Monday, September 12, 2011

Monkey in your soul?

Before we get to part II of my series on modern biology and original sin, I want briefly to reply to some of the responses made to part I.  Recall that my remarks overlapped with points recently made by Mike Flynn and by Kenneth Kemp in his American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly article “Science, Theology, and Monogenesis” (which, I have since discovered, is available online).  If you haven’t yet read Flynn and Kemp, you should do so before reading anything else on this subject.  As they argue, there is no conflict between the genetic evidence that modern humans descended from a population of at least several thousand individuals, and the theological claim that modern humans share a common pair of ancestors.  For suppose we regard the pair in question as two members of this larger group who, though genetically related to the others, are distinct from them in having immaterial souls, which (from the point of view of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy and Catholic theology) are a necessary condition for the possession of genuine intellectual powers and can be only be imparted directly by God.  Only this pair and their descendents, to whom God also imparts souls and thus intellects, would count as human in the metaphysical and theologically relevant sense, even if the other members of the original larger group are human in the purely biological sense.  As Kemp writes:

These first true human beings also have descendants, which continue, to some extent, to interbreed with the non-intellectual hominids among whom they live.  If God endows each individual that has even a single [metaphysically] human ancestor with an intellect of its own, a reasonable rate of reproductive success and a reasonable selective advantage would easily replace a non-intellectual hominid population of 5,000 individuals with a philosophically (and, if the two concepts are extensionally equivalent, theologically) human population within three centuries.  Throughout this process, all theologically human beings would be descended from a single original human couple (in the sense of having that human couple among their ancestors) without there ever having been a population bottleneck in the human species. 

So there is no problem of reconciling the claims in question.  On the scenario proposed, the modern human population has the genes it has because it is descended from a group of several thousand individuals, only two of whom had immaterial souls.  But only those later individuals who had this pair among their ancestors (even if they also had as ancestors members of the original group which did not have immaterial souls) have descendents living today.  In that sense, every modern human is both descended from an original population of several thousand and from an original pair.  There is no contradiction because the claim that modern humans are descended from an original pair does not entail that they received all their genes from that pair alone.  As Flynn points out, critics like Jerry Coyne confuse the claim that there is one man from whom all modern humans are descended -- a claim that is part of the doctrine of original sin -- with the claim that all modern humans are descended from only one man -- a claim which need not be understood as part of the doctrine.  And as Flynn also points out, it is arguably only the male of the pair, and not the couple, that the doctrine requires all modern humans to be descended from. 

Now, recall that this whole blogospheric debate got started because Coyne boldly proclaimed that “we can dismiss a physical Adam and Eve with near scientific certainty” but also professed interest in hearing “the best way to reconcile the Biblical story of Adam and Eve with the genetic facts” (even offering as a prize for the best answer an autographed copy of his book Why Evolution is True).  So, now that he’s got his answer, what does Coyne do?  He completely misses the point.  In response to my recent post, Coyne writes:

If souls and sin are transmitted vertically, from parents to offspring—as suggested by [Feser’s]  hypothesis… —then we should still see a two-person genetic bottleneck some time in the past, tracing back to those two lucky individuals who won the soul lottery.  We don’t see that.

Moreover, all the genes of every living human should “coalesce” back to the same time and the same two people.  But we don’t see that either: each gene segment had its ancestor at a different time (and often at a different place) in the past: the Y chromosome, for instance, coalesces back to an ancestor who lived about 60,000 years more recently than the female ancestor who bequeathed us the genes in our mitochondria.  So this solution is also untenable.

How can Coyne say such things, given that one of Flynn’s and Kemp’s main points is that the doctrine of original sin does not in fact entail a bottleneck; given Flynn’s argument that it does not even require that all modern humans descend from the female of the original pair, but need regard only the male as their common ancestor; and given Flynn’s further point that the scenario proposed does not require identifying Adam and Eve with “Y-chromosomal Adam” and “Mitochondrial Eve,” respectively?  

He can say them because Coyne obviously didn’t bother reading Flynn or Kemp, that’s how, even though I cited them.  True, I didn’t say much about the details of Flynn’s and Kemp’s arguments myself in my own original post (for I didn’t have anything to add to what they said about the genetic considerations, but wanted to emphasize instead the crucial difference between a metaphysical account of human nature and a purely biological one).  But then, I doubt that Coyne read even my post.  It seems pretty clear that he was relying on Jason Rosenhouse’s summary of what I wrote.  Yet Rosenhouse did apparently read at least Kemp, and does not say the point-missing things Coyne does.  (Coyne says that Rosenhouse “overlooked” the “flaw” Coyne claims to identify.  But Rosenhouse didn’t “overlook” it; rather, he actually did some homework, and perhaps concluded that Coyne’s original objection had been effectively answered by Kemp and decided to drop the subject.)

So, Coyne has no excuse.  Had he bothered to do his own homework he would have known that his reply completely misses the point, and had already been answered by Flynn and Kemp.  But reading a blog post summary of another blog post’s allusion to what a third blog post and a journal article had to say is evidently Coyne’s idea of research, at least when he pontificates on the subject of religion.  The results are predictably embarrassing, or would be if Coyne were capable of embarrassment.  And so the real mystery here is not the doctrine of original sin.  The real mystery is why anyone still takes seriously anything Jerry Coyne has to say about religion.   Anyway, Prof. Coyne, Mike Flynn and Kenneth Kemp are waiting for their signed copies of your book.  (I’ve already got a copy, so no need to send me one.)

Rosenhouse has criticisms of his own.  But though he does not miss the point the way Coyne does, his objections have no more force than Coyne’s.  Rosenhouse says, first of all, that:

The first piece of evidence against [the scenario summarized above] is that the Bible does not teach anything remotely like what Feser is describing… Where in the Genesis story does he find a preexisting population of physically human but unensouled creatures?  And how does he account for the Genesis language, which explicitly tries to account for physical bodies and not just for mental endowments?

In other words: “Wait, you’re not a fundamentalist!  That’s not fair!”   

As I noted in my previous post, what Catholic theology requires is that all humans living today have Adam as an ancestor, and that Adam’s soul was infused directly by God.  It does not require that Adam was literally made directly from dust or clay.  And though Rosenhouse is correct that Genesis is interested in the formation of Adam’s body and not merely the origin of his soul, that too is consistent with the Flynn/Kemp account if we think of the matter God used to form that body as derived from pre-existing hominids rather than straight from the earth.  I know Rosenhouse, Coyne, and Co. would like it to be the case that all Christians are crude literalists --after all, that would facilitate atheist combox smart-assery and other forms of Serious Thinking.  But it just isn’t so.  As a matter of fact, the most traditional Christians are not crude literalists.  As Mike Flynn emphasizes in his post, that the literal and figurative senses of statements in the book of Genesis must be carefully distinguished is a long-standing theme in traditional biblical exegesis, and was famously explored by St. Augustine.  Flynn writes:

If I want to know "what Christianity teaches," I would be inclined to ask the Orthodox or Catholic churches, as they have near 2000 years of noodling over it.  Yet when the Coynes of the world want to tell us 'what Christians believe,' they agitate over the idiosyncratic beliefs of Bill and Ted's Excellent Bible Shack, whose teachings go back to last Tuesday.  Go figure.

To be sure, this does not mean that Catholic theology allows us to reinterpret just any old passage of Genesis as we see fit.  The point is just that the situation is far more complicated than claiming either that it all must be taken literally or that none of it need be taken literally.  A reader calls attention to some articles by Fr. Brian Harrison -- here, here, and here -- which detail the history of the Church’s doctrinal statements concerning human origins and evolution, and argue that Catholic teaching on the subject is more conservative than many realize.  In particular, Fr. Harrison argues that the miraculous formation of Eve from Adam’s side is binding Catholic doctrine.  At the same time, Fr. Harrison acknowledges that the Church does not condemn either “special transformism” -- the view (which Pius XII evidently had in mind in Humani Generis) that in forming Adam, God conjoined a human soul to matter derived from pre-existing hominids and “upgraded” so as to make it suitable for such infusion -- or evolutionary accounts of sub-human species.  And special transformism is all that is essential to the point that Flynn, Kemp, and I have been making about the compatibility of the doctrine of original sin with the genetic evidence.  In any event, as I say, the situation is more complicated than fundamentalists, theological liberals, and New Atheists suppose.

Even given a completely literal reading of the relevant passages in Genesis, there is less conflict with Flynn’s and Kemp’s proposal than Rosenhouse suggests.  We are told that Cain feared that others might kill him.  Who were these others?  That we are not told, and thus have to speculate.  Perhaps they were further progeny of Adam.  But Flynn’s and Kemp’s account provides another possibility -- that they were (to use Rosenhouse’s words) members of “a preexisting population of physically human but unensouled creatures.”

Rosenhouse’s other response to what I wrote is (again, perhaps because he could see that Kemp had in effect answered Coyne’s original objection) to change the subject.  The subject, you’ll recall, was whether the doctrine of original sin is compatible with the genetic evidence.  The subject was not whether the doctrine is true.  Obviously I think it is true, but that is a separate issue requiring a separate discussion.  Flynn, Kemp, and I were not trying to convince skeptics to accept the doctrine of original sin, but only to show that rightly understood, the doctrine is compatible with the claim that modern humans descended from a population well above two individuals.  Rosenhouse, however, complains that we have not established the truth of a key presupposition of our defense of the doctrine, viz. the immateriality of the human soul -- even though I explicitly said that I was not claiming to have done that in the post he’s responding to (since doing so was not necessary to answering the specific objection at hand and the post was already long enough).

I also noted that the immateriality of the human soul is something I have argued for elsewhere.  For example, I treat the subject at length in my books Philosophy of Mind, The Last Superstition, and Aquinas.  I address it in numerous previous blog posts.  Yet Rosenhouse assures us that:

Catholic theologians have not the slightest basis for saying that our nature is simply not exhausted by our physical attributes.

Hear that?  Not “a highly controversial basis.”  Not “a basis that I, Jason Rosenhouse, find unconvincing.”  No, not the slightest basis.  Now, forget about my own arguments for the intellect’s immateriality (though Rosenhouse says nothing in response to them).  A great many more important Catholic philosophers and theologians have also presented serious arguments for it, as have non-Catholic Christians and pagan thinkers in the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions.  Secular writers like Karl Popper and David Chalmers have endorsed forms of dualism.  Secular writers like Bertrand Russell, A. J. Ayer, and Galen Strawson, while they do not embrace dualism, nevertheless reject physicalism.  Yet others, like Thomas Nagel, Jerry Fodor, and Joseph Levine, have argued that there are at least serious difficulties facing physicalism which have yet to be answered.  And many materialists who think these difficulties can be answered at least acknowledge that the difficulties are indeed serious ones raised by critics in good faith.  Then there are secular non-dualists like Tyler Burge, John Searle, and William Lycan, who (as I have noted before) have expressed the opinion that the dominance of materialism in contemporary philosophy of mind owes less to the quality of the arguments in its favor than to ideological thinking.  

But for Rosenhouse, it seems, none of these thinkers has the slightest basis for his views.  It’s all just transparently feeble religious apologetics, apparently even with the many secularists among them.  No doubt that’s because Rosenhouse read a materialist philosophy of mind book once back in college which he thinks “refuted” all the objections to materialism once and for all.   (As we know from his dismissiveness towards the cosmological argument, once Prof. Dr. Jason Rosenhouse has found some particular book on a philosophical subject convincing, causa finita est and philosophers need wrestle over it no further.)  

Such preposterous overstatement would be inexcusable even if Rosenhouse had shown any evidence that he understands the issues.  But he quite obviously does not understand them.  He continues:

Intelligence and rationality appear to be things that come in degrees.  Dogs already have the ability to learn hundreds of commands.  They can form complex emotional relationships with people.  They can understand their place in a pack.  All of this requires considerable mental processing ability.  What basis is there for saying that purely physical processes in the brain can account for these, fairly sophisticated, mental accomplishments, but cannot account for abstract reasoning or rationality as well?

Even the brief comments I made in my previous post should make it obvious what is wrong with this argument from an Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) point of view.  None of the examples Rosenhouse gives requires a grasp of abstract concepts, as opposed to mere sensation, mental imagery, or the processing of material symbols.  And it is abstract concepts -- for instance, the concept man as opposed to a sensation of a particular man or a mental image of a certain man’s appearance or voice,  or a neural structure that is causally correlated with particular men encountered in the past -- that A-T philosophers (and by no means only A-T philosophers) argue cannot be material.  For conceptual thought can have a determinate, unambiguous content and a universality of reference that sensations, mental imagery, and material symbols cannot have even in principle.  Rosenhouse is free to argue against this claim if he wishes, but he really ought at least to try to understand it, and the reasons A-T philosophers would give for it, before doing so.  As I often do, I would recommend James Ross’s article “Immaterial Aspects of Thought” for a fine contemporary statement of those reasons.  (That the resulting position is in no way at odds with what we know from modern neuroscience is something I have argued for here.)

