AQA Religious Studies, Body Soul and Personal Identity

AQA Religious Studies revision cards based on the 'Nature and Existence of the Soul' and also on the 'Body and Soul relationship'.

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Plato's view on the nature of the soul

Plato - Dualism.


  • Belongs to the physical world, it will return to dust and not survive death.


  • pre-existing self, temporarily imprisoned in the body
  • belongs to higher spiritual realm of eternal truths e.g justice, love and goodness.
  • aims to break free from the body and fly to the realm of ideas
  • survives death to spend an eternity contemplating truth, beauty and goodness
  • the real essence of the person, our personal identity.
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Aristotle - Materialism.

  • Body and soul are united and inseperable (when the body dies, as does the soul).
  • Soul is the part of the body that gave it life.
  • Mind is the part of the soul which reasons.
  • Through reason humans develop intellectually and morally.
  • Soul develops a persons skills and character.
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  • animated the body and gave it life.
  • independent of the body
  • cannot be divided into parts and will not decay
  • will survive death
  • keeps the personal identity of the body after death
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  • body and soul are united.
  • humans are both a spirit and matter forming a single nature.
  • God created the soul at conception.
  • soul is the 'spark' that gives life and individually to the physical body.
  • Genesis - "The Lord God..breathed into his nostrils the breath of life"
  • soul is immortal and will separate from the body at the moment of death

But! Christians disagree on the nature of the afterlife - Immortality of the soul or ressurrection of the body!

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  • atman (soul) is eternal.
  • each soul is at one with the whole of creation
  • soul reincarnated into a new body and lives again in this world.
  • reincarnation continues until soul is perfected and at one with the Brahman.
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  • no individual soul
  • ever-changing individual character which moves from rebirth to rebirth.
  • mental and spiritual energies of the person survive from life to life
  • the cycle of rebirth ends when the individual achieves nirvana
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Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins.

  • humans do not have a soul or "sprit driven life force"
  • belief in souls is outdated - no scientific evidence to support it
  • humans are just DNA carriers, "just bytes and bytes of digital information"
  • DNA survival leads humans to imagine their individual consciousness, or soul
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  • We can doubt material existence, including our own bodies.
  • We can never doubt our own thoughts, even when being possessed by a demon.
  • "Corgito ergo sum" - I think therefore I am.
  • The physical body takes up space, but the soul does not as it is non-physical.
  • Mind/self is "entirely and truly distinct from the body and may exist without it"
  • Mind and body interact, connected at the pineal gland - and cause events to occur in the other.
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Hard materialism.

Individuals characteristics are all physical. Consciousness is simply activity in the physical brain. No separation between the mind and body. When the body dies, the brain dies.

Soft materialism.

Not all characteristics are physical. Consciousness is more than just a brain process. Body shows inner emotions. Mind and body are inseparable, but personal identity involves our body.When the body dies, the brain dies.

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Ryle - Materialism.

It is a category mistake to regard "soul" as separate from the body.

Analogy: After seeing the batsmen, bowlers and fielders, asking "but where is the team spirit?" is a category mistake. The team spirit is not separate from the players.

Rejects dualism as the "ghost in the machine". Mind and body are united and act together. e.g Feelings show themselves in our behaviour.

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