Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Philosophy

Date of Defense

4-16-2012

Graduate Advisor

Gualtiero Piccinini

Committee

Jon McGinnis

John Brunero

Abstract

Thomas Aquinas nearly succeeds in addressing the persistent problem of the mind-body relationship by redefining the human being as a body-soul (matter-form) composite. This redefinition makes the interaction problem of substance dualism inapplicable, because there is no soul “in” a body. However, he works around the mind-body problem only by sacrificing an immaterial afterlife, as well as the identity and separability of the soul after death. Additionally, Thomistic psychology has difficulty accounting for the transmission of universals, nor does it seem able to overcome the arguments for causal closure. Thomas constructs his distinct philosophy of the soul by interpreting Aristotelian concepts in light of Catholic doctrine. His epistemology and psychology elucidate the relationship of the soul to the body. He maintains that the soul is the form of the body, the bridge between the corporeal and incorporeal worlds, and the first act of the body. This thesis explains Aquinas's concept of the nature of the soul, especially how it allows for the interaction of the intellectual soul with the body, and describes the influence of religious doctrine on his viewpoint about the afterlife and resurrection. Elucidation of the philosopher’s psychology demonstrates that, in concluding that the soul is the form of the body, Aquinas eliminates the possibility of an immaterial afterlife. The effect of this sacrifice is a difficulty in clearly explaining how an immaterial form, the soul, continues to exist without a material body. Additionally, Thomas’s philosophy of the soul cannot account for causal closure, which entails that all physical effects must have sufficient physical causes. This work provides a new angle on the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas by focusing on the nexus of his philosophy of mind and his account of the afterlife. The reconstruction of his view of the resurrection, as informed by his psychology, presents a new interpretation of the philosopher, shining fresh light on how these accounts inform one another. Additionally, this composition’s criticisms of Thomas afford a new outlook to Thomistic philosophy, challenging his explanation of how humans complete universal thought in light of contemporary understanding of the physical world.

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