Life Divided: Vegetable Life in Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas crafted a new theory of life and souls. Expanding on the divided philosophy of Albert the Great, he pushed humans and vegetables farther apart. Human souls took on the subjective and spiritual life of Augustine in addition to the rational life of Plato and Aristotle. Vegetable and animal souls followed the path of Aristotle’s biological activities. Commonly understood as mortal, material, or lower souls by this time, they shifted from processes in-action and in-fulfillment to proto-agents with biological faculties. The resulting awkward hybrid emphasizes human transcendence and vegetable physicality but leaves brute animals floating in between. Aquinas also spoke of humans as essentially embodied, but capable of existing immaterially between death and resurrection.
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