Thomas Aquinas: Soul and Intellect

Supplementary Translations:

Aquinas In 1 Sent. d. 8, q.5, a.2


Supplementary Translations:

Aquinas In 1 Sent. d. 8, q.5, a.2


© Richard C. Taylor, Marquette University, 29 September 2012

This translation was made for the graduate course Aquinas: Soul and Intellect

presented in Fall 2012 at

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Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Leuven, Belgium),

and the Universidad Panamericana by

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Thomas Aquinas, In 1 Sent D. 8, Q. 5, A. 2

Whether the soul is simple

To the second we proceed as follows.

1. It seems that the soul is simple. For as the Philosopher says (De anima 2, text 2), the soul is the form of the body. But in the same place he says that form is neither the matter nor the composite. Therefore the soul is not composed.

2. Furthermore, everything that is composed has being from its its components. If, therefore, the soul is composed, then it has some being in itself and that being is ever removed from it. But from the conjunction of the soul to the body it follows that a certain being which is the being of a human being. Therefore, there is a twofold being in the human being, namely the being of the soul and the being of what is conjoined. [However,] that cannot be the case since the being of one thing has a unique being.

3. Furthermore, every [sort of] composition that comes to a thing after its complete being is accidental to it. If, therefore, the soul is composed of its principles, having complete being in itself, its composition to the body will be accidental for it. But accidental composition is limited to one thing accidentally. Therefore, only something one  accidentally is brought about from soul and body; and so a human being is not a being in its own right (per se), but only accidentally (per accidens).

4. To the contrary is what is found in Boethius [De Trinitate 1, ch. 2, col. 1250, t. II): No simple form can be a subject. But the soul is a subject for powers, dispositions, and intelligible species (potentiarum et habituum et specierum intelligibilium). Therefore it is not a simple form.

5. Furthermore, a simple form does not have being per se, as was said. But that which does not have being except insofar as it is in something else cannot remain [in existence] after that [in which it is contained], nor too can it be a mover although it can be a principle of motion, because it is a being complete in itself. Hence, [for example] the form of fire is not a mover, as it is said in Physics 8 [text. 40]. The soul, however, remains after the body and is the mover of the body. Therefore it is not a simple form.

6. Furthermore, no simple form has in itself what individuates it, since every form is in its own right common. If, therefore, the soul is a simple form, it will not have in itself what individuates it, but it will be individuated only through the body. However, when what is the cause of individuation has been removed, individuation is destroyed.  Therefore, when the body has been removed, diverse souls will not remain as individuals. Thus, there will remain only one soul which will be itself the nature of soul.


I respond that it should be said that here there is a twofold opinion. (1) For some say that the soul is composed of matter and form, and there are some of these who say that the same matter of the soul belongs also to other corporeal and spiritual things. But this does not seem to be true because no form is made intelligible except insofar as it is separated from matter and the concomitants of matter.  However, this is not insofar as it is corporeal matter perfected by corporeity, since the form of corporeity is intelligible through separation from matter. Hence, those substances which are intelligible naturally do not seem to be material, otherwise the species of things in themselves would not exist according to intelligible being. Hence, Avicenna [Metaphysics, book 3, ch. 8, Van Riet ed., pp. 158-9.] says that something is said to be intellective because it is free of matter. And furthermore, prime matter, to the extent that it is considered stripped of all form, does not have some diversity, nor [reading nec with Parma, not Mandonnet’s sed] is it made diverse through some accidents before the advent of the substantial form since accidental being does not precede substantial [being]. One perfection [alone] belongs to one perfectible thing. Therefore, it is necessary that the first substantial form perfect the whole matter. But the first form which is received in matter is corporeity, of which the thing is never divested, as the Commentator [Averroes] says [in his Comm. on Physics 1, text & comm. 63]. Therefore the form of corporeity is in the whole matter and so matter will exist only in bodies. For if you were to say that the quiddity of a substance  were the first form received in matter, still the same issue will arise. [This is] because matter does not have division from the quiddity of the substance but from corporeity, which the divisions of quantity in act follow. Later diverse forms are acquired in it through the division of matter insofar as it is disposed in diverse places. For the order of the nobility in bodies seems to be according to the order of their place, as fire is above air. For this reason it seems that the soul does not have matter unless matter is taken in an equivocal way.

(2) Others say that soul is composed of “that by which it is (quo est)” and “what is (quod est)”. However, “what is” differs from matter, because “what is” indicates the supposite itself having being. But matter does not have being but rather the composite of matter and form [has being]; hence, matter is not “what is” but rather the composite [is “what is”]. Hence, in all things in which there is a composition of matter and form there is also a composition of “that by which it is” and “what is.” However, in things composed of matter and form this can be said in three ways. (i) For “that by which it is” can be called the form of the part itself, which gives being to matter.  (ii) “That by which it is” can also be calls the very act of existing (ipse actus essendi), namely, being (esse), as that way which one runs is the act of running. (iii) “That by which it is” can also be called the very nature which results from the conjunction of form with matter, such as humanity. This is chiefly for those who assert that the form which is the whole — which is also called the quiddity — is not the form of the part, concerning which Avicenna [writes in Metaphysics 5, ch. 3]. However, since it is of the very notion of the quiddity or essence that it is not what is composed or a composite, what results can be found and understood as some simple quiddity, not something following the composition of form and matter.  If, however, we would find some quiddity which is not composed of matter and form, that quiddity or its being either is its very being or not. If that quiddity is its very being, in this way it will be the very essence of God Himself which is his very being and it will be altogether simple. But if it is not being itself, it is necessary that it have being acquired from another, as is the case for each created quiddity. And because this quiddity has been asserted not to subsist in matter, being in something else has not been acquired for it, as is the case for composite quiddities, but rather being in itself has been acquired for itself.  And in this way the quiddity will be this “that which is” and its very being will be “that by which it is.”  Because everything which does not have something of itself is possible with respect to that, a quiddity of this sort — since it has being from anther — will be possible with respect to that being and with respect to this from which it has being, in which there is no potency.  It this way potency and act will be found in such a quiddity insofar as the quiddity itself is possible and its being is its act. In this way I understand the composition of potency and act in angels to be of “that by which it is” and “that which is” and likewise in the soul.  Hence, the angel or soul can be said to be a quiddity or nature or simple form, insofar as the quiddity of these is not composed of diverse things. But, nevertheless, there a composition of these two, namely, of quiddity and being, comes about.

