Aristotle was pre-eminent both as a scientist and Ancient Greek Philosopher. The radical chance of view on the nature of the soul, and more particularly on the relation of the soul to the body, which Aristotle now underwent, arises naturally from his research into plant and animal life. Indeed, fro Aristotle, life, or the residence of the soul within the body, had been equated with a sickness of the soul, a sickness for which death was the only cure. In a predictably teleological manner, Aristotle approaches the psyche in terms of its capacities.
The soul is what it can do, In the same way, the sense organs of the body are essentially what they can do. Aristotle uses the eye as an example; Sight is the “soul” of the eye. The soul of a human is the sum of a human’s capacities. Humans have, in common, with both plants and animals, a “nutritive” capacity. The capacities is the abilities to grow, to thrive and to carry out basic biological functions of humans, in the sense of their goals, yet something beyond biological processes, the higher purpose; The higher functions are vital to the well-being.
Two inextricable links we and animals share, is the capacity for sensation and movement. Aristotle was a materialist, this is a belief in the theory that our minds are inseparable from our bodies, whereas Plato was an advocate of dualism. According to Aristotle, the body is the matter of the person; the psyche is the form of the person, the structure and characteristics. Aristotle argued that the nature of the soul depends on the type of organism and its position in a hierarchy. Plants have a soul with the powers of nutrition, growth and reproduction as appropriate for their kind.
Above this plants and animals have appetites, desires and feelings which give them the ability to move. At the summit of the hierarchy, the human psyche has the power of reason. All the faculties of the soul are inseparable from the body with the exception of reason. It has been suggested that Aristotle believed reason is immortal, although this remains unclear. If, however, reason does have the capacity to facilitate some sort of life-after-death concept it cannot not have a personal recognizable identity. It is anticipated Aristotle believed the soul was divided into two separate entities; the rational and irrational.
Whether these are actual divisions in the soul, or just helpful definitional differences appears irrelevant for Aristotle. We cannot split open the person in order to examine the soul like we can a leg or arm. The irrational part of the soul is split into the desiderative part (wants and desires) and the vegetative part (needs and instincts); these are moral virtues. The vegetative part is the cause of nutrition and growth; that is, those basic instincts necessary for individual and collective survival, such as eating, drinking, resting and procreating.
The desiderative or appetitive part is associated with those many and varied desires and wants which can be channeled, controlled or made submissive. The distinction is clearly between the ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ – which is not always easily deciphered; Often our desires are not what we requisite. The rational part of the soul is divided into half: the scientific and the calculative. The scientific, grasps invariable first principles, that is, knowledge of physics, mathematics, of geography and so forth.
It is the section which houses all the facts of the world which are not up for debate or dispute. The calculative, deliberates and considers whilst constantly weighing up concepts in order to come to a decision. Let us suppose the vegetative part desires x rather than y, yet the scientific knows this is not appropriate; the calculative anticipates the advisability of x over y and compromises. Thus the vegetative, desiderative, calculative and scientific aspects of the ‘soul’ work in conjunction. The vegetative part is linked to the somatic excellence, which is the development of one’s body.
The ethical excellence incorporates desires and rationalization, one can only work towards the fulfillment of happiness if able to moderate desires unconditionally. The development of speculative wisdom, is intellectual excellence, the power of reason and intellect. The summatation of these four excellences over the span of ones life within a community completes the virtue of the soul, fulfillment of happiness. Evidence suggests Aristotle believed aligning our emotions with what is socially considered with ‘right’, morality in particular circumstances, will contribute to the virtue.
If faced with great temptation to do something considered as immoral, yet continues to give in, will be unhappy and uncontented in the long run. Also important, he who resists temptation with great difficulty is also unlikely to have peace of mind. Life as a constant battle of temptation will result in unhappiness Aristotle agreed. The state of un-temptation is recommended for Aristotle, it is the “virtuous activity of the soul”. Aristotle argued that the nature of the soul depends on the type of organism and position in the hierarchy. The human soul has the ultimate power of reason.
If the eye were an animal, sight Is the soul. When sight is removed the eye no longer has the capacities to function, and is just an eye in name. It is no more a real eye than the eye of a statue or of a pointed figure. It is important to realize it is the soul, which ‘moves’ and ‘drives’ the body. Without this movement and drive, you are inevitably left with matter. The body and soul are perceived to be not two separate elements but one thing- inseparable. The soul is not immortal; It does not separate from the body because it is what makes the body a person rather than just matter.