TheArguments of the Soul in Plato and Descrates
TheArguments of the Soul in Plato and Descrates
Philosophersturned out to be great revelations with their thinking andunderstanding of man, and his surroundings being basic or thefounding information for the understanding of man today. Differentthinkers came with different knowledge and at different times withPlato and Descrates being some of the renowned thinkers, not only fortheir time, but even today due the impact of their understanding ofthe human mind, body and the soul. Ancient philosophers andphilosophical theories have been devised expressing the understandingabout the soul. Probably, the earliest concept or thinking about thehuman soul and body system to be devised by thinkers, the great Greekthinker Plato (429-347 BC), he (Plato) like Descartes viewed the souland the mind as identical. However, unlike Descartes, he (Plato) hadhis argument that, the soul pre-existed and also survived the body,and went through a process of reincarnation (Tymieniecka,1983).This essay analyzes the concept of the soul and the resoundingarguments between these two great philosophers.
Rene’sDescartes was a French philosopher, but spent most of his life inDutch republic. Born in 1596, and died in 1650, Descartes and hiswork influenced other great philosophers such as Isaac newton, andWilhelm, while he was influenced by the contributions of Aristotle,Plato and Aquinas. With reference to Plato, who was believed to havelived at the time classical Athens, Descartes had the same approachto the issue of the soul, the mind and the body, but had a differentapproach compared to Plato. Descartes on one side is seen as thefather of dualism, as he sees the body and the mind/soul as differentfrom each other.
Thesoul is the spiritual part of human beings that are believed to beimmortal. The soul is thought to be distinct from the physical bodyand is thought to survive death, unlike the body, but, to besubjected to happiness or misery after death depending on one’sactions in the physical body. In an attempt to explain the existenceof the soul, various concepts have been put forward. Manyphilosophers have various arguments on the same amongst them Platoand Descrates, who had different views on the human soul. Humanbeings were made of more than the physical body explaining ourmorality, personality and actions. It is evident that death is notthe end of a person, but there is a part of the person that continuesto live even after the body dies. I agree with Plato on the existenceof a relationship between the body and the soul. I also believe thatthe soul is eternal, unlike the body.
Accordingto Plato, a human being is made up of two entities that are the bodyand the soul with many differences existing between the two (Edwards,1997). He talked about the soul being the essential part that makesup a person helping the person to think and make different choices.The body is the physical part that carries out the decisions andaffects the soul as well. The interaction between the two wasreferred to as dualism (Edwards, 1997). In his view, the body stateaffects the soul state while the soul state also affects the bodystate putting the two in constant interaction till death separatesthem.
Agreeingwith Plato, after death, there is a separation between the body andthe soul. The body decomposes whereas the soul departs to leadanother life. He argues that a true philosopher would be comfortablewith dying and not be afraid because death presents a trueopportunity to reason, understand and reflect with the soul withoutbeing concerned with the worldly things. The body is easilydistracted by material things in the world and as a result, thebodily sensations are unreliable (Edwards, 1997). Death would,however, prevent these distractions since the soul cannot bedistracted by earthly things. He concludes that the body and soul aredifferent with the soul having the truest perception of things. Bythis Plato demonstrated the uniqueness of the soul. It is throughexploring the soul that a person is free from deception by the body.I believe this to be accurate because the body serves to confuse anindividual with the many temptations and its immediate need forgratification. The sensory perceptions of the body distract a personleading to biases and only through ignoring these distractions thatan individual can interpret things truly.
Platoalso proved that the soul is unique using the theory of opposites. Hecites that everything comes into existence from its opposite such asheat comes from cold. Hence, life and death are opposites. Therefore,since the living die, so the dead also live. The cycle proves thatdeath is not the permanent end, subsequently the soul exists as aform of the dead (Edwards, 1997). Plato also believed that the soulis present even before birth and after death while the body is bornand dies. Plato talks of a soul, but Descrates does not provide aclear distinction between the mind and the soul. Descrates wanted toprove the immortality of the intellect rather than that of the soulby claiming the soul to that which animates the body. By so doing, hereduced the soul to a physical state, thus denying its existence(Tymieniecka,1983).An important approach that was devised for the understanding of thesoul, is the ‘theory of forms’ with reference to this view ofPlato, the soul or the human mind got knowledge from the aspect ofreconnection of the forms in the form theory, and in turn the soulreturned to the state of knowledge that it had before birth.
