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But on the Latin-Averroistic view, Aristotle is not thus referring to another capacity of the human soul, the intellect, but, rather, referring to a separate entity thanks to whose action human beings engage in what we call thinking.

But the cause of this, the agent intellect, is not a faculty of the soul. Aristotle had distinguished at least two intellects, a possible and an agent. The proof for incorruptibility which results from an activity that does not employ a corporeal organ is therefore a statement about the incorruptibility of this separate entity, not a basis for arguing that each human soul is incorruptible because it has the capacity to perform incorporeal activities.

The Latin-Averroists consequently denied that Aristotle taught personal immortality.

Given this consequence, Thomas's adoption of the opposite interpretation—viz. Thomas is frequently said to have baptized Aristotle, which seems to mean that he fitted him to the Procrustean bed of Christian doctrine. Of course, the full Christian view is not simply that the soul survives death but that it will be reunited with body, and Thomas nowhere suggests that there is any intimation of this in Aristotle. Oddly enough, it is often friends of Thomas who suggest that he merely used Aristotle and was not chiefly concerned with what Aristotle might actually have intended. However, this is an extraordinary approach to reading Thomas.

It would be less of an accusation to say that he got a passage wrong than that he pretended it meant something he knew it did not. However, the important point is whether Thomas's reading is or is not supported by the text. When he commented on the De anima , he seems not to be concerned with the flare up in Paris over Latin Averroism.

This is the basis for dating the commentary in , before Thomas returned to Paris. The commentary, accordingly, cannot be read as though it were prompted by the controversy. Of course, some might still say that Thomas had long term interests in taming Aristotle to behave in a Christian way. On the contrary, as it happens, during the second Parisian period in the thick of the Latin-Averroist controversy, Thomas wrote an opusculum dedicated to the question: what did Aristotle actually teach?

The work is called in the Latin, De unitate intellectus contra averroistas , On there being only one intellect contra the Averroists. This little work is absolutely essential for assessing the nature of Thomas's Aristotelianism. He provides us with an extended textual analysis to show that the rival interpretation cannot be sustained by the text and that the only coherent reading of the De anima must view the agent and possible intellects as faculties of the human soul.

His interpretation may be right or wrong, but the matter must be decided on the basis of textual interpretation, not vague remarks about Thomas's intentions. Philosophers nowadays will want to know how this account of substance places Aquinas on the question of the relation of body and soul with respect to Dualism and Physicalism. Not easily.

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Aquinas maintains that the soul is capable of existing apart from the living body after the death of the body, because the soul is incorruptible. However this picture fails to recognize the Aristotelian terms of the account that Aquinas provides of soul and body. Thomas knows and accepts Aristotle's assertion in De anima II.

The soul is indeed capable of existence apart from the body at death. This incorruptibility results from the actualities of understanding and willing that are not the actualities of any bodily organ, but of the human animal as such distinguished by the rational form. A subsistent is something with an operation of its own, existing either on its own or in another as an integral part, but not in the way either accidental or material forms exist in another.

Existing on its own is not distinctive of substances alone. A chair is a particular thing, and thus a subsistent. But on Aquinas' account it is not a substance; it is rather an accidental unity of other subsistents which may or may not be substances.

A hand has an operation distinctive of it as an integral part of a living body, an operation different from the operation of the stomach; it is a particular thing and also a subsistent. Summa Theologiae Ia. And yet being an integral and functional part of a substance, it does not have the complete nature of a substance.

A substance, on the other hand, is something that is both subsistent and complete in a nature—a nature being an intrinsic principle of movement and change in the subject.

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A human soul is a constitutive element of the nature of a human substance. It is the formal principle of a human substance. It is what is specified when we say what the substance is. But it is incomplete. What it is for a soul to be is to be the form of some substance.

As the principle of a nature, its nature is to be the formal element of a complete substance. Consequently, it doesn't have its own nature and is not a substance in its own right, even if it is capable of subsisting apart from the living body.


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It is because it is naturally incomplete as subsisting apart from the body that Thomas sees this state as unnatural for it, and an intimation of, but not an argument for, the resurrection of the body. Question Ia. Thomas begins 75 by pointing out that his concern is the concern of a theologian, and that the theologian is concerned with human nature primarily in relation to the soul. He is concerned with the body only in its relation to the soul.

