Thursday, August 4, 2011

Vallicella on hylemorphic dualism

Hylemorphic dualism is the approach to the mind-body problem taken by Aquinas and the Thomist tradition more generally.  (The label may have been coined by David Oderberg, who defends the view in an important paper and in his book Real Essentialism.  “Hylemorphic” is sometimes spelled “hylomorphic,” though the former spelling is arguably preferable since it is closer to the Greek root hyle.)  The view holds both that the soul is the substantial form of the living human body (that is the “hylemorphic” part) and that it is unique among the forms of material things in being subsistent, that is, capable of surviving beyond the death of the body (that is the “dualism” part).  Our friend Bill Vallicella has recently put forward the following criticism of the view:

How can a substantial form exist apart from that of which it is the form?  Is it not necessarily tied to that of which it is the form?  After all, it is so tied in the case of non-humans like Fido.  Fido is a composite the components of which cannot exist on their own.  Why should it be any different in the case of the human soul if the human soul is indeed the form of the human body? 

The problem here, in short, is that there is a tension between soul as substantial form and soul as substantial subsistent form. Ontologically, one wants to protest, a form is not the sort of entity that could be subsistent.  Necessarily, a form is a form of that of which it is the form.  But a subsistent form is possibly such as to exist apart from that of which it is the form.  These propositions cannot both be true.

I find it hard to resist the suspicion that what Aquinas has done is implanted Christian elements into the foreign soil of Aristotelianism.  Christianity requires that the soul be capable of independent existence.  But no form, by its very nature as form, is capable of independent existence.  Simply to make an exception in the case of the human soul is wholly unmotivated and ad hoc and inconsistent with hylomorphic ontology.

Naturally, since I am a hylemorphic dualist, I completely disagree with Bill here.  Let’s start with the last charge -- that hylemorphic dualism “make[s] an exception in the case of the human soul [that] is wholly unmotivated and ad hoc and inconsistent with hylomorphic ontology.”  That the view is not “unmotivated and ad hoc” is easily shown.  Bill himself would surely acknowledge that there are serious philosophical arguments for hylemorphism, even if he doesn’t accept that view himself.  He would also acknowledge that there are serious philosophical arguments for dualism, a view he is sympathetic with.  But then he should also acknowledge that someone could find both sorts of arguments convincing.  And in that case he should acknowledge that someone could have good philosophical reasons for thinking that there must be some way to combine hylemorphism and dualism. 

That, I submit, is precisely the position Aquinas finds himself in.  As an Aristotelian, he is convinced that the human soul is the form of the living human body.  It is therefore responsible for all the various human capacities -- nutrition, reproduction, growth, sensation, appetite, locomotion, intellect, and volition -- in just the way the souls of plants and non-human animals are responsible for their capacities.  But Aquinas is also convinced that our purely intellectual capacities cannot have a corporeal organ.  The reason is that he endorses philosophical arguments for the immateriality of the intellect of the sort that go back to Plato and Aristotle.  That much gives him grounds for concluding that the soul carries out immaterial operations alongside its corporeal ones.  Add to this the (independently motivated) Scholastic thesis that agere sequitur esse -- that “action follows being,” so that the way a thing acts reflects the manner in which it exists -- and we have grounds for concluding that, though the soul is the form of the body, it must in some way have a kind of subsistent immaterial existence.  The view might seem odd, but it is hardly unmotivated or ad hoc.  On the contrary, it is a natural way of trying to reconcile two theses that Bill himself would acknowledge to have serious philosophical arguments in their favor.
 
Nor, contrary to what Bill implies, is Aquinas somehow departing radically from Aristotle.  For Aristotle too was committed both to hylemorphism and to the view that the intellect is immaterial -- indeed, to the view that the active intellect is immortal.  To be sure, that does not by itself show that Aristotle’s views are identical to or entail Aquinas’s; the Averroists took Aristotle’s position in a very different direction, and contemporary commentators often find it simply puzzling.  But the reason they do -- namely, that it seems odd to say both that the soul is the form of the body and that one of its capacities is somehow separable from the body -- is similar to the reason Bill finds Aquinas’s position puzzling.  Needless to say, Aristotle had no Christian theological ax to grind; he was simply following the philosophical arguments where they led.  There is no reason to accuse Aquinas of doing anything different, and it is hardly unreasonable to suggest that the way to harmonize the various aspects of Aristotle’s position is the way Aquinas does.  That does not mean that one might not still question whether Aquinas’s position is ultimately coherent (as Bill does), or criticize it on other grounds.  But the charge that it is “wholly unmotivated and ad hoc” -- a piece of Christian apologetics with no independent philosophical rationale -- is, I think, completely unwarranted.  

Now, does Aquinas’s dualism cohere with his hylemorphism?  Bill thinks not, but here too I think he has failed to make his case.  Let’s note first that there is nothing in hylemorphism that requires that we deny that a form per se can have an existence apart from matter.  Aristotle’s opposition to Platonism might seem to rule this out, but it doesn’t.  What Aristotelianism rules out is that universals can exist both apart from their instances and apart from any mind.  But when Aquinas says that certain forms exist without matter -- the human soul, or an angel -- he is not talking about universals existing apart from matter.  Nor is he even talking about a form by itself existing apart from matter, but rather a form plus an act of existing.  Hence he is talking about concrete particulars, albeit immaterial ones.   (Aristotle himself, who knew a thing or two about hylemorphism, allowed for immaterial things -- the “Intelligences” which he took to move the heavenly spheres.)

So, there is nothing necessarily un-Aristotelian in the notion of a form without matter.  But what about the form of a material thing?  The soul is, for Aquinas, the form of the body.  So how could it possibly exist apart from the body?  Bill asks why things should be any different with human beings than they are with Fido.  But Aquinas is quite clear about the answer to that question: The difference is that the human soul carries out immaterial operations (i.e. intellectual ones) while a dog’s soul does not.  And if it operates apart from matter and agere sequitur esse, then it must subsist apart from matter.  True, it would not subsist as a complete substance since (qua form) it is only part of a complete substance.  But it would subsist as an incomplete substance, like a severed hand which subsists at least for a time apart from the body (as can be seen from the fact that the hand can be reattached).  

This last example tells us what is wrong with Bill’s further objection:

Necessarily, a form is a form of that of which it is the form.  But a subsistent form is possibly such as to exist apart from that of which it is the form.  These propositions cannot both be true.

That they can both be true can be seen when we keep in mind how Aristotelians understand concepts like necessity, possibility, essence, and the like.  Suppose we say that it follows from the nature or essence of a dog that it has four legs.  Does that mean every single dog necessarily has four legs?  No, because a given dog might have lost a leg in an accident, or failed to develop all four legs due to some genetic defect, or (if only recently conceived and still in the womb) may simply not yet have developed all four legs.  What it does mean is rather that a mature dog in its normal state will necessarily have four legs.  As Michael Thompson and Philippa Foot have emphasized, “Aristotelian categoricals” of the form S’s are F convey a norm and are not accurately represented as either existential or universal statements of the sort familiar to modern logicians.  “Dogs have four legs” is not saying “There is at least one dog, and it has four legs” and neither is it saying “For everything that is a dog, it is four legged.”  It is saying that the typical dog, the normal (mature) dog, has four legs.  

Similarly, to say “Human souls are associated with bodies” is to say that the human soul in its normal state is associated with its body, just like the human hand in its normal state is associated with its body.  But it doesn’t follow that it cannot exist apart from the body, any more than it follows that the hand (at least while its tissues are still alive) can exist apart from the body.  And again, the reason this is possible with the human soul and not with Fido’s soul is that the human soul, unlike Fido’s soul, carries out immaterial operations even when it is associated with the body.

As Gyula Klima emphasizes in his article “Man = Body + Soul: Aquinas’s Arithmetic of Human Nature,” when trying to understand Aquinas’s conception of the soul, we need to keep in mind  the more general metaphysical and semantic framework within which he is working.  In particular, we need to keep in mind his doctrine of analogical predication: 

[I]f we recognize the analogical character of the predication of the notion of being with respect to the whole and with respect to its essential parts, it should come as no surprise that body and soul in the exclusive senses of these terms are said to be one being, in the primary sense of the term, yet they can be said to be two beings in the derivative sense in which distinct parts of a whole can be said to be beings.  

To be sure, there are some things that can properly be predicated only of the composite of soul and body together, and not to either soul or body by itself:

[S]ince having power and action can attach properly only to a being in the primary sense, the problem of interaction between body and soul… cannot arise, for both the actions and the corresponding powers will still belong only to the unified whole, and not to either of the parts. 

But there is a qualification:

This has to be the case, at least, unless there is some action which can properly be said to belong only to one of them, in which case that part will also have to be regarded as a being not only in the sense in a which a part is a being, but also in the sense in which the whole is.