Rosenhouse continues:

And that's just dogs.  Once we start contemplating apes the basis for Feser's arguments gets very rickety indeed.  Apes have sophisticated tool-making and tool-using capabilities.  They can learn sign language and have shown an ability to combine signs in logical ways to express concepts beyond what they were specifically taught.  Are you really confident they have no ability for abstraction or the use of logic?

The answer is Yes, I am confident of that, for the same sorts of reasons Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker are confident that the “evidence” for ape sign language is completely bogus.  (Last time I checked, Chomsky and Pinker weren’t religious apologists.)  But even if Chomsky, Pinker, and I are all wrong, that wouldn’t show that the intellect is material.  For if it turned out that apes really did have genuine intellectual powers, what would follow instead is that they too had immaterial souls -- and indeed, that they were arguably therefore “human” in the metaphysical sense even if not in the genetic sense, for they would in that case be rational animals.  

Until there’s real evidence for that, though -- and I won’t hold my breath -- it looks like there ain’t no monkey in any (metaphysically) human soul.  In our bodies maybe, but souls, no.  But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the classic Steely Dan tune:

299 comments:

1 – 200 of 299   Newer›   Newest»
G. Kyle Essary said...

Brilliant post and all, but I'm most happy that we get a dose of Pretzel Logic at the end.

Edward Feser said...

Hey, all Coyne and Co. ever give us is pretzel logic...

(Badum tish -- I'll be here all week...)

Josh said...

"Catholic theologians have not the slightest basis for saying that our nature is simply not exhausted by our physical attributes."

What pig-ignorance. What elitism. The bigger the lie, I guess the easier to swallow for some people...

Pretzel Logic is the best all-around Dan; been my favorite since high school. Hopefully the monkeys and I can sit and listen to it someday when they evolve intellects. Is Magilla Gorilla a real possibility?

Alan Fox said...

Dr. Feser,

I know you consider Coyne wilfully ignorant of Catholic theology but do you consider yourself well-informed enough to argue biology with Coyne?

Alan Fox said...

Professor Kemp wrote:

Two particular possibilities commend themselves, though there is no strong reason to prefer them to some intermediate date. The more remote would be immediately subsequent to the rise of Homo
sapiens (so, perhaps as early as 200 kya), placing theologically human beings completely within an only slightly larger biological species, excluding Homo erectus and (whatever his exact relation to those two species) Neanderthalers.
Such a recent origin for theological humanity would fit most easily into (though it does not logically imply) the uniregionalist (or recent African) theory of
human origins.

The most recent possible date (the terminus ante quem, really) would be the time of the final African emigration some 60 kya. This coincides closely with the appearance in the archeological record of a variety of artefacts that seem clearly to require rationality, of which Cro-Magnon art is only the most spectacular example.


So the historical Adam and Eve were hominids that lived either 60 or 200 thousand years ago and the Biblical account is somewhat allegorical. Correct? No-one here is suggesting the genesis account is anything approaching literal truth, right?

Aquinas3000 said...

But what about the fact that then you have all these humans mating with subjects that they can't even hold an intelligent conversation with? You are 'married' to an irrational animal!

Imagine having mum and dad and while mum is intelligent while dad is a human looking creature on the same level as a dog or dolphin! Interesting family dynamics (!)

Anonymous said...

audgectrOnce you throw in supernatural acts of ensoulment, all normal logic becomes useless.

This post is a terribly weak interpretation of the more richly interpretable story of Eden and Genesis.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Thanks for the post, Dr. Feser!

By the way, what would you recommend of Burge's in the philosophy of mind? I just recently read, and very much, enjoyed, an article of his on Frege.

BenYachov said...

>I know you consider Coyne wilfully ignorant of Catholic theology but do you consider yourself well-informed enough to argue biology with Coyne?

I have never seen Dr. Feser on this blog or in his writings dispute the facts of Biological science with any professional biologist. Thought he may dispute the biologists in the area of the Philosophy of Science which no doubt he has some competence being a professional philosopher.

Coyne OTOH clearly has no competence in philosophy whatsoever not just theology. In fact like most Gnu'noids no doubt he conflates the two.

He doesn't even seem to understand any Atheist Philosophy from anyone who matters. Quintin Smith, Mackie, Sobel etc....

Has he even read them or does he just read Dawkins, Harris and Dennet.

That's like me reading only ANSWERS IN GENESIS and nothing of note. It's embarrassing!

BenYachov said...

>No-one here is suggesting the genesis account is anything approaching literal truth, right?

If you mean a modern version of a literal history no but why does the Bible have to conform to that genre?

To quote the Holy Father of happy memory Pius XII ""What is the literal sense of a passage is not always as obvious in the speeches and writings of the ancient authors of the East, as it is in the works of our own time. For what they wished to express is not to be determined by the rules of grammar and philology alone, nor solely by the context; the interpreter must, as it were, go back wholly in spirit to those remote centuries of the East and with the aid of history, archaeology, ethnology, and other sciences, accurately determine what modes of writing, so to speak, the authors of that ancient period would be likely to use, and in fact did use. For the ancient peoples of the East, in order to express their ideas, did not always employ those forms or kinds of speech which we use today; but rather those used by the men of their times and countries. What those exactly were the commentator cannot determine as it were in advance, but only after a careful examination of the ancient literature of the East" (Divino Afflante Spiritu 35–36). END QUOTE

BenYachov said...

>But what about the fact that then you have all these humans mating with subjects that they can't even hold an intelligent conversation with?

I object on rational grounds to unequivocally comparing what it would be like for modern educated rational beings to have mates with no rationality as opposed too primordial newly rational beings to have mate of this nature.

Think about it.

BenYachov said...

You guys aren't imagining what it would be like to be Adam. Ok so you are rational but you don't know anything yet save likely some infused knowledge of the Divine Law.

So I doubt it was Cook from Planet of the Apes with Nova.

BenYachov said...

>“Wait, you’re not a fundamentalist! That’s not fair!”

That is a neat summery of many of the Atheist objections I have been getting on the other thread.

JamesG said...

Thank you so much Prof. Feser, I dont think I would have ever understood A-T thought clearly as much if I wasnt drawn to your blog (perhaps with the exception of the late M.J. Adler which started it all). It has given me so much food for thought. Maybe one day, I'll tackle the 'summa' head-on and appreciate it more.

Cheers! :)

Now back to hiding and let the intellectual heavy-weights continue on this post.

BenYachov said...

>In particular, Fr. Harrison argues that the miraculous formation of Eve from Adam’s side is binding Catholic doctrine.

I remember reading that but I disagree with Fr. Harison's conclusions. Especially when read in light of the analysis of Dr. Dennis Bonnette.

But Fr. Harrison is entitled to his opinion and has the liberty as a Catholic to believe it.

OTOH there are other ways around it as Dr. Bonnette taught.

Neil Parille said...

Ben,

Once one starts "demythologzing" the opening chapters of Genesis, what prevents someone such as Raymond Brown from taking the same approach to the infancy narratives?

One of the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission said there was no history in the Genesis 1-11 and, just in case he was misunderstood, compared it to Little Red Riding Hood.

In his book on Jesus, the Pope praised John Meier's liberal series A Marginal Jew. Meier is probably more skeptical on the accuracy of the Bible than Brown.

Of course no one denies the importance of understanding genre, but even someone as liberal as James Barr said that the opening chapters of Genesis are meant to be historical and teach a literal 7 day creation.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

Thank you for a thought-provoking article. I have to say that I disagree with some points you've made. I'll discuss them one at a time, as posts here have a word limit.

My first problem is with your comment: "For if it turned out that apes really did have genuine intellectual powers, what would follow instead is that they too had immaterial souls -- and indeed, that they were arguably therefore "human" in the metaphysical sense even if not in the genetic sense, for they would in that case be rational animals."

May I point out that this conflicts with Kemp, whom you cite. Kemp writes: "A rational soul could not be the form of a piscine, or even a simian, body." (p. 231)

I should add that if apes do have immaterial souls, then (a) they may be saved or damned; (b) we are obliged to preach the Gospel to them.

But it's not just apes. Perhaps, if they turned out to possess rationality, we could re-define them as human beings as they are hominids like ourselves, and situate the Fall further back in time, before the Homo-pongid split six million years ago. But what if there are creatures distantly related to us, like dolphins or African grey parrots, who possess rationality? Two problems arise here.

First, we are no longer the lords of creation, the crown of God's handiwork on Earth. There are multiple crowns: humans, dolphins and parrots.

Second, it would follow that killing dolphins and parrots is murder, and eating their flesh is cannibalism. You WOULD expect a Judeo-Christian God to warn us NOT to do those things. He didn't.

So I have to say that I'd regard the discovery of rationality in dolphins and parrots - and even apes - as fatal to Christianity. With the greatest respect (and let me stress that I don't wish to question your orthodoxy), I have to say I think your proposal is too "ecumenical", Ed.

BenYachov said...

>Once one starts "demythologzing" the opening chapters of Genesis, what prevents someone such as Raymond Brown from taking the same approach to the infancy narratives?

The Authority of the Catholic Church which is guarded and guided by the Holy Spirit.

Of course Protestant are up the creek but hey they wanted a "reformation". You sow the wind you reap the whirlwind.

No worries.

Anonymous said...

Neill,
I don't want to derail this comment thread, but my postgrad degrees are both in OT studies with a particularly focus on Genesis. What Barr says is right...to an extent. The problem is that people are often so busy asking what the text means that they overlook what the text says. Let me give a few quick examples that should suffice:

1. Why do we make no distinction between bara' and 'asah in the passage? The vast majority of scholars (with John Walton and one or two others disagreeing) hold that bara' refers to ontological creation, but 'asah refers to functional shaping of created things (Walton holds that both refer to functional shaping). If we hold there to be a distinction, then everything is bara'd in verse 1, save the great sea creatures and man, which are bara'd later.

2. Why do we read creative acts, ontological or functional, into the verses where it isn't mentioned at all? Why do we assume that God saying, "Let the light be" in verse 3 refers to ontological creation, when similar Hebrew constructions appears elsewhere in the OT and simply mean, "let the sun come up"

3. Why do we think of "In the beginning" as the point of time before God's initial creative act, or some big bang type event? bereshiyt typically refers to an undefined period of time before the current time. Thus, in Job 8:7 it can refer to Job's earlier life, verses these latter days. Or in Jeremiah 28:1 it can refer to the "beginning" of Zedekiah's reign, although it is years into his actual reign.

There are many more, such as tohu vabohu not meaning "formless and void" or why the author chose the word "land" instead of the word typically used for "earth," and on and on...I think we need to start figuring out what the Hebrew actually says before we get defensive about what it means and how to interpret it in light of science. Personally, taking a rather literal approach to the Hebrew meaning in the text, I have no problem reconciling things with modern science, allowing for the ontological creation of the soul with the couple that God places in the garden.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi again, Ed.

My second point relates to your remark: "None of the examples Rosenhouse gives requires a grasp of abstract concepts, as opposed to mere sensation, mental imagery, or the processing of material symbols... For conceptual thought can have a determinate, unambiguous content and a universality of reference that sensations, mental imagery, and material symbols cannot have even in principle."

All right. You want abstract concepts? Take a look at this Web page:

http://www.123compute.net/dreaming/knocking/alex.html

Scroll to the video at the bottom. The parrot (Alex) is able to answer the question, "How many green blocks?" - "Two." Now, I'm perfectly aware of the "Clever Hans" phenomenon. (I did my Ph.D. on animal minds - although I was principally concerned with the so-called "dumb" animals, like worms and insects and fish, which can do some very interesting things even though they are not sentient.) But IF the experiment with Alex the grey parrot was properly conducted and Alex was not being cued, primed or trained by rote, and his answer wasn't just a lucky guess on his part, then here we have a genuine cognitive feat requiring conceptual thought. For as Alex's trainer/owner Irene Pepperberg pointed out, there were various green objects on the tray, and they weren't all blocks. Also, there were blocks on the tray that weren't green. Being able to count green blocks would have therefore required abstract thinking.

I'm a little wary of the claim that a capacity for concepts is the critical capacity differentiating humans from non-rational animals. For me, what matters is that animals are unable to explain the basis of their judgments - that is, they cannot justify themselves - and they seem to lack the notion of a prescriptive rule. To say that they lack all concepts may be going a bit far, however.

