In this article Voltaire ironically examines the concept of thesoul, which had been finely subdivided as he describes by theancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, whose definitions were adaptedby the thirteenth century Italian theologian Thomas Aquinas, andwhich became the basis of Roman Catholic teaching on the subject(see p. 24). Much of this article is spent mocking these teachings.Focus instead on Voltaire\'s attitude toward knowledge. Someof his comments in this article are aimed at particular pointsin their philosophy and are of mainly historical interest. Focuson the points addressed in the following questions.
Voltaire doesnot believe it is possible to observe what is usually called the\"soul.\" Notice how he ridicules the idea that thereis a spiritual entity separate from the body by discussing thenature of flowers and dogs. Voltaire, like most modern scientists,sees humans as being part of a natural continuum with animalsand plants. In the last sentence on p. 21, Voltaire introducesthe rest of his discussion by suggesting that religious teachers(by \"supernatural help\") are the sole source of thenotion of the soul: reason alone does not suggest it. On p.
22, he uses the newly-announced theory of gravitation (developedby Newton and much admired by Voltaire) to argue that the factthat human beings are alive does not imply the existence of asoul separate from the body. Rocks do not have heaviness in themas something distinguishable from the rest of their nature: rocksare heavy. Similarly, living beings live not because they havesouls which animate them; they are simply physical beings oneof whose characteristics is life. What do you think of this argument?Voltaire repeatedly argues that the soul cannot be known without\"revelation\" or \"faith;\" is he thereforearguing in favor of the concept of an inspired Bible? How canyou tell? On p. 23 he rejects the Greek concept of the animalsoul. On p.
24, how can you tell that the sentence which begins\"Saint Thomas wrote two thousand pages\" is sarcastic?\"Schoolmen\" are the traditional theologians known as \"scholastics.\" What examplesdoes he use to ridicule the concept of the existence of a soulexisting after death? What does he say was the attitude towardthe ancient Jewish people about the soul and immortality? \"Decalogue\"means the Ten Commandments. What kind of portrait does he giveof Jewish law in his paraphrase of laws from Deuteronomy on p.25? Why does he single out the passage on false prophets? Whatrelationship does the last full paragraph on p. 25 have to thequestion of whether the Jews believed in immortality? Throughouthis discussion of Deuteronomy Voltaire follows the common interpretationof his time that Moses was the author of the first five booksof the Bible, though he elsewhere rejects this notion. He stateson p.
26 that \"several illustrious commentators\"argue that when Jacob, mourning Joseph, said he would descendin infernum (orig. sheol) it is thereby proven that the ancientJews believed in an afterlife; but he does not bother to answerthis argument. Why is it an embarrassing argument even for thosewho use it? Since the Sadducees were the most conservative, traditionalbranch of Judaism, it is particularly significant that they didnot accept the concept of immortality. According to Voltaire Josephussays that the Pharisees believed in \"metempsychosis\"(reincarnation), while the Sadducees rejected life after deathaltogether. The Essenes were the least orthodox of all, yet theirbeliefs best match those of later Jews and Christians. On p.
27, \"He who alone was to teach all men\" is of courseChrist. Why does Voltaire say that we\'ve only been certainof the existence of the soul for 1,700 years? Note how Voltaireslips in a sarcastic comment on the Bible\'s inconsistencyin stating in one place that Moses saw God face to face and inanother that he saw him only from the rear. What, for Voltaire,is the purpose of the mind, or \"understanding?\" Onp. 28 he rejects the accusation that he supports belief in a materialsoul by repeating that knowledge of any kind of soul is impossible.How does he use the arguments of religious people in favor ofdivine revelation against them? How does he contrast the attitudeof Philosophy (Enlightenment philosophy, of course) with thatof religious thinkers in the last sentence of this essay?