Final Draft Paper
Thesis: In regards to human and non-human animal
souls, Plato’s theory of forms is false.
In Plato’s description of the Universal Forms, he claims that they
are completely unique. In this paper, I will suggest an example of two
Forms that possess identical sufficient conditions. In light of this
presentation, I will show how Plato’s theory of forms is false regarding
human and non-human souls.
If X is a Form, then X is unique.
If two Forms have identical sufficient conditions, then Plato’s theory
of Forms is false in regards to those two forms.
The Form of Animal and The Form of Human have identical sufficient
conditions; therefore Plato’s theory of Forms is false in regards to
these two forms.
In The Republic, Plato speaks of a god who created the “bed in
nature.” He says that the god “didn’t make more than one bed in nature, but
only one, the very one that is the being of a bed. Two or more of these
have not been made by the god and never will be” (597c). This illustrates
Plato’s theory that each and every one of the Forms is unique from all the
rest. In Plato and the Republic, Nickolas Pappas says that one out of the
three characteristics that identify forms is “Uniqueness.” He says, “The
Form of X is the only one of its kind” (p. 127). He also says that
“whatever else he was unsure of, Plato had made up his mind that for every
property there could only be a single Form” (p. 201, 203). In light of
these passages, we can assume that Plato believes every form is completely
Now I will present an example of two Forms that have identical
sufficient conditions. A human is a human if and only if he possesses a
soul. The body, the brain, even the heart are not necessary conditions for
the Form of Human. The only necessary condition for Humanness is the
existence of a soul.
This is also true for the Form of Animal. The only necessary condition
for Animalness is the presence of a soul. A monkey, for example, is still
considered a monkey even after he is stripped of his physical parts because
his soul still remains. In contrast, for example; a table is not still a
table but nothing more than wood and nails once it has been chopped up.
When dealing with an entity as unclear as the soul, we must define
just what a soul is. McHenry and Yagisawa defined a soul as something that
has “psychological features – they must have beliefs, desires, intentions,
and so on” (p. 224). Plato believed a soul consisted of three basic
properties: reason, emotion, and appetite, with reason having the greatest
value. These two definitions can be summed up in a single definition: a
soul provides the ability to experience emotions, morality, and reason. In
light of this definition and the universal belief that humans experience
emotions, morality, and reason, we can correctly assume that humans possess
a soul. However, there is no universal belief in regards to animals and
their possession of a soul. Therefore, I will give examples to illustrate
the existence of a soul in certain animals.
Animals learn many things from experience, and conclude that the same
events will always follow from the same causes. This is an obvious show of
reason. Animals become familiar with the properties of certain objects and
gradually, from birth, build up knowledge of things such as water, fire,
earth, rocks, height, depth, etc., and how to use these things to their
advantage. It becomes obvious when watching a young animal and an older
animal that the older is much wiser and has acquired knowledge from his
years. A horse that has gotten used to a certain field becomes acquainted
with the height at which he can jump the objects in that field. A primate
who is given time and a sharp rock can eventually figure out through trial
and error how to manipulate an object. Through observation of virtually any
animal, one can conclude that it learns from its environment, then uses
that knowledge to prosper and flourish. This proves that many animals have
For example, in baseball, there is a sequence of hand signals given by
the coach to the batter that means “ignore this sign, the next one is the
one I want you to do.” Dolphins are able to grasp the complex concept of
this baseball sign. In light of this example, it is obvious that dolphins
In a 1964 study, Jules Masserman ran an experiment with rhesus
monkeys. An “actor” monkey was trained to pull one of two chains to receive
its food. A “receiver” monkey was nearby, where the actor could see it. By
pulling one chain, the actor received a small amount of food. However, by
pulling the other chain, the actor received more food but the receiver
monkey received a severe shock, which the actor monkey observed. Most
actors pulled the chain delivering the shock far less often than the chain
delivering less food. Two of the 15 actors even stopped pulling the shock
chain for up to 12 days.
This study proves that certain animals, such as these rhesus monkeys,
can experience distinct moral emotion as well as reason. In light of the
number of times the actor monkey pulled the shock chain, it seems that it
felt mercy or pity for the receiver monkey. Because of this, the actor
monkey made a conscious effort to avoid causing the other monkey more pain.
This was a moral choice. The actor monkey seemed to feel that pulling the
shock chain would be wrong, even though doing so would mean sacrificing the
larger amount of food. The dictionary defines reason as a tool used to
“determine or conclude by logical thinking.” These monkeys seemed to
determine through logic which chain would produce the shock and concluded
that they would not pull that particular chain. Therefore, these monkeys
experienced distinct moral emotion as well as reason.
Primates are not the only animals that display a certain degree of
moral understanding and reason. In Devon, England, Fido, an 8-month-old pet
rat living in the Gumbley home, was awakened at 2 a.m. one April Sunday by
the smell of smoke. An electric heater had set fire to the carpet and some
furniture. Jumping from his unlocked cage, Fido evacuated the room. But
instead of making an easy escape out one of the many open windows, he ran
up 15 stairs to scratch an alert to his sleeping family.
This account from reporter Dorothy Hoffman seems to demonstrate a
rat’s emotional attachment to his owners and a moral understanding of what
is right. He sacrificed his own safety in order to ensure the safety of his
“family.” The rat used reason to determine that the fire could be dangerous
to his family and concluded that he should try to wake them. This display
of selfless heroism and reason would seem to support the theory that
animals have souls, even if the animal is a rodent.
Even the Bible supports the idea that animals have souls. In Genesis
1:21, 24, the exact Hebrew language used in reference to animals throughout
the Bible is “nephesh chayah,” or “living soul.” This phrase is translated
this way four hundred other times in the Old Testament. Genesis 1:30
accurately reads, “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of
the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a
living soul, I have given every green herb for meat.” In light of this more
accurate translation of the Bible, we can assume that religious Christian
beliefs support the existence of souls in animals.
In Ecclesiastes, the translation reads, “The sons of men . . . might
see that they themselves are beasts” (v. 18) . . . “that which befalleth
the sons of men, befalleth the beasts . . . a man has no pre-eminence above
a beast,” (v. 19) “all go into one place; all are of the dust and turn to
dust again” (v. 20). This portion of the Bible seems to support Darwin’s
theory of evolution, which claims that man evolved from primates. If
Darwin’s theory is true, then man is animal. If a human is said to have a
soul and humans are descendants of animals, then an animal must possess a
soul as well.
In light of the previous examples, we can assume that animals have
souls. Also, we can assume that a sufficient condition for the Form of
Animal is the existence of a soul. We can also assume that a sufficient
condition for the Form of Human is also the existence of a soul. These
sufficient conditions are identical, contradicting Plato’s claim that every
Form is unique. Therefore, in light of this comparison, we can conclude
that in regards to human and non-human souls, Plato’s theory of forms is