Thursday, May 5, 2011

Aquinas on Powers - One interpretation (1)

Throughout his career, Aquinas maintained that a human soul cannot be identical to its powers. I have translated a number of his arguments for this view (see the previous three posts), but I'm not sure I understand any of those arguments.

Part of me thinks that much of Aquinas's reasoning here boils down to the following simple argument: although I always have a soul as long as I exist, my soul’s powers are exercised only some of the time. For instance, so long as I am alive, I have a soul, but there are times in my life when I do not think, when I do not love, and so on. Consequently, my soul cannot be identical to any of my powers to perform these operations.

This is, of course, a simple argument from identity. That is, if any A and B are identical, then anything true of the one must be true of the other. But since this is not the case with my soul and its powers (for I always have a soul as long as I exist, but I do not always exercise my soul’s powers), Aquinas concludes that they must not be identical. Whatever my soul is then, it must be distinct from my power to think, my power to love, and so on.

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