Anti-Platonist note

Plato has a difficulty reconciling his theory of forms with his doctrine of personal immortality. The forms are the stable foundation of  being, not just intelligibility. The forms are in fact what, for Aristotle, just are being or ousia – i.e. the stable reality in which something having no existence of itself inheres (What Aristotle called substances were, for Plato, as groundless and unstable as accidents). But Plato also insists that the soul of every man has existence of itself, which therefore cannot be lost. This soul grounds a personal immortality and the multiplicity of possible outcomes that individuals might suffer after death. And so the giver of existence is one, and yet souls are givers of existence, and many. What gives?

One resolution might be to distinguish existence and life – the soul has life of itself, but not existence of itself, and so it cannot cease living but might cease existing. Plato seems to move this way when he defines soul as the self-mobile. Such self-mobility (which for Aristotle is immanent activity) might be another state apart from the pure flux of physical being and the pure intelligible stability of the ideal forms.  On this account, we say that the soul gives life but not existence, which means that the soul itself has a contingent existence, that is, that it might exist or not. Perhaps this means that the immortality of the soul can be adduced if the soul is given, but the soul is not a given on the basis of existence alone.

 

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