Would you agree, Ed?

Anonymous said...

And Alex the parrot's last words to Irene Pepperberg were 'I love you. You be good.'

Vincent Torley said...

Hello again, Ed.

My third point relates to Kemp's distinction between a biological species, a philosophical species and a theological species. What Kemp is willing to concede (and you apparently agree) is that a creature could be biologically human (genetically just like us) but not metaphysically (or in Kemp's terminology, philosophically) human, with a rational soul. On top of that, theological human beings are rational animals with an eternal destiny, so that's a further distinction. For example, on page 232, Kemp writes:

"The first two theologically human beings misuse their free will, however, by choosing to commit a (the original) sin, thereby losing the preternatural gifts, though not the offer of divine friendship by virtue of which they remain theologically (not just philosophically) distinct from their merely biologically human ancestors and cousins. These first true human beings also have descendants, which continue, to some extent, to interbreed with the non-intellectual hominids among whom they live." (Bold type mine.)

This is a disastrous argumentative concession to make, in my opinion. For what it allows is that an entity which is biologically human may not be truly human.

Once you make that concession, Ed, the whole pro-life case collapses. You know that as well as I do - indeed, you criticized Descartes' dualism in your book "Aquinas" for precisely this reason.

I put it to you that human is human. There are not two types of human beings: biological and metaphysical. And there are certainly not three - biological, philosophical and theological - as Kemp proposes. (Actually, Kemp contradicts himself: at times he refers to Adam's contemporaries as "genetically human-like", rather than "human", even though he has acknowledged that they could interbreed with us.)

The notion that something could be biologically just like us and yet lack a rational soul is problematic, then, because it splits the notion of humanity. None of the Church Fathers split it in the way that Kemp does. His proposal is a theological novelty.

At the same time, I agree entirely with your assertion that our capacity for reasoning is not a bodily capacity. So here's my bizarre suggestion: there's something about the biological nature of the human body which makes it impossible for anything but a rational soul to be its form. The immaterial soul still does the thinking, not the body - but if I'm right, then necessarily, anything which is biologically human must have a rational soul too.

"Why can't a human body have a sub-rational form?" you ask. My guess is that it requires a soul capable of voluntary acts of self-control in order to continue functioning biologically - at least, after early childhood. (And children have adults to take care of them, anyway.) Something like that. I haven't fleshed out the idea yet.

Do you agree with Kemp's definition of humanity, Ed?

DNW said...

I'm not certain I have a "dog in this fight" as they say, but having offered that qualification, let me once again observe that it is the kumbaya chanting secularists among us who are themselves to be counted as among the most ardent when it comes to proclaiming some form of monogenesis.

The fact that they have somewhat different motivations than the Christian for doing so, doesn't alter the case.

Even a casual observer has noted over the last decade or more, that "one humanity out of Africa" has become an article of scientific dogma bearing suspiciously moral overtones among politically conscious anthropologists of the kind that most stridently reject Wolpoff's theory of multiregional evolution - similar I take it to Coon's notion recorded in the Kemp essay.

The recent frenzy over a Y chromosome Adam and a mitochondrial DNA Eve was not precipitated by fundamentalist Christians looking for a historical hook on which to hang their religious doctrines. It was generated by extremely secular persons who were frantic to formally establish that we are all human in the same sense, and that we share a humanity that is traceable enough to supposedly constitute "One Human Family".

This "fact" then, is supposed to somehow establish an intrinsic connection between all "peoples", and entail thereby the existence of an intrinsic moral community.

Of course if the secularists took their own fact/value dichotomy preachments seriously, it wouldn't matter anyway.

But why should they do that when by pretending, they can have their cake and eat it too.

David T said...

Vincent,

"But IF the experiment with Alex the grey parrot was properly conducted and Alex was not being cued, primed or trained by rote, and his answer wasn't just a lucky guess on his part, then here we have a genuine cognitive feat requiring conceptual thought."

Well, yes... but the whole issue is in that IF, isn't it? Channeling Hume, what's more likely here? That Alex is just another in the long line of experiments that apparently show rational thought in animals, but on closer examination don't? Or that, finally, a researcher has stumbled on the cognitive breakthrough everyone else has missed and that overturns our basic understanding of man and animals?

We should remember that in all these cases, animals show allegedly cognitive thought only after being TRAINED by man. Alex doesn't count or pick out colors unless prompted by his trainer. One wonders why, if an animal has such cognitive ability, it manifests itself only after extensive training by scientists, and stops manifesting itself when the training stops. This isn't how it works with men - "All men by nature desire to know", and exercise their cognitive faculties without prompting. Does nature, or God, instill in animals a faculty of rationality, superior to all other faculties, yet that is only manifest at the prompting of man?

I'm betting this is just another "looks like rationality but really isn't" experiment.

Josh said...

Vincent,

I'm a little wary of the claim that a capacity for concepts is the critical capacity differentiating humans from non-rational animals. For me, what matters is that animals are unable to explain the basis of their judgments - that is, they cannot justify themselves - and they seem to lack the notion of a prescriptive rule. To say that they lack all concepts may be going a bit far, however.

Here is the distinction better understood, from M. Adler:

"There is no doubt that the animal's power of perceptual thought enables it to perform acts of abstraction and generalization that have a certain similitude to human abstraction and generalization.

The animal's behavior manifests different reactions to objects that are different in kind. But the kinds of things that animals appear to differentiate are all kinds of which there are perceptual instances in the animal's experience. Humans differentiate kinds or classes of which there either are no perceptual instances in their experience or of which there cannot be any. This is the distinguishing characteristic of conceptual thought and the irrefutable evidence of the presence of intellect in man and of its absence in brutes."

--Ten Philosophical Mistakes, "Words and Meanings"

W.LindsayWheeler said...

I totally disagree with there being a 'group of people' and that only one pair was granted a special dispensation.

The finding of genetics in a group of people maybe flawed for reasons we don't know yet. Instead of rushing in, we should have patience.

For you see the Bible and the Laws of Nature agree on one thing. "Ex Uno Plures". Out of One Many. That is a law of nature. There is NOT a group of humans. There is only one source. Like God where all plurality came from. All men are descended from Adam.

This Post and its reasoning is not consistent with the natural law. Therefore it is in error. Aristotle said as much, the Chicken comes before the egg. The form comes first. Then all differentia.

As a philosopher, there is something wrong. It is the duty of Philosophy to correct the Physical sciences and in this aspect, there is some error somewhere, or humans are not taking into account something. They are missing something. Because the findings do not match what either Divine Revelation nor the Laws of Nature teach, I'd hold off on """melding""" theology with geneticts.

Something is not right.

Josh said...

I think the religious among us have been expressing a fear that too much is being conceded to the other side in an effort to conform Theology to Science, when it should be the other way around. But I don't read these posts that way. It seems to me that what is being done is a philosophical attempt to show merely that the science, or rather, the philosophical conclusions some scientists have come to, are not actually inconsistent with the faith. It doesn't mean the philosophers are necessarily positing something to conflict with de fide theology for the sake of accommodating science.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed.

In this post, I'd like to address Kemp's proposal that Adam and Eve and their rational descendants inter-bred with a band of several thousand hominids who were of the same biological species as themselves, but who lacked rational souls.

I put it to you that the nature of a rational animal is different from the nature of a sub-rational animal, and that a sub-rational animal is a beast, no matter what species it happens to belong to. I put it to you that having sex with a creature of a different nature from yourself - and a sub-rational beast at that - is bestiality, pure and simple.

So when Kemp writes that what fallen Adam and Eve and their descendants did was more like promiscuity than bestiality (pp. 232-233), I must object. A beast is a beast, and a man is a man.

Kemp's next excuse for the impropriety - even he acknowledges it may be "offensive to pious ears" - of the idea of Adam and Eve (and their children) mating with beasts is that these matings would have occurred after the Fall, and that they were sinful actions - "But the idea that our first ancestors were sinners can hardly be an objection to this theory."

Hold on. Here's my question. Suppose Adam and Eve hadn't fallen. Here's my question for Kemp: who was Cain supposed to marry? His sister? I would hope so. Kemp is surely not suggesting that God intended Cain to have sex with a beast, is he?

But if God didn't intend Cain to mate with any of these 10,000 hominids, then why did He allow such a large population of them to spring up in the first place, before choosing to rationally ensoul just two?

In other words, why isn't there a genetic bottleneck in the human line? That's what we'd expect, on theological grounds. Two's enough.

I'd also like to quote Augustine (City of God, Book XII, chapter 21): "And therefore God created only one single man, not, certainly, that he might be a solitary, bereft of all society, but that by this means the unity of society and the bond of concord might be more effectually commended to him, men being bound together not only by similarity of nature, but by family affection. And indeed He did not even create the woman that was to be given him as his wife, as he created the man, but created her out of the man, that the whole human race might derive from one man." He goes on to say that "God was not ignorant that man would sin." Knowing that, then, why would He have put temptation in Cain's path - in the form of literally thousands of eligible females with whom Cain could interbreed, but was not supposed to? Why would God have still expected Cain to say "No" to all these nubile females of his own biological species, and "Yes" to marrying his sister, instead? That doesn't sound like a very sensible choice to me, from a biological point of view - and I think any geneticist would agree with me.

Speaking of Cain's sister, I have to laugh at Kemp's logic when he argues that "the account of the exile of Cain (Gen 4:14–17) assumes the existence of other men in the world without giving an account of their creation." In a similar vein, you write, "We are told that Cain feared that others might kill him. Who were these others? ... Perhaps they were ... members of 'a preexisting population of physically human but unensouled creatures.'" That doesn't make sense. Why would these "others" have wanted to kill Cain? Because they knew he was a murderer. But knowing that requires a rational soul. Also in Genesis 4:15, God promises "vengeance seven times over" if any of these "others" kill Cain. How can you take vengeance on a sub-rational beast? Clearly, the writer of Genesis thought that the "others" were rational beings, not unensouled creatures.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

I sent you a post on the fallacy of Kemp's distinction between "biologically human", "philosophically human" and "theologically human", but it seems to have vanished into the ether. Let's see if it comes back.

Anyway, in this post, I'd like to comment further on Kemp's proposal that Adam and Eve and their rational descendants inter-bred with a band of several thousand hominids who were of the same biological species as themselves, but who lacked rational souls.

First, I'd like to remind you of just how odd the "bestiality" solution to the problem of reconciling monogenism with science really is. The notion that some of Adam's descendants are the product of bestiality has NO patristic support whatsoever. When you consider that some of the Fathers believed in fauns, satyrs and what have you, that's pretty striking.

Let me add that no bishop has ever proposed, discussed or approved Kemp's bestiality solution, and Rome hasn't commented on it either. It's extremely speculative. Kemp is skating on thin theological ice.

Kemp mentions some 1964 article by a priest named Andrew Alexander - but I can find no mention of it on the Internet, and Kemp doesn't actually quote it. Very odd.

I've spent several years looking for a way to reconcile monogenism with science, and this is the first time I've seen bestiality proposed by a Catholic source.

Jimmy Akin canvasses the bestiality scenario among five options he considers at http://www.jimmyakin.org/2006/10/
monogenism_scie.html :

a) A larger-than-two original population,
b) Freaky large genetic packages in the original two,
c) Breeding with non-humans,
d) Genetic engineering, or
e) Miraculous expansion of human genetic diversity.

What's his reaction to (c) (breeding with non-humans)? He writes: "When we turn to (c), I immediately find it repugnant on moral grounds. I don't like the idea of sentient humans mating with non-sentient near-humans..." (I guess he means non-sapient).

A later comment on Jimmy Akin's blog post by Eileen R., (October 16, 2006 at 07:36 PM) says it all:

"Mating with non-humans less iccky than incest? Good heavens. I find Augustine's old explanation of how the incest taboo came about quite convincing.

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/
120115.htm (Book XV - Chapter 16) - Scroll down for his insightful analysis of what is wrong with incest.

But mating with non-humans. Yuck."

Exactly.

BenYachov said...

I'm not sure mating with a being who is genetically the same as you counts as bestiality. There is a moral & aesthetic difference between humping a goat vs making love to Nova from the Planet of the Apes.

OTOH VJ if we don't have this type of "bestiality" then we have Incest.

Which is more disturbing? Making love to Nova vs having it off with your own sister?

Speaking for myself if I was one of Adam's sons Nova would be better than a goat or my sister.

Just saying.....

Cheers man.:-)

BenYachov said...

But did Augustine even envision a being that was morphologically identical to a human but metaphysically lacking int the soul department?