But this is precisely the point Aquinas makes with respect to the unique case of the human soul in his proof for its immortality… [when he argues that] understanding is the act of the intellective soul alone…

Here as elsewhere, we will fail properly to understand Aquinas unless we see how thoroughly he rejects the assumptions that inform the thinking of most modern philosophers.  As with his views on ethics and the arguments for the existence of God, so too with his views on the mind-body problem, Aquinas’s position rests on a radically different understanding of the nature of causation, substance, essence, modality, and other basic metaphysical notions.  He and other ancient and medieval philosophers aren’t merely proposing a novel move in the game being played by contemporary philosophers of various stripes.  They are challenging the game itself.

101 comments:

Daniel said...

I think you are spot on here. After all, Aristotle invites us to think about the possible separability of the soul in De Anima II,1 (413b6-9). Rather than being ad hoc to Aristotelian hylemorphism, it is Aristotle who first conjectures about the possibility. Thomas merely supplies arguments to back up Aristotelian speculations.

Thanks for this informative post!

Will said...

Ralph McInerney's comment in 'Great Thinkers on Great Questions' (Oneworld, 2009, p.49-50) is relevant:

'The soul separated from the body is in an anomalous position. Thomas speaks of it as a quasi-substance rather than a substance, not made to exist by itself and, if it does for a time, this is not its natural state'.

Mr. Green said...

Of course, English has a long tradition of joining Greek words with "O" (but perhaps that is not always etymologically justified). "Hylomorphic" is certainly more common. Though now I have an urge to starting saying "xylomorphic"....

Richard A said...

English is developing a tradition also of indiscriminately splitting infinitives (inspired, no doubt, by Star Trek, where the split was not indiscriminate). I applaud Dr. Feser's efforts in the ante-ante-penultimate sentence to resist this development.

Tony said...

Richard, he would have been even better off putting "properly" after the verb, since its location here could allow it to modify either "fail" or "to understand", at least when you don't look at the content of the words.

Not that we're picky, Ed, the article is fine.

Similarly, to say “Human souls are associated with bodies” is to say that the human soul in its normal state is associated with its body, just like the human hand in its normal state is associated with its body. But it doesn’t follow that it cannot exist apart from the body, any more than it follows that the hand (at least while its tissues are still alive) can exist apart from the body.

Doesn't it help the matter to point out that Aristotle and Thomas are not supposing that a human soul (form) could come-to-be separate from its matter, separate from the condition of informing matter. Wouldn't it be metaphysically impossible (that is, even impossible for God) that there be a human soul that is not and has never been the soul of a specific body? So the separation under consideration is limited to the separation AFTER THE FACT of the soul at one time being the form of a body.

George R. said...

Tony,

What you're saying is certainly true: it is metaphysically impossible for the soul to come into being without the body. But since Vallicella did not predicate his objection upon that truth, why should Ed address it? You should rather be telling Bill V. to bring it up in order to somewhat strengthen his rather weak case.

George R. said...

I hope Richard A. can somehow find it in his heart to forgive my indiscriminate splitting of the infinitive in my last post.

james said...

"Not that we're picky, Ed, the article is fine. "

No, no, it's not an article, it's an adverb. (Thank you; I'll be here all week.)

Anonymous said...

What precisely do you ascribe to the mental functioning of human brains that neuroscientists would agree is completely absent in other mammals (i.e., what is this 'intelligence' that motivates you to argue against Bill V with your claim that the human form is ontologically different from that of Fido?)

Anonymous said...

Anon,

Check this out.

Brandon said...

For Aristotle too was committed both to hylemorphism and to the view that the intellect is immaterial -- indeed, to the view that the active intellect is immortal. To be sure, that does not by itself show that Aristotle’s views are identical to or entail Aquinas’s; the Averroists took Aristotle’s position in a very different direction, and contemporary commentators often find it simply puzzling.

I think this is exactly right: if you are an Aristotelian, you are inevitably going to end up with something in the vicinity of Aquinas's position if you accept three things:

(1) Aristotle's account of hylemorphism
(2) Aristotle's basic account of the active intellect
(3) the view that each person has his own intellect (active and passive)

Much of the puzzle of Aristotle's own position is simply where exactly he stands on (3); he says things that can be, and have been, read several different ways. But Aquinas's position is one of the ways Aristotle can be read; if it's not Aristotle's own, and it may not be, it is an ingeniously Aristotelian answer to questions Aristotle's discussions raise but leave obscure.

Aquinas3000 said...

I saw people referring to this in one of the comments boxes below. I received the impression there that he had made a strong argument. That is singularly unimpressive!

Anonymous said...

Anon

The Freeman paper you link does not address the question that both Bill V and myself ask of Aquinas's dualism based on Aristotle's hylomorphism; namely, what is the basis for assuming that human substantial form MUST BE immortal, while that of other evolved life forms IS NOT?

How does Thomas or Ed know the private mental experiences of other animals well enough to be certain that they are not experiencing reality in a manner similar to what we anthropomorphically ascribe only to ourselves as 'intellect'?

Should ethologists all resign their posts?

Daniel Smith said...

Whenever talk of body and soul arises I can't help but wonder where "spirit" fits in?

Is the soul the form of both body and spirit?

Just thinking out loud...

Gail F said...

Anonymous directly above me: I understand your question, because it occurred to me as well. However, upon further thought I dismissed it. There is no way I know of to prove that other mammals (or lizards, or whatever) do not have abstract thoughts that they keep to themselves. However, if they do, they give absolutely no sign of it. The type of reasoning that Aristotle and Thomas talk about is qualitatively different from the sort of thought displayed by animals. To pretend that animals reason the way we do is disingenuous in the extreme.

Martin said...

Why dogs aren't people.

When Helen Keller Became Human

http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/07/talk-to-animals.html

james said...

"However, if they do, they give absolutely no sign of it."

I don't necessarily think that's true, although — since no one knows what it’s like to be a bat, as it were — there’s no way I can be sure. Certainly some non-human animals demonstrate problem-solving ability that seems suspiciously like abstract thought (at least IMO).

That isn’t to take a side in anything like animal rights debate, and I don’t think this subject has any bearing at all on the answer to Vallicella’s criticism. I merely believe that the question of animal reasoning is not so cut and dried.

RG said...

Gail F,

To pretend that animals reason the way we do is disingenuous in the extreme.

How do mentally disabled humans or humans with malformed brains reason?

What happens to the soul of a human under anesthesia, on an acid trip, or when Alzheimer's ravages the brain?

Or a sorties paradox or sorts. How many brain cells can we remove from your brain before the soul is no more?

Curious.

RG said...

Oops. There goes my brain. I meant...

Or a sorites paradox of sorts.

Electric Poodle Defenestrator said...

@RG

How do mentally disabled humans or humans with malformed brains reason?

The same way everyone else does. The fact that a simpleton thinks through a syllogism doesn't change the character of syllogistic reasoning.

What happens to the soul of a human under anesthesia, on an acid trip, or when Alzheimer's ravages the brain?

It acquires accidental properties of being associated with a body that is numb, hallucinating or can't remember where the remote control is.

Or a sorites paradox or sorts. How many brain cells can we remove from your brain before the soul is no more?

Enough that the person whose brain is removed dies and goes to heaven as a martyr for the cause of philosophical reasoning.

Daniel Smith said...

I don't think you can get to 'immortal soul' via the intellect argument. I think a third entity is needed - the spirit.

The biblical writers differentiated between the human soul and the human spirit - even going so far as to say the two can be "divided asunder". (Hebrews 4:12)

Isn't it more logical to say then that the reason man's soul is immortal is because it is joined to his spirit (which cannot be destroyed)?

Gail F said...

james: Problem solving is not the same as abstract reasoning. Even the most "educated" animals trained for years by scientists do not display human abstract reasoning. Monkeys trained to understand numbers up to 5, for instance, do not do anything otherwise unmonkeylike, or develop any other abstract thinking skills, or apply the apparent skills they have to anything but the exercises the scientists teach them. Thinking, to animals, is entirely bound up with what they are doing. They do not plan for tomorrow, or create art or music, or design elaborate structures, or perform plays, or do anything beyond what their type of animal does with the amount of thinking it can do. As I said, I can't prove that a bat does not solve equations in his head just to do it, but there is no indication that he does.

RG: You are making the mistake of thinking that because a mentally diseased person -- or for that matter, an unconscious person -- is no different from an animal because he is not thinking at the moment. A human being has the capacity for analytical thought as part of his being, and if he is not doing it at the moment, or is unable to do it because of an injury or disease or malformation, that does not change what a human being is any more than lopping all right feet off everyone in a town would change the fact that human being normally has two hands.

Diego said...

Animals cannot seek truth.

RG said...

Gail F:

You are making the mistake...

Of not multiplying entities? By living parsimoniously?
I live in a material world. I won't invent "immaterial" theories for emotional support to satisfy my "special" place in the universe. There's no evidence of it. It's ineffable. Positing a “soul” simply renames the problem with no insight.

