St. Gregory on the soul

Gregory Thaumaturgus gives several very solid dialectical arguments about the soul:

1. Wherein is the Criterion for the Apprehension of the Soul

All things that exist are either known by sense or apprehended by thought. And what falls under sense has its adequate demonstration in sense itself; for at once, with the application, it creates in us the impression of what underlies it. But what is apprehended by thought is known not by itself, but by its operations. The soul, consequently, being unknown by itself, shall be known property by its effects.

2. Whether the Soul Exists

Our body, when it is put in action, is put in action either from without or from within. And that it is not put in action from without, is manifest from the circumstance that it is put in action neither by impulsion nor by traction, like soulless things. And again, if it is put in action from within, it is not put in action according to nature, like fire. For fire never loses its action as long as there is fire; whereas the body, when it has become dead, is a body void of action. Hence, if it is put in action neither from without, like soulless things, nor according to nature, after the fashion of fire, it is evident that it is put in action by the soul, which also furnishes life to it. If, then, the soul is shown to furnish the life to our body, the soul will also be known for itself by its operations.

So, a brief commentary on Thalmaturgus’s first three chapters:

1.) Soul is known as source of bodily (that is, sensible) activities.

2a.) The most characteristic bodily activities are the ones we are in command of: waving a hand, walking, etc.

2b.) These activities are initiated from within, by ourselves.

3a.) Soul is seen most characteristically as a commander of the body, working from within the body itself.

3b.) This thing which commands can command in contrary ways (some ways are virtuous/ skillful/ perfective of the person while others are vicious/ inept/ destructive) and so soul admits of contraries.

3c.) Whatever admits of contraries is a substance, and in this sense soul is a substance.

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