope Urban IV," none was left in doubt that the ban had become an intellect, for Siger, is completely inunaterial. having no other
anachronism. In 1252, the English nation at Paris included in its composition except that of genus and specific difference. Made up of
programme required reading of Aristotle's De anima,79 which Roger two powers agent and passive or possible, it is incorruptible, eternal and
Bacon had been reading years before then. When therefore the even though created, it is one for all human beings. The other individual
remodelled programme of arts imposed all the known works of Aristotle part of the human being is a corporeal substance that is animated by a
as obligatory reading in 1255, it was not doing more than confirming the sensitive soul. This lower soul, in an operative/functional union with the
facts that were already on the groWld. 80 It was obvious thet the more common intellect, is what constitutes the human soul. In knowledge, the
conscious and reactionary tendency in the university was losing out to common intellect cooperates with the individual human being through
the more innovative, ebullient and audacious tendency. the phantasm of the imagination, In abstraction, the intellect receives
The presence of Aristotle was, however, not so important as the from the human imagination its object of thinking. The passive intellect
honour with which he was handled. He remained the philosopher to all, receives the species that the agent abstracts from the hwnan imagination,
including Aquinas. His works had not yet been completely Wlderstood, and it is in tWs manner that the intellect is involved in the multiple acts
and the obvious laCWla, which existed, was filled in by a host of pseudo- of knowledge of different individuals. This individual person is entirely
Aristotelian Neoplatonic sources and the commentaries of Avicenna and corruptible, and only the common intellect is immortal. Thus there is no
Averroes particularly. The legalization of Aristotle's work and the pre- after-life punishment, as these are taken care of here on earth by the
eminence given to his De anima <as shown by the English nation) natural consequences of human action, good or bad.
brought, among others, the problem of the soul to the fore, and especially Siger's position was to change considerably, but that was like a post
the problem of the intellect over which Aristotle's commentators had mortem. Already in 1267 and 1268, Bonaventure decried the turn the
joined battle in ages past. In the tWrteenth century, it was the Moslems interpretation of Aristotle was taking. However, it was Aquinas who
who were regarded as the privileged interpreters of Aristotle, and by the addressed the most severe critique to Siger and his fellow arts masters in
second half of the century; it was obviously Averroes who had the upper the De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas. The polemical stance of
hand, and was respectfully known as the commentator. His commentaries the opuscule is set right from the beginning. Aquinas states the history
were initially seen as useful for the Wlderstanding of Aristotle. 81 The of the problem, and the issues at stake: the pervading error that
problem came with the bold and independent interpretation of the originates from the writings of Averroes. According to Aquinas,
teaching of Aristotle by some arts masters. Such confidence in the Averroes held that for Aristotle, the possible intellect is one for all men,
philosopher was fostered by a long development,82 starting from the and declared his intention to refute the error decisively." Aquinas'
begiruring of the century and leading more and more to the independence concern is thus concentrated on the monopsychism, which the arts
of philosophical learning vis-a-vis theology. Most other thinkers of the
cenllll?' had also exhibited similar rational attitude which is a testimony
to therr attempt to prove immortality strictly on philosophical grounds.
However, the new and troublesome tendency went all the way to draw
masters had professed in their search for the real doctrine of Aristotle.
His effort throughout the De intellectu is to show that the interpretation,
which the yOWlg masters were following, contradicted the writings and
the intention of Aristotle. It goes without saying that such a controversy
conclusions in philosophy based on the interpretation of Aristotle even will have a remarkable influence on the discussions of immortality.
though such conclusions did not fit the tenets of the Christian faith. Even though Aquinas had in some of his former works cOWltered the
Thus between 1265 and 1270, a group of arts masters, prominent teaching of Averroes, his concern'from the outbreak of Averroism will
among whom were Siger of Brabant and BoetWus of Dacia, were boldly be more concentrated on defining the type ofimmortality he argues for ..
propagating doctrines which were not all in accordance with Christian The factors we have outlined in the foregoing as contributing to the
teaching. The tendency of their thought could be seen in some doctrines discourses on. immortality and also the tendencies we have traced in
these discourses had a strong influence on Aquinas. His philosophy can
Thomas Aquinas and the Question oj Immortality in the 13th Century 25
24 The Philosophical Sign,ijicance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas

outlined above affected the philosophy of Aquinas, starting with his

be seen as a continuation, as well as the improvement of the legacies of conception of the soul.
the early thirteenth century in its encounter with new philosophical
tendencies coming from many quarters. His ingenuity notwithstanding,
he was an active player on the scene, using the materials 'and the
resources at the disposal of the thinkers of the time. Such factors as the
teaching of Alexander on the intellect was important to him as much as it
was to Albert,86 and in the Summa theo!ogiae,87 he had to face squarely
the universal hylemorphism of Ibn Gabirol before arguing for
immortality. It is reasonable to suppose thst the question of immortality
also played a central role in his conception of the human soul, just as the
resulting difficulties in some of Aristotle's theories and those of his D. Knowles. The Evolution 0/ Medieval Thought, 2nd ed. (London:
followers, Aquinas may have shown special commitment by upholding Longmans, 1988). p. 201.
some uncomfortable theories of Aristotle, and at the same time resolutely 22 R.-M. Martin, "L'immortalite de l'ame d'apres Robert de Melun," Revue
defending the doctrine of immortality, We shall see that in doing this he neo-scolastique de philosophie, 36 (1934), p. 145; O. Pluta, Kritiker der
was well ahead of his contemporaries, . But his advance wouid leave Unsterblichkeitsdoktrin in Mittelalter und Renaissance (Amsterdam: R.
behind a host of some philosophical consequences and problems, Grunner, 1986). p. 2: ''Die Frage nacb der Unsterblicbkeit der Seele gehort in
Most immediate forebears of Aquinas were not privy to the doctrine Spaten Mittelalter zu den meistdiskutierten und meis~~pften The~en.".
3 R.-M. Martin. op. cit., p. 129:-''Ni dans la patrologxe, SOit greque SOit l~tine,
of Latin A verroism and the conflict it engendered. Albert's work against ni dans la litterature du haut moyen age. nous ne trouvons un grand chOlx de
Averroists was in real tenns against "Arabism,,88 (or do we say textes sur l'immortalite de I'arne."
Islarnism?) as Salman noted many years ago, Aquinas on the other hand 4 The date of one treatise on the theme, Liber Alcidii de immortalitate animae,
was specifically pitched against Averroes and his followers in the faculty ed. P. Lucentini (1984), is not yet certain. If it is accurately dated after
of arts. The reason he gave for writing the opuscule links him directly to Augustine and before the 13th century, it may be th~ only lmown .instance ,ora
the issue of immortality: monopsychism is both erroneous and against De immortalitate after Augustine's. The authorship of the De lmmortalltate
the Christian faith because without the diversity of the intellect, there attributed to Gundissalinus is still disputed, and many affinn it is in fact the
will be no personal immortality, Such a doctrine would have adverse work of William of Auvergne. If indeed this view is correct, then it would
mean that the next treatise came in the 13th century and not in the 12th. For
consequences on morals.89 The rest of the treatise is devoted to arguing
discussions about the authorship, see A. Masnovo, Da Guglielmo d'Auvergre a
that the soul is immortal, that this immortality is personal, and that the S. Tommaso d'Aquino, 2nd ed. (Milan: Universita Catholica del Sacre Cuore,
teaching of Aristotle supports such views. In some subsequent works, 1946). vol. 3, pp. 120- 123; B. C. Allard, "Note sur Ie 'De Immortalitate
articles in which the errors of monopsychism are attacked closely follow animae' de Guillaume d'Auvergne," Bulletin de philosophie medtevale, 18
his presentations of the arguments for immortality.90 (1976), pp. 68 - 72; R. J. Teske's introduction to his translation of William .0J
E.- H. W<lber published a work in 1970" in which he tried to trace Auvergne: The Immortality of the Soul (Milwaukee: Marquette Umv~rslty
the doctrinal influence On Aquinas of his conflict and his friendly Press, 1991). pp. 2 - 4; 1. O. Oguejiofor, The Argumentsfor the Immortahty of
relationship with Siger of Brabant. For Weber, Aquinas' theory of the the Soul in the First Half of the Thirteenth Century (Louvain: Peeters, 1995),
intellect was very Aristotelian before 1270, but his encounter with Siger pp. 238 - 243
5 Cassiodorus De anima (Migne, P. L. 70, 1285): "Nain quemadmodum
of Brabant nudged it towards Neoplatonism. If his conclusions are poterat esse i~agO aut similitudo Dei si animae bomine mortis tennino
anything to go by, a position which Gauthier does not seem to view with
much favour,92 it means that in fact Averroism had a much more far 6 Anselm, Monologion, Opera ominia, ed. F. S. Schmit (Edinburgh: Thomas
reaching influence on the angelic doctor, It will lead us off course to Nelson, 1946), c. 69 p. 79.
explore the intricacies of such an influence on the angelic doctor, The 7 Gilbertus, Commentaria in librum de duabus naluris (Migne, P. L., 64, 1369

main focus of our efforts in the following pages will be to see how the - 1370) ..
8 Jolm Blund, De anima, ed. D. A. Callus & R. W. Hunt (London: BntIsh
concern for immortality of the soul in the context of the factors we have
Academy, 1970), xii, 296 - xxii, 328.
26 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality in the 13th Century 27

9 See Philip the Chancellor, Summa de Bono, ed. N. Wicld (Bern: Franke, 24 De laudibus divinae sapientiae, De natura rerum, ed. T. Wright (1863, repr,
1985), 265 - 277; John of La Rochelle, Summa de anima. ed. J. C. Bougerol London: 1967), p. 300.
(paris: J. Vrin, 1985), 1. 42. 2S Ibid., 174, p. 309: "Ingenium Aristotelis commendare superfluum esse
10 Alexander of Hales, Questiones disputate, ed. Doucet (Quaracchi: St. censeo, qua supervacuis laborat impendiis qui solem nititur facibus iuvare."
Bonaventure College, 1960), 1. 32. 26 Physicis, VIII tr. 1, c. 14: "Dixit aliquis forsitan nos Aristotelem non
II For Odo Rigaldus' text on inunortality, see S. Vanni Rovigbi, L'immortalita intellexisse et ideo non consentire libris ejus et ad ilIum dicimus, quod quid
delf'anima ne; maestri francescani del secolo XIII (Milan: Vita et Pensiero, credit Aristoteles fuisse deum, ille credere debet quod numquam erravit, si
1936), pp. 241 - 248. autem credit ipsum esse hominem, procul dubio errare potuit sicut et nos,"
12 See St. Bonaventure's conunentary on the Book of Sentences of Peter 27 Jolm Blund, De anima, ii, 15. All the translations of the quotations from
Lombard (Quaracchi: St. Bonaventure's College), 19 v. 2, p. 457 - 461. Jolm Blund are mine.
13 _ Albert the Great, De natura et origine animae, opera omnia, v. xn, ed. B. 28 Summa de bono, 156, 19 - 27.
Geyer (Aschendorf: Milosler, 1955), II, c. 6 pp. 25 - 28; Summa de creafuris, 29 Cf: Summa de creaturis, II, q. 1, a. 1.
ed. Borgnet (paris, 1894), II, q. 59, a. 2; De anima, Opera omnia. v. vn, ed. C. 30 A. P. Fotinis (tr.), The De anima of Alexander of Aphrodisias (Washington
Stroick (Aschendorf: Miloster, 1986), ill, 3, c. 13. D. C: University Press of America, 1978), pp. 331 - 333.
14 William of Auvergne, De immortalite animae, ed. G. BUlow, Beitriige, II, 3 31 See O. Thery, Autour du decret de 1210, II: Alexandre d'Aphrodise (Kain:
(MUnster, 1897), pp. 39 - 61; De anima, opera omnia, II, Suppl., (1674, Le Saulchoir, 1926), pp. 23 - 27.
reprinted, Frankfwt a. M: Minerva, 1963), pp. 65 - 226 n p, Moraux, Alexandre d'Aphrodise: Exegete de la noetique d'Aristote
IS F. Van Steenbergben, Aristotle in the West, tr. L. J. Johnston (Louvain: E. (Liege: Faculte de philosophie et lettres, 1942), p, 93: "C'est donc d'une faeon
Nauwe1aerts, 1970), pp. 32 -33. tres indirecte que l'intellect agent est cause d'habitus de ]'intellect materiel: il
16 De anima, II, ii, 22: "Theologus habet inquirere qua via contingat animam fournit au sujet connaissant des etres qui en raison de leur structure
mereri et demereri, et quid sit ad salutem quid ad penam. Quid autem anima sit, ontologique (matiere et forme), pourront devenir objets de connaissance
et in quo predicamento sit, et qualiter infundatur corpori, non habet ipse intellectuelle ...
inquirere. Ex quo ista scire magis pertinet ad alium artificem. Ex quo ergo Alexander, De anima, 90, 2 -11
theologus solum habet docere qual iter sit merendum et demerendum, non habet 34 p, Moraux, op. cit.,p. 98,

ipse proprie do cere quid sit anima nee quid sit eius essentia." 35 G. Thery, op. cit., p. 46.
17 Timaeus, 41b - 42b 36 Albert the Great, De natura et origine animae, it 5., pp. 78 - 80

\8 C. Steel, "Plato Latinus (1939 - 1989)," in J. Hamesse & M. Fatrori (eds.), 37 William of Auvergne, De anima, iii, 3,.p. 116b: "Interim autem prosequar
Recontres des cultures dans la philosophie mediivale (Louvain-la-Neuve: I. S. destructionem erroris istius hominis, qui error parum curandus esset nisi tantum
P., 1990), p. 309 fuisset nomen ejus, et authoritas in philosophia. lam enim dixi tibi quod
19 O. Wieland, "Plato oder Aristoteles? Uberlegungen zur Aristoteles- homines imbecillis intellectus quasi mole magnitudinis authoritas dejiciuntur in
Rezeption des lateinischen Mittelalters," Tijdschrift vQor Filosofie, 47 (1985), errores, et permittitur ne resurgant ab eis tanquam si nomen et auctoritas non
pp. 605 - 630. solum verificaret, sed etiam quasi deificaret homines hujusmodi, atque
20 Albert the Great, Summa de creaturis, ii, 61, 13: "Et propter hoc Plato dixit infallibiles efficeret; quod etsi rebus disciplinalibus saepe et multwn fiat, in
quod philosophia est cura et sollicitudo mortis." rebus tamen divinalibus non fit." Cf also p. 14b: "inter graecos philosophos, et
21 William of Auvergne, De anima, VI, 14, p. 170, a b. apud Aristotelis expositores non mediocriter claruit iste Philsophus, eo
22 Summa de creaturis, ii, q. 59, a. 2 p. 524b: "Philosophorum autem duae sunt studiosius et perscrutatius exterminanda est ejus sententia, errorque
rationes, scilicet Aristoteles et Platonis et patet per jam dicta, quod ambo destruendus, quo validior est ad nocendum et subvertendum parum exercitatos,
concordant in hoc quod anima sit inunortalis." et ad modicum doctos ejus error: twn quia ejus auctoritas et sapientia
23 De anima, VI. 9. 162a: 'lEt hoc forsitan concedet aliquis propter sermonem sententiam ejus credibilorem efficiunt ..."
Aristotelis in libra suo de anima, partem animae separabilem iIlam videlicet 38 O. Pluta, "Averroes als Vennittler der Gedanken des Alexander von
qua intelligit .... Iste autem intellectus non solum erroneus est, sed impossibilis. Aphrodisias." in Averroismus in Millelalter und in der Rennaissance, F.
lam enim declaratum est tibi in eis quae praecessenmt in hoc ipso tractatu Niewohner and L. Slurlese (eds.), (Ziirich: Spur Verlag" 1994), pp. 201 - 203.
declarationibus multis, et demonstrativis animam humanam in corruptibilem 39 William of Auvergne, De anima, v. 3, 114b: "Nec praetereundus est hic
esse, et quoniam non est in ea pars et pars, neque potentiae quae ei attribuntur error Alexandri quo insanissime deliravit de natura et originae animae
sunt u110 modorum partes ipsius, neque aliqua earum est in ea tamquam pars." humanae, dicens eam oriri et esse ex contemperantia elementorum, ac si diceret
ex bonitate cornplexionis tanquam ex conjuctione ipsorurn qui per illud dicitur
28 The Philosophical Significance 0/ Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Immortality in the 13th Century 29

esse inductus, quia videlicet dyscratia, excessusque in 000, vel in pluribus 49 De anima, II, tr. 1, c. 4, p. 70 a - b: "Cuius causa necessaria est, quia cum
elementis vitam distrahit in hominibus et in aliis animalihus; inde enim primum partes animae sint naturales potestates eius ab ipsa fluentes, impossibile est,
proveniunt aegritudines, et laesiones vitae, deinde mors in animalibus." quod ab essentia conjucta cum corpore fluat potestas separata. Sed e converso
40 For instance, William went to great lengths to argue against the supposed possibile est, quod ab eo quod essentialiter est separatum, fluant potentiae
teaching of Alexander that the material intellect is inactive in lmowledge. operantes in corpore, quia onmis potestas superior potest, quidquid potest
However in the De anima, Alexander attributed abstractive power to the virtus inferior. et non convertitur; cuius probatio est, quia nos videmus quod a
material intellect, but insisted that this power could not be consequential unless primo motore simplici. qui maxi me separata essentia est inter omnes essentias,
the agent intellect conferred its intelligibility on the material intellect. In the De fluit virtus motiva primi mobilis, quae nullo modo explet operationem suam
intellectu, the role of the agent intellect becomes more expansive acting on the sine corpore, eo quod nihil est localiter mobile nisi corpus."
material intellect to make it habitual (intelligencia agens per quam intellectus so E. Gilson, ''L'arne raisonnable chez Albert Ie grand," p.43.
materialis fit ut habeat habitum p. 76) 51 De anima, m, tr. 3, c. 11, p. 221, a. 25 - 27: "Per hoc enim videtur nobis,
41 Albert the Great, De natura .. , ii,S, 80 - 97: "Solus inter philosophos nec de hoc dubitamus, quin intellectus agens sit pars et potentia animae."
animam rationalem concedit perire pereunte corpore." S2 Summa de creaturis, II, quo 8, a. I, p. 501: " ... onmes,intelligibile secundum
42 De anima, xxiv, 329 quod est intelligibile, habet illam simplicitatem quae fit per resolutionem a
43 Ibid., xxiv, 334. materia et appendiciis materiae. Sed duplex est materia, scilicet subjecta motui,
44 E. A. Moody, "William of Auvergne and his Treatise De anima," in Studies et substans universali. Materia autem quae' est subjecta motui, non est illud
in Medieval Philosophy, Science and Logic (Los Angeles: University of quod est res, et est in potentia ad formam quae est pars rei et non est totum, et
California Press. 1975), p. 60: "Since the theory of the active intellect in his propter hoc non praedicatur de reo Materia autem quae substat universali, est id
eyes. ran counter to such fundamental doctrines as the indivisibility of the soul. quod est res, quia ipsa est hoc particulare demonstratum, et forma sua est forma
or its individual immortality, he refused to entertain it as an acceptable totius et non partum et propter hoc praedicare de tota re: et appendicia illius
explanation." See also R.-A. Gauthier, "Note sur les debut (1225 - 1240) du materiae S\Ult salis supra materiam quae est particulare. Et cum dicitur, quod
premier "averroisme..... Revue des sciences philosophiques et theologiques, 66 intellectus abstrahat a materia, intelligitur de materia quae est particulare: quod
(1982), p. 356. patet: hominem enim non abstrahit intellectus nisi ab hoc homine, et ab ilIo, et
4S Ibid., p. 101. non abstrahit hominem a semine et a corpore hominis. Et similiter abstrahit
46 1. V. Schall. "Immortality and the Political Life of Man in Albertus Angelum ab hoc Angelo et ilIo, et similiter animam ab hac anima et ilIa, et sic
Magnus," The Thomist. 48 (1985), p. 29. See also B. Mojsisch, "Gnmdlinien de aliis."
der Philosophie Alberts des GroBen," Freiburger Zeischriji for Philosophie S3 Ethica. 1. I, t. vii, V. 17, vol. VII, p. 133: ..... intellectus adeptus radix est
und The%gie. 32 (1985), p. 29: "Den Problemstellungen dieser Werke Alberts immortalis ... Ille autem intellectus de sui natura semper est contemplatione
ist zu entnehmen, daB er die philosophische Psychologie in das Zentrum seines admirabilissimorum firmissimorum, et purisimorum theorematum, quorum ipse
Denkens rUckte,"; A. De Libera, Albert Ie Grande et lei philosophie (paris: 1. propria imago est et susceptiwm. In his autem felicitas potissima est, ut dicit
Vrin. 1991), p. 215: "La noetique d'Albert est Ie coeur vivant de sa pensee, Ie Aristotles. Patet igitur ex omnibus his, quod animae quas virtute et scientia
foyer de son systeme. Ie principal terrain de son engagement philosophique." hunc intellectum adeptae sunt. felicitatem habent post mortem."
47 Concerning Plato's and Aristotle's conceptions of the soul, Albert wrote, 54 De anima, ill, 3, C. 11. p. 221b, 83 -222a5 : "Et haec fiunt intellectu agent
"Ad aliud decendum, quod animam oonsiderando secundum se, consentimus intluente eis intellectualitatem. et faciendo haec hi.tellecta secundum actum esse
Platoni: considerando autem secWldum formam animationis quam dat corpori. intellecta intellectua agens conjungitur nobis ut efficiens: Et quia in omnibus
consentimus Aristoteli." Summa theologiae, II, tr. 12, q. 69,m. 2- a- 2; t. 18. p. his influit intellectualitatem et denudationem. sunt omnia sibi similia i hoc
348. quod separata sunt et nuda; et ideo in omnibus his accipit continue intellectus
48 On this E. Gilson wrote. "Albert veut naturellement maintenir la possibilite possibilis lumen agentis et efficitur sibi similior et de die in diem. Et hoc
d'une existence de l'ame separee, Ie probleme de l'immortalite de i'arne l'y vocatur a philosophis maveri ad continuitatem et coniunctionem cum agent
oblige. n va donc raisoner ainsi: exercer des operations vitales appartient it la intellectu, et cum sic acceperit omnia intelligibilia intellecta, habet lumen
substance de l'arne en tant qu'inseparable du corps: or I'arne est separable du agentis ut formam sibi adhaerentem, et cum ipse sit lumen suum eo quod lumen
corps: i1 faut donc qu' elle soit en elle-merne quelque chose de plus que I' acte suurn est essentia sua, et non est extra ipsum, tunc adhaeret intellectus agens
du corps organique." Cf: "L'ame raisonable chez Albert Ie grand." Archives de possibili sicut fonna materiae. Et hoc sic compositum vocatur a Peripeteticis
l'histoire doctrinale et lilteraire du moyen-age, 4 (1944 - 1945), p. 27 intellectus adeptus et divinus."
S5 Summa de creaturis, II, q. 55, a. 3, p. 468b - 469a.
Thomas Aquinas and the Question oj Immortality in the 13th Century 31
30 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas

Commentary on Dionysius'De coe/esti hierarchia, c. 9, 6, ad. 2; xiv, p. I 'tur ad corpus non habet secundum esse et operationes huiusmodi
d~pendentiam; et quod ad corpus non dependet, non destruitur ilIo destructo;
283a: "Ad secundum dicendum quod cognitio horninis incipit a phantasmate, et
tenninatur ad intellectum: et secundum bane viam potest etium illuminari ab anima igitur rationalis non perit pereWlte corpore." .
77 F. Van Steenberghen argues repeatedly against the use of the t~rm LatIn
Angeli, cum non sufficiat ad abstractionem onmium specierum lumen
intellectus vel divinurn." Averroism because for many reasons those designated by the appelatlOn do not
57 Odo Rigaldus, op. cit., pp. 241- 242. profess A;erroism as a doctrine. He proposes the term radical or heterodox
S8 Summa de creaturis, q. 59, 8.2, p. 524b. Aristotelianism as an alternative. His conclusion is largely correct, but we have
S9 De anima, VIT, 22, p. 176b. retained the term because it has its origin among the thinkers of the thirteenth
60 For Plotinus' arguments for immortality, see The Eneads, Book IV, 7. 8. century especially Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. Again, though the
61 See Avicenna's Liber de anima seu sextus de naturalibus, ed. S. Van Riet, arts masters who were at the centre of the trouble were more the admirers of
Avicenna Latinus (Louvain: Peeters), V, 4, 70 - 77. Aristotle than Averroes, some of the points of contention which they raised, !;
62 cr. John Blund, De anima, xxiii, 319j Alexander of Nequam, Speculum especially with 'regard to the morphology of the h~man intellect, accord ~th
speculationum, Ill, I, xxxviii. 1. Averroes and Moslem thinkers in general. More Importantly, the alternatIve
63 Philip the Chancellor, Summa de bono, 265, 49 - 266, 109, Albert the Great, suggested by Van Steenberghen, heterodox Aristotelianism, is not without its
Summa de creaturis, q. 59 . 21 pp. 524b" 526 . own problems: KIUker and Sandktihler were correct when tt;ey ~ote :'Es soil
64 William of Auvergne, De anima, VI. ,8, p. 164b; De immortalitate , pp. 50 _ hier nicht das in der philosophiegeschichtlichen Forschung dlskutlerte, m erster
51,59; Alexander of Hales, Questiones, 1. 32, 20, 30" 35. Linie terminologische Problem erortert werden, ob die Schule, der Siger von
65 William of Auvergne, De immorlalilale; p. 55, De anima, VI. 4, p. 170b; Brabant angehort, als "Iateinischer Averroismus" oder als "heterodoxer
John Blund, De anima, 1. v. 188b, 20" 23. Aristotelismus" bezeicimet werden sollte. Der zweiter Ausdruck beinhaltet eine
66 John of La Rochelle, Summa de anima, 1. 42; William of Auvergne, De Bewertung der RechtgHiubigkeit, die nur aus einer dogmatischen Perspektive
anima, VI. 3, p. 158b; Alexander of Hales, Questiones, 1. 32, 22, 5 " II. im Hinblick auf die weitere LehrentwicklWlg des Mittelalters siImvoll
67 Philip the Chancellor, Summa de bono, 269, 183 - 184; Albert the Great, erscheinen k8lUl. Anderseits ist zu beachten, daB auch die BezeicimWlg
Summa de ereaturis, q. 59, a. 2, 30, p. 529a. lateinischer Averroismus" leicht miBzuverstehen ist: in ihr wird nicht deutlich
68 WiliiamofAuvergne, De anima, VI., 18,p.173b. rl'aB nicht allein die Philosophen urn Siger von Brabant, sondern auch aIle
" Philip the Chancellor, Summa de bono, 269,185" 195. anderen Autoren des 13. Jahrhundert, die sich mit Aritoteles beschfiigen, die
70 John of La Rochelle, Summa de anima, 1. 42, pp. 180 ff; William of Schriften des "Konunentators" Averroes benutzen." Cf: Menschliche Seele und
Auvergne, De anima, VI. 13 p. 168 a - b; De immortalitale, pp. 47 - 49; Kosmischer Geist: Siger von Brabant in der Auseinandersetzung mit Thomas
Alexander Nequam, Speculum specu/alionum, ill, lxxxvii. 1. von Aquin (Stuttgart: Freies Geistesleben" 1988). For the views of Van
n John Blund, De anima, xxiii, 320: 'lSi anima moritur, aliquid de anima Steenberghen, see, Aristotle in the West, E. Nauwelaerts, Louvain, 1955, pp.
relinquitur post mortem. llIud relictum non erit corpus. Aut ergo illud erit pars 198 - 208, La philosophie au XIIle siec/e, 2 nd edition, 1991, pp. 354 - 359.
corporis aut non. Si non est pars corporis, aut est anima aut intelligentia: 78 Cf. F. Van Steenberghen, La philosophie au Xllle siecle, p. 363,
quorum neutrum potest esse. Ergo anima mori non potest. Ergo anima est 79 Chartularium. I, no. 246, pp. 277 - 279.
irnmortalis ... 80 F. Van Steenberghen, La philosophie au XlIIe siecle, p. 359.
72 Alexander of Hales, Questiones, 1. 32, 28, 26 - 27: "quia sic sensibilis et 81 Averroes' chequered history in the Latin West has been very much
vegetabilis in plantis esset immortalis." reconstructed by a series of studies within the last century. As we have earlier
13 Ibid., 1. 32.4, 15, p. 558, 2: "nullum mortale in quantum mortale appetit seen, he was very well received at first, and only with the tombles of the
mortem, quia unumquodque appetit esse et sui esse conservationem. Sed second half of the century did his doctrines become a cause of controversy.
anima rationalis secundum virtutem fortitudines in summa appetit mortem, quia Dominic Salman wrote a series of articles to show that neither in Jo1m of La
fortitudo est virtus difficilimorum operativa in sustinendo, difficillimum autem Rochelle nor even in Albert the Great (the first to write a De unitate intellectus
est mors. Ergo, cum virtus sit habitus voluntarius, voluntus mortis est in contra averroistas) was there any trace of what would later be called Latin
anima; ergo anima rationalis non est mortalis; ergo non moritur cum corpore." Averroism. Cf. "Albert Ie grand et l'averroisme latin," Revue des sciences
74 Summa de anima, 1. 42, p. 180. philosophiques et theologiques, 24 (1935); ''Note sur 1a premiere influence
" Summa de bono, 266,102" 207,108" 109. d' Averroes," Revue neo-scolastique de philosophie, 40 (1940); "Jean de la
76 Albert the Great, De natura el origine imimae, II, c. 6, p. 27, 85: "Animam Rochelle et les debuts de l'averroisme latin," Archives de l'histoire doctrinale
autem rationalem haec appetere et qaerere et invenire non est, qui ambigat. et litteraire de moyenne-age, 16 (1948), pp. 135 - 144. See also R. Miller, "An
Aspect of Averroe" Influence on St. Albert," Mediaeval Studies, 16 (1954),
32 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas

pp. 57 - 71; H. A. Wolfson, "The Twice-Revealed Averroes," Speculum, 36

(1961); For the dates of the first influence of Averroes, see R- A. Gauthier,
''Notes sur les debuts (1225 - 1240) de premier Averroisme." Revue des Chapter 2
sciences philosophiques et theologiques, 66 (1982), pp. 322 - 373.
82 See for instance F. Van Steenberghen, La philosophie au XIIIe siecle, p.
362: "Mais cette attitude audacieuse ... se reveve1e plutOt, d'une longue
evolution et de tendences qui se dessinent a la faculte des arts de Ie debut du
83 With regard to the soul, the propositions condemned by Tempier are the
following: "Quod intellectus omnium hominum est unum et idem numero;
Quod ista est falsa vel impropria: homo intelligit; Quod anima, quae est fonna
hominis secundum quod homo comunpitur corrupto corpore; Quod Deus non
potest dare" immortalitatem vel incorrupcionem rei corruptibili vel mortali;
Quod anima post mortem separata non patitur ab igne corjJorea." 2.1 The Man of Aquinas
Charlularium, 543 - 58.
84 Siger did not write any work before the eruption of the controversy of Chapter I shows, among other things, that the teaching of the so-
Averroism. The points that were condemned and the attack of Aquinas were called Latin Averroists was of great concern to Thomas Aquinas, for it
based on a reportatio of his lectures. The De anima intel/eetiva which was touches on mmt can be viewed in many ways as one of his greatest
written aroWld 1273 expresses substantially the main points though with
contributions to philosophicalleanting. More than all his ancestors in
fundamental modifications and with much hesitation. For the text of the
Questiones, see Van Steenberghen, Siger de Brabant d'apres ses oevres
the philosophical enterprise, Aquinas not only works with the common
inedils, v.1 (Louvain: Institut superieur de philosophie, 1931), pp. 21 - 156, acceptance of Aristotle the philosopher among his contemporaries, he is
and also, Questiones in tertium de anima. De anima intel/eeh'va, De aeternitate singularly the first to follow the consequences of his interpretation of
mundi, ed. B. Bazan (Louvain: Publications universitaires, 1972) Aristotle, \\hlle struggling, sometimes, successfully, and sometimes not
85 Aquinas against the Averroists, Latin text with English translation by R. so successfully, to bring these in accord with the tenets of his faith. The
McInerny (West Lafayette: Purdue Univ. Press, 1993), p. 18. driving motive of Thomas is his enduring conviction that when properly
86 In the Contra gentiles, Aquinas prefaced his arguments for immortality, like exercised, reason or philosophy cannot but confonn to the truth of
Albert in the De natura el origine, with a long attack on Alexander of faith.' The great difficulties encountered in such a grand project are
most clearly seen in his effort to bring to bear the instrwnent of
87 See 1a. 75, 5: ''Utrum anima sit composita ex materia et forma."
88 D. Salman, "Albert Ie grand et l'averroisme latin," p.42.
Aristotle's philosophy on the understanding of the human soul. That
89 Aquinas against the Averroists, p. 18: ''Nec id nunc agendum est ut effort is bedevilled by the almost impossible mission to confonn
positionem predictam in hoc ostendamus esse erroneum quod repugnat veritati Aristotle to the accepted views of man and his soul, and consequently,
fidei christiane; hoc eoim satis in promptu cuique apparere potest. Substracta the outcome retains a great deal of the ambivalence characteristic of the
enim ab hominibus diversitate intellectus, qui solus inter animae partes thirteenth century reception of Aristotle. Aquinas may have shared a
incorruptibilis et immortalis apparet, sequitur post mortem nichil de animabus great deal of this ambivalence, but however the result of his synthesis is
hominwn remanere nisi unicam intellectus substantiam; et sic tollitur retributio judged, it can easily be seen that, set against the background in which
premiorum et penarum et diversitas eOfWldam." he worked, his work remains monumental, and in all the history of
90 See for instance Compendium theologiae, Opuseula theologiea, ch. 85 -
philosophy, his achievement is one that not many figures can boast of
87; Questiones quodlibetales, q. 3, a. I, resp.
91 La controverse de 1270 a I'universite de paris et son retentissement sur la
pensee de St. Thomas d'Aquin (paris: J. Vrin, 1970). The man of Thomas Aquinas is a composite of body and soul,
92 R.-A. Gauthier, "Notes sur Siger de Brabant," Revue des sciences matter and fonn, like all material substances in hylemorphic
philosophiques ellheologiques, 67 (1983), pp. 201 - 234. composition. The thirteenth century was heir to the two opposed
34 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception ofthe Human Soul 35

conceptions of man derived ultimately from Plato and Aristotle. While lengths to argue against it. In the Contra gentiles, after an exploration
for Aristotle man is subject to the general ontological composition of of the ways a spiritual substance (soul) can be united to matter (body),
matter and fonn, for Plato, man as man is the SOul,2 a complete Aqulnss takes on the Platonic position, describing it as that in which
independent substance, which, descending from a previous existence, is body and soul are united only as mover to the moved. But this would be
only uncomfortably living In the body, playing the vital role of ruling impossible for several reasons. In the first place such a union will be a
and commanding the body In which it lives, while ideally tending tmion of power, a union which carmot give rise to a being that is
towards its primordial origln, to which it can only come by complete unqualifiedly one. It would then mean that soul and body do not form
separation from the material body. For Plato, the body is vile, and is the one thing. which is contrary to experience since from their union results
source of evil for the soul. The soul found In such an uncomfortable a man. Again, followlng the principle that operatio sequitur esse,
material existence with it is in a state of punishment, and such existence Aquinas argues that it is impossible that things as diverse as body and
can be of benefit only to the body. The Platonlc explanation of the soul should have a single operation from the point of view of the agen~
be1ng of the soul and body enjoyed a long histOlY of adherence, from if Indeed they do not form a single being. But In man, even though there
late antiquity through the patristic times down to the time of Thomas are activities proper to the soul, several others can be identified as
Aqulnas, and beyond. For Christian thinkers, it was a neat being the acts of man as a unitary being, simply speaking. Among such
philosophical background for the belief in, if not the defence of, activities issuing from the common nature of man, he lists fear, anger,
immortality. Augustine for One shows here and there some lnsights, and sensation. 9
which would have led to somethlng slntilar to the Thomistic position of Furthermore, Aqulnas tries to counter the Platonic conception of the
unity of the human being. He describes anyone who would like to soul as self-moving by arguing from the understanding of death as the
separate the body from human nature as stupid,' and clearly states that a separation of the soul from the body. If indeed Plato were correct, it
soul united to the body does not make two persons but one. 4 Gnmted would mean that the two entities, body and soul, are of distinct beings,
that the details of what he means by the oneness of the human and the body would not owe its being to the soul. It means that with the
personality are subject to diverse Interpretations, Augustine clearly separation of the soul from the body, the body would still retain its
indicates his basic anthropological stance when he defines the soul as a being unhampered, and would be In a position to perform operations
rational substance congenlal to rule the body,' and man as a rational proper to its species Independent of the soul. For Aquinas, this is
soul that has a mortal and earthly body at its service.' It goes without contrary to common experience, since the body can only be equivocally
saying that Augustine is too steeped In Platonlsm, which forms the called a human body after death, not being able to undertake any action
basic metaphysical foundation ofhis thought, to be able to really go all proper to living being without the soul. \0 The underlying thrust of these
the way with the consequences of man described as a composite. points is that the soul and the body are bound up In their being, and in
Augustine's dominant influence in the medieval times ensured that their operation. They cannot be understood as separate entities with
deep within the thirteenth century, the Platonlc framework of his distinct being independent of the other, and existing side by side
doctrine still controlled the conception of the rational soul. Even though through some mechanlcal relationship. This is the import of the
this conception had to face the diverse influences to which the age was response to the same question in the Summa theologiae which can be
subject, it was still seating very queerly with the Aristotelian view of viewed as a summary of the arguments he outlined In other places to
the man as consisting of soul and body in hylemorphic union. We have show that body and soul form a composite, man.
seen that in spite of the Aristotelianlsm of Albert the Great, man as man Man for Aqulnas forms a specific type of being, distinct from other
is for him the soul. For William of Auvergne, man is a soul using the beings, and the nature of such a specific being must involve whatever
body .as instrument,1 so much so that with Avicenna, Auvergne the strict and correct definition of the being must include. In the case
subscnbed to the metaphor of the disembodied man who does not of material beings, Including man, such nature must Include matter and
recognize the body as part of his nature. 8 fonn, body and soul. Matter, in the general sense, is thus part of the
Despite the convenlence of the conception of man as the soul, specific difference of material thlngs, for the essence of the species
Aqulnas firmly malntalns the contrary position, and goes to great must take account of all that belongs In general to every one member of
36 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception ofthe Human Soul 37

that species. It means that in the case of man, just as it belongs to the soul alone that is a person, incommwricable, substantial and rational,18
nature of the individual man to have a soul, and a body, the materiality a being at home in the whole of nature, spiritual and material.
that is characteristic of his body must enter into the conception of The unity that exists between mans body and his soul is such that it
man. 11 has been suggested that man can in a way be said to be a body in tbe
Mans nature as a composite of soul and body has consequences philosophy of St. Thomas" This is because he is one substance, one
which go well beyond his being, to the general, universal order of being, and that being is a corporeal being, being constituted like other
created existence. It is in this regard that he is called a microcosm of corporeal beings of matter and form. He is a mobile being which is not
the macrocosm,12 a sort of parvus mumJus, for Aquinas, like many of possible without a body. But if man is a body, it is to be understood in
his predecessors, views the wriverse of beings or the world in tenns of a generic sense, in the way he can be said to be an animal, a substance,
two apparently natural incompatibles - matter and spirit. While matter and a rational being. Given that man has just one substantial form
is all that comes to the view of rational man, the perfection of creation (more on this later), and this form, the soul, together with matter
requires spiritual beings existing in greater nearness to the all-perfect constitutes the body, matter alone does not constitute the body, since
Creator, sharing in his being, and being able through its operation to that matter would be nothing without the only form that is present in
return to the source of beings." In addition, creation itself is endowed man. The material side of man, if it were to exclude the spiritual,
with an intelligent and orderly disposition of beings, a thought which would not in fact be a body. It means that conceptually separated, the
for Aquinas points to the existence of the Creator. Consequently, it body is indicative of the union that is found in man. It is also a
would not lack the good of order,14 and if matter and spirit are composite of matter and form, and because of this, it is literally a body.
contraries, they are nevertheless not parallels. Man is the being that For the same reason, and in deference to the spiritual nature in man, the
contains in itself the materiality and the spirituality that mark the great body can be said to be spiritual; since its proper existence involves the
divide in the world of being. In his being are the two realities not just presence of the spirit, it can be rightly said to be the spirit itself in a
existing side by side, but uniting as matter and form to issue into a somatic form. 20 In this position, the body puts man in direct relation
being, one and independent The unity that is in him is in a way with the world, with the material world; it is the exteriority of the soul.
archetypical of the universal order of being in which the highest Thomas' man is thus of a unitary nature, it is not made up of two
member of the lower order touches the lowest member of the higher." substances, one material, another spiritual with two natures. Body and
Man stands thus as a middle point in the universal order, sharing the soul make up one nature only. It is the hallmark of human nature, that
characteristics of the two, being at once spiritual and matenal, even though it is made up of matter and spirit, it carmot be adequately
knowledgeable and ignorant, free and constrained. He is, as Verbeke expressed as having two natures, one of which would be material and
has rightly expressed, a frontier. 16 And from this focal point he is and the other spiritual. The nature of man is thus a third type of nature aside
can become everything. As microcosm and as frontier, the man of from the material and the spiritual, and this is the source of its
Aquinas requires a union as intimate and binding as that between a uniqueness. 21 The matter in man would only be prime matter without its
form and its matter. form (the soul), and were the soul itself not to be united to its matter,
The old idea of a universal order of being, from which arises the the body, it could perhaps be an angelic nature, but not human.
thought of man as a microcosm, as being on the horizon and as being a Still, the unity of soul and body in man should neither be
frontier was used directly by a good number of the immediate forebears overemphasized nor in fact misunderstood. True man is in a way the
of St. Thomas as a point of departure for the defence of the immortality body, but Aquinas' philosophy hardly ever gives any detailed attention
of the soul. But for Thomas, what is important is to establish the to man as such, or to the body distinct from the soul. In practice, his
~tr?ng unity in man, and the necessity of such a being that incorporates anthropology is little more than the totality of his treatises on the soul,22
m Itself the most notable characteristics of existence. The position thus and where he is led to write about the body, it is almost always in
established will of course have an influence in his explanations of the circumstances where the soul is also at issue or where such will lead to
~pecific nature of the soul, and also on his defence Ofimmorality, but it the understanding of the nature of the soul and its activities. This
IS of utmost importance that man is one, that it is the composite, not the treatment is, however, not at variance with the basic tenets of Aquinas,
38 The Philosophical Significance a/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception of the Human Soul 39

who while squarely against the Platonic understanding of man, did not an animal can be principles of life of some sort. The lung is the
completely succeed, as we shall see later, in extricating himself from principle of the act of breathing, and the heart is the principle of the
the most fundamental strand of Platonism. Man is a distinctive nature, circulation of the blood. All these are vital acts in a living organism,
but his distinctiveness is constituted by his rationality, which is owed to but they are not thereby independent and in themselves sufficient. It is
the soul in the final analysis. The proper activity of man as man is the conceivable that an inquirer seeks the source of life in these organs, and
act of understanding. 23 It is not because he has a body that he is a man, one is forced to seek further, to find the source of these vital activities.
it is not because of his incomnuullcability, nor because of his This enquirer will no doubt come to a stop when he hits the ultimate
substantiality that he is a person, for brute animals also possess these source of life in the living substantial organism concerned. It is this
qualities. The fact is that man is man because he reasons and type of explanation of the life of an organism that is generically
understands, so that for Aquinas, the very being of man is to understood as the soul. For Aquinas, such a principle cannot be a body,
understand. If man has one nature, one being, and this being is otherwise there would be nothing preventing any material thing from
intrinsically linked with the quality of spirituality, it follows then that having life. It means that there is a logical necessity to look beyond
all that is human in man is so because it is somehow cOIlllected to his activities associated with material organs or bodies to the fundamental
being as spirit, as soul, and as such is of an intellectual nature. 24 source of their vital activity. When the human being is the locus of
There is thus in Aquinas an umnistakable subordination, of the body such an inquiry, one cannot but terminate in what in Aristotelian
to the soul, of the material to the spiritual, of the sensual to the terminology is called the rational soul, for over and above the
intellectua1. Man becomes "an intelligence living in - and on - vegetative and the sentient activities of the man, he is endowed with
matter, ,,2S and the intimacy of the composition of the substantial thinking, with rationality, which constitutes for Aquinas the specific
principles in man does not bespeak of equality between the body and difference in the human species. He therefore adopts the Aristotelian
the soul. Even though the two are the fundamental principles in man, definition of the human soul as the first actuality of an organic body
there is no doubt in Aquinas that the inferior principle exists for the having life in potency?' Since form is the actuality of being, it means
sake of the superior, and that consequently matter exists for the sake of that a soul for Aquinas, as for Aristotle, is any form, which, united to
its form, and the body for the sake of the soul. 26 Is the unity on which any material organism, gives life to the composite.
Aquinas seems to have laid much emphasis now unravelling? The The human soul is the form of the human body, but it is different
human body is spiritualized, man is both corporeal and spiritual, but he from all other forms by being a subsistent form, a form capable of
is primarily and eminently spiritual since it is spirituality that marks him existing on its own. The soul understood as a subsistent fonn is one of
out as a specific nature. That there is nothing in him that is. not geared the cardinal points of Aquinas' philosophy of man. The difficulty of
towards his intellectual nature indicates the supreme position of the this position and the importance he attaches to it is shown by the ardour
soul in the man of Aquinas. How he tried to weld together the two with which he tries to dissipate the attendant problems and doubts in all
strands of inseparable unity in man and the special position of the soul the passages he wrote on the soul. The fundamental problem of
in the composite is the central knot in his philosophy of man. It is a introducing hylemorphism in the body-soul composition is the teaching
knot introduced by the consideration for immortality and the ultimate that form and matter are meant one for the other, and that none can
destiny of man. The genius in Aquinas lies in accepting for the first exist on its own. Even though Aristotle had named form as one of the
time the naturalism of Aristotle, with its definition of the soul as form ways in which things can be said to be substance in his Metaphysics, it
of the body, and welding it into his own doctrine. is obvious that he was using reductive implication of the term, and is in
no way intended to mean that a fonn could exist apart from matter,
2.2 The Human Soul, A Subsistent Form acting on its own in separation." Matter is the principle of potentiality,
and form is its actua1ity, while an uninformed matter is not more than a
The soul is defined by Aquinas as the first principle of life in a living concept in Aristotle's metaphysic, a form without matter can only be a
being." The first import of the description is in consideration of the conceptual reality. Each of the thirteenth century thinkers had to face
fact that there can be other principles of life in a living being. Parts of the same problem, and we have mentioned that none of them before St.
40 The Philosophical Significance a/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception of the Human Soul 41

