Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com
Ancient Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Platonic psyche

The Afterlife of the Platonic Soul: Reflections`of Platonic Psychology in the Monotheistic Religions edited by Maha Elkaisy-Friemuth and John M. Dillon (Ancient Mediterranean and Medieval Texts and Contexts: Brill Academic) Plato's doctrine of the soul, its immaterial nature, its parts or faculties, and its fate after death (and before birth) came to have an enormous influence on the great religious traditions that sprang up in late antiquity, beginning with Judaism (in the person of Philo of Alexandria), and continuing with Christianity, from St. Paul on through the Alexandrian and Cappadocian Fathers to Byzantium, and finally with Islamic thinkers from al-Kindi on. This volume, while not aspiring to completeness, attempts to provide insights into how members of each of these traditions adapted Platonist doctrines to their own particular needs, with varying degrees of creativity.

This volume aims to present a study on the treatment of the human soul by a selection of medieval Christian, Jewish and Muslim thinkers. Notably, medieval thought was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy, ever since Philo of Alexandria had first integrated it into his interpretation of the Bible. Church Fathers, and Muslim and Jewish theologians afterwards, found in Greek theorizing an objective logical tool for understanding the world and its creator or originator. Integrating and reconciling Greek thought to one or other of the three monotheistic religions, however, was a great challenge which most thinkers of this period felt it incumbent upon them to face. The reason, perhaps, is that both religion and philosophy claim to possess truth. Some issues, it must be said, found no interdisciplinary solution and remained a subject of conflict, such as the question of the origin of the world, whether it is created or eternal. Others, however, like the question of the faculties of the human intellect and the process of thinking, were settled under agreement between philosophy and religion. The nature and the future of the human soul is also one of the most important problems which call for deep study and support from both theology and philosophy. Thus, this volume devotes considerable attention to the problems that arise when studying the nature and the destiny of the human soul, and illustrates some of the solutions which the most notable thinkers of the mediaeval period provided.

We are here particularly interested in theologians who struggled to master both disciplines, and who devoted most of their efforts to gaining philosophical expertise and integrating it into their religious beliefs. In this introduction we will first give a short synopsis of the Platonic concept of the human soul and follow it by an outline of the eleven chapters of this volume which demonstrate the influence of those Platonic principles in the different disciplines, before finally presenting a short conclusion.

Platonic Soul
The doctrine of the soul is a central, but rather complex, feature of Plato's philosophical system. Indeed it might be said that here, as in a number of other areas of his doctrine, he leaves a somewhat confused heritage to his successors. However, from the perspective of later Platonism, perhaps even dating back to the scholarchate of Xenocrates (339-314 B.C.) in the Old Academy, but certainly from the time of Antiochus of Ascalon in the early first century B.C., a reasonably coherent consensus had emerged as to what his teaching was.' It is important to grasp, at all events, that the situation appears more complex to us than it seems to have done to his ancient followers.

Basic to the Platonic system, of course, is a strong distinction between soul and body, such that the soul, an immaterial and immortal essence, rules the body, a material and mortal essence, during those periods in which it is connected with it. This soul-body antithesis is set out in its starkest form in the Phaedo, but the context, which is the last hours of Socrates' life on earth, may to some extent affect the approach that Plato takes here. At any rate, the soul is presented as the true repository of the personality, whose proper functioning is severely inhibited by its presence in the body, beset as it is by all the demands inseparable from bodily existence.

A somewhat more positive view of the relations between soul and body is manifested in Plato's major work, the Republic, generally regarded as having been composed perhaps a decade after the Phaedo. Here we find that the distractions to the proper functioning of the soul attributed in the earlier dialogue to the demands of the body are to be blamed rather on an irrational element in the soul itself. In Book 4 of the work (434d-435e), Plato presents an interestingly complex scenario, in which we find a three-way split between a rational element, an irrational element (the passions, such as lust, greed or fear), and an intermediate element, which Plato terms thymos, or 'spiritedness', which can join either of the other elements—if the lower, as anger, but if the higher (as it will in the case of a well-structured soul), as something like righteous indignation, or at least self-esteem, which can serve as a counterweight to the passions.

