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The Episcopal catrechism's (BCP, 843-862) sole mention of the soul is as that with all of which, alongside one's heart and mind, one is to love the Lord. This doesn't give us much to go on; the soul exists in some sort of parallel with the heart and mind as entities with which "I" (i.e., the ego) exist in some sort of identity relation. Clearly (I would think) the Prayer Book (and Scripture, which it is of course quoting) isn't actually arguing that there is a theologico-metaphysical entity called the "heart" which is the seat of emotion independent of the mind (whatever that might prove to be). It's being poetic. So we can't be sure simply from this passage that the soul is anything but a metaphorical way of refering to some subset of our mental processes, either. As Christians doing philosophy/theology we aren't necessarily called, I don't think, to formulate a "philosophy of heart" (or at least not as a branch of metaphysics).
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The only creed to mention the soul is the Athanasian (the one not commonly used in the liturgy of the Church), and there it refers to the "reasonable soul" of Christ, asserting (if I am reading it correctly) the full humanity of Christ (i.e., humans are creatures who have reasonable souls, therefore the fully human Christ had a reasonable soul) but not really taking time out to define its terms.

In the standard story of salvation (as I understand it), the soul is that "thing" which we (whatever "we" may be) possess and which, if we are [include prerequisite for salvation here], will go to Heaven after we die. (I don't necessarily endorse this story; indeed, one of my major reasons for wanting to better to understand the nature of the soul is to refine the ways in which I agree and disagree with the standard account of salvation.) Indeed, there is some real sense in which the soul is the "real us"--but I'm not sure what this actually means. Is it asserting identity between the ego (which is merely Latin for the personal pronoun "I") and the soul? Or is the ego the "fake me" against which the "real me" of the soul is asserted--the soul is that which the ego should value even over itself? If the latter is the case, and the soul is just this spiritual "stuff" independent of me which I've been sort of carrying around my whole life, I've never really been sure why I should care what happes to it after I die. It's the same reason why I never really understood claims of reincarnation--if this future life doesn't hold any physical or psychological continuity with my own sense of self in this life, why should I particularly care what happens to this person (over what happens to someone else's reincarnation--it's not merely a question of altruism vs. hedonism). (Of course, many accounts of reincarnation do claim that psychological continuity does exist in one way or another. Just not very persuasively.)

The catechism of the Roman Church is, perhaps not surprisingly, not nearly as laconic as the creeds or the Episcopal catechism. The Roman catechism sets up a dualism between body and soul reminiscent of that between body and mind in Western philosophy since Descartes, while at the same time on some level attempting (with limited success) to defuse it:
363 In Sacred Scripture the term "soul" often refers to human life or the entire human person (cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41). But "soul" also refers to the innermost aspect of man [sic], that which is of greatest value in him [sic] (cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6:30), that by which he [sic] is most especially in God's image: "soul" signifies the spiritual principle in man [sic].
Like most theological language, this is so much question-begging; since theological language doesn't refer to the empirical world, it's always going to end up referring to other language, and we apprehend the divine in the slippages. We don't really know any more about the soul than we did going in, because it's not at all clear what is meant by "spiritual principle." One thing that is clear from this passage, however, is that in setting up of the dualism of body/soul the catechism puts forth not only a binary but a hierarchical binary--the soul in its narrower sense is more valuable than the body; the physical is lowlier than the spiritual. I pause here only to note that a recognition of the way in which this binary, in multiple manifestations, is pervasive throughout our culture and works to the detriment of oppressed communities (such as women) is one of the important insights of feminist theory (and critical/cultural theory in general): see, for example, the writings of Susan Bordo. Since I don't have her writings on hand as I write this, I'm just going to quote Wikipedia:
Bordo claims that “[w]hat remains the constant element throughout historical variation is the construction of body as something apart from the true self (whether conceived as soul, mind, spirit, will, creativity, freedom . . .) and as undermining the best efforts of that self” (Bordo 1993:5). She traces the “body” as a concept and as a material “thing” back to Plato, Augustine and the Bible revealing how traditionally the body has been viewed as “animal, as appetite, as deceiver, as prisoner of the soul and confounder of its projects” (Bordo 1993:3). She also traces the dualistic nature of the mind/body connection by examining the early philosophies of Aristotle, Hegel and Descartes, revealing how such distinguishing binaries such as spirit/matter and male activity/female passivity have worked to solidify gender characteristics and categorization. Bordo goes on to point out that while men have historically been associated with the intellect and the mind or spirit, women have long been associated with the body, the subordinated, negatively imbued term in the mind/body dichotomy.
A question worth asking remains, however: is it possible to retain the embodied, holistic sense of soulfulness which the Roman catechism presents as Scriptural without replicating its fall into dualism? In so quickly using the personal pronoun ego to refer to the "whole" of the human person I may, arguably, be eliding a crucial philosophical move--for when I say "I" what I really mean is "the I who speaks." Does the Scriptural notion of the soul which the catechism asserts put forth a more holistic, more feminist notion of selfhood than my talk of an ego captures?

