Soul As It Relates To Human Experience
Essay, Research Paper
Soul as it Relates to the Human ExperienceIn order to discuss the importance of soul in our search for an answer to the question What is it to be human? we must first go back to one of the very first issues tackled in class: the presuppostition. It is important to remember that our presupposition is to trust our five given senses to gather evidence regarding our experiences as human beings. In this way, we can view the human experience truthfully, because what is true is what is evident, and we all come with five built in receptors for gathering evidence. Having stated this, it is necessary to ask, then, what is evident about human beings? To be more exact, what is the most fundamental thing about humans? We answered that with the statement humans exist , humans be . This does not separate humans from other substances on earth; in fact it quite contrarily lumps everything together. This phenomenon of sameness stems from the fact that all things are composed of matter. Matter is often (and easily) mistaken as some sort of sub-atomic structure that creates tangible objects. This is not true. Matter is defined as a substance s potential. Everything possesses this pure potential in other words, anything can be anything. Matter is not tangible, but that thing that makes us all alike. But, not everything is alike. A pen is not a table is not a horse . What shapes these differences? The answer to that is the form. Form is often defined as act (the two are used interchangeably), but, like matter, it is not a shape or an action . No, form is specifically that which makes a thing to be what it is. Form/act is what makes a tree to be tree and not to be rock . In this way, matter is referred to as the principle of sameness (because everything possesses potential) and form is referred to as the principle of difference (because form is what differentiates). Form and matter are always found together, and it is the composite of the two that constitute substances or beings. Matter is to form what potency is to act; one cannot exist without the other. For our purposes however, we will be paying more attention to form/act, as it is what constitutes being, and is thus seen as a bit more important in respect to our quest for what it is to be human (and how discovering the human soul relates to that).Now that we have determined that beings are all comprised of a matter/form composite, it is also important to recognize that there is change in things. For example, green trees turn to red and orange and brown trees, and by the end of fall they are usually bald trees. Yet, the tree itself, doesn t totally change, it is still tree , regardless of color. Aristotle tackles this notion of change with the example of the non-musical man and the musical man in his writing, Physics. He studies what occurs when the non-musical man suddenly changes and becomes musical. What, exactly, is the change? Aristotle asserts that this change occurs in something called the substratum. The substratum is the thing that undergoes the change, in this case, the man. Due to this change, what was not (being), becomes what is (being). Because the change itself involves the notion of being , we can see that any change that occurs within in the man (non-musical à musical) is a change that takes place because of a change in form or act. And because being cannot be whole without matter, we must recognize that the matter is still present, but that it has not changed. The man is still a man (substratum/matter); it is his musicality that has been altered (change in form). Another example of this might be one of a bed being built from wood. In this situation, the wood does not cease to be wood and now only exist as bed it s that wood-that-was-not-bed is now wood-that-is-bed . In these two examples, both the man and the wood are the substratum whose form goes under some sort of change. Therefore, in this light, anything can be a substratum (much like everything is matter) because anything has the potential to undergo change.
Again, at this point, it is necessary to step back and examine how these new issues fit into our larger quest. As can be seen from the examples of the man, the wood, and the tree there can be many forms for a single being. So how do we isolate which forms are worth looking at closely, and which forms might not be so important? As this relates to the question of what it is to be human, we must first seek out the human s primary form. This is referred to as the primary act. The primary act is that which causes movement or rest in a being. It is possessed by all natural things, and can be seen as the very nature of a thing. In a natural being, the primary act is inherent, as opposed to an artificial thing, which receives its primary act from its creator. The primary act is often referred to as the substantial act and can be defined as that which makes a being to be what it is. In natural beings, this substantial act manifests itself by generating a variety of acts (or a variety or changes upon the substratum). So, what, then, is the substantial act of a human being? What is the one thing all humans must do in order to be called humans? We must live.Many other beings posses this act as well, and it is this act that allows humans (and cats and dogs and trees) to branch off from things like rocks and wood. In other words, to live is an act possessed by some beings, but not by others. The verb to live can be translated into the following terms of Greek and Latin: yuxy, psyche, anima, and soul . And so finally, we arrive at this sought after issue of soul. Soul, in this case, is not looked at as something spiritual or metaphysical. It is seen as the act that makes a living being to live. In this way, then, the study of soul is necessary to answer the question What is it to be human because the being of a human being is its soul. The soul is the essential what-ness of any living body. The human soul is, in essence, the substantial act of the human being. Without soul, and thus without act, the human has nothing but matter (nothing but un-acted potential) and without the matter/form composite, there simply is no human being. In short, for us humans, matter is to body as form is to soul. They are all dependent upon one another for this thing called life.