JMC : Pre-Scholastic Philosophy / by Albert Stöckl


§ 77.

1. The human soul is a substance essentially different from the body -- immaterial, simple, and spiritual. The category of Quantity cannot be applied to it; it has not extension in space. The proofs adduced by Augustine for this doctrine are, briefly, the following:

(a.) If the soul were corporeal, it would be a body of determined quality. It would, in consequence, have knowledge of itself as being of this quality. This, however, is not the case. (De Trin., X. c. 7.)

(b.) Even the faculty of sensuous perception is inexplicable, if supposed to belong to a principle wholly material. If the soul were corporeal it could not containat once within itself the vast number of sensuous images with which our memory is stored. Still less can our intellectual knowledge be attributed to a corporeal principle, for this knowledge is concerned with the immaterial and supersensuous, whereas the corporeal deals only with the corporeal and sensible; to this only is its power proportioned. (De Anima et ejus Orig., c. 17. De Quant. Anim., c. 13.)

(c.) When we reflect upon a truth, we penetrate and understand it more perfectly the more we withdraw from sense and retire within ourselves, and so become immersed in the truth. Now, if the soul were merely the harmony of the body, and not a substance distinct from it. this divorce from the body and concentration of the soul within itself would be impossible. (De Immort. Anim., c. 10.)

(d.) The soul perceives at every point of the body the impressions made at that point, and perceives, them not by a portion of its being, but by the entire ego. It must, therefore, be whole in every, part of the body. This is possible only if the soul is of simple incorporeal nature, for a body, being an extended entity, can be present simultaneously at several points only by means of the several parts of which it is composed. (Ep. 166, ad Hieron., p. 4.)

2. From the immaterial and simple nature of the soul we may argue to its further characteristics, In the first place it is essentially individual. There is no such thing as an universal soul -- each man has his own individual soul. In the second place, the soul of man, being essentially spiritual and rational, cannot be degraded to the condition of an irrational soul; the doctrine of the migration of souls is, therefore, an absurdity. In the third place, the human soul is like in nature to the pure spirits or angels. Its nature, no doubt, disposes it to union with the body, but this does not make it specifically distinct from the angels, for the angels, too, have bodies, though these are more perfect in kind than the bodies of men, and are immortal. It follows that man being distinguished from the brutes, on the one side, and from the angels, on the other, may be rightly defined an animal rationale mortale.

3. The soul is not, as the Manicheans say, an emanation from God. If it were, it ought either to share in all the divine perfections, being of like nature with God, or the Divine substance ought to be capable of all those imperfections which we perceive in ourselves. The one alternative is as absurd as the other. The soul must, therefore, like other beings, have been originally created by God.

4. As to the point of time at which the soul of the first man was created, Augustine is led by his principle that God created all things at once, to the view that Adam's soul was created at the same time as all other spiritual beings, and was subsequently united to the body. That union, however, was not the punishment of any offence; the nature of the soul required its union with the body, the union was not unnatural, nor was it for the soul a condition of misfortune.

5. Augustine rejects the notion that all human souls have been created simultaneously and are united successively to the several bodies which they animate. The individual soul comes into existence with the individual body to which it belongs. But Augustine is unable to arrive at a definite opinion as to the manner in which these souls come into being. Their origin by a generative process would seem to him to afford the best explanation of the transmission of original sin; but, on the other hand, it is inconceivable to him how one soul can be generated by another, if the soul be an immaterial and simple essence. The theory of generation degenerates easily into Traducianism -- a doctrine which must be totally rejected, for it has meaning only in the hypothesis that the soul is of a corporeal nature.

6. But the theory of creation is, according to Augustine, surrounded with insoluble difficulties. If God daily creates new souls, these souls as they come forth from His hand must be good in themselves. Now, in their union with the body they are made subject to original sin; and as this union is not of their choice, but accomplished wholly by God, it is difficult to explain on what grounds those souls can be eternally reprobated which could not by any possibility be purified by baptism, such souls, for instance, as those of children who die unbaptized. God would be obliged to secure baptism for such children; for if, by uniting their souls to their bodies, He makes them subject to original sin, He is bound to make provision for their deliverance from this sin. But, on the other hand, God cannot be held to owe anything to anyone.

7. In this way, Augustine sees difficulties on both sides, to which he can find no answer. He, therefore, holds it to be the more prudent, and the safer, course to suspend his judgment -- and this all the more that Sacred Scripture does not lay down any definite teaching on the point. The passages which are cited in favour of the one theory or the other are not conclusive, because any one of them can be interpreted in the sense of either theory. This he undertakes to prove in regard to a number of such passages.

8. Augustine asserts emphatically the oneness of the soul in man. The essential constituent parts of man are soul and body, and nothing more. If an argument be built on the words of the Apostle, "the flesh wars against the spirit," to show that there are in man two souls substantially different from one another, each having a will of its own, it might be argued with equal force, that there is no reason why we should stop at a duality of wills; we should admit as many wills as there are opposing tendencies in man, and these tendencies are numberless.

