Outline. Aquinas On Aristotle’s Demonstration of the Soul’s Definition

διὸ ψθχή ἐστιν ἐντελέχεια ἠ πρώτη σώματος φυσικοῦ δυνάμει ζωὴν ἔχοντος

Αριστοτελους, ΠΕΡΙ ΨΥΧΗΣ, Β 1, 412a28-29

The soul is the first actuality of a natural body with the potentiality of having life

Aristotle, de Anima II. 1, 412a28-29

 Demonstration of the definition of the soul from Aristotle, de Anima II, 2 according to Thomas Aquinas, In de Anima II, lt. 2-4.


Major: The principle of life is the first actuality and substantial form of the living thing

Minor: The soul is the principle of life

Conclusion: The soul is the first actuality and substantial form of the living thing

The middle is the definition of the principle of life.

Defense of the major: The living composite material substance is composed of two substantial principles, the matter and the form.  The matter is in potentiality and the form is in actuality, and so takes priority over the material principle (you know this from the Physics I. 7-9; II. 1; Metaphysics Θ 8; Λ 6-7).  The matter cannot be the principle of life’s first actuality, because matter is a principle of potentiality, whereas form is a principle of actuality (cf. Metaphysics Z 3, 17; Θ 6-9).  Hence, the form as the first actuality is the principle of life.

Defense of the minor: As is clear from induction not all bodies are living, and so it is due to a principle other than corporeality that some bodies are living.  This principle is called soul, i.e., animation, which is the principle of nutrition, sensation, movement, and intellection.  The soul is the primary principle of these, for even they all (except for the intellect) clearly exist through the body, i.e., it is in and through the body that we have health and sensation, we are primarily said to have health and sensation on account of the soul. We do not live on account of the body, but because of the soul.  Hence, the soul is called the principle of life, nutrition, sensation, and so on.

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This entry was posted in Aristotle, de Anima, Soul, Thomas Aquinas and tagged by Daniel D. De Haan. Bookmark the permalink.

About Daniel D. De Haan

I am a graduate student at the Center for Thomistic Studies in Houston, TX, working on my doctorate in Medieval philosophy. My historical research focuses on the inner sense psychology of Thomas Aquinas, Avicenna, and Averroes, the commentary tradition on Aristotle's de Anima up to Aquinas, and the metaphysics of Avicenna and Thomas Aquinas. My research in contemporary issues has focused on attempts to integrate Thomistic philosophical anthropology with the insights of phenomenology and Wittgenstein, like one finds in the work of Karol Wojtyła, David Braine, Peter Geach, and Elizabeth Anscombe. I am also interested in philosophical problems prompted by neuroscience, especially concerning the compatibility of hylomorphism with neuroplasticity. I will be taking my doctoral comprehensive exams in the Spring of 2012 and I should be submitting my dissertation proposal by April 2012. I will be writing on the doctrine of being within Avicenna's Metaphysics of the Shifā and the introduction of modal logic into Aristotelian metaphysics. In 2010 I presented conference papers at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, MI, at the University of Marquette, University of St. Thomas, and the Annual Conference of American Catholic Philosophical Association in Baltimore, MD. In March, 2011 I presented a paper on Addiction and Thomistic Anthropology at The Catholic University of America. This summer I will participating in the eight week University of Wisconsin-Madison's Intensive Arabic program, and the 2011 Thomistic Seminar hosted by the Witherspoon Institute at Princeton University. I will also be presenting a paper on the demonstrations for God's existence in Avicenna's Metaphysics of the Shifā' for the the Aquinas and the "Arabs" satellite session at the Annual ACPA meeting. I received the 2010 American Catholic Philosophical Association's Young Scholars Award for my paper: "Linguistic Apprehension as Incidental Sensation in Thomas Aquinas". This paper will be published in the Forthcoming: 2011, American Catholic Philosophical Association, Proceedings of the ACPA, Vol. 84.

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