At any rate, this introduces into the concept of soul, not a bipartite, but rather a tripartite division, and this, because of the great prominence of the Republic in Plato's oeuvre, persists in later times as a distinc tively Platonic division of the soul. We also find a division similar to this in two later dialogues, the Phaedrus and the Timaeus, though in either case with the significant modification that the thymos, while still distinct from the passionate, irrational element, or epithymia, is firmly separated from the rational element: in the case of the Phaedrus, being represented, in mythological terms, as one of a pair of horses (albeit the well-behaved one), as opposed to the reason as charioteer; in the case of the Timaeus, being physically cut off from the reason, resident in the head, by the 'isthmus' of the neck, and assigned to the chest, just above the epithymia, in the 'nether regions'. The great influence of the Timaeus in the later Platonist tradition led to the prevalence in later sources of this latter version of a tripartite division subordinate to a bipartite division.

Another feature of the Timaeus led to doctrinal consequences unintended by Plato himself, but fruitful in later times, particularly in connection with the vexed question (which does not, however, appear to have bothered Plato) of the relation of soul to body. At Tim. 41E, the Demiurge mounts the souls destined for embodiment onto 'vehicles' (okhémata) before sending them down to bodies. Nothing much is made of these 'vehicles' in the narrative after that, but plainly the idea intrigued later Platonists, especially when it was put together with a theory of Aristotle's, enunciated in a well-known passage of the De generatione animalium, 736b27ff. Here we are introduced to a special sort of 'innate spirit' (symphyton pneuma) residing especially in the blood around the heart, which constitutes the seat of the nutritive and sensitive soul, and which is responsible for the process of image-making (phantasia), as well as for purposive action. The substance of this, we are told, is 'analogous to that element of which the stars are made' (736b-38)—that is to say, of Aristotle's postulated 'fifth substance', or aithêr. So here we have a bridge-entity, notionally capable of receiving immaterial impulses from the intellect, and transposing them, through the instrumentality of the blood, into movements of bones and sinews. This could plausibly be connected with the soul-vehicles of the Timaeus so as to make a 'pneumatic vehicle' composed of aether, or pure fire (analogous to the substance of the heavenly bodies), which could serve as a 'cushion' between soul and body, and, in some versions of the

theory, as the seat of phantasia, 'imagination', or the image-making faculty, and even aisthesis, sense-perception. Such as entity could serve, in Platonizing Christian or Islamic thought, as the basis for a doctrine of the 'glorified', or 'resurrection' body. The relation between the vehicle and the irrational soul continues to be a matter of controversy down through later antiquity, since both are concerned with sense-perception and the passions, and both should be disposed of when the soul comes to be free of the body after death.

One feature of Platonic psychology which causes difficulty for all of the three great religious traditions is the doctrine of reincarnation. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition has no problem with the immortality of the soul following upon its creation by God for incarnation in a human body, but for the Greek philosophical tradition, at least after Aristotle had spelled out the implications clearly, immortality for the soul meant immortality in both directions, and with that went the implication of repeated—indeed infinitely repeated—reincarnation—even, in some interpretations, into animal bodies (though this latter notion was abandoned in later Platonism, after Porphyry rejected it). Such a doctrine has serious implications for any doctrine of personal salvation, or indeed for the integrity of personal identity,' and was resisted forcefully by thinkers in all three traditions. In this connection, there was a tendency among the Christian Fathers to welcome a literal interpretation of Plato's Timaeus, according to which the Demiurge created human souls in a sort of mixing-bowl (Tim. 41D) before distributing them into bodies; however, any such literal creation of souls, as of the world in general, was rejected even by Plato's immediate successors, Speusippus and Xenocrates, in response to the criticisms of Aristotle (particularly in De Caelo I 12), and they were followed in this by all later Platonists, except for Plutarch and Atticus in the Middle Platonic period (first and second centuries C.E.). In general, therefore, Jewish, Christian and Islamic theologians of otherwise Platonist sympathies tend to either elide or explicitly reject the concept of reincarnation, or even of the pre-existence of the individual soul.


