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Spirit

SPIRIT

Primitive terms used to designate spiritual reality, such as the Sanskrit atman, the Hebrew rûa, the Greek πνε[symbol omitted]μα, and the Latin spiritus, originally referred to air as breathed from the lungs; the soul left the body at death almost as air escaped from the mouth. This primary meaning is retained in the expression πνε[symbol omitted]μα Ψυχικόν (animal spirit) found in Greek medical treatises such as those of Galen, and used in medicine and philosophy to signify a fluid and vaporous material element dispersed from the heart or brain throughout the body, and accounting for vital interactions. This use was made common by Renaissance philosophers such as G. Cardano (De subtilitate 14.585), B. telesio (De rerum natura 5.13, 17),F. bacon (De digitate 4.3; Historia vitae et mortis, Intentions, 1), and R. descartes (Les Passions de l'âme 1.10, ed. Adams and Tannery 11:334335); it remained in common use until the 18th century.

As employed in philosophy, spirit means any reality that in its nature, existence, and activity is intrinsically independent of matter, is not subject to determinations of time and space, is not composed of parts spatially distinct from one another, and is, or is related to, an original source of such activities as are centered on being under the universal aspects of truth, goodness, and beauty. Such a notion is analogical, capable of being verified in different beings in different ways and to different degrees. These differences may bear on the mode of subsistence (complete or incomplete), on the degree of independence from matter (perfect or imperfect), or on the manner of exercise of the activities characteristic of spirit.

For some thinkers, spirit is primarily identified either with reality as a whole in its inner nature (spiritualistic monism), with an objective order of transcendent realities (Platonism), or with impersonal and collective realms of being (values, group-spirits).

Christian Concept. For those of the Christian tradition, spirit is always personal and subjective, and all other manifestations of spirit can be reduced to their source in the person. Within this tradition, the radical and essential manifestation of spirit has been variously singled out as: creative activity, self-consciousness, interiority or subjectivity, intelligence, reason, knowledge of universals, love, freedom, and communication (dialogue). These are activities by which the presence of spirit may be known, and they furnish a clue to the nature of spirit in itself as a form of subsistent being.

Christian thought also recognizes three main kinds of spirit: (1) the human soul, incomplete in its mode of subsisting and extrinsically dependent on the body; (2) pure finite spirit, i.e., the angel, perfectly subsisting and independent of matter; and (3) Absolute Spirit, or God, infinite, utterly pure, and fully actual being (subsistent existence) without any limitation. Man's primary apprehension of these forms of spirit is gained through self-knowledge. The spiritual being most proportionate to his way of knowing is his own soul, manifesting its nature through activities that are immediately present to his consciousness. His knowledge of other spiritual realities is in turn based on such knowledge (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, C. gent. 3.46).

Human Spirit. The spirituality of the human soul can be discerned from its characteristic intellectual activities of understanding and judgment, from its voluntary activity, and according to some, from its objectivating of such activities in permanent external forms.

Regarding intellectual activities as such, it should be noted that all knowledge implies a degree of immateri ality, of superiority over every merely material manner of receiving forms. Yet the transsubjectivity of knowledge, by which the knower is identified psychically with the known precisely as it is other than the knower, is found also in sense knowledge and is not of itself evidence of spirituality. Sense knowledge is characterized by reference to time and space and to the external appearances of things and, of itself, is entirely directed to action; it has a primarily biological function, since it attains its objects precisely as they act on the animal. Thought, on the contrary, transcends such limitations, for it is not centered on self or on objects seen merely as useful or harmful to the knower. It implies a power of being present to other beings in a purely objective way and is open to all possible modes of being. It attains things not simply in their biological reference to the knower but as in themselves, in their interiority and intimacy.

Understanding. Evidence of such superiority to sense knowledge is found in understanding, the manner of knowing that is proper to the intellect. Here the concept is obtained by abstraction, without the aspects of "this, here, now," and refers to the quiddity of things, so that the meaning of the word and something of the nature of the things known are grasped. Understanding is free from the relativity of sense; it has an absolute character, and it alone can make sense knowledge objective. It can know what perception is, distinguishing it from other activities as well as from its object.