A human being has the capacity for analytical thought as part of his being...

What actually makes a human being? Which specific or essential genes? Can we do without some? Is it all 'potential' or does it have to be 'actual'? Are newborns rational? And if they don't develop properly?

By the way. 'Analytical thought' is loaded.

...does not change what a human being is any more than lopping all right feet off everyone in a town would change the fact that human being normally has two hands.

As if a foot equals a brain. You can live without one not the other. To be "you", you "need" one and not the other.

If we lopped off half of your material brain would you still have access to you 'immaterial' universe? Might you loose your faith?

I'm sure we'll disagree.

Anonymous said...

If the ability to think abstractly evolved like every other mental attribute, then a soul is a pointless concept. If the ability to think abstractly is due to an immaterial mind, when did that immaterial mind enter the picture? With Neanderthal man, or earlier? How is this sort of immaterial mind passed from one species to another? How did this immaterial mind enter the picture? Do we have any evidence from prehistory pointing out the moment man became more than an animal?

Anonymous said...

Gail F., "Monkeys trained to understand numbers up to five, for instance, do not do anything otherwise unmonkeylike, or develop any other abstract thinking skills, or apply the apparent skills they have to anything but the exercises the scientists teach them." Even if a monkey uses abstract thinking once, hylemorphic dualism then either applies to non-humans or is false. Due to the metaphysical requirement of an immaterial mind for the performing of abstract thought, the conclusion that some non-human speies have a soul is inescapable.

Anonymous said...

"If the ability to think abstractly evolved like every other mental attribute, then a soul is a pointless concept."

Evolution is not contradictory to A-T as far as I understand. I don't understand how the soul becomes a pointless concept if mental attributes developed in a process brought about by physics ultimately maintained at every level and moment by God.

"If the ability to think abstractly is due to an immaterial mind, when did that immaterial mind enter the picture?"
Why should this be relevant?

"With Neanderthal man, or earlier? How is this sort of immaterial mind passed from one species to another?"
Why is this relevant?

"How did this immaterial mind enter the picture? Do we have any evidence from prehistory pointing out the moment man became more than an animal?"

Prehistoric cave paintings? But again how is this relevant? Why should we have to know with 100% certainty that something occurred at a given moment? If we don't know the exact moment of transition of dinosaur to bird then we it did not happen? It did not happen in another currently inconceivable way?

Anonymous said...

The arguments as to when and why did humans start getting a ‘second form’ are absolutely relevant here.

As Valicella points out, the substance Fido is a composite of matter and form (soul) – lose either, and no more Fido.

But humans come with two forms in AT dualism: there is the Fido-like composite also with one part soul which yields a Jack/Jill, but because of some inexplicable reason having to do with how the human brain is wired together, to be a living human (as opposed to Fido who isn’t?), a human must have another ‘special’ form so s/he will always live.

Pure anthropocentric fantasy. As Bill V said, form is the form of something, and nobody in the AT camp makes a compelling argument for the requirement of immortal form-alone in the privileged case of the human animal.

Anonymous said...

"the soul is the substantial form of the living human body"

Is the word "living" intentional to distinguish human soul from animal soul instead of simply saying the soul is the substantial form of the animal?

Daniel Smith said...

I have discovered, quite accidentally, that I am - by advocating for "soul, body and spirit" - a Trichotomist.

I have discovered also that this view is roundly rejected by most major Christian denominations.

I have found articles and papers explaining how my interpretation of Hebrews 4:12 (For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.) is in error.

Yet I persist.

Here's my defense:

One criticism I read says this about Hebrews 4:12 - "It speaks of "soul and spirit" in the same manner that it speaks of "thoughts and intents of the heart," two views of the same thing."

First off, this criticism leaves out the fact that between "soul and spirit" and "thoughts and intents" the writer of Hebrews also mentions "joints and marrow" - which are obviously not "two views of the same thing".

Secondly, are "thoughts and intents" really the same thing? Don't we often have "unintentional thoughts"? I know I do. So if "joints and marrow" and "thoughts and intent" are not the same thing, it follows that "spirit and soul" are also not the same thing.

So this criticism of a Trichotomistic interpretation of Hebrews 4:12 evaporates when examined closely.

I'm open to correction.

Anonymous said...

The present topic is Ed's attack on Bill's dismissal of hylomorphism, and so far, there is nothing that counter's Vallicella's critique of AT dualism formed by fusing the Bible with Greek philosophy.

Merely posting a blog restating what AT hylomorphism entails is not a counter to Bill V.

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous,

I directly addressed Bill's charge by showing how Aquinas's position follows from purely philosophical considerations concerning hylemorphism and dualism, whatever one thinks of the biblical conception of human nature. Did you miss that part?

machinephilosophy said...

Ed,

-Somewhere- (I forget where) you recommended Gilson's The Philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. I picked up the Dorset hardcover at a book auction for a nickel in mint condition, and now can't put the thing down. An amazing treatise, and I guess I'll have to read everything he's written now. What's more amazing is that it was written in the early 1920s. Hopefully it will help me to understand The Last Superstition (I'm currently on page 61 in my notetaking). Thanks.

Robert King said...

@Anon Aug 7, 2:56am -

As far as I understand it, A-T does not posit that "humans come with two forms." Rather, it is exactly one form, the human soul, that determines a human person. This soul has various activities or operations, some of which are identical to the operations of other living beings like plants or animals, and others of which are unique (in the material world, at least) to humans. The intellectual operation is one of those unique operations, and it also is unique in that it essentially is an immaterial operation; that is, it is an action that does not involve matter.

But the difference in operation does not mean that there is "another" form at work here, any more than the fact that a dog can both move and digest food means that there are multiple forms in the dog.

Anonymous said...

That numerous philosophers have entertained some beliefs that when stitched together can be formed into Thomistic dualism is the avenue you chose to chase down and attack Bill’s assessment that a subsistent form is unmotivated.

That the mental functions of reason and choice, ubiquitous throughout nature, especially in the mentality and actions of mammals, is the obvious biological fact in Vallicella’s assessment that Thomas’ system had/has insufficient evidence and reason (is unmotivated) to posit a supernaturalism (thus dualism) extroadinarily limited to only one substantial organism.

Anonymous said...

What a load of crap, Burl. Valicella's claim was that Aquinas was trying to twist Aristotilean thought to come to a Christian conclusion. Ed argued persuasively that this isn't the case. If you think there are problems with Aristotilean thought, that's a different issue than what Ed is addressing, and a different issue than Valicella raised.

Anonymous said...

Vallicella draws attention to the “tension” Thomas creates when altering Aristutle’s hylomorphism in nature.

“the hylomorphic approach identifies the person [living substance*] with a soul-body composite in which soul stands to body as form (morphe) stands to matter (hyle).

Fido is then a substance but his soul is not inasmuch as his soul cannot exist on its own. And the same goes for Fido's body: it cannot exist on its own.

How can a substantial form exist apart from that of which it is the form? Is it not necessarily tied to that of which it is the form?

After all, it is so tied in the case of non-humans like Fido.

Why should it be any different in the case of the human soul if the human soul is indeed the form of the human body?

I find it hard to resist the suspicion that what Aquinas has done is implanted Christian elements into the foreign soil of Aristotelianism.

Simply to make an exception in the case of the human soul is wholly unmotivated and ad hoc and inconsistent with hylomorphic ontology.



*Note that the phrase ‘living human body’ substituted for the prime matter is double informing: the first form being that which makes the substance living, the second that which gives subsistent form to the living substance. This is verbal sleight-of-hand.

machinephilosophy said...

Robert,

I don't know enough to judge how accurate that is to Aquinas's view, but ti's an excellent exposition.

I actually agree with all that, and have for a while now have thought of soul, spirit, self, and even mind itself---whatever their unique distinctions from each other may or may not be---as dimensionless but somehow space-based vantage points.

What's the mass and volume of an inference at the speed of thought anyway, between friends.

Haiying said...

For me, an interesting question has naturally cropped up in the margins of this debate:

How does hylemorphic dualism account for libertarian free will? That is, how does it conceptually go about making true the idea that the actions of human beings are not wholly caused by their biological make-up and ultimately by physical events in the remote past (the first of which was the Big Bang), as atheistic materialists must inevitably accept on at least the non-subatomic level?

I can see how it'd work for Cartesian dualsim: The mind or soul interferes in the material processes of the brain.

I cannot see how it'd work for Aristotelian-Thomistic dualism.

some kant said...

I find it hard to resist the suspicion that what Aquinas has done is implanted Christian elements into the foreign soil of Aristotelianism.

Just in case you weren't aware, those "Christian elements" you talk about (like the immaterial soul) were originally Greek elements that got implanted into the foreign soil of Christianity.

