William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Category: SAMT (page 1 of 30)

A tour through Saint Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles.

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).

Summary Against Modern Thought: The Intellect Is Not A Temperament

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 still on makeup and workings of the intellect and soul! More criticisms answered this week. And then we’ll take a two-week break for Christmas and New Year, after which comes some really juicy material.

Chapter 63 That the soul is not a temperament, as Galen maintained. (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 The opinion of the physician Galen about the soul is similar to the previously discussed notion of Alexander concerning the possible intellect. For Galen says that the soul is a temperament.

Now, he was moved to say this because of our observation that diverse passions, ascribed to the soul, result from various temperaments in us: those possessed of a choleric temperament are easily angered; melancholics easily grow sad. And so we see that the same arguments which we used a moment ago against Alexander’s theory can serve to disprove this notion of Galen’s, as well as some arguments specifically relevant to that notion.

Note I eschewed the pun about the caloric life with the choleric temperament since this is a sober subject.

2 For it was shown above that the operation of the vegetative soul, sensitive knowledge, and, much more, the operation of the intellect transcend the power of the active and passive qualities. But temperament is caused by active and passive qualities. Therefore, it cannot be a principle of the soul’s operations. It is, then, impossible for a soul to be a temperament.

Note But then needs to be explained when my grandmother in high temper would burst out, “Oh my soul!” (That’s the last one, I promise. I’ll even leave paragraph 4 alone.)

3 Moreover, temperament is something constituted by contrary qualities, as a kind of mean between them, and therefore it cannot possibly be a substantial form, since “substance has no contrary, and does not admit of variation of degree.” But the soul is a substantial, not an accidental, form; otherwise, a thing would not obtain genus or species through the soul. It follows that the soul is not a temperament.

4 Again, temperament is not responsible for the local movement of an animal’s body; if it were, then that body would follow the movement of the preponderant element, and thus would always be moved downwards. But the soul moves the body in all directions; therefore, it is not the temperament.

5 Then, too, the soul rules the body and resists the passions, which follow the temperament. For by temperament some are more prone than others to concupiscence or anger, yet refrain more from these things because something keeps them in check, as we see in continent persons. Now, it is not the temperament that does this. Therefore, the soul is not the temperament.

6 It would seem that Galen was misled through not having considered that passions are attributed to the temperament in quite a different manner than to the soul. For passions are ascribed to the temperament as a dispositive cause in their regard, and as concerns that which is material in them, such as the heat of the blood and the like. On the other hand, passions are ascribed to the soul as their principal cause, and as regards that which is formal in them; for instance, the desire of vengeance in the passion of anger.

Summary Against Modern Thought: More On The Possible Intellect

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 still on makeup and workings of the intellect and soul. Stay with this: it is the most important subject after God. Your soul, I mean. Plus it is interesting to see how Aquinas handles objections.

Chapter 62 Against Alexander’s opinion concerning the possible intellect (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 Having considered these sayings of Aristotle, Alexander asserted that the possible intellect is a power in us, so that the common definition of soul given by Aristotle in De anima might apply to that intellect. But because he was unable to understand how an intellectual substance could be the form of a body, he held that the power of which we speak does not have its foundation in an intellectual substance, but that it is consequent upon a blending of elements in the human body.

For the particular kind of blending found in the human body makes man to be in potentiality to receive the influx of the agent intellect, which is always in act, and according to him is a separate substance, the effect of that influx being that man is made to understand actually. Now, that which enables man to understand is the possible intellect. And thus, it seemed to follow that the possible intellect is in us the result of a particular blending.

Notes Not to say frappé. (Sorry.)

2 But this position seems at first glance to be contrary to both the words and the proof of Aristotle. For, as we have already pointed out, Aristotle proves in De anima in that the possible intellect is “free from all admixture with the body” [III, 4]. And this could not possibly be said of a power resulting from a blending of elements, since such a power must be rooted in that very blending of elements, as we see in the case of taste, smell, and the like. Seemingly, then, this notion of Alexander’s is incompatible with the words and the proof of Aristotle.

3 To this, however, Alexander replies that the possible intellect is the very preparedness in human nature to receive the influx of the agent intellect. And preparedness is not itself a particular sensible nature, nor is it intermixed with the body, rather, preparedness is a certain relation, and the order of one thing to another.

4 But this notion also clearly clashes with Aristotle’s meaning. For Aristotle proves that the reason why the possible intellect does not itself have the nature of any particular sensible thing, and consequently is free from any admixture with the body, is because it is receptive of all the forms of sensible things, and cognizant of them. Now, preparedness cannot be thought of in such terms, for it does not mean to receive, but to be prepared to receive. So it is that Aristotle’s demonstration proceeds not from preparedness, but from a prepared recipient.

5 Moreover, if what Aristotle says about the possible intellect applies to it as a preparedness, and not by reason of the nature of the subject prepared, it will follow that it applies to every preparedness. Now, in the senses there is a certain preparedness to receive sensibles in act. And so, the same thing must be said of the senses as of the possible intellect. But Aristotle clearly says the contrary in explaining the difference between the receptivity of the senses and of the intellect, from the fact that the sense is corrupted by objects exceedingly high or intense, but not the intellect…

Notes Your eyes (and associated body parts) can be overwhelmed by a brilliant light, but your intellect is not bruised by a brilliant insight, or turn of phrase. (Sorry again.)

7 “The agent is superior to the patient, and the maker to the thing made,” as act to potentiality. Now, the more immaterial a thing is, the higher its level of being. Therefore, the effect cannot be more immaterial than its cause. But every cognitive power, as such, is immaterial.