I think this is a really important question, and it's one I'll return to in more detail later, when I tackle both the "Experience" and the "Reason" legs of the Wesleyan quadrilateral in greater depth. For now, though, I'm just going to acknowledge it as an issue and move on; our focus at the moment is on tradition and Scripture. We need to be aware and wary of the presence of this dualism in our inheritance, but as Christians it would be problematic for us to reject it entirely. We still need to root our understanding of the soul in the writings of those who have gone before us.

The Roman catechism goes on to reiterate what I've already described as "the standard story of salvation":
366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God--it is not "produced" by the parents--and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection (cf. Pius XII, Humani Generis: DS 3896; Paul VI, CPG §8; Lateran Council V (1513): DS 1440).

[. . .]

1022 Each man [sic] receives his [sic] eternal retribution in his [sic] immortal soul at the very moment of his [sic] death, in a particular judgment that refers his [sic] life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven--through a purification (cf. Council of Lyons II (1274): DS 857-858; Council of Florence (1439): DS 1304-1306; Council of Trent (1563): DS 1820) or immediately (cf. Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000-1001; John XXII, Ne super his (1334): DS 990)--or immediate and everlasting damnation (cf. Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1002).
At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love. (St. John of the Cross, Dichos 64)
Here we see the beginnings of a metaphysics of the soul: it is not part of the natural order, and thus is supernatural or metaphysical in nature. This may make it an independent entity of the mind, which is a product of neurochemical processes and thus lies within the natural order. Or it could be part of a philosophy of mind which, in keeping with the Vatican's general metaphysical realism, denies the naturalness of mental processes. I find the latter option more likely; after all, the Roman catechism does speak of a "rational soul" (§1934) (echoing the Athanasian creed?) and the soul is in some way responsible for our behavior, for it is "infused by God" with the theological virtues to make us "capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life" (§1813).

Similarly, the catechism's treatment of Reason suggests that it is a characteristic of both the soul and the mind, although whether that is as identical or separate entities (that is, whether the soul and the mind are two different things which both utilize Reason, or whether both are characterized by it precisely because they are the same thing) is unclear. Human Reason, for the catechized Roman Catholic, is transcendent, of a different order than the "reason" seemingly possessed by animals or computers and part of our imago dei. (What the exact relation between this transcendent Reason and the neurochemical processes of the human brain is not fully addressed in the catechism, although I wouldn't be surprised if some encyclical or other picked up the question.)
1730 God created man [sic] a rational being, conferring on him [sic] the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his [sic] own actions. "God willed that man [sic] should be 'left in the hand of his [sic] own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him" (GS 17; Sir 15:14).
Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts. (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 4, 3: PG 7/1, 983)


St. Thomas Aquinas, in the Summa Theologica (from which most of the Roman catechism's theology is drawn), is even more explicit. The soul is a "substance"--that is, an objective metaphysical entity existing outside of the empirical order. (For comparisons, the part of the bread and wine which transforms into the Body and Blood of Christ in transubstantiation is also a "substance.") It's a thing, albeit not a physical one. And the mind and the soul are the same thing: "the principle of intellectual operation."
It must necessarily be allowed that the principle of intellectual operation which we call the soul, is a principle both incorporeal and subsistent. For it is clear that by means of the intellect man [sic] can have knowledge of all corporeal things. Now whatever knows certain things cannot have any of them in its own nature; because that which is in it naturally would impede the knowledge of anything else. Thus we observe that a sick man's tongue being vitiated by a feverish and bitter humor, is insensible to anything sweet, and everything seems bitter to it. Therefore, if the intellectual principle contained the nature of a body it would be unable to know all bodies. Now every body has its own determinate nature. Therefore it is impossible for the intellectual principle to be a body. It is likewise impossible for it to understand by means of a bodily organ; since the determinate nature of that organ would impede knowledge of all bodies; as when a certain determinate color is not only in the pupil of the eye, but also in a glass vase, the liquid in the vase seems to be of that same color.

Therefore the intellectual principle which we call the mind or the intellect has an operation "per se" apart from the body. Now only that which subsists can have an operation "per se." For nothing can operate but what isactual: for which reason we do not say that heat imparts heat, but that what is hot gives heat. We must conclude, therefore, that the human soul, which is called the intellect or the mind, is something incorporeal and subsistent. (Part I, Quest. 75, Art. 2)
Now, Aquinas' argument has two parts as a function of his dualism: a rejection of materialism (the mind is incorporeal) and a positive metaphysical realism (the mind is a substance). Now whatever one's philosophy of mind may be, his rejection of materialism is without a doubt overly strong; the mind certainly has a stronger relation, whatever that precise relation may be, to the brain, which is a physical entity, than Aquinas seems prepared to accept. And there is certainly a sense in which, say, computers can be said to "understand" despite being physical devices--but I think Augustine would deny this, in the same way the denies that animals can understand:
The ancient philosophers made no distinction between sense and intellect, and referred both a corporeal principle, as has been said. Plato, however, drew a distinction between intellect and sense; yet he referred both to an incorporeal principle, maintaining that sensing, just as understanding, belongs to the soul as such. From this it follows that even the souls of brute animals are subsistent. But Aristotle held that of the operations of the soul, understanding alone is performed without a corporeal organ. On the other hand, sensation and the consequent operations of the sensitive soul are evidently accompanied with change in the body; thus in the act of vision, the pupil of the eye is affected by a reflection of color: and so with the other senses. Hence it is clear that the sensitive soul has no "per se" operation of its own, and that every operation of the sensitive soul belongs to the composite. Wherefore we conclude that as the souls of brute animals have no "per se" operations they are not subsistent. For the operation of anything follows the mode of its being.

