Summary Against Modern Thought: The Soul Is Not A Body

This may be proved in three ways. The first...
This may be proved in three ways. The first…
See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

We’re back at it, folks. Be sure to review. This is difficult material. The first Chapter, 64, is brief wrap-up material which can be glossed; the real meat is in 65, which follows also this week.

Chapter 64 That the soul is not a harmony. (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 Along the lines of the foregoing theory is the view of those who say that the soul is a harmony. For these persons thought of the soul not as a harmony of sounds, but of the contraries of which they observed animate bodies to be composed. In the De anima [I, 4] this notion seems to be attributed to Empedocles, although Gregory of Nyssa ascribes it to Dinarchus. And it is disproved in the same way as Galen’s theory, as well as by arguments that apply properly to itself.

2 For every mixed body has harmony and temperament. Nor can harmony move a body or rule it or curb the passions, any more than can temperament. Moreover, harmony is subject to intensification and remission; and so, too, is temperament. All these things show that the soul is not a harmony, even as it is not a temperament…

4 Again, harmony has two senses; for it can be taken to signify the composition itself, or the mode of composition. Now, the soul is not a composition, since each part of the soul would have to consist in the composition of some of the parts of the body; and such an allotting of psychic part to corporeal part is impossible. Nor is the soul a mode of composition; for, since in the various parts of the body there are various modes or proportions of composition, each part of the body would have a distinct soul: since bone, flesh, and sinew are in each case composed according to a different proportion, each would possess a different soul. Now, this is patently false. Therefore, the soul is not a harmony.

Chapter 65 That the soul is not a body. (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 There were also others whose thinking was even wider of the mark, since they asserted that the soul is a body. Although they held divergent and various opinions, it suffices to refute them here collectively.

2 For, since living things are physical realities, they are composed of matter and form. Now, they are composed of a body and a soul, which makes them actually living. Therefore, one of these two must be the form and the other matter. But the body cannot be the form, because the body is not present in another thing as its matter and subject. The soul, then, is the form, and consequently is not a body, since no body is a form.

Notes Short and sweet. Don’t forget to review about matter and form, from the early days of this series. Use the link at the bottom of the site, and choose SAMT as the category.

3 It is, moreover, impossible for two bodies to coincide. But, so long as the body lives, the soul is not apart from it. Therefore, the soul is not a body.

4 Then, too, every body is divisible. Now, whatever is divisible requires something to keep together and unite its parts, so that, if the soul is a body, it will have something else to preserve its integrity, and this yet more will be the soul; for we observe that, when the soul departs, the body disintegrates. And if this integrating principle again be divisible, we must at last either arrive at something indivisible and incorruptible, which will be the soul, or go on to infinity; which is impossible. Therefore, the soul is not a body.

Notes Being a body means being extended, or having extension. The key premise is that every body is divisible. The formula is matter + form = a body. In order for the premise to be true is that all matter in actuality must be divisible, or has extension. This has important implications in physics. Certainly all known bodies are divisible or have extension—even though we may not know how these bodies can be divided.

5 Again. It has been proved in Book I of this work, and in Physics VIII, that every self-mover is composed of two parts: one, the part that moves and is not moved; the other, the part that is moved. Now, the animal is a self-mover, and the mover in it is the soul, and the body is the moved. Therefore, the soul is an unmoved mover. But no body moves without being moved, as was shown in that same Book. Therefore, the soul is not a body.

Notes Souls can still change, however; souls have potentials that have to be actualized by something actual.

6 Furthermore, we have already shown that understanding cannot be the act of a body. But it is the act of a soul. Consequently, at least the intellective soul is not a body.

7 Now the arguments by which some have tried to prove that the soul is a body are easily solved. They argue as follows: that the son is like the father even in accidents of the soul, despite the fact that the begetting of the one by the other involves the parting of body from body; that the soul suffers with the body; that the soul is separate from the body, and separation is between mutually contacting bodies.

8 But against this argumentation it has already been pointed out that the bodily temperament has a certain dispositive causality with respect to the passions of the soul. Moreover, it is only accidentally that the soul suffers with the body; for, since the soul is the form of the body, it is moved accidentally by the body’s being moved. Also, the soul is separate from the body, not as a thing touching from a thing touched, but as form from matter, although, as we have shown, that which is incorporeal does have a certain contact with the body.

Notes Aha! “…that which is incorporeal does have a certain contact with the body.” What a loaded statement! A statement which we will return to more than once. Stay tuned.

9 Indeed, what motivated many to adopt this position was their belief that there is nothing that is not a body, for they were unable to rise above the imagination, which is exclusively concerned with bodies. That is why this view is proposed in the person of the foolish, who say of the soul: “The breath in our nostrils is smoke, and speech a spark to move our heart” (Wis. 2:2).


  1. Oldavid

    [quote Briggs] Notes Souls can still change, however; souls have potentials that have to be actualized by something actual. [/quote]

    I think that this is, perhaps, the very most important aspect of humanness that is overlooked by both Materialists and Biblical Fundamentalists… the human soul, with its intellect and will, is a “thing” or “stuff” that is necessarily disposed toward, and requires, sensory inputs to complete its reason and mode of being.

    The blessed Human is a physical (bodily) “thing” whose mind is fed through the senses. (As St Paul (the nutcase, the ratbag) says: “Faith comes through hearing”). We are all natural things made of natural stuff who can only do natural things (infused natural morality excepted) unless Nature is augmented with wilful and intellectual prescriptions and/or proscriptions; attractions and/or revulsions, if you like.

    Now, I’m not going to leave this “Evolution” thing alone as if it didn’t matter.

    The sanctimonious intellectual perverts who try to pretend that Darwinism is compatible with philosophy (science) are the greatest deceivers in the world. They are the monstrosity that excuses all relativism… no Modernism, Secular or “Theological”, could survive without it.

    Yes. I completely assert that intellect is not a body that can only grow to fill the available space; it is a propensity to know truth.

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