Evaluate the claim that the soul is distinct from the body:

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Evaluate the claim that the soul is distinct from the body:

There are two views in terms of the soul: dualists and monists/materialists. Dualists believe that there is a non-physical soul and life after death is possible, whereas monists believe that human beings are made only of physical substances and reject this idea of life after death.

Plato is one of the most famous dualists’ of all time. He argued that there are two aspects of humans – their soul and their body. He believed that the soul was more important than the body because unlike the body, the soul is eternal and gives us real knowledge of the forms. Plato put forward two arguments to show that the soul is immortal and can exist outside of the body. Firstly, his argument from knowledge states that learning is a matter of remembering what the soul has already experienced, as humans we can recognise things that are equal e.g. one grain of sand to another, yet we haven’t experienced the form of equals and things such as maths and science are true even before we can prove it. Secondly, is his argument of opposites, this suggests that because we live in a world of opposites (night/day, light/dark, big/small and so on) that there must also be an opposite of death. Then, for there to be a death, there must be something that lives on, so that there is a distinction between the two.

Peter Geach rejects Plato's distinction as he questions how the soul is able to have knowledge of the forms when the body gives the soul its sight and senses. Indeed, Brian Daws also criticises Plato for his argument of opposites, suggesting that there isn’t always an opposite of something e.g. the colour yellow.

Aristotle is also a very influential philosopher and although a student of Plato, he disagreed with Plato’s concept of the soul. Aristotle was a monist and believed that the body and soul cannot be distinct from the body at any point – they cannot be separated. He believed that the soul was something that can be seen in terms of human function – their reason for being. E.g. If an eye had a soul, it would be vision, because that is its purpose.  In essence, the soul is the final cause of all human beings. In essence, Aristotle claims that soul is intrinsic to our body – it is a property.

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Bertrand Russell agreed and gave the examples of football to illustrate this point. He suggested that football couldn’t exists without footballers and in turn, the colour red, could not exist without red objects. As such, the soul cannot exist without a body to function in. Aquinas agreed with Aristotle that the soul animates the physical body, but he also believed that the soul can operate independently from the body. The soul cannot be broken down or decayed and as such argued that the soul can survive death, it can retain individual identity and that identity can live on.

Richard ...

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