Question Nineteen: Knowledge of the Soul after Death
Can the soul understand after death?
Does the separated soul know singulars?
The question treats of the knowledge of the soul after death.
In the first article we ask:
Can the soul understand after death?
[Parallel readings: III Sent., 31, 2, 4; IV Sent., 50, 1, 1; Quodl., III, 9, 21; XII, 9, 12; S.T., II, 81; III, 45; 1 Cor., c. 13, lect. 3; S.T., I, 89, 1-3; Q.D. de anima, aa. 15, 17, 18.]
It seems that it cannot, for
1. No activity common to soul and body can remain in the soul after death. But understanding is an activity common to soul and body. For the Philosopher says: “To say that the soul understands is like saying that it weaves or builds.” Therefore, after death the soul cannot understand.
2. It was said that the Philosopher is speaking of the act of understanding which befits the soul in its lower aspect, but not about the act which befits it in its higher aspect.—On the contrary, the higher aspect of the soul is that according to which it turns to the things of God. However, even when man understands something by reason of divine revelation, his understanding depends on the body, because he must understand through conversion to phantasms, which are in a bodily organ. For, as Dionysius says: “It is impossible for the divine radiance to shine on us unless it is shrouded with a variety of sacred veils. For him, veils are the bodily forms under which spiritual things are revealed. Therefore, the act of understanding which belongs to the soul according to its higher aspect depends on the body. Consequently, understanding in no way remains in the soul after death.
3. In Ecclesiastes (9:5) it is said: “For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing more.” The Gloss reads: “For they make no more progress.”Therefore, it seems that after death the soul either knows nothing, if we take “more” in a temporal sense, or at least that it can understand nothing it did not understand before. For it thus would make more progress, which is contrary to the Gloss.
4. According to the Philosopher, the understanding is related to phantasms as the senses are to sensible things. But sense can have sensation only when sensible things are presented to it. Therefore, neither can the human soul understand anything unless phantasms are presented to it. But they are not presented to it after death, because they are presented only in a bodily organ. Therefore, after death the soul cannot understand.
5. It was said that the Philosopher is speaking of the soul according to the state in which it is in the body.—On the contrary, the object of a power is determined by the nature of the power itself. But the nature of the intellective soul is the same before and after death. Therefore, if the intellective soul has an ordination to phantasms as objects before death, it seems that it will likewise have it after death. We conclude as before.
6. The soul cannot understand if the intellective power is taken away from it. But, after death, the intellective powers, agent and possible intellect, do not remain in the soul, for these powers belong to it by reason of its union with the body. For, if it were not united to the body, it would not have these powers, just as an angel does not have them. Therefore, after death the soul cannot understand.
7. The Philosopher says: “Understanding is destroyed when something within us is destroyed.” But that thing within us, about which the Philosopher is speaking, is destroyed in death. Therefore, there will be no understanding after death.
8. If the soul understands after death, it must understand through some power, because everything which acts, acts through some active power, and everything which is acted upon is acted upon through some passive power. Therefore, it will understand either through the same power which it had in this life or through another. If through another, it seems that new powers are produced in it when it is separated from the body. But this does not seem probable. However, if it understands through the same power, this does not seem correct either, since the powers which it has are in it by reason of its union with the body. And this union ceases with death. Therefore, the soul cannot understand after death.
9. If the intellective power remains in the soul, it remains only in so far as it is grounded in the substance of the soul, or in so far as it has reference to act. But it does not remain in so far as it is grounded in the substance of the soul, since, if it remained tnly in this way, after death it would be able to understand nothing but itself. Nor does it remain in so far as it has reference to act, for, in so far as it has reference to act, it is brought to completion through the habits which it has acquired in the body, and these habits depend on the body. Therefore, it seems that the intellective power does not remain after death; hence, the soul will not understand after death.
10. Everything which is understood is understood through the essence of the thing understanding, through the essence of the thing understood, or through a likeness of the thing understood which exists in the one understanding. But it cannot be said that the soul understands things only through the essence of the thing understood, for thus it would understand only itself, its habits, and other things the essences of which are present in the soul. Likewise, it cannot be said to understand only through the essence of itself as understanding for, if it understood things beside itself in this way, its essence would have to be the exemplar of other things, just as the divine essence is the exemplar of all things, for which reason God understands all other things by understanding His essence. But this cannot be said of the soul. Again, it cannot be said to understand through likenesses of the things understood which exist in the soul, since it would seem that above all it understands through the species which it has acquired in the body. And it cannot be said to understand only through them, because the souls of children, which have received nothing from the senses, would thus understand nothing after death. Therefore, it seems that the soul cannot understand in any way after death.