Thomas accepted the implications of the definition of soul as form of is in act or in being. It is due to the soul that the body is capable of
the body. Even though most used the Aristotelian definition of the soul, having life. Life in man may indeed be manifested in the various
they all later went back on the definition by really explaining the nature activities of vegetating, sensing and knowing, but the soul is the
of the soul in the best tradition of Platonism as an independent ultimate source of all these, and indeed of all other vital activities that
substance. Aquinas is among the first major thinker of the thirteenth man is capable of. He therefore draws the conclusion that since the
century to subscribe to Aristotle's definition of the soul and to try to soul is the principle of intellectual activity, it must be the form of the.
show that its implications can fit into the traditional conception of the body."
soul as substance, or as subsistent. How did he argue for these It is significant that while in the Contra gentiles, Aquinas
apparently irreconcilable positions? concentrates on the being of the body to show that the soul must be its
In the Contra gentiles, he states two conditions under which form, in the Summa theologiae he dwells more on the various activities
sometlting could be the form of another. The form must be the principle which are properly the activities of the person. Again, without dwelling
or source of the substantial being of the thing for which it serves as a exclusively on intellectual activity in the premise, he asserts as a
form in such a way that it is what makes it a particular being. Second, conclusion to the arguments that the soul can be form on grounds of
such a form must be united to the thing in question in such a way that being the primary principle of intellectual activity. However, it must be
there is one act of being for the composite. For Aquinas, tltis is exactly said that he carefully subsumes all other activities under the soul by ,
the relationship which exists between the soul and the body whose form designating it as their proper ultimate source. Yet the emphasis on
it is, in that the soul, the primary principle of life in man, is so united intellectual activity testifies to the use he makes of the fact of the ability
with the body that it communicates its life to the latter." The essential of the soul to understand, into which eventually he zeroes in his
points of tltis union are stated as a more formal proof to the effect that argument for soul as form by making it an ad impossibile based on the
the thing by virtue of which sometlting goes from potential to actual corrunon conscious experience of every man: anyone who rejects the
being is the form of the tlting thus educed in being. Aquinas holds that position that the intellective soul is the form of the body would have the
such is the relation between the soul and the body that the very being of onus of explaining why the act of understanding is commonly taken to
the body is derived from the soul. If tltis is so, it is the soul, which must be the act of a particular person, J3 Aquinas then explores other
be the actuality or the form of the body." possibilities of explaiuing how the understanding belongs to a person in
The implication of the arguments of Aquinas is very far-reaching. .order to show that only when the soul is understood as form can the
What the soul communicates to the human body is not just life, but belonging of intellective activity to a particular person be made
being. That means that without the soul, the body will not be a being at reasonable.
all. It entails that it is on accoWit of the union of matter and form that For Thomas, and in line with Aristotle,34 an act can be attributed to
the form becomes a body, and a living being. This in itself entails that someone either when the whole entity acts, or when the entity performs
what the soul unites with is not a lifeless body, but a beingless matter to the act with any of its parts or organs, or by accidental attribution when
make it a human body. The matter of the union will, conceptually, be the quality used to express the perforroance of the act belongs to the
prime matter, indeterminate matter, not one that has in any way been person only by accident. The act of understanding carmot be attributed
united to any type of form. Such a theory will not only have to man as though the whole composite is performing the act, uniess one
consequences for the weighing of the other activities of .the human subscribes to Plato's anthropology in which the intellect is in fact the
person, but will also affect the status of the soul and the body after man, and the thing that understands, That tltis possibility is not tenable
death. is attested to by the unity in man by virtue of which both the act of
Aquinas had to show that in fact such a close unity of being exists understanding and sensation belong to the same man, It implies that if
between the body and the soul to warrant the soul being taken as the man understands and senses, and sensation is part of the body, man can
form of the body. In the Summa the%giae, he restated that the primary in no way be said to be the body alone, and Plato's conception of man
source of the activity of a being is the form of that being, because a defies conscious experience. It is also not in an accidental manner that
thing is able to act only by virtue of that by means of which something man can be said to understand, given that the act of understanding is an
42 The Phr1osophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception ofthe Human Soul 43

act of man by virtue of his essence. The only possibility is that the Being so high, the power of the human soul so transcends matter that it
intellect, \\hich is the principle of understanding, is united to the body has activities in which matter does not participate at all; the power of
of man as form. For Aquinas, this seems to make understandable the understanding is responsible for this act.
intrinsic unity of the intellectual acts to man. It also obviates the need The content of this paragraph fits in very well with Aquinas'
for assuming that the principle of understanding (the soul) is the whole philosophy, and is repeated in several other passages of his work,39 but
person. coming in this case just afier a defence of the soul as form against the
The conclusion reached by drawing the consequence of the human positions of Plato and Averroes, it would seem out of place, if not
act of understanding is further confirmed by the consideration of the understood as a dress rehearsal, for the defence of immortality. There
nature of the human species. 3S The nature of each being is known appears to be some fear that the link between the body and the soul,
through its activity, and what is peculiar to man, what makes him a which Aquinas has consistently argued for in the long chapter, would
member of a specific species is that he can understand. It is the most be submerged in the general Aristotelian conception of form-matter
characteristic of all the activities of man, and, according to Aristotle, relationship, and therefore the reader requires a reminder of the special
that through \\hich his ultimate happiness is attainable. It follows that status of the soul as the highest. of forms, which, dominating matter
the source of such an activity should be the defining principle of man, a most completely, has the power of carrying on activities independent of
form making it possible for him to belong to a determinate species. matter. Even though the move from the total domination of matter to
The soul is therefore the substantial form in man, or more precisely, activities completely transcendent of matter is not logically warranted,
the form of the body. It is not only the source of its life activities, but to be noted is that the aim of Aquinas' passage is to underline the
also of its being. This position will most naturally lead to the capital that he makes of the power of understanding in the nature of the
clarification of other issues, including the unity or otherwise offorms in rational soul. The same power is again raised, and for the same purpose
man, and also how precisely the soul is related to the body as form, in the discussion of the subsistence of the soul.
\\hich will in turn touch on some problems in relation to death. The question of subsistence is evidently closely linked with that of
However, it is remarkable that Aquinas undertakes to provide solutions immortality, even though Aquinas discusses subsistence without clear
to the problems instead of seeking a simple escape route, as indeed a reference to the later doctrine. For the soul, the form of a mortal body
thinker like Albert the Great had done, by adopting Platonic view of to be the subject of immortality must also possess the power of
man, \\hich provides a good foundation for the defence of immortality. independent existence, existence as a substance in its own right, a hac
However, it is not to be forgotten that if indeed Aquinas held to aliquid. While Aquinas argues strenuously for the understanding of the
Aristotelian hylemorphism in the soul-body union, it is because he was soul as form, the subsistence of the soul touches more directly its
firmly convinced that immortality could still be defended from such a immortality. It is for that reason that he carefully delineates this
background. The series of doubts he puts in the mouth of his objectors" character ofthe soul. In the anima, it is discusse<\in the context
show that he is well aware that his theory "strains the form-matter of whether the rational soul can be both a form and a hac aliquid in the
principle of the Aristotelian physics and metaphysics."" And more: that very first chapter of the treatise, while in the Summa thea/agioe it is
the form-matter principle when applied to the human soul and body tackled immediately after the question of whether the soul is a body
"strains" the doctrine of immortality. This awareness explains his was dealt with in the section devoted to man. The arguments of the
concern to stress what is in his view the specificity of the soul, even Summa thea/agiae encapsulate the strongest of the numerous points
while emphasizing hylemorphic composition. Hence afier arguing for used in defence of the nature of the soul as a substance. 40
the soul as form of the body from the point of view of the species of The first of these arguments is based on the premise that through
man, Aquinas in the next paragraph makes a digression which gives understanding, man is a in position to know the nature of all bodily
away this concern. He reminds the reader that a form dominates things. The ability to know all things in this way indicates that the
matter, and the higher the form, the more that dominance is. Then he nature of the things known cannot be in the nature of the knowing
goes on to the gradation of different types of forms from those of subject, otherwise the form of the object of knowledge will obstruct
chemical substances to the highest, \\hich is the human soul itself. further knowledge of other objects of that nature. Consequently, if the
44 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception o/the Human Soul 45

intellectual principle has the nature of matter in any way, it will be Another point of Kelly's critique appears to be more telling. He
incapable of knowing all bodies. The same reason argues against corroborates the argument of Aquinas by reference to the parallel
understanding through any bodily organ, for that would also prevent the passage in the Commentary on the De anima where Aquinas employs
knowledge of all bodies. the act and potency poles of existence to prove the same point.
The reasoning goes in favour of the intellect being an incorporeal Everything which is in potency to and receptive of another is in want of
power, for even though the question under consideration is the that which it receives. The senses are receptive of colours because they
subsistence of the soul, Aquinas shows clearly in the reply that his lack all colours. In the same way the intellect is receptive of all
arguments would establish both incorporeality and subsistence. The intelligible things in knowledge because it is in potency to them, for
reason for this is because the only way in his system to arrive at the which reason it cannot have the nature of those things it understands in
subsistence of the soul, and indeed any knowledge of it, is to observe its its own nature. 43 The implication of this statement, according to Kelly,
activity in intellection, which, for him, adequately establishes the soul's is that "if the mind were in potency to and receptive of what it knows as
capacity for separate existence. The point he makes for subsistence is the senses are vis-a-vis what they sense ... the mind, because it can
then the conclusion of the argument for inunateriality: the intellect has know all things, could not itself be a being.""
operations specific to it in which the body does not participate, and The issues raised above are only some of the problems that follow
nothing can act in that manner unless it also has the power of Thomas' efforts to fit in the soul developed in a mainly Platonic
subsistence.41 tradition into Aristotelian metaphysics' and physics more of which we
Kelly gives a scathing critique of these proofs of subsistence in a shall see in a later section. For the moment, it suffices for us to not~at
short article published many year ago, the major points of which still many of the observations of Kelly are correct, even if they are
retain their actuality for our purpose.42 He frrst concentrates on the considered on the grounds of logic alone. It should however be noted,
premises of the argument based on the ability to know all bodies. Man with regard to the rererenls of the premises of Aquinas' argument, that
is the subject of the first premise of the argument, and even though the he could have very easily substituted the soul for man without altering
second is in the impersonal form (quod aulem pelesl), there is no the point of the argument. Indeed, while he argues firmly that it is the
reason to suppose, according to him, that the subject of the second human being that understands and senses to assert the formal nature of
premise should be the intellectual principle and not man. To suppose the soul, he also holds to the independence of the intellect, such that it
that the intellect is in fact the subject would be to assume what the becomes better to say man understands by the sou!." Even though such
statement is intended to prove. If man is the referent of the second can be taken as a mere modus loquendi, the dividing line between the
premise, and man is corporeal, it would not be true that what knows all soul considered as subsisting and acting independently, and man as a
bodies cannot be itself a body. For Kelly, the arguments of Aquinas unity is very often blurred. Kelly also makes some of his points by
appear to assume a prior determination of what bodies can do or cannot holding at abeyance certain doctrines which on account of the structure
do, but if it is the case that what is only a body cannot know all bodies of Aquinas' work were treated later. Such, for instance, is the insistence
it does not follow that knowing all bodies is an operation in which th~ that before the proof of subsistence, the soul was only known not to be
body does not share at all. What is required for a problem-free material, but not yet a form. The reality is that Aquinas outlines his
argument would be for Aquinas to show that what is a body, and not points in a sort of backward and forward movement. Many points are
what is only a body cannot know all bodies by showing that certain repeated, ahnost ad nauseam, others, which are presupposed in
characteristic belongs to the body which intrinsically prevents it from previous arguments, are later argued for specifically. The difficulties of
knOwing all bodies. However, before a proof is furnished to the effect such critics as Kelly would be avoided if the particular doctrine were
that it is only the intellect that is the source of cognitive activity there is viewed in the context of the whole philosophy. Still it is not being
no way one can prove that the body as such has such a characteristic. suggested that if this is done, all the difficulties raised will peter out.
This conclusion is in turn based on the premises of Aquinas' argument The unity which Aquinas insists on as regards human nature and the
which refers to man, and not just his soul as the knowing subject. relationship between body and soul is also found in the relationship of
the different types of activities as they are found in the human
46 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception of the Human Soul 47

composite. Since there are different levels of activities - nutritive, it only on the psychological plain, on which, according to him, the
sensitive and intellectual" and these are all different in their genre, it is prethomists all dealt with the problem involved.'1 St Thomas grounded
easy to suppose that there are different types of souls responsible for his solution on the formal nature of the soul, on its union with the body,
these activities. Again, it is also not easy to see how such a theory, if on the true nature of prime matter and substantial form, and on the
accepted, would have been detrimental to the doctrine of innnortality, distinction between substantial and accidental form. 52 One should
given that it could be said that the nutritive and sensitive souls die with however not overlook the obvious fact that most of the arguments used
the death of the body, while the rational soul survives, being the by Thomas in support of the thesis of unity of form are based on the
detenninant soul in the human composite. But such a position would impossible consequences of the supposition of the presence of three
introduce intractable problems in the coherence of the theory of the forms in man.
soul as form of the body, and would in no way fit into the Aristotelian The impossibility of there being more than one soul in man is
metaphysics, which is the philosophical background of Thomas' theory directed in all of Aquinas' work specifically against the position of
about the soul, and its hnmortality. Plato. The methodology consists mainly in supposing that Plato's view
The question of the relationship between the three types of "souls" were correct, and then highlighting the possible consequences from this
in man was also a preoccupation of many of the inunediate supposition, just as Auvergne did before. Most of the consequences
predecessors of st. Thomas. While some of the thinkers, such as follow from the understanding that there is an essential unity between
Richard Fishacre and Richard Rufus, did not come to any clear the matter of any being and its substantial form. In the Q, D, de anima,
conclusion about the relationship between the vegetative, sensitive and three impossible results are outlined. First, the supposition of diversity
the rational, there is no doubt that the most prominent thinkers before of forms entails that the diverse souls in man differ in a substantial
St. Thomas, including Philip the Chancellor, Albert the Great and John manner. The impossibility here stems from the fact that something that
La Rochelle, held the view that there could not be more than one soul in is one in being cannot be made of more than one thing existing as hoc
man, and thus that the sensitive, vegetative and the rational were all aliquid. It would follow that except one, the rest of the forms must be
powers of the same intellectual soul. 46 La Rochelle, for example, stated predicated on man only accidentally. But there are nevertheless
the classical response to the question, ahnost in the terms which examples where two forms are predicated essentially to one thing, but
Aquinas would later do. He asserted that form is the perfection of this is only when the two are by nature related, one to another. When it
being, and that it is one and the same human being that is vegetative, is said that a surface is coloured, for example, it is not because colour is
sensitive and rational. Being a single substance, it must have a single part of the nature of the surface as that the surface is presupposed by
perfection, a single form. Coming to the relationship between the three the notion of colour. But this second predication would not work
powers, he borrowed an analogy from geometry found in Aristotle' s De because, for Aquinas, the sentient is related as matter to the rational
anima,47 which states that the nutritive and the sensitive are inclusive in soul, and thns applying the special type of essential predication would
the rational soul. As a triangle is contained in a rectangle and a imply that animal is not essentially predicated of man, but that absurdly
rectangle in a pentagon, so does the sensitive in man' embrace the man is predicated essentially of animal. Another difficulty is that the
vegetative, and the rational the sensitive. 48 William of Auvergne on his thing through which a substance belongs to a particular genus must be
part was so intent on adhering to the unity of the soul which he one substantial form, and in man, the sentient soul through which being
conceived in the Platonic sense that he tried to bring the position of an animal is possible must be'the thing that constitutes the body into a
plurality of forms to ridicule. Because of the multiplication of senses, hoc aliquid, giving it the act of existence in an absolute manner. It
which he was the first to introduce into scholasticism from Avicenna," would mean that it is no longer through the rational soul that the body
he said that if indeed each operation of the human being must be due to receives its act of existence, for then the form of rationality will be
different souls, there must be altogether fifteen souls in man,50 a superimposed on something already existing. That would mean that
consequence which no proponent of multiplicity would accept. rationaiity, is an accidental form in man, and cannot make man what he
The novelty of st. Thomas' treatment of the issue, according to D. is, a rational animal. 53
A. Callus, is in his giving it a metaphysical grounding, instead of seeing
48 The Philosophical Significance o/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception o/the Human Soul 49

These two arguments presuppose Aquinas' theory of generation of organs are hindered short of maladies which disturb such activi~es?
man in which he holds that the nutritive soul is first generated, and Difficulties as these are usually inherent in the employment of doctrmes
prepares the way for the oncoming of the vegetative soul, which in turn which arise from sources in which they served different purposes for
gives way when the rational is present. In fact in the version of the other ends different from their original use.
argument presented in the Contra gentiles, this assumption is made If the problem of the unity of the human soul is indirectly linked
explicit. 54 It could be argued that such a gradual assumption of different with immortality, that of its hylemorphic composition is more directly
fonns may not be necessary, and therefore the rational soul does not linked with it. Matter in the Aristotelian system is the principle of
have to come into the body already formed by the sentient as colour to potentiality, and form that of actuality. Parting from such a theo,?,: the
a surface, or that, with reference to the second argument, that it may not first difficulty arises from how to distinguish God from other spmtual
need to wait till the body is made a subsistent substance to be joined to creatures including the ratioual soul. God is pure act, without any
it. Even so, the question of unity poses itself, and Aquinas, considering potentiality in him; his essence in the terminology of Aquinas im!,l~es
the question of what could possibly make the many souls, concludes his existence. What of other spiritual creatures? If they have potentiality
that their unity must be the unity of an aggregate of things which are in their being, do they not thereby have some form of matter in them,
many absolutely speaking, and one only relatively. and if they do not have potentiality, will they still be distinguishable
A consideration independent of the consequences of assuming from God? This in a spectacular way shows both the influence of
Plato's view to be true is the attempt to prove the singularity of the form Aristotelian teaching and the problem attendant on its acceptance by
in man by the statement that diverse powers not arising from the same Christian thinkers of the thirteenth century. We have seen that despite
principle do not hinder one another in their act, but that diverse the usefulness of Ibn Gabirol's universal hylemorphism, its introduction
operations of the soul hinder one another, for when one is intense, the of matter in spiritual beings was susceptible to viciating the theory of
other is hindered. This is used as a point to show that in fact all the incorruptibility of the soul. The theory of spiritual matter was rejected
powers of the soul are essentially rooted in the same principle. Even by many theologians of the thirteenth century, but it became a
though this point is repeated in several passages, there is hardly any trademark of most of the members of the Franciscan School, including
explanation given to what is meant, and in the Q. D. de anima, he adds prominently, Bonaventure.
to it the statement that there is in man an overflowing of one power into Thomas rejects this theoryS6 because the soul as form must either be
another, which proves the same point of common origin of the powers. so wholly or in part, but if it is wholly form, it cannot have matter in its
The issue of one power hindering another could be traced to as far being since the very notion of form excludes materiality. If, on the other
back as Dominic GWldissalinus' De immortalitate animae in which the hand, it is conceded that only part of such a soul is form, while the rest
weakening of the body in such phenomena as ecstasy and prophecy is is matter, then it is only the part that is form which can be rightly called
used t? show that the soul is most active when the body is weakened, a soul, and the matter it is joined with will receive the primacy ?f the
and WIll therefore be all the more alive when removed completely from actuation of the principle of actuality. It means that if the meamng of
the body." Hindering one another in Aquinas' sense would mean that form and its relation with matter in Aristotle's metaphysics is well
when the intellect is most active, for instance, the concentration of the understood, there is no way, even taking the issue logically, that the
senses would be much less. It is possible, for example, for a person soul can have matter in it. In fact, as J. de Vries says, for Thomas all
deep in contemplation to be seen to be physically gazing at an object that have form and matter are bodies. 57 Second, Aquinas goes back to
which in fact he is not perceiving. This raises the whole issue of the operation of the soul, asserting once again that the nature of a thing
subliminal perception, but it is doubtful whether such an example can is known by the way it operates. If so, we can know the nature of the
be terme? .~ impediment of the sense by the understanding. Again, soul by its cognitive activities. The soul knows things immediately and
some actIVItIes of the human composite, like the nutritive ones, have absolutely in such a way that the form of the thing known is in the soul.
many .asp~cts ~at are unconscious, going on relentlessly so long as the Were the soul composed of matter and form, things would be known
orgamsm IS ahve and has no malfunction. Is it conceivable that with the only in their individuality and not as forms, in which case the soul
intensity of the understanding or sensing the activities of the vegetative
50 The Philosophical Significance o/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception of the Human Soul 51

would know only singular and particular things. This for Aquinas is spiritualized, such that man as a whole becomes a spiritual being, at
surely not the case. least metaphorically.
The foregoing argument makes no distinction between the matter The first question that arises from such a theory is the
that is present in the composition of the soul, and the nonnal matter that proportionality between the co-principles of the composite that is man.
is the object of our sensitive knowledge. It is however doubtful whether Is it not more convenient to say that the human being is the soul using
outside the materialists of ancient philosophy, any thinker known to the body? The union is after all for the good of the soul, just as in
Aquinas would count the rational soul as a citizen of the world of nature matter is for the sake of the form. Again the soul being a form is
beings characterized by the qualities which Aquinas is presupposing in subsistent; it does not really need the body to exist, and its state of
the foregoing refutation. The designation spiritual matter in itself union supplies everything that is important for the normal being and life
speaks for this supposition. Aquinas is perhaps assunting that in any the composite. The soul is the most perfect fonn, spiritual in nature, but
way matter is understood, it must in some way be reducible to surface, it is in a hylemorphic union. It is often not taken account of that in the
to weight, and to quantity. But certainly, Bonaventure, for instance, system of Aquinas and Aristotle the soul is in fact not united with the
would not accept that spiritual matter has any of these qualities. body, strictly speaking, but with prime matter, for to be united with the
Thomas accepted the quod est and quo est composition in answer to the body means to be united with something, while the body is nothing
objection that only God is purely actual, and that hence other without the soul. Thus the objection in the Q. D. de anima to the effect
subsistence spiritual creatures must have matter as the basis of their that the soul being the most perfect form should be united to the most
potentiality." These descriptions traceable to Boethius were much used perfect body, which the human body does not seem to be, misses the
before Thomas as an answer to the same problem. 59 Albert the Great point." The objection should have been why the most perfect form in
took it up, in his distinction between suppositum and form. Gilson is of nature should be united to the least in the perfection of beings, prime
the view that whatever Albert understands as suppositum, it essentially matter, which lacks all perfection, since form is the perfection of being.
plays the same role as spiritual matter in those who uphold hylemorphic However, it must be stated that Aquinas always presents his questions
composition in the soul. If so, does the same comment not apply to the in terms of the union between soul and body, and in the De anima, the
quod est of Thomas, among other thinkers of the thirteenth century, and question is how the soul should be united to this body of ours.
does the whole problem not lie in the use of the terminology spiritual The answer to the question of the fitness of the soul to be united to
matter? Again, the whole thought of Albert on the soul, including the the human body has to do to with the primordial relationship between
attempt to replace spiritual matter by the term suppositum, is tailored to soul and body. Since matter exists for the sake of its form, it is in the
suit immortality, and the same can be said with regard to Aquinas. soul that the explanation of its union with the body must be sought. The
most obvious reason why the soul needs such a union is that it is not
3.3 Body and Soul endowed with intelligible species without which there can be nO
intellectual activity in it. Naturally, the soul possesses a potency to
The details of how the soul and the body are in the mysterious union receive intelligible species from the senses, which cannot exist
between the two principles in the human being can be seen much in the otherwise except as organs of the body.61 Aquinas argues further that the
same light. The union of the body and soul has been presented as so fact of the presence of the soul in the body implies that there must be a
intimate that man can be figuratively called the body. Aquinas argues predisposition of the body for the activities of sensation, most
repeatedly against the Platonic understanding of man. With Aristotle he important of all, of tactile operation. This is because, according to him,
insists that man is a composite, a hylemorphic union of matter and touch is the basis of other senses, and the body that the rational soul
form, the most intimate union that can exist in nature. Still the soul will unite with must have a specially developed sense of touch. He goes
subsists on its own independent of the body. It brings its life to the on to show that in fact the sense of touch is basic in sensory operations,
union, and as such the body has no life of its own. In fact its very and that it is highly developed in human beings: touch can perceive
existence as body is due to the soul, and that is why the body is thereby contraries, and hence those who have a finer touch are more intelligent.
Again, man has a larger brain; his head is placed on high; he is the only

52 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception ofthe Human Soul 53

erect animal; there is an abWldance of heat in him to enable him to keep conceived as being wholly in t."e body, and given that the concept of
to the erect position,62 etc. Some of these remarks may have some whole implies divisibility into smaller entities, one can also think of
points in the evolutionary development of the human species. three ways such wholeness can be divisible. A whole is either divisible
However, they are generally based on physiological ideas that have into quantitative, conceptual or functional parts. Quantitative division
long since been overtaken if they were once in vogue. can apply only to such forms as whiteness, which still remains
The question of the medium of the relationship between the soul and whiteness in each section of a dismembered white table. In this case,
the body is also resolved through an appreciation of the implication of the division of fonn is per accidens. The second type of wholeness and
their hylemorphic union. In fact, even though Aquinas very often takes its parts would apply to a species and its principles: matter and form,
up the issue of the mode of the union, the question is more relevant genus and difference. The third type of wholeness applies to the active
from the point of view of a Platonic view of man and the soul. For if and passive powers that a being possesses which can be taken in the
man is soul using the body, the obvious question is how do the two sense of parts of the whole in so far as these operations are manifested
manage to corporate in acts that we know as the acts of man? in diverse ways. It is only in the last two ways of being whole and part
Nevertheless, the question of a soul-body union was never satisfactorily that the soul can also be said to be in the whole of the human body and
resolved as we see much later from the philosophy of Rene Descartes. its parts. While the soul is in the whole and in each part, it is
On the other hand, if the soul is understood as giving to the body its act inconceivable that all its powers are realized in each part of the body. If
of existing, it implies that it comes to body immediately, and must thus it were so, that would mean that the eyes can smell and the ears can
precede any other modification or qualification of that matter." If hear. On the contrary, Aquinas says that the soul's power of sight is in
indeed the soul is not so related to the matter of the human body, then it the eye, and hearing in the ear (secundum visum in oculo, secundum
would not be substantial but accidental form. In the Summa auditum in aure)." The power of the soul is realized in each part
theo!ogiae," the question is put in the form of whether there is an according to the specific perfection of each of these parts.
accidental disposition that helps to prepare that union, and the answer One vital function which the body performs for the soul is that the
shows that the most fundamental issue of existence is at stake in the body serves to mark the distinction between souls, and thus designate
issue of relationship between soul and body. Thus the matter of the them as individuals. This is indeed a very important function since
body cannot be anything, it cannot be hot or cold; in fact no accidental forms of the same species are not distingnishable by their specific
disposition can act on it before it receives its substantial fonn, which is difference. The fact that souls are the first perfections of organic bodies
the soul. does not make them differ one from the other, for, in this respect, they
Again, since it is the union with its substantial form which keeps the are all equal and indistinguishable. In his theory of individuation of the
body in existence, it is impossible to think of the body without the soul, 'soul, Aquinas followed a lead given by Avicerma, though the specific
or without this hylemorphic union. This fact in tum obviates the context of the two theories on individuation is quite different. Avicenna
question of the position of the soul in the body, since it must be present argued against the pre-existence of the soul on the grounds that if the
in all the body to make it what it is. It must also be present in each part soul existed before the creation of the body, there is no way one soul
of the same body to keep it in existence (necesse est quod sit in toto et can be distinguished from the other given that the essence of the soul is
in qualibet parle corporis). It is so because the soul is indivisible. It one for all. It would therefore be impossible to have a multiplicity of
cannot be in even the smallest cell of the body in an incomplete souls if we presuppose their existence before the body.66 For him, the
manner, but it needs to be there for the cell to have existence and to be factors which individuate rational souls are either their quiddity, their
alive. It is the presence that goes for the body taken as a whole. But relation with matter, or the causes which detemtine their material
here one must not think of a logical impossibility or literary paradox. existence. As there is no difference of quiddity in the soul, the cause of
The fact is that, in reality, the overall presence of the soul in the body is their differentiation must be sought in the particular body to which each
not distinguished from its presence in the smallest part of that body. soul is attached. Each soul begins to exist as soon as the body fit for it
Still being in the body as a whole is a very general statement subject is created, the body fit to serve as its instrument," for which it has a
to diverse interpretations. In fact there are three ways the soul can be yearning (affectio) to be united. This inclination of the soul for a
54 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality imd Aquinas' Conception of the Human Soul 55

particular body continues forever," even after the death of the body, 2.4 Problems of the Intellect
i.e. after the soul has lost its body.
Aviceuna follows this theory of individuation even though he was It is clear that many of the foregoing doctrines of Aquinas are
far from being as radical as Aquinas in applying the full implication of anchored in the Aristotelian theory of the soul as the form of the body,
the conception of the soul as form. So, for Avicenna, soul and body which Aquinas could be said to have brought to perfection by
constitute two substances, not one, even though he did accept the employing it extensively to serve his ends, many of which Aristotle was
definition of the soul as form of the body. For Aquinas, just as for not so much aware ot: However, it is not as if the theory of Aristotle
Aviceuna, it is matter that is the principle of individuation. Thus the about the soul is without problems. The details of the nature of the soul
soul owes its individuality to its union with the body. It is because a in ancient Greek philosophy were the subject of the most enduring
particular soul is adaRted to a particular body that it is different from controversy in the history of philosophy. The most acrimoniously
the rest of the souls, ' such that in Aquinas' philosophy angels which disputed aspect of the doctrine concerns the intellect. The kernel of the
are spiritual beings without bodies do not form one species, since there controversy is the obscure statement of the De anima:
is no way of differentiating them. Each angel must therefore be the lone
member of its own species. Since in every class of objects, just as in the whole of nature, there is
something which is their matter, i.e., which is potentially all the
What Aquinas means by matter in the individuation of the soul is not
individuals, and something else which ~s their cause or agent in that it
matter as such; it is matter already designated by quantity 70 (materia makes them all - the two being related as an art to its material - these
signata quantitate). The reason for this is also not far-fetched. Prime distinct elements must be present in the soul also. Mind in the passive
matter, without designation, can only be a conceptual formless mass, sense is such because it becomes all things, but mind has another
and thus incapable of being numbered, for anything that can be aspect in that it makes all things; this is a kind of positive state like
numbered is already detennined in its individuality by some form. It is light; for in a sense light makes potential into actual colours. Mind in
certain, as F. C. Copleston'\' warns, that one should not think of a this sense is separable, impassive and unmixed, since it is essentially
universal form that is then made individual by union with matter. But an activity; for the agent is always superior to the patient, and the
one cannot but think of the specific mode or moment of individuation. originating cause to the matter. Actual knowledge is identical with its
object. Potential is prior in time to actual knowledge in the individual,
If the soul is responsible for the being of the body as body, there is
but in general it is not prior in time. Mind does not think
some difficulty in specifying how and when the body starts being the intermittently. When isolated it is its true self and nothing more, and
individuating principle of the soul. Is it the body formed by the soul, or this alone is immortal and everlasting (we do not remember because,
is prime matter already adapted in some way for this function? One can while mind in this sense cannot be acted upon, mind in the passive
imagine that the moment is instantaneously going back to the precise sense is perishable). and without this nothing thinks. 72
origin of the soul. But the pursuance of the question leads straight to the
creationist theory of Aquinas. This theory of individuation is The statement of Aristotle is an attempt to apply the act-potency
incidentally one of the doctrines condemned in 1277 because it was theory of his natural philosophy to the soul and its activity. It is clear
degrading to the soul that corruptible matter constitutes its enough that just like all in nature, there must be a priociple to bring
individuality. It only goes to show the tension that existed in the epoch what is in potency of understanding to the actuality of i~ just as matter,
between the effort to follow the consequences of Aristotelianism and which is potentiality, is brought into act by form. In the question of the
the fear that some aspects of the new philosophy could not be soul, there must be an active or agent intellect that actuates the potential
reconciled with the understanding of the implications of Christian possible intellect into thinking or understanding. But that is as far as it
doctrine by the men of the century. Aquinas however believed that the goes. The irredeemable obscurity of the statement made it the subject of
right understanding of the Aristotle was compatible with the Christian intractable controversy right from late antiquity with almost each major
belief in the immortality of the soul. Still he was to face further thinker taking a different and peculiar turn. We have mentioned that
controversy on the nature of the human intellect. among the peripatetics of the late antiquity, Alexander of Aphrodisias'
interpretation of this doctrine, which made the soul corporeal, was one
56 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception of the Human Soul 57

of the reasons why many authors of the thirteenth century rallied round gentiles," Aquinas argues against Avicenna's teaching namely that the
in defence of the immortality of the soul. Aquinas attacks the teaching intelligible species is not retained in the possible intellect. The p?ssl~le
of Alexander in many passages. 73 Moslem peripatetics were also not intellect, according to Aquinas, is in a complete state of actuahzatlOn
happy with the interpretation given by Alexander. Avicenna tried to fit when it is in the process of exercising its power. When it is not acting,
in the doctrine of the agent intellect with the doctrine of emanation, it is no longer in the former state of full actualization, but rather in a
which came to be a trademark of Moslem peripatetics. On top of the sort of intermediate state between the states of actuality and
emanationist scale is found God himself, who is responsible for all potentiality." It is like a human being who having learnt a certain art is
other existents because his self-reflection necessarily gives rise to other not adverting to his knowledge at a particular moment, but possesses
beings. The first of these is the first effect which must be one because the intrinsic ability to reactivate and make operational the knowledge of
from the one no multiplicity can arise. This first emanation then thinks the art.
of the necessary being, to produce the second intelligence. When it (the This last analogy is however limited by the fact that for Aquinas
first intelligence) thinks of itself as necessary by the first being, it gives memory is a power of the sense and does not belong to the intellect,
rise to the soul of the outermost sphere, and when it thinks of itself as because, according to him, memory does not know things abstracted
possible, the body of this outermost sphere emanates. This process of from the universal. How is it then that the possible intellect, lacking
emanation goes on from sphere to sphere, each superior sphere memory, is able to revert to knowledge that has been actuated in it?
producing the other till the moon and the tenth intelligence, which is the This is indeed one of the reasons for the position of Avicenna - that the
agent intellect. It is from the agent intellect that specie's come into the possible intellect must turn to the agent whenever it thinks. Aquinas
human soul, or into the possible intellect, but not directly, since there merely says that the question of memory being a sensory power does
must be a preparation by comparison with sense images. These not prevent retention of intelligible species abstracted from all
operations prepare the human possible intellect for the process of particularities of existence." It means that somehow the intellect has a
abstractlon, which for Avicenna is no more than the emanation of memory peculiar to it. In the Summa theologiae, he becomes more
intelligible forms. These intelligible forms are not retained in the explicit about the question of intellective memory. If indeed memory is
possible intellect, but in the agent. In order to think, the possible taken in the sense of retaIning the past together with its particularity, it
intellect which alone belongs to the individual human being must revert cannot be in the intellect which knows in a universal manner only. If it
to the separate agent intellect, since the possible intellect is not means the power to keep thought in mind, then it is admissible that
sufficiently endowed for that operatlon. 7 memory exists in the intellect." Be that as it may, there is a clear logic
In spite of the doctrine of Common agent intellect in Avicenna, he of immortality underlying even this position of Aquinss. He would
strongly defends personal immortality, though his separatlon of the presently use the fact of knowledge in the soul to argue for its
agent intellect from the possible goes against the closely-knit unity immortality. Such an argument would be rendered meaningless if
which Aquinas has argued for the soul. Aquinas shows more indeed the possible intellect does not possess such knowledge, or if
understanding for the view that the agent intellect is outside the soul each time that it thinks it has either to reactivate the whole process of
than for a similar view about the possible intellect. This is so because knowledge (which would be meaningless) or would have to borrow
ordinarily, an agent exists separately from the thing which it brings to from a source independent of itself. It therefore has to be that the
actuality. This for Aquinas is the reason why many Christian thinkers possible intellect is in fact endowed with intellectual knowledge, not
held that the agent intellect is God himself.7S But for Aquinas, the only at a particular moment when it is in act, but that it retains in its
argument cannot hold water because the action of the agent intellect in being the link with knowledge, which not only indicates its nature, but
human cognition is essential, i.e., the action of abstracting intelligible also argues for its incorruptibility.
species, to make them actually intelligible. However, this action is what Averroes stretches the position of Avicenna to its limit. Not only is
we experience in ourselves, and- if indeed the action is in ourselves, it the active intellect not in the soul, the possible intellect is also not part
means that it must be ours since each being possesses formal specific of the s,oul. The consequence of his position is far-reaching. If the
principles of operation which cannot exist apart from it. In the Contra possible intellect is not in the soul, how does he still retain Aristotle's
58 The Philosophical Significance o/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception o/the Human Soul 59

conception of the soul as the form of the body? In addition to being The first strategy employed against Averroes' position in the De
completely outside the soul, the possible intellect is one for all men. In unitate is to show that the doctrine of the unity and separateness of the
order to undercut the materialism of Alexander of Aphrodisias, intelleet cannot be derived from any right interpretation Il'f Aristotle.
Averroes argues that the possible intellect must be a simple, spiritual Aquinas departs from the acceptance of the definition of the soul by
and impassible substance. In order to retain these qualities, it must be Aristotle as the first act or form of an organic body, and shows by
completely unntixed with matter, and must not be multiplied to ensure reference to the various statements of Aristotle drawn from his various
its capacity to lmow universals. According to Averroes, the highest works that there is no way Aristotle could have meant that the soul does
powers in man are the memory, the imagination, and the cogitative not exist in the body as its form. As to the statement of Aristotle that
powers. Since these powers are in fact not much higher than sensory only the intellect comes from outside and that it alone is divine,83
powers, the first implication of his doctrine is that man is not much Aquinas replied that every form is educed from the potency of matter,
higher in being than other non-rational animals. but this means only that matter, in reference to potency, pre-exists with
The highest human powers have the task of making the sensory regard to form. Taken in this sense, the body can be said to pre-exist in
species ready for the operation of the intellects. The agent intellect potency to the rational soul. However, due to the fact that potency is
brings into act the intelligible species present in the phantasms that always commensurate with act, the potentiality of each thing must be in
have been made ready by the sensory powers of man. Only then can the reference to its nature while in act. If forms that are bound in their
possible or material intellect be brought into activity, and become the being to the composite in which they exist are taken into consideration,
repository of lmowledge so derived. The ultimate material for human they must exist in such a way that their being is totally bound up with
lmowledge is the human phantasm. And if per impossibile man did not the being of their composite. It is for this reason that such forms can be
provide the intelligible species, lmowledge would not be possible. 81 It educed from the potency of their matter. It is clear that for Aquinas, the
is because man makes intellectual lmowledge possible by providing same relation of potency and act does not apply to the soul because it
phantasms that his position in the whole process of lmowledge is has life and operation independent of the body with which it is in
indispensable. Hence, in an effort to preserve the immateriality of the composition. Hence it cannot be educed from matter like other souls,
possible intellect, Averroes unwittingly makes it completely outside the but must come from a source extrinsic to the body."
human being, and because there is no way of making it individuated Here again, Aquinas makes exception with regard to the rational
without matter and the body, it cannot but be the same for all men. soul in the form-matter relationship, and if he does so, it is, as in every
This position is diametrically opposed to all that Aquinas thought of other place, on account of the power of the soul to perform independent
the human soul. It not only makes nonsense of the doctrine of the soul operations. In this particular respect, he also calls the authority of
as form, it also makes the defence of any reasonable doctrine of Aristotle to support." He wants to show the errors of the Averroist
immortality impossible. The works of Aquinas are replete with efforts interpretation of the philosophy of Aristotle by reference to other
to counter the errors of both monopsychism and the separation of the peripatetics lmown to the thinkers of the epoch among them, Alexander
intellect from the soul.82 The rise of the so-called Latin Averroism was of Aphrodisias, Theophrastus, Themistius, Avicenna and Algazel. In
only to make polemical a doctrine that has long been identified as false, the end he wonders whether the followers of Averroes were less
and against which Albert the Great had already written his own De comfortable in being right with all these than in being wrong with
unitate intelleetus. There is evidence however to think that due to the Averroes whom he names the perverter of peripatetic philosophy." It is
phenomenon of Averroism, the issue assumed more importance and a remarkable that all these interpreters of Aristotle defend theories about
sort of urgency in the work of Aquinas. Hence not only that he wrote the soul, drawn from their understanding of Aristotle, which Aquinas
De unitate intelleetus against the Averroists, in the Q. D. de anima would be totally in opposition to. However, it also serves his purpose
written around the same time, the discussion of the doctrine of Averroes that they all agree that the possible intellect is part of the soul. Over
(and Avicenna) came second only to the discussion of the soul as a and above the authority of other thinkers, Aquinas insists that the
subsistent form. arguments of reason also speak against the view that the possible
intellect is outside the soul and one in all men.
60 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception ofthe Human Soul 61

The first argument he adduced has one foot in the statement of instrumental to understanding because through them the objects of
Aristotle and another in the common experience of mankind. Aristotle knowledge are understood. Seen from the point of view of the subject,
clearly states that the soul is that by which men understand. 87 Aquinas it is said that through them, the subject understands. Aquinas compares
tries to show that there is no way that statement can be understood the relationship between Averroes' intellect and man as that between a
except in the sense that this particular person understands. The fact is coloured wall and the sight in which there is the intelligible species of
confirmed by the very act of asking questions about the intellect, and colour. Just as the patch of colour on the wall does not see, but is only
when such a question is asked, it seeks information about our principle seen, so also the intelligible species in the phantasms do not understand
of understanding. 88 Such an intellect must be the form of the body since but are understood by the possible intellect viewed in the light of
it is the first principle of operation of the human being, on account of Averroes. 90
which that being is first brought into act. If, as Averroes states, the The question of the number of possible intellects is a natural follow-
possible intellect is not in man as the form of his body, it is then up from the question of where it exists. For, on the supposition that it
necessary to explain how the important act of understanding can be said exists outside the body, it must be accepted that, given that matter is the
to be an act of this particular man. principle of individuation, it carmot but be one in number. 91 Aquinas
Aquinas shows clearly that there is no way it is possible to follow does not do much more than try to highlight some of the unacceptable
the theory of Averroes and still explain satisfactorily how consequences of this supposition.
understanding is an act of man and consequently how the intellect, For instance, given that the intellect is the principal source of all
which is its principle, is the form of the body. On the strength of operations in man, especially the operations of willing and knowing, the
Averroes' noetics one must accept that in fact the form began to be the supposition of the unity of the intellect would entail that this intellect is
form of man not from the beginning of his being but rather at the very the agent who wills and who exercises the vital act of choice in man. It
moment that the intellect establishes contact with the phantasms from follows that there will be no difference in the choice of the individuals,
which it derives sensible species, and which is the first and only point and such a consequence will make all forms of morality untenable.
of contact between man, so called, and the possible intellect due to Furthennore, there would be one act of understanding at one time in
human operation. The implication Aquinas intends to draw from this respect of one species, since it is the same singular agent responsible
is that there is a big problem of explaining what type of being man is, if for the operation of understanding. It means that no matter how it is
the contact with the intellect begins at the specific moment that he united to the diverse phantasms, its act with regard to the sarne
begins to understand. This is particularly important because Averroes intelligible species carmot be multiple at the sarne time, in the sarne
has clearly said that other powers of man are at the level of the sense place and in the sarne respect. This gives rise to the third anomaly: that
and he calls them passible intellect to indicate that they are bound u; there will be only one intellectual action for all men. This is because the
with the corporeal. distinctive qualities of men do not share in the act of understanding in
There is also a problem with regard to the type of union that really the view of Averroes, since phantasms carmot constitute the diversity
exists between the possible intellect in Averroes' theory and the because they are only a readying process for the vital action of
phantasm. This is because, according to him, intelligible species carmot understanding, which is operated by the possible intellect. Aquinas
be in the phantasm except in a potential marmer. Actualized by the discounts the claim that it is because phantasms come from man that his
agent intellect, they must be in the possible intellect. If in fact the intellectual knowledge is distinctive on the ground that in two men who
possible intellect is not part of the human composite, it follows that the know one and the sarne thing, the operation of the intellect carmot be
contact Averroes tried to establish between man and the intellect is a diversified by the diversity of the phantasm.
tenuous one, for the reallmowledge, which cannot be in existence until It is noticeable that Aquinas is talking about the sameness of the act
intelligible species are actualized, is in the separate possible intellect, of knowing, of the operation involved in acquiring intellectual
not in man. The problem is not resolved if one concedes that since the knowledge, and not of knowledge itself. It is indeed a stronger
intelligible species can only be single, they can exist both in the argument that the operation itself carmot be distinguished by the
phantasm and in the possible intellect at the sarne time. They are phantasm, though in some other places Aquinas refers explicitly to the
62 The Philosophical Significance o/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception ofthe Human Soul 63

very content of knowledge. 92 Hence he uses the experience that science pay attention to the life, both of the intellect and the will. 94 As the
is in one man and not in another to show that the possible intellect intellect is naturally glued to knowledge as its actualization, so is the
cannot be one in all men. It goes without saying that Averroes would will to happiness, and therefore human beings are inevitably moved by
not have accepted the impossible consequences of his theory drawn up the quest for happiness or well-being. If this aspect of the ,quest of the
by Aquinas. But it is also obvious that Aquinas argues against the will looks detenninistic, one must take aCCO'lUlt of Aquinas' insistence
theory of Averroes from his own background or his conception of the that there is no determination as to the specific means of seeking that
act of understanding. For instance, there is conceivably nothing that happiness." Man is free as regards the determining aspects of volition.
prevents a very powerful possible intellect to have the ability to operate By freedom Aquinas means free decision or free judgement (liberium
two acts of understanding on the basis of Averroes' noetics. If indeed arbitriurn). The link between the two aspects of the soul's basic powers
such a possible intellect is like the possible intellect of man as we know or faculties is very close, since it is the intellect which enlightens the
him, then such a possibility will be discounted, but it is on the basis of soul on possible options available for the attainment of an end, while
it not being like our own intellect that Averroes outlined his theory. the will provides the drive that issues in desire and decision, and
Again, the act of knowledge that originates from diverse intelligible striving in view of that end through a chosen means. In this regard, the
species can possibly be diversified by the difference in the particular question of which of the two is of greater importance is basically
perspectives of different subjects of perception, and the conditions polemic, as each in its proper aspect is an essential power of the same
surrounding human knowledge are never exactly replicated, even when unitary human soul, and each is indispensable for its being and
the objects of knowledge are the same. operations.
The issue of the nature of the intellect is of fimdarnental importance It must however be underlined that all the arguments Aquinas used
to the whole structure of Aquinas' soul, and thus to his project of to explain the soul's nature are one way or another linked with the
defending its immortality. Averroes' theory wouid cut the ground from power of understanding which the soul can exercise. The implication
much of the basis on which Aquinas' philosophy of mind rests. If of this power is also traceable to the doctrine of the soul as form, and as
indeed Averroes were correct, then the theory of the soul as form of the subsistent; the question of plurality of form; the position of the soul in
body, as life-giving and as subsistent would be very difficult if not the body; hylemorphic composition of the soul; the whole issue of the
impossible to maintain. That would also compromise a consistent unity of the intellect, and whether it exists outside the human composite
explanation of its activity in such a way such that it remains a foothold or not. Aquinas' theory is based on the principle that operation follows
for the defence of immortality. from essence, and thus from the activities of beings we are enabled to
gain knowledge of their nature.
2.5 The Soul in Activity Following closely the theory of Aristotle, Aquinas holds that all
human knowledge is derived from sense experience. By this he rejects
It is clear from all the above that the act of intellection is the mainstay not only all Platonic epistemology according to which our knowledge
of Aquinas' theory about the rational soul. One would even think that of constant truth is derived from another world wherein exist the
the only important operation of the intellect is to understand. But constancy and certainty we see in knowledge;' but also turns his back
clearly Thomas recognizes the bipolar dimension of the activities of the on the Augustinian theory of illumination according to which the
soul. In addition to intellection, therefore, the soul has appetitive human soul depends on direct illumination from beyond, at least for
powers which manifests itself in the act of willing. The appetitive knowledge of every reality that is above the sensible. This theory that
powers of the soul are a very important aspect of the soul's operation, very much suits the defence of immortality and independence of the
and it is the foundation of the whole of Thomas' moral teaching which rational soul was the standard epistemological doctrine among the
Can be considered as being even of greater importance to him than thinkers of the thirteenth century" and Aquinas is, perhaps, the first
eplstemo I'al . 3 We shall see that some of the arguments of
ogIC questions. Christian philosopher to accept in full the theory of Aristotle about the
Thomas for immortality are founded on the appetitive endowment of terrestrial origin of human knowledge.
the soul, such that to analyse the arguments for immortality, one must
64 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception of the Human 8,oul 65

The soul, as we have seen, is subject to the general metaphysical . objects. Real existents are in fact only particular, so that the universal
principle operating in nature. For Aquinas, it is in potency to becoming man that can be predicated of Socrates and of Plato is not .an
all things in knowledge. That means that through cognition it becomes independent man. From individual human beings, it is possible for Q,\1i6 ..
actualized by becoming in a way its objects of knowledge." But the intellect to abstract the most common characteristics that map men . ,
reality from which the intellect derives its cognition is made of into members of the same species. Such a similarity in the essenti~1 .
individual, particular things: colour, sound, tactile sensation, etc. The nature of each man with that of all other men is what constitutes the
soul has the power not only to receive these, but to link thein into basis of the universal man in the intellect.!01 The acquisition of the
complexes. Again, it is able to draw new inferences from its cognition. knowledge of universals is the culmination of two distinct but
It follows from these already that there is a differentiation in intellectual intrinsically related acts or levels of cognitive operation.
knowledge, from reasoning, to judgement and finally to sciencia, which The sensible species received through external objects by the senses
is the peak of intellectual activity. To be in the state of scientia with are transmitted into the internal senses. But sensaton is not just.
respect to a thing is to possess full and sure knowledge of its truth, on physical, but rather psycho-physical because mere physical alteration
premises that stand as guarantors of the truth, The outline of sciencla is does not suffice for the generation of impressions. 102 The interior senses
manifested in a demonstrative syllogism, and hence Aquinas holds that synthesize the various "patches of sensation derived from the external

one is justified in holding the end result of a demonstration if there are objects. These species are in turn collated by the sensus communis, and
grounds to affirm its premises. Nevertheless, for him, the principle of are conserved by the phantasia and the imagination. It is at this point
inference is not completely tutiversal. that the work of conversion. of particular sensible species to universal
There are propositions which are not inferential. They have their and intelligible species really starts. The power of the intellect that is
truth value not by virtue of any demonstration, but directly by virtue of responsibe for the transition is the agent or active intellect. The human
themselves. These are the first principles of knowledge that are per se soul is usually in potency of knowledge, so that the agent intellect is
nota.The first reason why one must affirm a non-inferential justification necessary to act on the phantasms of the sense level. Again, Aquinas
is that, without it, there cannot be any inferential deduction. 99 This is maintains that no material species can have. any effect or rather impress
because without non-inferential justification, the line of inference must itself on an immaterial being.!03 It is thanks to the agent intellect that
go on to infinity. Second, we have non-inferential justification of the universal nature of species which are in the phantasia in their
propositions drawn from our thorough knowledge of an object. That particular determination is sieved from the phantasm. This is called
means, for example, that one who knows the nature of a human being abstraction. 104 The result of abstraction is the intelligible species which
will need no demonstration to conclude that man is an animal or that he is the proper object of the possible intellect. The active intellect thus
is rational. That first principles are per se nota does not necessarily transmits the intelligible species to the possible intellect which knows
entail that we are endowed with knowledge ofthem.!OO For Aquinas, the them as universals. It does not however mean that the two levels of
more formal logical and mathematical a priori propositions are more knowledge diverge diametrically at this point. While the possible
likely to be known than a posteriori propositions, because the former is intellect is in the possession of universal natures, it is also capable of
independent of matter. Again such propositions as "God exists" may be knowing the particular. This is again achieved by reference to the
self-evident, but one would need knowledge of the nature of God to be phantasm.!OS Indeed the knowledge of the particular in the phantasm is
able to draw the non-inferential conclusion that he exists, and human the first order of knowledge. It is only from the particular that the .
beings are not endowed wih such knowledge, Thus we can attain intellect abstracts the universal that can be predicated of the several
knowledge of God and innnaterial beings only by analogy, in so far as members of the same species. "The universal concept is primarily the
these are related to material things and are reflected by them. modification of the intellect by which a thing is known according to its
If our real knowledge must begin from particular material things, form or essence. 1I106 This implies that the senses as well as the intellect
how does the mind arrive at concepts that are universal? In the first have knowledge of the external individual objects, While the senses
place, with Aquinas, universals do not distingnish themselves from the have only particular specific knowledge of these, the intellect possesses
particular sensory knowledge by existing extra-mentally like particular the knowledge of universals in addition to the ability to subsume a
66 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception of the Human Soul 67

particular instance of the species under the universal in the posssible From the foregoing, it goes without saying that the statement of E.
intellect. The latter action is possible only when the intellect refers back Moody to the effect that William of Auvergne's doctrines in his treatise
to particular images or phantasms on the lower level of knowledge. De anima are so shaped to fit the consistent affirmation of immortality
The veracity of human knowledge is nevertheless not the outcome of can apply to Aquinas with little or no modification. Aquinas'
the process briefly outlined. Sense impression or even sense knowledge explanation of the nature and activities of the soul fits very neatly into
cannot on its own be true or false. It is when the mind makes one of its the project of the defence of immortality. One of the special
principal acts - judgement, that; depending on its accord or otherwise characteristics of Aquinas is his courage in' assuming positions and
with what is, it can be said to be true or false. Hence, for Aquinas, truth wading through them with all the arsenal of his reasoning and the
is primarily in the mind. But we must not forget that it is not in the thorough knowledge of sources available to men of his epoch. As
intellect as a physical objective presence. Rather it is like a mental Kreyche says, no one can say that he is "a coward who refuses to face
state, a state of conformity of the judgement of the intellect with reality. issues.,,!08 Aquinas tackles such difficult issues as the doctrine of the
As such truth belongs to the intellect. It is so because, even though the soul as form and as subsistent, and which while being subsistent,
sense has a correspondence between itself and the thing sensed, it lacks contains no matter in its nature, even the so-called spiritual matter. The
the distance to be able to make a judgement of that which can only be soul is intimately linked with the body, so inthnately in fact that it is
true or false. The mind, on the other hand, has the ability not only to metaphysically bound up with the body, yet the body exists for the sake
apprehend intelligible species, but also to make judgement about what of the soul from which it derives life. The materiality of the body does
it understands. not necessarily mean that the soul that serves as its substantial form
Given the capital Aquinas makes of the operational independence of must be submerged in matter, and there is no need to foist an intellect
the intellect in understanding, one may inquire at what point do the separate and unique in order to ensure a certain kind of immaterality
senses, both external and internal, cease to participate in the act of and immortality for the soul. Aquinas assumes the full consequence of
intellectual knowledge? The begirming of the act of sensation may his understanding of Aristotle, to the extent that all human knowledge
indeed be only physiological, but the recognition of an object as this or begins with the senses, but then goes on to a level which enables him to
that involves a judgement which cannot be described as purely sensory, argue for the "right" of the intellect to be granted exception in the world
since it involves bringing some particular perception under a universal of form/matter relationship. Whether all his positions as regards the
species to which it belongs. Again, according to Aquinas, the phantasm nature and the activities of the soul are defensible is altogether another
is very much involved in the application of the universal essence or matter. The boldness of his efforts is not in doubt. It is from the
quiddity which the soul derives from the act of the agent intellect by background which is briefly outlined above that he goes on to argue for
abstraction from particular nature. However, this act of reference to the immortality in several of his works. To some of these arguments we
phantasm may not constitute the participation of the sensory in direct our attention in the next chapter.
intellectual cognition. The paradigmatic act of the intellect, sciencia
does not involve a reference to the sensory particular or image. Again,
the act of judgement which constitutes truth, and the inferential process
of drawing from prior cognition new consequences for intellectual
enricinnent may not involve a throw-back to the particular and the
material. Yet, despite Aquinas' constant use of the understanding in an
attempt to vindicate the peculiar nature of the soul, human knowledge
in the soul is a whole process that is so tightly interconnected that each NOTES
level is of vital importance in bringing the human intellect from its
potency to actuality. The insistence on the special nature of the soul I R. Reyna "On the Soul: A Philosophical Exploration of the Active Intellect

does not therefore diminish the importance of sensory image or in Averroes, Aristotle aod Aquinas, The Thomist 36 (1972), p. 149.
2 Alcibiades, 1, 12ge. 130 c.
phantasm, as he rightly emphasized in the De Trinitilate.!07
3 De anima e/ ejus origine, IV, 2, 2 (p.L., 44, 525)
The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception ofthe HUman Soul 69