Objects known as to their essential nature, and as freed from the particularity of their concrete manner of existing in the world, are attained as universalscalled such because what is represented in the concept is predicable of many things that, though differing individually, are of the same nature. The concept exhibits a specific kind of being, an essence, and may be predicated of each and all the members of a class by identity, whereas no individual may be predicated of another. Moreover, thought can know what is meant by abstract and universal.

Not only the manner of knowing, but also the kind of objects known by thought, shows the superiority of intellect to sense. Man can know relations precisely as they are relations (or kinds of order), objects that cannot exist in reality (logical intentions, such as genus), and even negations (nonbeing) or privations (evil and blindness). He forms concepts of thought, substance, and cause that say nothing of the outward or spatiotemporal appearances of things. He can think about such immaterial realities as truth, goodness, and virtue. Above all, he can know things as real, as having determinate natures, as sharing the fundamental characteristic of being, the primary aspect under which everything is known by mind. Man is unique in this relation to other things, to the world as a whole, which phenomenologists describe as his universal horizon.

Judgment. Understanding leads to the more perfect act of the intellect, judgment, by which the knower returns to the object known in its concrete and existential reality. One can distinguish here (1) intentional judgment, bearing on an object distinct from the knower and his act of knowing, and (2) reflexive judgment, bearing on either the act itself or on the knower.

As the primary object of understanding is being as essence, the primary object of judgment is being as existent, since existence, as actualizing actuality, is adequately attained by the mind only in the act of judging. It is this prerogative of the intellect, its power to grasp existent being as such, that is its essential activity and the principal and sufficient evidence of its spirituality. The explication of such knowledge is carried out (with constant recourse to experience) through the use of first principles, formulated in dependence on the primordial grasp of being. The interpretation of experience by means of such principles gives rise to the sciences, in which a further mental activity is employed, that of reasoning. All these activities are proper to man and point to his spirituality. Among the sciences, metaphysics stands out as supremely witnessing to the spirituality of man; it is no accident that philosophers who see no essential difference between the souls of men and of animals inevitably deny the validity, or the meaningfulness, of metaphysics as the scientific knowledge of being as such. It is metaphysics alone that can justify man's knowledge of the existence of God. The fact and the object of such knowledge clearly show its spirituality.

The intellect, centered on being as such, can know its own act (which is a being) and thus arrive at some knowledge of its own nature as well as of its own existence and of that of the ego (see reflection). It can know the relation of its act to its object, its power to attain that object as it is in itself, and thus know truth and error. Man can know himself as a subject, as a subsistent source of spiritual acts that attain being as such. He is, as M. Heidegger insists, that being in which being becomes conscious of itself and whose inner nature is to be an affirmation of being (Sein und Zeit [Halle 1927] 1215).

Voluntary Activity. The will reveals the same openness to being in all its universality that one finds in the intellect. Man can love all that shares in, or is thought to share in, the goodness that is consequent upon being as such. It can tend to others as others with that pure and disinterested activity proper to human love, as best appears in the power to treat another human being as another, in his own intimacy and interiority, that is, as a person, and to love God in and for Himself.

Man as intelligent and loving is a person; the inter-personal relationships of communication, dialogue, and encounter ("I-Thou"), through which he lives as a person, show his distinctive spiritual nature. Because he can love goodness in all its fullness, he is free with regard to all that is only to a limited extent good and he has access to the world of values. As intelligent and free he can direct his actions to ends that are preconceived and deliberately chosen; his activity is marked by rational finality.

The actualization of value is possible to man because he is free; it is incumbent upon him because, being free, he is responsible for his actions. The free and responsible guidance of his life in accordance with values consciously known and accepted raises his activity to the domain of morality, where man is the subject of rights and duties and is ruled by law. As a person he can enter social groupings on various levels. The distinctive character of his spiritual activity shows itself in what one may call its perfectional trend, since in contrast with his biological life fixed within definite limits, no limits can be set to his spiritual perfection in knowledge, art, morality, and love. This is true above all in regard to moral perfection, by which man's spiritual nature is at once most evidently signified and most completely attained, especially when his existence is ennobled by religion through adoration of God.

