Thesoul is the principle of life, feeling, thought,and action in humans. In somereligions it is believed that when the person dies although their body is nolonger alive, their spirit or soul moves on to another world.
The soul in religion is needed forreincarnation which is evident in Hinduism and Buddhism where when we die oursouls come back to take over the body of any living matter. Souls are not only evident in religion butare also evident in philosophy. Threephilosophers that have written on this topic are Plato, Pythagoras andAristotle. Platohas written on this topic through his book Phaedowhich is also known as On the Soul. Inthe Phaedo, the book talks about Plato’s middleperiod. The book contains a discussion of the Theory of Forms, the fourarguments for the immortality of the soul, and strong arguments in favor of thephilosophical life. It also contains Plato’s story of Socrates’ final momentsbefore he was forced to drink hemlock and contains his theory of the fate ofthe soul after death.
The Phaedomakes constant connections withPre-Socratic theories of the world and the soul, in which are closely relatedto those of Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, and Heraclitus. In the Phaedo it talks about Socrates’ last moments on Earth in whichSocrates says that any true philosopher should be looking forward to theafterlife because that is when your soul can be freed from your body which isthe purpose of philosophical living. Socrates believed the key to living a happy life was to do good forothers and not exploit others for personal gain. He believed that the main goal in life wasdeath because the separation of the soul from the human body was Socrates’ goal;since Socrates said the soul is immortal unlike the body, he believed the soulwill be able to survive death. Socratesalso gave three reasons as to why the soul is immortal.
He stated them as “TheCyclical Argument”, “The Argument from Recollection”, and “The AffinityArgument”. In The Cyclical Argument he usesan old theory that states whatever was once living will return to the dead andwhatever is dead will return back to the living to help him explain hisCyclical Argument. There are 5 points tohis argument and he starts it off by stating that “all things come to be from their opposite states”. An example of this would be that for a boy togrow taller or larger he first must have been shorter or smaller. His second point is “between every pair ofopposite states there are two opposite processes”. An example of this would be that betweentaller and shorter we would have the processes of growing and shrinking. His third point was “if the two oppositeprocesses did not balance each other out, everything would eventually be in thesame state”. An example of this would beif growing did not even out shrinking, everything would keep shrinking andshrinking.
His fourth point was “since”being alive” and “being dead” are opposite states, and “dying” and”coming-to-life” are the two opposite processes between these states,coming-to-life must balance out dying”. Inwhich he concluded with the final point “everything that dies must come back tolife again”. In his Argument fromRecollection he states the six points which are “things in the world whichappear to be equal in measurement are in fact deficient in the equality theypossess”, “they are not the same as true equality, that is, “the Equalitself””, “when we see the deficiency of the examples of equality, it helps usto think of, or “recollect,” the Equal itself”, “in order to do this, we musthave had some prior knowledge of the Equal itself”, “since this knowledge doesnot come from sense-perception, we must have acquired it before we acquiredsense-perception, that is, before we were born”, and therefore he concludesthat “our souls must have existed before we were born”. Socrates is saying that things we see may notalways be what it is and because that requires knowledge which does not comefrom our senses. This means we must havehad this knowledge before hand and that our souls existed before we wereborn. In his Affinity Argument he statesthat “there are two kinds of existences: (a) thevisible world that we perceive with our senses, which is human, mortal, composite,unintelligible, and always changing, and (b) the invisible world of Forms thatwe can access solely with our minds, which is divine, deathless, intelligible,non-composite, and always the same”, “the soul is more like world (b), whereasthe body is more like world (a)”, “therefore, supposing it has been freed ofbodily influence through philosophical training, the soul is most likely tomake its way to world (b) when the body dies.
If, however, the soul is polluted by bodily influence, it likely willstay bound to world (a) upon death”. Socrates believed that whether a person does good or bad it affects thesoul just like Catholic belief. Socratesthrough the voice of Plato believed that the soul was immortal which provedthat he believed there is a soul.
Pythagoras has also written on this topicwith his teachings of metempsychosis. Metempsychosis is the teaching that when the body dies the soul istransmigrated into a new body of either the same or a different species. Metempsychosis is similar to reincarnationbut is different in the way that there is good or bad that decides where yoursoul will end up whether you end up back in a human body if you do well or intoan animal’s body if you do badly. Pythagorasbelieved that the soul of man would never be able to achieve peace if manconsumes the bodies of others. He alsosaid to avoid beans as it could have been the reincarnated soul of ahuman.
Pythagoras believed that the soulwas also immortal and that at death it transmigrated into a new animated bodyand after a certain period of time the same procedure will take place onceagain. Pythagoras forbids theconsumption of meats which made him one of the earliest vegetarians. He wasvegetarian because he believed that if the animal or meat they were eating wasslaughtered inhumanely or something terrible had happened to the animal they wouldbe consuming that evil. Pythagorasbelieved that the soul would transmigrate after death into a new body whichproved he believed there is a soul.
Aristotle has also written on this topic. Aristotle believed that any living matter wasconsidered a substance. He wrote thatthe body is matter and the soul is form. Aristotle thought that the soul or psyche is the center of the body which allows the bodyto function.
Soul or psyche was the wordthe Greeks used to describe the life giver, the force behind every livingbeing. To Aristotle he believed that thesoul controlled living beings’ movement, perception and reproduction. Aristotle believed reason was the highest formof rationality something can have which is why he believed in a hierarchy ofliving things. Rationality is theability to reason or logic. Hebelieved that “plants only have a vegetative soul;animals are above plants because they have appetites, humans are above animalsbecause it has the power of reason”. Aristotleconsidered the soul to be the Form of the body.
“Aristotle tries toexplain his understanding of the distinction between the body and the soulusing the analogy of an axe. If an axewere a living thing then its body would be made of wood and metal. However, itssoul would be the thing which made it an axe i.e. its capacity to chop. If itlost its ability to chop it would cease to be an axe – it would simply be woodand metal. Another illustration he uses is the eye. If the eye were ananimal, sight would have to be its soul.
When the eye no longer sees then it isan eye in name only. Likewise, a dead animal is only an animal in name only – ithas the same body but it has lost its soul. What is importantfor Aristotle is the end purpose of something – an axe chops, an eye sees, ananimal is animated…etc”(http://www.
To Aristotle thebody and soul could not be two different things but he considered it to be onewhole. Aristotledoes not believe that the soul is immortal because the soul to Aristotle is onlysimply the Form of the body, and without the body the soul cannot exist. Aristotle believed that the soul is a formand the body is matter and without the body the soul cannot exist and the bodywithout a soul would be useless which proved he believed there is a soul.To conclude, In the PhaedoSocrates believed that the soul was immortal and doing good and evil wouldaffect the soul. Pythagoras believedthat the soul would transmigrate after death into a new body and eating meatwas against his philosophy because he thought that animals had souls. Aristotle believed that the soul is a form andthe body is matter and without the body the soul cannot exist and the bodywithout a soul would be useless. Therefore I too do believe that there is a soul that exists but not onlybecause these three philosophers believe so but religion and science has provedthat there is.