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A Return to Soul: Living Systems and Other Unities

It is easy to presume that the notion of the soul has been superseded by science. If that is so, then outside of religious contexts we have little cause to take seriously the contention that we have souls. After all, whatever explanatory work the soul may once have been invoked to discharge is now handled in the context of the empirical sciences, including most centrally, of course, the biological sciences. This presumption is, however, at best premature, and, at worst, simply short-sighted. When we reflect on the broader metaphysical grounds for introducing the soul as a principle of unity advanced by Aristotle, we find ourselves with reason to revisit afresh the suggestion that living systems are privileged unities. We must, then, either accept the unity of such systems as primitive or postulate some principle of privilege. When we postulate such a principle, however, we return to the hypothesis that living systems are, after all, ensouled beings.