4 Injoan. Evang. XIX,S, 15 (p.L., 35, 1553). The description of the Wlion of 17 For instance, Philip the Chancellor used many nuances of the order of being

soul and body as one man or one person is still consistent with the Neoplatonic to spin many arguments for immortality in his Summa de bono.(269 - 276) St.
position whereby the real person is in fact the soul. It could for instance be a Albert the Great used the same as the necessary arguments for immortality in
way of expressing that there is only one soul, one man, one person in the whole the Summa de creaturis (II, q. 59). For an analysis of these arguments, see J.
outcome of the body~soul relation that is in the human being. O. Oguejiofor, The Arguments for the Immortality o/the Soul in the First Half
, De quantitate animae, xm, 23. ojthe'Thirteenth Century, pp.186 - 206, 345 - 358.
6 De moribus ecclesiae. 1,27,52 (p.L., 32,1332) IS S. T., la. 29, I
7 De anima, 1. 3, p. 67b "manifestum est nullum instrumentum esse propter 19 See J. Owens, "The Unity in a Thomistic Philosophy of Man," Mediaeval
operationem, ad hoc videlicet ut ei serviat in operationihus quae fieri habent Studies, 25 (1963), pp. 63 - 64.
per ipsum. Cum igitur corpus bumanum organicmn sit quod est dicere " M.-J. Nicholas, "Le corps humain," Revue thomiste, 79 (1979), p. 358
instrumentaie, imo cum sit instrumentum Wlum ad multas operationes aptum, 21 J. Owens, op. cit., p. 70.
natum et fabricatum necesse est operationem esse cui naturaliter serviat, quique 22 L. Elders, op. cit., p. 220

eo naturaliter uti debeat." 23 F. J. Crosson, "Psyche and Persona: The Problem of Personal Immortality,"
8 Ibid., p. 102 a. International Philosophical Quarterly, 8 (1968), p. 169.
, S.C.G., II, 57, 3, 6; cf. also S. T., la. 75, 3. "Sed Aristoteles posuit quod 24 M.- J. Nicholas. ''Le corps hurnain," p. 374: "11. n'est rien dans retre
solum intelligere, inter opera animae, sine organo eorporeo exereetur. Sentire hwnain, si materiel que cela paraisse, qui ne soit hwnain en lui parce
vero et consequentes operationes animae sensitivae manifeste aecidunt cwn qu'intrinseqement ordOlUle it l'esprit." See also A. C. Pegis, "Man as Nature
aliqua corporis inununitatione, sicut in videndo inunutatur pupilla per speciem and Spirit," Doctor communis 20 (1951), p. 56: "The totality of the composite
coloris (et idem apparet in aliis). Et sie manifestum est quod anima sensitiva called man cannot be more than an intellectual nature."
non habet aliquam operationem propriam per seipsam, sed onmis operatio 2S A. C. Pegis, "Between Immortality and Death: Some Further Reflections on
sensitivae animae est conjuncti. n the Summa Contra Gentiles," The Monist 58 (1974), p. 3.
10 S. C. G., II, 57, 10 26 S. T., lao 76, 5: "cum fonna non sit propter materiam sed potius materia
II S. T., 1a. 75, 4: "Nam ad naturam speciei pertinet id quod significat propter formam, ex forma oportet rationem accipere quare materia sit tali-s, et
definitio. Definitio autem in rebus naturalibus non significat formam tantum, non e converso. to Ibid., 77. 6: "minus principale est propter principalius,
sed formam et materiam, unde materia est pars speciei in rebus naturalibus; non materia est propter fonnam substantia."
quidem materia signata, quae est principium individuationis, sed materia 27 S. T. lao 75, 1. See also, N. Kretzmann & E. Stump, eds., The Cambridge
communis. Sicut enim de ratione hujus hominis est quod sit ex anima et Companion to Aquinas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp.
camibus et ossibus. Oportet enim de substantia speciei esse quiquid est 128 - 131.
communiter de substantia omnium individuorwn sub specie contentorwn." 28 Cf. Aristotle, De anima, n, 1, 412a 29, S. T, la, 76, 1, Q. D. de anima, I,
12 L. Elders, The Philosophy of Nature of St. Thomas Aquinas (Frankfurt a. ad. 15.
M.: Peter Lang, 1997), pp. 339 - 340. For a study of the idea of man as 29 Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, tr. H. TrendelUlick (Cambridge M A: Harvard
microcosm in thirteenth century philosophy, see 1. McEvoy, "Philosophical University Press, 1948) V. vii, 4: "Thus it follows that "substance" hal two
Developments of the Microcosm and the Macrocosm in the Thirteenth senses: the ultimate subject, which cannot be further predicated of something
Century," in C. Wenin (ed.), L 'homme et son universe au Moyen-Age, v. 1 else; and whatever has an individual separate existence. The shape and form of
(Louvain-Ia-Neuve: Institut SupCrieur de Philosophle 1986), pp. 374 - 381. each particular thing is of this nature." Aquinas is evidently not laying claim to
13 S. C. G., II, 46, 2; 3:- "Oportet igitur, ad consununatam universi the second meaning of substance in reference to the soul. Aristotle also makes
perfectionem, esse aliquas creaturas quae in Deum redirent non solwn clear what he understands by substance in the real sense, by, for instance
secWldwn naturae similitudinem, sed etiam per operationem. Quae quidem non distinguishing between primary and second&y substance. "Substance in the
potest esse nisi per actum intellectus et vohmtatis: quia nec ipse Deus aliter truest and strictest, primary sense of that term, is that which is neither asserted
ergo seipswn operationem habet. Oportet igitur, ad perfectionem optimam of nor can be found in a subject." "Evetything else but first substance is either
universi, esse aliquas creaturas intellectuales." affinned of first substance or present in such as its subject." Catogries, tr. H.
14 S. C. G. 11,45,8. Cooke (Cambridge M A: Harvard University Press, 1938), pp. 19, 21.
" S. C. G. II, 91,4. 30 S. C. G., II, 68, 3 :"Ad hoc enim quod aliquid sit fonna substantialis
16 G. Verbeke, "Man as Frontier" in Aquinas and the Problems of his Time alterius, duo requiruntur. Quorwn unum est, ut forma sit principiwn essendi
(Louvain: Louvain University Press, 1976), pp. 204 - 223. substantialiter ei cuius est forma: principiwn autem dico, non factivum, sed
70 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception of the Human Soul 71

fonnale, quo aliquid est et denominatur ens. Unde sequitur aliod, scilicet quod 40 S. T., la, 75, 2, res: "Manifestum est enim quod homo per intellectum
forma et materia conveniant in uno esse .... Et hoc esse est in quo subsistit cognoscere potest naturas omnium corpomm. Quod autem potest cognoscere
substantia composita, quae -est wm secWldwn esse, ex materia et fonna aliqua oportet ut nihil eorum habeat in sua natura, quia illud quod inesset ei
constans. Non autem impeditur substantia intellectualis, .. , esse fonnale naturaliter impediret cognitionem alionun, sicut videmus quod lingua infinni
principium essendi materiae, quasi esse suurn communicans materiae." quae infecta est cholerico et amaro humore non potest percipere aliquid dulce,
31 S. C. G., II, 57,14. sed omnia videntur ei amara. Si igitur principium intellectuale haberet in se
J2 S. T., la, 76, 1. naturam alicujus corporis, non posset omnia corpora cognoscere. Omne autem
33 Loc. cit.: "Si quis autem vetit dicere animam intellectivam non esse corporis corpus habet aliquam naturam detenninatam. Impossibile est igitur quod
formam, oportet quod inveniat modum quo ista actio quae est intelligere sit principium intellectuale sit corpus. Et similiter impossibile est quod intelligat
hujus hominis actio," per organwn corporeum, quia etiam natura determinata iHius organi corporei
l4 Physics, V, 1. 224a21 23. prohiberet cognitionem omnium corporum."
" S. T., 1.. 76,1. 41 Loc. cit.: "Ipsum igitur intellectualle principium":'quod dicitur- mens vel
36 In the Questiones disputatae de anima, q. 1, on whether the soul can be intellectus habet operationem per se cui non comnl'lUlicat corpus. Nihil autem
fonn and a particular thing (hoc aliquid1 he raised and answered a total of potest per se operari nisi quod per se subsistit. .."
eighteen objections relating to the question. This fact does not however need to 42 M. Kelly, "Aquinas and the Subsistence of the Soul: Notes on a Difficulty,"

be overemphasized as much depends on the structure of the treatise in Franciscan Studies 27 (1967), pp. 213 '219.
question. In the Summa theo!ogiae, only six objections are raised, but this does 43 In III De anima vii, 680.
not mean that the matter is of less importance, the Summa in general has 44 M. Kelly, op. cit., p. 219.

usually fewer objections to questions. 4~ cr. S. T., 1a 75, 2.

37 A. C. Pegis, "Man as Nature and Spirit," p. 55. 46 D. A Callus, "The Problem of the Plurality of Fonn in the Thirteenth
38 S. T., la, 76, I, res: "Sed considerandum est quod quanta fonna est nobilior Centwy: The Thomist Innovation," in L 'homme et son destin d'apres les
tanta magis dominatur materiae corporali et minus ei immergitur et magis sua penseurs du moyen age," (Louvain: Nauwelaerts, 1960), p. 577. See also ''The
operatione vel virtute excedit earn. Unde videmus quod forma miXti corporis Origin of the Problem of the Unity of Fonn," The Thomist24 (1961),257
habet aliquam operationem quae non causatur ex qualitatibus elementaribus. Et 285.
quanto magis proceditur in nobilitate fonnarum, tanto magis invenitur virtus 47 De anima, II, 3. 414bI932. Cf. S. T. la, 76, 3.
formae materiam elementarem excedere, sicut anima vegetabilis plus quam 48 Jolm of La Rochelle, Summa de anima, 1.24 : "similis est proportio
forma metalli, et anima sensibilis plus quam anima vegetabilis. Anima autem vegetativi ad sensitivum, sensitivi ad rationale, sicut triangu1i ad
humana est ultima in nobilitate fonnarum. Unde intantum sua virtute excedit quadrangulum, et quadranguli ad pentagonum; quia sicut triangulus in
materiam corporalem quod habet aliquam operationem et virtutem in qua nullo quadrangulo, et quadrangulus in pentag()'no, ita vegetativum in sensitivo, et
modo communicat materia corporalis; et haec virtus dicitur intellectus." The sensitivum in rationali. Sed cum triangulus in quadrangulo non differat
translation of T. Suttor (Blackfriars, London, 1970, p. 47) seems to have secWldum substantiam, inuno idem SWlt secundum substantiam; ergo
reinforced the oblique presence of the concern for immortality in this vegetabile cum sensitivo, et utnunque cum rationali non differunt secWldum
paragraph, by rendering the ".habet aliquam operationem et virtutem in qua substantiam...
nullo modo communicat materia corporatis," as "it has an activity and 49 E. A. Moody, op. cit., 48.
permanent power, to act to which materi,!l forces contribute nothing." The ~o William of Auvergne, De anima, p. 108a-b: " ... si pluralitas atque diversitas
translation of virtue here by "pennanent power" seem to suggest that this operationum sufficeret facere debere esse pluralitatem animarwn, esset
power goes with the soul always, which, even though it accords with Aquinas' numerus aniniarum tam in homine quam in illis sive ex illis. Quare juxta
philosophy, is not suggested by the phrase it translates. numerum quinque sensum essent quinque animae in hOmine, et aliae quinquae
39 Cf. Q. D. de anima, a.l,resp, S C. G.II, 68. The distinction in the D,! anima juxta numerum viriurn alianun, ... "
concludes with the assertion of the subsistence of the soul, and its existence at " D. A. Callus, ''The Problem of the Plurality ofFonn ..... pp. 582583. It
the boundmy between the spiritual and the material, while in the Contra must be said that Callus somewhat overstates the claims he made for the
gentiles, it is used to show that the union of the soul to the body is in order to innovation of St. Thomas. John of La Rochelle was not referred to in Callus'
complete the species of humanity. The Summa the%giae passage ends with article, but at least in him, the problem was tackled on the basis of the unity of
the bare assertion of the soul to have knowledge independent of matter. being provided by a fonn, a solution not less metaphysical than the basic one
provided by Thomas.
72 The Philosophical Significance a/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception of the Human Soul

51 Ibid" p. 585. matter. In the De potentia 9 a 5, ad 13, he named two principles' of

" Q. D. de anima, q. 11; S. T. la, 76, 3; S. C. G., 58. individuation which can in fact be reconciled to the same theory of- the
54 S. C. G, 58:4 " ...Nam intellectivum sensitivo, et sensitiwm nutritivo mUltiplicity belonging to the fonn, and being effectutated by maner.
posterius secundum generationem est," ''Dicendwn quo in rebus creatis principia individuantia duo habent: quorum
55 GWldissalinus, De immortalitale animae, p. 6, 5~ 10: "Omne mortale sua unum est quod sunt principium subsistendi (natura enim communis de se non
ipsa duratione paulatim debilitatur et deficit, donee deveniat ad defectum subsistit nisi in singularibus); aliud est quod per prinCipia individu~tia
ultimum, qui est mors. Virtus autem intellectiva sua ipsa duratione proficit et supposita naturae communis ab invicem distinguantur."
invalescit, ut quanto fuerit diutumior et antiquior, tanto sit ex omnibus modis 71 F. C. Copleston,Aquinas, p. 95.
Buis fortior," 72 De anima, ill, v.
56 S. C. G, II, 50, Q.D. de anima, a. 6; S. T. lao 75, 5. 73 S. C. G. II, 62; 68, 2; 76, 9; Q. D. de anima, a 6, obj. 1l. .
51 J. de Vries, "Zum thomistischen Beweis der Immaterialitat der Geistseele," 74 CfE. Gilson, History o/Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages, pp.198-
Scholastik 40 (1965), pp. 3 - 4. 205; B. Zedler's "Introduction" in St. Thomas Aquinas, On the Unity of the
58 S. T. lao 75, 5, ad. 4: "In substantiis intellectualibus est compositio ex actu Intellect Against the Averroists (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press,
et potentia, non quidem ex materia et fonna, sed ex fonna et esse participato. 1968), p. 2.
Unde a quibusdam dicuntur componi ex quo est et quod est. Ipsum enim esse 75 This position is very widespread among prethomistic .thinkers, especially in
est quo aUquid est/' colUlection with the doctrine of illumination (see the next section). For the
59 See Lottin, 0, ''La composition hy16morphic des substances spirituelles. view of the Franciscans of the 13th century. see L. J. Bowman, "The
Debut de la controverse," Revue neo-scolastique de philosophie, 34 (1932), pp. Development of the Doctrine of the Agent Intellect in the Franciscan School of
21 - 44. the Thirteenth Century," Modern Schoolman 5 (1972), pp. 251 - 279. William
60 Q. D. de anima, a.9, obj. 20. of Auvergne rejected the doctrine of agent intellect completely because he
61 Ibid., a.9, resp; S. T. la, 76, 5, resp. feared that it detracted from the inunortality of the soul. Cf. E. A. Moody, op.
62 Loc. cit. cit., p. 60~ R.-A., Gauthier, "Note sur les debuts ... ", p. 356.
63 S. C. G., II, 71, 1; Q. D. De anima, a 9, resp. 76 s. C. G., II, 74, 16.
64 S. T., la. 76, 6, res: "Primum autem inter omnes actus est esse. Impossibile 77 Ibid., 74, 17.
est ergo intelligere materiam prius esse calidam vel quantam quam esse in actu. 78 Loc. cit.
Esse autem in actu habet per formam substantialem, quae facit esse simpliciter, 79 S. T., la 79, 6.
...Unde impossibile est quod quaecumquae dispositiones accidentales 80 Averroes, Commentan'um Magnum in Anstotelfs de Anima, Libras ill, F. S.
praeexistant in materia ante formam substantialem; et per consequens neque Crawford, ed (Cambridge MA: Medieval Academy of America, 1953), conun
ante animam." 4, pp. 383 - 384; comm. 5, pp. 388 - 389; conun. 19, p. 441; II, conun. 32, p.
6S S. T, la.76, 8, resp. 178.
66 AviceIUla, Liber de anima, V. 3. 58 - 60: "Cum enim nudae fuerint omnino, SI Ibid., comm. 33, p. 476
non different per id quod diximus: ergo impossibile est inter ilIas esse 82 S. C. G. II, c. 74; Q. D. de anima, a. II, III; S. T. 1a. 76, a. 2.
alteritatem et multitudinem." 83 Aristotle, On the Generation ofAnimals, II, 3, 736b 27 - 29.
67 Ibid., V. 3. 77: " ... manifestum est animae incipere esse cum incipit materia 84 Aquinas Against the Averroists, op. cit., 46, p. 63 - '64: "Sed quia potentia
corporalis apta ad serviendum eis, et corpus creatum est regnum eius et dicitur ad actum, necesse est ut unumquodque secundum earn rationem sit in
instrumentum ... potentia, secundwn quam rationem convenit sibi esse actu.... aliis fonnis, que
68 Ibid., V. 3. 25 - 27: "Postquam autem singularis fit per se, impossibile est ut non habent operationem absque communicatione materiae, convenit sic esse
sit anima alia nwnero et ut sint una essentia." actu ut magis ipse sint quibus compos ita sunt, et quodammodo compositis
" S. C. G., II, 81, 8. coexistentes, quam quod earwn est in concretione ad materiam, ita totaliter
70 Aquinas has here and there other more complicated ideas about educi dicWltur de potentia. materie. Anima autem intellectiva cum habeat
individuation, which Copleston refers to in general as "various obscure operationem sine corpore, non est esse suwn solum in c~ncreti~ne ad
refinements" of the same theory. What is clear however is that Aquinas is not materiamj unde non potest dici quod educatur de materia, sed magis quod est a
saying that multiplicity is due to matter entirely. In the S. C. G, it is due to the principio extrinseco.'" .
substantial diversity of the fonns themselves, which is due to the
commensuration of the soul to the body, and this commensuration is due to
74 The Philosophical Significance 0/ Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Immortality and Aquinas' Conception of the Human Soul 75

85 Loc. cit: "Ex hoc ex verbis Aristotelis apparet "Relinquitur autem 98 S. T. 1a. 84, 2, ad.2 :"Philosophus dicit quod anima quodammodo onmia.
intellectum solum deforis advenire et divinum esse solum"; et causam assignat Cum ergo simile sirnli cognoscatur, videtur quod anima per seipsam corporalia
subdens "Nichil enim ipsius operationi communicat corporalis operatio." cognoscat."
86 Ibid, 51 - 59, pp. 71 - 79 99 Sententia super posterior analytica, 1.4.
87 Aristotle, De anima, II, 2, 414a, 12 - 14. 100 Ibid., 1. 5. 7; ''Thomas Aquinas," in A Companion to Epistemology, J.
88 Aquinas Against the Averroists, 62, p. 80 - 81: "Manifestum est eoim quod Dancy & E. Sosa, eds. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), p. 20.
hie homo singularis intelligit: numquam enim de intellectu quereremus nisi 101 F. C. Copleston, op. cit., p. 181.
intelligeremus; nec cum querimus de eo quo nos intelligimus." 102 S. T. la, 78, 3.
" Ibid., 68, pp. 86 - 87. \03 Ibid., la, 84, 6: ''Nihil autem corporeum imprimere potest in rem
90 Ibid., 65 - 66, pp. 82 - 86. incorpoream. "
91 Q. D. de anima, a. 3, resp. 104 Ibid., la, 12.4.
92 Ibid" III, resp: .... .it is obvious that not all men possess the same scientific lOS Ibid., 1a, 84, 7; 85, I ad. 5: ''Dicendurn quod intellectus noster et abstrahit
knowledge, because some know sciences which others do not. Now it is species intelligibiles a phantasmatibus, in quantum considerat naturas rerum in
evidently incongruous and impossible for one and the same primary subject to lUliversa1i; et tamen intelligit eas in phantasmatibus, quia non potest intelligere
be in act and in potency with regard to the same fonn. For example, a surface etiam ea quorum species abstrahit, nisi convertendo se ad phantasmata ....
cannot be at the same time potentially and actually white." 106 F. C. Copleston, op. cit., p. 183.
93 N. Kretzmann and E. Stump, "Thomas Aquinas," in Routledge 107 In librum Boethii de Trinitate, q. 6, 2, ad. 5: " ... phantasma est principium
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. E. Craig (London: Routledge, 1998) vol. I, p. nostrae cognitionis, ut ex quo incipit intellectus operatio non sicut transiens,
338 sed sicut pennanens ut quoddam fundarnentum intellectualis operationis; sicut
94 J. Lamaire, "Les preuves de l'immortalite de l'fune d'apres S. Thomas d' principia demonstrationis oportet manere in onmi processu scientiae, cum
Aquin," Collectanea Mechliniensia, 1 (1927), p. 49 phantasmata comparentur ad intellecturn ut obiecta, in quibus inspicit omne
9S De veritate, q. 24. 7, ad. 6: " ... dicendwn, quod felicitatem indeterminate et quod inspicit vel seclUldum perfectum repraesentationem vel per negation em.
in universali omnis rationalis mens naturaliter appetit et circa hoc deficere non Et ideo quando phantasmatum cognitio hnpeditur, oportet totaliter impe4iri
potest; sed in particulari non est determinatus motus voluntatis creaturae ad cognitionem intellectus etiam in divinis."
quaerendam felicitatem in boc vel illo. Etsi in appertendo felicitatem aliquis 108 G. F. Kreyche, ''TIle Soul-Body Problem in St. Thomas," The New
peccare potest, si earn quaerat ubi quaerere non debet, sicut qui querit in Scholasticism, 46 (1972), p 474.
voluptatibus felicitatem; et ita est respectu onmium bonorum: nam nihil
appetitur nisi sub ratione bani ... Quod ideo est, quia naturaliter inest menti
appetitus bani, sed non huius vel HUus boni: unde in hoc peccatum incidere
" Plato, Cratylus, 439 b - c; EUlhyphro, 5 d 1 - 5; 6d9 - e6; Phaedo, 100 d.
For Aquinas' position, cf. De veritate, q. 10, 6, resp.: "Sed ista etiam opinio
non videtur rationabilis: quia secundum hoc non esset dependentia necessaria
inter cognitionem mentis humanae et virtutes sensitivas; cuius apparet
contrarium manifeste: tum ex hoc quod deficiente sensu deficit scientia de suis
sensibilibus, tum ex hoc quod mens nostra. non potest actu considerare edam ea
quae habitualiter scit, nisi formando aliqua phantasmata; Wlder etiarn laesa
organo phantasiae impeditur consideratio. Et praeterea praedicta positio tollit
proxima rerum principia, si omnia inferiora ex substantia separata inunediate
fonnas consequuntur tam intelligibiles ,quam sensibiles."
97 Cf. for instance, Philip the Chancellor, Summa de bono, 85, 94 102, John
of La Rochelle, Summa de anima, II, 36. p. 292; Albert the Great, Summa de
creaturis, Id, 2., a 5, sol; XXV, p. 60a, Super Dionysium de coelesti
hierarchia, c 9, 6, ad. 2.
Chapter 3


3.1 Method and Intention of the Arguments

The foregoing excursus into the nature of the soul shows clearly that
Aquinas sets his exploration against the doctrines of Plato. The basic
reason for the discordance between him and Plato appears to be the
consistency of maintaining a Platonic position and at the same time
asserting the specific characteristics of Aquinas' doctrine of human
nature like the essential unity of the human composite. We shall see
later that such a doctrine has far-reaching implications for Aquinas that
not only end with what can be called the philosophical aspects of his
teachings, but reach on to areas that can be properly regarded as the
preserve of theology, backed up, as it were, by truth accepted not just
on grounds of reason, but on grounds of direct revelation by dod
himself. Aquinas thus reaches out to Aristotle to explain the nature of
the soul, its activities and the relationship between the soul and the
body. However, it can be said that despite his predilection for theories
and principles drawn from Aristotle, the basic structure of his theory
about the soul is Platonic. According to J. Owen, Aquinas could be said
to have tried to get the best of the two worlds of Plato and Aristotle.
78 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 79

That is one way his arguments for immortality can be seen. For even surrounding the particular work in which the arguments are found also
though he read Aristotle as supporting the immortality of the soul, it is influence them. These cumulative influences on the. proofs can be
clear that nowhere did the philosopher try to show that immortality can divided into external and internal factors. External factors would
be demonstrated by rational argument. The whole practice of arguing include the historical context in which the particular work was written
for inunortality is thus decidedly a legacy of Platonic tradition. which very often touches on the slant of the arguments, and on the
Such influence of Platonic tradition on Aquinas appears almost specific intention or purpose of the proof. The internal factors will be
inevitable given its long duration and the enormous influence it exerted such circumstances that surround the text irrespective of the content of
on the literal world of the time, including the pillars of Christian, the proof, the position of the argument within the text and the literary
Moslem and Jewish thinking of the age just before the thirteenth style adopted in the text, which invariably determines the way the
century, and also given the fact that the influence of Aristotle had hardly arguments are pursued.
dug in deep enough to dislodge the already entrenched Platonic world In general, Aquinas' arguments are based on his general theory about
view. We have seen that the very presence of some Aristotelian human nature and specifically about the nature of the rational soul. Thus
doctrines, as that of the soul as fonn, could be one of the factors the points, some of which were briefly discussed in the previous
underlying the increase in the defence of inunortality in the thirteenth chapter, should always be taken as the background for any reading of
century, and that the argument which thinkers of the time used was most the specific arguments outlined. Aquinas himself makes numerous
often discordant with their understanding of the soul, which was cross-references in the texts on inunortality to doctrines for which he
basically Platonic or Augustinian. The fact that Aquinas draws very has argued in different contexts, but which come to support the
close to Aristotle in his anthropology is an indication that despite the arguments for immortality. The implication of this is that the weight
influence of Platonic theories on all the thinkers, Aquinas, for one, took which he gives to the general project of defending immortality should
seriously what he understood to be the consequence of the basic not be taken as indicated by the specific words used, nor indeed by the
doctrines of Aristotle on the soul. The arguments he used are not length and number of the arguments proffered. Usually such
different, and are all drawn from thinkers and sources that were considerations as number and length are more influenced by the internal
contemporary to him. The sources of the arguments are never and external contexts of the text than by Aquinas' judgement about the
mentioned, and they are often given different interpretations and feasibility of the whole process of arguing for immortality. Again, his
different functions, but the bases of all the arguments used by Thomas arguments are also based on the presumption of the principles taken for
are to be found in authors who flourished shortly before him. granted by the intellectual world of his time.' It is therefore not very
Aquinas argues for inunortality of the soul directly in at least six of correct to grade any particular argument as secondary just because the
his works written at different periods of his intellectual evolution. But principle on which it stands requires itself to be proven.' Where he does
these should be read in conjunction with other passages not written on not refer to a principle for which he has previously argued, and does not
the rational soul, but under which the rational soul can be subsumed. argue for a new principle which he cites as background, Aquinas bases
When, for instance, he argues for the inunateriality and incorruptibility his reasoning on the conunon experience of hwnan nature. This is
of intellectual substances, including the angels, the same arguments and indeed the strongest starting point of his arguments, and except for a
procedure are used that apply without any qualification to the human few of them which are grounded on logical deduction from generally
soul. The arguments used are very diverse, even though there are basic accepted principles, the rest are all ultimately based on appeals to the
lines that could be traced through most of them. Such considerations as conunon structure and certitude of hwnan conscious experience. s His
the nature of intellectual knowledge and the operation of knowing can method is to call those who are endowed with human consciousness to
be said to be basic to the whole structure of his philosophy of mind, but look inwards, and by so doing to encounter their rationality, their
it is not for that reason that they should be singled out in the context of spirituality and their inunortality. Such introspection used in defence of
the arguments for immortality. The arguments Aquinas used are marked immortality cannot therefore be the exclusive preserve of highly
by the state of the maturity of his thought at the moment of writing. 2 The developed intellects that can in any age be few in number. 6 It is obvious
doctrinal points under consideration, the purpose and circumstances that what he appeals to is the common nature of humankind. Problems
80 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 81

can of course be raised about those who are not able for one reason or Compendium Ihe%giae in which there are short presentations and
another to reach this general development, but that is not to say that explorations of hundreds of different theses. In arguing for immortality
only some realize the experience on which he based his arguments for in the context of these works, the methods applied in the works are
immortality. naturally adhered to. Aquinas does not always argue for incorruptibility,
Like most of his immediate predecessors, Aquinas believed that nor even for immateriality before embarking on arguing for immortality.
through such appeals combined with deduction from commonly We have seen that there was no common practice on this matter among
acceptable principles and practices, even the. unbelievers can be brought his contemporaries and that in fact only a few like John Blund and
to accept the fact of immortality. Not that all the texts are written for Philip the Chancellor distinguished the two concepts. 8 Most identified
unbelievers, it is rather a realization that the challenge to immortality is the two and we have in Aquinas enough indication that he also makes
in fact not found among belief except in the modified sense of no fundamental distinction between them. In passages where he argues
specifying the type of immortality to which a particular explanation of either for immateriaiity and for incorruptibility separately, it is first seen
the nattue of the soul leads. With regard to the latter, the texts written that the points he calls to witness are also those he use for immortality,
alier the conflict of Averroism will be found in the context of the and in other places, it is only with regard to spiritual substances that
obvious attempt to specify what sort of immortality is implied. Apart incorruptibility is argued for, arguments which, as we have said, would
from these, the generality of the arguments are presented in such a way apply to the rational soul and to its immortality without any
as to leave no doubt that he intends to counter his opponent on modification.
philosophical grounds. There is nevertheless no reticence to cite the Aquinas does not follow the practice of some of his predecessors in
authority of revelation, or any authoritative teaching for which one ordering the arguments according to their power of conviction. In John
would normally require no argumentation. As we have already of La Rochelle one finds for the first time the grouping ofthe arguments
mentioned, all of Aquinas' arguments should be taken with the into what he calls ratione commune and ratione proprie, even _though
understanding that right philosophy leads directiy to the truth of the John does not indicate what lies behind the distinction, and which of the
Catholic faith. Thus his position against the unicity of intellect is groupings should be given pride of place in the attempt to prove
accompanied by an assertion of the accord of what he was outlining immortality. Odo Rigaldus groups his own arguments into those from
with the faith. In the same way, at the end of his lengthy proofs for authority and those from reason. It was Albert the Great who makes the
immortality in the Contra gentiles, he expresses the accord of the point most balanced weighing of the arguments for immortality, making a
he was defending with faith,' citing Genadius of Masseille' s De fourfold categorization of the arguments.' We have also seen that there
ecclesiasticis dogmatibus in support. It is however remarkable that is no effort by Albert to show the reasons behind his groupings,
these few and isolated citations of authorities of faith are not used as especially the distinction between probable and necessary arguments.
arguments. They stand as the affirmation of orthodoxy of a However, latent in this practice is the acceptance that not all the
philosophical position. arguments used to prove immortality are of equal convincing power,
The method applied in the arguments is the sic el non method which, thus implicitly leaving room for critical questioning of even those he
developed from the twelfth century from such thinkers as Abelard and regards as necessary arguments.
others of his ilk, had become the standard method of writing by the time The arguments of Aquinas are outlined one alier the other, without
of Aquinas. In line with this, Aquinas outlines all the possible any indication that there is any preference whatever for any of them. It
objections. to his stand before stating his own position in what can is perhaps because he intended the cumulative effect of all the
generally be regarded as the solution to the question that is raised. The arguments to constitute their convincing power, and not the perceived
amplitude of his writing allows him to follow different methods of force of any of them taken separately. This method is also found in his
approach in different works. Thus there is the well-ordered and immediate forebears, with the possible exception of Albert the Great.
systematic works like the Summa Ihe%giae and also the Contra Here, Aquinas. chooses to follow not the method of his master but other
genliles in which he very often does not present in a very ordered thinkers of his epoch like William of Auvergne and John Blund. The
fashion the position of the opponent, and also such works as the procedure he adopts here has occasioned two reactions among scholars
82 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 83

as regards the intention of Thomas with regard to the whole corpus of argument in St. Thomas that is purely from deduction, in which case
the arguments for immortality. there will be no need at all to foist the argument from desire as special.
The first of these reactions is to try to determine which of the But because he in fact does so, one can conclude that the meaning he
arguments are necessary for Aquinas and which are not. In the absence attaches to induction differs from what we have stated. In that case,
of any objective guide on what should be the determinant factors however, the onus will be on him to explain the purpose of other
influencing the choice, one fmds discordant voices on the issue. J.-Y. arguments in which, according to his Wlderstanding, Aquinas was
Jollif, for instance, asserts very correctly that one must try to bring the clearly deductive. The basic problem is to hang on the proofs of
particular argument into the general problematics that stand at their Aquinas a categorization, which the author himself does not indicate is
origin," and which, we may add, can give them the real meaning and necessary, and which does not advance his purpose. While Aquinas'
explanation. He seems however to mean by this that the argument from proof should be read in their specific historical and philosophical
the desire for perpetual existence which Thomas regards as present in contexts, to try to advance their aim by bringing in extrinsic
every man should be brought Wlder the quest for being which only the distinctions, which Aquinas does not make, and which is not
philosopher can attain. Even if this is true, there is no indication that Wlequivocally supported by his texts seems to compoWld the problems
this was the intention of the angelic doctor, especially as Jollif seems to inherent in the proofs.
have depreciated the proof which Thomas presented with the assertion The view of st. Hilaire discussed above is a reaction to J. F.
that there is no reason to give special consideration to the desire for McCormick's interpretation of Aquinas' proofs consequent upon the
inunortality, nor to insist that this desire, more than any other htunan absence of gradation among them or any indications of preference for
desire, must be fulfilled. II While Jollif appears to redeem the argument some over and above the others. McCormick groups the issue of
by bringing it rOWld to the question of being, G. St. Hilaire upholds the immortality and that of the state of the separated soul in Aquinas among
argument from natural desire over and above all other arguments. He questions that "are asked seriously because the questioner does not
divides the arguments of Aquinas into those which are deductive and know the answer." Using this as a principle, he asserts that "St. Thomas
those which are inductive, and affirms that those who attempt does not attempt to prove the immortality of the soul."" McCormick
philosophical proof of immortality are bOWld to be stuck in a mesh does not deny that Thomas asserts the future life of the separated soul.
because there can be no ntiddle term which does not beg the question if The import of his statement is that in fact the arguments, which were
one proceeds deductively." However, the only argument which he apparently enWlciated to prove immortality, were not intended to be
terms deductive is the argument from desire which, like Jollif, he brings strict demonstrations. It would mean that while Thomas argues for
rOWld to the desire for the source of being" which is God." The proof immortality, he is well aware that the fact of the question can only be
from the desire shows that Thomas was Wlshakably convinced about the accepted on groWlds of faith. One would have expected to see some
positive aspect of immortality as provable philosophically, as well as reasons for this position which he himself regards as "challengeable,"
the present insertion of the soul in immortality." however the only support he provides for it is the observation that in the
It is of course correct to say that Thomas sets a lot of store on the Q.D. de anima, Thomas ends his question about immortality of the soul
common experience of the normal human being, and we have seen that by saying that the soul is therefore incorruptible. St. Hilaire adequately
ultimately the strength of his proofs is meant to rest on this replies to this view by pointing out that what is in fact incorruptible is
consciousness, for all of them are ulthnately resoluble into human immortal, and that St. Thomas himself uses the two terms
experience without which there can be little or no proofs in human incorruptibility and i.nu1Jortality interchangeably in other contexts. 16
affairs at all, except proofs that are a priori which do not in themselves Still it is surprising that the mere use of incorruptible in place of
provide us with any fresh insight. However, st. Hilaire's disparagement immortal was enough to read a contrary intention into the clear efforts
of the process of deduction is very tenuous. Aquinas goes from his of Thomas to defend immortality. on what for him were rational
assertion of what one can learn from intuition, and proceeds from groWlds: A more recent presentation of such a view is that made by B.
deduction from these to conclusions about immortality. If St. Hilaires Davies, which we quote at some length:
takes such procedures as induction, then it can be said that there is no
84 The Philosophical Significance 0/ Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments/or Immortality 85

...people for Aquinas, are rational, lUlderstanding animals, and they are to God's omnipotence. Again the possibility of passing from being to
what they are by virtue of what is not material. This aspect of people nonbeing implies logical possibility: the intellect can conceive the soul
must. he concludes, be capable of surviving the destruction of what is as not existing." William of Auvergne also considers the question of
material. He does not think we can prove that the soul of Fred must what can possibly lead to the death of the soul, and affirms that only the
survive Fred's death. In his view, whether or not Fred's soul survives Creator can do so, but that this is not likely given that the continued
the death of Fred will depend on whether God wills to keep it in being. existence of the soul leads to the greater glory of God because of the
and Aquinas does not think that we are in a position to prove that God
must do that. For him, therefore, there is no 'proof of the immortality of soul's ability to rise to a higher perfection, separated from the body. I'
the soul.' He holds that Fred's soul could, in principle, cease to exist at The point here is that there is a clear distinction between the natural
any time. But he does not think that it is the sort of thing of which it immortality of the soul and the omnipotence of God, whose power to
makes sense to say that it can perish as bodies can perish. 17 annihilate any of his creatures is not put in .doubt by any thinker of the
thirteenth century. The fact of God's omnipotence is not enough to
The above view dilutes the position of Aquinas so much as to make interpret the argnments for immortality as if it is not certain whether the
it irreconcilable with his project of proving innnortality. There is no soul will survive the body, or that its survival depends on the will of
evidence from Aquinas himself to support the position that he only held God. The authors of the thirteenth century were convinced that it was in
that the soul is not the sort of thing that perishes, but that we have no accordance with the will of God that the soul should survive the death
way of proving this. Again the question of innnortality in the whole of of the body. Hence the question about immortality was whether the soul
the thirteenth century was posed side by side with the question of was in fact by nature innnortal. Aquinas himself asks: Utrum anima
whether God can annihilate the soul. The answer that was given to this ra/ionalis secundum suam subs/an/iam sit incorruptibilis.2 Again, the
question by all the authors who considered it was based on the argnments from God'sjustice, which is found in many places, including
omnipotence of God because of which he can in fact annihilate every the texts written by Aquinas,21 indicate the certainty of the thinkers that
creature, including the angels. About this question, there is no dispute, God in fact intended that the soul survives the death of the body, in
and it is in view of this that the question of immortality was posed in spite of his power to annihilate any being. It is quite clear that Aquinas
terms of whether the soul is immortal by nature. intended to prove the immortality of the rational soul by rational
When Alexander Nequam, for example; considered the question he argnment, and as J. Weisheipl writes:
asserted unequivocally that the soul is not absolutely simple, since such
simplicity in his view implies the eternity of being, thus true simplicity For Thomas the immortality of the soul can be demonstrated
cannot be found in things that do not have their being from eternity. conclusively from its functions in this life; the natural philosopher, to
What is not really eternal, i.e., what has come from nonbeing into whom psychology pertains, can know the fact of immortality, even
being, can also pass from being back to nonbeing. If then the soul though he cannot know much about the state of its separation from the
receives its being in time from the highest being through creation, there
is the possibility that by the fiat of its creator, it can go from being to
The view that Thomas does not intend to prove innnortality may be
nonbeing, which implies that it is innnortal. Stenuning from this
one of the results of his failure to grade the argnments, and to indicate
consideration, Nequam considers the objection that the soul is by nature
which are considered necessary, as Albert has done. However, this
mortal, but receives immortality by grace from God. His reply to this
should not be overemphasized. Even though there is much to be said
objection is that the soul is neither mortal nor corruptible, for there is no
about the view that Thomas intended the convincing power of his proofs
property or power in it which can lead to death. Nevertheless, it can be
to come through the cumulative influence of all the arguments, we can
said that it can die in the sense that the word "can" implies possibility in
decipher in the outline of the argnments for immortality, that he makes
relation to God's power. But given that no power, which is inferior to
selections from the store of proofs available, and that from one of his
the Supreme Being, can lead to the death of the soul, it is said to be
writings to the other he changes the method used and drops some of the
innnortai. Nequam further says that when it is said that whatever has a
argnments used previously. There is certainly more in this procedure
beginning can also slide to nonbeing, the statement is also in reference
than meets the eyes. It shows in fact that he does not consider all the
86 The Philosophical Significance a/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments/or Immortality 87

arguments to be on the same level of acceptability even if he refrains discussions on various themes arising from or suggested by the book of
from saying so explicitly. Be that as it may, that he returns over and Peter Lombard. Thomas' commentary followed this form, and is marked
over again to adumbrate proofs for immortality, and that he tries to by the historical origin of the text. The passage on immortality clearly
clarity in many places the type of immortality he intended to indicates the early stage of his intellectual evolution. The encyclopaedic
demonstrate is enough reason not to discount his intention to prove mind of the angelic doctor is already manifest in the conunentary. 25
immortality by rational argumentation. The apparent weakness of some Most of the points raised in the arguments for immortality in thirteenth -
of the arguments is no reason to impute intentions to him which he very century scholasticism are present in this short text. But the manner of
likely has not, nor to make distinctions among the arguments which he their presence belies the youthful mind of the thinker. The points are
does not make. Our effort here will therefore be concentrated on barely mentioned, and there is hardly any sustained effort to outline
reviewing all the arguments of Aquinas in order to ascertain at the same proofs that are logical, ordered and consistent. It is also remarkable that
time his intention, the origin of the argument in previous authors, the the work is a compendium of citations and references to classical
special slant that he gives to them, the external and internal authors, which for Aquinas, are in support of the immortality of the
circumstances surrounding their composition, in addition to their soul." Specifically, the text seems to be a sustained effort to use
relative strength and weakness. Given that many of the arguments are isolated statements found in Aristotle in defence of immortality, a
repeated in several texts, our analysis with regard to their tenability or method which he would drop almost completely when writing his last
otherwise will be left until the last appearance of the particular proof in texts on immortality.
the whole corpus of Aquinas's arguments for immortality so far as our The text found in the first article of the first question of Dis/inctio 19
study goes. begins with the usual presentation of possible objections to the
inunortality of the soul, then progresses to present some contrary
positions before going on to outline solutions to the problem under
3.1 The Arguments discussion and answers to objections.
Seven objections against immortality are presented, most of which
1. In tbe Scriptum super IIbros Sen/en/larum II are repeated in other texts where he argues for inunortality. It is
remarkable that in these objections, Thomas presents what, in his view,
By the time Thomas Aquinas became a student in the University of are the strongest possible philosophical considerations against the
Paris, certain practices, which were introduced partly as a result of the assertion of the immortality of the soul, even though here and there one
fast evolution of university studies in the thirteenth century, had become also finds interjections of scriptural quotations. The reply he brings to
commonplace. One of such was the practice of lecturing on Peter the objections usually consists in assertions of positions already proven.
Lombard's Book of Sentences for some years before inception in Otherwise, they are meant to point out some issues, the clarification of
theology." The details of the reason why this practice came to be which should take care of the misgivings of the supposed objector.
entrenched are not clear, but its origin is attributed to Alexander of The first objection arises from the citation from the Ecclesiastes to
Hales from whom the practice spread, supplanting the earlier practice of the effect that all is vanity because both men and beast have the same
commenting on the Bible, a practice for which Roger Bacon accused fate, and hence no special state of inunortality should be reserved for
Hales of being responsible for what, in Bacon's view, was the decline of men over and above mere beasts. Another quotation from the same
theological learning in the thirteenth century." It is thus not surprising book stating that human beings go back to their Creator is enough for
that the first writings of most of the thinkers of the thirteenth century Thomas to take care of this possible objection, The second objection
who passed through the crucible of the new university education are to brings him to face a philosophical problem. The point of objection here
be found in the form of commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. is based on the mode of participation of beings in their conunon
Aquinas' own commentary was written between 1252 and 1256, characteristics. All individuals of the same genus share equally the
Though such works are usually called commentaries, they involve inferior perfections of that genus if they share its superior qualities. All
elaboration of texts in the form of questions, and concomitant animals, for example, share in the characteristics of having a body or
88 The Philosophical Significance oj Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 89

being corporeal, because sharing in the higher quality of animality, produce one and only one being. A problem arises from the destiny of
which involves much more than being body, they must also share in this single being that is the result of the composition. If there is one
corporeality. If then all animals also share the quality of being being, and corruption is understood as the change from being to non-
corruptible because their form reverts to non-being, so should it be in being, one part of the composite cannot be corrupted without the other,
humans on the grounds of the fact that corruptibility is an inferior because the one being that has emerged is owed to the union of the two.
feature of the genus of aoimality, and man, who participates in the Ifthe soul is the form of the body, the corruption of the composite must
quality of being an animal, should have also a corruptible form.27 This entail that of the soul. The fourth difficulty is an anticipation of a
apparently strong point arises from the subsuming of the rational soul to possible answer to this objection." It could be said that the soul is form
other natural phenomena. But for Aquinas, the soul is the only being in and substance at the same time, and if the soul ceases to exist inasmuch
nature that deserves a single exception: it is spared corruptibility. His as it is a form, it does not do so in so far as it is a substance. However
outline of the nature of the soul is like a preparation for the granting of such a soul can either be form essentially or by virtue of one of its
that exception, and to some point of that outline he turns to provide an accidents. If it is essentially a form, and no one thing Can have a
answer to the argument from the general trend in nature. plurality of essences, it follows that if the soul does not survive
For Aquinas things cease to be because by their nature they are inasmuch as it is a form, then its only essence is indeed corruptible. If,
amenable to non-being or corruption, and not because of what happens on the other hand, it is supposed that the soul is form by one of its
to them, from outside. Such a statement appears to be contrary to our accidents, then, given that it is the substantial union of soul and body
experience, given that in the normal COlU'Se of events, we see trees fall that makes a man, man will be being by accident, which, to all intents
when they are cut by a chain saw. We see people die when they drown and purposes is an absurd conclusion.
in a river or when they are run over by a motor vehicle or when then are The basis of the response to the above problems is that the soul is a
shot by an assassin, and animals die when their throat is slit by human different form from other material forms, and has being absolutely. As
beings. In his view, corruption is the transition from being to non-being to the disappearance of the being of the soul with that of the being of the
by that which in itself is fitted for corruption, in such a way that it can composite, the soul does not owe its being to the composite. Aquinas
be deprived of its being. This is possible because the being of such refers to its operations which show its independence of the composiie,
composites derives from the conjunction or union of form and matter, while other forms, which perish with the death of the composite, have
and the separation of the two leads directly to the. loss of the being no operation that is not mediated by matter. Here, one of the difficulties
which they have by virtne of their composition. Thus whether forms of immortality is only broached: if human soul is immortal, why does
lose their being is dependent on what type of form we are talking about. the soul of aoimals which is also immaterial die? It will be treated more
If there is a form which is non-dependent and possesses being as such, a extensively in other works on immortality, but the unity of being which,
form in whose being matter participates, and which it helps to perfect, it on theoretical grounds, and without reference to activities, seems to
would follow that the destruction of the composite will result in the support the mortality of the aoimal soul is raised against immortality.
destruction of this perfecting function, but such a form would retain the The answer to the fourth difficulty is that the soul is not only a
being which appertains to it, irrespective of the composition in which it substance, but also hoc aliquid, designations that apply only to the soul:
was found. This explanation is not linked directly to the soul, but it is among all other forms. It is on this ground that two considerations are
obvious that the previous outline of the nature of the soul as a subsistent relevant to it: first as a substance and then as a form. As a form it should
form is at issue. It is indeed on that conception of the soul that all his not be taken that the many qualities it possesses are divergent, and
texts on immortality are founded, as we shall see in the next objections independent, such that one thing is its essence and another its being as
and his replies to them. form, as a colour would be in a body. It is not as form that the soul
Aquinas insists very strongly against Plato and his followers on the survives the body, but because of its possession of absolute being and
unity that exists between the soul and the body. Man is not his body, being subsistent. Aquinas gives an example to explain his response: man
and the composite of body and soul is seen as a hylemorphic has understanding not because he is an aoimal, but because he is
composition, which, according to the tradition of Aristotle, can only
90 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments/or Immortality 91

rational, even though both rationality and animality are essential to his phantasm does not indicate any essential dependence on the body, given
being." that it has some operatim;s which flow from it in an absolute manner. As
Thomas does not say here that the essence of the soul as form is to the question of a being not existing without its operation, Aquinas
destroyed by the destruction of the body, nor does he also answer the answers that the soul will have another mode of understanding at
issue raised by the difficulty with regard to whether the soul, if death."
essentially fonn, loses its nature as fonn or continues to be fonn, even if The two remaining objections are linked with the question of the
separated from the body. However, it is clear from several other origin of the soul. It is impossible that a being lasts forever if it did not
sections of his work that he still maintains that the soul remains a form exist forever because that power which enables it not to cease to exist is
after separation, even though it does not vivify a body any more." Such the same that makes it possible for it never to have ceased to exist. If
a position will be very useful later when he comes to reflect on the therefore the soul begins to exist with the body, it means that it has not
resurrection. The '\Ilalogy with man being rational and animal at the existed always and will also not last forever. The seventh objection
same time does not seem to be a suitable answer. What is at stake is mentions the doctrine of creation explicitly. All that is from nothing can
whether the soul, understood as essentially form, continues to exist if also revert to nothing, and if the soul is created from nothing, it cannot
this essence ceases to exist, since one being cannot have two essences at be incorruptible. That the soul did not start to exist from infinity is due
the same time. A proper application of the analogy to the issue would be to the fact that its being is not from itself. If indeed the being of the soul
to consider the status of man ifhe loses any of those properties, i.e., can were from the soul, it would have beeri infinite in the sense outlined in
a human being remain human if he is no longer rational? The proper the objection. Thus for Aquinas, what the argument proves is no more
answer to the objection is linked to the status of the soul after separation than that what has the power always to be, as long as it retains this
and also to what is considered to be its natural endowment for future power cannot cease to exist. As regards the soul's reverting to non-being
resurrection, and these are points which are properly suited for the soul whence it comes, he answers that it does not also prove more than that
alone, as special fonn, deserving special consideration. the soul depends for its being on the principle from which it receives
The issue of the state of the soul post mortem is again touched on in this being in the first place, and in the absence of this inflow of being
the answer to the sixth difficulty raised against the theory of from their origin, all beings will revert to non-being. It has already been
immortality. The difficulty is one that will be taken up again in other noted that this idea of the dependence of finite beings on their Creator is
forms and in pursuance of diverse themes. Here it is stated with support found in most of the thinkers of the thirteenth century, and that it is not
from John Damascene that no substance can exist without its proper a reason to suppose that Aquinas does not intend to prove immortality
operation, and since the proper operation of the soul is to understand, it from rational argumentation. In fact the raising of ser'lous objections and
is impossible that the soul can continue to understand if indeed it cannot the answers he tries to give to them, even though in ~ccordance with the
understand without phantasms. If therefore understanding through style of the time, can be an indication that the arguments outlined are
phantasms ceases, then the being of the soul must also cease. The intended to demonstrate the immortality of the soul. The objections are
attempt to resolve this difficulty involves two distinctions in like the clearing of the ground, but we notice also that in them, he
understanding with something or without it. In the first instance, that makes references to many convictions in the name of which he argues
which is understood is a participant in the act of understanding. An for immortality on rational grounds. Among these are especially his idea
example is when the organ of visible power sees with the power of about the nature of the soul and its activity in understanding. The rest of
sight. This is possible, according to Aquinas, because to see is not a what he wrote on immortality are contained in the rebuttals he used
simple operation. In this regard, the intellect understands completely prior to the solution which is usually intended to present the final
without the body. The second distinction is that whereby what is seen is answers to the problem at issue but which in this case does not serve
the object of the operation of seeing, as the act of seeing cannot take that purpose. Like in what we have so far seen, Aquinas remains
place without colour. In the second way, Our intellect cannot perform its tentative and haphazard in his presentation of the arguments.
operation without phantasms so long as it is still in this earthly It is in fact within the context of the rebuttal that he attempts to
existence. However, that the intellect cannot understand without present few of the clear independent arguments for immortality. Of the
92 The Philosophical Significance o/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality, 93

four statements he presents, three are arguments for immortality, while contemplation is the stage at which the soul is in union with God, in
the remaining one is a reaffirmation of the doctrine that the soul is a which it is apud Deum el in Deo." To be able to reach this stage, the
certain type of substance (subslantia quaedam), subsisting in itself and intellect, according to Alexander, must be free from the type of
that it is therefore incorruptible. corruption that bedevils the body." The version of Aquinas, of course,
The first of the arguments is based on the statement of Aristotle in departs from the statement of Aristotle instead of Augustine, which can
Book Eight of the Nichomachean Elhics that the joy of contemplation is be seen as an indication, faint as it may be, of the height of the influence
much superior to that of activity because it lasts longer. Aquinas then or the preference for Aristotle at the time. Still the two presentations of
argues that joy that is derived from activity lasts till the end of this the arguments are founded on the same premise: that for the soul to
present life. To last longer therefore, contemplative joy must remain attain the joy of contemplation, it must be in a state in which it can live
after this present life, and this joy cannot have any other subject but the without the body, and ifit must do so, it must at least survive the body.
soul which therefore must survive longer than the duration of terrestrial That, however, is as far as it goes; there is no convincing reason to think
life. The second argument departs from a prior conception of God, and that the soul which reaches the state of contemplation by surviving the
his justice in governing the world. It asserts that it is part of a provident body must be inunortal, for the enjoyment of contemplation is logically
God that he should care for all that occurs in the world, but in an compatible with the future demise of the soul after the experience of
eminent way this care should be extended to human beings, and other such joy. It is conceivable that Aquinas would argue that once any being
beings which resemble God, among which the human being stands first. has reached that state, it would in fact be difficult to conjecture any
It would be unjust, the argument goes, for any provider and ruler not to reason why it should again lose its being. He did not do so, however,
provide means of punishing evil and rewarding the good. Since it is not and it is also safe to suppose that the argument is meant to be taken
possible to think of God as being unjust, he must punish all evil and together with those in which inunortality is argued for by appealing to
reward every good, a situation which is not realized in this life where the nature of the soul itself, not just by pointing out the logical
often the good get punished and the bad get rewarded. There must implications of the words of Aristotle.
therefore be another life where the bad are punished and the good The above doubt about what the argument from contemplation can
rewarded. The final proof goes to the act of the soul in knowing. The prove applies wholly to that from justice of God. Unlike the argument
soul, as Aristotle says, is the place of species, and it follows from this from contemplation, however, which is found in rare sources as
that the soul must conserve intellectual species only. Just as the senses Alexander of Hales, the one from justice has enjoyed a long life coming
apprehend sensible species, the intellect must also understand only alive again in Kant who, after rejecting any proof for immortality in his
through intelligibles. For Aquinas, this is in itself an indication of the Critique of Pure Reason, accepted it as a postulate of practical reason.
intellect's ability to understand without recourse to anything from the Before Kant and Aquinas, the argument from God' s justice has been
body, and this shows that it can also exist without the body in used by Gundissalinus, William of Auvergne and Alexander of Hales,"
accordance with Aristotle who said in the De anima that if indeed the among others. William of Auvergne took the argument further by
soul has operations independent of the body, it shows that it can also considering it among the theological" arguments, which for him are
exist without the body." stronger than the ones he regarded as the arguments of reason. Thomas
It is only in the II Senlenliarum that Aquinas uses the statement on does not seem to have viewed this argument from God's justice as less
contemplation and the supposition of the justice of God in support of philosophical than theological as William of Auvergne. But the
immortality. However, these two proofs appear to have simply been unquestioned presuppositions of the arguments seem to make it a
picked out of the statements of his forebears on immortality without natural candidate for Auvergne's grouping, if Aquinas had cared at all
much modification or review of their strength. The point from for such distinction in his defence of immortality. Among these
contemplation can be traced back to Alexander of Hales who used the suppositions are the idea of God who must be providential, whose
nature of contemplation to argue for inunortality. Alexander combined providence must care in a special way for man, to whom man is more
st. Victor's definition of contemplation as liber animi in Deum similar than any other worldly creature; and God who must reward and
defix"," and the idea of St. Augustine to the effect that the last stage of punish because there cannot be injustice in him. Though there is no
" i

