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Aristotle’s Human Soul

Aristotle’s psychology, given in his treatise On the Soul, posits three kinds of soul (“psyches”): the vegetative soul, the sensitive soul, and the rational soul.

Humans have a rational soul. The human soul incorporates the powers of the other kinds: Like the vegetative soul it can grow and nourish itself; like the sensitive soul it can experience sensations and move locally.

The unique part of the human, rational soul is its ability to receive forms of other things and to compare them using the nous (intellect) and logos (reason).

For Aristotle, the soul is the form of a living being. Because all beings are composites of form and matter, the form of living beings is that which endows them with what is specific to living beings, e.g. the ability to initiate movement (or in the case of plants, growth and chemical transformations, which Aristotle considers types of movement).

In contrast to earlier philosophers, but in accordance with the Egyptians, he placed the rational soul in the heart, rather than the brain. Notable is Aristotle’s division of sensation and thought, which generally differed from the concepts of previous philosophers, with the exception of Alcmaeon.

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