Monotheistic traditions were indeed directly influenced by these Greek debates on the nature and function of the human soul; some of the religious interpretations of the human condition certainly point back to the main elements of Platonist theory. Let us here draw some connections between the above description of Platonist doctrine and the positions put forward in this volume by the various philosophers dealt with here.

First of all, John Dillon, in his article 'Philo of Alexandria and Platonist Psychology', explains that the first thinker in any of the great religious traditions who drew attention to the Greek understanding of the human soul was indeed Philo of Alexandria. Philo was the first to Hellenize the Bible and to interpret many of what were known as the books of Moses (in effect, the Pentateuch), in full agreement with Greek concepts. Although he accepted the division of the soul into rational and irrational, he related the rational soul to a divine origin, which according to the Bible is the breath of God into Adam's body. The irrational soul he identified with the blood, connecting it to the Bible verses Gen. 9:4, Lev. 17:11 and Deut. 12:23 "the blood is the life". He also adopted the tripartite division of the soul which was widely accepted by Platonists and which became after him the scientific traditional version adopted by most theologians and philosophers of the mediaeval period.

The immortality of the soul is also a concept which attracted Philo's ambition for an afterlife future, however, without accepting the Platonic postulate of the eternal reincarnation of the soul in different bodies. He argues that an archetypal form of the human being must have been in the mind of God eternally, but is brought to actuality through his power of creation. Thus Philo manages here to relate the human soul directly to God and assure its destiny through its primary relationship to God as His own breath. However, the problems that arise from this theory are more thoroughly discussed among the thinkers of the Byzantine period, as will be set out in the article of Dirk Krausmüller below.

St. Paul, subsequently, exhibits interesting analogies to his fellow Jew and contemporary Philo; George van Kooten demonstrates in his article `St. Paul on Soul, Spirit and the Inner Man' that St Paul's reflection on the nature of the human is mainly Greek. Van Kooten shows through philological analysis that Paul's terminology is related more to Greek concepts than to Jewish Semitic ones when dealing with his understanding of the nature of the human soul and its future. Paul's concept of the inner man, particularly in the Letter to the Romans, unveils his Greek understanding of the human soul in its relation to virtues and sin. When Paul made the distinction between the inner man and the man who is a slave to the flesh, he declared that the sinner is the latter; the inner man belongs indeed to another sphere.

However, the most valuable contribution of Paul to our discussion of Platonic psychology and its influence on medieval thinkers is his concept of the pneumatic body. When Paul turns to speak of the afterlife, he borrows the Greek concept of the spiritual 'vehicle' to explain the importance of a spiritual body for the eternity of the individual. This concept goes on to influence the Church Fathers and the whole Christian concept of immortality of the human, as van Kooten argues here.

Philo and Paul thus set the scene for the Christian thinkers of late antiquity, who were confronted with a set of Greek concepts about the nature of the soul which had come by this time to be accepted as basic. One of the problems which they faced in the early medieval period was how to defend the concept of the immortality of the human soul without adopting the Platonic principle of reincarnation. This discussion was connected to their argument against the axiom of perishability, which was accepted at that time as a basic logical principle: 'all that has existed in time must also perish in time', as Dirk Krausmüller sets out in his article, 'Faith and Reason in Late Antiquity'. Christian theologians argued that although the human soul is created and not eternal, it can have immortal life. Krausmüller explains that "late antique Christians were divided into two camps. The first camp had a clear understanding of nature as an autonomous realm based on rational rules, including the perishability axiom, even if these rules had been instituted by God. By comparison, the second camp believed that God could do with his creation whatever he liked." In other words, while the latter camp believed that God bestowed immortality on created souls in accordance with his will and knowledge, the former camp accepted the perishability axiom as a natural law and a condition for understanding the world as it is made by God. However, theologians argued that eternal beings such as the angels are in one sense generated insofar as they come into existence from God and ungenerated insofar as they have come forth not in time. Nevertheless, it is God who decides both of these conditions and therefore the natural law is in fact subject to God's will.

