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?

2 Answers 2


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.


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.

  • So.... bipartite?
    – Double AA
    Apr 28, 2014 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, 2014 at 21:10
  • 1
    Telling me to see another source doesn't tell me that you meant none of the 3 options offered.
    – Double AA
    Apr 28, 2014 at 21:18

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