The Immortal Soul: Ideas of Socrates, Plato & Augustine

The Immortal Soul: Ideas of Socrates, Plato & Augustine
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  • 0:01 Dualism
  • 1:10 Socrates
  • 1:33 Plato
  • 2:04 Augustine
  • 3:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explore the concept of the soul as an immortal object. In doing so, it will highlight the theories of Socrates, Plato, and Augustine. It will also define dualism.

Dualism

Starting things off on a rather morbid note, we are all going to die. Regardless of status, gender, or beliefs, one day each of us will cease to exist as we do today. For this reason, the question that's been keeping philosophers busy for thousands of years is not death. Instead it's, 'is there a soul that sticks around once the body has checked out?' To delve into this query let's take a look at Socrates', Plato's, and Augustine's views of the immortal soul.

For starters, all three of these guys held to dualism. Stated pretty simply, dualism is the belief that reality or existence is divided into two parts. When speaking of humanity, these two parts are usually identified as the body and the soul. Today, we'll focus on the soul.

When speaking of the soul, dualists see it as a real substance that exists independent from the body. Unlike our bodies, which are subject to decay, the soul is not subject to natural law. For many dualists, the soul is what separates us from animals. It's the seat of human consciousness. It's our intellect, our will, and our emotion.

Socrates

Keeping this dualistic base in mind, let's take a look at our three philosophers. Being the earliest of the three, we'll start with Socrates. Admittedly, much of what we know about Socrates is conjecture. Keeping our summary of his views rather general, he believed the soul is immortal. For this reason, he asserted that death is not the end of existence. Death is simply the separation of the soul from the body.

Plato

As a supposed student of Socrates, Plato agreed that the soul is immortal and separate from the body. However, he upped the ante a bit. He believed the soul was eternal. According to Plato, the soul doesn't come into existence with the body; it exists prior to being joined to the body.

Sounding a whole bunch like reincarnation, Plato believed the soul exists within a body until that body dies. It then sets up house in another body. For this reason, Plato called the body the prison of the soul.

Augustine

As our last dualistic thinker of the day, Augustine also believed the soul to be immortal. However, he believed the soul AND the body make up a human. The body isn't just a prison for a soul that jumps from body to body. Instead, one body and one soul make up one person. Yes, he agreed that the soul is immortal, he just didn't buy into the idea that it hops from body to body.

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