Another strand of thought in this early period is represented by Neoplatonic Christian theologians who adopted the concept of the return of`the human soul and its re-unification with God. This ten dency is clearly manifested in the writings of 'Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite', an anonymous theologian from the late 5th century, who was himself deeply influenced by the Neoplatonism of the Athenian School of Syrianus and Proclus, and who in turn influenced many later Christian theologians, most notably Maximus the Confessor. Maximus' writings on the human soul are strongly influenced by PseudoDionysius' concept of the return of the soul, which he called divinization or theosis. Catherine Kavanagh, in her article 'The Nature of the Soul according to Eriugena', introduces to us Johannes Scotus Eriugena, the 9th century Irish theologian, another Neoplatonist who made great use of the psychology of Pseudo-Dionysius. Eriugena's cosmology was a mixture between Platonism and Stoicism which expressed not only an ideal divine world but also an image of a unification between the divine world and the material world in which salvation is the process of reconciliation and return of the whole world to the divine unity and a restoration of`its perfect state. Eriugena first established the relationship between the World Soul, which he understands as the source of the human and angelic souls, and the Holy Spirit. By so doing he assures an eternal and immortal status to the human and angelic souls. He also establishes a close relationship between the soul and body by introducing the concept of the archetypal human logos which is a part of the divine Logos. He explains that although humans have two substances, soul and body, both are united in the human logos, and asserts that the material body will be transformed to a spiritual body, through which the human will then be unified into a single spiritual substance. Salvation is a process of spiritualisation and a return to the divine by means of unification, as Catherine Kavanagh explains.

Turning to the teaching on the human soul among Muslim theologians of the ninth century, there can be no doubt that al-Kindi (d. 866) was the first Muslim theologian who integrated Greek philosophy into the Islamic tradition, and therefore is called the first philosopher of the Arabs. It seems that Arab theologians were quite aware of their Christian contemporaries' works, as al-Kindi reports that the logical works of Aristotle and Porphyry had gained great popularity among the Christians of his time. Therefore it is probable that the discussion of the problem of integrating Greek thought into religious issues like the afterlife was passed over by them to the Arabs. Muslim theologians such as the Mu`tazilites, though they made extensive use of Greek thought in their cosmology, were reluctant to adopt the Greek concept of the soul which expresses a clear duality between the soul and body. `Abd al-Jabbar (d. 1024), in his work al-Mughni, presents the conflict between the Basrian Mu`tazilites and the Baghdadis on this issue. The Baghdadi group, while believing that the soul is composed of a very tenuous matter, considered it a separate substance which inheres in the body. In contrast, the Basrian Mu`tazilites believed that the human is a unitary substance and that it is the body with all its different faculties and functions.' Al-Kindi was the earliest theologian and philosopher who not only accepted Greek soul-body dualism, but also adopted the incorporeal nature of the soul and listed it under the category of incorporeal substances. Adamson and Pormann's contribution, 'Aristotle's Categories and the Soul: an Annotated Translation of al-Kindi's That There are Separate Substances', introduces here a first published English translation of a short treatise of al-Kindi under the title On the Fact That There are Separate Substances. Here al-Kindi provides logical proofs for the existence of incorporeal substances, central among which is the human soul, using arguments from Aristotle's Categories. Al-Kindi is attempting here to attribute to the human soul substantiality through its attachment to the body. When the soul is attached to the body it makes it a living body and therefore it shares its attributes, one of which is substantiality. However, the situation becomes more difficult when he describes only the soul as incorporeal while the body is corporeal. In doing so he uses the Aristotelian Categories, arguing that the soul is the form of the body and therefore shares its quality of being a substance, he then defines the form of the body as the species of the body and argues that species are incorporeal. Therefore, only the soul should be credited with incorporeality. Whether we should agree here with al-Kindi in his logic is debatable, but at any rate in this treatise he is to be considered as the earliest Muslim thinker to provide logical argument for the proposition that the human soul is a substance which is incorporeal.

