soul


soul
   While the word 'soul' has multiple meanings and connotations within philosophy, one might identify the core term as referring to the immaterial essence of a living thing, most often of a human person. The two predominant views on the soul in Christian thought date back to Plato and Aristotle. Plato's conception of the person as a soul attached to a body was taken up by Augustine, albeit with a greater emphasis on the goodness of embodiment. In contrast, Aristotle, whose metaphysics viewed all things as a combination of matter and form, viewed the person as the body/soul unity, with the soul being the form of the body. This view was adopted by Aquinas, though he rejected Aristotle's claim that the soul could not exist apart from the body. While Aristotle thought that plants had a vegetative soul, beasts a soul that was sensate as well as vegetative, and humans a soul that was rational as well as sensate and vegetative, Descartes's radical dualism denied souls of all animals but humans. In recent decades the concept of a soul has come under increasing criticism by philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Gilbert Ryle, with the latter dismissing it as the 'ghost in the machine'. While many philosophers (even Christians such as Peter van Inwagen) today reject the soul, owing to commitments to materialism, some theologians reject the soul and substance dualism as unbiblical Greek accretions on holistic Hebrew anthropology. Defenders of dualist anthropology (such as Richard Swinburne) claim that the concept of the soul can be reconciled with Scripture, and that it has explanatory scope in various areas including the nature of consciousness, personal identity and freedom.
   Further reading: Cooper 1989; Corcoran 2001; Swinburne 1997; van Inwagen 1990

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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