11. If it be said that it knows through species with which it is created, the answer is that whatever is created along with the soul belongs to it just as much when it is existing in the body as when it is separated from the body. Therefore, if species through which it can know are created along with the human soul, to know through these species befits the soul not only after it is separated from the body but also while it is in the body. Thus, it seems that the species which it receives from things would be superfluous.
12. If it be said that the body makes it impossible for the soul to use these while it is joined to the body, the answer is that if the body keeps the soul from using these species, this will be either because of the body’s nature, or because of corruption. But it is not because of the body’s nature, since that is not directly opposed to understanding. And nothing is naturally impeded except by its opposite. Likewise, it is not because of corruption, since, if it were, in the state of innocence, when there was none of this corruption, man would have been able to use these species, and so would not have needed his senses in order that through them the soul might receive species from things. But this seems to be false. Therefore, it does not seem that the separated soul understands through innate species.
13. If it be said that the soul understands through infused species, the answer is that such species were infused either by God or by an angel. But not by an angel, because, if they were, these species would have to be created in the soul by the angel. Similarly, they are not infused by God, because it is not probable that God would infuse His gifts into souls existing in hell. Hence, it would follow that the souls in hell would not understand. Therefore, it does not seem that the separated soul understands through infused species.
14. Augustine gives the mode in which the soul knows when he says: “Since the soul cannot bring bodies themselves into itself, as though it brought them within the limits of incorporeal nature, it fashions likenesses of bodies and seizes upon these likenesses which are made in the soul by itself. For, in forming them, it gives them something of its own substance. However, it saves something with which freely to judge of the species of such images. This is mind, that is, the rational intelligence, which is kept to judge. For we perceive that we have in common with beasts those parts of the soul which are informed by bodily likenesses.”n these words he says that the judgment of the rational soul deals with the images with which the sensitive powers are informed. But these images do not remain after death, since they are received in a bodily organ. Therefore, neither does the judgment of the rational soul, which is its understanding, remain in the soul after death.
To the Contrary
1. According to Damascene, no substance is deprived of its proper activity. But the proper activity of the rational soul is to understand. Therefore, the soul understands after death.
2. just as something is made passive by its union with a material body, so it is made active by its separation from the same body. For something hot acts and is acted upon because of the union of heat with matter. But, if there were heat without matter, it would act and not be acted upon. Therefore, the soul is made completely active by its separation from the body. But it is due to the passivity of the powers of the soul that they cannot know of themselves without exterior objects, as the Philosopher says” of the senses. Therefore, after the separation from the body, the soul will be able to understand of itself without reception from any objects.
3. Augustine says: “Just as the mind itself obtains knowledge of bodily things through the senses of the body, so it obtains knowledge of incorporeal things through itself.” But it will always be present to itself. Therefore, it will be able to have understanding at least of incorporeal things.
4. As is clear from the passage quoted above from Augustine, the soul knows bodily things in so far as it fashions likenesses of these things and draws them within itself. But it can do this more freely after its separation from the body, especially since Augustine there says that it does this by itself. Therefore, the soul can understand better when separated from the body.
5. In Spirit and Soul it is said that the soul takes its powers along with it when it is separated from the body. But it is called cognoscitive because of its powers. Therefore, it will be able to know after death.
As the Philosopher says, if none of the activities of the soul is proper to it, that is to say, in such a way that it would not be able to have it without the body, it is impossible for the soul to be separated from the body. For the activity of anything is its end, in a sense, since it is what is best in it. Hence, just as we firmly maintain according to the Catholic faith that the soul continues to exist after being separated from the body, so must we maintain that it can understand when it exists without the body. But it is hard to see the way in which it understands, because we have to say that it has a different mode of understanding than it has now, since it is quite clear that it can understand now only if it turns to phantasms, and these will not remain in any way after death.
Accordingly, some say, that, just as the soul now receives species from sensible things through the mediation of the senses, so, then, it will be able to receive them without the intervention of any sense. But this seems to be impossible, because a thing cannot pass from one extreme to the other except through the intermediate things. But in the sensible thing the species has an extremely material existence, but, in the understanding, a very highly spiritual existence. Hence, it has to pass to this spirituality through certain intermediate levels, inasmuch as it has a more spiritual existence in sense than in the sensible thing, and a still more spiritual existence in imagination than in sense, and so on as it goes higher.