Included among those thinkers who followed al-Kindi in his description of the human soul and attempted to build bridges between theology and Greek philosophy is an anonymous group of Arab philosophers who were called Ikhwan al-Safa', `The Brethren of Purity' (flourishing between the tenth and eleventh century). They argued that the human soul is a part of the universal soul and therefore is incorruptible, with an eternal future. Although the Ikhwan are clearly influenced by Neoplatonism, they consider that God is omnipotent and is the only guarantee for the function of this natural system of emanation from the One to the Universal Intellect and the Universal Soul. It is God who bestowed eternal life on these incorporeal beings in accordance with His own plan for this world. Since eternal life is a grace, the Ikhwan are not excluding the possibility that the body possibly will have eternal life after its resurrection just like the bodies of the heavenly spheres, thus supporting the Qur'anic resurrection. This argument was widely used among Byzantine theologians, as we learned from Dirk Krausmüller above. However, in their treatise On Death and Resurrection, this possibility is more or less reduced or not spelled out clearly. But in their treatise On Life and Death, they are rather more certain that the life of the soul on earth has the purpose of receiving knowledge and being awakened to its nature as belonging to the spiritual world. Ian Netton in his article, 'Private Caves and Public Islands: Islam, Plato and the Ikhwan al-Safa" introduces here their parable of the two islands, by means of which they express the view that the main task of the soul in its life on earth is seeking knowledge. When the soul departs from its body as enlightened in its nature it joins the world of the spiritual beings enjoying the beatific vision of God.

Moving to another figure among the Muslim thinkers who provided a systematic work on the human soul, we find a good example in Fakhr al-Din (d. 1209). Fakhr al-Din, a follower of Ibn Sind (d. 1037) and al-Ghazali (d. 1111), though a Muslim theologian, seems to adopt the Greek concept of the immateriality of the human soul. Al-Razi, as we will be informed in my own article, 'Tradition and Innovation in the Psychology of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi', attempts to reconcile the concept of the corporality of the human soul accepted by Muslim theologians with the immateriality of the human soul as a principle which was adopted by Muslim philosophers like Ibn Sina. Al-nafs, for al-Razi, is the substance which initiates all activities, and al-ruh is the inner principle which provides al-nafs with sensible information and transforms its orders to the bodily organs. Certainly this is influenced by the Aristotelian concept of the 'innate spirit' (symphyton pneuma). Al h therefore is a tenuous material substance which resides in the heart, while al-nafs is immaterial and is able to perceive both universal and particular knowledge. Al-nafs, although it uses al-ruh as its mediator with the body, has the ability to perceive material images as they are transferred through the senses. However, al-Razi here argues that the images of the material world become immaterial as soon as they enter the body through the senses; e.g. seeing does not mean that the thing itself enters into the eye, but only an immaterial image of it. In this sense al-Razi claims that the immaterial rational human soul, as Ibn Sind. calls it, is able to know the sensible world after the death of the body and therefore remain as an individual soul throughout eternity. Its body will be also recreated by the divine process of bringing its separated atoms together to resurrect the same body into eternal life. Al-Razi argues here, as do many of the Byzantine Christian theologians, that the guarantee of this process lies in the divine wisdom which had first created it.

