Volume 3: 1771 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica!


Soul, a spiritual substance, which animates the bodies of living creatures: it is the principal of life and activity within them.

Various have been the opinions of philosophers concerning the substance of the human soul.  The Cartesians make thinking the essence of the soul.  Others again hold, that man is endowed with three kinds of souls, viz.  the rational, which is purely spiritual, and infused by the immediate inspiration of God; the irrational, or sensitive, which is common to man and brutes; and lastly, the vegetative soul, or principal of growth and nutrition.

That the soul is an immaterial substance appears from hence, that its primary operations of willing and thinking have not only no connection with the known properties of body, but seem plainly inconsistent with some of its most essential qualities.  For the mind discovers no relation between thinking and the motion and arrangement of parts.

As to the immortality of the human soul, the arguments to prove it may be reduced to the following heads:  1.  The nature of the soul itself, its desires, sense of moral good and evil, gradual increase in knowledge and perfection, etc.  2. The moral attributes of God.

Under the former of these heads it is urged, that the soul, being an immaterial intelligent substance, does not depend on the body for its existence; and therefore may, nay, and must, exist after the dissolution of the body, unless annihilated by the same power which gave it a being at first.  This argument, especially if the infinite capacity of the soul, its strong desire after immortality, its rational activity and advancement towards perfection, be likewise considered, will appear perfectly conclusive to men of a philosophical turn; because nature, or rather the God of nature, does nothing in vain.

But arguments drawn from the latter head, viz.  the moral attributes of the Deity, are not only better adapted to convince men unacquainted with abstract reasoning, but equally certain and conclusive with the former: for as the justice of God can never suffer the wicked to escape unpunished, nor the good to remain always unrewarded; therefore, arguments drawn from the manifest and constant prosperity of the wicked, and the frequent unhappiness of good men in this life, must convince every thinking person, that there is a future state wherein all will be set right, and God's attributes of wisdom, justice, and goodness, fully vindicated.  We shall only add, that had the virtuous and conscientious part of mankind no hopes of a future state, they would be of all men most miserable: but as this is absolutely inconsistent with the moral character of the Deity, the certainty of such a state is clear to a demonstration. 

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