Objective Spirit. It is doubtful that distinct evidence of spirit can be found in what M. scheler and N. hartmann call objective spirit, namely, the world of opinions, outlooks, and attitudes shared by many persons in common, in matters of religion, law, politics, morals, taste, and art; an impersonal spirit, in the sense in which one here understands spirit, is a contradiction.

What W. dilthey calls objective spirit is better named objectivated spirit by Hartmann. It signifies things (e.g., sounds, books, stones, and canvases) on which spirit has engraved its signature, as in language, literature, plastic and musical works of art, monuments, tools, arms, utensils, myths, philosophical systems, and codes of law. These are the external depositaries of the spiritual activities referred to above and imply reference to spirit both as to their origin and as to that for which alone they have meaning. culture and civilization betray the presence of the spiritual element in man's being; they are the voice of spirit recorded in history, a voice that can be heard only by spirit. One may also appeal to history itself as showing signs of providential guidance (St. augustine and J. B. bossuet) or also of rational pattern (G. vico,J. G. von herder, and G. W. F. hegel) pointing to human or to divine activity.

Angels. The conviction, expressed in many religions, of the existence of spiritual beings that mediate between God and man, finds support in the teaching of many philosophers. Of the ancients it will suffice to quote Aristotle, who posits beings separate from all matter, not subject to alteration, enjoying an excellent and eternal life, as movers of the heavenly bodies (Meta. 1073a 131074b 14; Cael. 279a 1923). St. thomas aquinas argues that the perfection of the universe, in order to manifest more completely the ways in which the Creator may be imaged, demands the existence of pure spirits (ST 1a, 50.1, 3). Among contemporary writers one may refer to Eugenio D'Ors (18821954) in Spain, who held that the world of angels is the most authentic one created and that man tends to the state of angels as to perfection (Introduccion a la vida angélica, Madrid 1941; El secreto de la filosofia, Barcelona 1947). (see angels)

Absolute Spirit. The supreme objective evidence for the existence of spirit is that which moves the mind to conclude to the existence of god, who alone can ultimately explain the origin of finite forms of spirit.

Of the characteristics of the universe that have been regarded by philosophers as pointing to the existence of spirit, characteristics that find their full explanation only in reference to a Creator, the one that has been stressed is the order of the universethe rational design apparent in the harmonious interrelation and interaction of the bodies that compose one system, and of their movements (see universe, order of). Closely connected with this order is the finality, internal and external, apparent in living beings. Philosophers such as F. W. J. von schelling found evidence of spirituality in such natural phenomena as polarity (recalling the subject-object opposition of consciousness), artistry (natural objects as embodying ideals), and evolution toward higher forms. Others, such as I. Kant, marveled at the adaptation of the world of nature to the exercise of moral activity.

The rationality of the universe is most stressed by the idealists. What is most acceptable in their theories is that they point to the undeniable fact of a deep affinity between mind and the whole material universe. Since that universe is actually knowable, it must be somehow proportioned to mind; and this can ultimately be explained only by postulating that both mind and matter have a common source in the intellectual activity of the Creator. The recognition of this fact, however obscure, lies at the root of the well-nigh universal fact of religious worship among men, a fact that bears eloquent witness to the existence of spirit in man and in his creative source.

See Also: god, proofs for the existence of; soul, human; immortality; spirit (in the bible); spirit, modern philosophies of; spiritism; spiritualism.

Bibliography: s. strasser, The Soul in Metaphysical and Empirical Psychology (Pittsburgh 1957). w. a. m. luijpen, Existential Phenomenology (Pittsburgh 1960). b. miller, The Range of Intellect (London 1961). m. f. scheler, Man's Place in Nature, tr. h. meyerhof (Boston 1961); On the Eternal in Man, tr. b. noble (New York 1960). j. de vries, La Pensée et l'être, tr. c. de meester de ravenstein (Louvain 1962). a. marc, L'Etre et l'esprit (Paris 1958). k. rahner, Geist im Welt, ed. j. b. metz (2d ed. Munich 1957). h. conrad, Die Geistseele des Menschen (Munich 1960). m. f. sciacca, ed., L'Anima (Brescia 1954).

[a. j. mcnicholl]

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