94 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 95

reason why any of these presuppositions should not be a topic for Philip first asserts that the nature of the object of intellectual
philosophical investigation, taking their results for granted is not in knowledge is such that it must be abstracted from all accretions to
consonance with time-honoured philosophical methodology. matter. However self-intellection cannot be the result of the process of
What Aquinas presents in the solutio is what he takes to be the four abstraction. If Socrates understands himself that does not mean that he
possible positions before the question of immortality: the positions of understands himself by understanding the. universal man, which is the
natural philosophers; of Pythagorians and Platonists; that of those who product of intellectual abstraction. This is because self-understanding
defend the unicity of the intellect; and the position of the Christian faith. involves the apprehension of something that is personal, something that
Aocient natural philosophers, according to Aquinas, failed to make any cannot be grasped through the universal idea of man. That the universal
distinction between the sense and the intellect. Because the senses is not meant is also shown, according to Philip, by the process of
depend on the body for their existence, they assumed that the intellect knowledge by which what is known as universal is first of all
must be so too. To counter this view, Aquinas made references to apprehended by the sensitive and the imaginative faculties. The intellect
Aristotle and Liber de Causis to buttress the position that the soul has cannot apprehend itselflike a material object. Philip concludes that the
being on its own absolutely because it has an operation in which it does intellect must therefore understand itself as a separate, individual and
not depend on any bodily organ. This assertion is proved by three immortal substance.'l It is remarkable that Albert groups the
points. First the intellectual operation in question has to do with the demonstration not even among the probable arguments, but among the
apprehension of all corporeal forms. The nature of the soul must signa of immortality, and the reason is perhaps due to a perception of
therefore be free from all such forms if it is to be able to apprehend the difficulties involved. His approach to the argument is also peculiar.
them. Second understanding has only to do with the universal, while Albert states that no corporeal organ apprehends itself and its
only individual forms can be received in corporeal organs. Again the instrument. He attempts to prove this by induction. By induction we can
intellect understands itself, which is not possible in faculties which be clear that the exterior and interior senses do not perceive themselves,
operate through bodily organs. 39 because their perception is made possible only by impression made on
Let us here examine the import of the third point in favour of the the organ of the body. Because it is impossible for these senses to be the
absolute possession of being by the rational soul. To support the origin of impression made on them, they cannot perceive themselves.
absence of organ in self-understanding, Aquinas refers to Avicenna's On the other hand, the intellect and other powers of the rational soul
view that with reference to any power operating through a corporeal have the capacity to understand each other, and this makes it quite
organ, the organ through which it operates must be a medium between obvious that the powers of the rational soul cannot be corporeal."
the power and its object. The power of sight, for instance, cannot Aquinas does not consider the difficulties involved in the
perceive anything if the species of the object of perception does not fall employment of the intellecfs self-understanding in connection with the
on the pupils of the eye. Since it is not possible for this to be otherwise arguments for immortality, nor does he use it as a mere sign as Albert
with faculties involving physical organs, no faculty operating with did. But in other passages such as the Summa theologiae he gives
physical organs can know itself. What this is intended to show is that adequate thought to the issues involved in self-knowledge, even though
the soul does not have operations through a corporeal organ, and if so, it he does not completely succeed in avoiding the problem in which the
must be spiritual and does not die with the death of the body.40 The Chancellor found himself. Self-knowledge for Aquinas cannot mean
principle of self-understanding was mentioned briefly by Aristotle, and that the soul knows itself as pure essence. The soul's knowledge of
was subsequently used by Philip the Chancellor and Albert the Great in itself, at least in so far as it is united with the body, does not absolve it
defence of immortality. The argument is fraught with problems. from the general epistemological requirement of knowing by abstraction
Aristotle did not explain how, according to his epistemology, the from material things. 43 Even the knowledge of God is derived oniy
intellect comes to know itself. Philip the Chancellor faced the problem through this means. 44 Aquinas therefore sticks to hls logic by affirming
before Aquinas even though unlike Aquinas, he used the argument in that the intellect is the object of its own cognitive activity only in so far
conjunction with the perception of the universal by the intellect. as it is actualized by species abstracted from material things by the usual
96 The Philosophical Significance a/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments/or Immortality 97

function of the agent intenect. It is thus through the mediation of its own some way akin to knowledge of the universal in the sense of not
acts that the intellect knows itself. requiring the mediation of phantasm. However, the spirituality and
None is left in doubt that, like Aristotle, Aquinas insists on the immateriality of the soul are what the argument from self-knowledge is
material, sensory origin of all human knowledge. We cannot have a intended to prove.
direct knowledge of pure essence, even if it is the essence of our own The two other positions on the question of immortality are barely
intellect. It is by the actualization of the cognitive ability of the intellect mentioned by Aquinas. What he calls the position of the Platonists and
that we come to know, as it were, by a sort of inference from the very the Pythagoreans is the transmigration of the soul at death from one
act of the intellect. Thus we cannot know whether we can argue or body to another. In his view fonns are detennined to their matter, and
judge, unless we in fact enga~e in these acts. It means that our self- thus a particular soul cannot be the form of any other body except its
knowledge cannot be direct. 4 The manifestation of intellectual acts own. This view is of important consequence' on account of the doctrine
involves the reference of these act to and use of objects of knowledge of the resurrection of the body which Aquinas links very tightly with his
which are all originally sensible. It is therefore correct to say that the theory of immortality. The particular body that will be resurrected will
first thing that the intellect knows is a particular object, then it comes to be the one the soul had served as form, and only which it is in fact fitted
know the activity by which the object is known. Through this activity to be in. The third position, advanced by those who taught the unity of
the intenect knows itself through thinking, which is its proper the human intellect, holds that the soul is partly mortal and partly
function. 46 immortal. Those aspects of the soul which properly belong to the
There is the possibility of infinite regress in such a recurring process particular human being, and only which are immersed in matter, do not
of knowing through activity, and knowing that one knows through survive the corruption of the body. The actual intellect, the possible and
knowing and so on," but the more serious problem is the status of such the agent are unique in all human beings, and at the corruption of the
knowledge because the proof of inunortality is based on it. Given that individual body, these continue to exist. The type of inunortality
the proper object of the intenect is the universal, is the intellect's self- accepted by this position is collective inunortality, which Aquinas
knowledge universal or particular? Philip has rightly pointed out that vehemently argues against throughout his writings. The constant
Socrates' knowledge of himself cannot be the same as the universal reference to this position shows that what is important to him is not just
knowledge of humanity. If this knowledge is to be of the individual self, any type of inunortality, but one that is personal, and makes individual
it is necessary that it is not altogether devoid of phantasm, otherwise responsibility defensible. Even though he argues against it mostly with
there is the problem of making it a particular knowledge of the intellect. rational considerations, there is little doubt that morality and religious
For Philip the Chancellor, such knowledge must be of the individual as faith are also very much at play here. As we have hinted, Aquinas does
separate and immortal substance, but the question of what role not hide the fact that the question of inunortality has serious
phantasms play is not addressed It could be argued that what is meant implications for the Christian faith, and that in fact that is one reason
by self-knowledge can be reduced to a certain type of awareness or why he defends the doctrine so strongly. The last position which he
introspection of the act of knowing. But this does not seem to be enough outlines shows this clearly. It is the affirmation of a point of view,
in this context for the effect that self-intellection is intended to achieve. joined with rebuttals of other contrary views." The intellective soul is a
Again the analogy Aquinas makes with faculties using material organs substance not dependent on the body (against materialists), and there
does not indicate that he does not mean real, direct knowledge of the are many such substances in accordance with the numerality of bodies
intellect of itself. It is indeed because he presents the intellect as in (against unicists); when the body is destroyed, it remains separated, and
some way focusing on itself that the example of physical organs makes does not transmigrate to other bodies (against Pythagoreans), and at the
sense. It seems then that the type of particular knowledge the intellect resurrection, it asswnes the same body which it had served as fonn.
has of itself will require the presence of individuating phantasms, since
the soul does not know its essence, and its self-knowledge cannot be
universal knowledge of man. It is possible also to say that the essence of
the soul is spiritual, and inunaterial, and thus its direct knowledge is in
98 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 99

2. In the Summa Contra Gentiles The importance of the theme of immortality in tile whole of the
Contra gentiles has been emphasized. "The theme which, more than any
If Aquinas is clear about the religious intention of his project of other, is the focal point in the mutual influence between Chtistianity and
providing rational proofs for immortality in other works, the Aristotelianism in the SCG," says Pegis, "is the doctrine of the
circumstances under which the Contra gentiles was written makes that inunortaJity of the soul."" Aquinas argues for inunortality directly in
intention even clearer. The monumental work is said to have arisen from chapters 79 to 81 of the work. However, these chapters do not represent
the order of Raymond of Penafort, the then master general of the order all that he says on the subject. In fact from the moment he comes down
of preachers, to st. Thomas to write a work against the errors of infidels to deal with the type of spiritual substances that are naturally united to
for members of the order who were engaged in ntissionary work against the body, it can be said that the constant underlying theme was
Moslems, Jews and heretical Chtistians in Spain and North Africa. The immortality. Hence the length of the text on immortality, even though
actual date of the composition is disputed, and in any case the work more than what he wrote in other places does not exhaust his concern
must have taken quite some time to complete. It is said to have been for inunortaJity in the Contra gentiles.
started around 1258, but Book Two, in which Aquinas discussed When therefore Aquinas comes to argue for immortality he makes
creation, is believed to have been written around 1261. The origin of direct references to the arguments for the incorruptibility of spiritual
the work has been cited as a reason why the Contra gentiles contains creatures, saying that since the soul is a spiritual creature, it must be
many arguments for inunortality. The intention is that Chtistian incorruptible like all other spiritual creatures." This means that the
ntissionaries who were engaged in intellectual disputations could have a arguments used to prove the incorruptibility of spiritual creatures should
source from which to draw against their opponents. so also apply to the rational soul, even if not primarily so. Most of these
. This background also has an influence in the structure of the work. arguments are in tum supported by the preceding proofs that the
Its central argument, just as in many other works of Aquinas, is that intellectual substances are not bodies, are inunaterial and are not
Chtistianity is in full accord with human reason, and consequently also material forms (cf. chapters. 49 - 51). st. Thomas constantly makes
in full accord with right philosophy which does not deviate from the direct references to these. One such proof of incorruptibility of
natural light of reason. It is thus a call to reason to explore its intellectual substance is based on a prior argument that intellectual
potentialities so as to arrive at its natural end, which is the revelation, substances are subsisting forms. It states that a quality that belongs to a
found in Christianity. This theoretical background must have had an thing through itself remains in it inseparably. Theroundness in a circle
influence on the general ordering of themes in the Contra genliles. and in a coin is a good example. Because roundness does not belong to
While the Summa theologiae first takes up the Trinity, then the a coin by nature, but by accident, it is possible to think of a coin that is
incarnation, and sandwiches man between these two poles, the Contra not round. That is not so with the circle, which must be round if it is to
gentiles first discusses God, creation and man: aspects of the faith that be a circle at all. The presence of being is due to the presence of form
are open to the investigation of philosophy. The doctrines of the Trinity on account of the nature of the form itself. Things which are not form
and the incarnation are Ireated in the last book of the compendium. 51 may lose their forms, but this would not be so with substances which are
The second book begins with a discussion of creation, and quickly forms themselves. Given that intellectual substances are subsisting
establishes that multiplicity of being is in accordance with the perfection beings, they cannot lose their form or their essence, and hence are
of creation, which must possess the good of order. The good of order incorruptible."
entails the necessity of having immaterial, spiritual creatures, which are Another proof of incorruptibility is an adaptation of one of
nearer to God in the scale of being, and possessing more than other Avicenna's proofs ofinunortality in his De anima." It is founded on the
lower creatures, the reflection of the being of God." Such spiritual absence of matter in intellectual substance. Anything which is
beings must be immaterial and incorruptible. 53 Aquinas then goes on to corruptible has a potentiality to non-being. The intellectual substance
establish the reality and the mode of the union of some spiritual has no potentiality to non-being, for in it the complete substance is the
creatures with matter. The rest of the book is on the outcome of this recipient of being. That means that it is wholly being. Aquinas then
union, the composite that is the human being. states that the proper recipient of any act is related to the act in the form
100 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 101

of potentiality, such that it cannot be in potentiality to the opposite of in the perfection of the soul through knowledge and virtue. This
the act it receives. Fire is given as an example, and fire is so related to perfection progresses in proportion to the degree the soul considers
heat that naturally it cannot be in potentiality to coldness, which is the immaterial things in knowledge, and also withdraws itself in the
opposite of heat. Given that the spiritual substance does not contain acquisition of the virtues by the control or moderation of the human
matter in any way, its whole substance cannot have any potentiality to passion through reason. If then the soul progresses in perfection in this
non-being, for even in corruptible substances, it is from matter that the lintited withdrawal from the body, then complete separation cannot lead
propensity towards reversion to non-being arises. 58 to its destruction. 59 The argwnent here is very much close to another
Though Aquinas professes to be arguing for the incorruptibility of attempt to prove immortality by the observation that the soul is not
intellectual substances in general, some of the points he raises can only weakened by the weakness of the body, and must therefore not die with
be applicable to the human soul. For instance, the argument from the the death of the body.60 In this second argument, Aquinas contends that
desire for perpetual existence can only reasonably apply to the human in instances where it appears that the soul is weakened through a
being besieged by the factor of death, and in any case, whether such a weakness affecting the body, this occurs only accidentally so long as the
desire exists in angels or not is what a human being has no way of specific power of the soul operates with a corporeal organ. An
knowing. ,Another such consideration is the contention that the sense observation much according to him confirms this ophtion is that if the
powers are destroyed by the excesses of their object of perception, like organ affected by debility is restored, then the power returns in
sight being destroyed by excess of light. But on the contrary, the operation. As Aristotle said, if indeed an old man is given the eyes of a
intellectual power is made all the more capable of understanding the young person, he will see as much as the young person can see. For
more it understands. How this can serve as a proof of incorruptibility is Aquinas, the reason for this is that the intellect is a power that needs no
not clear, and the argument simply glides to the conclusion that the physical organ to operate, and it does not weaken at all; not by itself,
intellectual substance must therefore be incorruptible. It is clear that and not by old age. In cases where the intellect is known to get weak on
such considerations have relevance only in reference to the human soul. account of any infirntity, he states that this must be on account of the
That they are used for inunaterial substances in general confmns our weakness of other powers that the intellect needs, powers like
contention that Aquinas' texts on intellectual substances in this part of imagination and memory. The same conclusion must therefore be
the Contra gentiles has the rational soul as its point of arrival. drawn, i.e. that complete separation from the body will not lead to the
More arguments are then advanced in favour of the inunortality of corruption of the soul.
the rational soul specifically. Of these some are those already given in The view that the soul remains unscathed in case of the debility of
the text on incorruptibility, like the question of the natural appetite in the body is a very Platonic understanding of the soul, but it came to be
man for endless existence, and that of prime matter being incorruptible. widely used as a point for immortality with Gundissalinus' De
Others are used only for inunortality, as the case of the twice-repeated immortalitate animae. Viewed against the background of
arguments from the mode of knowledge of the intellect in which it Gundissalinus, Aquinas' employment of this argument moves at least a
knows only universals abstracted from matter, and the reinvigoration of step further, given that Aquinas does not go as far as saying that the
intellectual power through the weakness of the body. Of these, let us weakness of the body is a condition for the strengthening of the soul.
concentrate for a while on arguments which are not present in the works Gundissalinus argues first, like Aquinas, that the operation of the
we shall treat in the rest of this chapter. intellect is hindered by the body, and that a clear indication of this is
Aquinas begins one proof of immortality by citing the principle that that the more the soul is enmeshed in the body, the more its powers are
nothing is corrupted with regard to that in which its perfection consists. weakened, while distancing from the body enhances its activities, and
The reason is that change directed to perfection and that directed to frees it from error. Gundissalinus goes further to argue that if indeed the
decay are contraries since they work in opposite directions of being. intellect were to be essentially dependent on the body, the intellectual
The middle of the argument is then drawn from what is supposed to be powers would be stronger when the body is invigorated and weaker
the experience of the soul the perfection of which consists in a kind of when the body is debilitated. This is contrary to experience, since in the
abstraction from the body. Abstraction from the body is made concrete old, the body grows weaker mule the intellect develops in the opposite
102 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 103

direction. Such a trend in the growth of the intellect is contrary to which becomes activated with the appropriate organ. Before such a
mortality, since all that is mortal experiences diminishing vitality till it development is arrived at however, the contention of Aristotle would
reaches its end, which is death.'! The activities of the soul in the state of remain a supposition only. The same goes for the contention that the
ecstasy and prophecy are supportive of this argument. For intellect in the old weakens because of the weakness of other powers.
Gundissalinus, and in line with Avicenna," prophecy is the highest That would mean that intellectual powers remain intact, undiminished
activity of the soul while in the body, and it is observable that such an even when it is obvious that very often there is debility of intellectual
operation in which man is disposed to receive direct revelation from powers with old age. Given that Aquinas bases his philosophy very
above does not take place except in the condition of extreme weakness much on human experience, such a conclusion as the perpetual
of the body. invigoration of the intellect would have to depend on prior proof that
Given Aquinas' strong view about the urdty of the soul and body, the obvious weakening of the intellectual powers with old age is only
such an argument would appear incongruous, unless it is kept in mind due to the weakening of other inferior powers (like the memory,
that he veers very much in the direction of Platonism in the attempt to imagination and the cognitive power), which are corporeal.
defend inunortality. To start with, the perfection of a being is its act, The next argument departs from a comparison of the rational soul
according to Aristotelian metaphysics, which Aquinas consistently with prime matter. Aquinas uses such a comparison both in the prooffor
defends. Just as knowing perfects the intellect, the senses are perfected incorruptibility and that of inunortality with slight variations. We have
by sensing, since it is their nature to sense. After saying that the excess already seen that the argument from analogy with prime matter is found
of their object destroys the senses, it seems incongruous to use the in Philip the Chancellor and Joim of La Rochelle," even though it was
principle that nothing is cOll1lpted with regard to that in which its only the latter who used it as a proof of immortality. The first
perfection consists. Again, to foist knowledge as an abstraction from the employment of the comparison is in the context of the principle that in
body appears to overturn the whole epistemology in which the senses whatever that is composed of potentiality and actuality that which
are indispensable for any knowledge. It is perhaps because of the stands as the first subject is indestructible. That is why prime matter,
awareness of this implication that he qualifies the abstraction which, in relation to all corruptible material subst!1l\ces is in the position
(abstractione quaedam a corpore). Of course, it is safe to say in favour of first potentiality, is incorruptible. When we come to intellectual
of Aquinss that by knowledge here he means the higher level of substances, the subject of the first potentiality does not differ from the
thinking in which the intellect does not need the body's assistance any substance itself. Given this identity, what is incorruptible in intellectual
more, but given that, according to his anthropology, the body is. there substances, or that which satisfies the incorruptibility of the subject of
for the sake of the soul, the perfection of which is the reason for the the first potentiality is the whole substance, which must therefore be
urdon, the argument seems to go back on its opening principle that incorruptible. The presupposition is that the soul is spiritual and
nothing is destroyed by that in which its perfection consists, for the inunaterial, and would thus lack the first subject of potentiality, which is
body plays a very vital role in knowledge, which perfects the soul. to remain forever. It is practically the same argument, which is found in
However to say that withdrawal from the body perfects the soul is to John Blund64 when he states that death is change, and in change there
entail that its urdon with it is a disservice to the soul in the first place. must be a substratum, which remains after the change has taken place. If
Another comment on the two arguments is that the physiology the soul dies, being spiritual, there will be no substratum which will
whereby the old man would see as much as the young if indeed he serve as the subject of the motion of change.
receives the eyes of the young tends to support the position that sight is Next, Aquinas argues from the durability of intellectual being over
a thing which belongs to the organ of sight, and not something lent to it and above the sensible. Even though the intelligible lasts longer than the
by the soul. It is perhaps possible in the future with scientific sensible, prime matter, which is the first potentiality in the sensible, is
development to transplant an eye that will make it possible for a incorruptible with reference to its substance. All the more so will be the
completely blind person to see clearly again, but scientific development possible intellect which receives intelligible forms. Being a part of the
is yet to reach that stage. But supposing it does, it is not for that reason soul, the soul itself must also be inunortal. 65 Here Aquinas draws very
that it should be concluded that sight is just a power inherent in the soul, close to the argument of John of La Rochelle, who claimed that because
104 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 105

the lowest among material nature, prime matter, is incorruptible, the the body, then if it is supposed that bodies are separated from souls at
highest fonn in nature, which for him is its opposite, must also be death, either all the souls die or only one of them remains. The reason
immortal. The difference Thomas brings in here is the metaphysical for this objection is that if multiplicity and individuation is in fact due to
explanation of prime matter as the first recipient of the act of sensible matter, then the absence of this principle of multiplicity will entail that
being. It is not clear however whether it is intended in the passage that human souls will merge into one being, since' they have one essence.
the receptivity of the possible intellect should be correlated to the Credence would then be given either to Alexander of Aphrodisias (who
receptivity of prime matter. If it is so, there is an incongruity arising says that a single agent intellect survives the body) or to the disciples of
from the fact that the receptivity of prime matter is what constitutes a Averroes. for whom what survives the body is the unitary possible
material being into real existence, while the receptivity of the possible intellect. The answer that Aquinas gives to this possible difficulty is that
intellect is more the perfection of something which already has an act of the soul is not dependent for its being on the body, and so, even though
existence. In fact the comparison of prime matter with human intellect the soul is multiple in accordance with the multiplicity of the body, it is
does not seem to be very appropriate given that prime matter has no real not the body that is the cause of this multiplicity. The principle in which
existence. It is only the result of the operation of the mind conceiving he anchors this response is that things that must be proportioned and
matter without the fonn of any kind. Prime matter is of course adapted to one another must derive their multiplicity or unity each from
conceptually real, but to talk of such a conceptual reality does not seem its own cause. If it is supposed that one of these is dependent on another
to be without some real problems. for its being, then its multiplicity or otherwise must also depend on the
The next argument departs from another hypostatization: intelligibles thing that is its cause. If not, it must depend on something else. This
in act are incorruptible. Thus intelligibles are taken as though they are does not however obviate the matching of matter to fonn, for, according
real substances in nature, which can remain forever on their own. This to Aqninas, the proper act (fonn) is produced for its proper matter, and
view is the unexpressed presupposition in all instances in which therefore matter and fonn have to accord with one another with regard
Aquinas uses the presence of universal in the mind to argue for to multiplicity and unity. It follows that if the being of the fonn is bound
immortality. He says that the maker is superior to the made, given that up with matter, its multiplicity or unity will also depend completely on
the intelligible in act is incorruptible and the agent intellect actualizes matter. If however a fonn is independent of matter, even though it has
such intelligibles, all the more : _.orruptible will the agent intellect be. to be multiplied or united in accordance with its matter, it is not on
Being immortal and part of the soul, the soul must also be inunortal." matter that this unity or multiplicity is based. Aquinas is here calling for
Very unusually, Aquinas deals with possible objections to the a mental conception in which the soul is viewed as existing apart from
arguments for inunortality after he bas presented his arguments, a the matter, full in its life, but has the necessity of being proportioned
procedure that is found only in the Contra gentiles. He uses the and adapted to matter. Because such a soul has prior existence, nothing
opportunity to raise certain important points and to present some essential to it is due to its matter. Still because it must be in proportion
clarification in respect of the question of inunortality. One of such is to matter, to a particular matter that is its body, it must be multiplied to
again the question of what type of activity a soul, which has lost its realize this fundamental aspect of its nature." It means in effect that
body, can perfonn. Here he delves into a long explanation ofthe state of multiplicity in the soul is due to the substance of the soul, not to its
the rational soul after separation, which is essentially the same as what union with the body. All problems are not thereby satisfactorily
he has already said in the II Sententtarum, and which we shall discuss resolved, as another objection shows.
more fully in the next chapter. There are other objection with obvious The objector insists that to the fonnal principle is owed the diversity
answers: the one based on the eternity of the world, a doctrine which is of species." If, however, it is supposed that souls remain multiple after
not acceptable to Aquinas, and another which supposes that if the soul is separation from the body, they must be divergent one from the other. In
indeed able to live without the body, it would mean that its union with souls that are separated, the only possible cause of diversity is the fonn,
the body is accidental to it, and thus man is human only by accident. given that in the soul, there is no composition of matter and fonn. For
Two related objections from the principle of individuation merit our souls to be diverse without matter of any kind means in effect that they
consideration here. First if the numerality of souls accords with that of belong to different species after separation from the body. This
106 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 107

supposition is Wltenable, since to change from one determinate species

to another involves corruption of the original being. To suppose the
that leads to diversity with regard to that species. Different fires
different forms, but they belong to the same species of fire.
specific diversity of souls at separation, one must thus also agree that
even before death, individual human beings were members of different 3. In the Questlones quodlibetales
species. This impossibility makes it untenable that the soul survives the
death of the body. The amplitude of the texts on immortality in the Contra gentiles is in
Avicenna has had to face the above problem before Aquinas in the sharp contrast with the few words one finds on the same theme in other
context of the issue of the pre-existence of the soul. The Persian works, even in the pivotal Summa theologiae. But in most of Aquinas'
philosopher held that there is no pre-existence of the soul before its works, the chapters that precede and follow the very text on immortality
union with the body (anima non foit prius existens per se et deinde are like preparations for the defence of the doctrine. That is not the case
venerit in corpus). His reason for this position is related to the point of in the Questiones quodlibetales. This must be due to the nature of the
our objector: human souls have exactly the same essence. If one treatise, which is made up of discussions on any subject usually held
supposes that souls existed before being united to the body, it would be during Advent and Lent, for which reason they are also called Christmas
impossible to have a multiplicity of souls, since they would lack the and Easter sermons." Aquinas' Quodlibetales are traditionally divided
elements that make them multiple. For Avicenna, the elements that can into two groups. The earlier group comprises numbers 7 - II, while I -
constitute multiplicity in souls can either be their essence or their 6 belong to the later group. The first group belongs to the first regency
relation with matter, and the causes, which detennine their material of Aquinas at Paris. Number ten is said to have been delivered at
existence. Between souls, there is no essential difference, and therefore Christmas in 1258.
the difference between them must be looked for in the particular body to The doctrine of inunortality is discussed in question 3 of the tenth
which each soul becomes attached. This theory entails that if the soul Quodlibet. The text appears to be almost a sununary of what was
were to be without the body, there could not be a multiplicity of souls, presented on inunortality in the II Sententiarum, especially the section
as they could not be differentiated by pure essence. Furthermore, it is on objections where the four objections in the earlier work are repeated.
not possible that there is only one soul, for in that case, the rest of the Again in the sed contra he repeats the argrunent from contemplation in
souls will be parts of the one soul, and then what has neither weight nor the II Sententiarum. There is no extensive inquiry into the nature of the
magnitude would be potentially divisible, or two bodies would be soul before arguing for its inunortality. The whole discussion on the
sharing one soul, which is an impossible alternative. For him, therefore, soul is divided into issues relating to its nature, then those relating to
the only reasonable option left is to say that the soul comes into grace, to sin and to glorification. Immortality is treated with the issue of
existence when a body suitable for its use as an instrument also comes whether the soul is identical with its powers under the section devoted
into existence. 69 Such a soul has a natural yearning for the body, and it to the nature of the soul. This, once again, confirms that Aquinas' ahn in
is this yearning (affeetio) that binds it to its particular body. This all his writings on inunortality is to show that in accordance with the
process of particularization or individuation which arises form the essence of the soul, it remains immortal in the midst of all other natural
affeetio of the soul for the body and from its experience in the body is creatures.
irreversible,70 even after the death of the body. With regard to the-response to the question of inunortality, there is a
The major difference between Aquinas and Avicenna on this issue is marked difference from the procedure of the II Sententiarum. Instead of
that for Aquinas, it is not the body that is responsible for the distinction merely outlining possible positions on the issue of inunortality and
between souls. There is of course an adaptation of this soul to this dismissing them with statements intended to contradict them, Aquinas
particular body, and this continues even alier the separation of the soul goes straight to present points in favour of immortality, even though
from the body. But such an adaptation or detemtination is not owed to these points are, on close reading, also in line with the II Sententiarum.
the body. Souls are, in their substances, forms of the body, and so their He first takes up the factor of corruption, and states that whatever is
union is not accidental. For him, this view is backed by the realization corrupted is so either by accident or in itself. The latter possibility can
that it is not every diversity with regard to forms constituting a species only take place if the being in question is composed of matter and form
108 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 109

which have contraries, and this is in tum possible on the supposition where they are thought by the intellect. If indeed there is a proviso that
that the being is either an element or is- composed of elements, a the intellect is unable to receive or know anything sensible, then it could
position which the ancient philosophers of nature held, and which be said to have the nature of that particular thing, which must be
Aquinas has already argued against. Accidental corruption would occur material, since all sensible forms have their origin in sensible matter.
if the thing in question has no being in itself but has being in union with Aquinas draws this point from the common experience of man, drawing
another thing. Here he gives the example of material forms, which, in an analogy from the senses, which he applies to the soul.
his view, have no being on their own, except the being of the subsisting Aquinas' use of the argument is more consistent than many other
composite. The being of such forms corrupts accidentally with the thinkers of his epoch who used it before him, even though in it he still
corruption of the being of the composite in which the forms are found. upholds an epistemology mainly inspired by Plato. Some commentators
For Aquinas this cannot be said of the rational soul." have not been less critical because of his obvious consistency. We have
As to why the latter type of corruption can apply to material forms already seen the points made by M. Kelly, especially the contention that
but not to the soul, Aquinas delves into his familiar point that nothing holding on to the logic of the argument, it is also possible to prove that
that has no operation of its own can have a being on its own. Other the soul is not a being, since it apprehends all beings in knowledge."
types of forms do not operate. It is only the things that are composed Compelling as the argument of Kelly may appear, it seems not to have
that in fact have operative powers. The soul, on the other hand, has taken adequate account of the epistemology, which is the foundation of
operations on its own, like understanding, in which no physical organ Aquinas' argument. It can be argued on the side of Aquinas that man
mediates. From here he goes further to show that the soul must be free does not in fact have direct and unmediated knowledge of being as such.
of contraries from matter, and that it must not operate through an organ. Given that all that man knows about the immaterial, including God, is
It is not possible, Aquinas says, that the soul can know all sensible derived from analogy from the material, from the sensible, it is at least
forms unless it lacks these forms, or unless it is in potency with regard not certain that Aquinas would in fact hold that the type of knowledge
to all things. If therefore the soul understands through an organ, such an he is referring to also includes the mediate knowledge of non-material
organ must lack all sensible forms since all sensible forms, are by nature things, which is by analogy. If this contention is anything to go by, it
meant for understanding. A verification of this principle is such a would follow that the type of knowledge man has of being, mediated by
corporeal organ as the pupil of the eye, which lacks all colours in order his knowledge of the sensible forms, must also be subject to the same
to apprehend all colours. Given that it is impossible to have a corporeal conditions, at least at their origin.
organ lacking all sensible forms, Aquinas concludes that the soul must The critique of Kelly was axed on the text where Aquinas employed
not have such an organ, and must be inunaterial and incorruptible." the same argument for his explanation of the subsistence of the soul. It
All that Aquinas presents in the actual defence of immortality in the is in fact on the same text in the Summa thea/agioe that another
treatise is an assertion of incorruptibility per se or per accidens, and the commentator, A. Kenny, rests his critique. First, Kenny rightly says that
two comments concerning the mode of understanding and the nature of the argument is not for subsistence, but that it proves that the soul is not
intellect (which knows all sensible forms) are meant to be supportive of a body which, in the Summa thea/agioe, was first tackled prior to the
the statements made in denying corruptibility in the soul. Since we are issue of subsistence7s However, it must be noted that Aquinas uses the
to dwell shortly on the issue of the mode of understanding, let us stop to same argument for immateriality, incorruptibility, subsistence and
consider the question of the universal comprehensibility of all sensible inunortality. It is in fact the same observation that leads him to affirm
forms, which has been the subject of some severe criticisms by all these, depending on where and what he is arguing for, and, in the
commentators. What Thomas meant to draw attention to is first that the texts we are considering, it is used to prove immortality, even though
soul has the capacity to understand all sensible forms, and that the argument ends with incorruptibility, which, as we have already said,
following from this, it is not possible for it to be in a position to be the Aquinas uses interchangeably with inunortality. Coming to the principle
source of any of those forms. This is because, in the Aristotelian that the sense must lack all sensible forms to be able to know them,
noetics, which he defends, sensible forms are abstracted originally from Kenny states that it appears to turn another principle which Aquinas
material objects befoEe they travel the road of knowledge to the point seems to subscribe to on its head, i.e., that like must be known by
110 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 111

likes." Furthennore, Kenny says that the principle of the subject of important to him even in contexts where it is not being directly
knowledge lacking the nature of the thing it knows is far from self- discussed.
evident. Referring to the example which Aquinas gave in the Summa of
the tongue not containing any taste in order to taste something, Kenny 4. In the Summa The%giae
wrote, "The problem is that the premise is false; the tongue does have a
taste ~ a very pleasant one, as fanciers of ox tongue will agree. lI77 How One of such contexts where he did not refer to the specific mode of
far do these critiques go in undennining the intention of Aquinas? inunortality is the text on incorruptibility in the Summa theoiogiae, but
First, Aquinas uses the apprehension of the universal, which he here also he shows that the question is not unimportant by other
desiguated as inunaterial and incorruptible, to prove that the soul must passages where he dwells on it, just as in the Contra gentiles. In fact, it
also be incorruptible and immaterial. The argument under consideration must be borne constantly in mind that the type of immortality Aquinas is
seems in fact to be a reversal of this principle. However, coming to the defending is the one that will give enough room for individual moral
case of the taste of the tongue, it does not seem that Aquinas means that responsibility, and the resw-rection of the dead, pivotal points of the
the tongue as a piece of meat has no taste; that would be in fact too far Christian faith. Hence he would not accept a hypothetically rich
fetched, nor can he be interpreted as saying that the pupil of the eyes as inunortality, whereby man is dissolved into the being and the bliss of
an instrument, a tactile, visible organ has no colour. It seems that the almighty.
Aquinas means the type of medium represented by the example of a The Summa theoiogiae is known as the crown of Aquinas' genius. It
man wearing coloured glasses who can only see the colour of the is a monumental and most systematic work -which is meant to be a
spectacles he is wearing. This interpretation is more in consonant with comprehensive guide for beginners of theology. The work was started
the example given by Aquinas himself about the sick man to whom during his period ofteaching young Dominican students at Santa Sabina
everything tastes bitter because, on account of his sickness, there is a in Rome. The first part, which contains the discourse on immortality,
medium intervening between his tongue and the new object of his taste. was completed in 1268. It is possible that the purpose of the work is one
However, this interpretation does not dissolve all the difficulties of reason why inunortality is so briefly treated in such a monumental work,
Aquinas' argument, as Kenny's comment indicates.'s although this can also be read ~s fonning a part of a whole which
In the conclusion of his short argument, Aquinas returns to a mode includes all he wrote on man, which he expressly meant to be a
of inunortality which he is not ready to accept, and for which reason he discourse on the soul. so As in the Summa contra gentiles, anthropology
wrote the De unitate intellectus. He states that some have placed this influences the structure of the work. 81 Thus before coming to
incorruptibility outside the soul, since they thought that part of the inunortality, many related questions such as whether the soul is a body,
intellect which is part of man perishes, while that which is separate whether it is subsistent, whether it is a fonn were given some attention.
continues to exist after the corruption of the hWDan composite. He once As most of the arguments employed in discussing these themes are
again names two ways this view is held. First, there are those who hold related to the issue of inunortality, Aquinas must have decided to
that it is the active intellect which is separable, while the possible concentrate on those which apply more specifically to the question of
intellect corrupts with the body, and those who go further again to hold immortality. In fact strictly speaking, one can say that there is only one
that in addition to the agent, the possible intellect is separate from the argument for inunortality in the work, and two others used as illustration
body and is incorruptible. He dismisses these two positions by saying or confinnation.
with regard to the frrst, if indeed the agent intellect were to be outside The one proof in question is the same that has been repeated in other
us, then the only species we can receive in knowledge will be material works: that the soul is not corrupted neither per se nor per accidens.
species, and therefore we will not be intelligent beings. With regard to However, here Aquinas shows more sophistication than hitherto in his
the second, he says that if indeed the two intellects were not in us, then elaboration of this thesis. He begins by asserting that it is impossible for
we would lose the factor by which we are what we are, namely rational a subsistent thing to cease to be by accident, because something comes
creatures. 79 Here, as in other places, he indicates that what is at stake is into being or reverts to non-being in accordance with the mode of
not immortality of any sort, and that the specific type of immortality was existence that is proper to its nature, that is, in consonance with the way
112 The Philosophical Significance oj Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments Jor Immortality 113

it had being or the way in which it was devoid of being. This means that knowledge of being is only sensory and bound up with the limitation of
if something had being by itself, it can only lose that being through a time, it cannot but desire being in that mrumer. The desire for being is
cause that is internal to its being, whereas if it has being accidentally, natural, and natural desire caunot be in vain; it caunot be without
then it can lose its being indirectly when something else in which it attaining its object. So intellectual substances, which can apprehend
inheres as an accident loses its being. The souls of animals die in this being as timeless, are immortal so as to attain the object of this natural
way with the death of the body because their being is dependent on the desire. S4
being of the composite. However, rational souls can only cease to exist Aquinas uses this argument at least four times in his effort in several
through internal causes. But, given that the soul is subsistent form, it is works to prove hrnnortality. It may show how dear the point is to him,
not possible that it passes away on its own. This is shown by a brief but the predilection for this argument seems to be a constant in the
analysis of the way in which things lose their being. Fonn is the efforts to prove hrnnortality among the scholastics of the twelfth and
actuality of a thing, and hence the matter of a thing has existence ouly thirteenth centuries. Thus we encounter the argument in St. Anselm,
when it acquires a form. When it ceases to be, it is because it has lost its Dominic Gundissalinus, Robert of Melun, Alexander Nequam, William
fonn. It means then that something, which, like the human soul, is itself, of Auvergne, etc. However, the line that constantly runs through all
a subsistent form, cannot cease to be. 82 these is the factor of natural desire and the conviction that it caunot be
It is noteworthy that he goes from arguing with fonn to conclude in vain. What this natural desire focuses on is different from author to
with a qualified fonn, a subsistent fonn. With the statement of the author.
principle of corruption, two things come immediately to mind, the In his single proof of immortality in the Mon%gion, Ansehn of
question of animal souls, which are also fonns in their own right. That is Canterbury reasons that God's magnificence, which created rational
why he alludes to his proof that animal souls are corruptible, and why creatures to love the highest essence, must be created either to love it
he aflinns that only subsistent souls do not cease to exist. Another point pennanently, to love it intennittently or to be deprived of this love by
is the issue of the existence of matter in the soul. We have already violence. Only the first possibility fits the wisdom and magnificence of
hinted that even though Aquinas does not say so, the complete rejection God, for which reason the soul must be immortal to be able to love the
of that doctrine is in view of hrnnortality. The next paragraph proves highest good forever." For Anselm, that which the soul desires is not
this beyond doubt. Aquinas grants for the sake of the argument that the hrnnortality but the highest good. Gundissalinus' own argument from
soul is composed of matter and fonn, but insists, like John Blund, that desire can be said to be resolvable into the same gist. For
even so one must suppose that it is incorruptible. While in his own Gundissalinus, there is a natural motion or inclination in man, and all
concession Blund merely states that the soul has no contrary, Aquinas natural inclinations must have the possibility of being fulfilled,
goes further than that to explain the fact that corruption is due to the otherwise there will be something in nature which is useless or
contrary state of being because coming into existence and departIng erroneous. One such inclination or natural tendency is the desire for real
from it are contrary states of being. That such contrary states do not and complete happiness, together with the inclination to avoid
exist in the soul is shown by the way it receives what are its contraries. unhappiness. From common human experience this desire caunot be
In knowledge contrary ideas are received in one relationship, so that satisfied by something material, because the soul is spiritual and nothing
they cease to be contraries in the soul. This dissolution of contraries by inferior to it can give it everlasling satisfaction. If lower creatures have
the act of intellectual knowledge shows that it is impossible for the soul natural means of satisfying their own inclinations, then such a higher
to corrupt." being as the human soul must not lack its own satisfaction. But what
Another point, which he makes as an indication of incorruptibility, is constitutes the satisfaction of the human soul must not only be
the natural desire for endless existence. In fact Aquinas expressly calls incorporeal, it must also be everlasting, and thus immune from death,
it a sign (signum) of hrnnortality. First, the desire of each being to exist since anything associated with death smacks of unhappiness. 86 If then
conforms to the type of existence proper to it. If by nature a thing has the human soul longs for endless beatitude, it must be immortal, since
the ability to conceive being as such without the limitation of time, then nothing mortal can be the subject of perennial happiness." William of
its desire for being will also be for that which is timeless, while if its Auvergne also uses the desire for happiness, but again, gives it his own
114 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 115

slant. According to him, the worst evil in the natural order is death or Scholars ofSt. Thomas who tried to give this proof from desire some
destruction, and its opposite is complete happiness. The soul constantly pride of place among other proofs used by st. Thomas have rightly not
tries to avoid this evil, and this is an indication that it must be contrary failed to notice that it is not mere desire that is at stake in the proof, but
to its nature. That this is so is supported by the fact that the movement the general hwnan quest for being, and not just for being, but for total
of the soul is always towards higher things, which indicates where its being. Our view is that taking Aquinas' proofs for immortality as an
end lies. That type of happiness to which the soul tends is perpetual or ensemble, there is no reason for highlighting that proof over and above
endless happiness, and if such a desire is innate in the soul, it must be an others. J. - Y. Jollif seems to support this view when he says that one
attainable end, and an end, which is contrary to death, given that all needs only little reflection to become convinced that there is no good
natural motions are unidirectional. reason to accord special consideration to the desire for immortality, and
From the above insttmces of the application of the principle of to make it the foundation of a proof. Again he says that there are many
natural desire not being in vain, we can already see the distinctive other desires as fundamental to man as the desire for immortality, but
characteristic of Aquinas' use of the principle. First of all, Aquinss which no one argnes must be realizable.
obliquely designates it a sign of immortality. This is reminiscent of The different presentations of the argoment from desire show in fact
Albert the Great's grouping of some proofs of immortality as only signs that what one desire does not necessarily need to be immortality. While
while others are considered as probable and necessary proofs. It has, of some say that the desire for justice is natural, others concentrate on the
course, been said that Aquinas did not follow that aspect of Albert's desire for happiness. Thomas upholds the desire for everlasting being as
style, stiII it can be said that he is not altogether uninfluenced by that fundamental. All these lead the thinkers to the affirmation of
aspect of his master's innovation. Again, it would seem that by the time irrunortality, but if one insists that such desires must not be in vain, it is
he wrote the Summa rhe%giae, the angelic doctor had started being difficult to find reason why only those desires the authors highlight must
selective with the argoments. The question would appear to have arisen be fulfilled. It is on this consideration that Jollif asserts that the desire
which argoments to use, and which can serve merely as support for or for immortality would not be of any philosophical value, if it is not
elucidation of major and more fundamental ones. He does not anywhere understood as founded on a more fundamental ontological structure. of
express unequivocally his preferences among the argoments, but we can the spirit of man." It is thus not the desire for empirical existence which
see that some are dropped, others are reshaped and others restated will last forever, but a desire directed to being as such, emanating from
repeatedly, and the reason for this does not appear to be accidental or a spirit which in itself has the power of questioning being as such. Such
without any design. a desire, named psychological desire therefore refers to a more
Another characteristic of Thomas' presentation of the argoment from primordial desire inscribed deep in the being of man.
desire is that he links it to the phenomenon of intellectual knowledge. We have noted that when Jollif reserves such a desire for the
"Each time Aquinas presents his proof from desire, writes St. Hilaire,
II philosophers alone, while supposing that non-philosophers live such
"he makes sure that he includes the intellect's part in the tendency."" desire daily without being conscious of it, he seems to go too far in his
This is indeed a special insight brought to the old argoment from desire, interpretation of the argoment. In fact he seems to undermine the
although it is founded on the well-known cooperation between knowing intention of Thomas, for the angelic doctor laid the convincing power of
and willing. In rational beings, the intellect has the function of his proof on the doorsteps of the common experience of mankind. Such
apprehension, and where it is not in a position to do this immediately, of an interpretation as Jollifs will further raise the ante, demanding a
research and judgement after reasoning. The tendency of the will has to demonstration that the desire exists or is more conscious in the learned
be enlightened by the light of the intellect in order to see an obj ect as than in others, and if consciousness of it is only in the philosopher, the
good to be desired or evil to be avoided, depending on the context and next question will be, how in the world do we confirm that it is the
the airo at stake. Thus, bringing in the role of the intellect, Aquinas is corrunon experience of man in order for it to qualify as a natural desire
intent on highlighting that it is not just blind desire that is propelling the in the first place.
soul, but a cognition, an awareness of the object of desire, which in the Unlike J ollif, George St. Hilaire does not cast any sceptical glance at
present context he designates as timeless being. the desire for immortality as the basis of a proof. He sees the
116 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 117

demonstration as the strongest evidence that despite all appearances, St. Be that as it may, the desire for immortality in man can serve as a
Thomas based his proofs of immortality more on an inductive than on pointer that man is not sunnnarized by matter, nor by the here and now
deductive method. "Here Aquinas seems least deductive. It He does not which inevitably goes with it. A phenomenological investigation of
attempt to link the desire for endless being with any philosophical man, which does not pay serious attention to this tendency, this
enlightemnent. Quite the contrary, in the proof, St. Thomas is calling as unavoidable accretion in his innermost nature seems to miss the point.
witness primordial experience, which, anthropologists say, has been in The result of such an investigation may indeed be the subject of
man since his early years of evolution. For St. Hilaire, the natural divergent positions and counter-positions, but this tendency to the other
tendency in man is the tendency for the very principle of being, which is is transcendent in the sense that it is not satisfied with the present, with
God himself. Man therefore grasps esse perpetuum through his intellect. the temporary. That it constantly seeks for more appears indeed futile if
From the desire for and the grasping of esse in the intellect, there is, for in fact it ends with itself, i.e. with desiring for more. In that case, there
St. Hilaire, a progression to call to witness such demonstrations as that will be another use for it; it can then serve the secondary but important
from self-knowledge, by which, according to him, the soul knows its purpose of providing the constant zest that the fmite being requires to
spirituality, and knows itself as transcendent. There is then the keep up with the struggle of life, the struggle of facing the arduous
phenomenon of judgement with certainty, and that of planning for the challenges of his banal existence. The general tendency of human
future, all of which convince us that, our innermost life is "supra- cultures seems to indicate that the desire does not ~pear as a mere
material and supra-temporal."" It is doubtful how some of the points endowment for continuing the "battle" of life. Its presence in many
used here are deductive" in Aquinas' method, even if we accept for the forms in all cultures is well noted. Even in contexts where there is no
sake of the argument that such difference in method is supported by suggestion of continued personal or ontological immortality, there is the
Aquinas' texts. The question of knowledge of the future, or the issue of preference for longer-lasting presence even if this is limited to the fond
judgement appears to be part of the special cognitive ability of the memories of the deeds of the departed. While Plato is generally known
intellect, from which Aquinas draws proofs for immateriality, for for his thoughts on immortality in the Phaedo, he also gives place for
subsistence as well as for immortality. This will occupy our attention continued existence of the individual through his deeds. In the
presently. Symposium," the tight argument from the conception of man as soul
We must note however that none of the two commentators takes any gives way to continued existence through procreation, through fame,
account of the fact that at least in the Summa the%giae, the argument and through the imparting of philosophical virtues. In the Somnium
from called a sign of immortality. Due to the fact that Aquinas Scipionis, the uncertainty of the duration of such immortality based on
does not give full attention to the question of sign with regard to temporal fame is a reason for Cicero to argue, with the aid of Plato' s
immortality, it carmot be argned that this has a strong implication in his Phaedrus, for an immortality that goes beyond this life." It is important
supposed weighing of the arguments. Nevertheless, it is safe to take that that even among the ancient Greeks where the type of immortality that
designation as a caveat that it may after all not be safe to give much Plato had. argued for was still far from being generally accepted, men
more importance to desire than to other proofs. Furthermore, this proof still sought for some type of eternal existence. Harmah Arendt's
is linked in all its forms with the intellectual lmowledge of being. That nostalgia-evoking words highlight the assurance of this type of
means that, strictly speaking, Aquinas reverts to the proof from immortality as one of the important fimctions of the Greek city-state, the
knowledge viewed here from another perspective. By doing this, and polis:
fixing this lmowledge to that of timeless being, he has apparently gone
further than his predecessors who used the argument from desire. He Menrs life together in the form of the polis seemed to assure that the
backs the argument with a metaphysical foundation. Yet, from that most futile of human activities, action and speech, and the least tangible
moment on, he leaves the shores of induction to navigate in the waters and most ephemeral of man-made "products", the deeds and stories
of deduction, and in the whole epistemological question of the status of which are their outcome, would become imperishable. The organisation
of the polis, physically secured by the wall around the city and
our intellectual knowledge and the implication of this knowledge for
physiognomically guaranteed by its laws - lest the succeeding
man. Such a sail is by no means a calm one, as we shall see later. generations change its identity beyond recognition - is a kind of
118 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 119

