44th International Seminar Kyoto University Human and Environmental Studies

“Power of a winged chariot”, and “like the hand” – Allegories of the soul in Plato and Aristotle Professor Thomas Buchheim

There is no scientific knowledge about what the soul is. Instead, the great philosophers have developed allegories that provide figurative hints into the essence of the soul. In my talk I explain two of the most famous allegories of the soul in Western Thought: Plato speaks of a ‚chariot of the soul‘, a winged triad of divergent and yet combined powers that is difficult to control and yet the only vehicle that moves our life forward. Aristotle says that the soul is ‚like a hand‘, the organ by whose ‘handling’ we ‘handle’ the most of our world building and world changing activities. While in the Platonic allegory the soul as ‘dynamis’ remains hidden and doesn’t have any presence in its effects of movement, the allegory of Aristotle directly catches the soul in its very being as a permanent ongoing trunk function or primordial activity (‘energeia’) of a living body, on which every special behavior needs to be grafted if it shall be realized by it.