A knowledge of the history of ideas is useful at times. Helps dispel many confusions.

Lamont said...

There have been a number of irrelevant arguments put forward above concerning the subsistence/immortality of the human soul. There is only one matter at stake here. Can human beings abstract an immaterial concept from a sense perception or not? Whether or not other animals can also do this is of importance only in determining the nature of the animal soul.

So exactly what is it that is supposed to happen when a person abstracts an immaterial concept from a sense perception? First, a sense perception is material. It involves the firing of neurons in the brain of an animal which can stimulate a response as determined by those aspects of the brain that are hardwired (instincts) and learned behaviors that are acquired from past experiences. This is the basis of animal consciousness.

In human beings there is also something called understanding. Understanding is based on the conscious awareness of the formal aspects of a particular experience. Understanding is what enables human beings to explain why something happened. In order to do that you have to be able to ‘see’ beyond what is actually given in the sense perception. This intellectual vision occurs when one forms concepts of each of the significant aspects of the perception and then joins them in a rational manner to produce an explanation. If you can do that, then you understand the experience. It should also be noted that your understanding could be mistaken if the concepts formed were inaccurate or the reasoning used to connect them was not logical.

So how do you produce concepts that reflect the formal aspects of an experience? You have to pull them out of the perception by ignoring the sensible aspects of the experience. When you are only thinking about the formal and immaterial aspects of an experience your thought is abstract. If you are able to clarify your thought such that you can use the thought logically then you have formed a concept.

Some examples of abstract ideas are the concepts of “cause”, “effect”, “time”, “space”, “beauty”, “truth”, “justice”, and “goodness” to name a few.

It is precisely because these concepts are immaterial and not immediately given in sense perception, that they are controversial to the point that some may deny them or try to reduce them to something physical.

My response is that the very process of abstraction by which these concepts are produced in the first place is sufficient to show that they are both real and immaterial. As such they can be used in a logical argument to demonstrate the existence of an immortal soul.

The Immateriality of the Soul

1. As a thing acts, so it is.
2. The soul/mind acts to form abstract immaterial concepts.

Therefore, the soul is immaterial.


The Immortality of the Soul

1. Only what is composed of material parts can break down and cease to exist.
2. The soul is immaterial or spiritual and not composed of material parts.

Therefore, the soul cannot breakdown and cease to exist.

Anonymous said...

"1. Only what is composed of material parts can break down and cease to exist."

This would not include the consciousnesses of animals like dogs, cats, dolphins, elephants, whales, and so on. Surely the higher animals have qualia to some degree. Therefore, immortality of their consciousnesses.

Of course this does nothing to
overturn what you've said regarding the immortality of the human soul. The number of immortal things just seems to be greater on your conception of immortality.

monk68 said...

@Anon 4:12am

"After all, it is so tied in the case of non-humans like Fido."

Yes, and both Aristotle and Aquinas (following him) argue BASED STRICTLY ON OBSERVATION AND PHILOSPOPHICAL REFLECTION (as opposed to mere assertion or dependence on some revelatory claim) that all the observed activities which flow from "non-human" forms entail some dependence on matter (the degree of dependence differing according to the activity in question). Since the properties of a form are only known through its activities, one must assert that all the know essential/formal properties of non-human forms are dependent upon matter to a greater or lesser degree. This dependence on matter entails that all the known properties or aspects of non-human forms cannot subsist absent matter (this is what “dependence” upon matter means). In short, non-human forms exhibit no “immaterial” activities/properties. Hence, there is no reason to think such forms “subsist” after the form / matter composite has collapsed, since all of the formal properties which we know through observed action appear dependent on the form/matter composition.

"Why should it be any different in the case of the human soul if the human soul is indeed the form of the human body?"

Because the human form, unlike all other forms observed/experienced in nature, UNIQUELY presents for our observation and reflection, the activity of intellectual abstraction. Observation and reflection upon this UNIQUE human activity (given as part of reality and independent of any revelatory claims) led Aristotle and Aquinas (and other Aristotelians and/or Thomists through the centuries) to ARGUE that intellectual abstraction must be wholly independent of matter –

NOTE: [if you are really interested in the STRICTLY PHILOSOPHICAL arguments for a.) the case that ONLY humans exhibit the activity of intellectual abstraction (even if “some” behaviors of other highly developed mammals, etc “seem” to mimic human intellection) and b.) that such activity – to be what it is –must be entirely immaterial; there are many readily available resources].

Given that those arguments succeed (which I think they do), and since the properties of a form are known by its observed actions; it follows that at least one of the properties of the human soul (intellectual abstraction) is immaterial and that human souls alone (among all know substantial forms) possess this immaterial property. Further, since whatever is immaterial is not composed of parts subject to de-composition, it follows that at least this immaterial property (or dimension/aspect/whatever) of the human soul is non-corruptible - which is just another way to say that the human form has “some” capacity to "subsist" or endure beyond the decomposition of form and matter (i.e. natural death). Note, that this strictly philosophical argument for the "immateriality" (and hence, subsistence) of the human soul (or at least some property thereof), is not exactly the same as an argument for the immortality or eternity of the human soul, since even a subsisting immaterial form is still united to an act of existence, which continued union it owes to God rather than necessity (hence God could conceivably annihilate the human soul or its immaterial aspect). The point (even if you end up disagreeing with the philosophical arguments for the unique immaterial quality of human intellection), is that the argument for the unique ability of the human soul to “subsist” beyond natural death is a philosophical argument ENTIRELY independent of any recourse to revelatory data.

Continued . . . .

monk68 said...

“I find it hard to resist the suspicion that what Aquinas has done is implanted Christian elements into the foreign soil of Aristotelianism.”

That, I suspect, is because you are not taking seriously the ARGUMENTS advanced and alluded to above. Just because you or Bill are suspicious that Aquinas is sneaking theology into his philosophy does not make it so. I have yet to see, either in Bill’s article, or elsewhere an actual ARGUMENT for the position that Aquinas’ position concerning the unique ability of the human form to subsist beyond natural death relies upon theological slight-of-hand. By contrast, Ed, myself, and others have at least given arguments as to how the conclusion that the human soul is uniquely subsistent follows from strictly philosophical observation and reflection – independent of any reliance upon revelatory data.

“Simply to make an exception in the case of the human soul is wholly unmotivated and ad hoc and inconsistent with hylomorphic ontology.”

Sigh . . . . please respond to the philosophical arguments which have been advanced for WHY this exception is not ad hoc, but rather demanded by philosophical reflection upon a unique and key activity found among human beings – intellectual abstraction.

Hylomorphic ontology is (as any ontology must be) consistent with whatever data we experience in our sensorial encounter with “the real”. One such piece of data (and arguably the most extraordinary in our experience) is the unique (A-T proponents would argue) fact of intellectual abstraction among human beings. That philosophical reflection upon human intellectual abstraction leads to the conclusion that the human form alone (among all other known substantial forms) must be capable of subsistence beyond form / matter decomposition, in no way entails an inconsistency with hylomorphic dualism. All that follows from your statement is that you have an arbitrarily narrow conception of the philosophical scope of hylomorphic dualism. All of the metaphysical principles and co-principles related to “hylomorphic duslism” (essence/existence, act/potency, form/matter, substance/accident, as well as subsistence) are simply the necessary postulates which render our encounter with reality as intelligible. Reality, itself, determines the nature and scope of hylomorphic dualism: not vice a versa. If philosophical reflection upon the data of our experience demands that we allow for the unique subsistence of the human form, then our notion of hylomorphic dualism must be widened so as to account for the data.

Cheers,

Ray

StoneTop said...

"Animals cannot seek truth."
- Diego

Leaving aside that humans are animals (just as apples are fruit) that statement seems quite specist.

Brian said...

"that statement seems quite specist."

Good.

Anonymous said...

On hylomorphic dualism, Vallicella clarifies the generally misunderstood point that hylomorphism is not a dualism for any natural (or artificial) substance EXCEPT humans. Lose hyle or morphe, and the substance is gone. Only in the case of the subsistent substantial form of humans is there an ontologic duality of immateriality and materiality.

Bill suggests that this exceptional dualism is posited much in the manner of a needed ‘God of the gaps’: the early Christians believed that at death the soul in some manner survived the body so that in the end times, the resurrection and reuniting of the body and its same soul could happen.

Presumably this specist exceptional dualism was unnecessary until recent times, say within the last 150,000 years or so. Quite inconsistent from an ontologic stance.

As for intellectual abstraction requiring immortality, immateriality, and a human brain is certainly a matter of philosophic debate – but it’s not a realistic look at the nature of things.

Edward Feser said...

Burl/"Just Thinking"/Anonymous,

I was willing to ignore your identity -- though the tell-tale obsession with non-human animals makes it obvious -- but since someone else has already let the cat out of the bag, there's no point in pretending. (All that's missing is your ritualistic complaint that I made no reference to Whitehead, though I'm sure that's coming next.)