I don't think so. But the Rabbis did and it is part of Jewish legend that Adam and Eve had a break up after the death of Abel. They each went their separate ways & mated & had children with "demons" creatures with the physical forms of humans but without souls.

After a while they reconciled and had Seth.

http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48931772.html

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Thanks Vincent for your posts, I'm with St. Augustine on this. Somewhere the genetic science on this is faulty.

This brings up the picture of the giants upon the earth that Noah's flood wiped out. Angels/bad demons had sex with human females. I'd like to see where this goes in genetics. Does this story have revelance to this somewhere.

BenYachov said...

From one of the footnotes of the essay I linked too.

The Mishna does make an obscure reference to something called Adnei Hasadeh, an ape-like being that walks upright, looks like man, but is a beast:
Wild man-like creatures are deemed as belonging to the category of hayyah. Rabbi Yose said: "[When dead] they [or part of their corpses] communicate uncleanness [to men and to objects susceptible thereto which are] under the same roof, as does [the corpse of] a human being." (Mishna - Kil'ayim Chapter 8:5)

BenYachov said...

>Angels/bad demons had sex with human females.

Angels and Demons are substantive forms without any matter. Thus how could they do it with human beings?

Now demons can(I would assume angel have the same powers they just don't use them) possess Pigs if we believe the NT.

Why not hominids?

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Sasquatches?

BenYachov said...

More like the humans from the original Planet of the Apes who seemed to act in a non-intellective manner.

Guy Tennenbaum said...

(part 1 of 2)

Professor Feser,

I admit to only having skimmed the James Ross article, so apologies in advance for any egregious errors on my part.

Let me begin with a simple thought experiment. Suppose a tribe of non-verbal hominids are foraging in the woods for strawberries. And though they haven't found any yet, each member of the tribe nevertheless *knows* that it is strawberries they are looking for. They desire strawberries, they believe they will find some. The only thing they lack are the linguistic abilities to make their intentions regarding strawberries explicit (though they might have a simple grunt that "represents" strawberries, just as some animals convey auditory warning signals that represent certain types of predators).

Now my question is, wouldn't this qualify as a case of concept use? They aren't looking for any particular strawberries, after all, just strawberries in general. I think Ross would answer yes. In the final section of his article, "All Thought is Abstract," Ross writes that "any thinking at all is of general 'form,' just as is adding, conjoining, reasoning validly, and squaring," and he mentions "hoping or wanting or intending" as examples of general types of thinking. Non-verbal animals can hope and want and intend, so it seems Ross would agree that in my thought experiment, the hominids were indeed using (or if you prefer, invoking) concepts, at least insofar as in *wanting* strawberries and *intending* to find some they were thinking "immaterially."

(continued in part 2)

DNW said...

FYI as you keep up your lunchtime reading:


http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2011/09/strong-isolation-between-neandertals.html

http://dienekes.blogspot.com/

Guy Tennenbaum said...

(part 2)

The lesson to be learned here, I think, is that "immateriality" is a paltry criterion for distinguishing non-rational beings from rational ones, because (at least if Ross is right) there doesn't seem to be a place here where animal capacities are clearly demarcated from what we think of as more properly human ones. But perhaps you would rather say that the ability to *express* logical relations is a better criterion for rationality -- which seems to be the gist of the following passage from your previous post on this subject:

>"What intellect involves, for the A-T tradition, is the ability to grasp abstract concepts (such as the concept man or the concept being mortal), to put them together into complete thoughts (such as the thought that all men are mortal), and to reason from one thought to another in accordance with the laws of logic (as when we infer from All men are mortal and Socrates is a man to Socrates is mortal)."

This still strikes me as an inadequate for distinguishing intellect as a particularly *human* kind of thing. For we can imagine a species of early hominid developing an extremely rudimentary type of lexicon and syntax, one that served the purpose mainly of dealing with practical matters (carry big stick to frighten tiger! build shelter upwind!), even while the emotional and social aspects of their lives were still expressed, for the most part, in the non-verbal ways of modern day apes. Would such a hominid species nevertheless qualify as metaphysically human just on the grounds that their simple language meets your above criteria for rational intellect? I find this idea hard to credit.

The point is, it seems to me that we could tell any number of stories about the development of language (and, hence, intellect?) that if true would decisively put to rest any Aristotelian essentialism regarding human beings as distinctly rational animals, or what have you. As a naturalist, I take such stories as the default position for the same reason I take it for granted that the forces that produced the Grand Canyon are the same ones we can observe today. I take it for granted that each generation of our hominid ancestors saw themselves as being more or less like their parents or grandparents -- exactly like today (no quantum leaps, even on a punctuated equilibrium model). Anything we might place under the "language" or "rationality" umbrella evolved gradually, and so there was no clear bright line between ape and human in this regard.

BenYachov said...

Adnei Hasadeh literally means "Wild Man".

One Brow said...

Everyone seems to agree that a dog understands it's place in a pack (or if anyone disagreed, I missed it). What is supposed to be the mere sensation, mental imagery, or the processing of material symbols that corresponds to a place in the pack?

Also, some people seem to be eager to downplay the distinction between Adam's children and the surrounding non-rational humans. It seems a tight rope to walk to have Adam so fully rational and capable of communicaiton that he can commit the original sin, yet so barely rational that his similarly-enabled children don't care at all about the abilities of their spouses to talk, think, etc.

Josh said...

Everyone seems to agree that a dog understands it's place in a pack (or if anyone disagreed, I missed it).

What is Instinct, Alex? But seriously, this seems to assume quite a bit...

Guy Tennenbaum said...

@OneBrow: The stuff about Adam and Eve is so beyond the pale that it's not really worth considering unless you already accept that Adam and Eve must have been real historical persons. (I doubt even Feser would disagree with this point, actually). Somewhat more plausible is the idea that the "rational soul" is so qualitatively different from "sensation, imagination, and the ability to process material symbols" that it could not have evolved gradually but instead had to arise spontaneously (had to be created immediately by God, to use a different parlance). However, even this idea falls apart under scrutiny. Short of believing that the advent of intellect comprised such a quantum leap in human development that it left Adam and Eve with genuine human intellects while all their contemporaries remained, in effect, on par with chimpanzees, the idea just isn't credible.

Josh said...

Guy,

However, even this idea falls apart under scrutiny. Short of believing that the advent of intellect comprised such a quantum leap in human development that it left Adam and Eve with genuine human intellects while all their contemporaries remained, in effect, on par with chimpanzees, the idea just isn't credible.

The reason for positing the existence of intellect is to be found in the nature of the objects of thought that enable us to use formal signs in language.

And for the strict demarcation between man and animal on this point see my post of M. Adler's quote above in this combox. It will show why the "strawberries" example doesn't hold, or at least, clarify the other side of the argument.

Crude said...

Great post, Ed. I'm largely in agreement with your points, and thought this was one hell of a post.

Just to briefly respond to one post brought up so far - I don't think "Incest is less icky than bestiality!" is much of a reply here, not to mention that I think the comparison falls apart given the sort of "bestiality" being discussed here. In either case you're dealing with the suspension of a very fundamental moral prohibition in a very particular scenario.

That said, I'm comfortable with Christians who reject the genetic analyses, etc. That's not my view, but I'm not about to mock anyone for making that move.

One Brow said...

Josh said...
What is Instinct, Alex? But seriously, this seems to assume quite a bit...

It just might assume too much.

As I understand instinct (the primary explanation for insect behaviors), it does not cover environmentally flexible nor learned behaviors.

Josh said...

One Brow,

As I understand instinct (the primary explanation for insect behaviors), it does not cover environmentally flexible nor learned behaviors.

You are probably right. I would surmise that a wolf's "understanding" of its place in a pack would reside between the two extremes of Instinct and Intellect. There's nothing in that behavior that warrants our giving it the power of intellectual abstraction when it can be explained in perceptual terms.

Anonymous said...

Vincent Torley: Knowing that, then, why would He have put temptation in Cain's path - in the form of literally thousands of eligible females with whom Cain could interbreed, but was not supposed to?

Why would God have put temptation in MY path in the form of thousands of eligible females who aren't actually eligible?

Anonymous said...

Vincent Torley: Knowing that, then, why would He have put temptation in Cain's path - in the form of literally thousands of eligible females with whom Cain could interbreed, but was not supposed to?

Why would God have put temptation in MY path in the form of thousands of eligible females who aren't actually eligible?

sharq said...

"I would surmise that a wolf's "understanding" of its place in a pack would reside between the two extremes of Instinct and Intellect."

Josh,

Estimation, as Avicenna and Aquinas taught, would presumably explain this ability. Would you say so?

Josh said...

Sharq,

Sure, why not!

One Brow, for a definition of what he's Sharq is referring to, I consult Wuellner's Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy:

Estimative Sense: the internal sense that recognizes what is useful or harmful to the organism in particular instances. Its acts are known as sensory estimations of particular goods or evils.

This is differentiated from the term Instinct, because "Some writers prefer to reserve 'estimative power' for the power, and instincts for the acts that depend on the estimations made by this power."

I take this as that the higher order animals have a more developed estimative sense which results in more complex behavior, but that the acts themselves are instincts. Still a far cry from a wolf "understanding" conceptually his role in the pack.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

In this post, I'd like to discuss what it means to be human. Kemp writes:

"That account can begin with a population of about 5,000 hominids, beings which are in many respects like human beings, but which lack the capacity for intellectual thought. Out of this population, God selects two and endows them with intellects by creating for them rational souls, giving them at the same time those preternatural gifts the possession of which constitutes original justice. Only beings with rational souls (with or without the preternatural gifts) are truly human. The first two theologically human beings misuse their free will, however, by choosing to commit a (the original) sin, thereby losing the preternatural gifts, though not the offer of divine friendship by virtue of which they remain theologically (not just philosophically) distinct from their merely biologically human ancestors and cousins. These first true human beings also have descendants, which continue, to some extent, to interbreed with the non-intellectual hominids among whom they live." (Bold type mine.)

What I find problematic is that Kemp distinguishes between three types of humanity: a creature can be biologically human (as Adam's 10,000 contemporaries were), without necessarily being philosophically human (possessed of a rational soul, or what you call metaphysically human), and a philosophically human creature may not necessarily be theologically human (i.e. having an eternal destiny).

I submit that these distinctions would, if accepted, destroy the whole pro-life case. They entail that the fetus's biologically humanity doesn't necessarily make it philosophically human.

The Fathers know of no such distinction between three senses of "humanity". Human is human.

I fully grant your point that thinking is an immaterial act, and not a bodily one. It doesn't follow from this that an entity with a human body could lack reason. There might be some biological forms (e.g. Homo sapiens) which require an immaterial soul in order to survive. I don't know; this is just an idea I'm exploring.

But one thing I do know: humanity is one.

BeingItself said...

Anybody over 12 years old with a rudimentary education realizes that the Adam and Eve story is a myth. Sure, desperate folks can make up just-so stories about their god injecting "souls" into a particular pair at some unknown time in the past in order to rescue the story.

But that sort transparently ad hoc move is exactly why theologians are so ridiculed.

TheOFloinn said...

And of course, anyone with a 12th grade education ought to know what "myth" really means. Sadly, many don't.
+ + +

We cannot say a dog "knows" its place in the pack insofar are concepts like "place" or even "pack" may be beyond its ken. But it does have the power of perceiving other pack members, remembering them, and imagining them. It is thus capable of learning to react to perceived sensations. So it submits to one dog and dominates another. Each dog is doing so, and the whole shakes out to a behavior AS IF the dog knew its "place" when it only knows to submit to this actual dog and not to that actual dog. None of this requires the abstract notions of pack and place; or even of submission and dominance.

Isidore said...

@W.LindsayWheeler

I agree, attempting to "reconcile" Scripture with the theoretical conclusions of the investigation of genetics is a rather premature move. The conclusion that humanity must be descended from several thousand distinct humans only hold if little to no new genetic material is introduced in all that time. For example, we don't know what the conditions were under which Adam and Eve lived. It could be that their rate of mutation was much higher than we experience now, and so over a few thousand years, resulted in the genetic variety we see now. If you accept that they lived much longer than we do, up to and over 900 years, then this would be an indication of the truth of something like this, since that could/would be the result of a great difference in the genetic condition of the first humans.

Daniel Smith said...

W.LindsayWheeler: "Because the findings do not match what either Divine Revelation nor the Laws of Nature teach, I'd hold off on """melding""" theology with geneticts.

Something is not right."


I second that sentiment.

Scientists are just fallible humans trying to figure out an omniscient God's creation... It's gonna take them awhile to catch up!!

One Brow said...

