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Philosophic Views on the Human Soul

Numerous philosophic debates on the nature of human soul had already been raised since the earliest days in history until the present generation. Some have claimed that the soul is that which brings human to life; that it is like the fire burning in the hearth of a house during winter. Without it, the entire house will become very cold and almost inhabitable. Some also claimed that the soul is but a concept or a term and there are no pieces of evidence that will prove its true existence.

Two of the greatest philosophers in history proposed arguments that have become today’s important basis on the beliefs pertaining to the existence of the soul. Plato and Aristotle, known for their important contributions in the fields of Politics and Philosophy, also crafted documents which may be considered as Metaphysics in nature. Their documents include points that may be considered similar. However, as there are similarities, the two documents also have variations. Both philosophers claim that the soul gives life to the human body, the way that it also brings to life for creatures like animals and plants.

The variations between the two philosophers’ arguments lie on the question of the soul’s ability to be on its own or separated from a body. One theory states that it cannot be on its own, while the other proposes that it has the capability to be separated from a body. Plato on the Soul In the document titled Phaedo, Plato claims that souls inhabit all living things. It is not limited to humans alone but also to other creatures, such as animals and even the smallest type of plant. It is the factor that keeps these creatures alive and as such a factor that makes it necessary.

Plato further proposes that since the soul brings the body to life, it is then alive by itself. It cannot entertain the notion of death given that it is innately alive. As such, it is considered immortal or indestructible unlike the body. This theory rests on Platos’ principle of causation. This principle states that the proper cause of a thing being itself must be itself and thus, cannot be anything else other than what it already is. In context with the matter at hand, the soul, is the proper cause of life and cannot admit anything else but be alive.

Given that the soul cannot admit death or is immortal and indestructible, the subsequent conclusion of Plato is that the soul can exist on its own. It is separable from the body. Since it allows life to flow in the body of a creature, it can be alive on its own. Thus, upon separation from the said body, the body admits death while the soul continues to exist. Aristotle on the Soul Plato’s claims indicated that the soul gives life not only to human beings, but also to other creatures. This same soul can only admit life but not death, and as such separable from the body.

As compared to Aristotle’s claims, it may be said that they are partly similar in the sense that Aristotle agrees with Plato that the soul brings creatures to life. Aristotle argues that creatures that are alive are the only beings with souls. The souls within these beings bring them to life. The soul being under the category of a first actuality, an actuality that is also a kind of potentiality, and the body having the potential to be alive, a combination of the two allows a living creature to exist.

Furthermore, the first actuality is a capacity to engage in activities that are characteristic to living creatures. These activities include self nourishment, growth, decay, movement and rest, perception, and intellect. Thus, anything that is capable of any of these characteristics are considered alive and with a soul. Aristotle also proposes that the soul has certain degrees depending on the activities it is capable of animating on a creature. For instance, a plant is not capable of perception and intellect; however, it is very much capable of growth and it acquires nourishment on its own.

Thus, plants belong under the degree of those with a nutritive soul. On the other hand, animals are not only capable of growth and nourishing itself. It also has the ability to move and rest, as well as perceive. However, it does not posses intellect; as such, it belongs to the degree of the sanative soul. The third degree of the soul may be considered as specific to humans alone. The third degree is the rational soul. It includes beings that have intellect, as well as capable of growth and self nourishment, and able to perceive, and move and rest.

In addition to the soul being an actuality and one which may be measured in degrees, Aristotle claims that the soul is inseparable from the body. Unlike the claim of Plato, Aristotle’s claims point that the soul belongs to a body and may only exist in a body. As it is not a kind of body, it may not exist on its own. While Plato claimed that the soul is innately alive, cannot admit death, and as such separable to the body, Aristotle stated that the soul is neither a body nor an independently existing substance. It is not a substance that is enclosed in another substance, which is the body.

It is pure capacity, and may never be that aspect which has capacity. In relation to the soul being pure capacity, Aristotle added that all souls in all human beings are the same. All human beings have the same capacity to engage in activities that point to being alive. The only distinction between all human beings lies on their bodies; wherein each body is made up of different compounds of form and matter but not of a different kind of soul. Analysis and Conclusion Both philosophers’ claims on souls may be considered as the bases of today’s beliefs that all living creatures are made up of souls and bodies.

Plato claims that the soul is a proper cause and as such, is innately alive and incapable of death. He also claimed that given that soul is alive on its own, it may then exist on its own or without a body. Soul is then considered as immortal and indestructible. With this premise, the soul becomes that which is a substance in another substance, like a body. It is also a factor which has its own capacity. This may also point that given that it is of a different substance, there is a probability that each human being has a different kind of soul and the distinction in each persons lies not only on the body but also in the soul.

This argument is completely opposed by Aristotle who claimed that even if the soul allows creatures to become animated beings, it cannot be separated from the body. According to him, the soul cannot exist without the body. Aristotle supported this theory by stating that the soul is not an individual substance. It is pure capacity and not that which has capacity. It may give the body life but not something that has its own life. Thus, it is neither immortal nor indestructible, unlike what Plato claimed.

For Aristotle, the soul is only of one kind for all humans although having different degrees in all living creatures. Deriving from this, there is no other basis for the distinction between each human being but their physical make-up or the body. As such, the soul may not be used as a distinguishing factor of one individual from another. Given such it may be said that the two philosophers’ assertions on the soul have some aspects which are similar to each other. There are points in which one agrees to the other.

However, there are also sections in which one completely opposes that supposition of the other. They both claimed that the soul is responsible for the life of all creatures that are living, but Aristotle’s claims disagreed on Plato’s claim that the soul is separable from the body. Like two cars that met at an intersection or a given point, one made a right turn while the other turned left. Either the two will meet again at some point or never again. References Aristotle & Sachs J. (trans). (2004). New Mexico: Green lion Press. Grube, G. M. (1977). Plato’s Phaedo. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.

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