Publikacje Mikołaja Krasnodębskiego
  Soul and Body

Mikołaj Krasnodębski





Soul and Body.

The question of the unification of the soul and the body in selected texts of st.Thomas Aquinas and in Neothomism.




Dusza i ciała. Zagadnienie zjednoczenia duszy i ciała w wybranych tekstach

Tomasza z Akwinu oraz w filozofii tomistycznej, Warszawa 2004, p. 119-121.








The problem of unification of the soul and the body is undoubtedly one of the most important problems of classical philosophical anthropology. It was first mentioned by Aristotle and developed by St. Thomas Aquinas. In the 20th cent. an issue was discussed by the polish neothomists: F. Gabryl, S.Swieżawski, M.A. Krąpiec, M. Gogacz. In this discussion thought of E. Gilson had a great importance.

The book concerns the classical approach that is overshadowed today by concepts of man based on positivism, phenomenology, structuralism, hermeneutics, marxism, existentialism and postmodernism. This dissertation also underlines the approach to the issue worked out in the Warsaw school of Consequential Thomism which was started by M. Gogacz and continued by some of his piupils.

The first chapter presents an analysis of several texts of St. Thomas. Author applies here the "metaphysical method" worked out by E. Gilson. The following texts are examined: 1. Treatise of Man (from Summa Theologiae), 2. Questio disputata De spiritualibus creaturis, 3. Questio disputata De anima. 4. De unitate intellectus contra awerroistas. The second chapter contains an anthropology of F. Gabyl and his contribution to the discussion of soul and body. The third presents interpretation of the issue of commensuratio animae ad hoc corpus by S. Swieżawski and M. A. Krąpiec. The last chapter contains the interpretation of this question by E. Gilson and M. Gogacz.

Those scholars show that St Thomas Aquinas considers the following problems regarding the problem of unification of body and soul: 1. the soul is body, 2. man is only soul and the unifying of soul and body is only accidental, 3. Hylomorphism of Aristotle modified by the existentialist understanding of being. St. Thomas shows, that the man is neither the body nor the soul but is a substantial unity of body and soul.

The analysis of texts of Aquinas leads to conclusion that the passive intellect (intellectus possibilis) makes the soul an individual. This is the point of view that is not shared by some of modern Neothomists. E.g. S. Swieżawski says that the principle responsible for individuation of the soul and commensuratio animae ad hoc corpus is matter characterized by quantity (materia quantitate signata). M.A. Krąpiec comes to a similar conclusion. E. Gilson suggests distinction between the terms: the passive and active individualization of being. Matter is the passive principle of particularization whereas the form is an active principle of the individualization of human being.

On the other hand M. Gogacz writes that the human soul is individualized by two kinds of potency:

1. The potency which is necessary and therefore remaining in the soul after death.

2. The potency which is unnecessary (it can be lost in the moment of death).


The unnecessary potency is the particularizing bodylines that brings spatiality, dimensions, sensual properties etc. The soul does not require to be particularized but it must be individuated. The necessary potency is the passive intellect (intellectus possibilis).

The consequences of understanding of the passive intellect that way which results in the conception of the unification of soul and body are clear in e.g. in examining the immortality of human soul, its 'nature' and its ability to aquire knowledge after death.

Thus, the passive intellect, which is individual and separate in each man, as part of soul is responsible for receiving species intelligibilis and understanding. It also particularizes and takes part in commesuratio.

When one follows the thinking of Aquinas, the interpretation proposed by M. Gogacz seems to be the clearest. What's more interesting, his thesis of the role of the passive intellect in the individuation of human soul can be supported by texts of St. Thomas Aquinas.

There are numerous arguments which supports such an interpretation:

- for Aquinas "human soul (...) is the most perfect form and that's why so much superior to corporeal matter that it possesses power and is capable of action in which matter has no part whatsoever, and this power is called intellect" (STh, I, 76, 1, resp.);

- the soul must be individual (not general) from the very beginning, also before the realization of matter as its body;

- the soul is individual before the body comes into being;

- the soul must be made up of act and potency and it is not a simple substance or the absolute;

- the factor individuating the soul must rest in the soul itself;

- if the soul possesses potency, there the individuating factor can be found;

-the soul is not individuated by the act of being because it just realizes and as an act it does not individuates;

- the form is particularized by matter but not first matter (materia pirma) because it is a non-being;

- the form must be incomplete, in that it must be permeated by adequate potency that we call matter;

- it is the necessary that spiritual potency which individuates and it is the body which particularizes;

- mind is different from matter;

- commensuratio is not a relation, or an accident, but a permanent property of the soul.


Therefore we should accept, after Gogacz, that "human soul, which as a form cannot limit itself, must then contain what individuates it in the sense of being the basis of its directing towards the body; the soul must include this in its basic potency that gives it independence from the body and, at the same time, organizes its individuality." (Istnieć i poznawać, Warszawa 1967, s. 190). In fact, the sentence well summarizes the contents of the book.

 Translated by Benedykt Dybowski


© Mikołaj Krasnodębski 2008




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