Hence, others, therefore, say that the soul understands after death through the species which were received from the senses while it was in the body, and which are retained within the soul itself. But this opinion is attacked by some who follow Avicenna’s opinion. For, since the intellective soul does not use a bodily organ in order to understand, there cannot be anything in the intellective part of the soul except in so far as it is intelligible. In powers which use a physical organ, however, something can be retained, not in so far as it is knowable, but as in some kind of physical subject. It is because of this that there are certain sensitive powers which do not always actually apprehend the species or intentions which are retained in them. This is clearly the case with imagination and memory. Thus, it seems that only what is actually perceived is retained in the intellective part of the soul. Accordingly, after death the soul can in no way understand through the species which it previously received from things.
But this does not seem to be true, because everything which is received in a thing is received in it according to the mode of the recipient. However, since an immaterial substance has a more stable existence than a physical substance, the species will be received with greater firmness and immobility in the intellective part than in any material thing. And, although they are received in it in so far as they have the character of an intelligible, it is not necessary for the soul actually to understand them at all times, because they are not always in the soul in perfect act. Nor are they there in pure potency, but in incomplete act, which is intermediate between potency and act, which is to say that something exists habitually in the understanding. For this reason, also, the Philosopher” wants to make the intellective soul “the place of the species,” inasmuch as it retains and preserves them in itself. However, such species, previously received and preserved, do not suffice for the knowledge which we must ascribe to the separated soul because of the souls of children and because of the fact that there are many things now not known to us, such as the punishments of hell and so forth, which will be known by the separated souls.
Therefore, others say that, although the separated soul does not receive anything from things, still, in their presence it has the power to conform itself to the things it is to know. We see that the imagination of itself makes up forms in this way which it has never received through the senses. But this cannot stand either, for it is impossible to have something which reduces itself from potency into act. And our soul is in potency to the likenesses of the things by which it knows. Consequently, they have to be made actual, not through the soul, but through something which has these likenesses actually, either through the things themselves or through God, in whom all forms are in actuality. Thus, neither imagination nor understanding constructs a new form except from those already in existence, as it fashions the form of a golden mountain from the pre-existing likenesses of gold and mountain.
Therefore, others say that the forms by which the separated soul knows are imprinted on it by God from its very creation, and according to some, we now understand through these forms in such a way that no new species are acquired for the soul through the senses, but the soul is only aroused to look at the species which it has within itself. And the Platonists, who wanted learning to be nothing but remembering, have spoken in this way. But experience contradicts this opinion, for we see that one who lacks one sense lacks one type of knowledge, so that one who does not have sight cannot have knowledge of colors. But this would not be so if the soul did not need to receive from the senses the species by which it knows.
However, according to others, while the soul is joined to the body and is hindered by the body, it understands nothing through these concreated species. But it does understand through them once it is separated from the body. But, again, it seems difficult to admit that species which are naturally implanted in the soul should be hindered completely by the body, even though the union of body and soul is natural to the soul and not adventitious. For we do not find that one of two elements which are natural to a given thing hinders the other in every respect. Otherwise, the second element would be to no purpose. This position also disagrees with that of the Philosopher, who compares the understanding of the human soul to “a tablet on which nothing is written.”
Therefore, we must give a different answer, namely, that each thing is influenced by that which is above it according to the mode of its own being. But the rational soul receives its being in a mode midway between separated forms and material forms. For immaterial forms, that is to say, angels, receive from God a being which does not depend on matter and is not in any matter. But material forms receive from God a being which is in matter and depends on matter, since they cannot be conserved without matter. The soul, however, receives from God a being which is in matter, for it exists in matter in so far as it is the form of the body, and through this it is united to the body in its being, but it is not dependent on matter, since the being of the soul can be maintained without the body. Therefore, the rational soul receives God’s influence in a manner midway between that of angels and that of material things.
For it receives intellectual light in such way that its intellective knowledge has an ordination to the body, in so far as it receives something from the powers of the body and has to refer to them in the act of consideration. In this it is lower than the angels. Nevertheless, this light is not so confined to the body that its activity is performed by means of a bodily organ. In this it is above every material form, which performs only the activity in which matter has a share. But, when the soul will be separated from the body, just as it will have its being neither dependent on the body nor existing in the body, so, too, it will receive an influx of intellectual knowledge in such a way that it will neither be confined to the body, as though it had to be exercised through the body, nor will it have any ordination to the body at all.
Therefore, when at its creation the soul is infused in the body, the only intellectual knowledge that is given it is ordained to the powers of the body. Thus, through the agent intellect it can make potentially intelligible phantasms actually intelligible, and through the possible intellect it can receive the intelligible species thus abstracted. Hence it is, too, that, as long as it has being united to the body in the state of this life, it does not know even those things whose species are preserved in it except by insight into phantasms. And for this reason, also, God does not make any revelations to it except under the species of phantasms, nor is it able to understand separated substances, inasmuch as these cannot be sufficiently known through the species of sensible things.