Josh said...
Estimative Sense: the internal sense that recognizes what is useful or harmful to the organism in particular instances. Its acts are known as sensory estimations of particular goods or evils.

Are not useful and harmful concepts in and of themselves? It seems like you are using a concept to justify a concept.

BeingItself said...

"And of course, anyone with a 12th grade education ought to know what "myth" really means. Sadly, many don't."

Words acquire meanings by how they are used. You seem to think words have inherent meanings. That's just silly.

BenYachov said...

>I submit that these distinctions would, if accepted, destroy the whole pro-life case. They entail that the fetus's biologically humanity doesn't necessarily make it philosophically human.

VJ

You are killing me! Killing me! The Church has already ruled that one receives a rational soul at conception.

When God created Adam wither he turned dust directly into a man or a hominid he gave Adam a fully human soul in every sense of the word.

Why that means an Fetus doesn't have a soul is a mystery to me?

Again ya killing me! Oy Vey!

Killing me!

Steve Ruble said...

I've been reading a number of the posts and papers linked to in this and the previous posts, and I consistently find that there's a place where the arguments stop making sense to me. I hope someone can fill in the gap for me...

The thing I don't understand is what the actual difference is between a sub-rational ape-man and a rational human in terms of how their brains work. It seems like the claim is that a sub-rational ape-man could have been biologically identical to the rational man, but that it would not have engaged in rational thought, or grasped abstract concepts, or truly use language. But surely if an entity which is wholly physical begins to contemplate abstract concepts and to talk about them, their nervous systems must begin to do things that they didn't do before, if only in sending some new "speech producing" nervous impulses to the vocal cords.

So something must cause a physical change to occur when the ape-man begins thinking and speaking about abstract concepts. But what is that change, and what causes it? I've read A-T defenders who seem to be quite emphatic about rejecting Cartesian dualism, and seem to treat as an issue the problem Cartesian dualists have explaining the binding between the immaterial mind and the material body, but I don't know how A-T avoids a similar problem.

I mean, if I'm grasping the concept of a triangle with my immaterial mind, and then I tell you about it in spoken words, it seems like you'd say that my immaterial mind has caused my material body to do something different than it would have been doing if I had no immaterial mind to grasp the concept of triangles with, right? Or is the idea that I could be saying words about triangles even if I didn't have an immaterial mind, but in that case I would be an ape-man (or a Chalmers zombie)? But how does that work?

Can anyone help clear this up? Thanks.

Edward Feser said...

Hi Vincent,

You've posted a lot of long comments. I'll reply to as many of them as I can.

First of all, please keep in mind that I have only been making a very narrow point, namely that the biological evidence as people like Coyne, Ayala, et al. present it is compatible with the doctrine of original sin as Catholic theology understands it. I am not endorsing any particular view about how to interpret the relevant passages of Genesis, and in fact I have no settled position on that question. Nor am I saying that the biological evidence really is exactly as Coyne et al. say it is. I'm not a biologist. I'm just saying that there is a way to understand the Genesis account that is compatible both with Catholic theology and with what we are told about the genetic evidence. To say "Such-and-such is a legitimate reading of A and so-and-so is a legitimate reading of B, and on those readings A and B are compatible" is not necessarily to endorse the readings in question or even necessarily to endorse A and B themselves.

Having said that, I don't think your objections are very strong. As to the "Yuck" objection, I'm not sure what your point is. As you know, nobody is endorsing mating with sub-intellectual hominids or bestiality in general. Maybe your claim is that it is implausible that early humans would have been tempted to mate with them -- that they would have been too disgusted to do so. But as I said in my original post, if we imagine these sub-intellectual hominids as looking and acting like (say) Linda Harrison in the original Planet of the Apes movie, it's not at all surprising if they would be tempted.

Now I realize that that's a Hollywood example, and of course I'm being partially facetious since these early sub-intellectual hominids obviously wouldn't have Linda Harrison-style hair, make up, skin, manicures, etc. But then, neither would early human beings. The point is that if the sub-intellectual hominids looked just like human beings and acted as "intelligently" as an animal could without having actual intellects, it is simply by no means obvious that early humans would have had a "Yuck" reaction.

Nor do I see what grounds you have for insinuating that the Flynn/Kemp scenario is dubiously orthodox. Once "special transformism" is allowed as compatible in principle with Catholic orthodoxy -- and Pius XII clearly allowed that it is -- then the possibility that early humans mated with sub-intellectual hominids pretty clearly follows. I don't mean that the moral legitimacy of this follows -- no one is claiming that. I mean that the physical possibility of it follows, even though it would be immoral. And just saying "Yuck" is no argument against this conclusion.

Nor is "The Church Fathers didn't mention this" an argument. They didn't mention lots of things. So what? What you'd need to show is that they said something that positively rules out such an (admittedly weird) scenario. And if you're going to allow that they believed in satyrs, etc. then that surely only weakens your case rather than strengthens it!

(continued)

Neil Parille said...

Ben,

I imagine we are getting off topic here, but if it's ok for a catholic exegete to deny that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Magi, the Shepherds, the flight to Egypt, etc., then why should a Catholic be obligated to believe that the virgin birth (which is part of these same narratives) is historical?

There are many protestant exegetes who believe in the historicity of these things; there are not many Catholics.

Edward Feser said...

(continued)

Re: ape language, etc., Vincent, again, I am not sure what your argument is, and I do not see how I was being too "ecumenical." I made it quite clear that I do not believe for a moment that apes (or dolphins or parrots for that matter) really do have intelligence. I was merely saying that IF it turned out that some ape really had intelligence -- imagine an ape-like creature that talked just as we do, typed blog posts, presented philosophical arguments, requested baptism, the whole ball of wax, so that his intelligence was undeniable -- THEN it would follow (since intellect is immaterial) that such a creature would have an immaterial soul.

Do I think there is or ever will be such a creature? Again, not for a moment. I was merely making the point that intellect would have to be immaterial wherever it turned out to exist. Hence it's no argument to say (as Rosenhouse in effect does) "If apes really have intelligence, then it follows that intelligence is purely material." That's just a non sequitur. To be sure, the antecedent is also false -- apes do not have intelligence -- but it's worth noting that the conditional is false too, and that's all I was doing.

And since I take it that you agree that the intellect is immaterial, I have a hard time seeing how you could disagree with this.

Re: your parrot example, I'll have to take a look, but frankly I think it no more likely to be genuine evidence of animal intelligence than any of the better-known examples are. (By now when I hear of such "evidence" I react pretty much the same way I react to "evidence" of abductions by extraterrestrials, 9/11 conspiracies, and all the rest...)

(continued)

DNW said...

Vincent Torley writes:

"But one thing I do know: humanity is one."

You may know it; and you may somehow know it in a way that is not purely stipulative.

I cannot see how most materialists who reject the idea that species are anything other than mutating "populations" would.

Now, it is obvious, how they would from a self-preservation point of view, be somewhat desperate to reserve something of the appearance of a natural kind (even if only cynically) for their own rhetorical use, even while denying to the supernaturalist his own traditions in support a similar end.


Yet it seems to me even in granting much of the materialist point of view, that while there is no reason on that basis to believe that human beings have a soul as the Catholic Church might define soul, and although the materialist would indeed argue that nothing like one could arise in nature; there is really no reason to a priori rule out the possibility - certainly in light of the materialist's typical matter/energy monism - that some kind of soul-like or ghost-in-the-machine like death surviving phenomenon might arise in some humans. Nor to assume that if such a phenomenon did arise in some men, that it would necessarily be found in all others.

It would not of course be a truly "supernatural" soul as people seem to imagine eternal souls. Nor would it be the kind of soul expected to survive a complete energy death of the universe if there is actually such a thing. But it would be enough of a difference to make the materialist's statements regarding the oneness of humankind out to be nonsense in the way that say, a mental capacity to count beyond three or the metabolic ability to digest milk into adulthood, would not.

So, while I'm not saying that differences in galvanic skin responses, or even the possession of a FOXP2 gene are qualitatively the same kind of thing, I am saying that the materialist's own evolutionary doctrines argue against the sort of absolutist community of mankind pronouncements which materialists seem so fond of making: regarding entities that are, on their own interpretation, soulless meat machines.

I'm sure they realize this. And I am relatively certain that it is this realization that has them scrambling to impute to all organisms at least something of that which they deny specifically to men.

It kind of protects them as well.

Josh said...

Are not useful and harmful concepts in and of themselves? It seems like you are using a concept to justify a concept.

Yes I am, because two humans are talking to each other, and I can only use concepts to explain concepts.

And yes, 'useful' and 'harmful' are concepts, for us. The question would be from that above definition, "Do animals in exercising the estimative sense use concepts?" The answer would be no. Animals exercise this power through the association of particulars of perceptual instances. From Aquinas:

Animals perceive these intentions only by some natural instinct, while man perceives these by means of coalition of ideas. Therefore, the power which in other animals is called the natural estimative power, in man is called the cogitative power, which by some sort of collation discovers these intentions. Wherefore it is also called the particular reason for it compares individual intentions, just as the intellectual reason compares universal intentions.

This page is helpful to note the distinctions:Estimative Sense

And from my above post:

"The animal's behavior manifests different reactions to objects that are different in kind. But the kinds of things that animals appear to differentiate are all kinds of which there are perceptual instances in the animal's experience. Humans differentiate kinds or classes of which there either are no perceptual instances in their experience or of which there cannot be any. This is the distinguishing characteristic of conceptual thought and the irrefutable evidence of the presence of intellect in man and of its absence in brutes." --M. Adler

TheOFloinn said...

Words acquire meanings by how they are used. You seem to think words have inherent meanings. That's just silly.

I was referring to how the term is actually used in ethology and anthropology.

what the actual difference is between a sub-rational ape-man and a rational human in terms of how their brains work.

It has to do not with how their brains work, but how their minds work. You are making an assumption that mind=brain.

there is no reason on that basis to believe that human beings have a soul as the Catholic Church might define soul

Anima means "alive, animate." The question "Has man a soul?" in Latin reads "Is man alive?" This can be verified empirically. Soul is whatever a man has while alive that he does not have when he is dead. The same applies to moss and mice, but with different powers. For discussion of the interaction problem, see here:
http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2011/08/interaction-problems.html?utm_source=BP_recent
+ + +
Yuck factor
Whether Certain Monstrous Races of Men are Derived from the Stock of Adam or Noah's Sons.

It is also asked whether we are to believe that certain monstrous races of men, spoken of in secular history, have sprung from Noah's sons, or rather, I should say, from that one man from whom they themselves were descended. For it is reported that some have one eye in the middle of the forehead; some, feet turned backwards from the heel; some, a double sex, the right breast like a man, the left like a woman, and that they alternately beget and bring forth: others are said to have no mouth, and to breathe only through the nostrils; others are but a cubit high, and are therefore called by the Greeks "Pigmies:" they say that in some places the woman conceive in their fifth year, and do not live beyond their eighth. So, too, they tell of a race who have two feet but only one leg, and are of marvelous swiftness, though they do not bend the knee: they are called Skiopodes, because in the hot weather they lie down on their backs and shade themselves with their feet. Others are said to have no head, and their eyes in their shoulders; and other human or quasi-human races are depicted in mosaic in the harbor esplanade of Carthage, on the faith of histories of rarities. What shall I say of the Cynocephali, whose dog-like head and barking proclaim them beasts rather than men? But we are not bound to believe all we hear of these monstrosities. But whoever is anywhere born a man, that is, a rational, mortal animal, no matter what unusual appearance he presents in color, movement, sound, nor how peculiar he is in some power, part, or quality of his nature, no Christian can doubt that he springs from that one protoplast. We can distinguish the common human nature from that which is peculiar, and therefore wonderful.
The City of God, Chap. 16, Book 8

One Brow said...

TheOFloinn,

First, since I was not able to comment on your blog directly, I wanted to point out generally that you made errors biologicial and metaphysical in your piece "Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice". Rather than clutter up this thread, I'll do my response on my own blog this week.

We cannot say a dog "knows" its place in the pack insofar are concepts like "place" or even "pack" may be beyond its ken.

Do you mean you prefer 'To the degree that a dog understands concepts like "place" or "pack", it knows it's place in a pack'?

But it does have the power of perceiving other pack members, remembering them, and imagining them. It is thus capable of learning to react to perceived sensations. So it submits to one dog and dominates another.

Submission and dominance are themselves concepts which are absent a physical representation.

Each dog is doing so, and the whole shakes out to a behavior AS IF the dog knew its "place" when it only knows to submit to this actual dog and not to that actual dog.

I believe dogs also keep track of which other pairs fo dogs submit to each other. Either way, how is "submit" not a concept?