Descratesbrought doubt in everything that people believe in including the bodyand soul interactions. Since his sense might be fooled, Descratesfound no reason to believe in the existence of an external world orthe soul (Edwards, 1997). Since he was not sure about everything, heconcluded that only doubt was right. He cites that, before acceptingany belief to be true, we must first discard all of them andreexamine them. However, believe about the human soul cannot bediscarded since beliefs are part of us and discarding them would bediscarding ourselves (Tymieniecka,1983).According to Sarah,(2007)Descartes believed in two different substances: ‘resextensa’and ‘rescogitans’resextensais the extended world, physical objects, while rescogitansrefers to mind, or for him soul and the body they are one and thesame. Also because it is not a physical substance, it cannot die,hence is immortal.
Descratesalso believed that the body and the soul were different things. Thebody was matter in nature and, therefore, could be easily moved byother things. The soul or mind, on the other hand, according toDescrates was an invisible thing that humans thought to exist(Edwards, 1997). He thought the soul to be separate from the bodywith neither influencing the other, unlike Plato. For example, heimagined losing his foot and concluded that this did not reduce hissoul. Plato thought the soul gave life to the body since it wascreated before the birth of the body as proved by the soul leavingthe body at the time of death. Descrates, instead, believed that thebody gives life to the mind/soul. He alleged that the mind had tohave a body to function. However, he concludes that the two do notinteract.
Descratesbrought in the idea of dualism due to his believe, that the body andmind are completely different from each other. This was contrary tothe understanding by Plato, that soul was the principle tool of everyliving body. With reference to the two thinkers, Plato approach tosoul, and the body was more valid compared to the approach of byDescartes. However, the Descartes idea of one being divisible, whilethe other one indivisible, the issue surrounding his approach is howthe two could in turn be inseparable, and always interact perfectly(Descartes& Voss, 1989).
Platoalso believed that the soul is connected to the body as it desires tolive in a suitable body itself. The soul is not subject to anypleasures since it has never been the body to experience them.Therefore, the body is subject to the soul (Edwards, 1997). On thecontrary, the soul does not depend on the body except when it desiressome physical action. The soul is, therefore, divine and most of itsdesires are accomplished through the body brings a limitation tothese desires of the soul. According to Plato, the soul has a uniquepower to create a life it wants. It also has an innate way ofthinking well and living a moral lifestyle, unlike the body. Itsself-determinability reflects a person’s value, and its wish tocontrol the body proves its attachment to it. On the other hand,Descrates declares the soul separate from the body and, therefore,has no business with the actions that the body undertakes (Edwards,1997). I don’t believe this to be correct since he opts to prove itby following the line of doubts with no tangible proof.
Inconclusion, the human soul, and the body have a relationship. Thesoul system affects the body system and vice versa. The soul isimmortal whereas the body dies. The soul also provides the moralvalue of an individual due to its constant interaction with the body.The body chooses to ignore the morals of the soul in some instancesfor the pleasure that it experiences have proven the interactionbetween the two. Despite the different understanding from the twogreat thinkers, the soul and the body influence each other therebymaking dualism true. Although the two philosophers are often groupedtogether when it comes to dualism theories with the Plato’s soulbody dualism and the mind body dualism as advocated by Descartes arefundamentally different. The argument between the two is based on thePlato’s acceptance, and the rejection by Descartes of theassumptions that soul is identical with what animates the body.
Descartes,R., & Voss, S. (1989). Thepassions of the soul.Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.
Edwards,P. (1997). Immortality.Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books.
Sarah,B. (2007).Aristotleand Beyond: Essayson Metaphysics and Ethics.CambridgeUniversity Press
Tymieniecka,A.-T. (1983). Souland Body in Husserlian Phenomenology: Man and Nature.Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.