Thus, Aristotle says that the power of sense, which occupies the lowest place in the order of cognitive powers, is “receptive of sensible species without matter.” It is therefore impossible for a cognitive power to be caused by a commingling of elements. Now, the possible intellect is the highest cognitive power in us; for Aristotle says that the possible intellect is “that by which the soul knows and understands.” Therefore, the possible intellect is not caused by a mixture of elements…

Notes But every cognitive power, as such, is immaterial. This cannot be emphasized enough. Repeat until you’re sick of hearing it.

9 Understanding is an operation in which no bodily organ can possibly take part. Now, this operation is attributed to the soul, or even to the man, for it is said that the soul understands, or man, by the soul. Hence, there must be in man a principle, independent of the body, which is the source of that operation. However, the preparedness that results from a blending of the elements clearly depends on the body; and, consequently, it is not this principle. But the possible intellect is for Aristotle says in De anima in that this intellect is “that by which the soul knows and understands.” Therefore, the possible intellect is not a preparedness.

10 Now, seemingly it is not enough to say that the principle of the operation of understanding in us is the intelligible species brought into act by the agent intellect. For man comes to understand actually after understanding potentially.

So, it follows that he understands not only by the intelligible species, whereby he is made to understand actually, but also by an intellective power, which is the principle of this operation of understanding; and such is the case also with the senses. Now, Aristotle holds that this power is the possible intellect. Therefore, the possible intellect is independent of the body.

11 Moreover, a species is intelligible in act only so far as it is freed from its presence in matter. But this cannot be done so long as it remains in a material power, namely, a power which is caused by material principles, or is the act of a material organ. The presence in us of an intellective power that is immaterial must, therefore, be granted. And this power is the possible intellect.

Notes “[A] species is intelligible in act only so far as it is freed from its presence in matter”? Reminder: forms are not material.

12 Also, Aristotle speaks of the possible intellect as being part of the soul. Now, the soul is not a preparedness, but an act, since preparedness is the order of potentiality to act. And yet an act is followed by a preparedness for a further act; the act of transparency is followed by an order to the act of light. Therefore, the possible intellect is not a preparedness itself, but is a certain act…

Summary Against Modern Thought: Aristotle vs Averroes On The Intellect & Soul

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 still on makeup and workings of the intellect and soul. A blessing this week: a short chapter! And an easy one at that; some points of disagreement between Aquinas and Aristotle and the Islamic scholar Averroes are cleared up.

Chapter 61 That this theory is contrary to the teaching of Aristotle (alternate translation) We’re using the alternate translation this week.

1 Averroes, however, attempts to strengthen his position by appealing to authority, saying, therefore, that Aristotle was of the same opinion. We shall, then, show clearly that Averroes’ doctrine is contrary to that of Aristotle.

2 First, because Aristotle in De anima II [1] defines the soul as “the first act of an organic physical body having life potentially”; and he adds that this definition “applies universally to every kind of soul”; nor, as Averroes imagines, does Aristotle express any doubt concerning this definition. The Greek texts, as well as Boethius’ translation, give clear proof of this.

3 And afterwards in the same chapter, Aristotle remarks that “certain parts of the soul are separable.” But these are no other than intellective parts. Hence, it remains that these parts are acts of the body.

Notes And the intellective parts are immaterial.

4 Nor is this point contradicted by what Aristotle says later on, namely: “Nothing is clear as yet about the intellect and the power of insight, but it seems to be another kind of soul” [II, 1] For Aristotle does not mean by this to exclude the intellect from the common definition of soul, but from the nature proper to the other parts of the soul; thus, he who says that “the flying animal is of another kind than the walking” does not exclude the former from the common definition of animal.

So, in order to explain what he meant by saying another, Aristotle immediately adds: “And this alone is capable of separate existence, as the everlasting apart from the perishable.”

Nor is it Aristotle’s intention, as Averroes imagines, to say that, in contrast with the clear knowledge which we have concerning the other parts of the soul, it is not yet clear whether the intellect is the soul. The genuine text does not read, nothing has been declared, or nothing has been said, but nothing is clear; and this must be taken to refer to that which is proper to the intellective soul, and not to the common definition. But if, as Averroes says, soul is predicated equivocally of the intellect and of other souls, then Aristotle would first have pointed out the equivocation, and given the definition afterwards, in keeping with his usual procedure. Otherwise, his argument would have been based on an equivocation, and in demonstrative science there is no room for that sort of thing.

5 Moreover, Aristotle in De anima II [3] reckons the intellect among the powers of the soul; and in the text previously quoted he calls it the power of insight. Therefore, the intellect is not outside the human soul, but is one of its powers.

Notes And reason another; but “reason is an imperfection of intelligence.” We wouldn’t have to reason if we already knew, as God does, and as angels do (some things).

6 And when in that same work Aristotle begins his discussion of the possible intellect by speaking of it as “the part of the soul with which the soul has knowledge and wisdom” [III, 4], he thus plainly indicates that the possible intellect is a part of the soul.

7 Aristotle indeed makes this point still more explicit when he explains later on what the nature of the possible intellect is: “By the intellect,” he says, “I mean that by which the soul judges and understands” [III, 4]. This makes it perfectly clear that the intellect is that part of the human soul by which it understands.

8 The Averroistic position in question is, then, contrary to the opinion of Aristotle and to the truth, and is to be rejected therefore as sheer fiction.

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