Home > Free Essays > Philosophy > Philosophical Concept > Greek Concept of the Soul
Cite this

Greek Concept of the Soul Essay

In the 5th and 6th B.C, the Greek explanation of things had a basis in faith. Faiths that existed were Olympian religion and the Dionysiac-Orphic. The Olympian faith had its basis in the belief of Olympian deities. In religion, the belief was that, after a person’s death, the soul survived; however, it did not have recollections or character of the being whose body it had occupied (Hergenhahn, 2008). Dionysiac-Orphic was the major alternative to the Olympian faith.

Unlike the Olympian faith which was most favored by the upper class, the Dionysiac-Orphic religion was a faith for the peasants. In this religion, the basic concept was the trans-migration of the soul. Two of the philosophers who contributed to the debate about the soul are Aristotle and Plato. The two philosophers conferred to the soul a wide range of psychological and emotional attributes. Nevertheless, they differed on a variety of issue regarding the soul.

Plato envisioned the soul as having three distinct parts; as expressed by Pythagoras. These parts included the thymos, nous and the id (Bennett, 2007). The thymos was concerned with emotions, reason and the Id with appetites. The attributes associated with the soul were linked to varied parts of the body, that is, the mind, chest and the liver.

This further meant that the platonic soul was not in one part of the body; it was distributed in the different organs of the body. This further implied that the soul was distinct substance from the body, it could flow, in and out of organs and ultimately out of the body at the end of life. Aristotle, however, was inclined towards life sciences and believed the soul was not separate from the body.

Aristotle’s description of the soul occurs in the De Anima and is significantly more comprehensive that the description by Plato. In Aristotle’s account, the soul is a form of nature, a law that accounts for variation and the rest in living bodies. Aristotle evaluated the characteristics of living things of considerable complexity. He noted such activities as metabolism and reasoning.

He then described the soul as the coordination of active abilities to carry out the important functions that living things engage (Hergenhahn, 2008). It is, therefore, not a body or a corporeal object, but he is non-indicate of its roles in thinking in humans. He treats mental activities like the rest of bodily activities in that, beings of proper structure and intricacy perform them.

Unlike the platonic soul, Aristotle considered the soul to be the actuality of the corporeal. It is the matter that has the potentiality to form the body. In his work, Metaphysics, the philosopher draws a parallel between the yolk of an egg and its potential to develop into a chick, and the soul’s potential to develop into a body (Smith, 2010).

In the De Anima, Aristotle described the soul as the “whatness” of a living body. A living body has an essence which makes it what it is, this essence if removed, the body ceases to be what it is. This essence is the soul. It is only in the living where it is able to initiate motion, growth and decay.

Additionally, contrary to the divisions of the platonic soul, Aristotle defined three different souls. These fitted into the three classes of living things, the plants, animals and humans. The first of these soils was psuche, which he postulated to be in every living thing. This is the causal agent for nutrition, growth and reproduction. Since these attributes are in all livings, then the Psuche was in them all. The second soul according to Aristoltle was the animal soul (Smith, 2010).

This is present in all livings with the sense of touch. Consequently, all animals have sensation and experience pleasure and pain. This animal soul strives towards this object of sensation. The third soul is only present in human beings, this is the ratiocinative soul. This enables the humans to calculate and be rational. The Psuche is everywhere in the body, the sensitive soul is in the sense organs, but the rational soul keeps away from the body to avoid contamination with other functions.

In Pheaedo, Plato addresses two imperative questions concerning the soul. The first is whether the soul has, any form of subsistence after the death of a person, and the second is whether is still possesses characteristics such as power and wisdom. In one of his arguments, Plato presents the affinity argument, aimed at dissolving the worries of the people about the annihilation and dispersal of the soul after death.

Plato started by distinguishing between two forms, the perceptible and destructible forms, and the imperceptible, intelligible, and non-destructible forms (Bennett, 2007). Further, he notes that forms are invariant, while sensible things change. The two things also differ in visibility, forms being undetectable and sensible things being noticeable. Combining the above postulates, then forms are invisible and indestructible, and sensible things are visible and destructible.

The soul being unseen is a form, and therefore, permanent. Additionally, he considers the divine, whose nature is to lead; the resemblance in function of the divine and the soul makes the soul resemble the divine, therefore, concluding that the soul is indissoluble like the divine.

From the argument, Plato perceived the soul as intelligible and immortal. It regulates and controls the body, its desires, and affections. It is involved in the determination of the conduct of man, deciding on virtue and vice (Bennett, 2007). The soul is, however, dissimilar from the intellect; the soul distinguishes the living and the lifeless.

The departure of the soul leads to death, and the introduction of a soul into a body leads to animation of the body. This differs significantly with Aristotle’s soul. Plato envisions the soul as having substance, and, therefore, can move and exist from body. Aristotle’s concept of the soul did not give such attributes to the soul.

