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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 .

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

It is form of the body which it animates, not in virtue of its rationality but through the vegetative and sentient faculties which it also possesses.

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.

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.

(Greek zoe ; Latin vita ; French La vie , German Das Leben ; vital principle; Greek psyche ; Latin anima , vis vitalis , German leberzskraft ). What is the inner nature of the source of vital activity? Such are among the chief questions which present themselves with regard to this subject. Greek Period The early Greek philosophers for the most part looked on movement as the most essential characteristic of life, different schools advocating different material elements as the ultimate principle of life. Others compound it of all the elements, whilst some of the Pythagoreans explain it as a harmony -- foreshadowing modern mechanical theories.

The enigma of life is still one of the two or three most difficult problems that face both scientist and philosopher, and notwithstanding the progress of knowledge during the past twenty-three hundred years we do not seem to have advanced appreciably beyond the position of Aristotle in regard to the main issue. For Democritus and most of the Atomists it was a sort of subtle fire. Aristotle caustically remarks that all the elements except earth had obtained a vote.

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