Moving to the Judaic tradition, according to H. A. Wolfson the Jewish philosophical and theological disciplines did not develop until beginning of the ninth century under Muslim rule.' The corpus of Jewish philosophy under Muslim rule flourished in the east of the empire through its connection to the Mu'tazilites schools of Basra and Baghdad and in the west of the empire through following the Arabic philosophical discipline in al-Andalus. Al-Mas`-di and Ibn Hazm refer to Saadia Geon (d. 942) and his teacher`Abu Kathir of Tiberias (d. 932), who taught in Baghdad, as mutakalimun;7 but though they were strongly influenced by the Mu'tazilites concept of the unity and justice of God, they also had their own contributions to make. Saadia, in his great work, The Book of Doctrines and Beliefs, introduces in chapters three and four, and further in chapters eight and nine, his study on the human soul. Here Saadia presents one of the earliest Jewish views on the human soul, which is heavily influenced by Aristotelian and Neoplatonic concepts. His concept that the soul is a substance independent of the body and that it belongs to the celestial sphere shows that some of the Jewish thinkers in the east of the Islamic empire were indeed influenced by the schools of al-Kindi and al-Farabi (d. c. 950). In this respect Saadia is considered to be the first Jewish philosopher of the medieval period, and it is possible that his works were also read by Jewish philosophers in Spain.' However, Jewish philosophy mainly flourished in Spain under the influence of the Arabic Aristotelian philosophical school of al-Andalus. We may mention here the figures of Abraham Ibn Ezra (d. 1167) Judah Halevi (d. 1141) and the greatest of all, Moses Maimonides (died 1204—just five years after the death of Ibn Rushd, known in the West as Averroes, who influenced him greatly). In this volume, however, we will concentrate mainly on the Andalusian Jewish thinkers.

Aaron Hughes' article, 'The Soul in Jewish Platonism: A Case Study of Abraham Ibn Ezra and Judah Halevi', discusses thoroughly Ibn Ezra's concept of the soul and follows it by Judah Halevi's criticism, presenting a good example of Jewish theologians who integrate philosophy into religious thinking. Ibn Ezra, though careful in his terminology, adopts fully the Neoplatonic theory of the soul. As a part of the universal soul, the human soul will be individuated and separated from the universal soul and sent to its specific body. The human soul consists of three parts or levels: the vegetative (ha-nefesh), the animal (ha-ruah), and the human (ha-neshamah). Ha-neshamah is the rational soul and is the only soul which will be granted eternal life through gaining philosophical knowledge, and therefore only prophets and philosophers are those who will enjoy eternal life. Judah Halevi, by contrast, criticises Ibn Ezra for his relying on Greco-Arabic thought and, in a Ghazalian fashion, shows that the philosophers cannot prove their claims about the nature and destiny of the human soul. Halevi here presents the Jewish example of the theologian who, though he does not differ in the main from a philosopher, argues that only God through his revelation in scripture is the source of true knowledge and the guarantee of the functioning of the natural universal system.

Although Halevi and Ibn Ezra in one way or another were influenced by Greco-Arabic philosophy, it was the master of Jewish philosophy Moses Maimonides, who became a great follower of al-Farabi, Ibn Sind and Ibn Rushd. As a defender of the oral law and the Talmud, Maimonides claims to have obtained the basis of his concept of the human soul and the afterlife from scripture and oral traditions. Oliver Leaman shows in his article, `Maimonides: the Soul and the Classical Tradition', that Maimonides holds two positions concerning the nature and the future of the human soul: a philosophical and a religious one. In his philosophical mode he follows Arabic philosophers in asserting that the soul's main activity is intellectual; all moral activity of the body is directed to assist the soul in its task of becoming divine, while in his religious works Maimonides adopts a belief in bodily resurrection, punishment and reward. Leaman argues that the key guide to reconciling his two concepts on the soul is through understanding Maimonides' theory of language. Words and images normally point to our material experience; however, religious language uses material language and images in a figurative sense to express abstract philosophical ideas. The unimaginable experience of the afterlife is portrayed in religious language in order that the mind can perceive its abstract reality; thus, it assists the person to move from the material to the abstract.

Reconciling religion and philosophy remained the main challenge until the end of the thirteenth century when St. Thomas Aquinas, in both his works, the Summa Theologica and the Summa de veritate catholicae fidei contra Gentiles, produced the finest arguments for the harmony between theology and philosophy. We end here our discussion on the human soul among medieval thinkers with two articles on Aquinas: 'St. Thomas Aquinas's Concept of the Human Soul and the Influence of Platonism' and 'Intellect as Intrinsic Formal Cause in the Soul according to Aquinas and Averroes'. While the former explains his theory of how the human soul can obtain in this life and in the afterlife a vision of God, the latter presents co-operation between Muslim and Christian philosophers in understanding the different faculties of the human intellect through Aquinas' criticism of Averroes' De anima.