But, when it will have its being free of the body, then it will receive the influx of intellectual knowledge in the way in which angels receive it, without any ordination to the body. Thus, it will receive species of things from God himself, in order not to have to turn to any phantasms actually to know through these species or through those which it acquired previously. Nevertheless, it will be able to see separated substances, as the angels and demons, with natural knowledge, although it will not be able to see God in this way, for, without grace this is not given to any creature.
From all this we can conclude that the soul understands in three ways after death. In one, it understands through species which it received from things while it was in the body. In the second, through species which God infuses in it at the time of its separation from the body. In the third, by seeing separated substances and looking at the species of things which are in them. But this lasf mode does not lie within their free choice but within that of the separated substance, which opens its intelligence when it speaks and closes it when it is silent. We have said before what sort of speech this is.
Answers to Difficulties
1. The activity of understanding which is common to soul and body is that activity which now belongs to the intellective soul in its relation to the powers of the body, whether we take this with reference to the higher part of the soul or to the lower part. But, after death, the soul, separated from the body, will have an activity which will not take place through a bodily organ and will have no ordination to the body.
2. The solution to the second difficulty is clear from the first response.
3. This authoritative citation is speaking of progress in merit, as it is clear from another gloss on the same passage which says: “Some assert that merit increases and decreases after death, so that it be understood that there is no further advance in knowledge, which is to say, that they have more merit or reward, or that they deserve clearer knowledge, but it does not mean that they will not then know anything which was previously unknown. For it is clear that they will then know the punishments of hell, which they do not know now.
4. The Philosopher is here speaking only of the understanding united to the body. Otherwise, the consideration of understanding would not belong to natural science.
5. Although the nature of the soul is specifically the same before and after death, its mode of being is not the same. Consequently, its mode of activity is not the same.
6. The power of understanding and the agent and possible intellects will remain in the separated soul. For the existence of these powers is not caused in the soul by the body, although, while they exist in the soul united to the body, they do have an ordination to the body which they will not have in the separated soul.
7. The Philosopher is speaking of the act of understanding which is now proper for us with our dependence on phantasms. For this is hindered when the bodily organ is inhibited and it is completely destroyed when the organ is destroyed.
8. The same intellective powers which are now in the soul will be in the separated soul because they are natural. And things which are natural have to remain, although they now have an ordination to the body which they will not have then, as has been said.
9. The intellective powers remain in the separated soul both in their radication in the essence of the soul and in their relation to act. Nor is it necessary that the habits which were acquired in the body be destroyed, except, perhaps, according to the opinion mentioned above, which says that no species remains in the understanding, unless actual intellection continues. But, even granting that those habits would not remain, the intellective power with an ordination to acts of a different type would remain.
10. After death, the soul understands through certain species. It can, indeed, understand through the species which it has acquired in the body, although these are not entirely adequate, as the difficulty points out.
11-12. We concede these two difficulties.
13. The infusion of the gifts of grace does not reach those who are in hell, but these souls are not deprived of the things which belong to the state of nature. “For nothing is completely deprived of a share in the good,” as Dionysius says. But the infusion of species mentioned above, which is given when the soul is separated from the body, belongs to the natural state of separated substances. Therefore, the souls of the damned are not deprived of this infusion.
14. Augustine is here trying to show how the soul clothes itself with likenesses of physical things, so that it sometimes thinks it is itself a body, as appears in the opinion of the ancient philosophers. He says that this happens because the soul with its attention focused on bodies is attracted to them through the external senses. For this reason, it strives to bring these bodies into itself in so far as possible. However, since the soul is incorporeal, it cannot bring the bodies themselves into itself, but it does bring likenesses of bodies into the domain of incorporeal nature, as it were, in so far as the forms existing in imagination are without matter; however, they do not yet reach the limits of incorporeal nature, because they are still not free of the conditions of matter.
The soul is said to seize upon these likenesses in so far as it immediately abstracts them from sensible things. And it is said to fashion them to the extent that it simplifies them, or in so far as it joins and divides them. It constructs them in itself in so far as it receives them in a power of the soul, the imagination. It constructs them by itself because the soul itself is that which fashions imaginations of this sort in itself, so that the word by denotes the efficient principle. Therefore, he adds that the soul gives these species something of its substance when it forms them, since a part of the soul, rooted in As substance, is given this role of forming images.