organised remembrance. It assures the mortal actor that his passing reason in conoection with innnortality. Of these objections, our
existence and fleeting greatness will never lack the reality that comes attention will be directed only to a few. The rest are skipped either
from being seen, being heard, and generally appearing before an because they have already been discussed or because they have obvious
audience of fellow men, who outside the polis could attend only the answers from the point of view of Aquinas' philosophy.
short duration of the petfonnance and therefore need Homer"and "others
of his craft" in order to be presented to those who were not there. 94 The first of this is the fifteenth objection, which departs from the
idea of the order of being. os It is important to remark that very
It is because the desire for imperishability in man is backed up by the surprisingly, Aquinas does not use the concept of the order of being to
type of being he is that he can contrive such elaborate structure with the prove immortality in any of his works, even though the argument from
hope of some type of continued existence after his fleeting earthly life. the order of being is very much used by the greatest thinkers of the
Man's endowment with an intellect makes the extent of his desire for thirteenth century before him: Philip .the Chancellor" and Albert the
immortality different. However, is this difference not limited to the Great." While Albert tries to draw out the logical implications of the
appreciation of what is at stake? Does the difference extend to the very order, Philip on his part attempts to use the metaphysical implication of
desire for permanent life? ht this regard, it is interesting to ask how this the nearness of the human soul to the level of beings that are by nature
desire for life is different from the instinct of self-preservation, which, immaterial and therefore innnortal. The objection that Aquinas raises in
for thinkers like Spinoza, is the main drive in all beings. William of conoection with the order of being hinges on the lack of complete
Auvergne's presentation of the argument from desire makes this desire imitation of the higher order by the lower one, and the view that it is
identical to the tendency to self-preservation, and if common experience only on the assumption that the soul is intellective that it can be said to
is the foundation of this principle, its version in Thomas has at least be incorruptible. The soul, it says, cannot be intellective because the
some affinity with self-preservation. If there is any conceivable link highest part of an inferior category of nature strives to be like the higher
between the two, why is it that this desire for continued existence does level. This striving does not however speak for the possession of similar
not argue for innnortality in brutes? Thomas appears to be well aware of characteristics, just like apes which try to imitate human beings, but
this latent difficulty, and in most versions of the arguments, brute souls never succeed in attaining the level of humans. In the same way, human
are discounted as subjects of innnortality because man can know eternal beings in intellection appear to imitate the separated intellects, but do
being and desire it, while brutes cannot. If knowledge makes all the not attain their level, and must therefore be mortal.
difference, would it not be simpler to end with the argument from the Aquinas agrees that the human soul does not have the same mode of
cognitive capacity of man? understanding peculiar to separated substances, but adds that it
understands in ways that are proper to it, and the knowledge it acquires
S. In the Quesllones dispulale de anima is enough to show that it is incorruptible. Two subtle points are worth
noting here. First, there is no rejection of the statement that it is only on
Thomas takes up the two issues of desire for innnortality and its the assumption of intellection that the soul can be proved to be
intellectual support in a cluster of disputed questions on the soul. These immortal. That seems to throw back to the argument from the desire for
questions constitute the longest single work of the angelic doctor innnortality, which Aquinas consistently links with the fact of
devoted especially to the soul. Written between 1266 and 1269 (very understanding in man. There are, however, other arguments, which may
probably within the later part of that period), it takes up and elaborates not have any strong link with the intellectual activity of the soul: the
on iss~es th~t :-vere strongly discussed around that time at the University argument from the debility of the soul, and also from the soul as the
of Pans. ht ~t IS found the longest passage on innnortality, but what one image of God. This shows clearly that some arguments have stronger
encounters IS barely more than a repetition of Vlhat is found in other impressions on Aquinas, and that for him they appear to have firmer
~Iaces. ~ many. as twenty one objections are raised in the chapter on convincing powers. Again, as we have argued, he does not feel the need
ImmortalIty, but It seems that the method of complete elaboration used to grade them accordingly, and he presents them all on an equal footing.
in the book accounts for their number more than any other special Secondly, the fact that here he gets very close to the same assertion his
forebears used to prove innnortality, without using it in the same way
120 The Philosophical Significance o/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortal!'ty 121

shows, once again, some discrimination in his choice of arguments. His understanding. The answer that Thomas gives takes the two meanings
method of seeking a cumulative influence of the arguments does not of on board. The few he takes as being able to attain perfect understanding
course give much room for thorough discrimination, but in the eloquent (pauci perveniant ad perfecte intelligendum) are in fact those that
omission of the argument from the order of being, we can see that would be described as intelligent, while the normal common ability to
Aquinas is not satisfied with all the arguments of his forebears from understand, he attributes to the generality of mankind, by their ability to
which his own arguments are all derived. A perplexity which may dei)' perceive the first principles of demonstration. The question that arises
any definite answer is why this particular argument is among those from this answer is whether in fact the point for inunortality is vitiated if
tipped for omission while other weaker ones are enumerated in the there are some human beings unable even to attain the knowledge of
course of his work. The raising of this objection may be a pointer to the first principles, either because of deformity or age. It seems that it
fact that somehow the fact of an order of being is in itself not enough to would be enough to show that such an act as understanding is a general
argue for similarity, for one can reasonably ask why apes do not share endowment of human nature, and that where it is not in fact present, it
the higher characteristics of human beings. But again, in st. Albert, for must be due to some abnormality, which constitutes an obstacle to the
example, man is taken as the link between the material and the spiritual normal natural trend. This would not require that all human beings
order. He would not occupy this position if he were completely actually acquire even the first principles of demonstration.
corruptible. Even then, Albert groups the arguments from the order of The penulthnate objection in the Q. D. de anima takes as given the
being among the probable arguments. point Thomas constantly makes, that is, that the life of the body is given
The next objection that attracts our interest is a rare one. Aquinas has to it by the soul. The soul is form, and form is the actuality of matter. If
hitherto argued from the point of view of an ideal human soul, endowed this is taken for granted, the objection goes that if indeed the soul were
with the normal capacity to understand, to judge and to reflect on its to be inunortal, then its life-giving will continue unhampered, and
own activities. The objector questions that assumption. If a property therefore the body would also be inunortal because an effect does not
belongs to a given species, it is fitting that all or at least most of the cease if its cause continues to operate. 99 The exit way that is contained
members of that species will possess that ability. In the case of humans in the statement of this objection is that such an operation of the cause
however, experience indicates that only very few people are intelligent, needs to be in conjunction with the effect in order to sustain it in being
for which reason to understand carmot be the proper characteristic of the as before. That means that for the objection to be true, one must
human soul. This objection presupposes the assertion of the previous suppose all things to be equal. st. Thomas picks on this loophole. The
one - that inunortality or incorruptibility can only be known from the soul, the cause of life, is incorruptible, and retains its life-giving ability,
intellectual activity of man. The answer Thomas proffers is that even but the body, which receives this life, is not always in a position to do
though only very few people arrive at perfect understanding, all people so. This is because it is subject to change. When change is mentioned
achieve some level of understanding, and this is shown by the presence here, we must understand more than mere change from potentiality to
of the first principles in all human intellects. actuality, for the soul is also subject to change. Thus the type of change
The answer given to the objection seems to overlook the slide from that makes the body incorruptible must be peculiar to its state of
understanding as being the characteristic property of human nature as materiality to which the soul is inunune. Matter is the principle of this
such and to the phenomenon of intelligence. It is correct to say that in corruption, and we have asserted that that is why Aquinas refuses to
the actual world, only very few people are intelligent, intelligence entertain any kind of matter in the soul. An hnportant argument for
understood as special endowment or capacity for quick and deep inunortality in his works is that the soul lacks contraries in its nature,
understanding. However, being intelligent is a concept that can allow and the way it knows shows this absence of contrary very clearly.
much fluidity. When specifically is intelligence to be attributed to a That the soul is devoid of contraries is one of the points raised in the
human being, and at what point can we say correctly that someone is not sed contra, in addition to its description as the hnage of God, and the
intelligent? A lot of relative factors must come into play for such a fine. fact that even the heavenly bodies that are material are incorruptible.
line to be drswn. What is clear however is that the usual, conventional because they are endowed with some special type of matter, so much so
employment of the word intelligence is not synonymous with that the soul, which is completely devoid of matter, must be
122 The PhUosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Argumentsfor Immortality 123

incorruptible. Aquinas then goes to make a resume of his thought on the past, and can project into the future, a capacity we are not quite sur~
immortality of the soul, recalling many points and arguments raised exists in animals in any elaborate sense. But how can we come to"
previously. In sum: what belongs to a thing naturally cannot be taken explain our knowledge of being as such, in such a timeless m3IU1er from
away from it; existence is due to fann, and things corrupt when they the background of Aquinas' epistemology? Our knowledge of being is
lose their form; a form in itself cannot be corrupted (it cannot be not direct. It is only through their activities that we come to know being,
deprived of itself), and forms that corrupt do so accidentally because fIrst through the senses, and the extension of our knowledge is the
they exist by virtue of their composite. If therefore there is a form that elaboration or refIuing of the original knowledge derived from the
has existence on its own, it cannot be corrupted. The hwnan soul is an senses. Even our knowledge of God must depart from the knowledge we .
example of the latter type of form, and this is shown by the soul not have of material things, for the human intellect cannot have any direct
exercising any act through bodily organs to accord with its nature. Such apprehension of the infinity that is God. That is in fact why man's
a soul can also not be composed of matter and form otherwise it would knowledge of God is never free from anthropomorphism. The same
not be able to know universals, which are devoid of matter and material epistemic principle applies to the rational soul, which, according to
conditions. It follows from all these that the principle by which man Aquinas, is known only through its acts. What St. Thomas calls the
understands must have its own act of existence, and must therefore be absolute knowledge of being cannot but come through a certain via
incorruptible. Aquinas supports the foregoing proof with two more negativa. By imagining the absence of the limitation of the here and
arguments: one from the desire for immortality and the other from the now, of the empirical with which our knowledge is in fact always
facts involved in intellectnal understanding. Things, which are naturally bound, we can consciously exclude these limitations from timeless
corruptible, are received in the intellect in forms that are incormptible, being. However, given the inherent human limitation, it is difficult to
and this is shown by the intellect grasping things in and through see how this knowledge can be seen as apprehension of timeless being.
universals, which are not subject to corruption. JOo In the rest of this The un.iversal concepts have a similar origin in Aquinas. They arise
section, we shall consider some of the implications of this argument and from the abstraction of the common features of the species from the
others associated with intellectual knowledge in Aquinas' effort to prove particular individual features. But their existence is mediated by sense
immortality. impression, and going through all the process of the formation of
In a way, the phenomenon of intellectnal knowledge is the basic images, abstraction by the agent intellect, and the reception of the
point in Aquinas' anthropology, and in any case in his philosophy of common characteristics by the possible intellect forming a general idea
mind. It is present directly or indirectly in his proofs of immateriality, of what is perceived. With this background, Aquinas' position on the
subsistence, incorruptibility, and simplicity. It appears in different forms pristine problem of universals is that contrary to the followers of Plato,
in such arguments as the soul knowing itself, and not needing any universals are not independent existents. They actnally exist, fIrst in
bodily organs. It is also present in the assertion that the soul apprehends material things, as esse naturale, and later in the mind, intentionally or
existence in an absolute sense, and in the mode of knowledge of the as esse intentionale,103 and through them, the intellect acquires the
intellect shown by its ability to know universals. Many problems are formal elements of different species of being. This really is the decisive
latent both in the assertions related to the issue of intellectnal difference between sense and intellectual knOWledge, and between
knowledge and consequently from some of the conclusions drawn from human and animal knowledge. Going from this, Aquinas infers that the
them. For instance, in respect of the argument from the desire for intellect that is the repository of such universals or general concepts
immortality, Aquinas says that the soul knows esse absolute101 or esse cannot operate through material otgans, because, being incOiruptible,
simpliciter, et non hie et nunc,102 This does not mean that the intellect the intellect, which is their repository or which knows things through
apprehends only absolute being, but that in addition to apprehending them, must also be immortal.
being here and now, it also has the ability to apprehend being The use of similar conception of human knowledge has been the
absolutely. What exactly does this mean? It goes without saying, as most recurrent starting point from which the simplicity and the
Aquinas holds, that the intellect grasps more than the here and now in immortality of the soul were proved. Its beghming goes back as far as
its apprehension of being. It not only knows the present, but also the Plato's Fhaedo. In the Christian era, Augustine made the possession of
124 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 125

knowledge the focal point of his argument for immortality. His only incorruptibility to. If, in fact, its mode of existence is more akin to the
argument for immortality in the Soliloquia is that truth is eternal, that accidental than to the substantial, it would mean that whether it is
even if the whole material universe were to perish, truth as such must incorruptible or not depends on whether the intellect itself is
remain. Science (disciplina) is true in virtue of the truth itself, and is incorruptible, but the incorruptibility of the intellect or the soul is
even identifiable with truth (esl aulem disciplina verilas). If science exactly what the nature of universals is called to be a witness to. If this
exists in the soul, the soul itself must be immortal, since it is the were so, then it would appear to be a case of begging the question ..
receptacle of science, which is imperishable. 104 The same argument is Another difficulty is the nature of the universals themselves. They
taken up in the De immortalitate, with some elaboration, and here he are usually understood as general concepts abstracted from the
plunges into infinite regress by his assertion that science must exist particular conditions of here and now. That makes the universal or
somewhere. Many authors subsequently make use of the same idea, but concept applicable to several individual instances, because the formal
with the exception of Philip the Chancellor, lOS the rest modify nature of these particulars is what is contained in the universal. IOB
Augustine's line of reasoning to suit their own style and purpose. However, the universal in the intellect is not altogether cut off from the
Auvergne talks of the idea of infinity in the soul, and gives the example sense, or from images. It seems that no matter how our concepts are, for
of geometry, in which many truths have been discovered, and which still us to be conscious of them requires some form of particularization, or
remains open to many more discoveries. That the soul is so open to this some fleshing out. One who has the concept or the universal house
infinite knowledge shows, for William, that it must have infmite knows what a house is wherever he sees it, but he can in no way think of
capacity by nature. 106 Dominic Gundissalinus and John of La Rochelle a house without having some walls, roofed and with doors. Because of
among others employ the infmite capacity of the soul to unllerstand as the universal state of his knowledge, any colour can be substituted for
an indication of its nature, sometimes referring to the fact that the the colour or the door, or it may even be colourless doors, but it seems
infinite idea of God can be in the soul, which points to its ability to go an unattainable feat to think of a house without some iIlljlges, without
on endlessly in existence. What distinguishes all these from Thomas some particularization. Kenny says as much when he gives the example
Aquinas is not just the variation in the use of knowledge in the soul, but of a universal idea with a logical prlnciple or proposition, or with such a
also the fact that none of the authors prior to him defends an statement as "Every road leads to some place." This is no doubt a
epistemology that is so close to Aristotle's as Thomas does. Most of general idea. Yet he asserts that "there must be some exercise of sense
them presuppose the hypostatization of intellectual knowledge, but it or hnagination, some application of concepts or the application of the
seems that such practice accords more with Neoplatonic epistemology knowledge of necessary truths."For a man to apply the concept red, he
to which these authors, with the exception of Thomas, more or less must either discriminate this concept from other concepts of coloW', or
ascribe. have an hnage of red in his intellect. He can also have a ''mental echo of
What Aquinas makes of the presence of universals in the mind raises the word red, or be reading or writing about redness." Even when the
the question of how the mental presence of these universals is to be passive knowledge of such concepts is presupposed, "it seems that
explained. Universals of course exist in the mind, but it does not appear without some vehicle of sensory activity, there could be no exercise of
that they exist in such a way that we can lay hold of independent the concept.." For all intents and purposes, knowledge of general truth
substantive entities called universals. 107 The existence of the universals operates in the same way. There is apparently no way they can be
cannot be well understood independently of the existence of the intellect actualized, so to say, without being cormected to image, symbol, or
itself. It seems then that their presence in the intellect is more like the action etc. 109 What it means then is that universals in act are always
modification of the intellect; that their existence is more akin to the accompanied by some hnage, symbol, action, which is not all too
existence of accidents than of substance. To hold otherwise would be to general. Now, given that it is through acts that we come to the
substitute universals for Plato's ideas, even though the universals would knowledge of being, i.e., that the humans beings have no direct
now have the intellect as their world instead of extraterrestrial world knowledge of being, the general concepts we are able to know are those
that Plato postulated. What this would entail is that universals, taken in that are applied. While not negating the general applicability that is
this sense, may not be the type of thing one can attribute immortality or characteristic of universals one can ask from where comes our
126 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 127

knowledge of their incorruptibility, if our knowledge of them is always immaterial, since no material being has the possibility of self-
linked up with the particular? reflection. 112
A possible way to solve some of these problems is to concentrate The hitch with this solution is that it pushes aside the instances
more on the act of intellection than on its object. J. de Vries follows this where Aquinas leaves no doubt that he is speaking of the object of
route in his quest to represent the argument from intellectual knowledge knowledge, and not the act of knowledge. In some places he makes
in a way that could be acceptable or devoid of too many problems. He statements that seem to concentrate more on act than on the very being
first presents the argument (used in conjunction with inunateriality) in a of the object of knowledge. In the II Sent, he asserts that to understand
syllogistic form: the object of intellectual knowledge is universal, this has to do with the universal (intelligere est universalium)'IJ, and in the
universality shows the inunateriality of intellectual knowledge, since Summa contra gentiles,' 14 he states that it pertains to the act of
matter is the principle of individuation; the inunateriality of the object understanding to apprehend objects, universal and incorruptible. Even
proves that of the act and the subject of the act, the rational soul. IIO De in these instances, it is because of the nature of the object of the act that
Vries raises many possible problems against all three of the premises, the subject from which the act emanates is said to be incorruptible. In
but the more telling one is that most interpretations of Thomas take their the end, however, de Vries seems to turn the argument round to that of
theoretical support for arguing for the soul's immateriality from that of self-knowledge, which has its owo difficulties.
the object of intellectual knowledge from the implication of proportion
between the object and the subject of knowledge. There must be some 6. In the Compendium Thea/agiae
sort of proportion between the two, but, according to him, this should
not be drawo to the extent of equality. If indeed the proportionality is Some of the points raised with regard to the whole issue of the
taken too seriously, then one falls into the error of Empedocles: earth incorruptibility of intellectual knowledge are relevant to the only
through earth, water through water, etc. - an error that Aquinas argument used in the Compendium thea/agiae. The treatise is a
expressly rejects. Again such proportionality will lead to a presentation in summary of the whole of the Catholic faith, with the
contradiction, for it would follow that because the intellect knows God, exception of the sacraments. It contains 246 short chapters. Reminiscent
it is godly, and because it knows the material, it is material. To object to of the Summa contra gentiles, it spins the doctrine on the rational soul
the latter consequence will raise the onus of proving why the from the consideration of spiritual substances in general, thence to the
proportionality should apply only in the case of the inunateriality of the necessity <if the possible intellect receiving intelligible forms from
soul. 'l1 His solution to all the problems raised by this proof is to sensible things. Reading between the lines, this necessity establishes the
interpret it as proving the inunateriality, not of the object of knowledge, natural connection of a spiritual creation (the rational soul) with the
but of the act of knowledge. It would then entail that the proportionality body. There is then a chapter on the necessity of positing the agent
that Aquinas speaks of will be sought between the act and the intellect, followed by another on the incorruptibility of the human soul
potentiality that receives this act. What the argument for inunateriality (chapter 84). All these themes, together with the chapter on the unicity
should seek to establish is the wide gap between sensible and of the intellect in man which comes immediately after summarize the
intelligible knowledge. The intelligible has the power of making cardinal doctrine of. Thomas on the rational soul.
judgement while the sensible knowledge is unable to do so. Even if in The choice of argument is remarkable in a work that is written in
making this judgement, the intellect arrives at falsehood, the power of summary form. There is thus no place for the cumulative method
judgement is peculiar to it. The senses do not know their being, and they applied in such works as Summa contra gentiles and the Q.D. de anima.
lack the ability of self-criticism. Sense perception is relative; it does not That Aquinas chose the argument from the absence of contraries can be
always grasp the content of the object, and carmot even be aware of this an indication of how much he values the argument. The same proof is
relativity. Contrasted with this is the intellectual knowledge, which used in many other works including the Summa thea/agiae, Q. D. de
possesses absolute value. It grasps the being of beings and is aware of anima, and the Summa contra gentiles, and indirectly in all the passages
this act. The intellect is then complete reflection, a complete return to where he argued against Ibn Gabirol's theory of universal
one's self. If this is so, it entails, according to Aquinas, that the soul is hylemorphism. Like all the rest of the proofs which Aquinas employs, it
128 The Philosophical Significance 'oJImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments Jor Immortality 129

is also a constant presence in the attempt of previous thinkers of the However, the next argument seems to lend this much-needed support for
period before Aquinas to defend immortality.'" However, with the the absence of contraries. Aqufuas presents it in the Summa
exception of the employment of the argument by Gnndissalinus,l16 most thea/agiae ll ' by saying that even if the soul were to be composed of
other writers before St. Thomas end with the assertion of the absence of matter and form, it will still not be said to be corruptible because ofits
contrary in the soul. In this respect St. Thomas links the argument again mode of nnderstanding. That means that even if one accepts some
to epistemological considerations just as he does in the case of the nnderstanding of the matter-form composition in the soul, to read back
argument from the desire of immortality. from its activity to its nature will still impose the conclusion that the
The first phase of the argument, which has been described as the soul does not contain the type of contraries which will lead to
metaphysical phase, says that matter is the subject of generation and destruction, because things that are contraries in themselves are not
corruption. This is indicated by the fact that in the degree in which received as such in the soul. There is a mtity in the act of nndersttmding,
something is removed from corruption, in the same degree is it removed which enables the intellect to apprehend contraries without their
from matter. Thomas then says that the things that are composed of opposing each other. Given that the opposition of contraries in external
matter and form are corruptible by their very nature. He returns to the nature is due to the potency of matter, the conclusion one must draw is
corruption of forms: material forms are corrupted by accident, while that the soul is immaterial and is'indestructible. Thomas affirms the
inunaterial forms are completely incorruptible. It follows that the existence of contraries in the soul, but for him their mode of existence
intellect, which is not material, as evidenced by its not nndersttmding (Le., in actuality) is a strong indicator of the nature of the soul itself.
anything except what is separated completely from matter, is F. D. Witheimsen tries to expatiate on the implication of Aquinas'
incorruptible by nature.117 As if in an attempt to bring support to this reasoning on the mode of existence of contraries in the soul. In his
proof, he goes on to assert that there can be no corruption without opinion, there is no alternative in real life because each being exists
contraries, since all corruption is due to the contrary of the particular according to the principle of identity. However, the indubitable human
thing nnder consideration, so that in those things in which there are no ability to consider alternative courses of action points to a phenomenon
contraries, corruption is also absent. According to St. Thomas, and in transcending the limitations of the material order. It is only in the human
accordance with the general opinion of his time, the heavenly bodies, mind and never in sensible existence that one can contemplate an
even though they are material, have no contraries, and are thus "either-or" situation.12O Still for him such situations are real. That
incorruptible. The evidence that the soul also lacks contraries is that Aquinas reintroduces the mode of existence of contraries after arguing
things which are contraries in themselves are without contraries when that the soul is free of any matter from which contraries can arise is a
grasped by the intellect. The principle of contraries is therefore one in transition from the metaphysical to the epistemological order, aimed at
the rational soul. Only an immaterial substtmce can operate in that coming back again to confirm the earlier conclusion. For Withehnsen,
marmer, and hence the rational soul carmot be corrupted. llS there is an important significance in this move. Aquinas points to the
The first part of the argument is based on the Aristotelian principle, fact that we consttmtly work with contraries, but this is the work of
which serves as its introduction. It is on this principle that all who use nnderstanding as distinguished from sensation. That man entertains an
the argument from contraries hinge their argument. Natural corruption either-or situation alludes to the fact that such is the most intimate
and generation come from the potency of matter. That means, for nature of his reasoning, and without such ability, he will be not more
insttmce, that a piece of wood, which becomes a table has in its being than an automaton. Thus, even though there are in material existence no
the possibility or potency of the wood receiving another form, the form active contraries, this is the nonnal situation in the intellect, endowed,
of the table. It is by losing its form and assuming another that such as it is, with the ability to ask questions and to "balance alternative
change takes place, and the actuality of the change, or of the new form answers." To be able to do this indicates the existence and the exercise
means the corruption of the former reality. However, the mere assertion of a special kind of being: "spiritual being, totally absent from the
of the absence of contrary from the soul is not enough unless backed by material world wherein the possibility of contraries is rooted in matter
the simplicity or immateriality of the soul, which Aquinas in fact argues but where actuality always precludes both being in act.,,121
for in other passages, but not here in connection with immortality.
130 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 131

There is no doubt that the operation of the human intellect sets it

apart from the normal behaviour of material entities. Such activities Materialisten notwendig als Petitio principii erscheinen; er ist offenbar nur als
constitute the strongest point against those who would like to suppose argwnentum ad hominem denen gegenUber gedacht, die die Unkorperlichkeit der
that there is no distinction between mind and matter or between the Seele zugeben."
5 J. de Vries. "Zwn thomistischen Beweis ... ," pp. 4 - 5.
body and the soul. The difficulty of explaining the experience of man in
6 J.-Y. Jollif, "Affinnation rationelle de l'immortalite de l'fune chez St. Thomas,"
lmowledge on the supposition of complete materiality of man as a whole Lumiere et vie 4 (1955), p. 75: Jollifs view is that the desire for unending existing
is in fact much more than that of postulating something of whatever which he reads as desire for being is only realized explicitly by philosophers ..... ce
name that is the principle of such operations. Be that as it may, the a
rapport l'etre qui constitue la nature meme de l'honune, et que Ie non-philosophe
argument from the absence of contraries in the soul and also the vit quotidienement sans en prendre conscience. Le philosophe qui retrouve en lui
exegesis given it to it by Wilhehnsen does not seem to take adequate cette puissance toujours donnee de connaissance ontologique atteint -de meme
thought of the mode of existence of contraries in real things, and either- mouvement la certitude d' exister <toujours>.....
or in the mind. Is it unproblematic to argoe from the nature and, 7 S.C.G. II, 79, n.15
8 Cf. Ch 1, sec. 4.
behaviour of one to the nature and behaviour of the other without
9 Cf. Albert the Great, Summa de creaturis. q. 59.
further ado? Can we draw principles from contingent existents and
10 J.- Y. Jollif, p. 66.
apply them to logical beings, which is a way of describing the presence II Ibid., p. 73: "II suffit de refl6chir quelques instants pour se persuader qu'il n'y a
of contraries and lmowledge in general in the intellect? It seems that aucune raison valable de privilegier Ie desir de l'immortalite et d'en faire Ie
here there can be room for what A. Kenny described as "confusion fondement d'une preuve. L'argument psychologique ne prouve rigoreusement rien
between abstract and concrete." 122 We have seen that the same difficulty a
s'il n'est que psychologique, et ron aura beau jeu montrer que l'homme eprouve
bedevils the use of the presence of general concepts as a witness to mille desirs apparement aussi fondes que Ie souhait de l'immortalite et..dont on ne
immateriality and incorruptibility. Most often such arguments are saurait dire cependant quoits se reaiiseront necessairement."
connected with the hypostatization of things which, rigorously 12 George 8t. Hilaire, "Does 8t. Thomas Really Prove the Soul's Inunortality?", The

understood, can only be said to have the mode of being of an accident. New Scholasticism 34 ( 1960), p. 352.
13 Ibid., p. 345.
14 Ibid., pp. 352 - 353
" J. F. McConnick, "Questiones disputandae," The New Scholasticism, 13 (1939),
pp. 368 -369.
16 G. St. Hilaire, p. 341.
17 B. Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1992), p. 216.
18 Alexander Nequam, Speculum speculationum, m. Ixxxvii. 5: "Anima enim
NOTES humana potest intelligi non esse; secus de Deo ... Scribe ergo intellectu 'non est',
sume 'est', Quid restat? Nihil. Ubi ergo precedit non-esse et sequitur esse redire
I1. Owens, "The Soul as Agent." The New Scholasticism 48 (1974), p. 40 potest non-esse quoad intellectum."
2 Cf. E. Bertola, "II problema deU'immortalita dell anima umana nelle opere dei 19 William of Auvergne, De anima, V. 24, p. lSI a.
Tommaso d' Aquino," Rivista difilosofia neoscolastica 65 (1973), p. 250 20 Questiones quodlibetales, 10, q. 3, a. 2.
3 1. Lemaire, "Les preuves de l'immortalite...." p. 35. 21 See, for instance, II Sent, d. 19, q. I. a.1.
4 1. de Vries made the distinction between arguments that are secondary and 22 J. Weisheipl, Frair Thomas D'Aquino (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974), p. 233.

primary based on this criterion. See his article "Zum thomistischen Beweis der 23 For the influence, the structure and doctrines of Peter Lombard's Book of
hrunaterialiUl.t der Geistseele," Scholastik 40 (1965), p. 4: "Von all diesen Beweisen Sentences. see B. Mondin, St.Thomas Aquinas' Philosophy in the Commentary on
sind aber einige offenbar sekundarer Natur, insofem ihr Ausganspunkt selbst wieder the Sentences (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975), pp. 1 - 4.
des Beweises bedUrftig ist. So die Beweise, die davon ausgehen, daB die Seele Fonn 24 Cf. J. Oguejiofor, The Argumentsfor the Immortality of the Soul... p.272.
des Leibes ist. Das gleiche gilt von dem Beweis, der davon ausgeht, daB die Seele, 25 B. Mondin described Aquinas' Commentary on the Sentences as the "most
d. h. das erkennende Prinzip, kein Korper ist; gerade dieser Beweis wiirde dem impressive, 'nionumental and ftmdamental work" of St. Thomas.(cf. St. Thomas
132 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality

Aquinas' Philosophy in the Commentary on the Sentences ... p. 2). This does not 40 Lac. cit.: "Visus enim nihil cognoscit nisi mud cujus species potest fieri in
however detract from the characterization of the work as tentative, and as marked by pupilla. Unde cum non sit possibile ut organum corporale cadat medium inter
an effort to cite authorities in support of position. As distinct from most other works virtutem aliquam et ipsam essentiam virtutis, non erit possibile ut aliqua virtus
of Aquinas, the conunentaJy is marked by these features. operans mediante organo corporali cognoscat seipsam....Ex quibus omnibus patet
" E. Bertola, op. cit., p. 258. quod anima intellectiva habet esse absolutum, non dependens ad corpus;' unde
27 II Sententiarum. d. 19, q. I, a.l: "differentiae superiores participantur Wliformiter corrupto corpore non corrumpitur."
ab his quae coDveniWlt in aliquo inferiori; sicut omne animal aequaliter 5e habet ut 4\ Philip the Chancellor, Summa de bono. 269,185 - 195
dicatur corporeum. Sed incorruptibile et corruptibile SWlt differentiae entis. Ergo 42 Albert the Great, Summa de creaturis. q. 59, 518b - 519b: ..... nulla virtus
eadem modo coDveniWlt omnibus quae soot in aliquo determinato genere. Sed in corporea apprehendit se nec suurn instrumentum. Quod probatur per inductionem
omnibus animalibus accidit corruptio per hoc quod forma eorum in non ens secedit. omnium: nullum enim sensuum, eJderorum sentit se, vel instrumentum suum.
Ergo videtur quod similiter in hominibus:' Similiter etiam in interioribus imaginatio non imaginatur se vel instrumentum suurn,
28 Ibid., ad. 2. et sic est de omnibus a1iis. Et ratio hujus est, quia tales virtutes non apprehenduntur
" Ibid., 3 ,4. nisi organa corporis aliquid passo: nullum. autem organum patitur a seipso, nec a
30 Ibid., ad. 4: "anima potest dupliciter considerari, scilicet secundum quod est virtute quae est in ipso, quia sic semper pateretur: sed intellectus et caeterae virtutes
substantia, et scclUldum quod est fonna, non est intelligendwn quantum ad diversa animae rationalis apprehendlUlt se et omnium. 'instrumenta virtutum: ergo non sunt
quae in ipsa sMt, quasi aliud sit essentia sua et aliud ipsam esse formam, ut sic esse virtutes corporeae."
fromam accidat sibi sicut color corpori: sed distinctio accipitur seclUldum ejus 43 S. T. la. q. 87, a. 1: " .. sic seipsum intelligat intellectus noster, secundum quod fit
diversam considerationem; non enim ex hoc quod est forma habet quod post corpus actu per species a sensibilibus abstractas per lumen intellectus agentis ....Non ergo
,. remaneat, sed ex hoc quod habet esse absolutum, ut substantia subsistens: sicut eer essentiam suam, sed per actum suurn se cognoscit intellectus noster."
etiam homo non babet quod intelIigat ex hoc quod est animal, sed ex hoc quod est cr. s. T. la, 13,2.
rational is, quamvis utrumque sit sibi essentiale." 45 Cf. G. Verbeke, "Man as Frontier.... ," p. 219. When Owen says "that,man's
31 Cf. S.C.G., II, 81, 8. Imowledge of himself is from within" (cf. "The Unity in Aquinas' Philosophy of
32 11 Sententiarum., d. 19, q. 1, a. 1 ad. 6: "inteIligere cum aliquo vel sine aliquo Man," p. 73), it should not be understood as though man has a peculiar way of
dicitur dupliciter. Vel hoc modo quod illud etiam intelligatur esse particeps knowing itself over and above the way of knowing other realities, be they spiritual
operationis, sicut organum virtutis visivae simul cum virtute visiva videt, quia or material.
videre est compositi, et sic intellectus oronino sine corpore inteIligit, ... vel ita quod 46 S.T., la, 87; a.3, res: "Id quod primo cognoscitur ab intellectu humano est
illud sit objeeturn operationis, sicut visus non potest videre sine colore, et hoc modo huiusmodi obiectumj et secundario cognoscitur ipse actus quo cognoscitur
etiam intellectus in statu viae non potest intelligere sine phantasmate, quod se habet obieeturnj et per aeturn cognoscitur ipse intellectus, cuius est perfectio ipsum
ad intellectum sicut color ad visum....Ex hoc non ostenditur quod anima intellectiva intelligere."
babeat esse dependens ad corpus, cum operatio egrediatur ab ipsa absolute. Sed post 47 cr. A. Kenny, Aquinas on the Soul (London: Routledge, 1993), p. 122.
mortem alium modwn intelligendi habebit. .." 48 II Sententiarum. d. 19, q. 1. a.1, sol.: "Quarta positio est quam fides nostra tenet,
33 Ibid., q. 1. a. I, sed. contr. quod anima intellectiva sit substantia non dependens ex corpore, et quod sint plures
34 H. orst. Victor, Homilie in Eeel., I (PL, 175, 117 A) intellectivae substantiae secundum corporum multitudinem, et quod, destructis
35 St. Augustine actually wrote, "Jamvero in ipsa visione atque contemplatione corporibus, remanent separatae, non in alia corpora transelll1tesj sed in resurrectione
veritati, qui septimus atque ultimus animus gradus est; neque iam gradus, sed idem corpus numero quod deposuerat Wlaquaeque assumat."
quaedam mansio, quo ilIis gradibus pervenitur; quae sint gaudia, quae perfructio 49 J. Weisheipl, op. cit., p.'360.

summi et veri boni, cujus serenitatis atque aetemitatis afilatus quid ego dicam." (De " G. St. Hilaire, op. cit. p. 345.
~uantitate animae, IV. 33, 76) 51 A. G. Pegis, "Between Immortality and Death .. p. 2
D '
6 Alexander of Hales, Questiones, 1. 32, 24, 26 - 28: "Si ergo contemplatio ultimus cr. s. c. G. IT, 45, 8 and 46.
actus sit, erit quando anima Iiberata erit a corruptione corporis. Sed secundum hanc " Ibid, 50, 55.
est non deficiensj ergo secundwn intelligentiam est non deficiens." 54 A. G. Pegis, "Between Immortality and Death .. p. 2
37 Ibid., 1. 32.
ss ' '
S. C. G., IT, 79, n. 2.
38 William of Auvergne, De anima, VI, 22, p. 176b. 56 Ibid., 55, 3.
39 11 Sententiarum., d. 19. q. I, a. 1, sol. 57 See his Liher de anima V. 4, 50 - 77.
134 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 135

" S. C. G. II., 55, n. 5. diversae commensurationes manent in animabus separatis: et per consequens
59 Ibid., 79, 3: ''Nulla res corrumpitur ex eo in quo consistit sua perfectio: hae enim pluralitas...
mutationes sunt contrariae, scilicet ad perfectionem et corruptionem. Perfectio 68 Ibid., 80 & 81, 3
autem animae humanae consistit in abstractione quadam a corpore. Perficitur enim 69 Avicenna, Liberde anima V. 3. 77: " ... manifestum est animas incipere esse cwn
anima scientia et virtute: secundum scientiam autem tanto magis perficitur quanta incipit materia corporalis apta ad serviendum eis, et corpus creatum est regnum eius
magis immateriale considerat; virtutis autem perfectio consistit in hoc quod homo et instrumentum."
corporis passiones non sequator, sed eas secundum rationem temperet et refraenet. 70 Ibid., V. 3. 25-27:' "Postquam autem singularis fit per se, impossibile est ut sit
Non ergo corruptio animae consistit in hoc quod a corpore separetur." anima alia nwnero et ut sint una essentia."
60 Ibid, 79, n. 11. 71 F. C. Copleston, op. cit., p. 11.
61 Gundissalinus, De immortalitate anima, p. 6, 5 - 10: "ODUle mortale sua ipsa 12 Q. Quodlibetales., 10, q. 3. a. 2, resp.
duratione paulatim debilitatur et deficit, donee deveniat ad defectum uitimum, qui 7J lbid.2, resp.: ''Non enim posset omnium sensibilium formas cognoscere, nisi ab
est mors. Virtus autem inteUectiva sua ipsa duratione proficit et invalescit, ut quanta onmibus fomUs sensibilibus esset denudata, vel nisi esset actus omnium, cum nihil
fuerit diuturnior et antiquior, tanto sit ex onmibus modis suis fortior." recipiat quod iam habet. Oportet ergo, si anima per aliquod organum intelligeret.
62 Ibid., p. 18, 18 - 19j 7, 14 - 16: "Istum est potissima ac nobilissima eius quod suum organum careret onmi forma sensibili, CUDl onmes fonnas sensibiles sit
perfectio, dum in corpore est." For Avicenna' view about prophesy, see A. nata intelligere; sicut pupilla caret omni colore ad hoc quod visus possit omnes
Alamrani- Jamal, ,,De la multiplicite des modes de Ia prophetie chez Ibn Sina," in J. colores cognoscere. Impossibile est autem esse aliquod organwn corporale carens
I Jolivet & R. Rached, eds., Etudes sur Avicenne (paris: 1984) p. 125.
63 Summa de anima, 1.42.
omni fonna sensibili."
74 Cf. Chapter 2, sec. 2.

I 64 De anima, xxiii, 320: "Si anima moritur, aliquid de anima relinquitur post
mortem. IIlud reIictwn non erit corpus. Aut ergo illud erit pars corporis aut non. Si
non est pars corporis, aut est anima aut intelligentia: quorum neutrum potest esse.
" A. Kenny, op. cit., p. 132.
76 Indeed Aquinas makes much of this principle that like must be known by like,
especially in all the passages where he tries to show that the soul must be immaterial
I Ergo anima mori non potest. Ergo anima est immortalis,"
6S S. C. G. II, 79. n. 8: "Esse intelligbile est pennanentius quam esse sensibile. Sed
because its knowledge of material things is somehow abstracted from the material in
order to accord with its nature which is immaterial or spiritual. It is the same
id quod se habet in rebus sensibilibus per modum primi recipientis. est principle that is expressed by "omne quod recipitur in aliquo recipitur in eo per

incorruptibile secundum suam substantiam, scilicet materia prima. Multo igitur rnodum recipientis" (S. T. 1 a, 75, 5) and again he said "Cum ergo simile simili
fortius intellectus possibilis, qui est receptivus formanun intelligibilium. Ergo et cognoscatur, videtur quod anima per seipsam corporalia cognoscat." (la, 84. 2, ad.
anima humana, cuius intellectus possibilis est pars, est incorruptibilis." ~
66 Ibid., 79, n. 9. A. Kenny, op. cit., 132. ~
67 Ibid. 80 & 81, n. 9: "Non enim quaelibet formarum diversitas facit diversitatem 78 Ibid., 133 - 134.
secundum speciem. sed solum illa quae est secundum principia fonnalis, vel 79 Q, Quodlibetales. 10, q. 3, a. 2: "Sed primum horum esse non-potest: quia si in
secundum diversam rationem fonnae: constat enim quod alia est essentia fonnae nobis non est aliqua virtus nisi materialis, lumen intellectus agentis non poterit in
huius ignis et ilUus. nee tamen est alius ignis neque alia fonna secundum speciem nobis recipi nisi materialiter, cwn receptum sit in recipiente per modum
Multitudo igitur animarum a corporibus separatarwn consequitur quidem recipientis; .... secundum esse non potest: nam phantasmata sunt in nobis per nostram
diversitatem fonnarum secundum substantiam, quia alia est substantia huius animae operationem. quae sequitur esse substantiate; quia sic homo non haberet esse
et iIlius: non tamen ista diversitas procedit ex diversitate principiorum essentialium specificum ex hoc quod est rationalisj cum non sit rationalis nisi ex hoc quod
ipsius animae, nec est secundum diversam commensurationem enimarwn ad intellectui coniungitur."
corpora; haec enim anima est commensurata huic corpori et non illi, illa autem alii, so cr. s.
T., la, q. 75 - 93, pro!.
et sic de onmibus. Huiusmodi autem conunensurationes remanent in animabus 81 cr.
G. Verbeke. "Man as Frontier.... ". p. 215.
etiam pereuntibus corporibus: sicut et ipsae earum sibstantiae manent, quasi a 82 S. T., 1a. 76. 6.
corporibus secundum esse non dependentes. Sunt enim animae secundum 83 Ibid., 6, resp.
substantias suas fonnae corporum: alias accidentaJiter carporl unirentur et sic ex 84 Loc. cit.: ''Potest etiam hujus rei accipi signwn ex hoc, quod unwnquodque
anima et corpore non fieret unum per se, sed unum per accidens. Inquantum autem naturaliter suo modo esse desiderat. Desiderium autem in rebus cognoscentibus
formae sunt, oportet eas esse corporibus conunensuratas. Unde patet quod ipsae sequitur cognitionem. Sensus autem non cognoscit esse nisi sub hic et nunc, sed
intellectus apprehendit esse absolute, et secundwn onme tempus. Unde omne
136 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Arguments for Immortality 137

habens intellectum naturaliter desiderat esse semper. Naturale autern desiderium animo disciplina. Necesse est igitur semper ut animus maneat, si semper manet
non potest esse inane. Omnis igitur intellectualis substantia est incorruptibilis." disciplina. Es autem disciplina veritas, et semper... Semper igitur animus manet, nec
8S Anselm of Canterbury, Mon%gion, c. 69, p. 79. animus mortuus dicitur."
86 Gundissalinus, De immortalite animae, p. 17, 16 - 19: "Haec autem si perennis lOS Summa de bono, 268, 157 - 159: "veritas in quantum huiusmodi est immortalis.
non fuerit, non erit felicitas neque a miseria vera inununitas. Quiquid enim est morti Ergo substantia eius cognoscitiva est inunortalis. Sed anima rationalis est substantia
obnoxium, beatum non est, immo eo ipso miserum, quod extremae mise'riae huiusmodi; ergo est substantia immortalis."
obnoxium." 106 De anima, VI. 3. p. 158 b. A hint of this infinite capacity to understand in the
87 Ibid., p. 18, 5 - 6: "Subiectum enim contrarie dispositionis, id est mortale, non intellect is present in such statements of Aquinas as the following: "But the possible
potest esse receptibile huiusmodi felicitatis." intellect is endowed with a certain infinite power, since by it we judge of things
88 William of Auvergne, De anima, VI. 13, p. 168 b: "Quapropter non est possibile infinite in number, inasmuch as by it we know universals, under which potentially
eam per naturam venire in mortem vel eXtremam miseriam: causa autem in hoc est infinite particulars are contained." (S. C. O. II. 59, 8). Aquinas puts the statement in
ut praedixi quia unius mobilis naturaliter, non est nisi unus motus, et ab uno ad the mouth of an objector to the possible intellect being a part of man,' even though
unum: quapropter 'cum sit ei motus naturaliter in sursum sublime quod dixi non est the idea has an important implication in his philosophy of man. As M. Brown puts it
possibile ut sit ei motus naturalis contrarius qui est deorsum, ut antedictum est." "although at any given time one's knowledge is finite, there is no intrinsic limit to
89 O. St. Hilaire, op. cit. 345. what one can know about the universe. Aquinas says that the human being is the
90 J . Y. Jollif, op. cit., p. 74. matrix of the universe, the only being which is both material and immaterial." (The
91 G. St. Hilaire, op. cit., pp. 348 - 350 Romance of Reason: An Adventure in the Thought afThomas Aquinas, St. Bede's.
92 Of course the exact nature of immortality in the Symposium is disputed. For the Petersham, 1991, p. 77) Such statements command accent by some intuitive or
discussion see R. Hackforth, "Immortality in Plato's Symposium," C. Rev., 61 introspective feeling of each human person. The problem with it though is that since
(1950), pp. 43 45; J. V. Luce, "Immortality in Plato's Symposium: a Reply," in C. the human being is very finite, there is no type of witness or verification that can
i, Rev., 62 (1952), pp. 137 140; E. Tsirpanlis, "The Immortality of the Soul in possibly be produced for it.
i Phaedo and Symposium," Platon; 17 (1965), pp. 224 234. 107 Cf. S. C. G., II, 75.
II, 93 Cicero, Somnium SCipionis, 20 108cr. S. T., la, 75, ad 4, 5: Aquinas refers to this capacity as infinite range in the
94 H. Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1958), pp universals. What he sometimes seems to mean is that there is theoretically no
I; 197 198. conceivable limit to the application of universals to particulars, or again that the
II 9S Q.D. de anima, a.14, obj. 15. soul through its general concepts can always invent alternative tools, ways of action,
96 Cf. Summa de bono, 265, ff.. etc. ''Dicendum quod anima intellectiva, qui universalium comprehensiva, habet
II 97 Summa de creaturis, q. 59, a. 2, 21, pp. 524b - 526b. virtutem ad infinita ... homo habet naturaliter rationem et manus, quae sunt organa
98 Q.D. de anima, a.14, obj. 16: "ad operationem propriam speciei pertingunt vel organorum, quia per eas homo potest sibi praeparare instrumenta infinitorum
omnia vel plurima eorum quae sunt in specie. Sed paucissiini homines perveniunt modorum, et ad infinitos effectus."
ad hoc quod sint intelligentes. Ergo intelIigere non est propria operatio animae 109 Cf. A. Kenny, op. cit., pp. 96 97.
humanae; et ita non oportet animam humanam esse incorruptibilem eo quod sit 110 J. de Vries, op. cit., p. 6
intellectualis." 111 Ibid., pp. 10 - 11: "Wenn dies abgelelmt wird, miiste ein besonderer Grund
99 Ibid., a. 14, ob. 20: "manente causa manet effectus. Sed anima est causa vitae angeben werden, warum die Wesensgleichheit zwischen ErkelUltnisgegenstand und
corporis. Si ergo anima semper manet, videtur quod corpus semper vivat; quod patet Erkenntnisakt (bzw. Erkenntnisflihigkeit) gerade im Fall der Inuuaterialitiit
esse falsum." notwendig ist."
100 Ibid., a. 14, resp: "ea etiam quae sunt in seipsis corruptibilia, secundum quod 112 Ibid., p. 16.19.
intellectu percipitur, incormptibilia sunt. Est enim intellectus apprehensivus rerum 113 II Sententiarum., q. 1, a. 1. sol.
in universali secundum wuem modum non accidit eis corruptio." 114 Ch. 79, n. 5.
101 S. T. la. 75 a 6 resp. lIS See Gundissalinus, De immortalitate animae, pp. 28 - 29; Robert of Melun. in
102 Q. D. de anima, a. 14, resp. R. M. Martin, op. cit. pp. 141 142; John Blund, De anima, xiv, 334; Albert the
103 B. Davies, op. cit, pp. 127 - 128. Great, De natura et origine animae, IT.c. 6, p. 26a, 23 - 31.
104 St. Augustine, Soliloquia, ii. xiii. 24: "Onme quod in subjecto est, si semper 116 It can indeed be said that Thomas follows the presentation of Gundissalinus who
manet, ipsum etiam subjectum maneat semper necesse est. Et omnis in subjecto est first argues that the soul has no contrary by arguing against the composition of
138 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas

matter and form in it. There is also a very close resemblance in the statement
accepting for the sake of the argument that the soul is composed of matter and form,
and still arguing it would even then be without contrruy. Blund and Thomas used
this line of argument. Gundissalinus link the question of contrary to knowledge by
saying ''Non est igitur destructibilis per divisionem formae a materia, cum forma
eius contrarium habere non possit, sed sit ad omnes fonnas intelligihiles,
quamadmodum hyle ad omnes visibiles." (Cf. p. 29). St. Thomas says almost the
same by referring to the mode of existence of contraries in the soul.
117 C. the%giae. c. 84, 147: "Proprium subiectum generationis et corruptionis est
materia. Intantum igitur unumquodque a corruptione recedit, inquantum recedit a
materia: ea enim quae sunt composita ex materia et forma, sunt per se corruptibilia;
formae autem materiales sunt corruptihiles per accidens, et non per se; formae
autem inunateriales, quae materiae proportionem excedunt sunt incorruptibiles
omnino. Intellectus autem omnino secundum suam naturam supra materiam
elevatur, quod eius operatio ostendit: non enim intelligirnus aliqua nisi per hoc quod Chapter 4
ipsa a materia separamus. Es igitur intellectus secundum naturam incorruptibilis."
118 Ibid., c. 84, 148: "Corruptio absque contrarietate esse non potest, nihil eniro
corrumpitur nisi a suo contrario: unde corpora caelestia, in quibus non est
contrarietas, soot incorruptibilia. Sed contrarietas lange est a natura intellectus, in
tantum quod ea quae sec\.Uldum se sunt contraria, in intellectus contraria non S\.Ult: SOME PROBLEMS OF IMMORTALITY
est enim contrariorum ratio intelligbilis una, quia per \.Ulurn intelligitur aHud.
Impossibile est igitur quod intellectus sit corruptibilis."
119 S. T. la, 76, a. 6.,: "Dato etiam quod anima esset ex materia et forma composita,
ut quidam dicWlt, adhuc oporteret ponere earn incorruptibilem." 4.1 The Question of Death
120 F. D. Wilhelmsen, "A Note on Contraries and the Incorruptibility of the Human
Soul in St. Thomas Aquinas," American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 67
Our review of the arguments, which Aquinas proffers for
(1993), pp. 334 - 335.
I2l Ibid., pp. 337 - 338.
immortality, brings certain points to the fore. In the first place it is clear
122 A Kenny, op. cit., p. 134. that without any exception, all the arguments iu question are taken from
the predecessors of the angelic doctor, especially those who flourish
around the first half of the thirteenth centtuy. From this context shines
his originality in trying to reconcile these arguments which have
Platomc background with his understanding, and reinterpretation of the
philosophy of Aristotle. The review also highlights some problems
specific to the arguments some of which are already noticed by many
Thomistic scholars, and where feasible, it suggests possible ways of
interpreting the text to make the positions less problematic. Again, it is
clearly underlined that even though Thomas, like most thinkers of his
time, believes that immortality can be adequately proved from the
rational point of view, and even though this conviction follows the
whole project of proving immortality, he nevertheless leaves us in no
doubt that what he is doing accords with the Christian faith, and that in
fact it is in defence of important aspects of that faith that the whole
140 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems o/Immortality 141

