Views On The Soul

Plato and the soul

Plato believed in dualism - There are two aspects to humans - (the physical body and the non-physical soul).

He believed that the soul is more important than the body. He thought that the body distracts us and is like a prison to our soul.

Through the soul you can gain knowledge as it is unchanging and therefore immortal.

The soul pre-existed in the world of forms and therefore can understand the forms. We understand things like beauty and trust innately from our soul from the world of forms (recollection).

When the body dies the soul is set free from the prison.

The senses decieve us; get in the way of the soul.

Plato's idea of opposites. We wake up from our sleep, and sleep after being awake, so we die after life; therfore, live after death.

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Aristotle and the soul

Aristotle believes there is a heirarchy of types of soul, because every living thing has a soul:

1. Plants - Powers of nutrition, growth etc.

2. Animals - Capacity for apetite so have desires and feelings.

3. Humans - Power of reason. Ability to develop intellects and ethical characters.

The soul animates the body - organises a potential living thing into an actual living body. The soul is in an inseperable unity with the body.

He uses the analogies of 1. imprint in wax - the imprint in wax cannot be separated from the wax, 2. an eye - the form of the eye is the ability to see.

The soul is not immortal.

The soul is the form of the body and the body is the matter of the soul. They need eachother to work and make a human being.

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Dawkins and the soul

Dawkins has a strong materialistcic view - only physical matter exists and the mind can be explained in physical terms of chemical activity in the brain.

He believes that there is no part of the body that is not physical.

Humans are 'survival machines' just the same as animals are.

He calls the soul a 'mystic jelly'.

Concurs with Bertrand Russel that the belief in the soul has no sound basis.

Only believes in scientific proof.

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Descartes and the soul

Descartes is a substance dualist - the mind and body can exist as two distinct and seperate realities.

He sais 'I think, therefore I am', he couldn't doubt his own existence as a thinker, because in order to doubt, he had to think.

He thought that we could not be certain that we had a body as senses could be decieving us.

He thought that there must be two distinct substances; mind and body which have different properties. The mind has the propery of thought and the body has the property of extension.

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Ryle and the soul

Ryle has a materialist view - only physical matter exists and the mind can be explained in physical terms as chemical activity in the brain.

He believes that the mind is not distinct from the body. It is a category mistake to seperate them.

For example, looking at a cricket team and asking 'where is the team spirit?'. The mind should not be seen as seperate to the body. Likens it to a ghost in a machine (an invisible mind in a body).

Category mistake because it treats the mind as body as if they are two seperate things.

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