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A Brief History of the Soul (in 20 minutes or less). By Paul Gavrilyuk University of St Thomas. Antonio Canova, Psyche Revived by Eros (1777). Paris, Louvre. Plato’s warning:. To tell what the soul really is would be a matter for utterly superhuman and long discourse. Phaedrus 246a.

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a brief history of the soul in 20 minutes or less
A Brief History of the Soul(in 20 minutes or less)

By Paul Gavrilyuk

University of St Thomas

Antonio Canova, Psyche Revived by Eros (1777). Paris, Louvre.

plato s warning
Plato’s warning:

To tell what the soul really is would be a matter for utterly superhuman and long discourse.

Phaedrus 246a.

1. What is the soul?

2. Who has souls?

3. How is the soul related to the body?

4. What happens to our souls when we die?

John William Waterhouse, Pandora (1896)

More specifically:

How was/ is the soul imagined?

What are the soul’s properties?

What are the soul’s ‘parts’/ powers/ capacities/ faculties?

Do animals or plants have souls?

Are souls material or immaterial?

Are souls mortal or immortal?

How do we know we have souls?

Do we need arguments to prove we have souls?

John William Waterhouse, Pandora (1896)

a word of a future philosopher
A word of a future philosopher…

“The soul is something that lives inside you. When you die, it leaves your body, like a ghost.”

--Peter Gavrilyuk.

soul is like a shade in the underworld
Soul is like a shade in the underworld:

Paul Gustave Dore, Apocalyptic Procession.

soul is like
Soul is like…

A bird

A Harmony of a Lyre

the soul is like
The soul is like…
  • “a pair of winged horses and a charioteer.”
    • Plato, Phaedrus 246a.

Eos flying over the sea in a chariot. 430-420 BC.

Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany

the three p arts of the soul
The Three Parts of the Soul
  • Reason (dianoia)
  • Spirit (thymos)
  • Appetite (epithymia)
    • Plato, Respublica, IV.
soul according to google images a kia model
‘Soul’ according to Google Images: a KIA model

Kia Soul Clearance! Kia Dealers are Slashing Prices! Get Kia Soul Deals Now.

materialist accounts of the soul
Materialist Accounts of the Soul

Most Pre-Socratics: Soul is bodily, composed of rare or fine matter (like breath or smoke)

Epicureans:Soul is a group of atoms

Stoics:Soul is a spirit (pneuma) made of fire and air

Some modern scientists: Brain generates consciousness

Bust of Epicurus. 3rd c CE. Capitoline Museum, Rome.

  • Before Plato the belief in the soul’s immortality was weak and confused
  • Some believed the soul was material and survived after death
  • Others believed the soul was dispersed after death
  • Still others believed in the preexistence and transmigration of the souls
plato soul body dualism
Plato: soul-body dualism
  • Phaedo: offers arguments for the immortality of the soul
  • The soul is immaterial, partless and self-moving
  • The soul has intermediate status between perceptible and intelligible beings
  • Some of the soul’s functions require the body, others don’t
  • The soul is able to apprehend the divine Forms
aristotle s psychology
Aristotle’s Psychology
  • The soul is the form of the body
  • Most of the soul’s functions require bodily organs
  • Degrees of the soul:
    • Plants: nutritive soul
    • Animals: sensitive soul
    • Humans: rational soul
rudiments of the ot anthropology
Rudiments of the OT anthropology
  • Humans are made in God’s image and likeness
  • Living being = dust of the earth + divine breath (neshama)
  • Heart (lev) as the center of will, desire, emotions, thoughts and contact with God
  • The possibility of bodily resurrection was debated at the time of Jesus
translating heart in the ot
Translating “heart” in the OT:
  • Deut. 6:5: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart (levav) and with all your soul (nephesh), and with all your strength.”
  • Mk 12: 30: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (kardia), and with all your soul (psyche) and with all your mind (dianoia), and with all your strength.” Cf.: Mt 22:37, Lk 10: 27.
the apostle paul s anthropological assumptions
The Apostle Paul’s Anthropological Assumptions
  • Twofold division: the battle of the flesh (sarx) against the spirit (pneuma). (E.g. Gal. 5: 17).
  • Threefold division: “May your whole spirit (pneuma),soul (psyche)and body (soma)be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 5: 23).
  • The body is not the “tomb of the soul”, but “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6: 19).

Christ’s Descent into Hades. Church of the Savior in Chora, Constantinople, Turkey.

the church fathers
The Church Fathers
  • Soul is created, not divine
  • Image of God associated with mind, soul, heart, moral judgment, and free will
  • Soul is capable of the contact with God
  • The soul is immortal by grace
  • The soul is reintegrated with the body at the general resurrection
  • Soul/ body union is correlated with the union of the divine and human natures of Christ in the incarnation
  • Augustine: the powers of the soul are correlated with the persons of the Trinity
the definition of the council of chalcedon 451 ad
The Definition of the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD):
  • “We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and body[…]”

Christ holding Mary’s soul after her death. Icon of Dormission. 15th c.(?).

select modern accounts
Select Modern Accounts
  • Descartes: shift from soul to mind (mens, res cogitans)
  • Hume: mind isa “bundle of perceptions” (no enduring self)
  • Idealists: shift from “rational substance” to consciousness
  • Freud: exploration of the unconscious self
  • Materialists: the immaterial soul is a fiction
  • Neuroscientists: consciousness is emergent property of the brain
  • No consensus on the soul-body problem among the philosophers: materialist and dualist options are perpetually contested
  • Pre-modern Christian theologians as a rule set the materialist option aside
  • Contemporary debates have important scientific, ethical, and political repercussions