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Various theories as to the nature of the soul have claimed to be reconcilable with the tenet of immortality, but it is a sure instinct that leads us to suspect every attack on the substantiality or spirituality of the soul as an assault on the belief in existence after death.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.Often, as among the Fijians, it is represented as a miniature replica of the body, so small as to be invisible.The Samoans have a name for the soul which means "that which comes and goes".(Greek psyche ; Latin anima ; French ame ; German Seele ).The question of the reality of the soul and its distinction from the body is among the most important problems of philosophy, for with it is bound up the doctrine of a future life.
The belief in an animating principle in some sense distinct from the body is an almost inevitable inference from the observed facts of life.The earliest school was that of the Hylozoists ; these conceived the soul as a kind of cosmic force, and attributed animation to the whole of nature.Any natural force might be designated psyche : thus Thales uses this term for the attractive force of the magnet, and similar language is quoted even from Anaxagoras and Democritus.With this we may compare the "mind-stuff" theory and Pan-psychism of certain modern scientists.Other philosophers again described the soul's nature in terms of substance.
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With this doctrine was combined, according to Cicero, the belief in a universal world-spirit, from which all particular souls are derived.