The Soul’s Access to Divine Will: Implications of Stoic Reason, Christian Will, and Galenic Body in Reformulating the Platonic Philosophy of the Human Person

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. James Nelson


Christ College


Psychology, History, Philosophy, Theology

ORCID Identifier(s)


Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-29-2021


Recent anthropologies of the human person reject the Platonic emphasis on “King Reason” because it seems dualistic. In the history of psychology, “anthropology” refers to the structure of a human person. Although Plato views the will as only a part of the rational soul, the psychological anthropologies of three Platonic writers seem to develop Platonic thought through placing the human will above reason. The Stoic, Epictetus, wrote about reason; the Catholic, Erasmus, wrote about the soul; and the Roman doctor, Galen, wrote about the body. Viewing the will as central could result in an anthropology of the human person which emphasizes neither the body nor the mind. In the following proposed anthropology which builds on their works, assigning the body control over the mind equal to that of the mind over the body might seem to destroy the accountability of the mind. However, if choice is the moment at which the body and mind both become willing to perform an action, both are accountable. The act of willing, therefore, functions as a faculty of the essential form, or soul, of the person, while the matter would consist of both mind and body. The soul is a state of being open to the convictions of both the body and the mind, choosing an action, and manifesting its changed state of being through allowing them to perform an action. The human person flourishes when his/her soul, distinguishable through acts of the defining will, always reflects the perfect and all-good will of God.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Noelle Canty worked as a research assistant for Dr. Tal Howard and as a consultant at the Valparaiso University Writing Center. She published twice in the NCUR Proceedings Journal; received the Nelson Scholarship in Psychology and Religion; and won Wordfest Awards, including first-places for short stories and a critical essay. Informed by a lifetime of reading literature and discussing theology, Noelle applies knowledge of intellectual history to both academic and popular questions in contemporary culture.

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