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ARISTOTLE defines soul, “the first actuality of a natural, organic body, potentially
alive”; and adds, “this definition applies universally to every soul.” Nor does
he, as the aforesaid Averroes pretends, put forth this latter remark in a tentative
way, as may be seen from the Greek copies and the translation of Boethius. Afterwards
in the same chapter he adds that there are “certain parts of the soul separable,”
and these are none other than the intellectual parts. The conclusion remains that
the said parts are actualisations of the body.349349 St Thomas
may have seen Greek MSS. of Aristotle in Italy, or at Paris, but I
doubt if he could read them for himself. He is dependent on Latin translations,
often bad ones. See an example in my Aquinas Ethicus, I, p. 111. In his
Opusculum de Unitate Intellectus, he mentions his having seen a thirteenth
and fourteenth book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, but declines further reference
to them as being “not yet translated into our tongue.” St Thomas and the mediaeval
architects had genius, the fruits of which we still admire: but they had not at
hand the manifold adminicula of the modern builder and the modern scholar.
Nor was Averroes and the Arabian school any better off for Greek than St Thomas
(Renan, p. 48).
To this particular explanation of Aristotle however the Commentator would have been at no loss for a reply. The Greek referred to is De anima, II, i, 6, 8. Aristotle adds (n. 12), after saying that some parts of the soul are not separable from the body: “There is nothing to prevent some parts of the soul being separable from the body, because they are actualisations of nothing corporeal.” A conclusion seems to follow, the very opposite of that which St Thomas draws, and exactly what Averroes wishes, namely, that the intellectual part of the soul is not the actualisation, or form, of anything corporeal, but dwells apart from all body. In the above quoted Opusculum, ‘De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas, which I take to be a later production, St Thomas recognises the force of this reply, and re-adjusts his position thus: “The intellect is a faculty of the soul, and the soul is the form of the body: but the power that is called intellect is not the actualisation of any bodily organ, because the activity of the body has nothing in common with the activity of intellect.” Intellectus est potentia animae, quae est corporis forma, licet ipsa potentia, quae est intellectus, non est alicujus organi actus, quia nihil ipsius operationi communicat corporis operatio (De unitate intellectus, cap. iii). So also Chap. LXVIII, last paragraph, and in Chap. LXIX (already translated) the replies nn. 3, 4, p. 117.
ln this later explanation St Thomas has the support of Averroes, who says (De anima, III, p. 149): “But it has not been shown whether the body is perfected (or actualised) in the same way by all the powers of the soul; or whether there be some one of those powers whereby the body is not perfected (actualised, or informed).” I am persuaded that the retention of the paragraph as it stands in the text was due to an oversight on the part of the author. See note on p. 99
2. Nor is this explanation inconsistent with Aristotle’s words subjoined: “About the intellect and the speculative faculty the case is not yet clear: but it seems to be another kind of soul.”350350De anima, II, iv, 10 (cf. 8). He does not hereby mean to separate the intellect from the common definition of ‘soul,’ but from the peculiar natures of the other parts of soul: as one who says that fowls are a different sort of animal from land animals, does not take away from the fowl the common definition of ‘animal.’ Hence, to show in what respect he called it “another kind,” he adds: “And of this alone is there possibility of separation, as of the everlasting from the perishable.” Nor is it the intention of Aristotle, as the Commentator aforesaid pretends, to say that it is not yet clear whether intellect be soul at all, as it is clear of other and lower vital principles. For the old text has not, “Nothing has been declared,” or “Nothing has been said,” but “Nothing is clear,” which is to be understood as referring to the peculiar properties of intellect, not to the general definition (of soul). But if, as the Commentator says, the word ‘soul’ is used not in the same sense of intellect and other varieties, Aristotle would have first distinguished the ambiguity and then made his definition, as his manner is: otherwise his argument would rest on an ambiguity, an intolerable procedure in demonstrative sciences.
3. Aristotle reckons ‘intellect’ among the ‘faculties’ of the soul.351351“Under the head of faculties we enumerate the vegetative, the appetitive, the sensory, the locomotive, and the intellectual,” De anima, III, i, 1 (cf. 5); to which we may add II, ii, 14: “Soul is that whereby we are apt to live and sensibly perceive, and understand, in the first resort.” Also, in the passage last quoted, he names ‘the speculative faculty.’ Intellect therefore is not outside the human soul, but is a faculty thereof.
4. Also, when beginning to speak of the potential intellect, he calls it a part of the soul, saying: “Concerning the part of the soul whereby the soul has knowledge and intellectual consciousness.”352352περὶ δε᾽ τοῦ μορίου τοῦ τῆς ψυχῆς, ᾧ γινώσκει τε ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ, φρονεῖ. De anima, III, iv, 1.
5. And still more clearly by what follows, declaring the nature of the potential intellect: “I call intellect that whereby the soul thinks and under stands”:353353λέγω δὲ νοῦν ᾧ διανοεῖται καί ὑπολαμβάνει ἡ ψυχή. Ib. n. 4. in which it is manifestly shown that the intellect is something belonging to the human soul.
The above tenet (of Averroes) therefore is contrary to the mind of Aristotle and contrary to the truth: hence it should be rejected as chimerical.354354That Aristotle, in common with the plain man, held every man’s intelligence to be in him, of him, and his, and not extrinsic to him, I think is evident from these citations. On the other hand, that Aristotle did not take these separate human intelligences somehow to be effluxes of one great Intelligence, to which they returned, and were re-united with it in death, is not so clear. We are at a loss to assign his exact meaning in such passages as De anima, II, iii, 5; III, v, 3; and especially De gen. animal, II, iii, 10. λείπεται δὲ τὸν νοῦν μόνον θύραθεν ἐπεισιέναι καὶ θεῖον εἶναι μόνον (the conclusion remains, that intelligence alone comes in from without and is alone divine). Some pre-existence of the intellectual soul seems necessary in the Aristotelian system, as Aristotle nowhere recognises the notion of creation out of nothing, any more than Plato. He differs from Plato in being opposed to the transmigration of souls (De anima, I, iii, 26); and in his reticence upon a point upon which Plato was very explicit, the individuality of separate souls after death.129
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