Aristotle and the Soul

Last month, I blogged about Plato and the soul. Another great giant of Western philosophy who spoke of the soul is Aristotle, tutor to Alexander the Great, the charging goat of Daniel. Whereas Plato was a classic dualist, separating body and soul completely, Aristotle yokes them closely together. The soul cannot exist without the body; the body is lifeless without the soul. The soul is the intellect or the mind. He said it was divided into two, the rational part, itself divided into the calculative part for making decisions and the scientific part for understanding logic and evidence. The irrational part was desiderative, which was responsible for our desires, and the vegetative, which helped identify our needs 

This rather neat classification seems contrary to Aristotle’s claim that “it is one of the hardest thing to gain any conviction about the soul”, though he also said it was “the first principle of all living things”. This is still very different from Plato’s view that the soul is ‘the agent of the Form of the good’- that is, the part of us that has and will experience the perfection of the spiritual world after our death. For Aristotle, the soul or mind is not eternal; its existence is tied to that of the body. When it dies, the mind dies with it

Aristotle’s views are popular today, although he receives little credit. Many reject an afterlife, but cannot bring themselves to think their consciousness is nothing more than a series of chemical reactions taking place within the brain.

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7

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