Due Feb 1 (2 Pm Eastern Standard Time) Aristotle: On the Soul (D e A n i m a ) According to Aristotle a living creature consists of Body = matter Sou

Aristotle: On the Soul (D e A n i m a )

According to Aristotle a living creature consists of
Body = matter
Soul = form

The soul (psyche) is the structure of the body – its function and organization. This was the word
Greeks gave to the animator, the living force in a living being. For Aristotle the psyche controlled
reproduction, movement and perception.

Aristotle thought that the soul is the Form of the body. The soul is the sum total of the operations of
a human being.

Aristotle believed that there exists a hierarchy of living things – plants only have a vegetative soul,
animals are above plants because they have appetites, humans are above animals because it has the
power of reason.

Image source: http://gakuran.com/aristotles-moral-philosophy/

Aristotle tries to explain his understanding of the distinction between the body and the soul using the
analogy of an axe. If an axe were a living thing then its body would be made of wood and metal.
However, its soul would be the thing which made it an axe i.e. its capacity to chop. If it lost its ability
to chop it would cease to be an axe – it would simply be wood and metal.

Another illustration he uses is the eye. If the eye were an animal, sight would have to be its soul.
When the eye no longer sees then it is an eye in name only.

Likewise, a dead animal is only an animal in name only – it has the same body but it has lost its soul.

What is important for Aristotle is the end purpose of something – an axe chops, an eye sees, an
animal is animated…etc. This is what is meant by ‘teleology,’ from the Greek telos meaning

For Aristotle, the body and soul are not two separate elements but one thing. The body and the soul
are not, as Plato would have it, two distinct entities, but are different parts or aspects of the same

Aristotle does not allow for the possibility of the immortality of the soul. The soul is simply the
Form of the body, and is not capable of existing without the body. The soul is that which makes a
person a person, rather than just a lump of meat. Without the body the soul cannot exist. The soul
dies along with the body.

Criticisms of Aristotle

Aristotle dismisses Plato’s Realms of Ideas, saying there is no clear evidence for them. Instead he
appeals to our senses, claiming that it is through them that we experience reality. However, we are
still left with the problem that there is no clear evidence that our senses are reliable.

Text adapted from: http://www.scandalon.co.uk/philosophy/aristotle_body_soul.htm

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