But, since everything which passes judgment on a thing has to be free from that thing, understanding has been made pure and unmixed in order to judge of all things, according to the Philosopher. Therefore, for the soul to judge of these images, which are not things themselves, but likenesses of things, there has to be something higher in the soul which is not occupied by these images. This is the mind, which can judge of such images. However, it is not necessary that the mind judge only of these images, but at times it also judges of things which are neither bodies nor the likeness of bodies.
Q. 19: Knowledge of the Soul after Death
In the second article we ask:
Does the separated soul know singulars?
[Parallel readings; IV Sent., 50,1, 3; S.T., I, 89,4; Q.D. de anima, 20.]
It seems that it does not, for
1. If it knows singulars, it knows them either through species created with the soul, or through species it has acquired. But it does not know them through species which it has acquired, because the species received in the intellective part of the soul are not singular but universal. And it is only this part of the soul which is separated from the body, “as the perpetual from the corruptible,” according to the Philosopher. Similarly, it does not know them through species created with the soul, for, since singulars are countless, there would have to be an infinite number of species created with the soul. But this is impossible. Therefore, the separated soul does not know singulars.
2. It was said that it knows singulars through a universal speciesOn the contrary, an indistinct species cannot be the source of distinct knowledge. But the universal species is indistinct, and knowledge of singulars is distinct. Therefore, separated souls cannot know singulars through universal species.
3. It was said that the separated soul conforms itself to the singular when the singular is present to it and thus knows the singular.—On the contrary, when the singular thing is present to the soul, either something passes over from the singular into the soul, or nothing passes over. If something passes over, the separated soul receives something from singulars, which seems unfitting, but, if nothing passes over, the species existing in the soul remain general, and, so, nothing singular can be known through them.
4. Nothing which is in potency reduces itself from potency to act. But the cognoscitive soul is in potency to things which can be known. Therefore, it cannot reduce itself to act, and so conform itself to them. Consequently, it seems that the separated soul does not know singulars when they are present to it.
To the Contrary
1. In Luke (16:2 3) we read that Dives in hell knew Abraham and Lazarus, and retained the knowledge of his brothers still living. There fore, the separated soul knows singulars.
2. There is not pain without knowledge. But the soul will undergo pain from the fire and the other punishments of hell. Therefore, it will know singulars.
The separated soul, as has been said knows in two ways. In one it knows through species infused when it is separated from the body; in the other, through species which it received while in the body.
According to the first mode, we have to ascribe to the separated soul a knowledge which is like angelic knowledge. Consequently, just as angels know singulars through the species given them at their creation, so, too, the soul will know them through the species given it at its separation from the body. For, since the ideas which exist in the divine mind are productive of things according to form and matter, they must be exemplars and likenesses of things according to both form and matter. Hence, through them God knows things not only in their generic and specific nature, which is derived from formal principles, but also in its singularity, whose principle is matter. But the forms which are created with angelic minds and which souls acquire when they are separated from the body are likenesses of those ideal forms which exist in the divine mind. Therefore, just as things derive from these ideas and so exist in form and matter, so also the species in created minds derive from them. And these species can know things according to form and to matter, that is, according to their universal nature and their singular nature. It is through this kind of species that the separated soul knows singulars.
But the species which it has received from the senses are like things only in so far as these latter can act, and they act according to their form. Therefore, singulars can be known through them only in so far as they are received in another power which uses a bodily organ, in which they exist materially in some way, and so are received as individual. In the understanding, however, which is entirely free from matter, they can be a principle only of universal knowledge, unless, perhaps, through some reflection on phantasms, from which the intelligible species are abstracted. After death, when phantasms have been destroyed, there cannot be this reflection. However, the soul can apply universal forms of this type to singulars which it knows through another type of knowledge.
Answers to Difficulties
1. The separated soul does not know singulars through the species which it acquired while in the body, nor through species created with the soul, but through species given it when it is separated from the body. Nevertheless, it is not necessary to have an infinite number of species infused into the soul to know singulars, because the singulars which it is to know are not actually infinite in number, and because a separated substance can know all the individuals of a species through one likeness of the species, in so far as that likeness of the species is made the proper likeness of each of the singulars according to its proper relation to this or that individual, as we said of the angels. This is also clear of the divine essence which is the proper likeness not only of the individuals of one species but of all beings according to the different relations which it has to different things.
2. Although the species by which the separated soul knows singulars are intrinsically immaterial and therefore universal, they are likenesses of things both in their general nature and in their singular nature. Therefore, nothing prevents the soul from knowing singulars through them.
We concede the other difficulties.