The body of the question is filled with philosophical argument, and yet its order and point is theological. That theological order and point, however, can lead to certain philosophical distortions concerning the soul if one isn't careful. So Thomas is very careful. Considered as a substantial form of a material body, the soul exists in a living being as the substantial form of an animal. Here it is important to clarify. In the first way, any form as such is immaterial because it is not a material principle. It is distinguished as a principle of actuality in a being from the material principle which is a principle of potentiality and change in corporeal beings.

In that sense, any substantial form whatsoever will be immaterial, including the substantial form of an oak tree or the substantial form of a dog. And so also is the substantial form of the human immaterial in that sense. Aquinas is explicit about this when he proves that the human soul is immaterial in Summa Theologiae Ia. It is immaterial in just the way in which any form whatsoever is immaterial. But in the second way, 'immaterial' is said of subsistent forms—forms that subsist without matter like angels or spiritual substances in general.

The Eternity of the World in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas and his Contemporaries

In But then immediately in The souls of other animals are incorporeal in the sense of Socrates, the man, has vital activities that are the activities of a living animal, like sensation, nutrition, reproduction, and so on, activities that are not distinctive activities of the soul itself as intellect is in the human case. Since these are activities of Socrates and not activities of the soul, Socrates and the soul are not identical.

And so Socrates, if anything, is a living animal just like the other animals. Tacitly this leaves open the possibility that there might be an animal soul for Socrates that is not identical to the intellectual soul, and as shown in This possibility of two souls in Socrates, an animal soul and an intellectual soul will only be excluded later in question But in conjunction with the result of This result shows the soul to be a subsistent form that can exist without out matter.

And so it is now seen to be an immaterial subsistent in the second sense described above, not just the first sense. Now 'immaterial' characterizes its mode of existence, not just the negative fact that it is immaterial like all other forms are immaterial. So the difference between the human intellectual soul and the souls of other animals is that while both are immaterial in the first sense, the sense of not being material principles, the intellectual soul is an immaterial subsistent in the second sense while the souls of other animals are not immaterial subsistents.

A material form is a form that is not an immaterial subsistent; it exists either as an accident in a corporeal subject or as a substantial form in a corporeal subject, and does not subsist. So the substantial forms of bodies, particularly the souls of living bodies, are in general material forms with the exception of the intellectual soul. The souls of other animals are immaterial in the first sense and material with regard to the second sense, while the human soul is both immaterial in the first sense and immaterial in the second sense.

Brian Davies

Confirmation of this distinction of senses of 'immaterial' comes when in the very last article of the question, The souls of other animals are not directly generated and do not directly corrupt. It is the living animal that corrupts. But their souls can be said to corrupt with the animal. Quaestiones Disputatae De Anima 2 However, the human soul, because it is a subsistent immaterial form, does not corrupt with the death of the human being.

So when all these results are put together the intellectual soul is an incorporeal, immaterial, incorruptible subsistent, an immaterial form in the second sense, which looks an awful lot like an angel, since angels are also incorporeal, immaterial, incorruptible subsistents, and immaterial forms in the second sense. Angels are complete in their natures as incorporeal, immaterial, incorruptible subsistent forms—they are thus substances properly speaking. But Thomas had insisted all along that the soul is incomplete in its nature, even as it is an incorporeal, immaterial, incorruptible subsistent form—it is not a substance properly speaking.

Still, the soul can be called substance by analogy, insofar as it is the formal principle of a substance. The argument of We've already seen that Thomas, following Aristotle, thinks asking questions about the union of soul and body makes little sense for the philosopher. But because of the potentially distorting view of the theologian, the latter in a sense is forced to do so; the theologian has to ask philosophical questions the philosopher need not ask, in order to avoid a distorted view of the soul.

So in question 76 Thomas argues for the complete unity of soul with body against various alternative positions to be found among his contemporary theological interlocutors. Thus question 75, proceeding as it does from the theological perspective, gives rise to philosophical aporiae to be solved in question And just as it was the theologian's use of philosophical arguments in 75 that threatened a distorted view, it is the theologian's use of philosophical arguments in 76 that solves the aporiae , and avoids the distortion.

The Thought of Thomas Aquinas : Brian Davies :

Apart from anything else Thomas does in the two questions, taken together they provide an exemplar of the use of philosophy within theology, not just to advance certain theological positions but to assist the theologian in avoiding error given the exclusivity of his theological perspective.

Thomas fulfills what he himself had said is one of the roles of philosophy within theology in the first question of the Summa. There are at least three important results of Ia.