Anyway, merely repeating yourself doesn't answer the point I and others have already made. If one accepts, on independent philosophical grounds, both (a) hylemorphism and (b) dualistic arguments to the effect that intellectual activity -- grasping abstract concepts, putting them together into judgments, and reasoning from one judgment to another -- cannot have a material organ, then one has grounds for concluding that any soul that can carry out such activity must be subsistent. Christian theology has nothing essentially to do with it.

And BTW, if you think Bill V. is motivated by some Burl-like obsession with non-human animals, you are quite mistaken. In fact the question of non-human animals has nothing essentially to do with his point, for two reasons. First, Bill was basing his argument on what hylemorphism says about the forms of material things in general -- not only non-human animals, but plants, stones, water, iron, gold, lead, you name it. The forms of all these things depend for their operations on matter, and Bill was asking why things should be any different for the human soul. (The answer, as I've said, is that the human soul is argued -- not assumed, but argued -- to carry out operations that cannot involve a material organ, unlike these other natural substances.)

Second, even if it turned out that there are non-human animals which carry out intellectual activity -- apes, dolphins, whatever -- what would follow from that, on Aquinas's premises, is that they too have subsistent forms for souls. And in that case, Bill's critique would apply to them as well.

StoneTop said...

"Good."
-Brian

In what way? An unfounded assumption that only humans are capable of "seeking truth" seems rather narrow minded.

Anonymous said...

Bill was asking why things should be any different for the human soul. (The answer, as I've said, is that the human soul is argued -- not assumed, but argued -- to carry out operations that cannot involve a material organ, unlike these other natural substances.)

…even if it turned out that there are non-human animals which carry out intellectual activity -- apes, dolphins, whatever -- what would follow from that, on Aquinas's premises, is that they too have subsistent forms for souls. And in that case, Bill's critique would apply to them as well.


In light of all that we know of ourselves since Darwin, and through the findings of many, many scientific studies in cognition, had he known these things, Aquinas would very likely have extended his subsistent soul to more species, not based on theological assumption, nor philosophic argument, but on findings based on scientific research.

And I really think he would have. But, I am afraid that after 700 years of building a philosophic/theological edifice of metaphysical anthropocentric dogma, the vast majority of Thomas’s followers (not all) cannot budge from their stance within this system of thought.

Given that higher intellects are recent evolutionary developments, does this mandate supernatural intervention in the somewhat recent past wherein a reality of ontological substance monism suddenly became a limited material/immaterial dualism?

Note that it is apparent among a growing number of cognitive researchers that affects (emotions) are the basis upon which we act, so that rationality and decision-making are mere derivative forms of affect.

Izmaeli said...

the problem is not squaring Plato and Aristotle (anyway, if one grants incorporeal Souls exist , then why not Forms? etc. tho at times Aristotle sounds like an empiricist...not to say pagan) which seems to be a difference in degrees, but squaring Plato and/or Aristotle with...Jehovah--sort of important figure in judeo-chrs. mythology. Grant a monotheistic God, and you get something like dualism. (unless you're into hinduism).

Bertrand Russell thought Aristotle a sort of primitive physician, with Plato an authentic analytical philosopher (tho hardly the final word)

1000 Names of Vishnu said...

First, Bill was basing his argument on what hylemorphism says about the forms of material things in general -- not only non-human animals, but plants, stones, water, iron, gold, lead, you name it. The forms of all these things depend for their operations on matter.


Rather infelicitous way of putting it. Aristotle suggests that Substance..Ousis... itself was a compound of both Form and Matter (subject to the causes, accidents, etc). But he doesn't say matter is first; au contraire he suggests Form (or dare we say Thinking) is primary. Immanent, organic, like, subject to change, process, chance. Sort of like the hindu vedas.

StoneTop said...

Second, even if it turned out that there are non-human animals which carry out intellectual activity -- apes, dolphins, whatever -- what would follow from that, on Aquinas's premises, is that they too have subsistent forms for souls

-Edward Feser

What then would be the implications for Christian Theology? It seems, to me at least, that discovering a non-human that could carry out intellectual activity (and thus would have a soul, under the given definition) would be rather hard to reconcile with Christian Theology?

Pattsce said...

StoneTop,

Why?

Anonymous said...

What stupid comments these are, following Ed's reply. Get lives, folks.

StoneTop said...

Why?

Well if a animal has a soul then can it sin? Can it be forgiven? How do animals with souls fall into the whole concept of the fall and salvation?

There is also the question of how we would treat an animal with a soul... if it was found that dogs had souls could we still treat them as we did? How about goats, or fish?

Don Paco said...

Ed, I agree with your main points, but I have qualms with your term "hylemorphic dualism."

I don't see how positing a subsistent soul (i.e., one that can survive the death of the body) warrants this theory being called "dualism."

"Dualism" implies that there are two things (in particular, two substances). But here there are not two things, much less substances. The body-soul composite is a single, complete substance, and the separated soul is an incomplete part of a (former) substance.

The fact that the soul survives death does not make it a distinct substance from the body or from the composite, and much less makes the body a distinct substance from the soul.

Cf. http://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2009/05/is-separate-soul-person.html

Mr. Green said...

StoneTop: if it was found that dogs had souls could we still treat them as we did?

Dogs do have souls. It seems you're confusing everyday terminology with philsophical terminology, and even different philosophies. A good introduction to Aristotelianism (or Thomism) would lay out the groundwork for understanding what the point is here.

Edward Feser said...

Hello Don Paco,

Well, I think it is essentially a semantic issue. Some contemporary Thomists eschew the label "dualism" because of its Platonic and Cartesian associations. But in contemporary philosophy "dualism" is more or less universally used to refer to any view which acknowledges both material and immaterial aspects to human nature, even if it doesn't think of both aspects as substances. Hence, Plato and Descartes are classified as "substance dualists," but this is typically distinguished from "property dualism," which takes there to be only one kind of substance (material substance) but two kinds of properties (material and immaterial), in the modern sense of "properties."

In short, for the typical contemporary non-Thomist, any view which says that there is an immaterial aspect to human nature and that this aspect subsists beyond the death of the body is by definition dualist, whether or not it thinks of this aspect as a substance. So, it is just confusing to present the Thomistic view as "non-dualistic," given the way "dualism" is commonly used today. Furthermore, when Aquinas's view is paid any attention by contemporary philosophers of mind, it is (for the reasons just given) treated as a kind of dualism -- sometimes called "hylemoprhic dualism," sometimes "Thomistic dualism."

So, I think it is useful to use those labels to make the view clearer to contemporary readers, and to emphasize that the view is different not only from substance dualism but also from property dualism. There is no danger of fostering misunderstanding, because the label "dualism" is (as I have said) by now no longer associated with Platonic or Cartesian views specifically. If anything, misunderstanding would be fostered by refusing to apply the "dualism" label, for the reasons I've given.

Nor is this modern usage a complete departure from older usage. Wuellner's Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy defines "dualism" as "any view of reality which recognizes two fundamentally different types of beings or of operations" (emphasis mine). And Thomism certainly recognizes two types of operations in man. (Admittedly, Wuellner does define "psychological dualism" in a way that implies a Platonic or Cartsian view, specifically. But again, the term as currently used in non-Thomistic circles is not limited to that narrow meaning.)

Anonymous said...

Doc, you've probably noticed already, but Dr. Vallicella has proffered a response to your post.

Here's to hoping that you both will continue this illuminating dialogue.

Lamont said...

Bill Vallicella is simply defending platonic dualism against hylemorphic dualism. He thinks Ed’s arguments are inadequate, and on that point I tend to agree with him.

So here is another argument in defense of hylemorphic dualism.

A form is what makes a thing to be what it is. In composite substance the way in which the substantial form does this is to integrate all of the material parts into one substantial being. Protons, neutrons, and electrons with their substantial forms are integrated into atoms. Each type of atom is a unique substance with one substantial form. The forms of the particles with make up the atom still exist, but they no longer determine what the thing is. They are parts of a greater whole.

This process of integration is repeated for molecules, for vegetative living things (plants), and for sentient living things (animals). In animals it is the senses which direct all of the biological, molecular, and atomic processes which take place in the animal.

A wolf has the senses of a wolf, which make it act like a wolf. Its body harmoniously expresses its inner wolfness, but it is its sentient nature grounded in its brain, neural network, and sense organs that make to be a wolf. The substantial form of the wolf is the underlying teleological principle that integrates all of the various parts of the wolf to make it act like a wolf; and, therefore be a wolf.

In humans it is our rational nature that integrates and directs everything else. Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and every rational person who understands the issues involved agree on this. When a person fails to act rationally, he or she is acting in a manner that is not fully human. So it is that the rational soul is what makes us human. It is substantial form, not just of the body, but of the whole human person.

