• [26] However, according to another interpretation, the property of life—that is, the soul—is something in addition to the body’s structure.

  • [21] Furthermore, Aristotle says that a soul is related to its body as form to matter.

  • [25] According to one interpretation of Aristotle, a properly organized body is already alive simply by virtue of its structure.

  • [3] The idea that everything physical is made of the same basic substance holds up well under modern science, although it may be thought of more in terms of energy[4] or matter/energy.

  • That is why Aristotle defines the body as having life potentially and the substantial form as the potential body’s life source.

  • [63][64] Aquinas defined a substantial form as that which makes X’s matter constitute X, which in the case of a human being is also able to transcend the limitations of matter
    and establish both the rational capacity[65] and natural immortality of human beings.

  • [61] In contrast, other medieval thinkers argued that a living being contains at least two substantial forms—(1) the shape and structure of its body, and (2) its soul, which
    makes its body alive.

  • [20] Therefore, a soul is a form—that is, a specifying principle or cause—of a living thing.

  • [8] It is maintained that the Aristotelian concept should not be understood as a “stuff” since there is, for example, hyle that is intellectual as well as sensible hyle found
    in the body.

  • The soul as the body’s substantial form enables personal identity to persist over time.

  • Aristotle says that the “active (or agent) intellect” is not mixed with the body[37] and suggests that it can exist apart from it.

  • Others interpret Aristotle as arguing that a person’s ability to think (unlike his other psychological abilities) belongs to some incorporeal organ distinct from his body.

  • Others following Aquinas (1225–74) argue that the Neo-platonic interpretation is a mistake: the active intellect is actually part of the human soul.

  • Nevertheless, Aquinas did not claim that human persons were their disembodied souls because the human soul is essentially a substantial form activating matter into the body.

  • [26] Likewise, according to this second interpretation, a living body is alive not only because of its structure but also because of an additional property: the soul, which
    a properly organized body needs in order to be alive.

  • If that is the case, then the soul is the body’s form and yet thinking need not involve any bodily organ.

  • Hence, his purpose in life is to exercise those abilities as well and as fully as possible.

  • Hylomorphism is a philosophical doctrine developed by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, which conceives every physical entity or being (ousia) as a compound of matter
    (potency) and immaterial form (act), with the generic form as immanently real within the individual.

  • [46] This interpretation creates what Robert Pasnau has called the “mind-soul problem”: if the intellect belongs to an entity distinct from the body, and the soul is the form
    of the body, then how is the intellect part of the soul?

  • [51][52] Still others[53] argue that Aristotle held that an individual form is capable of having properties of its own.

  • The body and soul are not two distinct things but as one substance.

  • [29] They argue that a living thing’s matter is its body and the body needs a soul in order to be alive.

  • [18] Body–soul hylomorphism Basic theory[edit] See also: On the Soul and Aristotle’s biology Aristotle applies his theory of hylomorphism to living things.

  • [41] Now, the most characteristic human ability, which is not included in the form of any other organism, is the ability to think.

  • [56] Within every physical substance, the substantial form determines what kind of thing the physical substance is by actualizing prime matter as individualized by the causes
    of that thing’s coming to be.

  • [55] Substantial form, accidental form, and prime matter[edit] See also: Substantial form Medieval philosophers who used Aristotelian concepts frequently distinguished between
    substantial forms and accidental forms.

  • Living bodies[edit] Some scholars have pointed out a problem facing Aristotle’s theory of soul-body hylomorphism.

  • [54] According to this interpretation, the soul is a property of the body, but the ability to think is a property of the soul itself, not of the body.

  • Aquinas was also adamant that disembodied souls were in an unnatural state[71] and that the perfection of heaven includes God miraculously enabling the soul to function once
    again as a substantial form by reanimating matter into a living body as promised by the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.

  • [22] Hence, Aristotle argues, there is no problem in explaining the unity of body and soul, just as there is no problem in explaining the unity of wax and its shape.

  • Apart from the soul, we cannot identify what collection of matter is the body.

  • [70] Aquinas’ attribution of rational capacity to the immaterial soul allowed him to claim that disembodied souls could retain their rational capacity as his identification
    of the soul’s individual act of existence allowed him to claim that personal immortality is natural for human beings.

  • [48][49] Some proponents of this interpretation think that each person has his own agent intellect, which presumably separates from the body at death.

  • [39] Now, each thing has certain potentialities as a result of its form.

  • But atoms and the elementary particles themselves are not as real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts …

  • Yet, Aristotle argued that the best type of happiness is virtuously contemplating God and the second best is acting in accord with moral virtue.

  • [2] Aristotle’s concept of matter The Ancient Greek language originally had no word for matter in general, as opposed to raw material suitable for some specific purpose or
    other, so Aristotle adapted the word for “wood” to this purpose.

  • [44] Medieval modifications[edit] Thomas Aquinas emphasized the act/potency understanding of form/matter whereby form activates the potency of matter and existence activates

  • [36] The passive intellect is like clay; it can become anything and is subject to change.

  • [27] John Vella uses Frankenstein’s monster to illustrate the second interpretation:[28] the corpse lying on Frankenstein’s table is already a fully organized human body,
    but it is not yet alive; when Frankenstein activates his machine, the corpse gains a new property, the property of life, which Aristotle would call the soul.

  • [12] Thus, “matter” is a relative term:[13] an object counts as matter relative to something else.


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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/comunicati/3502085373/’]