None of this requires the abstract notions of pack and place; or even of submission and dominance.

What does it mean to submit without a notion of submission? What is the perception, rememberance, and/or imagination that equates to submit?

Edward Feser said...

(continued)

Re: concepts, keep in mind that A-T writers allow that mental images -- which A-T writers generally take to be material -- can have a certain kind of generality, as they clearly can. A mental image of a man or a tree can be vague enough to resemble a great many men or trees, not just a single man or tree. An even more abstract image -- of a circle or triangle, say -- can even more obviously resemble many particular instances. And such generalized images (and/or their neural correlates) can subserve discriminative abilities and other behavioral patterns of a very high degree of complexity, which is why animals can exhibit behaviors of the sort you have in mind, and why machines can be constructed to mimic such behaviors.

But all of that is different -- and different in kind, not just degree -- from the strict universality and determinacy of concepts, for the sorts of reasons Ross summarizes. To suppose otherwise is (to borrow an example from Chomsky) like thinking that what Olympic high jumpers do differs in degree but not kind from what birds do, and that this is somehow made even more plausible by the fact that some birds can't fly at all.

Re: the soul as form of the body, yes, I wouldn't be surprised if the matter of the body itself had to be in some way "upgraded" (as Fr. Harrison puts it) to make infusion of a truly rational soul possible. But it doesn't follow that the bodies of hominids don't at least approximate truly human bodies in a way other animal bodies do not. It is, after all, no accident that our brains are more complex than those of other animals even though the intellect is necessarily immaterial, because (as I have discussed before) for A-T a certain measure of material complexity is a necessary condition for being a rational animal, even if not a sufficient condition. But in that case, the more closely a non-human animal's brain approximates that of a human being, then -- obviously -- the less radical is the transformation of that matter that would have to take place in order for it to be infused with a human soul.

It does not follow, though, that all other aspects of our physiology are necessary to being human in the metaphysical sense. Suppose there were a creature that was just like us in every respect, including intellectual respects, except that it had seven fingers on each hand, or only four fingers, or had eight eyes, or had scales, or was twenty feet tall, or had wings, or what have you. Would it follow that it was not human in the metaphysical sense? It is hard to see how. Would such creatures be metaphysically impossible? It is hard to see why.

BenYachov said...

@Neil

Briefly because I want to see what Dr. Feser says on these topics, (or Crude or TOF)

>I imagine we are getting off topic here, but if it's ok for a catholic exegete to deny that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Magi, the Shepherds, the flight to Egypt, etc., then why should a Catholic be obligated to believe that the virgin birth (which is part of these same narratives) is historical?

No it would not IMHO but anything extreme would eventually be corrected by the Vatican thought I would say via the words of Pius XII that Genesis does not use the modern historical genre & shouldn't be treated as such.

Now as for the Gospels it seems the historical chronology of the Gospel of John seems out of synic with the Synoptics. Rather then reconcile it in a fundamentalist manner (oh maybe Jesus proformed this miracle twice?) one can note by looking at other writings of the periods that toward the end of the First Century to the Second there was a popular form of biography that tened to front load the more important events of a Person life and talk about them first rather then give a precise Chronology. There is no reason why we can't admit the Bible uses different genres in every age.


>There are many protestant exegetes who believe in the historicity of these things; there are not many Catholics.

Liberal Protestants don't believe these things & of course Evangelicals don't count them as Christian. Catholics are a Family so we are stuck with each other. Catholics who have allowed themselves to be corupted by liberal nonsense do jump the gun IMHO. But we have conservatives and Traditionalist who balk at this nonsense. Fr. William Most of happy memory was one.


OTOH historically during the 19th century and early twenteth the Church tended to come down too hard on everybody. Sometimes as a corrective she goes to the other extreme and doesn't bother anybody. But historically the Holy Spirit get Her there in the End. It has always happened historically & I believe it always will.

That is the Glory of the One True Church. I wouldn't believe anything else.

God Bless.

One Brow said...

Josh said...
Yes I am, because two humans are talking to each other, and I can only use concepts to explain concepts.

Yet, we are both animals, and are speaking of abilites assigned to all animals.

The answer would be no. Animals exercise this power through the association of particulars of perceptual instances.

That's a very strong, broad claim creating a large divide.

This page is helpful to note the distinctions:Estimative Sense

Thus a sheep knows this particular lamb, not as this lamb, but simply as something to be suckled; and it knows this grass just insofar as this grass is its food.

Don't forget protected from predators. Sheep don't indivudally perceive and judge each individual wolf. They rely on a few characteristics indicative of wolves. they use the universal of the form of Wolf, even without the concept.

Humans differentiate kinds or classes of which there either are no perceptual instances in their experience or of which there cannot be any. This is the distinguishing characteristic of conceptual thought and the irrefutable evidence of the presence of intellect in man and of its absence in brutes." --M. Adler

This is a difference in dgree of abstraction, not kind.

Neil Parille said...

Ben,

Is it legitimate for a Catholic exegete to believe that Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem or to question whether there were Magi, Shepherds or a flight to Egypt?

-Neil Parille

TheOFloinn said...

What does it mean to submit without a notion of submission? What is the perception, rememberance, and/or imagination that equates to submit?

Rover sees Rin-Tin-Tin and submits to him. Rover does not need to know what "submit" means. The physical perception of Rinty followed by the act of submission is sufficient to explain his behavior.

Of course "submission" is a concept -- we are human beings discussing dogs, not dogs discussing human beings. Conceptualization is what humans do. That humans conceive that Rover knows his place does not mean that Rover does.

Josh said...

One Brow,

Yet, we are both animals, and are speaking of abilites assigned to all animals.

I am a rational animal, discussing whether any other animal deserves the class distinction.

That's a very strong, broad claim creating a large divide.

Indeed!

Don't forget protected from predators. Sheep don't indivudally perceive and judge each individual wolf. They rely on a few characteristics indicative of wolves. they use the universal of the form of Wolf, even without the concept.

Which leads me to re-quote Adler again:

"There is no doubt that the animal's power of perceptual thought enables it to perform acts of abstraction and generalization that have a certain similitude to human abstraction and generalization."
------------------------------
This is a difference in dgree of abstraction, not kind.

That's just gainsaying my conclusion. What leads you to this conclusion?

BenYachov said...

@Neil

>Is it legitimate for a Catholic exegete to believe that Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem or to question whether there were Magi, Shepherds or a flight to Egypt?

What part of "No it would not IMHO...etc" was unclear to you?

Seriously.....some people can't take yes for an Answer.....

Bye! I want to watch TOF and Crude work their mojo.

BenYachov said...

and Josh too

Steve Ruble said...

TheOFloinn, you wrote
"It has to do not with how their brains work, but how their minds work. You are making an assumption that mind=brain."

I'm not actually making that assumption. What I am assuming is that we all agree that things like talking and typing words are the result of muscle movements which are controlled by nerve impulses which originate int he brain in some way. We all agree about that, right? And the claim of A-T is that the abstract concepts which compose the thought which leads to talking and typing necessarily may only be entertained by an immaterial mind. What I don't understand is how you suppose the abstract concept of a triangle, grasped by my mind, stands in causal relation to the very material fact that I am now writing "a triangle on a flat plane has at most one right angle". Something must be constraining my nerves to fire in a way that leads to the typing of a correct sentence - as opposed to an incorrect sentence, or nonsense - but what is to, and how does it impose those constraints? At some level, there simply must be nerves firing that would not be firing if I were not in possession of an immaterial mind, but what makes them fire?

Guy Tennenbaum said...

Ed Feser writes:

"But all of that is different -- and different in kind, not just degree -- from the strict universality and determinacy of concepts, for the sorts of reasons Ross summarizes. To suppose otherwise is (to borrow an example from Chomsky) like thinking that what Olympic high jumpers do differs in degree but not kind from what birds do, and that this is somehow made even more plausible by the fact that some birds can't fly at all."

Perhaps Feser didn't read the last section of Ross's article, where he clearly states that "wanting and hoping and intending" (all intentional states which animals can enter into) possess the same kind of *determinacy* and *universality* as conjoining, squaring, etc. Therefore these 'lower' types of mental states are, according to Ross, just as immaterial as the 'higher' ones. And this means that immateriality cannot be the sole marker of intellect as a specifically human kind of thing. Feser may disagree, but his disagreement would be with Ross.

Also, the likes of Chomsky and Pinker may hold that language is a distinctly human faculty, but they by no means consider it to have arisen spontaneously (not even Chomsky's notion that language may have arisen a "spandrel" mechanism implies spontaneous generation). Like anything, our complex mental faculty evolved by increments from very rudimentary forms; differences in degree lead to a difference in kind. The reason we don't see half-language users anymore is simply that those hominids are now extinct.

Neil Parille said...

Ben,

I'm glad to hear that you think two popes were wrong to name Raymond Brown to the PBC or that Ratzinger was wrong to praise Meier's work.

BenYachov said...

Clarification as is "Yes I don't think it's legitimate" just as I said IMHO it would not be "OK" to deny these things.

Nor is it OK to treat the Gospels like you treat the Book of Genesis.

Augustine treated Genesis One symbolically. But he would have had a shit fit of someone denied the Virgin Birth or Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Why didn't he interpret the Virgin Birth "symbolically"? Well to use his words I would not believe had the authority of the Catholic Church compeled me.

BenYachov said...

>I'm glad to hear that you think two popes were wrong to name Raymond Brown to the PBC or that Ratzinger was wrong to praise Meier's work.

You are moral slime and no better than a lying Gnu!

I never said that nor has it ever been established your charges are true!

I will not be civil to a dishonest jerk who can't ask me an honest up front question and spreads calumny about other people!

Neil Parille said...

Ben,

Meier doesn't deny that Jesus was born in Bethlehem?

I guess we are reading different versions of his book.

djindra said...

Vincent Torley,

" I should add that if apes do have immaterial souls, then (a) they may be saved or damned; (b) we are obliged to preach the Gospel to them."

LOL! This is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time. Thanks.

BenYachov said...

A new book by Pope Benedict XVI highlights Notre Dame biblical scholar John P. Meier’s extensive research on the history of Jesus.

“From the immense quantity of literature on the dating of the Last Supper and of Jesus’ death, I would like to single out the treatment of the subject, outstanding both in its thoroughness and its accuracy, found in the first volume of John P. Meier’s book, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus,” the pope writes in Jesus of Nazareth, volume two, Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection.


I have a quote from Meier "The historical Jesus is not the real Jesus,” Meier explains. “Historical Jesus is a very narrowly defined academic reconstruction which is not exactly the full reality of who he was or is. It is not going to include the whole dimension of faith that, say, either a believing Catholic or a believing Protestant would insist is the full reality.”

So it appears Meier uses the term "historical Jesus" to refer to an "academic reconstruction" not the real Jesus.

I could dig further but Neil you can't even read & simple words since you asked the same question twice. That you understand what the Pope was praising & or what Meier actually believes is equally suspect.

But you where not honest with me & that I have zero tolerance. I can't stand and will not talk to willfully dishonest persons. "Religious" or "Theist".

>Meier doesn't deny that Jesus was born in Bethlehem?

I never read it. But you can't even read my plain word or be honest about your agenda so why should I trust your characterizations?

BenYachov said...

BTW Neil Parille you praise Ayn Rand on your blog so I take it you are an Atheist?

I mean why would you praise her since in praising her that meant you endorced everything she ever said or believed?

BenYachov said...

I have never read a Marginal Jew. But I tend to trust the people over at the Catholic Answers forum. This person read it & writes the following.


whowantsumadebo

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=66034


I now go on to state that "A Marginal Jew" is a fine work and of considerable use as an apologetic tool. It goes into verse-by-verse detail to establish the historicity of New Testament characters and their motives--it confirms the traditional Christian view of John the Baptist and his mission by examining all the available traditions (biblical and extra-biblical) about him.
Subsequently, while Meier does not state that Jesus did or did not actually perform miracles, he concludes at lenght that The Lord most certainly was known througout his ministry as a miracle worker.

Meier also defends the Gospel of John to the death from critics who hold it to be totally non-histroical.

The book does appear to dissent from Orthodox teaching on certain issues: the historicity of the Virgin birth, Jesus' childhood experiences, and the "brothers" of the Lord as children of Mary, for example, seem to be sticking points which Catholics might find poopy. But the bulk of his deductions on these subjects escapes heresy. On the issues of whether or not the Virgin Birth actually happened, Meier declines to side one way or the other, and states one must decide for themselves based upon how much of the Church's authority they accept.

I can see how a Bible only Fundamentalist might be bothered by Meier's work. Fr. Most was a critic of Fr Meier but it seems there is a reason to believe it is not heterodox.

