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The human soul was conceived as a spiritual substantial principle containing virtually the lower faculties of sensory and vegetative life.It is through this lower organic capacity that it is enabled to inform and animate the matter of the body.

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The definition applies to plants, animals, and man.Thomas, and the doctrine of the vital principle as form of the body prevailed supreme throughout the Middle Ages.The differences separating the rational soul from the vital principle of the plant or animal, and the relations between intellectual activity and sensory cognition became more clearly defined.With him genuine scientific and philosophic treatment of the subject begins, and the position to which he advanced it is among the finest evidences of both his encyclopedic knowledge and his metaphysical genius.His chief discussions of the topic are to be found in his peri psyches and peri zoön geneseos .But what is the nature of the inner reality from which vital activity issues? Or is it a harmony the resultant of the balance of bodily forces and tendencies? The solution for Aristotle is to be found in his fundamental philosophical analysis of all sensible being into the two ultimate principles, matter and form.

Prime Matter ( materia prima ) is the common passive potential element in all sensible substances; form is the determining factor. Neither prime matter nor any corporeal form can exist apart from each other.

Moreover, the vital principle is the only substantial form of the individual being.

It determines the specific nature of the living being, and by the same act constitutes the prime matter with which it is immediately and intrinsically united a living organized body.

They are called substantial principles because combined they result in a being; but they are incomplete beings in themselves, incapable of existing alone.

To the form is due the specific nature of the being with its activities and properties. (See FORM; MATTER.) For Aristotle, in the case of living natural bodies the vital principle, psyche is the form.

The human soul, however, endowed with rationality is of a higher grade.