Patrick Quinn, in the former article, points out an important text in the De Veritate, 13.3, where Aquinas explains how the human soul can obtain a vision of God in this life and in the afterlife. In order for the intellect to reach this experience it has to be totally independent of the imaginative faculty and separated from all bodily senses. By doing this the human intellect reaches a state where it becomes similar to the heavenly intellects and therefore receives the ability of seeing God. This same condition is even more possible to reach in the afterlife when the human soul is totally separated from its body. Here Aquinas explains in the first place a religious experience through the use of the philosophical concepts of the human intellect and its faculties and functions. Reaching the stage of beatific vision can only happen when the mind functions totally free of the sense-based process of knowledge and acts in a purely mental way. Thus Quinn here presents an important fusion between religion and philosophy through the study of Aquinas' philosophical and theological work De Veritate 13.3 and a number of other works.

Finally, Richard C. Taylor introduces us in his contribution to another faculty of the intellect, namely the material intellect, explained by Averroes as an intrinsic formal cause in the human soul, and Aquinas' criticism of it. The material intellect is a faculty which enables all humans to think, and is explained by Averroes as the intrinsic ability created in each of us, which is to be considered the formal cause of thinking. Averroes argues that "what is essential to human intellectual understanding —{which is} the abstractive power of the Agent Intellect itself—cannot remain only transcendent but must also be intrinsically present in the individual human soul, and not in an accidental or incidental fashion". This means that the human being has the power and ability of thinking within himself. Taylor in this article examines Aquinas' understanding of the teaching of Averroes on the Agent Intellect, and comes to the conclusion that Aquinas had only a partial understanding of it.

To conclude, Christian, Muslim and Jewish medieval thinkers found a great challenge in integrating Greek concepts of the human soul into their thought without introducing considerable modifications. While Christian theologians easily accepted the duality between the soul and body, since St. Paul declared that the actual human is the inner man, early Muslim theologians did not welcome this duality and considered the human to be the body with its different faculties, which will resurrect and be judged with reward or punishment. However, after al-Kindi's assimilation of Greek philosophy, a change entered into Islamic psychology. Christian and Jewish theologians also did not have difficulty in accepting the spirituality and immateriality of the human soul; but whereas Muslim theologians had great difficulty in accepting the immateriality of the human soul, probably because they believed that the only immaterial being is God, Muslim philosophers argued that the human is an immaterial entity which uses the material body as a window for perceiving the material world. Moreover, it seems that Muslim, Christian and Jewish thinkers accepted the tripartite division of the soul and agreed that the rational soul is the closest to the divine world. Furthermore, most medieval theologians found in the Aristotelian concept of 'innate spirit' (symphyton pneuma), or the Platonist concept of the vehicle of the soul, a solution for how the immaterial soul can have a relationship to the body. In addition, they also found it useful for explaining the resurrection of the body, which they considered essential to assure the eternal survival of the human being.

The immortality of the individual is another issue which occasioned a conflict between theology and Greek philosophy for thinkers from all three monotheistic religions. Muslim theologians in general insisted on the resurrection of the body and attributed eternal life to it as an inseparable part of the human being. However, the Ikhwan al-Safa' argued for accepting both the spiritual and bodily resurrection. While Christian theologians found in St. Paul's concept of receiving a spiritual body in the afterlife a good solution for assuring individual immortality, Jewish thinkers were more able to perceive a spiritual afterlife, perhaps because the Bible (particularly the Torah) spoke vaguely of the afterlife and therefore did not emphasize a bodily resurrection, as the Qur'an and New Testament did. Finally, we can infer from the different articles presented in this volume that medieval thinkers of all three monotheistic traditions, while taking great interest in all aspects of the Platonic tradition concerning human nature and fate, found the question of the immortality of the individual human being the issue of primary concern.


Special Contents

insert content here