Now I never read the book so I can't judge who is correct but this whowantsumadebo was never dishonest to me & clearly has no secret agenda.

Unlike some of us.

Now I am through sucking up the oxygen over this.

Please everyone talk philosophy. You are all doing well. Even One Brow (which is a shock).

Neil Parille said...

Ben,

I'm not an atheist or a follower of Ayn Rand.

I don't think the Pope agrees with everything Meier says. For example I don't think he agrees with Meier's rejection of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

My point is that the Pope has a liberal view of the Bible, as indicated by his support of Meier's work.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

Why that means an Fetus doesn't have a soul is a mystery to me?

Maybe the Church should rule that fetuses and infants must act more rationally. That would help settle the matter.

BenYachov said...

Neil you are dishonest. If you where straight with me I would answer you.
You where not so Smeg off Smeghead!


>I'm not an atheist or a follower of Ayn Rand.

Your blog is titled "ObjectiBlog: Libertarianism, Politics and Objectivism". Anyone who reads it can see you praising and talking about Ayn Rand. Therefore by your own standards you are an Atheist and a follower of Ayn Rand.

Is it fair to say that about you? No but it is the natural conclusion if we employ your sideswipe of the Holy Father.

>I don't think the Pope agrees with everything Meier says. For example I don't think he agrees with Meier's rejection of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

The scource I cited from the Catholic Answers blog disputes your claim & if you read some of the other posts from persons who read the Book they claim Meier is trying to be "neutral" because scholars are suppose to be.

That doesn't prove to me he denies the Virgin Birth. Especially from a witness who is not honest with me.

>My point is that the Pope has a liberal view of the Bible, as indicated by his support of Meier's work.

What constitutes "liberal"? That has not been defined. We have no common ground on that. But you where not honest with me about your agenda.

So Smeg off! We are done!

djindra said...

Josh,

"Animals exercise this power through the association of particulars of perceptual instances. From Aquinas:...

Very funny. As if Aquinas would know.

Neil Parille said...

Ben,

I never said Meier denies the virgin birth.

I said he denies (or at the least considers) the perpetual virginity of Mary very unlikely.

Why don't you buy the book and prove me wrong.

Actually, the book is searchable on Amazon and on pages 331 Meier says that the "brothers" of the lord are "mat likely . . . .true siblings."

Neil Parille said...

That should have been "the most probable opinion is that the brother and sisters of Jesus were true siblings." (page 331)

BenYachov said...

Neil you where not honest with me & if you can't see that is wrong then you need spiritual help.

>Why don't you buy the book and prove me wrong.

whowantsumadebo read the same book and it seems came to different conclusions.

What if I buy it and come to the same conclusions as him?

OTOH since whowantsumadebo never came at me with a dishonest agenda I see no reason to doubt his take on the book.

I have every reason to doubt yours.

Besides Philosophically it seems Meiers makes a distinction between an Academic reconstruction vs reality. So why should I waste my time learning his academic reconstruction which he says is not real?

It doesn't interest me.

Future advice. Be honest next time & I will take your advice more seriously.

BenYachov said...

So his academic reconstruction which is not reality according to what I quoted him saying elsewhere says it's a probable opinion not a definite reality or truth?

Right sure pal? Granted Meier's obvious philosophical weirdness is on the level of Paul Tillich saying "God does not exist" but when seen in context it is fuzzy thinking but not formal heresy.

Good day!

I said GOOD DAY!

Crude said...

Ben, I just have to ask - Willy Wonka quote there? :)

BenYachov said...

Maybe or Hanna Montana (I love watch that with the kids....THERE I SAID IT!....Don't judge me)?

Now I remember yeh Willy Wonka the real one not Jonny Dept's creepy Michael Jackson weirdness.

BenYachov said...

Maybe I over reacted but didn't this Neil clown who is such an Ayn Rand fan (but afraid to own up to it) see that scene in ATLAS SHRUGGED when the jerk Union twit tells Dagny Taggart "We are not going to allow you run that train on the John Gult line".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8MVFoiw-dw

Well just as you don't tell Ms Taggart what to do in her own office you don't tell me who I think was good choice or bad choice for praise or appointment by the Pope! I WILL TELL YOU WHAT I THINK! DON'T YOU DARE TELL ME WHAT I THINK!

I find that an insulting. I just do.

BenYachov said...

Somebody should get this thread back on track.

One reason I don't by VJ or he cites Jimmy Akin's tentative opinion that Adam's true human offspring mating with unsouled hominids is bestiality is some lessons I learned studying Judaism.

Judaism is proto-Catholicism. Or Catholicism is Post Messiah Judaism.

In Jewish thought one of the really great sins is the sin of "motzi zera l'vatalah"" - wasting seed. Otherwise known as Onanism. We Catholics don't like that either but I digress....in the Talmud and Mishnah, motzi zera l'vatalah is sometimes called worst than murder. Man on man anal sex is seen as wicked because it is a form of motzi zera l'vatalah.

Marrying or having intercourse with or molesting without intercourse underage girls who are per-pubesent and thus cannot reproduce is condemned as motzi zera l'vatalah. Rabbi Judah the Prince if you do such things or willfully allow your daughter to be used in that way earns you having God blot your name out of the Book of Life.

Tractate Nahilddah say you deserve to die at God's Hand in a flood for this crime.

Bestiality is of course motzi zera l'vatalah.

Anal sex in marriage for Jews according to some opinions in the middle ages was allowed legally (but it was still called lustful, would give you sickness, give you godless and wicked children, the Spirit of God would not bless your union, demons would bother you etc) because many Rabbis thought you could still reproduce that way. Of course science tells us today that is not true so many Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis in modern times have ruled married anal sex motzi zera l'vatalah.

Thus it seems easy to extrapolate that because you can reproduce with the unsouled hominids that it is not motzi zera l'vatalah.

Thus not forbidden under Old Testament or pre-Noah religious ethics.

So I remain skeptical of the bestiality charge.

Edward Feser said...

Hi Leo,

Re: Burge, you might check out his collection Foundations of Mind, which I've been dipping into recently.

Hi Josh,

When I'm not following the crowd and nominating Aja as the best all-around Dan album, I might nominate The Royal Scam instead. Sometimes I think "The Caves of Altamira" might be the best pop tune ever. Unless "Peg" is.

Hi Alan,

When have I ever argued biology with Coyne?

Edward Feser said...

Hi Ben,

"Smeghead"? I think the only other person I've heard use that is Booji Boy, in an old Devo video.

Anyway, look, Neil's a good guy and you're a good guy, so hug and make up, OK?

Edward Feser said...

Hi JamesG,

Many thanks for the kind words. Someday I should do a post on Adler's books on the human intellect and its difference from what the lower animals are capable of. Adler's popular stuff is unjustly neglected, and he also wrote more technical things that deserve attention.

Hi Aquinas3000,

But what about the fact that then you have all these humans mating with subjects that they can't even hold an intelligent conversation with? You are 'married' to an irrational animal!

In other words, like most marriages... ;-)

BenYachov said...

>Smeghead"? I think the only other person I've heard use that is Booji Boy, in an old Devo video.

Actually I'm a Red Dwarf Fan.

http://reddwarf.co.uk/news/index.cfm

Smeg is a fictional four letter explicative from the 24th Century. Used by Dave Lister to refer to his head hologram roomate Arnold J. Rimmer.


>Anyway, look, Neil's a good guy and you're a good guy, so hug and make up, OK?

Fine. Bit he is still a Gimboid.

(see Red Dwarf)

IN SPACE NOBODY CAN HEAR YOU SMEG!

BenYachov said...

edit:dead hologram roomate etc....

Aquinas3000 said...

"I object on rational grounds to unequivocally comparing what it would be like for modern educated rational beings to have mates with no rationality as opposed too primordial newly rational beings to have mate of this nature.

Think about it."

OK, but it would be good if you could tell me what those rational grounds are.

I making a comparison for a rational creature - it doesn't have to be a modern educated one. This seems to imply the difference is small. Yet there is a massive gulf. This makes it sound (although I know you would not hold) that is a difference of degree and not kind. I have thought about it - a fair bit actually. I'm not saying it didn't happen but it does sound like a bizarre situation. I don't think primordial man including Adam were not highly intelligent.

Aquinas3000 said...

Haha, funny Ed (seriously!). A couple of your books arrived the other week and they look great, can't wait to dive in to them eventually.

NB should note I can see Ben's point about bestiality. The big problem with it is that it is a per se infertile act which this is not. Although I'm not sure that having sex in this situation is moral. But at least not for the same reasons that bestiality is immoral.

StoneTop said...

So why is it necessarily for every human alive today to trace their ancestry back to Adam/Eve (in that they have A/E at some point in their family tree)? If the A/E as two out of many assumption is correct then, depending on when A/E lived, there would have been thousands of years were soulless H.Sapiens roamed the earth.

Neil Parille said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
One Brow said...

TheOFloinn said...
Rover sees Rin-Tin-Tin and submits to him. Rover does not need to know what "submit" means. The physical perception of Rinty followed by the act of submission is sufficient to explain his behavior.

So, Rover submits without knowing he is submitting. Much like a human can play chess without knowing they are playing chess, I suppose.

Of course "submission" is a concept -- we are human beings discussing dogs, not dogs discussing human beings. Conceptualization is what humans do. That humans conceive that Rover knows his place does not mean that Rover does.

Yes, we humans seem ot be curiously blind to what Rover actually sees. I see the connection not to the notion we can't understand a bat's experience. The real problem is that your metaphysics is claiming for humans all the properties of animals, yet giving animals capabilities humans do not possess. I can think of no better explanation for the inability to what dogs experience. You've left yourself a huge blind spot.

One Brow said...

Josh said...
I am a rational animal, discussing whether any other animal deserves the class distinction.

Also apparently lacking in the perceptions of other animals, from your inability to describe what goes on inside them, and despite the notion of having every ability an animal possesses.

"There is no doubt that the animal's power of perceptual thought enables it to perform acts of abstraction and generalization that have a certain similitude to human abstraction and generalization."

Then you agree animals abstract and gneralize?

That's just gainsaying my conclusion. What leads you to this conclusion?

My conclusion is based on the existence of abstraction and generalizaiton in non-human animals, and the ability of humans to abstract and generalize both in the same way as non-human animals and in ways non-human animals can not. We do it better. This is a difference in degree, not kind.

djindra said...

As usual, Feser has no idea what he is talking about. The biblical story of the Garden of Eden does not indicate that God gave Adam and Eve our human souls. God tries to keep them from gaining those unique souls. After all, what is more human than our constant wrestling with good and evil? God forbade that. He wanted humans to remain clueless about distinctions of good and evil. We were to be like the beasts, without any knowledge of good or evil. We were not supposed to eat of, and therefore know, moral distinctions. Without eating of the Tree we would know neither evil nor good. We wouldn't even suspect God was good. It was Eve who gave humanity its true soul. It was she who took what God forbade.

BenYachov said...

Aquinas3000,

I am merely pointing out a Newly Rational creature thought different now in kind is still an empty vessel. Yeh I would find NOVA from the Planet of the Apes boring after 5 minutes I don't care who does her hair. But a newly rational fallen man might not care. BTW after the Fall according to traditional doctrine man lost the ability for his higher powers to dominate his lower & he was subject to concupiscence.

So I find the "ick" factor unpersuasive for these and other reasons.

BenYachov said...

>Although I'm not sure that having sex in this situation is moral. But at least not for the same reasons that bestiality is immoral.

After Moses it would be immoral but souless hominids died out so it't moot.

David T said...

"So, Rover submits without knowing he is submitting. Much like a human can play chess without knowing they are playing chess, I suppose."

Meant ironically, of course, but it nonetheless proves TheOFloinn's point doesn't it? Chess is an essentially rational activity - you must know you are playing chess to actually play chess. Which is why squirrels, dogs and apes don't play chess, or do anything that can be plausibly equated with playing chess.

"Submission", on the other hand, is an activity that doesn't necessarily require rationality (although rationality can accompany it). Thus dogs can perform acts that we describe as submissive, even if they themselves do not understand their actions through a concept of "submission."

We don't even have to repair to dogs to make the point. People communicate many things through body language of which we are consciously unaware, including submission. When this happens, the submissive act is not mediated through a concept of "submission."

The difference between us and dogs is that dogs never get beyond this point. We, however, can analyze the submissive act through a concept of submission, raising it to the level of conscious rationality. We can analyze submission when we are not actually being submissive (let's see a dog do that), and also consciously choose to be submissive or not submissive given identical circumstances.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Another thing to point out, that I think is overlooked, is that modern man is taking modern ideas and transporting them back into history!

