De Anima II.1 (2)

Soul is the name we give to the reality that, when a body loses it, it is no longer the same body except equivocally. Is this compatible with a Physicalist or mechanist account of soul?

It seems like it is since we could see soul as a functional totality. Take enough parts or the right parts from any machine and it won’t be able to function as the type of machine it is. That thing on blocks in the yard is not a car except equivocally, since one can’t define a car except as something able to transport and the thing on blocks lacks such an ability. On this account, soul means “having enough parts to perform the function some name describes”, and falling short of this the name applies only equivocally.

One difficulty with this is that it demands the non-functional be non-living, but anesthetized or severely broken limbs are completely non-functional while still being alive. The parts of living beings, in other words, have two ways of lacking the ability to function: one in which the whole is dead and another where it isn’t. Leaving aside the extrinsic restrictions of function that both he parts of machines and the parts of living things have in common (like handcuffs or car boots) the parts of machines have a single privation of ability to function while the parts of living things have two: legs can be non-functional without being dead while engines cannot.


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