[. . .]

The relation of the sensitive faculty to the sensible object is in one way the same as that of the intellectual faculty to the intelligible object, in so far as each is in potentiality to its object. But in another way their relations differ, inasmuch as the impression of the object on the sense is accompanied with change in the body; so that excessive strength of the sensible corrupts sense; a thing that never occurs in the case of the intellect. For an intellect that understands the highest of intelligible objects is more able afterwards to understand those that are lower. If, however, in the process of intellectual operation the body is weary, this result is accidental, inasmuch as the intellect requires the operation of the sensitive powers in the production of the phantasms. (Part I, Quest. 75, Art. 3)
A modern-day eliminative materialist would a) point out that Aquinas was just plain wrong that the processes of the intellect aren't accompanied by changes in the body, and b) simply deny that human beings have understanding in the sense that Aquinas and Aristotle thought we had (indeed, the use of "understanding" to refer to a cognitive faculty which is somehow transcendental in nature is common to much of Western philosophy, especially within the phenomenological tradition); indeed, she would probably profess not to understand what was meant by "understand." Any qualitative difference between humans and animals or computers would thus be eliminated. To many this is a reductio ad absurdum in the face of the intuitive "fact" that cogito ergo sum, that we experience ourselves as egoes. I think that response is overly facile, but that there still is a sense in which the spirit of St. Thomas' logic is correct, as I'll discuss in Part II.

Of course, this understanding of the mind/soul, in which it is not simply reducible to the physical brain, is going to be a necessity for any theology which holds to the standard account of salvation, which requires the soul existing after the death, and before the resurrection, of the body, and thus independently of it.

It is important to note that St. Thomas emphasizes that our full humanity is in the union of body and soul, similar to the "Scriptural" notion of the soul alluded to in the Roman catechism.
The assertion "the soul is man," can be taken in two senses.

First, that man is a soul; though this particular man, Socrates, for instance, is not a soul, but composed of soul and body. I say this, forasmuch as some held that the form alone belongs to the species; while matter is part of the individual, and not the species. This cannot be true; for to the nature of the species belongs what the definition signifies; and in natural things the definition does not signify the form only, but the form and the matter. Hence in natural things the matter is part of the species; not, indeed, signate matter, which is the principle of individuality; but the common matter. For as it belongs to the notion of this particular man to be composed of this soul, of this flesh, and of these bones; so it belongs to the notion of man to be composed of soul, flesh, and bones; for whatever belongs in common to the substance of all the individuals contained under a given species, must belong to the substance of the species.

It may also be understood in this sense, that this soul is this man; and this could be held if it were supposed that the operation of the sensitive soul were proper to it, apart from the body; because in that case all the operations which are attributed to man would belong to the soul only; and whatever performs the operations proper to a thing, is that thing; wherefore that which performs the operations of a man is man. But it has been shown above (Article 3) that sensation is not the operation of the soul only. Since, then, sensation is an operation of man, but not proper to him, it is clear that man is not a soul only, but something composed of soul and body. Plato, through supposing that sensation was proper to the soul, could maintain man to be a soul making use of the body. (Part I, Quest. 75, Art. 4)


The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia does a good job of synthesizing the above into a simple definition of the soul (I should have looked there first!):
The soul may be defined as the ultimate internal principle by which we think, feel, and will, and by which our bodies are animated. The term "mind" usually denotes this principle as the subject of our conscious states, while "soul" denotes the source of our vegetative activities as well. That our vital activities proceed from a principle capable of subsisting in itself, is the thesis of the substantiality of the soul: that this principle is not itself composite, extended, corporeal, or essentially and intrinsically dependent on the body, is the doctrine of spirituality. If there be a life after death, clearly the agent or subject of our vital activities must be capable of an existence separate from the body. The belief in an animating principle in some sense distinct from the body is an almost inevitable inference from the observed facts of life.
So we've had a decent survey here of conventional Roman Catholic tradition as to the nature of the soul, which posits the soul as a metaphysical entity, a "thing" which goes to heaven when we die (and which is later re-united with the body). As far as I know (which isn't very far), conservative Protestantism largely accepts this understanding, which shouldn't be surprising since, as noted above, it's largely required for the standard account of salvation to work.
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"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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