project is undertaken. The present chapter concentrates on some of the there is no reason to suppose that a cause that continues to act in
more general problems associated with the effort to prove the another place cannot also produce different effects unconnected with
immortality of the soul from an Aristotelian perspective. While Aquinas the previous effects it had produced. Aquinas does not take on the
operates on the grounds of philosophy in outlining the arguments, faced imaginary objector from that perspective; rather be delves into the
with some of these problems, he gravitates more and more to reason why the body does not continue perpetually to be receptive of
theological positions, bringing into play principles acceptable to the the life-giving activity of the soul. It is not because of the cessation of
believing mind. this activity, but because the body which receives life from the soul is
First, let us consider the phenomenon of death. We bave seen that changeable, and, as a result, can lose the dispositions on account of
among the thinkers of the thirteenth century, Aquinas' description of the which it is fitted to receive life from the soul, that the buman composite
relationship between the human soul and the body is peculiar, if not is subject to death"
revolutionary. This peculiarity comes from the closeness that he defends Neither the objection nor the answer given to it refers to the strong
between the body and the soul, based on the Aristotelian hylemorphic unity between the soul and the body, whicb Aquinas has constantly
theory. Aquinas more than any other author pushes the form/matter defended, and which is to play a role in his discussion of the
conjunction between the body and the soul to its ultimate implication. resurrection. It is true that decomposition in material things is owed not
As the existence of form and matter is one, so is the existence of body to form, but to the propensity in matter to assume another form. A mass
and soul, since it is in fact form that gives existence to matter.' The two of cement dust when mixed with water and allowed to harden will
have one being, notwithstanding the constant affirmation that matter assume the form of the mould in which it is poured. If it is used to build
exists for the sake of form, and the body for the sake of the soul. The a fortress, it will assume the form of the fortress conceived by its
union of body and soul is so intimate that the buman being can be called builder. Again, if a bomb blows up this fortress, the cement with which
a body, or a soul depending on different perspectives. But this is not so it is build will divide into chips of rocks of different forms. In all cases,
that the order of precedence is overturned. The soul is the life-giver, its it is the original cement component that changes from one form to
life flowing naturally down to the body, so that as the soul is spiritual, another depending on a particular physical force that is in operation.
the body can be understood as spiritualized. And as M. Brown rightly One would have thought that given the strong unity between the rational
says, "the essential structure or pattern or meaning of the body is soul and the body, this general tendency in the physical world would
contained in the rational soul. ,,2 Now, the rational soul, which is so have been spared the composite. And if indeed the soul is the only
determinant of the nature of the composite, is endowed with its own exception in the world of forms, does it not entail, at least on grounds of
life. It is self-subsistent, proven by, among other points, its ability to proportionality, that the body enjoys some exceptions also in the family
exercise activities not requiring any bodily organ, or any participation of matter? Not to grant the body any of sucb exceptions would seem to
by the body, even though these activities are linked with its union with entail that the force governing physical nature supersedes the unity
the body, since it is on account of these that the union is naturally between the soul and the body. Before this problem, it seems one must
explicable in the first place. Such a naturally self-sufficient source of either sacrifice the close-knit unity already established between the two
life is imperishable. But if so, and under the background of the union components in man or find another reason why the unity must succumb
between soul and body, why does the soul die? to the general tendency in nature.
Aquinas refers to the phenomenon of death in the course of his Most reflections of Aquinas on death are found in the context of his
arguments for immortality. In the De anima, for example, be dwells writings on original sin. In the Summa the%giae, he asks whether
briefly on it in answer to a possible difficulty arising from an immortal death and other infirmities of the body are the result of sin. He first
soul existing in a mortal body. The objector asserts that if the cause makes a distinction between direct and indirect cause. A direct cause
continues in operation, its effect must also continue. Since the soul is produces an effect that accords with its natural power. In this case, tbe
the cause of the life of the body, and continues in existence, so should effect follows the purpose and the natural intent of the cause. Viewed in
the body, which means that it will be immortal like the soul.' The this light, Aquinas says that sin is not the cause of death, since the one
objection fails to distinguish the locus of the activity of the cause, for posing the act of sin does not include death as one of the effects of his
142 The Philosophical Significance a/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems a/Immortality 143

act. An indirect cause removes an obstacle, making it possible for an perfection through these processes, even though it could be asked
effect to be realized. It is as an indirect cause that death results from whether there is a necessity that this should be so. The thought can be
origioal sin.' But here, it is obvious that Aquinas is dwelling on the taken as an effort to find an explanation or a justification for an existing
plane of theology, and even then approaching the question obliquely. In and constant part of nature, the generation and corruption of things, an
the next article he is more direct, and asks whether death and other evils effort which can offer some eulightenment to an enquiring mind. It
are natural to man. The objector opines that death is natural to man would seem that the human body must then go through the general
since man does not differ generically from other animals, which are natural part. Aquinas further adds that the incorruptibility of the human
corruptible. Again, all that is by nature composed of contraries is also soul is in line with the end of man, which is everlasting happiness. How
subject to corruption, and the human body, being so composed, must does the corruptible body fit into this scheme of incorruptibility and
also be perishable.' The response to these objections is found in a long everiasting happiness? Aquinas says that the body is, in a sense,.
section in which Aquinas gives his position on the issue at stake. Here proportioned to its form, that is, to incorruptibility and, in another
also there are two possible ways of viewing corruption. Things can be sense, it is not. Here he gives an illustration of this dual consideration
said to corrupt from the point of view of general or universal nature or from nature. In all material things, two factors must be taken into
from that of particular nature. From the perspective of particular nature, account: the condition that is determined by the agent cause and the one
all corruption is contrary to nature because each particular nature is that is embedded in the nature of the thing itself. An artisan chooses a
geared towards the conservation of itself, since its nature is its proper piece of iron to make a knife because it is hard and can respond to his
active and conserving force. What Aquinas is explaining here is akin to act of fashioning the iron into a knife. However, that the piece of iron is
the tendency in things for self-preservation; an aversion to their subject to rust by its very nature has nothing to do with the will or
annihilation, which is in the nature of everything which exists. machination of the artisan. Viewed as such, what is in the nature of the
The second mode of corruption, that is, what pertains to general body leads to corruption, but this is not the choice of nature, if nature is
nature, refers to some active power in some universal principle of substituted for our artisan.'
nature, caring as it were, for the general preservation and well being pf Even though Aquinas clearly affirms that human nature is
the whole universe. Such preservation and continuous perfection require incorruptible, he also says that were nature to choose, it would in fact
the conjoined working of corruption and generation in particular beings. choose incorruptibility. This is important in view of his earlier
From this standpoint, i.e. for the sake of the well being of general statement that every particular nature tends to perpetual existence.
nature, corruption in some things is natural. Aquinas adds that even then Again, the corruption found in nature in general is not due to form, but
such natural corruption is not on account of form, but because of an to the presence of contraries, wl\ich is the natural state of matter.
intrinsic co-existential principle in matter, giving it the natural tendency Already in the sed contra of the same article 6 he goes from the point of
towards corruptibility. If natural corruption in things is not due to the view of proportionality to the conclusion that the human body is
form, it means that by nature, forms should be perpetual. This is in fact incorruptible by nature, even though it cannot be said that this is a
true so far as tendency is in question, but it is not possible in reality for presentation of his view. What is present here is the tension between the
the form of any corruptible being to achieve perpetuity. Here again natural immortality of the human composite, the indubitable fact of
there is ouly one exception: the rational soul and the reason for this death, and its explanation through original sin. Over and over again,
exception is also because it has operations that are peculiar to it, Aquinas draws very close to the position that the body by nature must
independent of the body. If therefore man is seen as form, then be immortal, but seems to pull back at the brink of this position in
incorruptibility is more natural to him than to other beings. Because his deference to the physics of Aristotle. It means that death is at the same
form lives in union with matter, he is not spared incorruptibility and this time a punishment for sin as well as a fact of nature attendant on the
results in the corruptibility of the human composite. It means that man composition that is found in man.
is naturally corruptible, even though his form is not. What then becomes of the unity between the soul and the body,
The necessary presence of corruption and generation in universal which has been described as the greatest contribution of Aquinas to the
nature could be said to be on account of its continuous maintenance and understanding of man? And how can something that is natural be
144 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems of Immortality 145

inflicted as a punishment? At this juncture, one must note that St. should possess something of its innnortality too. It must be borne in
Thomas has left the shores of philosophy and is deep into theological mind, however, that even though Aquinas says that this is reasonable, he
reasoning, backed by revealed truth and dogma. In article 5 of question does not say that it is actually so except by special favour of the creator
85, he alludes to the absence of original justice, because of which due to original justice.
absence the body becomes subject to corruption, and at the end of the The picture that emerges from all these turns is the human
next article, after clearly stating that man is subject to death on account composite, essentially corruptible even though the nature of its
of the body, returns again to the concept of original justice whereby components argues for innnortality. Through original justice it regains
God bestowed incorruptibility as a gift to man: It is here described as a that incorruptibility that is in accordance with reason and then loses it as
certain type of incorruptibility, emphasizing by that description that it is a punishment for original sin. William of Auvergue was the first in the
not the normal incorruptibility that is being talked about. thirteenth century to abstract the man, specifically the soul from his
The state of original justice is found in what Aquinas calls the state present state, in an attempt to find out what must have appertained to it
of innocence, i.e. before the fall of original sin. It means that God the by nature without the intervention of original sin." For Auvergue, the
creator made man in a sort of rectitude in which reason was submissive consequence of sin is so pervasive that it influences the mode of
to God, and the lower powers in man to the reason, and the body to the knowledge of the soul. His philosophy of the soul is therefore aimed at
soul. This establishes an interconnected chain of submissiveness in rmding out what the soul must have been before the fall; that for him is
which the lower members depend on the first, so that the lower powers the nature of the soul, while what appears to be its nature in the present
submit to reason so long as reason is in submission to God. tO It is in fact dispensation is only a distortion. In the original state of innocence, for
because of the disruption of this order that death is said to result, since instance, man could know both the universal and the particular without
the body becomes independent, apt to act in accordance with its nature, recourse to the senses. Now, however, after the fall, it is as though the
and is liberated from the complete control of the soul, which would soul lost all its natural capacity, and must stoop to beg for information
have assured it this special type of immortality. When Aquinas comes to from the senses in order to know." There is no doubt that when the
consider whether the soul is immortal in the state of innocence, the argumentation proceeds in this marmer, no one is left in doubt about the
answer that suggests itself seems obvious, but he again distinguishes theological intention of the author; only that it should not be forgotten
three types of immortality. The first is natural innnortality, which is due that most of the authors of the time make no strict distinction between
to something on the ground of its nature lacking any material philosophy and theology. Aquinas does not go so far as Auvergue to
composition. The second type is with reference to the form. It is called hold that the real nature of the soul was already manifested before the
innnortality of glory, in which something that is naturally perishable is fall. His teaching is that, even before the fall, the death of man is
endowed with some dispositions that prevent it from decaying. The natural, but God, due to original justice, provided him with a sort of
third type, that which applies to man in his state of innocence, Aqninas innnortality which was dependent on the continued submission of his
names imperishability on the part of the efficient cause, indicating that intellect to God. The problem is whether the natural tendency due to the
it is the creator, through original justice, who bestows this innnortality material composition in man was suspended by God's favour. If so, and
on the human composite. This type of innnortality is one that is if this state of bliss was intended to last forever, what does one make of
dependent on the integrity of the line of submissiveness in creation, and the natural inclination of matter which Aquinas takes into account even
that is why it can be lost by sin. But from here Aquinas returns to in the state of innocence? Again, one must remember that for Aquinas,
rational consideration again. This third type of innnortality is not the suspension of the natural tendency of matter in the original state of
against reason; it goes very much in accordance with the nature of the innocence is not only due to God's justice, but is also reasonable on
soul and body. The soul is so much above the body that it is reasonable natural grounds. It is, as we have said, the tension between his religious
that it should be able to cover up the natural lack in the composition of faith and the evidence that COmes from his philosophical inclination that
the body." In other words, the fact of immortality in the state of makes him not to say outright that the relationship between the soul and
innocence justifies the supposition that if indeed the soul were so much body means that the human composite is innnortal originally. That
higher than the body, and if they were so intimately united, the body could still have allowed space for him to affirm that death is indeed a
146 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems 0/ Immortality 147

punishment, although then that punishment would have scathed the problems involved. The answer given to the question in the Summa
order of nature. Pegis' review of the question of death in the Summa theologiae derived from the oft-repeated principle that beings act as
contra gentiles concludes that "inunortaiity is the main direction of they exist (similiter unumquodque habet esse et operationem). It asserts
human existence: this is what the order of human nature says." 14 We can that sensation, which is the highest operation of the animal soul, does
say that this statement is acceptable, if for nothing else, because of the not take place without some physical change in the body. In seeing,
nuance that Pegis provides before the assertion. From what we have colour affects the pupils of the eyes, touching affects physically the
seen however, it appears more correct to say that even though surface of the body, etc. This obvious fact is, for Aquinas, enough to
inunortality is what the order of human nature would argue for, St. conclude that the activity of sensation is a compound activity of the
Thomas never gives up the view that because of the presence of matter, body and the soul. Since, uu1ike the rational soul, the souls of brutes
the human composite is naturally mortal. have no activities that are proper to souls alone, they do not subsist."
The same issue resurfaces in many texts where inunortality is argued
4.2 Why are Brute Souls not Immortal? for. In the Summa theologiae, in response to the usual objection that
animal and brute souls must slave the same fate, Aquinas says that the
While the problem of death arises on account of the strong unity souls of brute are produced by a certain material force, whereas animal
which exist, between the soul and the body, there is an obvious problem souls are produced directly by God. l This does not mean that God is
arising from the fact that brute souls are not inunortal. This is ftrst not ultimately the creator of everything. It means that uu1ike other souls,
because they share the nature of forms, which is described by Aquinas which result from the seed of the generating pair, the human soul is
as having a tendency towards perpetual existence. On account of this, directly created at the moment of conception, the seed of parents
corruption in all cases is not due to form, but to matter. It also means providing ouly the required matter for the action of God." Needless to
that taken separately, the form (if not given to corruption) does not say, this provides a background from which to state that the soul going
contain contraries that in Aristotelian and Thomistic physics give rise to back whence it comes means its going back to God. In the Questiones
corruption. Yet in spite of all these, the soul of brutes is not considered quodlibetales," he also repeats the statement that the sensitive soul
as a member of the class of inunortal things. Aquinas shows that he is does not act uu1ess it is moved by some sensible object that is outside
constantly aware of the question of immortality of brute souls. In many the soul, showing its intrinsic dependence on the material.
instances, he attributes the contrary position to ancient philosophers Over and over again, Aquinas goes to the phenomenon of
(antiqui philosoph!), especially to Plato, against whom he argues for the knowledge, which indicates that brute souls have no independent
mortality of the animal soul. The error of the ancients is, according to operations. What of other points on which his defence of immortality is
him, that they did not distinguish between the sensitive and intellective based? For instance, that the soul has no contrary or that natural desire
powers, taking the two to be equally corporeal. Plato who goes far cannot be in vain, and man desires perpetuity in being. His examination
enough to make a distinction between the two holds that sensation and of two of these points is not unconnected with the phenomenon of
intellection are equally actions of the soul, and what applies to the knowledge in man. It is ultimately on the presence of contraries in the
rational soul for the sake of being a special operation of the soul must in same unitive act of knowledge that he grounds his use of the point to
like manner be Ime of the sensitive. Aquinas' reflections in this respect prove inunortality. It is also for that reason that he is ready to concede,
are found in the context of answering the question whether animal souls for the sake of the argument, that the rational soul is made of matter and
are subsistent, inunediately after responding to the same question with form. It is possible that one comes back to the question of the mortality
regard to the human soul in the preceding article of the Summa of the brute soul if the hypothetical concession is lifted. Even then the
theologiae. What concerns subsistence concerns immortality, for a grounds for removing matter from the soul would revert to the
being that is not subsistent cannot be immortal, but that he deals with arguments which were offered in rejection of spiritual matter. One of
the question of brute souls inunediately after the treatment of the human such arguments would suit perfectly the nature of brute souls. l9 The
soul, be it in the Summa theologiae or in the Contra gentiles (after soul is a formative principle, and it is such either wholly or in part. If it
inunortality), indicates that he does in no way underestimate the is so wholly, then no part of it can be material, given the implication of
148 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems ofImmortality 149

potentiality in the very notion of materiality. The very conception of means available to them, and thus knowledgeable beings resist their
fonn excludes its being in potency, and logically what is in actuality annihilation with the equipment of their knowledge. Aquinas then
cannot have as its part what is in potency. If, on the other hand, the soul speaks of things which have no knowledge, but which have in
is only partly a form, then only that part that is fonn can be called the themselves the principle of maintaining themselves in existence forever.
soul, the intrinsic matter that it first comes in conjunction with will then ~ere he me~ the heavenly bodies, which, according to the physics of
be the compound that is ensouled. his lime, are mcorruptible. There are then other beings which have no
The argument from the nature of fonn applies to all fonns, and if the power to remain forever individually in existence, whose desire for
absence of contraries coming from matter is given pride of place, then be~g is for the perpetuation of the species. It is to this group that the
all fonns would be inunortal, a position that is completely untenable in arumals must belong. For Aquinas, they desire the perpetuation of their
Aquinas' system. For him the decisive point against such a direct link species, since they can only perceive being here and now, and not being
from the inunateriality of fonn to its inunortality will be the absence of as. such. Their de~~e is therefore not such that leads to everlasting
knowledge or any other indication that any of the lower fonns has any eXlstence because It IS not accompanied with knowledge, and the desire
activity which is completely independent of the body. That brings into for. the. peq;etuation of their species is due to the power of generation,
focus the question of natural desire. We have already seen in the which IS SUItable to the perpetuation of the species, and is not subj ect to
previous chapter that the phenomenon of natural desire has been used in knowledge, but precedes it in existence. The only reason why natural
connection with a diversity of things that are desirable to the human desire in man leads to immortality is that to his desire is added an
being, and the fulfihnent of which is not possible in the present apprehension of everlasting being.
corporeal dispensation. They include justice, being, happiness, and There are several points in such an argument which are both difficult
perpetuity, etc. It is obvious that some natural desires are found in lower to understand and even more difficult to accept for modem minds. One
animals, and that one of such desires is to stay in existence. It can be must, first, not forget that Aquinas is arguing within his time and is
called the instinct of self-preservation, which impels beings to avoid influenced enonnously by the context within which he is arguing. It is
what leads to destruction. If one dwell on the bare principle that no an intellectual context in which the heavenly bodies are unquestionably
natural tendency can be in vain, why does one not also concede that regarded to be incorruptible'l and where astronomy has not developed
animal souls can be subjects of immortality? This is all the more so to the extent of tracing the history of the evolution and continuous
because while man has the same tendency, it is possible that he decides adjustment in the .ord~r of the heavenly bodies. Still the designation of
to take his life for whatever reason this is done. Such a possibility is not the deSire for bemg m brutes as realizable only on the level of the
reconcilable with the way animals behave, so that if the kernel of the species is not convincingly argued, if at all. The desire for the
argument is that natural desire cannot be in vain, it may seem necessary generation of new members can be easily subsumed under that aim, but
to explain why anima1 souls die. what of the tendency present in the individual brutes to avoid
Such explanation is the task Aquinas sets for himself in one of the ~estruction whi~h ~quinas alludes to in the course of the argument. If
contexts where he uses the argument. 20 He begins with the statement mdeed the specIes IS the only thing at stake, why the constant desire to
that every intelligent being desires to last in perpetuity, not as species avoid individual destruction in the brute? A possible answer would be
but as an individual being. This tendency is what is called natural the one obliquely referred to in the argument, i.e. since brute souls can
appetite, and he goes on to explain what this means. There are things ap?rehend being. only here and now, they cannot desire everlasting
that are desired because they are perceived as good and desirable in all bemg. However, Irrespective of their inability to apprehend the future
animals. However, there are other things which whet the appetite or the the natural desire to continue in existence in unceasing succession of
desire irrespective of their being apprehended or not. In this case, such here an~ now is, in the fiuaJ auaJysis, what makes up the human
an appetite arises fonn the being of the thing as such. Beings are desired ~OnCe?tlOn of a lo~g future. As Augustine says," the apprehension of
in two ways: either because they are perceived as good or the desire for tnne IS made pOSSIble not by any objective, external existence, but
them is connatural with the things that are the subject of the desire. This bec~use of the pos~ibility in man to retain the past in memory, and
is shown in all beings in that they seek to preserve themselves with the project the present mto the future. The so-called desire for everlasting
150 The Philosophical Significance 0/ Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems of Immortality 151

being has problems not only in the context of st. Thomas' theory of Cicero, to Auvergne, and it also enters into the basic structure of
knowledge, but also in the specific meaning of the duration, the Aquinas' project by his insistence that the life of the soul is what keeps
apprehension of which is objectified in the argwnent. the human in being. The more elaborate consideration given to the
When Aquinas examines the immortality of the animal souls question shows that by the time Aquinas is arguing for immortality, as
immediately after arguing for immortality in the Contra gentiles, he against the period of his immediate predecessors, the awareness of the
returns again to natural desire, but then he has taken it for granted that philosophical problems involved in the attempt has grown considerably.
brute forms do not have the type of natural desire that can lead to Aquinas tries as much as possible to provide responses to some of these
immortality. With this he asserts that in each thing capable of attaining a problems, even though his answers are not completely satisfactory.
certain perfection, there must be the desire for this perfection, and we
find in animal souls no desire for endless existence. On the contrary, 4.3 The State of the Separated Soul
their desire is limited to apprehension and their apprehension carmot
extend beyond the here and now." Furthermore he argues that since that The question of the mortality of brute souls underlines Aquinas
which is separate is understood in act, and in that case, and in conviction that the rational soul, conceived as form of the body,
accordance with the word of Aristotle, with separate beings that which deserves special treatment among all other natural forms. It is so
is understood is identical with that which understands, it would follow because it is the only exception in the order of nature straddling the two
. that animal souls would be intellectual if they are separate from the great divides of the spiritual and the material worlds as an accredited
body, and this too would be impossible. 24 Aquinas also swipes against citizen of the two even though its relative positions in them are
Plato's argwnent from motion, which has a consequence of affirming diametrically different, being the highest in the material order and the
the immortality of all that is self-moving. 2S He considers what Plato lowest in the spiritual. In spite of the special status of man in the chain
means by self-motion in his argwnent, but rejects all possibilities of the of being," the fact that when the composite dies, the soul survives, and
argwnent leading to the immortality of brute souls, on the supposition remains immortal without the body brings other serious problems. What
that the operation of brute souls, evidenced in such activities like is specifically the state of the separated soul, and how does its new
sensation, is intrinsically bound up with bodily organs. Thus the existence stand in relation with the affirmation about the nature of the
movement that Plato speaks about in the soul carmot be separated from man and of the soul that Aquinas otherwise holds very dearly? Even
the organs of the body, showing again that the soul carmot have though the soul shares the qualities of the material and the spiritual, it
operations that are independent of the body, which is required if it is to would seem natural that man remains in his composite where he would
be considered immortal. realise his membership of the two spheres without problems, leading a
In spite of the problems latent in some argwnents for immortality material existence, but patticipating in an immaterial nature and
arising from their possible applicability to the soul of brutes, Aquinas operations by his knowledge. If it is in such a state that the soul attains
shows his awareness of this problem and tries repeatedly to provide perfection, and if the union of the body and the soul is justifiable
answers to it because of the common conviction that the souls of philosophically on account of the perfection of the soul,28 then death, as
animals are not immortal. This is a rare procedure in the attempt to we have said, is a real problem. Why does it not continue in that state,
argue for immortality in the thirteenth century, since most authors ofthe given the background of the strict bond of hylemorphic union between
time who wrote on immortality did not regard seriously the the body and soul, and going on forever purveying benefits of
consequence of any of their argwnents on other types of souls. perfection to the soul, though without ever reaching infinity, an attribute
Alexander of Hales was in fact the first to reject an argwnent for that belongs only to God? We have seen that for Aquinas death is first a
immortality because accepting it would also imply that the souls of fact of nature, which, through God's grace, was removed from man in
plants and animals are immortal (quia sic sensibilis et vegitabilis in the state of innocence provided that he remained submissive to his
plantis essent immortalis).' The argwnent that Alexander rejects is the creator. This grace was lost when reason became disobedient to the will
one that holds that the soul is the source of life, and if so carmot be of God. Going back to the natural order therefore death is natural to
deprived of life itself. This argwnent was very dear to Augustine, to man. That means that if we abstract from the situation of special grace
152 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems ofImmortality 153

and later sin, man is mortal. It means that naturally his soul, if immortal, death is not so clear to the human being subject to the limitations of his
must be able to remain apart from the body in some manner. nature. In reality, Thomas mainly retains the conclusions of his natural
Aquinas insists repeatedly that the union of the soul to the body is philosophy and tries to extend deductively their implications to the
for the good of the soul because it is there that its perfection lies.29 Still separated soul, then shifts here and there to other grounds which are not
there seems to be in his thought an enduring conflict between this idea very much in consonance with his philosophy. If from Thomas' point of
inspired by his reading of Aristotelian philosophy and another view such a procedure is not contradictory, at least it projects a picture
inspiration coming more from the Platonic influence on his philosophy, that is not easy to understand and integrate completely.
aided by some latent theological considerations. It is therefore not For St. Thomas, matter is the principle of individuation. Even though
surprising that much as Aquinas affinns the usefulness and naturalness materia signata quantitate does not for him explain all about why
of the union of the body to the soul, he speaks in some places as though human beings are multiple, there is no doubt that it is at least the
the body is a burden and that it is only with liberation from it that the material cause of individuation in man. It therefore remains true to the
soul comes to the perfection that is proper to its nature.' Sometimes it spirit of Aquinas that there is no other thing in the soul by which it is
is placed in the context of a direct vision of God," but the awareness of individuated." The fonnal principle of multiplicity is other than matter.
the implication of this for Aquinas, the theologian, displays more It is the substantial fonn. But the part matter plays is essential in this
clearly the tension between the natural and the supernatural in his process. If, as Elders says, "individuality consists in a proper mode of
philosophy of the soul and its separation from the body. the specific essence in respect of the other individuals of a species""
However, wherever specifically this tension nudges St. Thomas, he how is one individual soul separated from the body distinguishable from
still retains the conviction that the separated soul does not lose its the other if they belong to the same species? It cannot be that, like
nature, i.e. it is still the human soul in its separation from the body and angels, each separated soul belongs to a different species. The question
does not therefore suddenly acquire a nature it did not possess is already raised as an objection to immortality, and in response to it,
previously. Two issues merit our attention against the teaching of the Aquinas refers to the proportion that must exist between a particular
sameness of nature in the united and separated soul. In the first place, fonn and its matter, and a commensuration of souls to their bodies. It
whence does the separated soul derive its individuation, and what means that, on separation, the soul retains its proportionality, and its
happens to its ability to know which constitutes one of the pillars of its commensuration to a particular body, which is however not caused by
perfection?" J. Mundhenk examines briefly the problems associated this body, but must be a prior fitness to be united to the body.
with the separated soul, and concludes that the picture one derives from By this theory, Aquinas achieves the effect of not making the body
Aquinas' thought on it is fragmented, and wonders whether the author as such exercise in its own right a detennination on the essential nature
himself regards the result of his researches as insufficient or whether he of the soul as individual, for that would entail that a lower being is
intends each of these attempts to appear in a fragmented manner to us. 33 somehow an active agent in the production of a higher spiritual being.
What Mundhenk does not point out is that the enquiry is almost bound In further explanation of the fonnal source of individuality, he gives the
to be as he describes it because of the question at stake. Before the example of two fires which, though possessing different fonns, have the
problem of the soul in separation from the body, there is evidently no same essential principle. It would seem however that this example does
help from Aristotelian philosophy available to the angelic doctor. There not solve the problem involved. Different fires must have different
is also no help from the common human intuition on which he depends substrates on which to inhere unless they are substantive fires, which is
so much in arguing for immortality. So either he draws the difficult to comprehend.. Being in different substrates (their fuel" for
consequences that are latent in the philosophy of nature of Aristotle, example), they must also be in different places, and consuming different
which he follows very closely in outlining the nature of the soul, and oxygen to keep them burning. These are material things that surround
with the help of which he argues further for its immortality, or he brings the being of fire, which cannot go with the nature of the separated soul.
in other convictions that are extrinsic to this philosophy from faith and A similar problem arises when wax is given as an example of how
theology. But the second option does not present any wide area of individuation follows the separated soul irrespective of the body.'" If
choice of means, for, according to St. Paul, the state of the soul after the commensuration or proportionality of the soul to the body is enough
154 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems ofImmortality 155

to account for multiplicity and individuation, what role does the body is the perfection of the human soul, there will still remain the problem
play in the matter? Such a question is not discussed as such by Aquinas, of whether the separated soul is in a better or worse state than when
and there is a cacophony of voices on what he exactly taught on the united with the body. It is not certain yet that Aquinas would
question of individuation. For the moment however, let us note that the unequivocally admit that life in the composite of the body is in every
fitness of the soul for a particular body plays a significant role in the case better for the soul, as we have already seen. The choice is then
doctrine of the resurrection. open whether to conclude that given the persistence of the nature of the
A more intractable problem however is the operational status of the soul, its capacity for knowledge remains as when incorporated, or that
soul in the state of separation. The issue is raised in several places in the the soul has now a new mode of knowing different from the fonner
text where Aquinas argues for immortality." The point at issue in all natural mode. Our view is that through all his works, Aquinas retains
cases is the objection that each being must have its specific operation, the two positions, and here and there he makes a significant shift from
and the special operation of the soul, knowing, is intrinsically linked one to the other.
with the body. How then does the soul continue in knowledge if it is This view is a bit different from the conclusion of Pegis in his study
separated from the body and thus deprived of the long process at the ?f the nature of the separated soul in the works of Aquinas. Pegis
end of which intellectual knowledge results in the noetics of Aquinas? Identifies a real change in the position of st. Thomas from the
The fleeting answers he gives to such objections are always that the soul beginning of his career when he held 'a position very much pre-
will have another mode of operation when separated from the body. But Aristotelian to the time he wrote the Summa theologiae by which time
he is deeply aware of the problems involved and it is in connection with the Aristotelian notion of nature has entered into his discussion and
this question that he expressly admits that a question is very difficult." replaced the fonner position held in the Contra gentiles. "The emphasis
His analysis of the difficulty shows how a Platonic conception of the on the role of nature in characterising the embodied and separated states
soul would have solved the problem, for then separation would be a of the soul is a new -and Aristotelian - development in the teaching of
liberation from the impediment of the body, and the soul would receive St. Thomas. ,,39 He carefully traces the change of position through some
its species purely and directly from a higher source. But such a solution important works of Aquinas, and groups the works under these two
would not be suitable to him because it goes against a very important poles. The Commentary on the Sentences, the De veritate and the
principle: that the union of the soul and the body is for the good of the Compendium theologiae contain the same teaching that is found in the
soul, as matter is in general meant to serve the fonn. Contra Gentiles, and the later revised position is advocated in the
As the soul in Aquinas' teaching has operations independent of the Summa theologiae and the De anima." For our purpose, let us
body, it is possible also to think of a situation where it would depend on concentrate our review of the two positions of St Thomas on the Summa
the knowledge it has already acquired while joined to the body, and the%giae, and Summa contra gentiles which mark the two main poles
perhaps through reflection and meditation, with such knowledge as between which the change takes place.
foundation, maintain some activity which takes care of the difficulty of In the Summa contra gentiles, Aquinas' response to the supposition
conceiving a being without its proper activity. He takes adequate of the impossibility of the soul to exist outside the body on account of
account of the knowledge which the rational soul acquires while it is its inability to know without phantasm is that the soul has a different
united to the body. Nevertheless, limiting the intellectual operation of mode of understanding when in the body and when separated from it.
the soul to what it knows already would have many consequences. First The principl~ that grounds this assertion is that a being acts in
there will be the problem of what knowledge it would have of higher accordance With the way it exists (unumquodque enim secundum hoc
beings including God in the separated state, and again it would be agit secundum quod estl). From here, Aquinas admits the natural mode
difficult to see how such knowledge would be restrained only to what of knowledge of the soul. Even though the soul has its own act of
the soul was able to acquire in the body. Further, rational souls which existence independent of the body, it understands only through the
cannot acquire much knowledge, or those which do not acquire phantasm while in the body. This way of understanding perishes when
knowledge at all while on earth would then not be immortal or would be the composite dies. However, the soul, which has its own independent
limited to stunted existence. In general, however, given that knowledge act of understanding, will not fulfil this with reference to the phantasm,
156 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems ofImmortality 157

but will understand itself like substances that are not w1ited at all to the by means of which such operations are performed. It caunot even be by
body. Again the soul will receive an inundation of intelligibles through species it had before death since if one defends that position, then the
these spiritual substances, and thus understand even more perfectly than souls of children who died before acquiring species caunot know. It
when it was in the body. A series of quaint illustrations attempt to caunot also be species received from God, since only by God's grace
clarii)' these otherwise un-argued assertions: the more the soul is freed can such species be given to the soul, and if it is so given, we have then
from the body, the more it is able to understand higher things. Sleeping crossed the bounds of knowledge natural to the soul."
persons are able to perceive the future from higher beings; the same This presentation of the problems in itself shows a different
experience is observed in fainting and ecstasy, since these involve a appreciation of the difficulties involved. Aquinas is no longer going to
good deal of withdrawal from the body. From all these, the angelic take refuge in assimilating the rational soul to the life and activities of
doctor concludes that when the soul departs from the body, it will be angels without much ado. Thus he gives the details of the implications
completely similar to other spiritual substances that are not w1ited to the of the soul which understands by abstracting species from the senses.
body and will also acquire their mode of understanding and receive Knowledge that would come from a supernatural source, like God,
sufficient influx from these.42 would not be sufficient to allay the difficulty since this would be due to
It is clear from the explanation of the way of knowing in the grace and not nature, and would not be the type of knowledge under
separated rational soul that Aquinas has no space at all for all his former discussion. It is instructive that in the Contra gentiles, the complete
theories about the nature of the soul and its activity. In fact, he virtually change in the way of understanding of the soul projected is not given
abandons the whole issue of the soul as form of the body on which his any justification which takes account of the fact of grace. The answer to
whole philosophy of man is based. The soul is assimilated to the status these objections confirms the assertion that Aquinas intends to see the
of angels. As a being acts the way it exists and exists the way it acts, separated soul from the natural, Aristotelian viewpoint.
one can easily argue that as the soul understands like angels, it could be The first shot at an anSwer coopts the noetics which Aquinas has
counted as one of them. Furthermore, the continued exercise of the act accepted from Aristotle: since the nature of the soul after separation
of understanding by the soul is assured by the abundant influx of remains unchanged, if indeed the soul knows through recourse to the
species from higher beings, and as such influx is from superior beings, senses, then it must be accepted that on the natural light the separated
the knowledge of the soul in this state must be, if anything, more sonl caunot understand because it is cut off from the images of the
perfect. Aquinas' view in the Contra gentiles represents clearly the senses. 44
strand of thought in Aquinas in which the soul is understood as reaching Still Aquinas considers this situation as an embarrassing problem
its fulfilment with separation. It is important that there is hardly any which he must find a way of sidetracking. To do so, he repeats the first
better argument for the position except that a thing acts the way it dictum of the passage of the Contra gentiles: operations of beings
exists. Here the corruption of an important part of the nature of the soul, accord with their being (modus operandi uniuscujusque rei sequitur
its way of understanding, is qulte compatible with immortality. modum essendi ipsius). He therefore asserts that the soul has different
When the angelic doctor comes to the Summa theologiae, this modes of understanding in the body and outside it, but he tempers the
perspective completely changes. The question is the same, but put in a statement by adding that this is so even if the nature of the soul remains.
more direct mrumer: utrum anima separata aliquid intelligere possil. This addition to the same principle used in the previous passage is an
The objector clarifies the issues at stake. First the human soul is indication of a shift in emphasis, for the Contra gentiles does not even
impeded in understanding by the influence of the senses and by the refer to the nature of the soul. It is enough that the soul understands in a
disturbance of the imagination. If then at death these organs are different way to foist a mode of understanding which must be suitable to
completely destroyed, there is no reason to suppose that the soul will angels. How does this nuance influence the outline of the solution?
continue to know without them. Again the separated soul, if it Thomas adds that in spite of the soul understanding in a different
understands, must do so through species. Such species caunot come way, it does not mean that w1ion with the body is accidental to the soul,
from itself since it is from origin devoid of any. It caunot also be and it is the same nature that accompanies it in the body or outside it.
species abstracted from objects of knowledge, having lost all the powers This unchanged, underlying nature, when w1ited to the body, turns to
160 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems ofImmortality 161

It is also in connection with this that the basic principle of his theology Christian faith: "es igitur de necessitate fidei credere resurrectionem
meets the most important human hope in the Christian revelation. The mortuorumfoturam. ",a It is thus not the natural yearning of the soul for
earlier teaching of Aquinas on the relationship between the body and the body that is the cause of the resurrection. The cause is rather
the soul reaches its ultimate consequence in its application as a Christ's resurrection which, in the order and history of the religious
justification of the resurrection of the body. In that teaching, which is phenomenon, is a first cause. Being first in the order of cause, Christ's
inspired by Aristotle but goes much further than him, Aquinas holds resurrection extends its effect to things more remote by the institution of
that the two principles in the human being are so united that they have God himself. S1 The resurrection is clearly for Aquinas a religious
one single existence. It means that ontologically, the life of the body is doctrine, and it is in an attempt to counter the errors of those who claim
the same as the life of the soul, even if that life, in a way, flows down to that the resurrection the Holy Scripture talks about means a spiritual
the body from the soul. Thus there is room for some kind of resurrection that he goes on to give some insight from the nature of the
subordination of the body to the soul, since the union is for the good of soul which may lend reasonability if not religious credence to the
the soul, just as, in general, matter is for the sake of fonn. Because the doctrine of the doctrine. Est ... contra veritatem fidei ponere
life of the composite is, so to say, lent to it by the soul, and because the resurrectionem spiritualem, et negare corporalem.
soul enjoys some operations in which it has no need of any bodily Having gone at length in soliciting scriptural quotation to make his
organ, it is said to be self-subsistent and immortal. In spite of this point, St. Thomas asserts that reason also supports the future
special characteristic, which sets the soul apart in the world offonns, it resurrection of the body as such. He refers to the proofs for immortality
is by nature adapted for union with the body in which lies its means of which he has outlined in Book Two of the Summa contra gentiles. Its
perfection. It is because of this natural ordination that the soul must immortality means that after death, the soul is completely away from the
receive phantasms from the body in order to lmow, and it is in body. But this position is uncomfortable because earlier he had gone all
lmowledge that its perfection consists. On account of its ability for self- the way to prove that the soul is naturally united to the body as its fonn.
subsistence, the soul at the death of the composite can live apart from The implication is that the soul that remains outside its body is in a state
the body. However, this is not its due mode of existence. Hence that is against its nature (contra naturam). If there is any truth in the
contrary to the vision of some passages of the Holy Scripture, the soul teaching of Aristotle that nothing that is against nature can exist forever
separated from the body lives in a sort of exile. And even if it is given it means that the state of the soul outside the body cannot also las;
another means of lmowing from the spiritual being, it still carves an perpetually. Since the soul is immortal, it will rejoin its body at the
image which resembles that of an impostor occupying an office which resurrection. From this it appears that the immortality of the soul
legally and by natural endowment it is not fit to occupy. Its lmowledge requires the future resurrection of the body.'2
in this state, even though received from superior intelligibles, remains What ~q~nas is saying is that there is a natural indication, a pointer,
general and confused because it is praeter naturam. to the direction of immortality which goes in line with the basic
Because its new mode of existence is unsuitable to its nature, the principles of his philosophy. The resurrection is therefore not
separated soul is thus in constant yearuing for its natural abode, and this preposterous in the order of nature, even though it is a revealed
requires a reunion with its proper body, a continuation of its nonnal religious truth. The demonstration here follows the naturalistic line
mode of existence, an existence in which its perfection is ensured. This which is very much projected in the Summa theologiae and the D;
natural necessity finds expression in the Christian doctrine of the anima. Even though it is in consonance with the doctrine of the nature
resurrection. What is new here is that the resurrection is a natural of the soul in the Contra gentiles, the idea of the chapter eighty-one of
requirement, explicable by an ingeuious interpretation of Aristotelian the book, in which the separated soul has an influx of more perfect
philosophy. There is no juggling of Aristoteliauism in which the fonns from more perfect beings, is almost completely forgotten. It is
concept of the resurrection can be made understandable to the unaided obvious that if indeed the soul is understood as so well placed after the
reason. Aquinas does not entertain any illusion about this fact. In the corruption of the body, the link between the resurrection and Aquinas'
very passage in which he tries to give some philosophical reflections on philosophy would have been impossible to establish. That link is
the question of the resurrection, he underlines that it is a dogma of the established by the outline of the nature of the soul in which it is
162 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems ofImmortality 163

intrinsically bound up with the body, for its nonna1 existence and its happiness will be enjoyed ouly by an immortal soul, for as
perfection. In the passage on the resurrection, the tenn contra naturam Gundissalinus says, nothing that is linked with death is perfect.
is used instead of the more benign praeter naturam of the Summa Needless to say, the immortal soul carmot be in the body without
theologiae. The latter tenn applies in relation to the knowledge of the fulfilling its natural function of vivifying the body, and forming with the
soul in separation which, though coming from a superior source, is not body the composite which is the human being. It is not our aim to go
in cousonance with its nature. It is because the available mode of into the details of how possible this is, and what will bring about the
exercising its being is beyond its nonna1 capacity, giving it ouly wonder of the reunion of the body and the soul, matters which belong
confused and general knowledge that it is against nature: contra deeply to theological consideration backed by revelation. However the
naturam. theological implication of the naturalism which is projected in the
Immortality is said to require resurrection, otherwise the soul that is teaching on the resurrection is significant. Aquinas' view of the soul on
separated from the body will remain forever in a deprived state. It is in the natural level may seem to have given hostage to Aristotelian
view of the fulfihnent for the soul that it is fitting that it rejoins its body. philosophy, but the terminus ad quem of his thinking completes a circle
But Aquinas does not refer to the resurrection in any of the proofs of to bring his theory back to the original promise of Christianity, which is
immortality, showing that his intention as well as that of other thinkers the resurrection of the body, and not the immortality of the soul.
of the time was to show that immortality could be proved from the Aquinas' reinterpretation of Aristotelian doctrine about man serves the
philosophical standpoint. He does not mean that immortality as such doctrine of the resurrection because it brings it into the threshold of
must be followed by the resurrection of the body. The soul that he has philosophy.
displayed would still be immortal if there were no resurrection. Duly What then becomes of the body and its nature? According to the
that then it would not be an advantageous endowment of the soul's teaching of Aquinas, the body is by nature mortal on account of the
nature, for then it is plucked off from its natural habitat to live in potency of matter. Original justice lent it immortality, sin deprived it of
estrangement forever. That is why Aquinas writes in another place, "if this immortality, now it seems that the resurrection will again return
the resurrection of the body is denied, it is not easy but difficult to immortality to the body since the soul which itself is immortal carmot
uphold the immortality of the soul."" In spite of this, the angelic doctor live in perfection estranged from the body. That is the truth in Pegis'
is not too categorical on the connection between immortality and the statement that the order of nature says that immortality is the main
resurrection; they appear, he says, to require each other, from the nature direction of human existence. 55 The status of the body as serving the
of the soul itself. soul means that it must live as a servant of an immortal soul which
It is to that sarne nature that he alludes in the other places where he depends on it for its fulfihnent. "The unity of the human being," says
shows the fittingness of future resurrection and its connection with Brown, "is so strong that the immortality of the rational soul is the
immortality. In one of these, he says that the human soul desires perfect immortality of the body."S6 1n short, the implication of Aquinas' theory
happiness. Imperfect happiness carmot assuage this quest for happiness, is that the body is immortal by association. Is violence not thereby done
since the soul would naturally taste for the next felicity that follows to the body, the nature of which is now no longer taken into account? It
what is imperfect. But the human soul while outside the body is in some could be argued that the mortal body, being immortal, is an advantage
way imperfect because every part that is out of the whole in which it is to it. Again Aquinas says that if indeed nature were left to choose, it
naturally constituted is imperfect. It is therefore not possible for the soul would have chosen incorruptible matter for the body." Still the
to enjoy the perfect happiness it is seeking if it is not joined to the body in;;istence on taking natural line in respect of the soul should in
in resurrection, especially as it is impossible to derive this happiness principle be applied to the body. All we can say here is that the solution
from present human existence. l4 Aquinss does not use the quest for to the difficulty will not be to do violence to the soul which, in Aquinas'
happiness as proof of immortality, but he employs it as a way of thought, is the superior of the two partners in the human composition. In
explaining the rationality of resurrection. What is peculiar to its use any case, it must be kept in mind that the resurrection restores what was
here is that it is necessary, even after the soul has left the body to return lost in the initial state of man where he was shadowed by original
to it in order to fulfil the quest for perfect happiness. That perfect justice. It is thus a return to the land of birth where God himself
164 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems ofImmortality 165

provides that man, whose reason remains submissive to his creator will straddled the ancient world, as well as medieval Christianity, Islam and
be immortal. The resurrection is, in the final analysis, a basic dogma of Judaism, and flowing down aimost to contemporary times. On account
faith, and not a comfortable subject for mere philosophical review. of its historical and doctrinal mutations in many circumstances, it is
very difficult to find many common strands binding the different shades
4.5 Immortality and the Platonism of Aquinas of Platonism. Nevertheless, some common denominators traceable to
Plato himself would include the theory of forms, the tripartite division
That Aquinas was able to bring resurrection and immortality very of the soul and status of the soul vis-a-vis the body. D. A. Rees lists a
close, while retaining the levels of thought to which each of these number of correlates linked with Plato's philosophy." These include the
belongs, is a fine indicator of the expanse of his philosophical view of a metaphysical philosophy directed towards transcendent
enterprise. It is an enterprise that is grand both in its conception and ~eality, belief in the power of the human thought to grasp these realities,
execution, and no other factor attests more to this than the fact that he m the degree of reality, and in the doctrine of the immortality of the
departs from the mainly Aristotelian standpoint, trying through the soul. Marked more or less by these correlates, Platonism, in a general
length and breadth of his thought to retain his personal understanding of sense, has a profound influence on the thought of the thinkers of the
that standpoint, while at the same time arguing strenuously for a thirteenth century through such sources as Augustine, the Liber de
position that is best served by the philosophy of Plato. It is almost causis, Nemesius, Arab and Jewish paripatetics, etc. Aquinas is a
natural that the result of such an engagement, "though expressed in the pioneer in the sense that historically he is the first among his
language of form and matter, is native to the world of St. Thomas and contemporaries to go full length into the philosophical doctrine of
cannot exist in the world of Aristotle."" If this aspect of Aquinas is Aristotle, applying it in an area in which Platonism fits in much more
included in what Reyna describes as "manoeuvring philosophy into the comfortably than Aristotelianism. But like most pioneers, Aqulnas
theological position,"" one must not fail to remember that the whole appears to have ended up in surreptitiously accepting the main object of
issue of immortality has been native to philosophy almost from the his attack. No other theme shows this more than the notion of the soul
point of its inception. The philosophical system that almost gave birth and its immortality.
to and nurtured the tradition of arguing for the after-life of the human For Plato, body and soul are two different things, which must exist
soul is Platonic. And if we go to Plato himself, the religious influence one within the other. The extreme consequence of this position is the
which his tradition was loaded with in its passage through history is not . statement in Alcibiades often quoted by Aquinas that the man as man is
very much traceable to Plato himself, except perhaps in the the soul. Corporeal existence, far from being of any help to the soul that
hermeneutical sense in which H.-G. Gadamer describes Plato's exists in it, is a prison house hindering the soul from coming to its full
arguments in the Phaedo as a reaction to the scientific enlightenment of realization in knowledge of the forms. The body is also viewed as the
his time. 60 Despite the historical and doctrinal affinity of the question of instrument that is at the disposal of the soul. Though in some passages
immortality with Platonism, Aquinas expressly sets aimost every aspect of Plato, it can be said to be of some use to the soul in the act of
of his theory on. the theme, both in terms of its background doctrines sensation, the body intrinsically has not much that is positive to offer to
and aimost the specific argument proffered as proof against different the soul because of the lowly state of being of the body. That is why for
positions of Plato. His counter-positions are easily legible in some of Plato, the duty of the man (soul) who has come to philosophic
the major themes: the soul as form, the origin and development of awareness is to liberate himself from this prison house and to return to
knowledge, the importance given to the body in its general relation with his original source.62 Nothing in Aquinas can be said to be equlvalent to
the soul, etc. But if the grandeur of Aquinas' project lies in this stance these views of the relationship between the soul and the body. However
against Plato, how successful was he in freeing himself from the there is a lining in the thought of Aquinas which is marked by the effort
trappings of Plato's system? to keep the soul somewhat apart, even in the presence of the
Our brief review of the outcome of Aquinas' project will be set proclamation of the composite having one act of existence. One such
against the barest essence of Platonism. Historically, Platonism lining is the subtle implication that the union of the body and the soul is
gathered a lot of accretions through its long presence and influence that a sort of hindrance to the soul to complete knowledge, although
166 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems ofImmortality 167

