” ‘Do not forget Sanches”‘replied Don Quixote. ‘that there are two kinds of beauty, one being of the soul and the other of the body. That of the soul is revealed through intelligence, modesty, right conduct, generosity, and good breeding, all of which qualities may exist in an ugly man, and when one’s gaze is fixed upon beauty of this sort and not upon that of the body, love is usually born suddenly and violently.’ ”- Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote.
Following our quest to substantiate God’s existence, the logical next step is to turn our attention to the urgent question of the nature of man. The demonstration of the existence of God as the perpetual origin of the universe with material and immaterial attributes reverberates as the question of whether any individual part of the universe has similar characteristics. Within our immediate environment, man himself appears the most complex and advanced finite entity, and thus a reasonable possibility. This leads us to ask whether the presumptive characteristics of divine dualism and eternal existence apply to ourselves, although the premise of the question is not, from a philosophical standpoint, entirely sound.
Ancient religions and philosophy seem to accept the twofold nature of man as axiomatic. The existence of the physical body appears undeniable, but when man compares himself to inanimate matter, the differences are so profound that an added essence commonly known as the ‘soul’ seems necessary. Alternately stated, we instantly categorize things coming into our purview as either inanimate or living, and this difference is best explained by attribution of a special characteristic – in Greek, psyche, and in Latin, anima – both meaning ‘soul.’
While the question of two facets of human existence might seem on first glance to be purely academic, the real importance for us is the implications the concept of ‘soul’ has in two key areas: morality and mortality. While the arguments for the existence of a human soul are tenuous, the philosopher must clarify the issue in order, to optimally characterize these key domains in the pursuit of a meaningful life.
Our systematic approach will follow these steps:
1. Definition of soul
2. Traditional conceptions of the soul
3. Arguments for and against the existence of a human soul.
4. Subjective rationale for the soul
5. Reinterpretation of the soul
As in other subjects we have discussed, the reader may choose to skip this section if he already has fixed opinions, but time invested here will be rewarded with better understanding of later chapters. The existence or nonexistence of the soul and the specific conception one has will impact much of what follows.