The fact that the soul is subsistent is not inconsistent with it being a substantial form. It just means that the soul itself must not emerge from interactions within the body. Rather it must have an immaterial source, and that source we call God.

RG said...

A wolf has the senses of a wolf, which make it act like a wolf. Its body harmoniously expresses its inner wolfness, but it is its sentient nature grounded in its brain, neural network, and sense organs that make to be a wolf. The substantial form of the wolf is the underlying teleological principle that integrates all of the various parts of the wolf to make it act like a wolf; and, therefore be a wolf.

In humans it is our rational nature that integrates and directs everything else. Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and every rational person who understands the issues involved agree on this. When a person fails to act rationally, he or she is acting in a manner that is not fully human. So it is that the rational soul is what makes us human...

...It just means that the soul itself must not emerge from interactions within the body. Rather it must have an immaterial source, and that source we call God.


Define rational.

Sounds like nonsense on stilts.

dguller said...

Does this form of dualism still fall prey to the interaction problem between an immaterial intellect and the remaining material components of the mind? How does an immaterial entity, such as the intellect, interact with the material emotions, for example?

StoneTop said...

Dogs do have souls.

In the same sense as is being discussed here? Or is the Christian concept of the soul not the same as the Aristotelianism/Thomism) concept of the soul?

StoneTop said...

The forms of the particles with make up the atom still exist, but they no longer determine what the thing is. They are parts of a greater whole.

Actually those particles are what determines "what the thing is"... as it is the sum of those particles that contributes to the mass and charge of a given atom.

It cascades on up the chain as well.. through molecules to an organism to the environment in which that organism lives... but at the heart of it there is still a proton spinning away.

The substantial form of the wolf is the underlying teleological principle that integrates all of the various parts of the wolf to make it act like a wolf; and, therefore be a wolf.

Actually nothing "teleological" is needed for the wolf to act like a wolf... its behavior is the sum over result of the behaviors of the wolfs components... from the carbon atom acting like a carbon atom, to the DNA acting like DNA, to the lung cell acting like a lung cell... no external component is needed to define the wolfs "wolfishness"

Mr. Green said...

StoneTop: Or is the Christian concept of the soul not the same as the Aristotelianism/Thomism) concept of the soul? [...]
Actually nothing "teleological" is needed for the wolf to act like a wolf...


A carbon atom "acting like a carbon atom" IS teleology. It's not some "external component". And Thomism is a Christian philosophy, but it has technical terminology that applies to specific topics and contexts. Feser's Aquinas is good introduction to the necessary concepts and jargon, but any decent primer on Aristotle, or Scholastic philosophy in general will bring you up to speed.

Lamont said...

RG,
'Rational' means being able to form concepts and connect them in logical arguments to make judgments which guide one's actions. The animal brain connects sense perception with instincts and learned behaviors in a consistent manner, but it does not involve concepts or logical arguments so it is not rational in the sense in which the word is used here.

dguller,
Aquinas argued that the soul is the substantial form of the body which means that it acts with the body rather than interacts with it as in other types of dualism. If you think of the soul as being bound to every molecule of your body, then when you think "raise my hand" your hand moves naturally. When you experience an emotion it is more than hormones and neural impulses. It is also the way in which it affects your soul on a psychological and phenomenological level.

StoneTop,
Every animal has a substantial form which is its soul. It is what makes a living animal different from a dead animal. The molecules are the same. The relations that exist between the molecules are radically different. In humans the soul is rational and subsistent so it is very different from the souls of nonhuman animals.

If mechanism without intrinsic teleology could account for life the science could tell us exactly what life is. As it is, it is the intellect that sees order, directedness, and purpose in living systems. A mechanistic approach to science can not deal with teleology so it denies its existence.

dguller said...

Lamont:

I was talking about the immaterial intellect, not the soul. I was curious how the immaterial intellect interacts with the material body.

Kjetil Kringlebotten said...

StoneTop,

According to an Aristotelian-Thomistic account all living bodily creatures have souls, but not the same kind of souls. A ‘soul’ for an Aristotelian-Thomist is the ‘principle of life,’ and not necessarily a spirit of some kind. A plant has a soul that gives it the capability of growth, reproducing, consuming energy, etc. An animal (irrational animal) has a soul that, in addition to the vegetative abilities, also have the capability of free movement, sense, instinct, etc. A human (rational animal) has a soul that, in addition to the sensible and vegetative abilities, also have the capability of will and rationality. According to Thomas, then, there are five faculties of the human soul, here from bottom up:

1. The natural appetite, urges (appetitus naturalis). This humans an irrational animals share with plants.
2. The sensitive appetite, instinct (appetitus sensitivius). This humans share with irrational animals.
3. The ability of sense perception. This humans share with irrational animals.
4. The rational appetite, the will (appetitus rationalis). This is for humans only (among bodily creatures).
5. Reason, intellect. This is for humans only (among bodily creatures).

Here ‘human’ is a somewhat ‘open’ term, including possible rational aliens and the like.

So all living bodily creatures have souls, but not the same kind of souls.

Lamont said...

dguller,
Intellect and will are the two primary powers of the soul. The intellect does not exist as a separate entity apart from the soul. It is an act of the soul.

To address your question from a different perspective, it is the soul/intellect that abstracts concepts from sense experience. These concept are then given names which are stored in the language center in the brain. In our thoughts words connect abstract concepts to the world as it is experienced.

It is through language that the intellect interacts with the brain. It is the brain, along with our sense organs and nervous system that connects us with the external world.

Lee Faber said...

Regarding some of the earlier conversation, about examples of animals having higher abilities, it should be noted that the broadly Aristotelian tradition (Averroes, Scotism, Thomism, Albertism, etc.) has always held that animals/sensitive souls possess what are called estimative or cogitative powers that can probably account for things like monkeys learning to countm, parrots, and whale-language.

Also, regarding the present conversation regarding interactionism, the A-T theorists probably should not omit to discuss the agent vs. possible intellect. According to Aquinas, abstraction is the stripping off of the material conditions of a phantasm, with the resulting immaterial form actualizing the possible intellect. But I am not sure how the agent intellect does this, if it has to directly come in contact with the (material) phantasm; in any case, it does not affect or change the material phantasm as far as I know.

dguller said...

Lamont:

>> Intellect and will are the two primary powers of the soul. The intellect does not exist as a separate entity apart from the soul. It is an act of the soul.

Feser: “the soul’s intellectual operations can carry on independently of matter” (Aquinas, p. 158).

My question pertained to how this immaterial entity can interact with a material body. One of the biggest problems with any dualistic account is how the two ontologically separate entities of mind and body can interact. It is claimed that Thomism solves this problem by arguing that the soul is just the form of the human body, and thus there is no duality at all in terms of ontological status. However, if “the soul’s intellectual operations” can continue to exist and function independently of the body, then there is such an ontological duality, and so the interaction problem remains.

Thanks.

Mr. Green said...

Dguller: However, if “the soul’s intellectual operations” can continue to exist and function independently of the body, then there is such an ontological duality, and so the interaction problem remains.

But it doesn't function independently of the body: the soul has immaterial operations, which do not involve the body, and operations where it "interacts" with the body — or rather, where the body and soul are acting together, and those of course require the body. There's no case in Thomism where you have two different substances "manipulating" each other, and thus no "interaction" (in any sense that would be problematic).

(For that matter, any dualism that denies billiard-ball interaction does not have an "interaction problem" anyway. And since QM shows that billiard-ball interaction doesn't even apply to physics, anyone who accepts science must be equally open to accepting Platonic or Cartesian dualsims that do have body and soul manipulating each other in some way.)

dguller said...

Mr Green:

>> But it doesn't function independently of the body

First, Feser’s quote would seem to contradict you.

Second, if that were true, then there is no life after death of the body.

>> And since QM shows that billiard-ball interaction doesn't even apply to physics, anyone who accepts science must be equally open to accepting Platonic or Cartesian dualsims that do have body and soul manipulating each other in some way

Contemporary QM, at least in its standard model, has a number of subatomic particles interacting with one another, many of which are “force carriers”, such as the photon, the gluon, and other bosons. Actually, this isn’t entirely true. What seems to happen is that particles are annihilated and created rather than bouncing off each other like billiard balls.

Lamont said...

dguller,
I suspect the reason why you and many others have are perplexed by the “interaction problem” is that you think that the only type of real relation is an efficient causal relation. So I ask you, do the wings of an airplane cause it to fly? Does the pilot of the airplane cause it to fly? Do the engines of the airplane cause it to fly? Since all three are necessary for the airplane to fly, the correct answer to all three questions is yes. The engines are the efficient cause. The pilot is the final cause. And the wings, which are a part of the overall design, are the formal cause. You can no more explain why a natural substance acts the way it does without referring to the formal and final causal contribution of its substantial form, than you can explain how an airplane could fly without wings or a pilot. And yet there are those who scoff at any mention of formal or final causality. It would all be very funny if it were not so tragic.

