How the soul can affect the body?

The soul is immaterial and has no location. The body in another hand has a location. How the soul can affect the body then?

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They’re united. Humans are body soul composites.

I’m not sure I understand the question? Also why do you presuppose that a human soul has no location?


You’re conceiving the soul in a Platonist way, as a motor for the body. This viewpoint was revisited by Descartes.

The Aristotlean position is that the body is itself a composite of prime matter and soul, as all material substances are composites of prime matter and form. The soul/form is where the thing is, as the prime matter is where the thing is. The soul isn’t an immaterial substance moving a material substance. There is no interaction of the soul on the body. The body is constituted by prime matter and soul.

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The soul is in the place of the body but it is not in the place of the body in the same way that the body is in a place. The body is in a place by being circumscribed and contained by the place. The soul is in the body not as contained by the body or the place of the body but as containing the body and the place of the body. The soul animates the body by contact of power just like the way God works within us or angels, that is, not by bodily contact as God and angels are pure spirits, but by contact of power. Just because the human soul is immaterial or spiritual does not mean it is not in a place for it is not everywhere which is the prerogative of God or nowhere. But spirits are not in a place in the same way that bodies are.

If your soul is dark and full of hatred it will show in your face


The soul is a spiritual substance. Isn’t it?

I am aware of hylomorphic dualism but that cannot account for immortality of soul since soul perish upon the death.

I am confused. What do you mean?

How what you said is related to our discussion?

Right. Since it has no physical extension, therefore it cannot have the property of ‘physical location.’

Your body is physical, and therefore, we can speak of the physical location of the body and of the person, but not the soul, per se.

Because you asked about the soul affecting the physical body

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Yes, you can say that. I don’t believe that so. I have seen many ugly people with demonic faces who are nice and gentle. Anyway, that does not address the question that I raised.

Generally speaking the form ceases to be when the material substance ceases to be. But among material things the human form is unique because it is an intellectual principle, which means it has immaterial operations in addition to material ones (and its immaterial operations are considered its primary ones). And as an immaterial principle, the intellect does not decompose or cease to be when the body ceases to be a human being. And so it continues to exist, albeit it is naturally a very handicapped thing with no body.

I’ve seen virtuous, ugly people with harsh faces, but there was still some attractive quality about it that I can’t put into words. They look more “human”, maybe. I think evil people, even if they have attractive faces, make the opposite effect; their faces become soulless.

What does happen to the soul when a person is consumed by an animal or another human being?

A question to the hylomorphic; how can it be said that being’s are a matter form composite? If matter, as Aristotle defined it and not the physicist, is most fundementally a pure potentiality substance which, when mapped unto a form, is transformed into actuality, then how can it be said that matter is pure potentiality? For to be in potentiality to a given thing is to not have said thing but hold the possibility of attaining such thing. But if existence is something that matter holds by nature, as matter, I believe, is according to Aristotle the underlying substance which denotes something as existing, then matter is in a state of actuality to at minimum one thing; existence. How can we thus call it pure potentiality? It would make more sense to call nonbeing pure potentiality, as it truly is devoid of all attributes and qualities while simultaneously “holding” (I use the phrase analogically) the possibility of future actualization.

Further, on the subject of form; how may it be said that form is that which actualizes potentiality if form is itself not in any state of actuality? We can know this, I presume, from the knowledge that forms are incomplete, in so far as they do not hold existence - the foundation of being - unless they are made actual by matter. For example, before the construction of chairs there was the “pre-existing” (I use the word analogically) form of chairs; this form was not, however, present in any given matter, and thus not within being. As such, it would seem as if the matter is the actualizer whilst the form is the potentiality being actualized. But by this consession, hylomorphism seems to collapse, as matter certainly still holds potentiality, whilst form certainly still holds some sort of actualizing power towards the matter. Would it be wiser instead then to remove ourselves from hylomorphic dualism and instead accept a simplier essence/existence and potency/act dualism of being?

The body is affected by more than tangible presences and objects, so logically, the soul affects the body. This article takes an interesting examination of how the body is affected (in the case of Mother Teresa) by metaphysical qualities in relation to the soul vs our emotions, and how they can overlap.

The metaphysician and physicist are looking at the topic from different angles. The physicist on the mathematical properties that can be abstracted from the nature of physical things, the metaphysician on the being of the thing – what it is. There is no necessary conflict between the two.

