Since the emergence of religion and the study of philosophy, the fate of the human soul after death has been an issue that has attracted much attention. Most philosophers have differed over the issue and put forward theories and explanations to validate their stands. On the other hand, religion has maintained that the soul is immortal and survives the death of the body. Two of the greatest philosophers of early time, Plato and Aristotle, held contradicting views and explanations as to the fate of the soul.
Plato argued that the soul is immortal and therefore survives the death of the body. In contrast, Plato argued that the soul cannot exist without the body and it therefore perishes together with the body at death. Both philosophers put forward arguments to support their stand on the matter. However, there is no definite agreement as to the issue and remains a matter of faith for religions and speculation for free thinkers.
Plato based his stand on several arguments. First, he taught that good people receive rewards both in this earthly life and in the afterlife. He argued that goodness was not a means to an end but an end in itself. This was one of the basics of his teaching of the immortality of the soul. He believed that the association between the soul and the body served to deform its pure state. Despite the deformation, the soul retained a certain portion of its real nature with its expression in the longing for wisdom.
This argument supports his teaching that the destruction of an object results only from its own evil. As such, the soul can only meet destruction through its own inner evils. Plato maintained that immortality is the only affliction of the soul that can only harm it even though no evidence exists to explain the effect of death on the soul
Secondly, Plato used reincarnation to advance his stand further. At the time, the Greeks held a belief that everything that was in existence was in a recurring cycle that was eternal. As such, Plato believed that death and life were complementary and one came after the other. He gave the example of sleep. After sleep a person wakes up and after waking up, sleep follows. The same was with death and life: they were cyclic and therefore one came after the other. As such, the soul cannot die because there is life after death.
Thirdly, he argued that the soul existed before the body. He supported this statement by observing that humans possess a special kind of knowledge in the ability to draw comparisons. This is evidence of a pre-existent soul. He however claims that this knowledge is lost at birth and retraced with the special help of an instructor.
Aristotle used scientific approach by combining biology and metaphysics concepts to explain the idea of the immortality of the soul. Aristotle taught that the unity of the soul and the body was crucial and therefore, the soul cannot exist alone without the body. He argued that the soul’s main purpose is development and that this is only possible in association with the body.
As such, the sole purpose of the soul is dependent on the body and if the body dies, then the soul succumbs to the death too because it cannot exist alone.
Aristotle further held the belief that the soul was responsible for the existence of the body as the source of locomotion and other changes. Based on this claim, he stated that the soul could not survive death since it was the source of locomotion for the body. The view that substances possess specific body forms enhanced Aristotle’s claim. He claimed that an inward soul that these substances possessed maintained them in existence. He viewed the soul as a collection of reason moved by a need for significance.
As such, different life forces that served different purposes made up the soul. Upon death of the body, these forces returned to their source leading to the disintegration of the soul. In addition, he believed that the body came into existence before the soul. This implies that the ability to reason developed before the ability to feel. As such, the body must have initiated the development of the soul hence its immortality.
Aristotle’s arguments are more plausible compared Plato’s. Plato’s arguments are highly metaphysical and complex to comprehend. Plato’s arguments are simple, logical and easily conceivable by the mind. The inclusion of scientific and metaphysical knowledge makes his arguments all-inclusive and easy to conceive and understand.
The fate of the human soul after death has been an issue of much attention. Most philosophers have differed over the issue and put forward theories and explanations to validate their stands. On the other hand, religion has maintained that the soul is immortal and survives the death of the body. Plato and Aristotle had their contribution on the issue and it is still today a matter of either faith or speculation. Precisely, Aristotle’s arguments are more plausible than those of Plato are.