In the human person the soul is the substantial form. It acts with the body and directs the actions of the body formally and to particular ends. The body supplies the energy that physically moves the whole person, but it is the mind that brings order to that motion and uses that mobility to accomplish specific goals.

How does the mind do this? When you think a thought the language centers in the brain respond harmoniously and supply the words that signify the meaning you wish to express. The interaction problem is solved by language. Words trigger neurons that move my fingers to type these words. The brain and your body do all the physical stuff. Your thoughts do not have to supply any energy to physically move the brain anymore than the pilot or the wings of an airplane have to supply the energy that moves the airplane. The interaction problem only arises when formal and final causality is eliminated from the explanation of how the whole process works.

Have you ever had a thought but could not find the words to express it? If your mind can’t find the words the whole process grinds to a halt. The opposite is also true, if you read or hear a word and you do not know what it means it just causes confusion. The mind can connect with the brain, but it needs to have the right words.

Anonymous said...

dguller,

I stumbled across an interesting discussion concerning hylemorphism and the problem of mental causation in the following book:

http://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Mind-Comprehensive-William-Jaworski/dp/1444333682/

It starts on pg. 344.
Just utilize the "search inside" function.

Hope you find it somewhat helpful in addressing your present concerns.

StoneTop said...

4. The rational appetite, the will (appetitus rationalis). This is for humans only (among bodily creatures).
5. Reason, intellect. This is for humans only (among bodily creatures).

Here ‘human’ is a somewhat ‘open’ term, including possible rational aliens and the like.


So you are not defining "human" as "member of H.sapiens"?

Which still makes my original question a valid one... doesn't a non-H.sapiens "human" pose problems for Christian theology?

Say we found the remains of a species on Mars that met criteria 4 and 5 long before the first H.sapiens came about? Wouldn't that be inconsistent with Christian Theology?

Josh said...

Stone Top,

Funny you say Mars:

Out of the Silent Planet

Martin said...

Stone Top: I see a quick reply done in the time it took to write mine but, nonetheless:

You deserve a reply for a simple question. No, the discovery of another rational species would not challenge Christian theology.

The Beatific Vision-heaven-was a potential gift to the father of all men, Adam. If he had not failed we would all be home free but he threw it away only to be regained by God's son, Jesus, significantly, in the form of man.

A different rational species would not necessarily have access to the Beatific Vision simply by virtue of being rational. What would happen to their immortal souls? Who knows.

Add to your pile of books "Eifelheim"by Michael Flynn (who sometimes comments here as TOF). It's an excellent SF novel playing with this very theme and it gives a different valid answer than my reply implies.

C.S. Lewis also touches on this in the space trilogy. The first book showing rational animals, the second the potential and the third touching lightly on how it might work out here on earth. I haven't read the series for years and never with an eye to his answer on what happens to non-human rational animals after death though I could project a guess based on what I think I understand. (All creation groans in expectation of our salvation).

In my lingo I take exception to calling other rational animals "human" due to the importance of understanding man as a special creature to God, though I am open to correction.

Anonymous said...

If higher life forms gradually evolved in nature, at what point did reality on earth switch from a monism - with highest order substances being of animal sentient form - to a dualism of human material body and immaterial soul? Did the immortal soul happen when over 100,000 years back the first prehistoric primate had a simple glimpse of ‘intelligence and will’? Do the first immortal souls lack most of what of modern humans?

Is creationism required in A-T hylomorphism?

It seems to me that Aristotle’ hylomorphism is philosophy, but Aquinas’s is theology. In the latter case, there is no point in philosophical debate over A-T dualism and worry over mind/body interaction – it all simply must be taken on faith.

Kjetil Kringlebotten said...

StoneTop,

Why would you think that a rational species from, say, Mars would 'be inconsistent with Christian Theology'? In fact, IIRC, the Catholic Church has condemned the view that there cannot be any other rational species, and especially that this might 'be inconsistent with Christian Theology.'

George R. said...

Anon:
"Is creationism required in A-T hylomorphism?"

Yes it is.

But you will scarcely find one Thomist in academia with the stones to admit it.

StoneTop said...

A different rational species would not necessarily have access to the Beatific Vision simply by virtue of being rational. What would happen to their immortal souls? Who knows.

Why is that a "who knows"? If they have immortal souls just like H.sapiens do then why wouldn't those souls reside in heaven after their mortal form had died?

In my lingo I take exception to calling other rational animals "human" due to the importance of understanding man as a special creature to God, though I am open to correction.

my use of the term "human" not in strict reference to "a member of H.sapiens sapiens" was due to Kjetil Kringlebotten's opening of the definition: "Here ‘human’ is a somewhat ‘open’ term, including possible rational aliens and the like."

StoneTop said...

A carbon atom "acting like a carbon atom" IS teleology.

It is acting like a carbon atom due to the sum of the properties of its constituent protons/neutrons/electrons... not because it is the purpose of the carbon atom to act like a carbon atom.

StoneTop said...

Why would you think that a rational species from, say, Mars would 'be inconsistent with Christian Theology'?

It isn't just a question of them being rational, but rather that rationality must come from a soul...

So if there were rational, non-human, intelligences out there in the cosmos then they must have souls just as we do then what is the status of those souls after death? Do they suffer? Do they sin?

Aquinas3000 said...

"It is acting like a carbon atom due to the sum of the properties of its constituent protons/neutrons/electrons... not because it is the purpose of the carbon atom to act like a carbon atom."

A thing's properties is one way of describing the manner in which it acts. Final causality is needed for a full description as to why it acts as it does, that it be directed to a end. What you say simply takes it back another step. It doesn't avoid final causality. It is a very difficult concept to grasp if one has been immersed in modern mathematico-empirical science since such a mind is only used to understanding things within that paradigm. A valid paradigm so long as it sticks to its own limits but limited nonetheless and I say this as such a person myself being an engineer who studies much philosophy.

Martin said...

A different rational species would not necessarily have access to the Beatific Vision simply by virtue of being rational. What would happen to their immortal souls? Who knows.

Why is that a "who knows"? If they have immortal souls just like H.sapiens do then why wouldn't those souls reside in heaven after their mortal form had died?


Ok, I have about 2.5 minutes to type a reply.

"Heaven" is seeing God as he is, nothing more. No creature possesses this sight by his own nature. Simply being rational does not give us this, "sight of God" it is not in the nature of any creature, rather it is a super-natural gift from God. Thus being an immortal rational being is not enough.

BTW: Catholics hold that there exist, "Angels" rational beings, immaterial, but rational beings none the less. St. Thomas is called the "Angelic Doctor" because he worked out a theology of what these beings might be like. Thus finding a material rational species other than man would be a big yawn theologically speaking.

Would these imagined rational material beings have the "Beatific Vision- Heaven"? Only if God gave it to them in a super-natural way.

StoneTop said...

Final causality is needed for a full description as to why it acts as it does, that it be directed to a end.

What end is that? And why does the atom need to be directed at all?\

The carbon atoms in my toe are no different from the carbon atoms in the floor, or drifting through space. The carbon atom in my toe isn't being directed towards anything... it's just acting like a carbon atom in the presence of other carbon atoms (as well as the rest of the components of my toe.

StoneTop said...

The Beatific Vision-heaven-was a potential gift to the father of all men, Adam

It is also worth noting that since the Biblical Adam is at best a metaphor mentioning him doesn't really help your arguments.

Aquinas3000 said...

To really understand the matter you would need to start at the beginning and do a whole course in defensive metaphysics were the principle of final causality is justified from first principles.

But to say that the carbon atom acts is to imply that it does something. That something is an end. To be like a carbon atom is a carbon atom's end. To act one way rather than another. Without being directed to an end something can't act at all, it is like riding off on a bike in all directions at once. If something's activity is directed along one line of activity then it is directed to this rather than that. Everything seeks its own perfection, whatever that may be for it. But to act for an end requires knowledge of the end for only by intellectual knowledge does one understand end AS end. There's plenty more but it goes back to what I said at the beginning. One's mind immersed in modern empirical science will find it all difficult to accept for it has no need of it. One would have to spend a sustained amount of time immersing oneself in the necessary metaphysics.

StoneTop said...

To really understand the matter you would need to start at the beginning and do a whole course in defensive metaphysics were the principle of final causality is justified from first principles.

For starters I'd like to say how interesting it is that there is a branch of metaphysics devoted to defending metaphysics...

My question is then "what justifies those first principles?"

To be like a carbon atom is a carbon atom's end.

Well then it has already reached that end... the carbon atom is already acting like a carbon atom.

Without being directed to an end something can't act at all, it is like riding off on a bike in all directions at once.

In what way does a carbon atom need directing to be a carbon atom? It is acting like a carbon atom because int has a number of protons and a number of neutrons in its nucleus, as well as some electrons surrounding it.

