Are mind and matter two separate entities

Summary of About the soul

The body-soul dualism in antiquity

Ancient Greek philosophy looked for the principles of all being by distinguishing animate from inanimate things. The soul (Greek "psyche") was considered to be the ultimate principle of life. Thus the pre-Socratic natural philosophers recognized in it the primordial material that was inherent in all living things and that was ultimately to be equated with God. The atomists among their masters advocated against this pantheistic worldview Leucippus and Democritus a consistently materialistic view in which the soul was also considered part of the material, physical world. They imagined the soul as a structure made up of very fine atomic spheres and thus clearly rejected all metaphysical explanations.

The atomists took this purely materialistic approach Plato, in whose philosophy the concept of the soul plays a central role, opposes his idea of ​​an immortal, ideal world separated from the material world. For Plato, the ideas each represent a certain state of affairs. So there is the idea of ​​the beautiful or the idea of ​​the good, which embody being beautiful or being good in its purest form, so to speak, and which explain what it actually is. Thanks to his immortal soul, which is the basis of all his perceptions, thoughts, feelings and desires, and which makes the body come alive in the first place, the human being participates in this independent world of ideas, which exists alongside the world that can be experienced through the senses.

Like the pre-Socratics Pythagoras and Empedocles Plato also supported the theory of reincarnation. The body, he explains in his PhaedoLike all matter, it is transitory and only represents the temporary prison of the soul. As soon as he dies, it leaves him and returns to its real home, the heavenly spheres. In its essence it is immortal, indissoluble and unchangeable, it goes from being alive to being dead and from death back to life at birth.

With his idea of ​​an immaterial soul, which he opposed to the material body, Plato created a problem that preoccupied philosophy for centuries: What is the connection between the mortal body and the incorporeal soul? How do you concretely imagine the relationship between physical perception and purely spiritual, intellectual activity?


The young Aristotle still seems to have represented the dualistic body-soul concept of his teacher Plato. This is indicated by his between 353 and 347 BC. Dialogue originated in BC Eudemos out, who still strongly adheres to Plato Phaedo leans, even if there is no explicit mention of the soul's continued existence. In the course of his further philosophical activity, Aristotle began to reject Plato's conception of ideas as independent forms and to develop his own, completely non-transcendental and biological theory of the soul. In several smaller writings in which he also repeatedly referred to About the soul He turned to phenomena such as perception, memory, sleeping, and being awake. About the soulAristotle probably wrote his main text on such questions during his second long stay in Athens between 335 and 322 BC. Chr.

Impact history

In ancient Greece, Aristotle was only perceived as one philosopher among many. It was only after his writings were rediscovered in Europe on the way through the Islamic world in the twelfth century that the Aristotelian system and methodology gained supremacy: Throughout almost the entire Middle Ages, Aristotle was considered the philosopher par excellence, and at European universities his theory of the soul was part of natural philosophy to the canonical teaching content.

After thinkers like Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and René Descartes had founded modern science in the 17th century, the accusation against Aristotle was loud that he represented a purely speculative and static worldview. From the 19th century at the latest, however, his script was used About the soul is increasingly received again and is one of the most discussed texts in the history of philosophy today. From the 1970s he experienced the Aristotelian theory of the soul, on which the American philosopher relied Hilary Putnam explicitly called, a true renaissance. In the more recent philosophy of mind, it offers an alternative to Descartes' dualism. Aristotle acts as a guarantor for a holistic view in which mental states are not only viewed as mental processes that are independent of the body, but as perceptions and functions of the entire organism.