Philosophical Perspectives on the Soul and Life

Classified in Philosophy and ethics

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Anthropological Ideas of the Holy Fathers (Platonism) - Until the 13th Century

These ideas persisted until the 13th century due to:

  • The idea that the soul is in the body due to a fall (original sin)
  • The idea that the soul, in the body, is subjected to superior and inferior tendencies (battle between the flesh and the spirit)
  • Immortality of the soul

Saint Thomas Aquinas (Aristotelian Standpoint)

  • The soul is the form of the body.
  • The soul does not pre-exist the body; it is created by God at the same time it in-forms the body.
  • No transmigration.
  • Immortal soul.

Descartes (Plato's Standpoint - Efficient Causality)

Descartes' views aligned with Plato's because:

  • He rejects the concept of substantial forms.
  • He considers the soul to be a thinking and self-sufficient substance.
  • The body is an extended substance, mechanical.

Definition of "Life"

1. Empirical:

"Spontaneous movement"

2. Scientific:

  • "Overall phenomena that are common to all living beings"
  • "Overall functions that resist death"
  • "Organization, nutrition, reproduction, conservation and evolution"

3. Metaphysical:

"The name of life is referred to a substance to which, by nature, belongs moving itself."

Features of the Vital Movement:

  • Spontaneity (not absolute)
  • Immanence (no transitive movement / not absolute)

Nature of the Living Being

1. Vitalism of the School of Montpellier

The living being is the "vital principle" that is immaterial and has "vital powers," immaterial as well.

2. Mechanism

The activities of the living being have nothing in common with those of non-living bodies.

General idea (inasmuch as a philosophical doctrine): everything, in a living being, can be explained mechanically.

Aristotelian Vitalism

Main thesis:

  • Living bodies are submitted to the same laws as non-living bodies.
  • In living bodies, one can find immanence.
  • In living bodies, there is an internal immaterial principle of finalization (soul).
  • The soul is not a substance.

Definitions of Soul:

  1. Soul: First act of a body that has life in potency.
  2. Form of an organic body.

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