Everything seeks its own perfection, whatever that may be for it.

Seeks implies an active intelligence, but the vast majority of the universe has no need of an intelligence to direct its action. The moon doesn't need one to keep orbiting the earth, the atoms in my toe don't need one to keep being atoms.

One's mind immersed in modern empirical science will find it all difficult to accept for it has no need of it.

That last point seems rather telling... if an empirical mind doesn't need to see things seeking perfection and such then what makes those things at all necessary?

Aquinas3000 said...

"For starters I'd like to say how interesting it is that there is a branch of metaphysics devoted to defending metaphysics.."

You misapprehend. It is not a branch of metaphysics devoted to defending metaphysics, it is so named because it is the branch of metaphysics devoted to defending the first principles of thought which is already metaphysics. The more common name for it is epistemology that studies our knowledge and capacity to know truth. Chapter IV of Aristotle's metaphysics where he defends the principle of non contradiction against sophists is defensive metaphysics.

"My question is then "what justifies those first principles?""

Well certainly not by means of another principle for if there was another principle that justified a first principle it wouldn't be a first principle. First principles are defended or justified indirectly by reducing to absurdity any denial of it. Otherwise it is impossible really to argue with one who denies one. Alternatively there is what is known as proof improperly so called which involves making manifest the terms of the proposition so that its evidence shines more clearly.

"Well then it has already reached that end... the carbon atom is already acting like a carbon atom."

Which may involve tending to react with something else in a certain way etc. All things act according to their nature since the manner of do follows the manner of be, things act as they are. But any act is an act for something or else it is unintelligible. An act that is not an act to do anything. It is always acting like a carbon atom along its own line of being for it is always being directed so.

"In what way does a carbon atom need directing to be a carbon atom? It is acting like a carbon atom because int has a number of protons and a number of neutrons in its nucleus, as well as some electrons surrounding it."

All of which behave in a certain way... it just pushes it back one more.

"Seeks implies an active intelligence, but the vast majority of the universe has no need of an intelligence to direct its action. The moon doesn't need one to keep orbiting the earth, the atoms in my toe don't need one to keep being atoms."

The fact things act in a certain way, or on account of some end and the fact that to do so requires intelligence is the very point of the argument. To say it doesn't need is to precisely the point at issue that is being disputed. Non intelligent beings cannot order themselves to their own end so they are ordered by another. You see the moon orbiting and think it is self sufficient - that is where the disagreement comes in. No analogy is perfect but it is like seeing a football in the air and saying that clearly it doesn't need someone to have kicked it. Materialists just can't see the player or the need for one so to speak.

Aquinas3000 said...

"That last point seems rather telling... if an empirical mind doesn't need to see things seeking perfection and such then what makes those things at all necessary?"

Lol I smiled at this for this is the most telling comment. You are confirming my point. If an empirical mind doesn't need it then why is it necessary! Empiricalism is not the sum view of reality.

However I did not say he could no see things acting in their own line of being but that if something acts for an end and is not itself intelligent it requires an intelligence to act for the end for only an intelligence can perceive the nature of end as such and seek it. That is based on the nature of being itself but because it isn't needed for my mathematico-empirical description of what is happening I need not advert to it. But that is wrong for it is still ontologically necessary.

Have you tried reading a good scholastic manual? I ask this as a genuine well meant question. I can see why you are dissatisfied since I'm leaving a lot out but I can't teach you all the philosophy necessary in these comboxes any more than I could teach you all the dynamics necessary to pass an applied mechanics exam here...It is very difficult when we are starting from very different positions where prior matters would undoubtedly need to be sorted.

StoneTop said...

It is not a branch of metaphysics devoted to defending metaphysics, it is so named because it is the branch of metaphysics devoted to defending the first principles of thought which is already metaphysics.

That sounds like defending metaphysics... after all where would metaphysics be without its first principals?

First principles are defended or justified indirectly by reducing to absurdity any denial of it.

Then why do those first principals need defending?

But any act is an act for something or else it is unintelligible. An act that is not an act to do anything. It is always acting like a carbon atom along its own line of being for it is always being directed so.

Why does is an act that isn't "for" something unintelligible? Why does it need to be directed (and how is it directed)?

All of which behave in a certain way... it just pushes it back one more.

Yep, those are called quarks... and what is deeper then that? Well we don't know yet... but looking into such things has proven much more fruitful then dead-ending it with metaphysical God-did-its.

To say it doesn't need is to precisely the point at issue that is being disputed. Non intelligent beings cannot order themselves to their own end so they are ordered by another.

Why not? The universe got along quite well for the billions of years before we showed up.

No analogy is perfect but it is like seeing a football in the air and saying that clearly it doesn't need someone to have kicked it.

Why would someone have needed to have kicked it? It could have fallen from somewhere.

Your bit reminds me of conversations I've had with creationists in the past... where they would argue that everything is clearly designed because we design things.... with the analogy of a car us knowing that a car was designed.

The problem there is that our knowledge of something being "designed" in really just a bit of Bayesian inference drawn from our prior experiences...

If I showed you a picture of a football against a blue sky could you say with certainty that it had been kicked and had not fallen from somewhere?

Materialists just can't see the player or the need for one so to speak.

So why is a player needed?

Aquinas3000 said...

The first principles of metaphysics are the first principles of thought. Without them there can be no science of any kind since they are the most basic truisms (such as the principle of non contradiction). If a person denies we can even know truth you can't even begin. So defensive metaphysics answers two questions "whether the human mind can know being by intellection" and secondly "how the human mind knows being by intellection." I'll just call it epistemology if you are struggling with the other term.

Why do first principles need defending? Well because there are some people crazy enough to deny them. But as noted the only way to defend them is indirectly. It is all about a technical defense and examination of the spontaneous certitudes of the intellect, which is what philosophy (partly) does, give technical explanation to common sense.

I'm not sure about indefinitely continuing this dialogue. It doesn't seem to be the best forum for this which is shown by the manifold misunderstandings each post seems to breed (thinking I'm talking about the argument for design, and that my comment had something to do with humans coming along etc etc). You didn't reply to my final question which means I suspect the answer is no. Well like anything you need to put the hard work in if you are genuinely intereted.

StoneTop said...

Empiricalism is not the sum view of reality.

So all views of reality are equally valid?

However I did not say he could no see things acting in their own line of being but that if something acts for an end and is not itself intelligent it requires an intelligence to act for the end for only an intelligence can perceive the nature of end as such and seek it.

Why does something need to perceive an end and seek it out? The proton in my finger doesn't need to see an end or seek one out, it can simply be a proton until it decays (if proton decay occurs).

I can see why you are dissatisfied since I'm leaving a lot out but I can't teach you all the philosophy necessary in these comboxes any more than I could teach you all the dynamics necessary to pass an applied mechanics exam here...

Sure, but if I was questioning something like the fluid mechanics part of applied mechanics you could just point to the nearest fridge or A/C unit. Just like if you questioned the validity of electromagnetism I can just hand you one end of a jumper cable hooked up to a car battery... or if you questioned General Relativity I can just point to a GPS unit.

StoneTop said...

thinking I'm talking about the argument for design, and that my comment had something to do with humans coming along etc etc

Actually I wasn't saying that you were talking about the argument for design... I was comparing what you were saying to the argument from design (we do things intentionally -> everything has to be done intentionally is very similar to we design things -> everything is designed).

Aquinas3000 said...

The argument is not we do things intentionally --> everything has to be done intentionally just for clarity's sake. Anyway, adios.

StoneTop said...

Again, the question becomes why must something perceive an end in order for it to "act"? The proton does not need to seek an end to be a proton, it just has to continue being a proton.

That is based on the nature of being itself but because it isn't needed for my mathematico-empirical description of what is happening I need not advert to it.

But that would be rather contradictory... If an intelligence is changing empirical properties then it can be studies empirically... otherwise there will be an empirical cause for that change (negating the need for a non-empirical cause).

Anyway, that's enough for me on this bit.

Menahem Luz said...

the form hylemorphic is etymologically incorrect: in words combinations ancient and modern Greek use combine the roots by omikron not by maintaing the feminine ending 'eta' - in fact, even endings of attributes formed from word combinations have use the masculine instead of femine - eg hylomorphos and not hylomorphe
- so hylomorphic is the correct form and incidently that regularly used in scholarship not as stated on your site hylomorphe
Menahem Luz, Haifa

Anonymous said...

It is funny how evolutionist say intelligent design theorist and creationist(and they are different)are playing the god of the gaps game,but whenever they have no answer for the philosophers its back to the talisman,evolution did it.Mere assertion,no argument.Calling someone a creationist just won't do either,for it's not an argument.So, if you would like to debate evolution,then by all means go right ahead,but if not,then address the arguments for immateriality of the mind,or the difference between a human and Fido, directly.