Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor



David F. Siemens, Jr., ASA Fellow
2703 E. Kenwood St.
Mesa, AZ 85213-2384  

From: PSCF 53 (March 2001): 69.                          Response: Carter

There has to have been a multiple breakdown to produce part of Ben M. CarterÝs "The Salvation of Your Souls: But What Is a Soul?" (PSCF 52 [December 2000]: 242˝54,). There are errors that a review or proofreading should have caught and corrected.

Psucho (pp. 243f) is not a noun. Indeed, I do not find a corresponding form for any ancient Greek noun, though it is a possible modern katharevusa dative of the adjective meaning "cool." It is a verb which means "to breathe or blow" (recognized on p. 243), "to make cool or cold," and hence "to refresh." In modern Greek, it means "to cool." In the New Testament, it occurs only once, tropistically, of waning love (Matt. 24:12). It occurs a few times, only three certain, in LXX.

Psuchon in 1 Peter 1:9 (p. 243) is the genitive plural of psuche. Only the latter is the citation form. The word may also be the genitive plural of psuchos, meaning "coolness," "chill," or "frost." This word, though not in the form Carter gives, occurs three times in the New Testament and three or four times in LXX. It has nothing to do with the soul except in being derived from the same root. What may mislead is that psychon looks like a second declension neuter. However, psuche is first declension and psuchos is third.

Psuche, like the Latin anima, basically meant "breath." Then, because breathing is connected to animal life, it came to mean the principle of life, then a living entity, and finally the continuing portion of a human being.

The situation with Aristotle is not quite as presented. Body is potentiality because it is on the material side. Soul is actuality because it is another term for the eidos or form. All that is combines form and matter except at the extremes: prime matter, which is totally irrational, and Pure Form, which is his deity. At the lowest level, prime matter is formed into the four elements, which in turn are formed into inanimate and animate entities. At the animate level, the eidos may be termed a soul.

In generation, according to Aristotle, the female provides the matter and the male provides the form. Among human beings, if the form is vigorous, the result will be a boy who will become a proper man. A lesser form will produce a girl or a slave. But, because the eidos or soul can only exist embodied, Aquinas, in adopting Aristotle as "the Philosopher," had a problem with an immaterial soul that survives the dissolution of the body. This is a major reason why Catholics usually hold that the soul of each infant is specially created rather than generated along with the body. The two views are known as creationism and traducianism, respectively. There is a third view, infusionism, which is more likely to be associated with metempsychosis.

Aquinas did not originate the notion that there is only one soul in a person (p. 245). He found that in Aristotle, where every entity has but one eidos, though the constituents may also have their forms. Some living things have only a nutritive soul, while others have a soul that has both nutritive and sensitive powers, etc.

Noting such problems in matters with which I am familiar, I can only hope that those knowledgeable in other areas will not find additional errors.