Urbańska-Bożek Maria
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48(2012)1 - Current controversies about soul

Maria Urbańska-Bożek

The problem of the immortality of human soul in the works of Aristotle in the light of Alexander from Alexandria's concept of the intellect

  • language: Polish


Presenting man as a substantial unity, Aristotle’s philosophy created the problem of the individual immortality of human soul. In the De Anima treatise the soul is the organizer of human psychic life. All acts of the vegetative and sensitive soul are dependent on body organs. Only the rational soul, with the power of theoretical reasoning, has autonomous acts, is eternal, and separate from the body. A question arises: Since soul emerges from the potentiality of matter, how could it be a purely spiritual being, acting independently from matter and totally isolated from matter, and, as such, how could it be an eternal and immortal substance?

The starting point of the paper is an outline of the most important aspects of Aristotle’s psychology. Then an attempt to resolve the main problem of the article is made by applying some ideas of Alexander from Alexandria, found in his commentary to Aristotle’s “De Anima” and in his own concept of the intellect, which he identified with the soul. How can it help to explain the problem of the immortality of the soul in Aristotle’s psychology? Aristotle suggested a condition: If the soul can perform its own functions itself, without help in these activities from bodily organs, it can exist after death. From the perspective of Alexander’s concept of the intellect, there is no doubt: thanks to the theoretical intellect and its theoretical reasoning function, the soul can take action itself, and therefore can exists after death.