9. In one aspect of its being the soul of man is in close relation with the body, in another it is superior to the body. We may distinguish in the soul a pars inferior and a pars superior, according to the different characters of the faculties with which it is endowed. By the lower part of the soul we mean the vegetative and sensitive faculties, in virtue of which the soul is the principle of corporeal life, as well as of sensuous perception and locomotion. The functions of these faculties are essentially dependent upon the bodily organs. The higher part of the soul, on the other hand, signifies the intellectual faculties -- reason and will -- faculties whose functions are not dependent on the bodily organism. Herein lies the difference between "spirit" and "soul." The terms are altogether relative: In so far forth as the soul stands in immediate relation with the body by its sensitive and vegetative faculties, it may be called "soul" in the stricter sense of the term; in so far as it is exalted above the body in its functions of thought and will, it may be called "spirit."

10. The soul in its union with the body is the element which determines the nature or specific character of the composite entity: "Tradit speciem anima corpori, ut sit corpus, in quantum est." (De Immort. Anim., c. 15.) And hence, man, as man, is something different from either of the component elements of his being. The body is not man, neither is the soul; man is the unit formed by both (De Mor. Eccl., I., c. 4). Body and soul in conjunction form a single nature different from both constituents -- this nature is man.

11. The relations which subsist between the body and the soul in man render it impossible for the body to exercise independently any influence upon the soul. This becomes more evident if we observe that to admit the opposite would be to give the soul the character of matter which receives in itself the action of the body -- a supposition which is incompatible with the spiritual nature of the soul, and its superiority to the body. The body, then, does not act upon the soul, but the soul acts in and through the body. If the soul suffers, it is not that it is so affected by the body; the affection comes from itself in so far as it has become capable of suffering by its union with the body, and by its activity in the organism.

12. The action of the soul in the body and on the body is not, however, immediate. Between the active soul and the organs of the body there is interposed a subtle element of a somewhat spiritual nature by means of which the action of the soul reaches the organs of the body. This element Augustine designates "Light" or "Air;" that is, he atrributes to it a nature analogous to that of light and air. In this way he tries to bridge over the chasm that separates the spiritual soul from matter. He is, however, ready to admit that it remains a mystery impossible of adequate comprehension how the soul is united to a material body.

13. The human soul, in so far as it is a sensitive soul, shows its activity in the functions of sensuous knowledge and sensuous appetite. To the faculty of sensuous knowledge belong the external senses, the Sensus Communis or General Sense in which the external senses are united, the Imagination (vis spiritalis) and the Sensuous Memory. The Sensuous Appetite is the faculty of sensuous pleasure. To the soul, as spirit, Augustine assigns three fundamental faculties: -- Intellectual Memory (memoria), Intelligence (intelligentia), and Will (voluntas). Furthermore, Intelligence is either intuitive or discursive, and we must, therefore distinguish between Intellect (mens) and Reason (ratio). In other parts of his work, (De Quant. Anim. c. 27), Augustine substitutes, for the last two terms, the expressions Ratio and Ratiocinatio. The distinction here laid down is, it must be remembered, only relative.

14. The soul, being spirit, is created after the image of the Triune God. All other things exhibit the imprint (vestigia) of the Trinity in their unity, form, and order; but in the soul we have the image (imago) of God. Augustine explains variously wherein the image of God consists. He finds it in the trinity of elements -- Being, Knowledge, Will; in the three fundamental faculties -- Memory, Intelligence, Will; and lastly in the action of these three fundamental faculties when they are concerned with God. When the soul remembers God, the thought of God proceeds from this recollection, and with this thought is conjoined the love of God, which serves as it were to bind together the recollection and the thought. In this threefold action is reflected, in clear outline, the triune life of God.

15. The soul is, of its nature, immortal. For this proposition Augustine adduces many proofs, akin, for the most part, to the Platonist reasoning; of this kind are the following: --

(a) That thing in which the imperishable exists is itself imperishable. Now truth exists in the soul, inasmuch as the soul possesses it by knowledge. Truth is imperishable. Therefore, the soul must be imperishable also.

(b) The soul is identified with Reason. Now Reason, as such, is immortal, for the principles of Reason are immortal. It follows that the soul is imperishable, if the soul be inseparable from Reason. That it is inseparable is proved by the fact that the union of the soul with Reason is not an union in space, and the one, by consequence, cannot be separated from the other. The soul, accordingly, is imperishable; and, since Reason can exist only in a living subject, the union of Reason with the soul implies not only the indefectibility of the latter, but also the perpetuity of its life -- namely, its immortality, in the true sense of the term.

(e) The essential distinction between soul and body consists in this, that the soul is life, whilst the body is merely animated. If the soul, like the body, could be deprived of life, it would cease to be a soul, it would be like the body, merely a something animated (animatum). The soul, therefore, cannot lose its life; that is, it is immortal.

(d) Being has no contrary principle which can destroy it (essentiae nihil contrarium). The body though dissolved after death does not lose its being, for its elements remain; so the soul also must endure, that is, it is imperishable. Nor is there any principle contrary to the life of the soul which can destroy it. The life of the soul is truth, and the contrary of truth is error; but error, it is clear, cannot destroy the life of the soul. It follows that not only in its being, but also in its life, the soul is imperishable; that is to say, it is immortal.

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