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Various philosophers and theologians have posited different anthropological views concerning the 'division' of man into a mind/soul/spirit/body. The major views are summarized below:

  • Unitary / Monistic: Man is a singular entity that cannot be further subdivided into 'partite' components.

  • Bipartite / Dichotomy / Mind-Body Dualism: Man is a a composite of two distinct 'partites,' material and immaterial (e.g. body and soul/spirit—'soul' and 'spirit' are here taken as synonyms referring to the same entity).

  • Tripartite / Trichotomy: Man is a composite of three distinct 'partites': body, soul, and spirit ('soul' and 'spirit' here refer to distinct entities—some use 'mind'/'psyche' in lieu of 'soul').

Does Judaism have a perspective on these categories from philosophical anthropology? If so, does this perspective vary in distinguishable ways between various communities within Judaism?

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According to the Ramchal in various places (this is my impression from a broad exposure, I can't pinpoint one spot for you), there is something similar to what you referred to as a trichotomy:

There is the Soul, which is a purely spiritual entity. The soul is intrinsically pure and averse to lowliness and physicality. It only remains in the body due to a divine decree.

There is the body, which is a purely physical entity. It is intrinsically attracted to lowliness, and by it's nature pulls towards physicality.

Then, there is a third entity, which is not autonomous from the first two, but is a new awareness which comes about from the fusion/union of the first two. This is "Adam" - man. Awareness, sense of autonomy and self, come from this union. It comes about through an impossible combination of two entities which are by nature diametrically opposed to one another.

For a concise but clear English synopsis of this idea, you could see Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg's Fundamentals and Faith pg. 126-127 who explains this view as the opinion of the Rambam in including Resurrection of the Dead into the 13 Principles of Faith.

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see the beginning of Genesis which states man was first formed then G-d "breathed" into the nostrils the soul of life.

for more details see the books Nefesh Hachaim and Shaarei Kedusha.

basically, the first man was a perfect one-to-one analogy and switchboard of the entire creation including all the mystical worlds.

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  • So.... bipartite? – Double AA Apr 28 '14 at 20:29
  • neither of all the 3 choices. that's why i wrote see shaarei kedusha. in broad categories physical body (4 parts)->nefesh yesodit (animal soul, 4 parts)->nefesh sichelit (intellectual soul, 4 parts) then connected to sefirot->Ein Sof which gives life/existence – ray Apr 28 '14 at 21:10
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    Telling me to see another source doesn't tell me that you meant none of the 3 options offered. – Double AA Apr 28 '14 at 21:18

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