on the spirituality and immortality of the soul
Human Soul is Something Subsistent?”
I, q. 75, a. 2 c.
1. It would seem that the human soul is not something subsistent.
For that which subsists is said to be "this particular
thing." Now "this particular thing" is said
not of the soul, but of that which is composed of soul and
body. Therefore the soul is not something subsistent.
2. Further, everything subsistent operates. But the soul does
not operate; for, as the Philosopher says (De Anima i, 4),
"to say that the soul feels or understands is like saying
that the soul weaves or builds." Therefore the soul is
3. Further, if the soul were subsistent, it would have some
operation apart from the body. But it has no operation apart
from the body, not even that of understanding: for the act
of understanding does not take place without a phantasm, which
cannot exist apart from the body. Therefore the human soul
is not something subsistent.
On the contrary,
Augustine says (De Trin. x, 7): "Who understands that
the nature of the soul is that of a substance and not that
of a body, will see that those who maintain the corporeal
nature of the soul, are led astray through associating with
the soul those things without which they are unable to think
of any nature--i.e. imaginary pictures of corporeal things."
Therefore the nature of the human intellect is not only incorporeal,
but it is also a substance, that is, something subsistent.
I answer that,
It must necessarily be allowed that the principle of intellectual
operation which we call the soul, is a principle both incorporeal
and subsistent. For it is clear that by means of the intellect
man can have knowledge of all corporeal things. Now whatever
knows certain things cannot have any of them in its own nature;
because that which is in it naturally would impede the knowledge
of anything else. Thus we observe that a sick man's tongue
being vitiated by a feverish and bitter humor, is insensible
to anything sweet, and everything seems bitter to it. Therefore,
if the intellectual principle contained the nature of a body
it would be unable to know all bodies. Now every body has
its own determinate nature. Therefore it is impossible for
the intellectual principle to be a body. It is likewise impossible
for it to understand by means of a bodily organ; since the
determinate nature of that organ would impede knowledge of
all bodies; as when a certain determinate color is not only
in the pupil of the eye, but also in a glass vase, the liquid
in the vase seems to be of that same color.
the intellectual principle which we call the mind or the intellect
has an operation "per se" apart from the body. Now
only that which subsists can have an operation "per se."
For nothing can operate but what is actual: for which reason
we do not say that heat imparts heat, but that what is hot
gives heat. We must conclude, therefore, that the human soul,
which is called the intellect or the mind, is something incorporeal
Reply to Objection
1. "This particular thing" can be taken in two senses.
anything subsistent; secondly, for that which subsists, and
is complete in a specific nature. The former sense excludes
the inherence of an accident or of a material form; the latter
excludes also the imperfection of the part, so that a hand
can be called "this particular thing" in the first
sense, but not in the second. Therefore, as the human soul
is a part of human nature, it can indeed be called "this
particular thing," in the first sense, as being something
subsistent; but not in the second, for in this sense, what
is composed of body and soul is said to be "this particular
Reply to Objection
2. Aristotle wrote those words as expressing not his own opinion,
but the opinion of those who said that to understand is to
be moved, as is clear from the context. Or we may reply that
to operate "per se" belongs to what exists "per
se." But for a thing to exist "per se," it
suffices sometimes that it be not inherent, as an accident
or a material form; even though it be part of something. Nevertheless,
that is rightly said to subsist "per se," which
is neither inherent in the above sense, nor part of anything
else. In this sense, the eye or the hand cannot be said to
subsist "per se"; nor can it for that reason be
said to operate "per se." Hence the operation of
the parts is through each part attributed to the whole. For
we say that man sees with the eye, and feels with the hand,
and not in the same sense as when we say that what is hot
gives heat by its heat; for heat, strictly speaking, does
not give heat. We may therefore say that the soul understands,
as the eye sees; but it is more correct to say that man understands
through the soul.
Reply to Objection
3. The body is necessary for the action of the intellect,
not as its origin of action, but on the part of the object;
for the phantasm is to the intellect what color is to the
sight. Neither does such a dependence on the body prove the
intellect to be non-subsistent; otherwise it would follow
that an animal is non-subsistent, since it requires external
objects of the senses in order to perform its act of perception.”
(trans. by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province)
for the spirituality of the soul follows Aristotle’s lines:
(1) the soul
is incorporeal and subsistent;
(2) “for it is
clear that by means of the intellect man can have knowledge
of all corporeal things”; and
(3) “if the intellectual
principle contained the nature of a body it would be unable
to know all bodies”.
As with Aristotle’s,
Aquinas’ argument does not concern the human person, or subject.
In Aquinas, this is explicitly stated.
“incorporeal” and “subsistent” correspond to Aristotle’s terms
“separable” “pure from all admixture” “[not] blended with
present in Aquinas’ text:
“It is impossible for the intellectual principle to
be a body” because “every body has its own determinate nature”;
It is impossible for the intellectual soul “to understand
by means of a bodily organ because the determinate nature
of that organ would impede knowledge of all bodies; as when
a certain determinate color is not only in the pupil of the
eye, but also in a glass vase, the liquid in the vase seems
to be of that same color”;
“Operation ‘per se’ apart from the body”: “only that
which subsists can have an operation per se”.
It is crucial
to focus on the meaning of “subsistent” (the actuality of
intellectual form does not depend on its union with the body).
The intellectual soul does have a proper act of existence;
it is therefore “separable.” This is true if there are operations
of the intellectual soul which do not depend on the union
with the body.