Aquinas states this in an attempt to argue for the conforming of the soul perfect knowledge from sublime forms, just as the one which has left
to its natural state of existence, which speaks more for his the hindering material world in Plato's system. In the second
Aristotelianism.3 However the admission that the soul after separation presentation, Aquinas seems to have come back to the dominance of
can have other means of knowing, even from grace, seems to revert the Aristotelianism. But there is the need, even in the new and more
clear naturalism to something akin to the Platonic view. This reading is Aristotelian interpretation, for the soul to keep on in activity, since
ouly helped by such statements as that man thinks by his soul,64 or again activity in being is one of the demands of reasonable inunortality for the
that the soul rules the body despotically.s Though they do not consign soul. It is therefore necessary that the basic thrust of the state of
Aquinas to Platonism on the grounds of the context in which they are separated soul in the Summa contra gentiles is retained: the soul can
found, they are ouly signs that in fact he is not so free of Plato as his still receive more perfect forms directly from spiritual beings, but a
expression may sometimes seem to indicate. concession to its nature is that such knowledge presented as perfect for
Something similar can be said about the theory of matter as the the soul, now becomes general and confused, except where the grace of
principle of individuation. Though the question of individuation is very God provides perfect knowledge for the glorified souls.
much disputed among scholars of St. Thomas, it is clear that he The foundation of this inconvenience though is Aquinas' view about
attributes matter a role in the individuation of the soul. But this role is the substantiality of the soul. Aquinas does not directly call the soul a
not as thoroughgoing as that of Aviceuna. Still the role that Aquinas substance. It is a hoc aliquid in the sense that a part of a whole can be
gives to the body is not something that Plato would accept as a normal said to be a hoc aliquid. 67 This means that it can subsist on its own
relation between body and soul. Nevertheless the theory of independent of the body on grounds of its ability to perform acts that do
individuation is presented in such a way that the body all alone is not not require bodily organs and are independent of the body. However,
what makes the soul individuated or multiple. The nature of the soul the full understanding of the soul is not very much different from that of
itself plays an important part, constituting the formal principle of a substance. For this reason commentators on Aquinas have often
multiplicity. That entails in fact that without matter, the soul maintains described the soul as incomplete substance. 8 It is usually employed in
its multiplicity and individuation. This retrieval of individuation within reference to separated souls which though able to exist on its own does
the very nature of the soul suits the defence of inunortality admirably, not attain its complete fulfilment outside the body, and thus yearns for
for if indeed the body all alone was responsible for the individuated reunion, under which condition it will resume its function of giving life
condition of the soul, a question could arise as to how this effect of the to the body, while receiving species from material things. The notion of
body on the soul goes on long after the separation of the two. It incomplete substance is bound up with some obscurity. It is not clear in
however presents a picture of the soul that conforms very well to a what the incompleteness of substance consists, or whether between
return to the world of ideas where the soul continues to exist in its real substance and accidents, there is room for a category that is neither
world. accident nor substance. Aquinas describes the existence of the soul
That extraterrestrial world of Plato is one from which real, outside its natural habitat as contra naturam, and the knowledge it can
unchangeable knowledge originates. The employment in Aquinas of the receive is described as praeter naturam. That means that its new estate
phenomenon of knowing to defend the nature of the soul and especially is not in accord with its nature. But does it also mean that it is
its inunortality draws very close to this view of knowledge as something incomplete in the species of substance? Aquinas says that the soul is a
that is substantive and able to exist on its own. It must be said for him part, not a whole. In that sense, it can be said to be incomplete. The
however that in many places, he concentrates on the process of problem of his teaching is how such a part can exist and do all that it is
knowledge instead of knowledge itself. But it is also true that he required to do as a subsistent entity. However, given that it is able to
presents universals of knowledge as having independent existence, by live in that state independently, the yearuing for and the adaptation to
considering their existence not in relation to their nature as bound with the body that still persists in it does not make it answerable to the
their subject, the rational soul. The first presentation66 of the state of the description of incomplete substance. In the sense of the lack that
separated soul tends to give full support to this view of knowledge accompanies the separated souls, all finite imperfect beings have lacks
which smacks of the view of Plato. The soul in separation receives more in their nature that create a' yearuing for the ultimate. In that respect,
168 The Philosophical Significance 0/ Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems a/Immortality 169

only God can be complete substance with the fullness of being on its
own. The only option is to regard the soul as an exCeption, defying most 9 Ibid., 1a 2ae 85, 6, resp.: "Sed Deus, qui subjacet omnis natura, in ipsa
of the general principles govern1og physical things and forms in institutione hominis supplevit defectum naturae; et dono justitiae originalis
Aristotelian philosophy. However some aspects of the exception bring dedit corpori incorruptibilitatem quamdam.... "
10 Ibid., la, 95, 1. resp.
the theory very close to Platonic theories.
II Ibid., la, 97,1. resp.: "Nee enim corpus ejus erat indissolubile per aliquam
In conclusion, Aquinas attempts to apply the doctrines of his
immortalitatis vigorem in eo existentem; sed inerat animae vis quaedam
philosophical mentor Aristotle to the issue of innnortaiity. The result
supematuraliter divinitus data, per quam poterat corpus ab omni corruptione
though is very much pre-Aristotelian in many of its aspects. He draws praeservare quamdiu ipsa Deo subjecta rnansisset. Quod rationaliter factum est.
conclusions which are neither Aristotelian nor really Platonic. His Quia enim anima rationalis excedit proportionem corporalis materiae, ut supra
defence of innnortality with the basic tools of Aristotelian philosophy is dictum est; conveniens fuit ut in principio ei virtus daretur per quam corpus
a bold effort which he is the first to make in the thirteenth century world conservare posset supra naturant corporalis materiae."
where the novelty of Aristotle was revered before him. Still the 12 Cf. M. Baumgartner, Die Erkenntnislehre des Wilhelms von Auvergne,
execution of that project gives so many concessions to Platonic Beitrage II, I (MOnster, 1893), p. 20: "Als Theologe beschliftigt er sich mit
inspiration" that it can be described as mediation between the two besonderer Vorliebe mit dem Erkenntniszu'stand des Menschen vor der SUnde."
13 William of Auverge, De anima, V. 18, p. 143b: "Nunc autem, hoc est
giants of ancient Greek philosophy.
tempore miseriae et corruptionis praesentis, necesse habent animae hwnanae
mendicare a rebus sensibilibus per sensus cognitiones eorum sensibus propter
obtenebrationes virtutis intellectivae, quae ad exteriora particularia et sensibilia
penitus caeca est et ad illa omnino non attingens nisi sensibus adiuta et
aliquatenus illuminata."
14 A. C. Pegis, "Between Immortality and Death,", p. 8
15 S. T., la, 75, 3, resp.: "Sentire vero et consequentes operationes animae
sensitivae manifeste accidunt cum aliqua corporis inunutatione, sicut in
NOTES videndo inunutatur pupilla per speciem coloris (et idem apparet in aliis). Et sic
manifestum est quod anima sensitiva non habet aliquam operationem propriam
1 S. C. G., IV, 81, II. per seipsam, sed onmis operatio sensitivae animae est conjuncti. Ex quo
2 M. Brown, The Romance a/Reason, p. 81. relinquitur quod cum animae brutorum animalium per se non operentur, non
3 Q.D. de anima, 14, obj. 20. sint subsistentes smiliter enim unumquodque habet esse et operationem."
4 Ibid., 14, ad. 20: "licit anima quae est causa vitae sit incorruptibilis, tru.nen 16 S. T. la, 75, 6 ad. 1.

corpus, quod recepit vitam ab anima, est subiectum transmutationis. Et per hoc 17 Cf. Ibid., la, 45, 5; S. C. G. II, 87.
recedit a dispositione per quam est aptum ad recipiendum vitam; et sic incidit 18 Q. Quodlibetales. 10, q. 3, a. 2, ad. 1.
corruptione hominis." 19 S. T., 13, 75, 5, resp.: "Dicendum quod anima non habet materiam. Et hoc
, S. T., 1a 2ae, 85, 5. potest considerari dupliciter. Primo quidem, ex ratione animae in communi. Est
6 Ibid., la 2ae, 86, 6, obj. 1, 2. enirn de ratione animae sit fonna alicujus corporis. Aut igitur est forma
7 Ibid., 1a 2ae, 86, 6, resp.: "quamvis omnis fonna intendat perpetuum esse, secundum se totam aut secundum aliquam partem sui. Si secundum se totam,
quantum potest, nulla tamen fonna rei corruptibilis potest assequi impossibile est quod pars ejus sit materia, si dicatur materia aUquod ens in
perpetuitatem sui, praeter animam rationalem, eo quod ipsa non est subjecta potentia tantum. Quia fonna, inquantum forma, est actus. Id autem quod est in
omnino materiae corporali sicut aliae fonnae; quinirrnno habet propriam potentia tantum non potest esse pars actus, cum potentia repugnet actui, utpote
operationem immaterialem, ut in Primo habitum est. Unde ex parte suae fonnae contra actwn divisa. Si autero sit fonna secundum aliquam partem sui, illam
naturalior est homini incorruptio quam aliis rebus corruptibilibus. Sed quia et partern dicemus esse animam, et ilIanl rnateriam cujus primo est actus dicemus
ipsa habet materiam ex contrariis compositam, ex inclinatione materiae sequitur esse primwn animatum."
corruptibilitas in toto. Et secundum hoc homo est naturaliter corruptibilis 20 Cf. S. C. G., II, 55, n. 13.
secundum naturam materiae sibi relictae, sed non secundum naturam fonnae." 21 Reference is also made to the incorruptibility of the heavenly bodies in
8 Loc cit. Aquinasarguments in the Summa theologiae (la, 75, 6). T. Suttor points out
170 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems ofImmortality 171

the theological interest of the theory which he describes as "quaint": ~tter and no~ est ex .natura ani~e, sed per accidens hoc convenit ei ex eo quod corpori
incorruptibility cannot be takeo as incompatible since the resurrection ~f the alhgatur, SICut PlatonIcl posuerunt, de facili quaestio solvi posset. Nam remota
body after which the body will have to live forever does not pemut the impedimento corporis, rediret anima ad suam naturam ut inteIligeret
assertion of such incompatibility. intelligibilia simpliciter, Don convertendo se ad phantasmata 'sieut est de aliis
22 Confessions, XI. sub~tantii~ separ~tis..Se~ secu.ndwn hoc, non esset anima cori>ori wlita propter
23 S. C. G., II, 83, 4 mehus arumae, SI ~eJus tntelhgeret corpori Wlita quam separata; sed hoc esset
24 Ibid., 83, 3. , solum propter mehus corporis: quod est irrationabile, cum materia sit propter
25 Ibid., 83, 9 19. The argument from motion is the mai~ thrust of Pl~to. s formam, et non e converso."
proof of immortality in the Phaedrns (245C - 246A find) ~Icero employs It m 39 A. C. Pegis, "The Separated Soul and its Nature in St. Thomas," in St.
the Somnium Scipionis, and became well known tn the Middle Ages through Tho,!,as AqUinas (12741974): Commemorative Studies (Toronto: Pontifical
Macrobius' commentruy on the work of Cicero. J:,'stltute of~ediaeval Studies, 1974), vol. 1, p. 137.
26 Alexander of Hales, Questiones, 1, 32,28, 26 ~ 27 .F.or Pegls, the change of doctrine about the separated soul has a very
27 Cf. S. T., la, 47,1,2. deCIsive consequence. He draws this consequence from his conviction that the
28 S.C. G., 68, 12. change is defmite: "The introduction of the intellectual nature of the Soul as
29 Cf. De spirt. creal., 2, ad 5: "Anima, cum sit pars humanae naturae, non the essential factor in dealing with the way in which the soul knows is a
habet perfectionem suae naturae nisi in unione ad corpus," .De unilate de~isive chan~e in St. Thomas' .attitude towards he separated souL" p. 137.
intellectus. p. 333 b (In ed. Marietti): "Concedimus autem quod anIma h:mrnna This lea,ds PegI~ to s~ggest dates tn the works of Aquinas taking accoWlt of this
a corpore separata non habet ultimam perfecti~nem suae na~ae, cum. SIt pars change m dO"?,,,e WIth ';he belief that it is not likely that Aquinas goes back to
naturae humane; nulla enim pars habet ommmodam perfectionem, SI a toto the. old doctrine after hIS change of attitude. He thus argues against all the
separetur.": S. T., la, 90, 4c: "Anima autem, cum sit pars humanae naturae, datmgs that ,:"ould make ",:,y of the work in which Aquinas holds the pre-
non habet naturalem perfectionem, nisi secundum quod est coropori unita." ;}'istotehan vIew to be later m writing. Cf. esp., pp. 150 _ 158.
30 Cf. Exp.super librum Boethii de Tinitate, 1, I, ad. 4: "In nobis autem lumen S. C. G., 81, 12.
hujusmodi est obumbratum per conjunctionem ad corpus et ad vires corpor~as, 42 .Ib~d., .81. 12: 'V~?e et, quando totaliter erit a corpore separata, perfecte
et ex hoc impeditur, ut non possit libere veritatem etiam naturahter ~slmIl~bltur substant~ls separatis quantum ad modum intelligendi, et abunde
cognoscibilem inspicere"; III, I, c: "Quaedam vero divinorum sunt, ad q?~e tnfiuentlam eorum reclpiet."
plene cognoscenda nullatenus ratio hwnana sufficit, sed eorum plena COgnltlO 43 S. T., la, 89, 1. obj. 2, 3,
exspectatur in futura vita, ubi erit plena beatitudo." 44 Ibid. 89, 1, resp.: "Unde modus intelligendi per conversionem ad
31 S, T .. , la, 12, 11, c: "Ab homine puro Deus videri non potest nisi ab hac vita phantasmata est animae naturalis, sicut et corpori uniri: sed esse separatum a
mortali separetur." corpore. est praeter rationem suae naturae, et similiter intelligere sine
32 Cf. S. C. G. 79, 3: "Perficitur enim anima scientia et virtute... " converSlOne ad phantasmata est ei praeter naturam. Et idoe ad hoc unitur
33 J. Mundhenk, Die Seele in System des Thomas von Aquin (Hamburg: Felix corpori, ut sit et operetur secWldum naturam suam."
Meiner, 1980), p. 128. " Ibid, 89, 1. resp.: ''Et ideo ad hanc difficultatem tollendam considerandum
34 Sent. I, d. 8., q. 5,2 ad 6: "In anima non est aliquid quo ipsa individuetur." est. quo.d, cum .nihil ,operetur nisi inquantum est aetu, ~odus operandi
3S L. Elders, The Philosophy ofNature ofSt. Thomas Aquinas, p. 143 lUl1USCuJusque rei sequitur modum essendi ipsius. Habet autem anima alium
l6 See J. Mundhenk, op. cit., pp. 126 - 127 modum essendi ~um unitur corpori, et cum fuerit a corpore separata, manente
37 A text that presents the problem very well is the following: "si anima potest tamen .eadem ammae natura; non ita quod uniri corpori sit ei accidentale, sed
a corpore separari, oportet quod sit aliqua operatio eius sin~ corp~re, 00' quod per rationem suae naturae corpori unitur; . . . Animae igitur secWldum illum
nulla substantia est otiosa. Sed nulla operatio potest esse anlmae sme corpore, modum ~ssendi quo corpori est unita, competit modus intelligendi per
neque etiam intelligere, de quo magis videtur; quia non est intelligere sine conversatlOnem ~d phantasmata corpororum, quae in corporeis organis sunt:
phantasmate, ut Philosophus dicit: phantasma autem non est sine corpore. Ergo cum aute.m fuent a corpore separata, competit ei modus intelligendi per
anima non potest separari a corpore, sed corrumpitur corrupto corpore." conversatlonem ad ea quae sunt intelligibilia simpliciter sicut et aliis
38 ST., la, 89, 1, resp.: "Dicendum quod ista quaestio difficultatem habet ex substantiis separatis." ,
hoc quod anima, quamdiu est corpori conjuncta, non potest aliquid intelligere 46 Lo 't "M .,
C. Cl .: anllestum est autem inter substantias intellectuaies secundum
nisi convertendo se ad phantasmata, ut per experimentum patet, Si autem hoc naturae ordinem, infirmas esse animas humanas. Hoc autem perfec~io Wliversi
172 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Some Problems 0/ Immortality 173

exigebat, ut diversi gradus in rebus essent. Si i~tur an~e hum~.e sic ess~t felicitatem consequi nisi anima iterato carpori conhmgatur: praesrtim cum
institutae a Deo ut intelligerent per modum qUI competit SubStantIlS separatls, ostensum sit ... quod in hac vita homo non potest ad felicitatem ultimam
non haberet cognitionem perfectam, sed confusam in conununi. Ad hoc er~o pervenire."
quod perfectam et propriam cognitionem de rebus h~bere p.os~ent, SIC "S6 A. C. Pegis, "Between Immortality and Death" '
p. 8
naturaliter sunt intitutae ut corporibus uniantur, et SIC ab IPSIS rebus M. Brown, The Romance 0/Reason, pp. 79 ~ 80
sensibitibus propriam de eis cognitionem accipiant; sicut homines rudes ad 57 S. T., 1a 2ae 85, 6 resp.: "corpus humanum est materia electa a natura
scientiam induci non possunt nisi per sensibilia exempla. Sic ergo p~tet quod quan~. ad hoc quod est ..temperatae complexionis .... Sed quod sit
propter melius animae est ut corpori uniatur, et intelligat per convers.ation~ a~ co~ptIbtle, hoc est ex conditione materiae. Nee est e1ectum a natura; quin
phantasmata; et tamen esse potest separata, et alium modum mtelhgendl PsotlUS natura eligeret materiam incorruptibiIem, si posset."
habere." H A. C. Pegis, "Between Immortality and Death" ' p. 13 .
47 Cf. Ibid., 89, 2 - 4. R. Reyna, "On the Soul: A Philosophical Exploration of the Active Intellect
48 Ibid., 89, 2, ad. 3: " ... in cognitione substantiarwn. sep~atum. non in Averroes, Aristotle, and Aquinas," The Thomist 36 (1972), p. 145.
quanuncumque, consistit ultima hominis felicitas, sed sohus Del, qUi non 60 H. ~ G., Gadamer, "Die UnsterbIickkeitsbeweise in Platos Phaidon," in
potest videri nisi per gratiam." . . . " ~esammelte Werke (TObingin: J. C. B. Mohr), v. 6, 1985, p. 187.
49 This is the position that A. C. Pegis defends m hiS article The S.epara~ed D. A. Rees, "Platonism and the Platonic Tradition," in Encyclopaedia of
Soul and its Nature.... " Pegis believes that in this question we are W1tnessmg ;hilosophy, P. Edwards, ed. (London 1967), vol 6, p. 334.
with a major change in position about an important. is~ue (151),. and that 2 Phaedo,67e
consequently St. Thomas having arrived at the naturalIst Interpretation of the OJ S. T., la, 12, 11.

separated so~l, he could not have gone back in works like ~~ Qu'!'!libet, said ~ Ibid., la, 75, a 2 ad 2: "Potest igitur dici quod anima intelligit, sicut oculus
to be written after part one of the Summa theologiae. Pegts position IS very Vldet; sed magis proprie dicitur quod homo intelligit per animam "
much supported by the improbability of Aquinas returning to the old doctrine, "Ibid,la,81,2ad2.. .
but it may wen be that Aquinas does not see the change as senously as Pegls 66 That is, the view that is presented in the S. C. GIl, 81, Commentary on the
sees it and the presence of the two modes of explaining the soul in separation Sentences, ill, d, 5, q. 3, a 2; De veritate' 19 and Quodlibet III , q 9 , a I
which 'we have alluded to may have nudged him. even as a slip to put again the S. T., la, 75, 3, ad. 1: "Unde manus potest dici ,,hoc aliquid" primo modo
position of the Contra gentiles in the Quodlibet. sed non .s~cundo I?o~o. Sic igitur, cum anima humana sit pars speciei humanae,
so S. C. G. IV, 79, 4. p.otest. dlCl hoc abqwd promo modo, quasi subsistens; sed non secundo modo,
51 S.T. 3a, 56, 1.
" S. C. G. IV, 79, 10 : "Ostendum est enim in Secundo (c.79) animas
:ic emm co~positum ex anima et corpore elicitur "hoc aliquie."
See for mstance F. C. Copleston, Aquinas, p. 160; F. D. Wilhelmsen, "A
hominum immortales esse. Remanent igitur post corpora. a corporibus note on Contranes ad the Incorruptibility of the Human Soul in St. Thomas" p
absolutae. Manifestum est etiam ex his quae in Secunda (cc. 83, 68) dicta s~t, n~ , .
quod anima COlpori naturaliter uniter: est ~im secundum suam essentl.~ 69 As we have already mentioned above, we are using Platonism in the very
corporis forma. Est igitur contra naturam antmae absque corpore esse. Nih~l broad sense an~ w,e are not gOin,g into the details it s influences on Aquinas.
autem quod est contra naturam, potest esse perpetuum, Non igitur perp~~o ent M.uch of PlatoDlc mfluence on him came through Augustine, who was till the
anima absque corpore. Cum igitur perpetuo maneat, oportet eam carpon I~erato thlrt,eenth century and much beyond the most influential theologian of
caniungi: quod est resurgere. Immortalitas igitur animarum exigere vldetur Chnstendom. Concerning his influence on Aquinas M.-D. Chenu wirtes'
resurrectionem corporum futuram." "1'evolution du climat realiste de la doctrine augustinienne doit nous mettre e~
" I ad Corinthios, 15 L 2. . garde contre la maladressed de qui, commentant saint Thomas n'observerait
54 S.C.G., IV, 79, 11 "Ostensum est supra, ... naturale hominis desiderium ad pas , ~e tre~ pres,. dans la Somme, cette acceptation integral; de 1'homme
fe1icitatem tendere. Felicitas autem ultima est felicis perfectio. Cuicumque chretien d ,A~gustm, sous pretexte d' etre fid61e a la plus aristotelicienne
igitur deest aliquid ad perfectionem, nond~ habet felicitate~ pe~ectam quia analyse theonque de la na~ humaine." Introduction a['etude de saint
nondum eius desiderium totaliter qUletatur: omne emm Imperfectum Thomas dAquin (paris: J. Vrin, 1950), p. 272.
perfectionem consequi naturaliter cupit. Anima autem a corpor~ separata. est
aliquo modo imperfecta, sicut omnis pars extra suum totum eXlstens: anona
enim naturaliter est pars humanae naturae. Non igitur potest homo ultimam
Chapter 5



5.1 Reappraisal of the Arguments for Immortality

Most of the issues discussed in Chapter 4 are problems that can

bedevil the project of demonstrating immortality from a philosophical
standpoint alone. It is difficult, if not impossible, to understand the
inevitable presence of death if the soul is immortal and has by nature
the closest union with the body. Animal souls may not be mortal if one
follows strictly the implications of some of the arguments without
necessarily giving concession to the hwnan soul at the sight of every
difficulty. The state of the separated soul creates a huge problem from
the background of Aquinas' acceptance of Aristotelian philosophy. Our
attention here will concentrate more on the imports of the arguments
themselves, some criticisms of the project of proving immortality,
subsequent development on the question, and the general implication of
the whole question for philosophy, its nature, scope and limit.
Before then however, it is necessary to note that in arguing for
immortality, and resolving some problems that are concomitant with it,
Aquinas arrives at some conclusions which, if not revolutionary, would
at least be startling to the ntinds ofhis time. It has been said already that
in arguing for immortality, he inserts himself in the tradition that
became particularly strong in the thirteenth century. He takes all his
arguments from his predecessors, and does not show any inventiveness
176 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas AqUinas. Immortality and the Scope 0/Philosophy 177

so long as the demonstrations themselves are concerned. What marks course be extended even to the point of resurrection, which Aquinas
him out is an Aristotelianism which, though not completely pure, goes connects ingenuously with immortality, but doing so would be putting
far beyond what most thinkers of his time could subscribe to. Still, he too much thought in the minds of several thinkers who use the
retains a mainly Platonic conception of the soul in viewing it as self- argument.
subsistent and immortal, while attempting to explain its natural It must be said however that the discomfort about the status of the
operations purely in terms of the philosophy of Aristotle. That is why soul as separated substance in a system, the major inspiration of which
Owens describes him as attempting to have the best of two worlds, and is Aristotle, is not completely laid to rest. We have mentioned that
why his attempt can also be described as a mediation betwee.n thomistic scholars very often apply the parenthetical term incomplete
Platonism and Aristotelianism. How far he succeeds in tltis attempt IS substance to describe its state of being outside the body. 3 This
very debatable. He follows to its ultimate conclusion the naturalistic description would have no problem in so far as the soul is thought of
philosophy of Aristotle in explaining the relationship of the soul and the with reference to the composite, man, and a part is always incomplete
body, where the two are so united as to have one existence,' and where with r~ference to the whole wherein it is a part. It is nevertheless
the soul is so conditioned by tltis union that it must derive all its important to ask in what sense the separated soul is a part, and in what
knowledge, its perfection, through the senses. It is remarkable however sense it is incomplete. In the Summo thea/agioe, Aquinas uses the
that the issues about which Aquinas adopts unmitigated Aristotelianism human hand that is separate from the body as an example of the way in
are those that do not have a direct bearing on the question of which the soul is a part. But apparently, subsequent descriptions of the
immortality. When he argues for subsistence, however, supported by the soul make the example of the hand appear somewhat unsuitable. The
conviction that the rational soul is the source oflife of the composite, he hand that is sliced off from the body is a substance only in the sense that
appears to make a clean slide from Aristotle to Plato. for some time, it can be separate; an entity apart from the body, and not
The move to Platonism is preparations in view of the subsequent inhering in anytlting else. Such existence is no doubt very much akin to
affirmation of the survival and immortality of the soul independent of the existence of the human body that has lost its form, its soul, which is
the body. The soul that survives is in one respect very much like that often used to show that it is the soul which, as form, is responsible for
Platonic soul which has escaped from its prison. But in another respect, the existence of the body. The body begins to disintegrate in such
Aquinas makes a big concession to the naturalism of his Aristotelian "formless" existence, and is, strictly speaking no longer the human
inspiration by affrrming that the soul derives its natural fulfilment from body. It is the same with the hand that is no longer joined to its body.
the body. Even though one can quite rightly say that the mediation he Only in a qualified sense can it still be called the human hand, and if it
seeks between Plato and Aristotle does not succeed in completely can be said to be subsistent, the word can be used in a reductive sense
reconciling the two, he is well ahead of the thinking of his time by only. Not so with the rational soul, which not only can exist, since it has
insisting unequivocally that the soul that is independent of the body is life intrinsically, but can also carry out its perfecting activity,
somewhat like a square peg in a round hole. It means in fact that the irrespective of the difference between tltis activity and the one it carries
soul that has left its body, even with the Christian belief in after-death out when in union with the body. On tltis G. F. Kreyche says, "to say
bliss in paradise, is not yet at its resting state, and the natural yearning that the soul subsists although incomplete in its specific nature and to
for the body still remains with it. Of course, there is the question of God say that the hand subsists although incomplete in its own nature is to say
providing the vision of his presence to the blessed ones, but even that something very different. ,,4 If therefore a substance is understood in the
does not assuage the yearning for union since tltis is part of the soul's Aristotelian sense of that which, unlike the accident, can exist on its
mode of being. While his position is completely different from the own, without needing to inhere in something else, it must be said that
general tltinking in his time, it also logically does away with such the soul, separated from the body, is a substance. From tltis perspective,
arguments for immortality as those based on the immediate reward after it would seem that with some attenuation which is a testimony to his
death for good work which was not or could not be rewarded here on genius, Aquinas' position on the status of the soul is not, strictly
earth: an argument which Aquinas himself also employs in his speaking, different from that of his immediate predecessors who
demonstration of immortality. The point such an argument makes can of expressly designate the soul as a substance, and use that as a basis to
178 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope ofPhilosophy 179

argue for its immortality. We have seen that the tenn incomplete when William of Auvergue writes that even vice, which can be said to
substance is often used in such a way as to suggest a sort of be the disease of the rational soul, does not lead to its demise, but that
intennediate existence between complete substance and accident. S The vicious inclinations of souls are even strengthened the more they are
soul's seeking for union with the body in separation, and for return to its steeped in vice. This for William shows that the soul does not die,
natural habitat (which is very often cited as an indication of its otherwise its life would have been reduced by vice which is like ill
incompleteness as a substance) may not be much different from the health in the rational soul. With Albert, there is a marked discernment,
quest in a finite being for something else. This quest, which is which consigns some proof to mere signs, and others to probable
actualized by drive in different directions of existence, is more of an arguments. His handling of the question may have also been helped by
expression of finitude, and does not indicate that finite beings are La Rochelle's grouping of proofs into rationes propriae and rationes
incomplete substances. commune in the question of immortality, and by Alexander of Hales
To Aquinas, the question of what type of immortality applies to the who completely, and for the first thne, rejects an argument which some
soul is also a very important matter. Its importance is not only seen authors use in favour of immortality. It must be conceded that in this
from his slim treatise against the proponents of the unicity of the respect, Aquinas does not seem to have in any clear way risen to the
intellect, but throughout the course of his discussion of immortality, the challenge set by some of his immediate predecessors.
significance of the matter to his project comes out clearly either in the However, the issue of neglecting important weighing of the
text on immortality itself or in the placement of the discussions on the argument by his predecessors should not be overemphasized. An aspect
question of the unicity of the human intellect.' His basic position is that of Aquinas' argument for immortality that has not been adverted to is
the right interpretation of Aristotle would lead to the support of the motive for his selection of arguments. Though there is no single
personal immortality, even though it is generally accepted that Aristotle argument for immortality that is not traceable to his immediate
nowhere subscribes openly to this theory. All chronologies of the work predecessors, it is easy to neglect that he does not make use of all the
of Aquinas show that this concern is quite early in his thought, starting arguments that are available in the sources present to him. Two
as far back as his commentary on the Books of Sentences. It points to examples are enough to prove this point. First, there is the argument
the commencement of a fresh understanding of the work of Averroes in from the creation of man in the image of God (imago dei). The
the thirteenth century, and another direction in the whole issue of argument is generally presented in the fonn of the affirmation that man
immortality. Before Thomas, there was hardly any attempt (except is made in the image of God, and this would be false if indeed man were
perhaps in st. Albert's De unitate) to reflect on what type of immortality to be mortal. It is found almost everywhere in the long tradition of
was acceptable to their project. It must be noted however that hardly discussions on immortality among Christian writers beginning from the
any of the earlier authors of the century who wrote on immortality patristic period. Cassiodorus, Hughes of St. Victor, Aicher of
understood the consequence of the so-called collective immortality, and Clairvaux, William of Auvergue, Alexander of Hales and Odo Rigaldus
would conceivably have rejected it if it ever became a point of etc mention it. Thomas, on the other hand, makes just one obvious
contention. reference to it in a sed contra in the De anima. The preponderance of
We also said earlier that Aquinas believed in the cumulative effect of the argument in the. thirteenth century makes it very unlikely that he is
the many arguments which he marshalled for immortality to achieve unaware of its presence. Again the part that the doctrine of man as the
convincing effect, notwithstanding that this can be said more image of God plays in his thought on man is very well known" Why
specifically of the Contra gentiles, due to the circumstances then does he not make any serious use of it? One possible reason is that
surrounding the origin of the work. The method of enumeration is what Aquinas intended to prove immortality from the philosophical
most authors before st. Albert followed. It consists in simply calling to standpoint alone. As Copleston says, he is very strongly convinced that
witness all sorts of possible evidence in support of immortality, with the the power of reason can lead to an acceptable demonstration of the
apparent conviction that, taken separately, these pointers to the teaching. to Given that the ultimate support of the imago dei argument is
rationality of the doctrine may not possess enough convincing power. a direct reference to the passage on creation in the Genesis, it is
Very often absurd statements are made in this regard, for example, reasonable to suppose that this argument does not fit very well into the
180 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope ofPhilosophy 181

project of demonstrating immortality without recourse to religious the idea of the order of being. Furthermore, Aquinas in many sections of
dogmas. Still, he is not averse to proclaiming the concordance of the his work dwells on the doctrine of the universal order of being. lo Why
doctrine of immortality to the Christian faith. There are, of course, other then does he not use the idea as an argument for immortality? Barring
arguments which have no stronger foundation than the one under any ctear rejection of the argument in Aquinas' works, one can only
consideration - the argument from contemplation as the ultimate end of infer the reason from a reading of his major arguments. A general
the rational soul for instance - but it is remarkable that the authority survey of the arguments that Aquinas uses shows clearly that they are
behind contemplation is Aristotle, and not the Holy Scripture. all either derived directly from the phenomenon of knowledge in the
Another argument whose absence is spectacular in Aquinas is the rational soul or they refer back to the same phenomenon. This practice
one from the order of being. Like the imago dei argument, this too has is maintained whether he uses the presence of contraries, or the desire
had a long history. The idea of the golden chain of being is traceable to for immortality, or the question of universals, abstraction or the process
Homer's Iliad, to Macrobius' s Commentary on the Somnium of knowledge itself. It is noticeable that the argument from the order of
Scipionis," and down to Isaac of Stella" who seems to have called the being is not one that can ill any direct way be hinged back to the issue
attention of the later scholastics to the chain as providing a structure of knowledge in man. The impossibility of a direct link to knowledge
that guarantees the flow of being from the highest member of the order could be a possible reason why it is deemed unsuitable as a major
(God himself) to the lowest creature. It is not certain when the golden argument for immortality. It does not say all however, because, given
chain began to be used as an argument for immortality. Gundissalinus what we have described as his method of basing the convincing power
makes use of it in the De immortalitate animae. It is however most of his arguments on their cumulative effect, the arguments could in fact
priced by Philip the Chancellor and Albert the Great in the thirteenth be given even a subsidiary place without any obvious harm to his
century. Philip traces the idea of the golden chain of being to project. Viewed from this perspective, it could be that having
Pythagoras, and basing it on the use of the argument by Gundissalinus accidentally omitted the argumerit in his earlier works, he does not go
goes on to draw many corollaries from it in defence of immortality. The back to search for more proofs from his predecessors. Be that as it may,
fundamental idea behind the employment of the aurea catena as proof the absence of such a proof, and the secondary position given to
of immortality is that there exists .in nature an order of gradation in otherwise age-old ones like that from the imago dei point to some
being, in which the members of the different levels are linked with one selections or unexpressed grading of the arguments. There is nowhere in
another, and like nature which abhors a vacuum, permits no gap his works where Aquinas expresses dissatisfaction with any argument
between the different levels of the universal order. Man as a spiritual for immortality. However, a closer reading points to the direction that
and corporeal being is well placed to link the material and the spiritual he does not consider all of them to be equally acceptable and
levels of this order of being. Ifhe is to serve this purpose efficiently, he convincing.
must possess important characteristics of the two major divisions: Given that Aquinas is convinced that immortality could be
material and spiritual. His body is corruptible, like all material beings, demonstrated by reason alone, it is important to ask whether the
and his soul must therefore be incorruptible to speak for the spiritual arguments he puts forward do in fact prove that the .human soul is
side of the order. The idea of a universal chain of being is one of the immortal. The answer to this question must in some way remain
mainstays of Philip's arguments for immortality. \3 In Albert the Great, it subjective, depending on what standard of proof that is required, and
is the foundation of the three different proofs that he calls rationes whether one is ready to accept some of the major premises on which
probabiles .14 subsistence and incorruptibility of the soul are based. We have in the
Philip the Chancellor is one of the most influential thinkers of the course of the previous chapters referred to commentators, some of
early part of the thirteenth century. His literary and doctrinal influence whom are very critical, and others who are less so. It may be claiming
has been noted by scholars, especially with the publication of the too much to say, as St. Hilaire does that "we nearly all accept his
edition of his Summa de bono. IS Albert's influence on Aquinas his arguments,,,11 while Wilhelmsen's effort to show that the existence of
student is also very well known. Given these circumstances, it is very "either-or" situations in the mind argues for its lack of contrary and
unlikely that Thomas is imaware of the arguments for immortality from implicitly for its immortality is very tenuous.18 Pegis' position may be
182 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope ofPhilosophy 183

more defensible, for, according to him, "the philosophy created by St. the authority of God himself, he was directly implying that
Thomas could not possibly exist anywhere but on Christian soil, and ... philosophical demonstrations lack the effect found in those proofs he
could not live but in the mind of a theologian."' But even the terms theological. Alexander of Hales' rejection of the argument from
theologian must resolve the choice which Culhnann poses between the conception of the soul as the source of life seems to introduce a
resurrection and inunortality, and his conclusion that "the teaching of more critical look into the logic of the arguments, a perception that also
the great philosophers Socrates and Plato can in no way be brought into carries with it the possibility of rejecting at least some of them. And
consonance with that of the New Testament."' For Culhnann, the when Albert the Great grouped the arguments into signs of inunortality,
emphasis on inunortality is only one of the trappings of Hellenism, and probable and necessary arguments for inunortality, he seemed to have
the specific Christian hope is for the resurrection, not just of body, but taken to a more developed level an innovation that is incipient in Hales.
also of the whole man. There is no doubt that, taken separately, most of These would appear to have prepared the ground for the complete
the arguments for immortality are tlunconvincing," as Kenny says.21 rejection of the arguments as found in later authors. It must be noted
However, there are others, which may not be very much so if the however that such writers as, William of Ockbam, Dons Scotus, Pietro
premises that are there points of departure are accepted. Most of such Pomponazzi and the later Cajetan never doubted whether the soul is
premises are interconnected, like the hypostatization of knowledge, the mortal. What unites them is the refusal to make it a doctrine that is
sense in which universals are infinite, and the question of giving special sustainable purely from the point of view of philosophy. A sununary of
status to the soul as form based again on these premises. We have the positions of three of these thinkers will illustrate this point of view
indicated that these premises, which Aquinas clearly takes for granted in adequately.
the course of his arguments about the soul and its inunortality, are not John Duns Scotus (1270 - 1308) is no doubt one of the greatest
without serious problems, and any weighing of the convincing power of thinkers of the later Franciscan School. He was only a few decades
the arguments for immortality must take full account of the problems. removed from being an inunediate contemporary of Thomas Aquinas.
Nevertheless, we are to argue presently that the philosophical import of While the zeitgeist within which the two scholastics lived and worked is
the effort to prove inunortality by Aquinas and thinkers of his ilk cannot more or less the same, their positions on the question of demonstrating
be sununarlzed by the judgement of the convincing powers of these immortality are poles apart. Scotus, unlike Aquinas, does not consign
arguments. the distinctions or grading of the arguments for inunortality to neglect,
but, like Aquinas, he groups all together as probable arguments in an
5.2 Some Critics of Aquinas: Scolus, Pomponazzi and Cajelan implicit scale which hypothetically contains other levels. Thus for
Scotus, there are reasons to think that the soul is immortal. But the fact
Many followers of Aquinas in the philosophic tradition do not accept of its inunortality is not demonstrable. For Scotus, the attempt to prove
the premises on which the arguments are founded, and consequently, inunortality by rational arguments is bedevilled by a multiplicity of
cannot accept the arguments themselves. The rejection of the project of factors. The very conception of being, the question of creation and even
proving inunortality started ahnost unwittingly well before the time of the authority of philosophers do not provide any comfortable ground
Aquinas. The increased effort to demonstrate the truth of the doctrine, from which to argue for inunortality.
which is a consequence of philosophical awakening of the century, did On the authority of philosophers, especially Aristotle, on which
not last long before doubts or aspersions started being directed either at Aquinas relies so much, and in reference to which he wrote his De
the project as a whole or at the arguments used in the demonstration. It unitate against Averroes, Scotus seeks to find out exactly what we can
would in fact be a superficial reading of the history of the question of learn from his philosophy about inunortality. In his view, Aristotle
immortality in the later Middle Ages to think that it is only with John speaks differently in different places, and one finds in him principles,
Duns Scotus, as though out of the blue, that doubts started being raised which are supportive of inunortality, and others beside these which are
about the project of proving inunortality from the point of view of squarely against it. If therefore philosophers have outlined arguments
philosophy. When William of Auvergne asserted that theologically for immortality, it is not for that reason that the soul should be taken to
arguments for immortality are more convincing based, as they are, on be inunortal, and if they have, on the contrary, tried to show that the
184 The Philosophical Significance o/ImmortaUty in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas. Immortality and the Scope ofPhilosophy 185

soul is mortal, it does not also imply that they have proved this by their body. For the Franciscan, there is no special act of being by which an
arguments. It is not possible to demonstrate that the soul is immortal; essence would be constituted into a being (an entity). In his view, the
what can be shown is that it is possible that the soul is immortal. The primary reference of being is to the real substance distinct from its
authority of philosophers does not therefore lead to any measure of cause and outside its mental conception. Only in a secondary and
certainty because they do not always give rational demonstration of reductive sense can a part be called a being. It is not therefore possible
everything they regard as true. 22 They are more often than not satisfied that the soul would communicate its being to the body, since the being
with reasonable probability, when they are not altogether allied with the of both the soul and the body is not different from' the being of the
popular tenets of their philosophic forebears." composite. 2s
As regards the nature of the soul, Scotus believes that it should be Such a soul contains, for Scotus, indications, which can lead to the
melted into the same pot as the angels. If therefore it is not possible to affmnation of the possibility of immortality. Here he goes back to one
have several angels belonging to the same species (as indeed Aquinas of the basic principles by means of which Aquinas tries to prove both
holds), there should also be no defensible reason to think that diverse the spirituality and immortality of the soul, i.e. the fact of intellectual
souls should belong to the same species. Souls are pure forms, just as knowledge. It is clear to all that the human being can understand, and
angels are pure forms. With reference to Aquinas' position to the effect because it is on account of his form that man can carry out this activity
that the union with the body gives the soul its individuation, and an it constitutes a formal principle of the composite of his being. Human
inclination which makes it naturally bound to the body, Scotus objects beings everywhere know that they have the capacity to know and that
that it is not the inclination in a being that constitutes its nature. It is not this activity is one that does not require the use of any material organ,
because the soul has a certain inclination towards the body that it is this uulike all the operations of sensible knOWledge. Intellectual knowledge
or that soul, but because it is this or that soul that it is inclined towards is always about universals, and concerns the apprehension of the most
the body. Mere inclination cannot make a being a separate being or common principles of being. It is on account of this that the science of
entity. An inclination presupposes the being to which it inheres much metaphysics is possible, because the type of knowledge that the rational
like an accident, which belongs to a substance. being is capable of acqniring makes it possible for the science to have a
The foundation of Scotus' argumentations against the possibility of specific object. That human beings are capable of exercising the
demonstrating immortality is, as seen from above, his conception of operations involved in intellectual knowledge is because there is
being, which is also linked with his theory of creation. To say that the something in their nature which is capable of receiving such knowledge,
soul has its own life independent of the body would entail that it was and such a receptor cannot have in its nature anything associated with
created directly in itself and for itself. If therefore it can be corporeality. The receptacle of knowledge can either be the soul or the
demonstrated that the soul is immortal, one would be in a position to human being as a whole by means of its soul, and if this operation is
know that it can exist without the body, from where it can also be formative to man as rational being, it means that the rational soul must
concluded that it was created in itself, and not as form of the body. be the form of the human being. For Duns Scotus,it is very reasonable
However, it is not possible for a philosopher, uulike the Christian, to that the soul that is capable of such an operation should be immortal, or
imagine how God can create the soul as a being completely independent in fact that it is immortal. Nevertheless, one cannot prove this by force
of the composite. The point of divergence between the philosopher and of an argument from the point of view of philosophy. To support his
the Christian is that for the former, given that the soul is the act of the conclusion, Scotus reviews one of the arguments, which have been used
body, it cannot have been created apart, with a separate destiny and to defend immortality - the argument from the desire of everlasting
being, while for the latter, this is a real possibility. Scotus thus rejects being.
what we have called the Platonism of Aquinas, the foundation of which Our review of the argument from desire shows that, first, Aquinas
is the conception of an act of being which the soul can exercise on its seems to take it as a sign of immortality, at least in the Summa
own and which it can communicate to the body. If this idea of being thealagiae, and not as an indepehdent argument. Again, wherever he
were granted, then there would be nothing to prevent the soul from states the argument, he links it with knowledge of rational beings as
having a being that cannot be destroyed with the destruction of the such, distinguishing it from the desire of brutes for self-preservation,
186 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope of Philosophy 187

and the preservation of their own species." For Scotus, the desire for By the time Piettro Pomponazzi wrote, a hundred years later than
everlasting existence is not different from the inclination towards a Scotus, the highest point of scholasticism had been overtaken and the
particular act. This inclination is equivalent to the tendency for self- all too monop~listic co~centration on Aristotle had been tem~ered by
preservation which Aristotle hhnself attributes to all beings, e~dowed as the r~newed mterest m Platonism in Italian renaissance, marked
they are with natnral striving to remain in existence so far as .t d,:"ends especially by the work of Marcellio Ficino. Ficino's Platonism
on them. That this desire is not fulfilled is seen in the corruption of infl.ue~ced Pompo~ a great deal, but he can in no way be said to be
composites. In any case, there is no certainty that what living beings a d~s~.ple of Plato Wlthout strong qualification. In reality Pomponazzi's
desire is eternal existence as inunortal souls, or that what they actually pos.tion on the natnre of the soul is allied to that of Alexander of
desire is not to continue to exist as they are. Even if it is admitted that APID:0disias. The Aristotelianism of the thirteenth century was still
man has the natnral desire for inunortality, it is possible that he desires hol~mg sway, and the fame of St. Thomas was still recognized by all in
the impossible. Where the onus of proof lies is to prove first that man is the mtellectual world of the time. Even though Pomponazzi's treatise De
inunortal, and not whether he desires inunortality. immortalitate. animae is ,mainly a critical review of the position of St.
It is remarkable from the above that Scotus does not take account of on ~ortality, he shows deference to the Dominican, by
Aquinas' linking of the argument from desire with the ~owle~ge of asserting that his attempt to review Thomas' position comes not from
infinite or everlasting being, which seems necessary to d.stmgmsh the hi.s own certainty, but doubt, and expresses hope that his e~gagement
human desire from the desire of brute animals which are not immortal in Wlth the learned Thomas will reveal the truth to him. The circumstances
Aquinas' system. Again, Aquinas takes due account of the general sun:o.unding. the co~position of the treatise is a critique of Thomas'
tendency of forms to persist in being, and adds that it is on account of pos.tion on nnm~rtahty, which critique resulted in one ofPomponazzi's
the contrariety of composition that other forms perish, and that human students demanding a lectnre from him on immortality based on the
souls are spared that fate because they are themselves the ve'!' s.ource. of authority of reason and not of faith.' The problem of Pomponazzi is
their being and do not depend for their being on the compos.te m which therefore not whether the soul is immortal or not. This, for hhn, is
they are found. 21 It seems obvious from what we have seen that the ~learly s~ttled by the Holy Scriptnre and by faith, which support the
basis of these exceptions is not acceptable to Scotus, but because of the .mmort:,hty of the soul. The problem is whether philosophy or reason
failure to take account of these, he ranges the rational soui in the same can on .ts own demonstrate that the soul is inunortal.
category as brute souls. Referring to Aristotle's affIrmation that natnre Pomponazzi .hhnsel.f accepts the age-old view that man is of multiple
always desires what is better, he asserts that inunortality is better than n:'tiJres, occuPy?,g an mtermediate position, which makes it possible for
corruptibility, and consequently, man must desire the inunortality of the ~ to b~ cons.d~red as both mortal and immortal. The diffIculty for
soul. Even then, it does not follow that each particular soul must be thinkers .s ~o delmeate what these two qualities mean in man, i.e., in
inunortal for natnre can very well achieve its desire by according wh~t. sense .t ~ be said .that man is mortal or inunortal. The possible
inunortality to the species through the process of generation and ~os.tions, whic.h. he o~t1mes and attempts to weigh in his treatise,
corruption, which assures the perpetuity of the species, but not of the mclude ~e pos.tion attributed to Averroes, according to which there is
individual." In fact, for Scotus, the argument from the desire of being is ?n1y one nnmortal soul which all human beings share. Another position
not only ineffective in proving inunortality (omne. medium ex .s that of Plato who states that there are two souls in man - one mortal
desiderium naturali videtur inejjicax), it can also be srud to beg the m: d the other ~ortal. Pomponazzi rejects all such views, but he also
question at issue. Since the point in dispute is to prove inunortality, one reJ.ects the pos.ti?n of Thomas according to which the human soul is of
cannot go from the desire for it to its afftrmation. Hence the type of uruq~e ~tnre,. snnple and absolutely immortal. For Pomponazzi, no
incorruptibility that Scotus is ready to consider for rational souls on c~nvmcmg eVldence can support the absolute immortality of the soul.
philosophical grounds is the type that Aquinas accept~ for .b,:"te ~ouls Duns Scotus, he doubts that such a doctrine can be defended from
because of their inability to know being as such, which d.sttngmshes the teaching of Aristotle and that reason alone can defend immortality if
them from intellective souls. it does not call faith to witness.31
188 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope 0/ Philosophy 189

The position, which he vouches for, is the one attributed to example. It seems then that for Pomponazzi, the defining characteristic
Alexander of Aphrodisias, and which, according to Pomponazzi, is of all men is the endowment of the practical intellect, which everyone
more in accordance with the teaching of Aristotle. It states that the soul can attain, and not that of the speculative and technical intellect, which
has just one nature, is absolutely speaking mortal, and only in some is not always within their capability. The highest end of man must
respect, in some reductive sense is it inunortal. That the sonl should be therefore be defined in line with his most basic characteristic, which is
considered corruptible is supported clearly by the fact that it does not linked with the practical intellect. To foist the fulfilment of the
have any way of knowing without recourse to the senses.32 These speculative intellect (or technical intellect) as the ultimate aim of man is
characteristics distinguish it from the angels or pure intelligent beings, to imply that all men should strive to attain these aims, but it is neither
which are absolutely inunortal. But the soul is in a sort of via media necessary nor desirable that all men should strive to be philosophers or
between the spiritual and the material, and while it must depend on the engineers.34
senses for its activities, it is not like the souls of brute animals which Pomponazzi also reviews the theory that God would be unjust if he
have matter, the body, as their subject. In this sense, according to does not provide some reward for virtue and punishment for evil
Pomponazzi, it may be said to participate in some way in inunortality." committed on earth. From human experience, such rewards and
Even then, this position has no status of certainty; it is only a punishments are either not available, or even worse, the wicked are
probability, which is more defensible from the philosophical viewpoint rewarded and the just punished. Again, this argument, though found in
than other rival positions, and more than them is in accord with the Aquinas, is, like the foregoing, a very peripheral one. Pomponazzi's
teaching of Aristotle. answer to the objection is based on Plato's theory that the reward for
Pomponazzi takes on the argument drawn from Aristotle's statement virtue is found in virtue itself, and the punishment for vice is embedded
in the Ethics that contemplation is the highest end to which man can in the vicious act and state. There is therefore no grave consequence if it
aspire, and that this highest aspiration is unattainable without seems that vice is not met with appropriate punishment and virtue by
inunortality. In St. Thomas, it does not appear in any prominent way as reward, since these states contain their own reward or punishment.
a demonstration of immortality, and is seen only once in the texts we Pomponazzi adds another consideration, which seems to be more
have reviewed. Pomponazzi rejects the theory that the ultimate end of effective than the ethical theory of Plato. To act in expectation of
man lies in contemplation. This end should be sought in the practical reward is less noble and less virtuous than to act without an eye on any
reason with its perfection by moral virtue, which every human being can recompense for ones act. If therefore one were not externally rewarded
attain. He tries to support this position by recourse to the normal by one's virtuous act, it would appear that one even receives all the
experience of human beings. Man has three types of intellect: greater reward in the end. In the same way, the wicked, who seem to
speculative, practical and technical intellects. The first of these is the escape punishment are all the more punished because the inherent
exclusive preserve of only a few human beings; everybody shares the punishment in their acts is made more painful by their apparently going
second, while the third is attainable both by human beings and brutes. scot-free."
What should characterize human beings should neither be what they The reasoning of Pomponazzi here is remarkable in view of the
have in common with brutes, nor what only II few of their members can deep-seated belief that inunortality is a necessary postulate for the
attain, but that which all human beings and only human beings share. rationality of morality. It is a presupposition that is not only commonly
That this is so is seen to by the fact that human beings are called either believed among many religious people, but one, which finds strong
good or bad, not in reference to the tendency of their speculative or support among philosophers. For Kant, immortality will become a
technical intellect, but to the practical intellect, which is the subject of postulate of practical reason in order to make way for morality. Aquinas
vice and virtue which make people either good or bad. A good himself projects the question of morality as one of the reasons why he is
philosopher (speculative intellect) and a good engineer (technical angry with the followers of Averroes. 36 Pomponazzi takes the whole
intellect) may not necessarily be good men. That is why people would presupposition to task by insisting that those who have high moral
not mind so much if they were called bad philosophers or bad standards are attracted to virtuous act by the beauty of the act itself, and
engineers, but would feel differently if they were called unjust, for are repelled from vice because of the nature of vice not because of the
190 The Philosophical Significance oJImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope ofPhilosophy 191

fear of possible consequences that may follow the vicious act. Thus he Julius II in 1503, he refers to the contention that the soul cannot have in
rejects completely the view that morals can only be maintaioed with the its being the form of any of the things it is capable of knowing in order
presupposition of inunortaiity. His view seems, as Krysteller says, "far to show its independence from the material, and hence its inunortaiity.
superior to those contrary opinions that are often expressed and For the first Cajetan, the soul is like a judge who must not be
propagated even in our days, and that usually go unchallenged."" sympathetic to any of the positions that are presented before him ifhe is
The conclusion of Pomponazzi as regards the question of to judge properly. In the same way, the rational soul must not share the
inunortality is that the matter is neutral so long as philosophy is nature of the things it knows, but must be spiritual to know the way it
concerned. He does not however question the reality of inunortality. does. He also calls the presence of natural desire in man to the defence
hnmortality is a religious belief and must be admitted on the grounds of of inunortality.41 But for him, its power of demonstration depends on
faith alone. God himself has shovm beyond reasonable doubt in the the soul not being fixated on a mere wishful desire or unreal
Bible that the soul is inunortal, and this must be accepted as such as an imagination, but rather that the nature of the knOwing soul strives
article of faith. It follows that any attempt to prove the contrary must be towards the absolute. Such a desire would not be vain because natural
false and unacceptable. However, going on the strength of reason alone, striving is never in vain.
and in spite of the efforts of philosophers, there is no argument In his commentary on" Aristotle's De anima, he asserts that the
convincing enough to show that the soul is immortal. 38 position of Aristotle on the problem of immortality is not unequivocal,
Thomas de Vio Cajetan, the great commentator on St. Thomas and seeks to clarify what he intended to say about the issue, especially
Aquinas, concludes his philosophic life by affirming basically the same with reference to the famous passage of Aristotle in Book Three of the
position as his contemporary, Pomponazzi. But given his diametrically De anima. For him, that Aristotle supports immortality can be read from
opposed positions about the provability of immortality, we shall what he says at the begirming of the treatise to the effect that if indeed
distinguish the two periods of his life by naming them first and second the soul has some operation on its ovm independent of the body, it
Cajetan. The first Cajetan, the faithful defender of Thomas Aquinas' would also be able to exist without it." In the same way, he tries to
position, at times seems to go farther than his master in affirming, in a derive from the teaching of Aristotle principles and statements from
more Wlequivocal manner, positions, which Aquinas asserts with a which the immortality of the soul can be concluded. In the De anima, as
measure of nuance. An example of this is the nature of the soul, in well as in his commentary on Aquinas' Summa theologiae, he describes
union and in separation from the body. The soui for him is naturally the human soul as a forma media,43 a form that is endowed with such
united to the body as form, and this union is effected propter melius being that it is independent of matter, and can, at the same time, form a
because of the soul's special way of knowing by reverting to the composite with matter. The human soul is, as such, the lowest being in
phantasms. Even though the mode of knowledge by receiving species the ladder of spiritual beings, and as a result of this is subsistent, as
from separate, non-sensible being is superior in itself, it is not so to the distinct from material forms that are bound with the matter with which
soul because of its nature (est nobilius et melius simpliciter, sed non they are united.
animae). Such knowledge that is effectuated by a direct infusion of These teachings are all not more than the elaboration of Aquinas'
species from spiritual being is for him not against nature, but lies above views but the second Cajetan appears to revoke them in his last writing.
the nature of the soul. The inunortality of the soul is demonstrable and While the first Cajetan is ready to pour invectives on anyone who would
this truth is, to the first Cajetan, so clear that in obvious reference to describe the problem of inunortality as philosophically neutral, the
Pomponazzi's conclusion that inunortality is problema neulrum, he second clearly expresses doubt about the ability of reason to
poured invectives on anyone who is against the possibility of demonstrate that the soul is immortal. In the commentary on Paul's
demonstrating its truth." In keeping with such a diatribe, he goes on in letter to the Romans he states his conviction that one truth cannot be
his writings and commentaries to defend the immortality of the soul. against another truth, but still that he does not know how to unite
All the arguments he uses in defence of immortality are the usual divergent positions about matters such as the freedom of the will and
ones knovm to the scholastics, even though he employs different the providence of God, just as he is ignorant about the mystery of the
illustrations to make the same point. In a sermon delivered before Pope Trinity, the immortality of the soul and the incarnation of the word of
192 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas. Immortality and the Scope of Philosophy 193

