The soul has been a very controversial and intriguing subject for multiple generations of philosophers, countless theories have been thought up in an attempt to explain its intellectual operation. Thomas Aquinas, a medieval philosopher and theologian, tackles the topic of subsistence (i.e existence) of the human soul by looking into its power of cognition and scrutinizing its nature; more specifically, he studies the processes through which the soul can cognize the world that surrounds us and itself by the means of the body and the intellect.
Life can be defined through its functions: movement, cognition, perception and nutrition. Aquinas attempts to unveil the secret behind the soul’s power of cognition by identifying its most relevant
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This process forms the universal concept/knowledge in accordance with the main qualities of the concerned object/body (Question 89. Article 1.). It is only through this procedure that we are able to differentiate between opposites such as hot and cold, soft and hard, light and darkness… So as was told before in order to trigger cognition, perception is necessary and for perception to be available, a human body is indispensable. Alone the body and the soul are practically useless, because even if a soul separate from the body actually existed it would not be able to cognize anything, and thus the soul’s operations on the body would be rendered void (Question 89. Article 1.). As such we can conclude that the body exists for the sake of the soul and not vice versa, i.e matter exists for the sake of the form (Question 76. Artile 5.). So the soul gathers knowledge about bodily objects by the senses experience succeeded by a process of abstraction, however the soul itself cannot be cognized by these same senses and so the soul is unable to cognize bodies through its essence but through species.
Indeed, when separated from the body i.e when the body dies the soul is deprived from perception but stays immaterial and retains intellect and will which should only function when sensory experiences are available. Phantasms/mental