[Responses to objections]

1. To the first therefore it should be said that the soul is not composed of things which are parts of its quiddity, as is also the case for any other form. But because the soul is a simple form not dependent on matter — something which belongs to it on account of its likeness and nearness to God — it has being in its own right (per se) which other corporeal forms do not have. Hence, in the soul there is found a composition of “being (esse)” and “what is (quod est)” and not in other forms. [This is] because being itself absolutely does not belong to corporeal forms, as [it belongs] to these things which exist but [are] composite.

2. To the second it should be said that the soul undoubtedly has complete being in itself, although this being does not result from the parts composing its quiddity, nor is some other being brought about through the conjunction of body. Rather, this being itself which belongs to the soul per se comes to be the being of what is conjunct. For the being of the conjunct is nothing but the being of the form itself. But it is true that some material forms do not subsist through that being on account of their imperfections, but they are only principles of being.

3. In virtue of this also the solution to the third objection is also evident. [This is] because the composition which comes to the soul after complete being, according to the mode of understanding, does not make another being because undoubtedly that being would be accidental and for this reason it does not follow that the human being is a being accidentally  (per accidens).

4. To the fourth it should be said that, if Boethius speaks concerning subject in relation to any of its accidents, his statement is true concerning the form which simple such that it is also its being, as is God. Such simplicity is neither in the soul nor in an angel. However, if he speaks of the subject in relation to accidents which have being grounded in nature (firmum in natura) and which are accidents of an individual, then his statement is true also concerning a simple form the quiddity of which is not composed of parts. For there are some accidents which do not have being truly but only intentions of natural things.  Of this sort are the species of things which are in the soul. Again, among accidents having the being of nature, some follow upon the nature of the individual, namely, matter, through which the nature is divided, as white and black in human beings. Hence, they also do not follow for the whole species, and the soul cannot be the subject for such accidents.  However, some have the being of nature but they follow from the principles of the species, as [those that] are properties consequent upon the species. A simple form can be the subject for such accidents. Nevertheless, this [form] is not its own being by reason of the possibility which is in its quiddity, as was said, and such accidents are powers of the soul, for in this fashion both the point and unity have their properties.

5. To the fifth it should be said that every form is some likeness of the First Principle which is pure act. Hence, to the extent that [a form] approaches more closely to Its likeness, [that form] participates more of Its perfections.  However, among forms of bodies (Inter formas autem corporum) the rational soul approaches more closely to the likeness of God. For this reason it participates some of the nobilities of God, namely that it understands (quod intelligit), that  it is able to move, that it has being in its own right (quod habet esse per se), the sensible soul less, the vegetable soul still less, and so forth. Therefore I say that neither does to move belong to the soul nor to have absolute being (esse absolutum: simple being) insofar as it is form, but rather insofar as it is a likeness of God.

6. To the sixth it should be said that, according to the things said earlier, there is not something in the soul by virtue of which it is individuated. They who denied it to be a determinate particular (hoc aliquid) understood this and not that it does not have absolute being (absolutum esse: simple being). I say that it is not individuated except from the body. Hence, the error of those asserting that souls are created beforehand and later placed in bodies (incorporatas: incorporated) is something impossible, because they are not made many except insofar as they are impressed in a plurality of bodies. But, although the individuation of souls depends on body with respect to its beginning, nevertheless [it does] not [depend on the body] with respect to its end, namely, in such a way that when bodies cease to exist, the individuation of souls ceases (reading cessat with Parma). The reason for this is that, since every perfection is impressed on matter according to its capacity, the nature of the soul will be impressed on diverse bodies in this way, not according to the same nobility and purity. Hence, in any given body the being will have a determination according to the measure of the body. However, the determined being, although it is acquired by the soul in the body, nevertheless [it is] not from body nor through dependence on body. Hence, when bodies are removed, there still will remain for each soul its own determinate being, according to the affections or dispositions which followed for it, to the extent that it was the perfection of such a body. This is the solution of Avicenna [De Anima 1, ch.3] and can be made evident by a sensible example. For if some one thing does not retain a shape distinguished though diverse vases, as is the case for water, when the vases will be removed, the proper distinctive shapes will not remain, but there will remain just one water. Such is the case concerning material forms which do not retain being in their own right (esse per se). However, if there is something retaining shape which is distinguished according to diverse shapes through diverse instruments, when those have also been removed, the distinction of shapes will remain, as is clear in [the case of] wax. And such is the case concerning the soul which retains its own being after the destruction of the body, because individuated and distinct being also remains in it.