In Greece, therefore, there was consensus on certain characteristics of the soul. The soul was assumed to be indestructible and imperceptible. However, Aristotle and Plato diverged significantly in their understanding of the spirit. Aristotle understood the soul as a coordination of the activities of the bodies of all organisms with proper structure and significance, while Plato understood the soul as being the essence of life.

Three stages of the paradigm in Kuhn’s book

Kuhn identified three stages in a paradigm shift, the pre-paradigm phase, normal science and then revolutionary science phase. These stages are the stages followed in the development of science. The pre-paradigm, period is characterized by a kind of chaos. The conducted research may pass as scientific, but there are no clear guidelines on how researchers should conduct research. There is an absence of explicit guides to procedures in approach to finding novel knowledge.

Additionally, incomplete theories characterize this stage. Persons encountering the same problem in diverse contexts interpret them differently. Eventually, the players in the pre-paradigm society graduate to use conceptual frameworks, and finally to a set of agreed rules in the conduction of research.

This period describes a society in which the people involved in the search of new knowledge lack coordinating guidelines in their work. Questions in various fields of knowledge lead into enquiries and research; however, there is no consensus on how the enquiries have to be conducted.

Consequently, there are no mechanisms for verifying novel knowledge. In this confusion, a research may succeed. The methodologies applied in the research become adapted by most of the other researchers. The methodologies are copied into other fields in such of answers to existing questions. This constitutes normal science.

Kuhn identifies normal science as research whose foundation is one or more previous accomplishments. These accomplishments receive recognition as the basis for further practice. This also appears in textbooks, simple and advanced, explaining exemplary accomplishments (Elguea, 2008). Their aim is to, clearly, articulate the problems and gaps of knowledge in various fields and indicate the methods of research in tackling the same problems.

Kuhn attributed the success of this model to two characteristics, because the success of the procedures was significant enough to attract a considerable number of followers and that was simple to leave a group of researchers to solve certain problems (Boyd, Finkelstein & Gove, 2005). Kuhn refers to such achievements as paradigms.

The emergence of these unified conceptual frameworks, resulting from a paradigm achievement, results into a considerable disappearance of the divergence experienced in the pre-paradigm period (Kuhn, 1996). Interestingly, the arrival at a paradigm is facilitated by a pre-paradigm community choosing certain characteristic beliefs and pre-conceptions, and emphasizing them in their practice.

The success of one school, leading to a paradigm, ends inter-school altercations. The end of these exchanges means concerted efforts in the new concepts projected by the paradigm, and consequently greater success in solving a variety of related problems. Kuhn summarizes this development of natural science as, an individual or a group makes a hypothesis effective enough to attract many of the members of a certain field and old schools eventually disappear, and those who refuse to convert risk obscurity (Hergenhahn, 2008).

Normal science restricts the sight of the followers of a paradigm. Factual scientific questioning focuses on three areas, facts revealing the nature of things, facts directly comparable to predictions from the paradigm theory and facts meant to articulate the paradigm theory.

Inevitably, people question the reception of the paradigms, leading to the last stage. In the periods preceding such times, paradigms reveal numerous anomalies, and facts that are difficult to substantiate. Often, the paradigm finds solutions to these anomalies, but at times, they accumulate to such extents where flaws in the paradigm become visible. Kuhn calls this a crisis.

The resolution of the crisis denies science entry to the last phase; however, the lack of a solution catapults it into the next phase, revolutionary science (Bennett, 2007). The transformations do not transpire due to new observations, or the discovery of new facts, but the interpretation of the same observations in a different lens. The radical shifts of the scientists come from questioning of old beliefs, theories and facts in a novel way, bearing in mind the inadequacies of the present paradigms.

Continued efforts in this direction result in the birth of a new paradigm. On the arrival of a new paradigm, the practitioners revert to normal science and resolving conundrums. This goes on until a crisis occurs, and the route recurs.


Bennett, M. R. (2007). Development of the concept of mind. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 3 (1), 943-956.

Boyd. B., Finkelstein, S., & Gove, S. (2005). . Strategic Management Journal. 26 (9), 841–854. Web.

Elguea, J. (2008). Paradigms and scientific revolutions in development theories. Development and Change. 16 (2), pp.213–234. Web.

Hergenhahn, B. (2008). . Web.

Kuhn, T. S. (1996). . Web.

Smith, C. (2010). The triune brain in antiquity: Plato, Aristotle, Erasistratus. Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, 19, 1–14.

This essay on Greek Concept of the Soul was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Need a custom Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar

301 certified writers online

Cite This paper

Select a website citation style:


IvyPanda. (2020, May 20). Greek Concept of the Soul. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-concept-of-the-soul/

Work Cited

"Greek Concept of the Soul." IvyPanda, 20 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/greek-concept-of-the-soul/.

1. IvyPanda. "Greek Concept of the Soul." May 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-concept-of-the-soul/.


IvyPanda. "Greek Concept of the Soul." May 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-concept-of-the-soul/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Greek Concept of the Soul." May 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-concept-of-the-soul/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Greek Concept of the Soul'. 20 May.

More related papers