[4.13.1] Peter Olivi on Soul and Body

Peter John Olivi (ca. 1248–1298) in Quaestiones in secundum librum Sententiarum Q51, Q58 proposes an original model of the human being:

  • The human being is a compound of body and soul.
  • The human soul has spiritual matter as substrate and comprises the rational and sensory parts; both are forms in an Aristotelian sense (see [1.3.5]).
  • The rational part of the soul actualizes the spiritual matter, but not the body. This way, it is not directly linked to the body, so the body’s death does not endanger its immortality.
  • The sensory part of the soul actualizes both spiritual matter and the human body.
  • The unity of the soul‘s intellectual and sensory parts is assured since both are forms of the soul’s same spiritual matter. 
  • This way, the hylomorphic model proposed by Aristotle (see [1.3.7]) and accepted by Augustine (see [4.9.6]) is dropped since Olivi sustains that the human soul in its entirety is not the form of the body; however, its unity is preserved.
  • Olivi’s model proposes a plurality of forms, like Kilwardby’s (see [4.12.1]).

The following OntoUML diagram presents Olivi’s explanation of the structure of the human being:

Peter Olivi on soul and body
ClassDescriptionRelations
HumanA human person is “unity of the soul and the body”
HumanSoul“The [human] soul is the form of the body only with respect to its sensory and nutritive part.”exclusive part of Human; contains SpiritualMatter
RationalSoul“First, he [Olivi] is not denying that the rational part of the soul is a form, or even that it is the form of a human being. […]
Olivi argues that the rational part of the soul, intellect and will, is a form of this spiritual matter. It is acceptable to speak of intellect as the form of a human being since the spiritual matter belongs to the human being. But because the spiritual matter of the soul is distinct from the corporeal matter of the body, Olivi can maintain that the rational part is not the form of the body.”
shared part of HumanSoul; subkind of Form; actualizes SpiritualMatter
SensorySoul“the sensory soul actualizes a body by giving it life and the capacity for sensation”exclusive part of HumanSoul; subkind of Form; actualizes SpiritualMatter; actualizes HumanBody
SpiritualMatter“[…] spiritual entities (angels and human souls) also have a material substratum, the so-called spiritual matter. […]
The substantial union between the intellectual and sensory parts is due to their being the forms of the same spiritual matter of the soul.”
subkind of Matter
FormForm in Aristotelian sense (see [1.3.5])
HumanBodyA living human body.exclusive part of Human; contains CorporealMatter
CorporealMatter“The human body and all material objects are made of corporeal matter […].”subkind of Matter
Matter “To begin with, he follows Bonaventure and makes a distinction between two kinds of matter. The human body and all material objects are made of corporeal matter, but spiritual entities (angels and human souls) also have a material substratum, the so-called spiritual matter.”

Sources

  • All citations from: Pasnau, Robert and Juhana Toivanen, “Peter John Olivi”The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  • Pasnau, Robert, “Olivi on the Metaphysics of Soul”, Medieval Philosophy and Theology 6 (1997), 109-132

First published: 18/2/2021

One thought on “[4.13.1] Peter Olivi on Soul and Body

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