The Immortality of the Soul

Consider that a material thing is incapable of total self reflection. A material thing can only reflect upon itself partly, that is, only a part can reflect upon another part. Take a piece of paper for example. It is not capable of perfect self reflection. Only one part of the paper can actually reflect upon another part.

A mirror is something that reflects an image, but even a mirror does not reflect totally, but partially. We only see a part of ourselves in a mirror, never the whole of ourselves. Moreover, sensation, which is intimately tied up with matter, is not capable to complete self-reflection. The senses do not sense themselves sensing. In other words, matter cannot transcend itself. But thinking transcends matter. The thinking person is capable of complete self-reflection. For example, although I cannot imagine my act of imagining, nor see my act of seeing, I know that I am knowing. I also know that I know that I am knowing. I also know that I know that I know that I am knowing, and so on and so forth. In fact, I am really only present to myself in the act of knowing something other than myself. When I am in the act of knowing John or Dave, I am also, at the same time, aware of my act of knowing. I know that I am knowing him, or them, or it.

Try touching your sense of touch touching, or imagining your imagination imagining something. Can you smell your sense of smell smelling? But I know myself in the act of knowing. I know myself as knowing while I am knowing.

And so if a material thing is incapable of complete self-reflection, but the mind is capable of complete self-reflection, we can deduce that the mind is not a material organ. The intellect is an immaterial power. The mind can act independently of matter.

Each person has his or her own active intellect. The intellect is a power, a potentiality with reference to activity, a faculty of the soul, like the other powers. But this power, unlike the other powers, acts independently of matter. Of course, the mind needs a phantasm, so it depends upon the brain to provide one. But the active intellect abstracts the essence from the phantasm.

Now, being is prior to activity. So, if something acts independently of matter, then it can exist independently of matter. Hence, the intellectual soul of man can exist without a material body.

Every being, as well as a human being, is a composite of essence and existence. But the act of existing of a dog, or a cat, or a flower, etc., belongs to the whole dog, cat, flower, etc.,. So when the dog dies, it is no longer. It has been transformed. What existed no longer exists. The whole thing has lost its act of existing, because the act of existing belonged to the matter/form composite.

But if a power of the soul can act independently of matter, namely the mind, and we have deduced that it can thereby exist independently of matter, then the act of existing (esse) of a human being belongs first and foremost to the soul. The soul not only communicates form, life, intelligible density, to the body, it at the same time communicates existence to the body.

Consider too that human beings have speculated on the possibility of life after death, not necessarily through any religious dogmas per se. They have speculated on the ability of the soul to survive death because humans have a unique and unusual experience. We experience that we are both inside the world and outside the world at the same time. By knowing the world we live in, we transcend the world. Yet we are in the world. By knowing the universe, a scientist experiences that he is both inside the universe and outside of it at the same time. He is outside of it in that he can transcend it in knowing it. We experience ourselves transcending matter, and this experience cries out for an explanation. Because we experience this transcending of all that is material, we tend to easily believe that there is something in us that can survive death, the destruction of the body.

Of course, this does not prove the existence of Heaven. All it shows is that the soul of a human being is a subsistent soul and that it survives the death of the body. It also shows that those who believe in life after death have not adopted a belief that is contrary to reason.

Next Page: Chapter 23: The Purpose of Human Life
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