God. Nevertheless, the faith of the second Cajetan in these doctrines surprisingly, means that there were not only thinkers who were willing
remains firm. 44 Again in the commentary on the Ecclesiastes, he refers not only to disparage the possibility ofphiiosophy proving immortality,
to the doubt expressed by the writer of the book about the truth of the but others who were ready to deny the fact of the matter itself. Still it
immortality of the soul. He adds that till now, no philosopher has been must be noted that through the changes in spirit occasioned by the
able to prove the immortality of the soul, that there is no effective passage of time, there still remained a host of serious philosophers for
demonstration for the doctrine, and that we must take it as true only on whom the immortality of the soul is demonstrable by unaided reason.
grounds of faith. The growing independence of philosophy as a science in the modern
Cajetan's expressed exasperation at his inability to reconcile the epoch was accompanied by the progressive strides in the physical
failure to prove immortality with his faith in the truth of the doctrine sciences and mathematics which had enormous influence on the
brings up the contentious issue of double truth, according to which a evolution of philosophy. With Euclid's geometry and Newton's physics
theory can be false in philosophy and true in respect of faith. The foisted on the consciousness of thinkers as the epitome of scientific
doctrine of double truth was supposed to have been held by the progress, the reaction of many philosophers was to replicate the type of
Averroists of the thirteenth century who are said to have arrived at progress realized in these fields in philosophy as well. While Hume
conclusions in conSOnance with Aristotle and the Commentator, while inveighed against metaphysics as a science in his book burning
also acknowledging the divergent stand of faith on the same issue. campaign,46 Kant wanted to review the whole fabric of speculative
Hence, they are said to have given rigorous and logical validity to philosophy in order to determine how far it was possible as a science.
Aristotelian arguments while at the same time conceding the last The effort to bring into philosophy the method and evident progress of
determination of the truth of the matter to the Christian faith. It has been the natural sciences is traceable in most major thinkers of the modern
shown that none of the thinkers of the thirteenth-century, not even Siger period. Descartes' quest for certainty led to his methodic doubt, while
of Brabant himself, held such a view that would be rightly described as the Ethics of Spinoza is a testimony to the effort to construct a
double truth. 45 The three thinkers we have seen in this section are clear philosophy loaded, as in geometry, with axioms, definitions and
in their position as to exclude any confusion in this regard. They all propositions.
assert the belief in immortality as true, but as a matter of fuith. They do Descartes seems to have initiated the quest for certainty with his
not share with Aquinas the conviction that right philosophy must lead to decision to put into doubt all the data of the senses because of their
the same conclusions as faith. Their position is more of an indication of latent possibility to deceive. In the end, he adopted a radical dualism of
the limit of philosophy. On the question ofimmortality, their conviction mind and matter, a dualism so strict that it becomes almost impossible
is that philosophy is not able, or has not been able so far, to demonstrate to see how the two can act together as one being. Even though
convincingly that the soul is immortal. Still if this is the case, it is also Descartes lived and worked within the shadows of scholastic
true that they do not try to show that philosophy proves the opposite to philosophy,'7 his dualism and anthropology speak more of Platonism
be true, that the soul is mortal. To do so would have confirmed them as than the hylemorphic relationship between soul and body, which was
holders of double truth. What they indicate is the limit of philosophy on the hallmark of scholastic anthropology. On the question of immortality,
the issue, while leaving free the actual determination of the matter as an Descartes was more concerned about the moral effect of the tenet that
article of faith. after this present life, we have no more to hope for than flies and ants.
Outside the denial of the existence of God, there is nothing more
5.3 Some Subsequent Trends in the Question of Immortality. susceptible to turn weak characters from the pursuit of virtue than such
teachings. In his view, an understanding of how different the other
The critical spirit towards the question of immortality of the soul in lower creatures are from us helps us to better appreciate the arguments
philosophy continued to grow with the passage of time. The renaissance that seek to prove that the soul is totally independent of the body and
movement, as well as the subsequent enlightenment, ensured a degree of does not perish when the body perishes. In addition, since outside the
independence of philosophical engagement from faith that one could destruction of the body, we are not able to find any other possible cause
hardly expect at the epoch in which Aquinas lived. This, not of its destruction, we must come to the conclusion that the soul is
194 The Philosophical Significance o/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquin~, Immortality and the Scope o/Philosophy 195

immortal.48 Other rationalists like Spinoza outlined a radically monistic The arguments from God's justice are, for him, grounded in the
philosophy in which the human being is but a mere mode in the attribute supposition that God has other attributes than the ones that we are able
of the infinite. Such metaphysics does not give any ground for to learn from this universe. Hume is of the view that if we are to judge
immortality, at least, not in the sense in which it is personal, and in by reason alone, the capacity of man is limited to the present life, and
which it encourages the quest for virtue sought by Descartes. the fear of the future in many people is a result of precepts and
Most empiricists adhere very strictly to Aristotle's and Thomas' view education artificially maintained to ensure a livelihood for those who
about the origin of knowledge, but they generally differ widely from teach them. 52 Concerning the question of reward and punisinnent, he
them as regards the extent and nature of thought, the nature of the soul, uses the principle of the chain of causality (even though he rejects the
and the statns of universal knowledge. While Berkeley defends principle in his own philosophy): if everything that happens must have a
traditional ideas about the nature of the soul and its immortality, Hume cause, and this line of causality goes on to the ultimate cause, it means
makes the most scathing critique of not only the arguments for that everything that happens is ordained by this cause, and cannot at the
immortality, but also the fact of immortality itself. Berkeley explains same time be the object of its punisinnent. If for the sake of the
that the natural immortality of the soul does not entail that it is argument we concede the reality of such reward and punisinnent, more
incapable of being annihilated even by the creator. Inunortality only difficulties will follow. The range of human merit is wide. For which of
means that the soul is not liable to be destroyed by the usual law of these merits should we expect perpetual reward? Our idea of rightful
nature. In his view, bodies are merely passive ideas in the mind, and are punisinnent is that it must have a proper end, and no end can in addition
so different from the nature of the mind as light is from darkness. be served by punisinnent "after the whole scene is closed." Again,
Berkeley does not spend many words in fashioning demonstrations for proportionality of punisinnent to the offence is in accordance with the
immortality. It suffices that he has shown that the soul is indivisible, human conception of punisinnent. If so, it is incomprehensible to erect
incorporeal and unextended to draw the conclusion that it is immortal. eternal punisinnent for temporary offence. 53
The usual experience of men bears witness to this conclusion, since The concentration of the above on moral arguments for immortality
nothing can be more evident than that motion, decay, dissolution and seems to be in consonance with the trend of the epoch in which much
similar changes for which bodies are known cannot affect a simple was made of the moral implication of the supposition of the mortality of
substance such as the soul, which must be immortal by virtue of its the soul. For Descartes as well as for Berkeley, a strong reason which
nature. 49 recommends the immortality of the soul, is its effect on morality or
Hume's essay "Of the Immortality of the Soul" follows the general virtue. From what we saw in Aquinas, the question of morality is in fact
sceptical slant of his philosophy in which the soul is regarded as an a peripheral consideration in the question of immortality. Hume's effort
aggregate of impressions. so He delineates the arguments for immortality is to bring the moral defence of immortality under the judgement of his
into three - the metaphysical, the moral and the physical - and tries to sceptical philosophy, taking as given the conclusions of this philosophy.
show that from none of these can the soul be demonstrated to be Thus, for him, the origin of our moral distinction is the human
immortal. On the metaphysical grounds, he asserts that experience is sentiment, and the main source of moral ideas is the consideration of the
our only source of knowledge about substance, and what experience benefit of human society, and such benefit cannot be so consequential
teaches us is that substance is "an aggregate of particular qualities that it should be safeguarded by eternal punisinnent.
inhering in an unknown something. ,,51 Matter and spirit consequently What Hume calls the physical arguments are indeed his argument for
remain fundamentally unknown to us, and we cannot, through abstract the mortality of the human soul. These are in his view the only
reasonlng, arrive at any conclusion about fact or experience. He further philosophical arguments, which merit our acceptance. Only a few of
avows that what is incorruptible must also be ungenerated, and if the these are worth recalling here. The first is the demonstration from the
soul is immortal, it must have existed at all times. If its existence before analogy from nature: when two things are so closely united that
this life does not concern us, there is no reason why its future existence whenever there is an alteration in one, there is also a proportionate
should be our concern. On the moral arguments for immortality, he alteration in the other, it is reasonable to conclude that when a greater
takes on the supposition of God's justice as the grounds of immortality. alteration occurs in one of them, it must be accompanied by an equally
196 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope ofPhilosophy 197

proportionate alteration, and a dissolution of one of these will entail a This interpretation of Voltaire's view wonld link him obliquely to
dissolution of the other. The closeness between the body and the soul Kant's critical philosophy, which subjects the issue of the soul and its
enables us to conclude that the destruction of the one will lead to the immortality to the general critique of speculative philosophy. Kant's
destruction of the other. The same analogy of nature leads him to assert basic tenet is that our synthetic a priori knowledge is mediated first by
that beings do not survive in situations completely different from the the sensory intuitions of space and time, and then by ideas or concepts
one in which they originate, and in which they flourish. Trees do no which must be schematized by reference to experience if they are not to
survive in water, nor do fishes survive in the open air. Following from give rise to the illusions of metaphysics. Such illusions of metaphysics
this analogy there is no reason to suppose that the alteration occasioned arise from the tendency of reason to seek the unconditioned in every
by the demise of the body and the subsequent loss of the senses and condition, a tendency that is regulative and not constitutive. 57 They are
other organs would still leave the soul with its usual life. 54 In clear regulative in the sense that they are principles that are necessary for the
reference to the argument from the desire for eternal existence, he conduct of thought or inquiry. It is the attempt to apply this tendency in
attempts to turn the argument on its head by stating that if the horror of a constitutive manner, that is, as a means of getting knowledge of the
destruction does not arise from our love of happiness, it would be a object of the unconditioned that leads metaphysics to apply the
point to prove that the soul is, mortal, for following the principle of unschematized categories to supposed objects of knowledge." As
nature not acting in vain, nature would not put in us such a horror for regards the soul, this illusion gives rise to paralogisms. The origin of
something that is not real. 55 The aversion from death serves the purpose these paralogisms is the idea of the self that must accompany all our
of preserving the human species, because it is that aversion that leads us representations in the transcendental unity of apperception. According
to avoid death by all possible means. to Kant, it is, thaIiks to the presence of the "I tbiIik" that I can call all
Voltaire, another philosopher with a strong empiricist inclination, my representations mine. In ratioIial psychology, the "I" in the "I tbiIik"
also takes issue with the question of desire for perpetual existence. is thought of as a simple SUbstance. But the soul, viewed, as a simple
Unlike Hume, he expressly defers to the possibility of God making the substance, is not given under Kant's stated condition for the knowledge
soul immaterial and inunortal. For him to do so would be just as of substance. It is not, for instance, given in time. A statement about the
possible as his creating many more worlds in addition to the one he has substantiality of the soul that is not given in time cannot be a valid
in fact created. But placing himself in the hypothetical position of a synthetic a priori judgement. Only from the supposition that the soul is
stranger from another planet, whose only means of knowing is his a substance can the demonstration of its immortality proceed. Kant goes
senses, Voltaire holds that if indeed God has created these things, for us on to argue against the demonstrations for immortality, especially
to believe that he has in fact done so, we need to have seen them. What against M. Mendelsohn's proofs in his Phaedo (cf. B. 414 ff., also A
it means is that there is no way one can prove the immortality of the 443 -B 471).
soul, if the only way of affirming truth is by seeing the object of our Kant however asserts that his critique of the arguments for
affrrmation. It is unreasonable to hold that there is something eternal in immortality does not obviate the necessity or even the right to postulate
man, while denying all other earthiy creatures the same quality simply a future life "in accordance with the principles of the practical
on the ground that man desires immortality. Such a desire for continued employment of reason."" Accordingly, in the Crique of Practical
existence can be a pleasant consolation in the face of the misery of this Reason, he argues for the immortality, which he had rejected, in the first
life, but the probability of such an existence is very far-fetched. Voltaire critique on the grounds of the moral imperative. The moral imperative
avows to his inability to furnish proofs against the spirituality and the enjoins that man be perfect, but no material being can attain this state of
immortality of the soul, but adds that all the odds are weighed against it, perfection. Still before God, a continuous and endless march towards
and, in any case, "it is equally unjust and unreasonable to demand proof perfection is the same thing as perfection in the distributive justice of
from an enquiry in which only conjectures are possible."" It means that the highest good (summum bonum). Such continuous and endless
the question of inunortality and, in general, the whole issue of the progress is possible only on the assumption of the soul's immortality.
nature of the soul cannot be taken as a real subject of philosophical Hence the moral imperative can be realized only if the soul is also
inquiry. endless in its being, i.e. if it is immortal. The person being who accepts
198 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas. Immortality and the Scope of Philosophy 199

this imperative for himself must also suppose himself to be immortal.60 holding that the hunger for food assures us of an inexhaustible stock of
It is clear that following Kant's theories in the first critique, all his talks food for all eternity. As to what he calls natural theology, he also asserts
of endless perfection would not be meaningful since the soul, to which that there is no evidence from that source convincing enough to show
they apply, is, without the body, atemporal, and outside the scope of a that the soul must be immortal.
synthetic a prairi knowledge. It is remarkable from the foregoing that in more recent times, the
J. S. Mill, the English liberal philosopher, is a rare case of a thinker strongest considerations on which Aquinas and men of his time based
who takes the onus of proof to the doorstep of the opponents of their arguments for immortality were almost completely abandoned or
immortality. Voltaire had exclaimed that he has no way of proving that given a very peripheral place. The whole issue of knowledge is
the soul is mortal since on the issue only conjectures are possible. practically forgotten while attention is shifted to desire for endless life,
Against the position of Hume, Mill asserts that his rejection of the the moral implication of immortality, and especially the question of
arguments of Plato only amounts to defect of evidence, and that "they reward or punishment. Bringing these secondary factors to the fore is
afford no positive argument against immortality." He warns against the seen both in the opponents and the advocates of demonstration for
attempt at "giving a priori validity to the conclusions of an a posteriori immortality. It can be interpreted as a sigu of a shift in emphasis in
philosophy. ,,61 His view is that science has no positive evidence against philosophy in general. Additional evidence of that shift is all the more
the immortality of the soul, and that the only thing available is negative apparent as we come closer to contemporary times.
evidence, which lies in the absence of evidence in favour of what is to Within the twentieth century, the strong emphasis on the empirical
be proved. For Mill, the negative evidence is not even as strong as and the spectacular advancement in the natural sciences and technology
negative evidence can be, for instance, against witchcraft. One can in decidedly influenced a change in the perennial concern for immortality.
fact argue successfully that the soul does not have an existence
somewhere on this earth. "But that it does not exist elsewhere, there is
absolutely no proof.,,62 With reference to what Hume has called analogy
of nature, Mill reviews why the general natural condition should not
I Most philosophers who believe in immortality do not feel the necessity
as in the past era to show that immortality must find a comfortable
home in their philosophy. The effort to prove immortality has not
completely petered out. Maritain, for example, outlines proofs of
apply to man. For him, there are enough grounds to demand the
exception for man, since feeling and thought are at the opposite poles of
existence, no analogy from one can rightly apply to the other. Mind is,
Il immortality, but what he presents are merely a paraphrase of the
arguments of Aquinas' Summa thealagiae. William James's lecture on
immortality is a potent advocacy for the belief in the doctrine, but it is
the thing that is most intimately known to us, it is the only reality of clear that his postulation of a stream of consciousness from which the
which we have real evidence, and no other reality should be compared individual consciousness is derived and to which it returns at death is
to it. Even if this is true, this is still no evidence that the soul is
immortal. It only means that those who claim exception for the soul in I very far from the usual attempt to present a logical demonstration of the
doctrine. The same can be said of the thundering outburst of Miguel de
the general order of nature have some reasons to do so. Indeed, the
theme of immortality is, for Mill, a rare case in which there is a total I Unamuno in favour of immortality. In all, Swinburne was right when he
says that the "arguments to the natural immortality of the soul are very
lack of evidence on either side, and one in which the absence of unappealing today.,,64 That does not however mean that the interest in
evidence for the affirmative position does not nudge us to the tenability the question of immortality has abated. In fact it would seem that the
of the opposite view'"
focus of debate has tilted to the nature of the soul, which is in fact more
From the above, it can be said that the attitude of Mill about the I ftmdamental than the question of its immortality, and which prepares
arguments for immortality is ambivalent; still he says that the belief in 1 the ground for the philosophical treatment of the matter. It appears
immortality is grounded in tradition and in the discomfort of giving up
existence. Mill examines the argument for immortality from the desire ~
therefore that just beneath the veneer of the contemporary discussions
on the nature of the soul or mind lies the question ofits immortality.
for eternal existence, and affirms that what is called the desire for l It is not to be supposed that when a scholastic like Aquinas speaks
eternal life is not more than the desire for life. To hold that the desire l about the soul, and contemporary philosophers argue about the mind,
for life guarantees endless life to the subject of the desire is the same as they all mean one and the same thing. Still the common ground between
200 The Philosophical Significance ofImmortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas. Immortality and the Scope ofPhilosophy 201

the two concepts is that whether the soul or mind is employed, it is strongly related to the issue of inunortality and the effort to prove it
understood as that extra thing which makes intellectual knowledge through rational argumentation. If such questions remain central in
possible; on account of which man is termed rational; and which (if one philosophical inquiry, there is no doubt that they, by and large, raise the
subscribes to its subsistence) constitutes the subject of inunortality. In issue ofimmortality of the soul.
spite of many tendencies to the contrary, many thinkers continue to
defend traditional dualism. But many contemporary defenders of 5.4 Immortality and the Scope and Limit of Philosophy
dualism still tend to pay special deference to materialism by, in effect,
making the mind inconsequential in the human system. Such could be If Aquinas and the thinkers of his time were convinced in the ability
the ultimate implication of epiphenomenalism, which while asserting of reason to prove the inunortality of the soul without recourse to
the reality of the mental, still holds that the mental is completely religious dogmas, their efforts have a lot to say about their
dependent on the physical that alone has causal powers. os Against these, understanding of philosophy, its scope and limits. Theirs was an epoch
there is the now popular position that the very concept of the soul is an when philosophy was still in the pangs of asserting its independence
unnecessary assumption. Such a view gives rise to the type of neutral from theology as a field of human knowledge. Our review of the several
monism defended strongly by Russell at one stage of his ever-changing attempts of the angelic doctor to prove immortality shows that many of
philosophy. In neutral monism, there is no distinction between mind and his fundamental assumptions are beset by problems. Some of the
matter, since the two are made of the same primitive stuff." A assumptions that are the statting points of his demonstrations are not
furtherance of the same intent to do away with the soul altogether led to what subsequent thinkers would subscribe to uncritically. Again, some
the conception championed by Gilbert Ryle that the assumption of of his conclusions were drawn without sustained weighing of
another reality over and above what is observable in human operation is consequences. If however the global outcome of the effort of Aquinas is
a categonaIak'
trust e. best described as problematic, thought should be given to the fact that
In spite of some of these recent slants in the philosophical subsequent effort to engage the same issue also ends at more or less the
discussions about the soul, a lively interest is still shown in relation to same level of consistency in reasouing, not to talk of those who fall
the supposed extra-material side of the human person, although in back to the bland assertion of natural desire and the demands of
deference to the popular materialist inclination of the present age, this morality as grounds for inunortality of the soul. If this is the reality of
appears in terms of quest for empirical evidence. Hence such much of the effort to prove inunortality, and if it seems that except for
phenomena as reincarnation, extra-sensory perception, out-of-body fresh empirical evidence, the whole concern to prove immortality turns
experience like astral projection and in near-death and after-death around the same basic points, does that age-long effort not hit a dead-
experience continue to elicit serious attention in many quarters'" It end? If this is so, is .the question of inunortality not a fruitless theme to
seems to indicate the presence of a conviction in the continued tinker with in the philosophical engagement?
existence of some important aspects of the human entity. Given the P. Boduntin describes the question of inunortality as arational,
background of the general shift towards the materially demonstrable, meaning that the issue of inunortality should not be considered from the
the effort to collate such experiences seems to indirectly point to the point of view of whether it is rationally right or wrong, but rather that it
same direction that all the effort to prove the permanence of the soul has is not the type of issue which philosophy should deal with in the first
been pointing in past ages. place, at least not in terms of whether it is true or false. Boduntin's view
Despite the observable shifts, and the new turns given to the question can be seen as an expression of what Swinburne regards as the aversion
of the soul that fundamentally remains the same, it is remarkable that in of the time to prove the natural inunortality of the soul from rational
terms of arguments aimed at proving immortality, subsequent argumentation. Such an aversion would effectively consign many
generations did not go beyond the points raised by the epoch of Thomas centuries of philosophical consideration of inunortality to the dustbin of
Aquinas. The nature of mind, and of thought, the status of knowledge, philosophical history, given that almost all attempts to discuss
the distinction between mind and matter are still very intractable immortality were codified in terms of proofs. That it is so is
problems in philosophy. We have pointed out that these questions are nevertheless very much in consonance with the general trend in the
202 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope ofPhilosophy 203

histol)' of philosophy. The vaunted reliance on the power of reason in our thne, as far as philosophy is concerned, the inquiry on who sbould
philosophy appears to have had as side effect, the attempt to settle most ideally take the mantle of leadership has been given a definitive answer
controversial issues by arguments that are meant primarily to convince in the emergence of liberal democracy. It is important to remember that
even imaginary opponents. This characteristic is strongly seen in Plato, thinkers like Aqninas and Hobbes are as convinced about the systems of
who incidentally is the first to present a systematic defence of government they advocate as Francis Fukuyama is in our time about the
immortality. Plato's method casts a long shadow on subsequent virtues of liberal democracy.
discourses on immortality. The scholastics ally themselves with this It is not being suggested that it is impossible to arrive at any general
tradition, which is all the more reinforced by the sic el non method of agreement in the philosophical enterprise. The point is that from the
treating all issues, be they theological or philosophical. In the specific perspective of what is proved as generaBy acceptable, the whole
area of philosophy,. however, we see already from the scholastics the enterprise of philosophy is indeed threadbare. In moral philosophy,
long tradition of the pretension to present issues to pure and unaided Alasdair MacIntyre's statement to the effect that ethical concepts are
reason, which continues beyond their time up until the modern constantly changing leads G. J. Warnock to write The Objecl of
hermeneutical movement starts to take more seriously the unconscious Morality. Warnock argues persuasively that in whatever socio-political-
presumptions in man's supposedly pure reasoning. ethical system one chooses to operate, such virtues as truth, non-
It is remarkable that just as in the case of immortality, the long deception, non-malevolence and justice must be prerequisites for the
tradition of proof in philosophy does not appear to have achieved much proper working of the system. Such a broad theol)' is not difficult to
in outlining arguments that would be acceptable to all. Much of the accept. What philosophers would take as the detailed understanding of
evolution of philosophy is the attempt to lead reason to its utmost limit social virtues is a much more intractable problem. Is justice to be
by engaging particular problems: man, the world, society, God, etc. limited to giving to each person what is his due, or is it better served by
Hardly any of the solutions arrived at by anyone thinker or in anyone Jolm Rawls' dual principles? How- does the whole question of
epoch ever gains general acceptability. Such solutions, usually ownership of means of production, and of inheritance touch on justice?
presented in the form of arguments designed to convince the other, are If the evolution of philosophy serves as a guide, there is no reason to
based on the general assumption of the era in which they are thought believe that such issues wiB cease to be points of contention for
out. This partly explains why they are almost always overturned by philosophic minds.
subsequent generations of thinkers intent on giving definitive answers to The inconclusive arguments that seem to bedevil all philosophical
problems that had been the preoccupation of their forebears. One would endeavour are, to say the least, nauseating to philosophers. It is perhaps
think that such a characteristic is prominent in the more abstract and the unconscious antipathy to the inconclusiveness that helps to explain
recondite aspects of philosophy as metaphysics, epistemology and the emergence of the sic el non method which, initiated by Peter
philosophy of the mind, but that is far from being the case. In political Abelard, guides much of medieval philosophical discussions. That
philosophy, for example, the question of who should rule has been a method manifests the desire to present every issue as though it has
most contentious issue. The giants of Greek philosophy, Plato and clear-cut answers. Much later, the whole project of modern
Aristotle ascribe to aristocracy as the best form of government while philosophers initiated by Rene Descartes, and exemplified by the efforts
castigating democracy as the rule of the mob. Coming vel)' near to of Hume, Leibniz, Locke, Spinoza and Kant to transfer the perceived
them, Thomas Aqninas subscribes to monarchy, understood in the sense certainty in mathematics and natural sciences to philosophy appears to
of a kingly ruler whose aim is the weB-being of his subjects. Hobbes be aimed at arriving at certainty. It seems to be driven by a latent
teaches that the only means of securing peace in the polity is the misunderstanding of the nature of philosophy, or by the unexpressed
enthronement of a leviathan endowed with absolute power, while Jolm wish that its nature is otherwise than it actually is. In more recent times,
Locke spends his ink defending representative government. Today, it is RusseB's project to build a scientific philosophy that wiB be at once
almost inconceivable that a philosopher or any social scientist for that general and a priori, as weB as the progranune of the Vienna circle to .
matter would write a text that does not sanction democracy as such, restrict philosophy as much as possible to the analysis of concepts
irrespective of the specific form it takes .. One would thus think that in
204 The Philosophical Significance a/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope of Philosophy 205

would seem to be an attempt to avoid the problem by limiting the scope weakens itself by excludiog a priori the exploration of evidence for its
of philosophical ioquiry. reasonableness. Still such exploration so long as philosophy is
We cannot bui conclude that the ioberent ioability to arrive at concerned, should not set out with the undue expectation of arriviog at
definitive answers speaks much more about the intriosic nature of answers that are unCommon io the philosophical enterprise. It is our
philosophy than the few certainties it can lay claim to. It means that conviction that philosophical consideration of immortality must not
while much of the history of philosophy is cluttered with unsuccessful necessarily issue io proofs iotended to withstand all the scrutioy of
attempts to fashion convinciog proofs or arguments, general critiques. Still the repeated attempt to demonstrate the hnmortality of
acceptability should by no means be upheld as the major criterion for the soul io St. Thomas Aquioas and other thinkers of his ilk is a richer
relevance in philosophic engagement. In any case, the failure to arrive recognition of the nature of philosophy than the exasperation of other
at acceptable proofs with regard to any theme is no reason to banish it thinkers who would prefer to consign the subject to the realm of the
from the ambit of philosophy since doiog so will io fact consign arationa!.
philosophy itself to only narrow and irrelevant corners. Philosophy is
the engagement of human reason io the exploration of human problems
and perplexities. It starts, as Aristotle says, with wonder. The wonder
tbat seems to lie at the begimting of philosophy does not however
disappear with advancement in the enterprise. That is why it is
inherently accompanied by the absence of conclusive answers, which
makes it possible for future generations to try agaio. While that
characteristic can be viewed as negative, a more positive perspective NOTES
would see that as a constant invitation to a display of the congenital
fecundity of human reason. Philosophical insights iovite their offspring I Cf. S. C. G., II, c. 68
to juggle all over again with age-old problems. They will perhaps do so 2 Cf. ST. la, 12. 12; 79, 3; 88, I & 3, De veritate, 2, 2. For more details about
with more determination and confidence but also with the certainty that human knowledge in Aquinas, see Anthony Kenny, Aquinas on Mind,
their solutions will be abandoned by the coming generation. It is io ibis especially chapters 7 - 10. Kennys book explores Aquinas' philosophy of mind
by commenting on the relevant passages in the first part of the Summa
attempt to engage reason with all its accretions that philosophy almost
Theologiae. a short but more systematic treatment is found in L. Elders, The
in an uncanny manner purveys its enlightemnent; its ability to offer Philosophy ofNature ofSt. Thomas Aquinas, ch. 8, pp. 287 - 311.
some possible explanations, opening new vistas with regard to 3 See for instance, F. C Copleston, Aquinas, p. 166; F. D. Wilhelmsen, "A
otherwise hackneyed issues. But it does so with the grim realization that Note on Contraries and the Incorruptibility of the Human Soul in st. Thomas
its solutions and poiots of views are far from beiog final. Aquinas," p. 336; for Oscar Cullman's use of the term in his book Immortality
If reason is the most characteristic quality of man, it means that ibis of the Soul or Resurrection of the Body? (London: Epward Press, 1958), see F.
effort of reason called philosophy should be all embraciog: J. Crosson, ''Psyche and Persona: The Problem of Personal Inunortality,"
encompassing all that is of concern to the human being. It is therefore [nternational Philosophical Quarterly, 8 (1968), pp. 164 - 165; G. F. Kreyche,
not right to categorize the problem of immortality as arational. If "The Soul-Body Problem in St. Thomas" The New Schosticism, 46 (1972), p.
philosophy should continue to retaio some relevance io the human
4 "The Soul-Body Problem in St. Thomas", p. 477: "Without taking these
scheme, it should not shy away from problems or concerns that are
differences into account, he moves quickly to his conclusion affirming the
properly human. And in a world where sciento-technology is registering substantiality of the soul. The question may be raised as to the legitimacy of
more progress than. ever io human history, a philosophy that will be this, for the example of "hand" argues to substance in one meaning (a purely
taken into account is not one that avoids issues relevant to man because reductive one), whereas his notion of "soul" as substance in the argument given
. of the absence of the fioality of answers or solutions. The hunger for takes on a different and non-reductive meaning. Is this warranted, or did St.
immortality in the human being, as Edwards says, is marched by the Thomas beg the question in his haste to aUy philosophy with theology?"
hunger to possess evidence. If ibis hunger is human, philosophy Kreycbe's critique is correct, but in fairness to St. Thomas, it should be said
206 The Philosophical Significance a/Immortality in Thom~ Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope ofPhilosophy 207

that his reason for enumerating different ways of being substance is in fact as follows ''Ubique contingit invenire duo extrema inter res naturae, contingit
intended to show that the meaning of substance when applied to the soul accipere medium. Hoc probatur per id quod habetur in libro de Animalibus, ubi
should not be taken as the normal sense of a whole being a substance, since the dicit Aristoteles, quod natura non venit de marino ad agreste, nisi per gradus:
soul is only part of the composite. Even if the end-result in fact succeeds in nec venit a vegetabili ad sensibile, nisi per gradus: et ideo inter animal hebens
making the soul a substance as other substances, in the passage, which Kreycbe sensum unum et animal hebens sensus omnes, sunt plura media. Et hoc est
refers to, the intention of Aquinas is very different. quod dicit Dionysius, quod lex divinitatis est per propria media, et per media
5 ht some passages, Aquinas clearly states that the soul is a spiritual substance ultima adducere."
without much qualification. See for instance De sprit. creal, II, ad 4: " ... IS See O. Lottin. "L'influence litteraire du Chancelier Philippe sur les
dicendum quod anima secundum suam essentiam est fonna corporis, et non theologiens prethomiste," RTAM, 2 (1930), pp. 311 - 326. See also Wichi's
secundum aliquid additum. Tamen in quantum attingitur a corpore, est forma; introduction to his edition of the Summa de bono. Until the edition of this
in quantum vero superexcedit corporis proportionem," dicitur spiritus, vel treatise of Philip, the Franciscan Alexander of Hales was taken as the first
spiritualis substantia." thinker of the thirteenth-century to elaborate the doctrine of the transcendals.
6 In works such as the Commentary on the Sentences, etc., he tackles the issue However, Wichi's work has completely revised this claim, and it is
within the text on immortality. In the Summa and Contra gentiles, it is given uudoubtedly Philip from whom the first outline of the transcendals originated.
separate sections, while in Compendium and the Quodlibet, he prefers to deal For more on the doctrine of transcendentals, see Jan Aertsen. Medieval
with the issue inunediately after arguing for immortality. In all cases however Philosophy and the Transcendentals (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996) (especially the
the cotulection with immortality, as in the De unilate, is clearly attested to. chapter on the beginning of the doctrine of transcendentals with Philip the
7 B. H. Zedler argues that Averroes never denied personal immortality, and Chancellor, pp. 25 - 40)
that the attacks against him and the distortion of his thought is due in fact to a 16 Cf. S. T., la,47, I & 2; S. C. G., U, 45.
prejudice derived from Christian religious belief. "Medieval Christians have 17 G. SI. Hilaire, op cil., p. 343.
attributed to Averroes a position that he should perhaps have had. They have " F. D. Wilhelmsen, op. ci!., 337 - 338.
done him the honor of assuming that his thought was fully coherent, consistent, 19 A. C. Pegis, At the Origins of the Thomistic Notion of Man (New York:
and well integrated. Logically, they thought, he should have denied the Macmillan), 1963, p. 49.
doctrine of personal inunortality. Such a denial might have been more 20 O. Cullmann, Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Body,? p.60.
consistent with his total position than an acceptance of the possibility of the 21 A. Kenny, op. cil., p. 175
doctrine. But Averroes may not have been the logical well-integrated thinker he 22 Reportata. Parisiensa, Opera omnia XI, (repr. Hildesheim, 1969) I. IV, d.
was believed to have been." Cf. "Averroes and Immortality," The New 43, q. 2, n. 17: ''Dnde non oportet quod onme quod dicit philosophus, sit
Scholasticism, 28 (1954), pp. 438 - (453) demonstratio, quia multa dixenmt philosophi quae acceperunt a prioribus
8 The principle that leads William to such an absurd conclusion is stated as philosophis, persuasi per rationes probabiles eorum et non semper per
follows: ''Non enim est possibile substantiam debilitari quantum" ad esse ex demonstrativas."
quacumque dispositione cum ex ilia, invalescat in operatione ipsius." (De 23 Opus oxoniense, I. N, d. 43, q. 2, n, 16: ''frequenter non habebant nisi
anima, V. 25, p. 153a.). Elsewhere he uses the positive effect of ill health on quasdam probabiles persuasiones vel vulgarem opinionem praecedentium
vice t~ argue or the same point: drunkenness can be forgotten in times of philosophorum. "
serious ill health, and thus the soul is burdened with less vice, which means 24 Ibid., I. U, d. 3, q. 7, n. 4; I. U, p. 279.
more life for it (Cf. De anima, VI, 5, p. 165a) " Cf. Quodlibet, Opera omnia, XU (repr. Hildesheim, 1969) q. IX, n. 17: "Isto
9 See for instance chapter 3 of B. Mondin's book St. Thomas Aquinas modo compositum perfectum in specie dicitur esse, et solum illud; pars autem
Philosophy in the Commentary on the Sentences ofPeter Lombard, pp. 58 -74 ejus dicitur esse per accidens tantummodo, vel magis proprie participative isto
which is entitled "An Anthropology of Imago die." esse totius; sic igitur solum compositum est per se ens, accipiendo esse secundo
10 F. C. Copleston,Aquinas, p. 174 modo; anima autem intellectiva non dicitur subsistens nisi improprie et
II Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis, 1, 14. 15. secundum quid, Beet dicatur ens, et per se ens primo modo accipiendo esse."
12 Cf. Epistolade anima, Migne (p. L., 194), 1885. 26 See above Chapter 3, section, pp.
\3 Cf. Summa de bono, 265, 10 - 266, 109. 27 Cf. S. T., la, 75, resp., see above Chapter 3, section pp.
14 See Summa de creaturis, q. 59, a. 2, 21, pp. 524a - 525a: Before outlining 2S Rep. par. I, IV, d. 43, q. 2, n. 15; Rep. par.!. IV, d. 43, quo 2, n. 26.
the probable arguments, Albert states the main principle of the order of being
208 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Aquinas, Immortality and the Scope 0/Philosophy 209

29 Scriptum in IV libros Sententiarum, in Dons Scotus, Philosophical Writings, damni; et cum poena damni adiungitur culpe, diminuit culpam. Quare non
ed Wolters (Edinburgh: Nelson, 1962), p. 158: "planum es~ quod non potest Eunitus accidentaliter magis punitur essentialiter eo, qui accidentaliter punitur."
probari desiderium naturale ad aliquid, nisi primo probetur possibilitas in 6 Cf. Aquinas Against the Averroists, op. cit., p.1
natura ad illud, et per consequens e converso arguendo est petitio principi." 37 O. Kristeller, Eight Philosophers o/the Italian Renaissance, p.84.
30 Cf. O. Kristeller, Eight Philosophers of the Italian Renaissance (Stanford: 38 Cf. Pomponazzi, De immortalitate., pp. 228 - 236.
Stanford University Press., 1964), p. 79 39 T. de Vio Cajetan, Opuscula, cited in B. Hallensleben, Communicatio:
31 Pomponazzi, De ;mmortalitate, in Abhandlung tiber der Unsterblichkeit der Anthropologie und Gnadenlehre be; Thomas de Vio Cajetan, (MOOster:
Seele, ed.& tr. B. Mojsiseh (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1990), p. 52: "De veritate Asehendorfliehes Verlag, 1985) p. 194 : "si ratione investigata et ad sensum
quidem huius positionis apud me nulla prorsus est ambiguitas, cum scriptura usque explorationem deducta humanae sententiae quietem tribunt ineruditi
canonica, quae cuilibet rationi et experimento humane praeferenda est, cum indocilis. tardi, hebetis, stupidique est immortalitatem animorum u: problem~
Deo data sit, hane positionem sanciat. Sed quod apud me vertitur in dubium, revocare neutram."
est, an ista dicta excedant limites naturales sic, quod aliquod vel creditum vel 40 Ibid., p. 193: "sit qui iudicat, a rebus iudicandis alienus: nam si illanun
revelatum praesupponant, et confonnia sint dictis Aristotelis, sicut ipse Divus aliqua inhaeresit, aut totum sibi iudiciwn inflectit, aut falsam fecit aliarum
Thomas enuntiat." afferre censuram."
32 The problem of the knowledge of the separated soul has also be raised in 41 L~c. cit., "His autem iunctum si fuerit, quod intellectualis spiritus
another treatise where Pomponazzi tried to answer the question "utrum anima desldenum tendat ad esse, non hac aut ilIa aetate conclusum, sed ab ornni
sit mortalis." He raises essentially the difficulties which we have seen as tempore elevatum (quoniam intellectu apprehensum solwnmodo cupit bonum,
accompanying the theory of the soul existing apart from the body, but tries to quod ab omnium temponun differentiis, quia universale est, constat esse
answer it in line with Thomas in obvious consideration of the reaction of the ab~olutum) consequens est ut is, quo intelligimus et sapimus, animus, in
teaching of the Church on the subject, especially as expressed by the fifth unlVersum tempus effusum habeat vivendi desiderium cum pari tobore, evadere
Lateran council. On the knowledge of the separated soul he writes: "Altera quippe quia non potest, quin aut certo tempore, aut semper esse desideret, cum
difficultas est quod operetur anima a corpore separata: Si nihil, anima erit definito non subsit tempori, reliquum est, ut ad sempitemwn se extendat ."
frustra; nihil autem videtur operari, quia hoc maxime esset intelligere, quia De anima, 403a 8.
anima per phantasmata intelligit, quae sunt in corpore. Si autem non habet 43 "inter fonnas materiales (quae sciliCet educuntur de potentia materiae, ac per
intelligere, nec habet velIe. Dico quod anima, cum est separata, non intelligit hoc dependent secundum esse a materia utpote eanun causa) et fonnas
per phantasmata, sed per species infusas a Deo; anima enim habet duas separatas. omnino a materia (quae in seipsis subsistunt, sine onmi
operationes; prima est intelligere cum phantasmate, secunda intelligere sine commumcatione sui esse in materia, quas angelos dicimus) rationabile medium
phantasmata quando est separata, sed me remitto Ecclesiae, et notetis quod de ponitur fonna secundwn esse independens a materia et tamen conununicans
inferno et paradiso, non tantum meminit Ecclesia,sed etiam Plato et philosophi. secundum esse in materia (quae ex independentia habet quod non est educta de
praeter sceleratwn Aristotelem." (Questiones in libro De anima, cited in O. potentia materiae, et ex corrununicabilitate quod in materia sit et quod materia
Pluta, op. cit, p. 57) partieipet esse illius." (Cited in B. Hallensleben, op.eit., p. 197)
33 De immortalitate, op. cit., p. 78: "Cum itaque primus modus ponens 44 Zu Rom, 9, 23 in Ibid., p. 200: ''Respondeo me scire quod verum vero non
intelIectivum realiter distingui a sensitivo in mortalibus secundum omnes est contrarium. sed nescire haec iungere: sicut nescio mysterium trinitatis sicut
impugnatus sit modos et secundus ponens, quod intellectivum et sensitivum nescio animam irrunortalem, sicut nescio verbtun caro factum est. et si~ilia,
sunt idem re et tale est simpliciter immortale et secundwn quid mortale, sit quae tamen omnia credo."
valde ambiguus nee convenire videatur Aristoteli, reliquum est, ut ponamus 4S Cf. E. Gilson, History a/Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages, pp. 397-
ultimwn modum, qui ponens sensitivum in homine identificare intellectivo :;9; F. Van Steenberghen, La philosophie au XIlIe siecle, 1966, p. 388-391.
dicit, quod essentialiter et vere hoc est mortale, sed secundum quid inunortale." D. Home, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed. C. W. Hendel
34 Cf. Ibid, pp. 168 - 174. (New York: Liberal Arts, 1955), p. 173.
3S Ibid., p. 194: "Quare magis essenialiter praemiatur, qui non accidentaliter 47 See E. Gilson, Etudes sur Ie role de la pensee medievale dans la/ormation
praemiatur, eo, qui a accidentaliter praemiatur. Eodem quoque modo qui du systeme cartesien (paris: J.Vrin, 1951).
vitiose operatur et accidentaliter non punitur, minus reditur puniri eo qui 48 R. Descartes, Discours de la Methode, sect 5 in Oeuvres de Descartes v. 6
accidentaliter non punitur; nam poena culpae maior et deterior est poena (paris: J. Vrin, 1965), p. 59. '
210 The Phqosophical Significance o/Immortality in Thomas Aquinas

49 G. Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge,

ed. C. Turbayne (New York: Liberal Arts), 1957, sec. 141, p. 94 - 95.
50 Cf. D. Hwne, A Treatise 0/ Human Nature (London: 1. M. Dent & Sons,

1951) bk. 1, pt. 4, sec 6, pp. 238 - 249.

51 "Of-the Immortality of the Soul," in D. Hwne, &says, ed. T. H. Green & T.
H. Grose (London: Longman, Green and Co., 1907), vol II, p. 399,
" Ibid., pp. 400 - 401.
" Ibid., p. 402.
" Ibid., pp. 43 - 44.
ss Ibid., p. 45. r
56 Voltaire, Traite de metaphysique, ch. 6, in P. Edwards, ed., Immorta lty
(London: Prometheus, 1997) pp. 141- 147. .
" Kant, I., Critique of Pure Reason, tr. N. K. Smith (London: Macnullan,
1929), B.222 - B224 The doctrine of immortality, includiog the effort to provide
" Ibid., B 186 -187; A 147. philosophical demonstrations for it, is a pivotal aspect of thirteenth
59 Ibid., B 424. centwy philosophical engagement. It is one of the most detenninant
60 Our presentation of the argument here follows L. W. Beck s cle~er factors in the reception given to the influx of various new doctrines,
restatement of it in his book A Commentary on Kant's Critique of Pracflcal
especially those of Aristotle and his Moslem and Jewish commentators.
Reason (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1960), pp. 267 - 269.
61 J. S. Mill, "Immortality," in Three Essays on religion, (1878) (repr. London:
Its influence is as determinant in Aqninas as in many of his innnediate
Greg. International, 1969), p. 199. predecessors and contemporaries despite his spectacular wholehearted
62 Ibid., p. 201.
acceptance of Aristotelianism, and his efforts to make it accord with the
63 lbid.,203.
basic tenets of the Christian faith. The acceptance of Aristotle as his
64 R. Swinburne, "Nature and Immortality of the Soul," in Routledge philosophical mentor does not therefore hinder his effort to defend
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, v.9, 1998, p. 46. . . immortality from a mainly philosophical standpoint, even though a
os Cf. K. Campbell, Body and Mind (Notre Dame: Notre Dame Umvers>ty Platonic background makes such a defence much more consistent. A
Press 1984)' J. Lacks, "The Impotent Mind," Review of MetaphYSICS 17 comprehensive understanding of this aim starts with the reading of
(1963), pp. i87 - 199; F. Jackson, "Epiphenomenal Qualia," Philosophical Aquinas conception of man, the relationship between soul and body,
Quarterly, 32 (1982), pp. 127 - 136. . the nature of the soul and its cognitive activities. Read with innnortality
66 See B. Russell's Analysis of Mind (London: Allen and Unwm, 1921), pp.
100 _ 117; For a critique of Russell's position cr. W. T. Stace, IIRussell's in view, it is clear that Aquinas' major positions with regard to these
Neutral Monism," in The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, Shilpp, P. A., doctrines can be viewed as a dress rehearsal for the defence of
ed.(New York: Tudor, 1951) See also J. Ognejiofor, Has Bertrand Russell innnortality.
Solved the Problem of Perception? (Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang, 1994), pp. 84 Aquinas depends very much on his immediate predecessors in his
- 87. effort to defend immortality. Even though his Aristotelianism by far
67 See The Concept 0/ the Mind, (London: Hutchinson University Press, 1963), surpasses that of any of the thinkers who preceded him in the thirteenth
pp.1l-24. centwy, all the argnments he uses to prove innnortality are traceable to
68 For a critical discussion of the belief in and the evidence for some of these early thirteenth centwy authors. Among the major argnments he
"experiences," see Paul Edwards (ed.) Immortality, mtroducticin, pp. 1- 70. employs through the length of his texts include the phenomenon of self-
understanding in the rational soul; the soul's ability to understand all
sensible forms, on account of which it must not have in itself any
212 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas Conclusion 213

sensible fonn; the desire for endless happiness; the intellects' grasp of naturally lead deep into the preserves of theology, bUlhe views this fact
immaterial universal, which is a pointer to the nature of the soul itself; as making even more comprehensible the reflection on immortality.
the whole process of knowledge, which confirms all the more the Our analysis of the arguments indicates that there is none of the major
spiritual nature of the soul. arguments without serious problems. The critique of the details of the
Through the dependence on his predecessors, Aquinas exhibits some arguments does not however lead to the rejection of the relevance of the
remarkable originality and independence in the use of the principles of grand project of reflecting on immortality, both in the context of the
the old proofs. One therefore sees SOme progress and evolution in the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas and in philosophy in general.
employment of these arguments. The fact that throughout the six texts Aquinas uses the method of enumeration of as many favourable
on immortality, the argument from God's justice, and that from the points as possible in support of immortality. The reason behind the
implications of contemplation for immortality are used once each employment of this method is the latent belief that the cumulative
indicates a measure of discrimination among the plethora of proofs at effects of all these points have more convincing power than the force of
his disposal. Even though the absence of any gradation of the any single consideration. This method also goes in consonance with his
arguments would seem to suggest that Aquinas does not reach the level predecessors with the single exception of Albert the Great. Our review
of discrimination attained by Albert the Great or even Alexander of of the earlier critics of Aquinas, Scotus, Pomponazzi and Cajetan shows
Hales, that there is some sort of selection among the available proofs that none adequately takes notice of this method. Thus they judge the
would speak for the opinion that all the points he makes for immortality whole project of proving immortality on the strength of individual
are not intended to have equal convincing powers. That would explain arguments, especially the argument from desire and the moral
why relatively very few arguments are employed in the voluminous consideration of rewarding virtue in an after-life. Many modem
Summa theologiae, which is the most mature and most comprehensive thinkers like Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Voltaire and Mill also
of all his works. The curious omission of the popular argument from the concentrate more on the implications of immortality for morality. In all,
order of being can also be explained as a consequence of Aquinas' whether they speak in support or against it, their reflections on the
silent weighing ofthe arguments. theme are much less rigorous than that of Aquinas and the thinkers of
Aquinas links all his major arguments to the phenomenon of his time. Among these, J. S. Mill appears to be the only person who
knowledge. Despite his Aristotelian epistemology, intellectual even as much as refers to the fact of intellectual knowledge in relation
knowledge is hypostatized in the fonn of universals, and this serves as to immortality. This lack of rigour overflows into the contemporary
an independent standpoint to prove immortality. But such arguments as epoch where the combined forces of secularization as well as the
those from the desire for endless existence and the presence of spectacular progress in empirical science and technology appear to
contraries are so linked with the ability of man to know as was never effectively shunt the theme of immortality off from the mainstream of
found in any of his predecessors. Thus it is not just that man by nature philosophical investigation. Though the character of mind in general
desires to live forever, but it is his ability to apprehend what he desires continues to be a potent object for contention, in which there is hardly
that makes the fulfihnent of this desire reasonable and necessary. any hope of arriving at any general agreement, it is not surprising that
In outliuing these and other arguments, Aquinas intends to some have, like materialists through the history of philosophy, come to
demonstrate convincingly that the rational soul is by nature endowed question the reasonableness of erecting an extra category called the soul
with immortality. There is no strong reason to doubt that he believes or the mind over and above the matter of which the body is composed.
that the project achieved its intended aim. Over and above the specific Despite the various turns in Aquinas' discussion of immortality, the
problems linked with the proofs, the phenomenon of death, the refusal issue remains vital for a balanced understanding of his philosophy, and
to consider brute souls as candidates for immortality of any type, the ~or explanations of the reasons for the positions he takes on particular
state of the soul after its separation from the body, as well as the fact of Issues. Even though these texts on immortality are all in the fonn of
resurrection and immortality of the body are general problems that proofs, following the tradition of his time, the importance of the theme
follow on the heels of the philosophical reflection on immortality. The of immortality should not be consigned to the judgement of how much
solutions to some of these problems, like that of death and resurrection, the proofs are acceptable to the minds of today. The nature of
philosophy, in which hardly any issue is settled definitively, should also
214 The Philosophical Significance of Immortality in Thomas Aquinas

speak for the continued exploration of the subject so long as it remains

an important factor in human life. It is in the repeated attempt to return
to human concerns and human problems, attempts that ironically never
arrive at generally acceptable solutions, that philosophy brings forth its


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