What did Aristotle think about the soul?

Text translated from its original version in Spanish

Aristotle, affirmed that the soul was that which gave fulfilment to the human being. That which organized the body, and by said ordering, could then execute vital functions. Contrary to Plato, the Aristotelian soul cannot subsist without the body, but what did Aristotle expect of the soul?

Discover the four points on how the Greek philosopher approached the concept of the soul in his book About the Soul.

Description of the relationship
between soul and body

The soul is the organization of the living body (its actualization or fullness) and it is what differentiates it from a corpse. The body, well organized (that is, with the soul), has the potential to carry out vital functions. The actualization of said potentiality, which is biological activity, is life.

Aristotle says that the soul is not a spirit separable from the body, as Plato maintained, since it cannot exist without the body, being the form or structure of a certain type of body, the living body, but neither is it itself a body, but something of a body, its form or structure.

The union of the body/soul is not accidental, but substantial. Soul and body do not exist on different sides, both exist exclusively in the substance of “man”, the distinction is real, but can only be thought. It is not immortal, since it cannot exist separately from matter.

Two definitions of the Soul

The soul is a constitutive principle, inseparable and interdependent that forms a substantial compound with the body, so that neither of these can have an existence of its own.

It is the form of a body that has life in potential and is a vital principle that realizes a potentiality of matter: it constitutes the realization of the capacity, which is exclusive to an organic body.

Aristotle distinguishes three kinds of soul: vegetative (typical of plants, but also present in animals and man), sensitive (of animals and man) and rational (exclusive of man) with three characteristics: cause of the movement of the body, knows (knowledge) and incorporeal.

It is form, and as form it is substance, in one of the three determinations of substance, which can be form, matter, or the compound of matter and form.

The argument about
why the soul is principle

From rationality. Saying that it is “entelechy [mode of existence of a being that has in itself the beginning of its action and its end] and form of that subject that has the possibility of becoming such a being.” The animated being differs from the inert because it performs a series of functions or acts of living.

Human beings are not the only ones who have a soul, but it is something “proper” to all living beings. The soul, therefore, is the principle of life, the source of the activities of every living being.

Soul powers

For Aristotle, the soul is one, but endowed with five groups of faculties (dunámeis): the “vegetative” ones (threptikón), in relation to the maintenance and development of organic life; those of appetite (oretikón), or the tendency to some good; those of perception of the senses (aisthetikón); those of “locomotion” (kinetikón) that direct the various body movements; and those of reason (dianoetikon).

This is, in short, what Aristotle thought about the soul.


*Translate: Mercedes González García 

Cite this article (APA): Garcia, M. (2021, January 22th). What did Aristotle think about the soul? Filosofía en la Red. https://filosofiaenlared.com/2021/01/alma-segun-aristoteles/

Image | Pixabay

#ancient philosophy, #aristotle, #english version, #greeks

por Miguel Ángel

ceo de filosofía en la red, drando. en Filosofía, mtro. filosofía y valores, lic. en psicología organizacional, PTB en enfermería; catedrático de licenciatura en la Universidad Santander (México)

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