The Concept of the Human Soul
Submitted to the Faculty of Philosophy of the Catholic University
of America in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for
the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
REV. WILLIAM P. O’CONNOR, A. B.
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
The soul of man was for Saint Augustine an object of life-long study and investigation., He was not particularly concerned about the soul as such, the plant soul, or the irrational soul of the brute, except insofar as a study of these might serve to throw some light on the nature and activities of the human soul. His interest in the soul of man was not actuated by mere curiosity to know for the sake of knowing, but he sought to know the human soul as a means whereby he might arrive at a clearer and better understanding of the Supreme Being.
The concept of the human soul as it appears in the writings of Saint Augustine is not set forth in a systematic manner, but the elements that enter into its make-up are found widely scattered through his various philosophical, apologetical, polemical, exegetical, and dogmatical works. He wrote a few special treatises on the human soul, but he never attempted to construct an organized philosophy of the soul.
The present thesis proposes to collect and coordinate the philosophical fragments of Saint Augustine’s doctrine of the human soul and to interpret these in the light of his mental progress. There is a tendency on the part of some commentators to over-emphasize the Platonic character of Augustine’s doctrine of the human soul. It is true that those works which were published during the first few years of his career manifest the strong influence of his recent study of Neo-Platonism. The treatises, however, which belong to that period when he was Bishop of Hippo and one of the most renowned scholars of his day stamp him unquestionably as a Christian philosopher. It is indispensable to the correct understanding of Augustine’s concept of the human soul that due regard be paid to the development which characterizes his doctrine.
O’Connor. The concept of the human soul according to Saint Augustine (1921).