Thoughts about “On the Soul” by Aristotle


The Sole purpose of the Soul: Is there one?

The title of this reading is extraordinarily striking to me. Something as precious as the soul should be examined with passion. To the credit of Aristotle, he did not disappoint me (although he does confuse me) as he leads us in his “investigation”. On the first page of this perplexing reading, Aristotle presents the soul but more so the complications associated with categorizing it. He begins this reading with many questions about whether the soul is a substance, whether it is potential or actual, whether it is divisible or not, and many more thoughts to follow. He wants us to work towards the answers, and does not just hand them over. I truly appreciate that. However, I believe we must differentiate and assign a definition to the soul according to Aristotle (for it may not be what we consider it to be) before answering his many specific inquires. Unfortunately, we must get far into the text before being able to answer what the soul is for Aristotle.  It feels incredibly baffling with the constant examples and the various separations he creates. Book II furthers my confusion by stating to “start fresh” with how we think about the soul. The idea of using ratios and therefore math to understand the soul is very confusing for me, but maybe I am missing something. At the end, there is so much to consider about the soul and I am left with ponderings:

What does Aristotle say about other great thinkers’ concepts of the soul? (page 644) How does he link their ideas to his own?  Furthermore, what can be said about the soul being made of elements and is this a valid assessment of the soul according to Aristotle?

What is meant by “it is doubtless better to avoid saying that the soul pities or learns or thinks, and rather to say that it is the man who does this with his soul?” (page 651) According to this, can we know where the soul is located?

What is meant by, “Thinking seems the most probable exception; but if this too proves to be a form of imagination or to be impossible without imagination, it too requires a body as a condition of its existence?” (page 642) How does this sentence connect to the soul?

How does he come to the “circular movement is eternal” idea in regards to the soul concept laid out on page 649?

The “nature of the soul” and “Nature” itself are two terms he uses that lead to confusion for me. How do these terms differ?

Would a diagram or chart of his ideas be helpful in putting all attributes of the soul on the board to see where Aristotle takes his concept?