Matter-form dualism, it should be clarified, is that material things are metaphysical composites of prime matter and substantial form. That is, physical matter as we know it is constituted by these two principles. The classical way to put it is that matter as we know it is “thick” matter. Prime matter is sometimes referred to as “thin” matter. All matter exists in a state of thick matter. (To go back to the physicist, the physicist is concerned with the mathematical descriptions of thick matter). Prime Matter never exists independently as prime matter. It can’t exist separated from form. Prime matter is what stands in pure potency to receiving form of some kind, and there is never an actual material thing unless prime matter and form are conjoined.

One of the most important applications of the distinction between prime matter and substantial form (and prime matter as a principle of potency and substantial form as a principle of actuality) is the topic of substantial change. Where something goes from being one type of substance to another type of substance. Such as water to hydrogen and oxygen, or vice versa. Or a human being to a corpse (and the aggregate materials that make it up). There has been a change from the substantial form of water on the one hand to hydrogen and oxygen on the other. The substantial form of water is no longer present, the forms of hydrogen and oxygen now are. The principle of potency, the prime matter, is what provides the continuity between the two, and it is the prime matter that was once actual under the form of water that is now actual under the forms of hydrogen and oxygen. It was the prime matter that was receptive to the new forms and is only actual with form.

It’s key to remember that prime matter and the substantial forms of material things are not substances in themselves. There’s a tendency to think that way, as them being two substances coming together. That is not the correct way to frame it. Rather, a material substance is constituted by these two really distinct principles. These distinctions are how we can say two things are the same kind of thing while not being identical, how things undergo change while maintaining continuity, and even play a role in epistemology. For it certainly is not the thick matter of a known object that becomes present in the mind when the object is known. Neither is it the prime matter, which remains in the object. It is the form (substantial and various accidental forms) which are composed and divided in the mind under which a thing takes intelligble existence, and it is the form which actualizes the intellect the same as it is the form which is the principle of actuality in thick matter. But I digress.

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It is a mistake to equate potency and non-being. Potency is a type of being, as is actuality. Potency cannot subsist in itself, though, but only in something actual. Non-being is, trivially speaking, non-being. It’s not receptive to anything as it’s not an “it” to be receptive to anything. Substances are not necessarily material. In the porphyrian tree “body” (as in a physical body) is a species of the genus substance. You could, at least hypothetically, have a substance that is not a body (immaterial).

And existence is actuality, and actuality existence. You can’t really be in a state of actuality to existence. To exist is what it is to be actual.

An angel, should it exist, would be a subsisting form or essence without any prime matter. But the substantial forms of non-rational material things don’t subsist in themselves apart from matter, it is true. But as pointed out, neither does prime matter, and it is prime matter which at one time exists under one form, and at another time under another form, and so on. The principle of form itself doesn’t change. It is not there, it is there, and then it is not. Matter is receptive to new forms.

As for the chair, it is the wood which is receptive to the form of a chair, but I need to add a caveat here. Wood already is thick matter, a composite of prime matter and the substantial form of wood. The form of a chair is what’s called an accidental form. When wood is turned from planks into a chair you’re changing the accidents of the wood, but there is no substantial change.

Fair enough. I see the distinction clearly.

I seem to understand this… I suppose my problem with the proposal is that one is proclaiming prime matter to be pure potency simultaneously to claiming it to be the underlying ‘existent’ within the form/matter dualism. But I cannot agree with this were, one, prime matter true pure potency (a lack of all qualities and attributes), and two, form to need to be brought into being by prime matter.

I do agree, of necessity, that potency cannot possibly “exist” were it not for an actualizing existent, otherwise there is no possibility for actualization and therefore no potentiality. However, given that there is, pressumably, being, which can actualize anything from nonbeing, then it can be said that non-being is an equivalent to potency if it is not being yet being may come from nonbeing as a material cause.

In anycase, I must make level once more the objection that it simply does not seem coherent to claim one can be pure potency whilst simultaneously holding something, for if it holds anything, existence included, it thus isn’t sufficiently reduced to qualify saying it holds nothing yet could be anything, as is the definition of pure potency. As such, I don’t think I’m convinced that prime matter isn’t simply nonbeing.

Could this not be a case, then, to suggest that form isn’t an actualizing principle? For if it form is not existent or sufficiently actualized without prime matter, than how can it be called the actualizing principle?

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