In this case, I think that most people here are under the impression that Adam lived a normal 'modern day life' of 70 years.

Adam LIVED TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY YEARS before he begat Seth. Then, he lived another SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS!

In this time, Adam and Eve produced many children. Practically, the first couple lived 1000 years, in order to produce a whole bunch of people! This is why Cain was afraid when he murdered Abel. Why would Cain be afraid of non-relatives that were below man? Does not make sense.

Is this taken into an account. In 1000 years, Adam and Eve couldv'e produced your community of 10,000 people!

God would have laid aside the laws of biology and geneticts until after Adam died! Just like God laid aside the laws of physics and had the sun stand still, God has the ability to lay aside the laws of biology in order to accomplish his Will. (God can not lay aside the Laws of Nature, Never has and Never will, but God can at will, pause, or mute the secondary laws of physics and of biology!)

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

Thanks for your kind response. I’ll start with your remarks on James Ross and his arguments for the immateriality of thought. I think Ross’s argument is a bit of a curate's egg: better in some parts than others.

First, Ross argues that thought is immaterial because it has a definite, determinate form. As he puts it: by its nature, thinking is always of a definite form - e.g. right now, I am performing the formal operation of squaring a number. But no physical process or sequence of processes, or even a function among physical processes, can be definite enough to realize (or "pick out") just one, uniquely, among incompossible forms. For example, when I perform the mental operation of squaring, there is nothing which makes my accompanying neural processes equivalent to the operation of squaring and not some other mental operation. Thus, no such process can be such thinking.

Now, I happen to be pretty good at squaring - it's a good party trick, and I can square nine-digit numbers in my head. That takes me about 20 minutes, but three-digit numbers only take me a second or two. Ross argues that no physical process or sequence of processes, or even a function among physical processes, can be definite enough to realize (or "pick out") just one formal operation (squaring) uniquely, among incompossible forms. For instance, if we found a machine that could duplicate what I do whenever a number was typed in and a certain button was pressed, we might reasonably conclude that it was a squaring machine, but there's no way we could know for sure that it was not a "squiring" machine (where "squiring" is defined the same as squaring for all integers up to a very high number N, but as 0 for all higher integers). Ross is wrong here, because he confines himself to examining the machine's output. But we could take the machine apart and examine its electronic circuitry. That would tell us whether the machine's squaring function was defined in the same way for all integers. Or as Richard Dawkins puts it: “[A]ny engineer can recognize an object that has been designed, even poorly designed, for a purpose, and he can usually work out what that purpose is just by looking at the structure of the object” (The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, p. 21, italics mine).

I should add that even if Ross’s first argument were valid, it works best for mathematical operations. These really are determinate, as are a few propositions (e.g. believing that the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, was born in 1926). However, most of our thoughts are vague and somewhat indeterminate (e.g. believing that the Queen is bald, or that something funny is behind UFO sightings).

Second, Ross makes a similar argument for the propositional content of thought: when I think that 2 + 7 = 9, or that it is going to rain tomorrow, there is nothing in my brain which unambiguously corresponds to this thought, as opposed to some other thought. That makes sense. Judgments, according to Ross, are typically so definite that no physical state or process can constitute that judgment alone. But then he spoils his case by saying that judgments often exhibit an indeterminacy which defeats any physical mapping: e.g. "The French revolution was not as profound a social change as the industrial revolution." Why is he arguing for indeterminacy when he’s trying to make a case for immateriality based on determinacy? Odd.

In my opinion, even Ross's focus on determinacy doesn’t get to the heart of the matter: what I think really matters is that (as you pointed out in Aquinas), no material process inherently means anything, such as "2" or "tomorrow". That's all he needs. The reason why is that concepts are inherently normative, and a physical fact (e.g. my brain-state) cannot mean a norm; at best it is but a concrete example of following a norm.

More on Alex the parrot anon.

George R. said...

Ed writes:
Nor do I see what grounds you have for insinuating that the Flynn/Kemp scenario is dubiously orthodox. Once "special transformism" is allowed as compatible in principle with Catholic orthodoxy -- and Pius XII clearly allowed that it is -- then the possibility that early humans mated with sub-intellectual hominids pretty clearly follows.

I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Firstly, Pius XII never said that special transformism was compatible with Catholic orthodoxy. Secondly, the Flynn/Kemp scenario is not just “dubiously orthodox,” it’s blatantly heterodox, and completely asinine to boot. Thirdly, if early humans had mated with another species, that would mean the human race no longer exists, only a hybrid race. Moreover, Our Lady and Our Lord would not be human, but some kind of man-monkey hybrids. It’s completely blasphemous.

The literalist interpretation is clearly the only orthodox Catholic option:

Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum, 1880:
We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep.


Pope Pelagius I, 557 AD:
For I confess that all men from Adam, even to the consummation of the world, having been born and having died with Adam himself and his wife, who were not born of other parents, but were created, the one from the earth, the other, however, from the rib of man.

That’s the faith of the Fathers, my friends. Accept no substitutes.

BenYachov said...

First George you deny Benedict is the Pope thus you are not a Catholic. You are a high Church Protestant with Rosary beads.

Pius XII said Catholics can believe Adam's body can come from pre-existing living matter. Get over it!

Arcanum is an encyclical on Christian Marriage. Pope Leo was teaching about the nature of Christian marriage he wasn't defining anything about the nature of Adam & Eve's creation. He was merely talking about them matter of factly from Scripture.

Pope Pelagius' statement at best shows Fr Harrison is wrong to speculate Adam was ensouled at conception in the womb of his animal "mother".. Most Fathers teach Adam was created fully grown. If Adam was created by infusing a Hominid with a Soul then that creature ceases to exist and an New Creature is created in it's place and the biological forbears of that body are not His True parents. Adam has God alone as his Father.

Dr. Bonnette has some interesting insights on the creation of Eve. But I don't have the time now.

Fail!

Evolution is compatible with Catholicism. That doesn't make it a fact but it is compatible.

Get over it & return to the True Church George!

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

Back again. Thanks for your very thoughtful comments.

Ed, I take your point about being "ecumenical". I understand now that you weren't trying to say that the Church would be happy if rational parrots were discovered. My apologies.

Turning to Alex the parrot (who actually died in 2007): does he have concepts? The critical question, I believe, is whether his generalized ideas (which appear to be concepts) are normative. Let's try this: hold up a round object and ask, "Alex, is this a block? Yes or no?" If Alex can reliably differentiate blocks from non-blocks, we might be tempted to say he has the concept of a block. But he doesn't really, unless he can answer the next question: "Why, Alex?" - "Not wood." And to further exclude the possibility of rote learning of rules which his trainer might have taught him but which he does not understand, we'd have to test him on a variety of concepts (e.g. “This is an octagon"), some of which are new to him, and see if he can reliably distinguish things instantiating these concepts ("Is this an octagon, yes or no?"), and finally, articulate the rule behind the concepts "Eight sides"). If he can do that, he's rational.

As to my "Yuck" objection: I'm certainly not saying that early humans would have had that reaction to good-looking sub-rational hominids of the opposite sex. That's hardly likely, especially if these hominids looked just like rational hominids. My question is: did God actually plan for Adam's sons (e.g. Cain) to pair up with sub-rational hominids of the opposite sex? If Adam hadn't fallen, was Cain supposed to marry his sister or one of these good-looking hominids? If the latter, then my moral reaction is: "Yuck." That hardly seems a moral thing for God to plan - and to what end, anyway?

You, on the other hand, seem to think that mating with a sub-rational hominid of the opposite sex would have been immoral. Thus you presumably believe that God intended Cain to marry his sister. That's fine – but I’d argue that this scenario reflects badly on God. If God wanted Cain to refrain from unnatural sex, then since God is wise, He should have foreseen the possibility that this would happen, and built psychological barriers to minimize the likelihood of its occurrence, by making sub-rational hominids seem utterly unappealing - just as the thought of mating with a female chimpanzee is totally unappealing to me. But God could not have rendered these sub-rational hominids unappealing to Cain if they were of the same biological species as Cain: genetic variability being what it is, some would have taken his fancy. This, for me, is a reductio ad absurdum. Since we know that God is both good and wise, there couldn't have been any such crowd of sub-rational hominids looking just like us.

BenYachov said...

>My question is: did God actually plan for Adam's sons (e.g. Cain) to pair up with sub-rational hominids of the opposite sex?

Most likely not but God can bring Good out of evil. If we believe Aquinas over St Francis the Incarnation would not have happened without the Fall. The Incarnation exalts man above the Angels.

Thus poem about O Happy Fall! God doesn't will evil but he brings good out of it.

Cheers!

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Evolution is NOT compatible with Philosopy! Then, it is NOT compatible with Catholicism.

Why?

The Law of Nature principle of "Like produces Like".

Something dead, can not produce something living! No animal produced a human being. Because the animal, the monkey we descended from, would have to have the potentiality of humanness in order to procreate one. Impossible.

The Law of Nature is Like produces Like. This disproves Evolution.

Another Law of Nature is the Golden Mean. One definition of the Golden Mean is "where the extremes meet". I think there is room for BOTH Creation and Evolution.

God created all the prototypes, the archetypes of species, and then evolution kicked in to create differentia. God created the microunities, and then nature completed its course by developing the pluralties.

Creation and evolution, Together. Pure evolution breaks the principle of Like to Like, and so it is automatically wrong!

Materialist science does prove evolution of type, but it in no way can prove that Like produces contrary. Philosophy is the Queen of Sciences and has the authority to correct Physical materialist sciences (q.v. Maritain, Intro to Phil.). Evolution breaks the dictum when it comes to the archetypes and so is disproven. Philosophy rules that pure evolution is wrong.

Josh said...

One Brow,

Also apparently lacking in the perceptions of other animals, from your inability to describe what goes on inside them, and despite the notion of having every ability an animal possesses.

That I lack the eyesight of a dog, and therefore cannot have the same percepts as a dog, is irrelevant. Dogs sense, people sense. The difference there is a matter of degree.

Then you agree animals abstract and gneralize?

After a fashion, yes. Take special care to note the word "similitude" in that Adler quote.

My conclusion is based on the existence of abstraction and generalizaiton in non-human animals, and the ability of humans to abstract and generalize both in the same way as non-human animals and in ways non-human animals can not. We do it better. This is a difference in degree, not kind.

Again, it is the nature of universals that is in question. If a being is material, then it changes. Everything in sense experience is particular. For a thing to be known as universal is to be known immaterially; I've asked which of Feser's arguments from pp.42-44 in TLS would be ripe for your analysis, and I'm really curious which of the premises in one of those you can take issue with.

If it is established that apprehension of universals, or forms, or concepts is immaterial, then the difference between animal and human is one of kind. I'll quote Adler for the 3rd time:

The animal's behavior manifests different reactions to objects that are different in kind. But the kinds of things that animals appear to differentiate are all kinds of which there are perceptual instances in the animal's experience. Humans differentiate kinds or classes of which there either are no perceptual instances in their experience or of which there cannot be any. This is the distinguishing characteristic of conceptual thought and the irrefutable evidence of the presence of intellect in man and of its absence in brutes"

Alan Fox said...

Hi Alan,

When have I ever argued biology with Coyne?


Thanks for your response, Professor Feser. So you have no argument with the biological evidence over the impossibility of human descent from a Biblical Adam and Eve and we can just regard the story as allegory.

So my question about whether you consider 200K or 60k for the species divergence of Homo sapiens becomes moot as you are waiting for the biology to become settled, I presume.

Josh said...

Alan,

Thanks for your response, Professor Feser. So you have no argument with the biological evidence over the impossibility of human descent from a Biblical Adam and Eve and we can just regard the story as allegory.

Some things to help you out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy

http://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Dummies-Tom-Morris/dp/0764551531/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316018545&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.com/Last-Superstition-Refutation-New-Atheism/dp/1587314525/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1316018588&sr=1-1

Alan Fox said...

Josh

Thanks for taking the trouble to research those links for me. I appreciate it. Though I am curious as to if there is any practical contribution made to the human condition recently by any philosopher. Perhaps there is a Wikipedia entry?

David T said...

Alan,

Yes, there is a Wikipedia entry. Josh gave it to you. Read the last paragraph in the entry.

Untenured said...

@Alan Fox:

I am not sure what you consider a "practical contribution", and I don't know what you consider "recent". But off the top of my head I can think of two examples. First, the philosopher Gottlob Frege developed the predicate calculus which is foundational to much of computer science. Cognitive science, moreover, is built almost entirely around concepts that were developed by anglo-american philosophers. Indeed, it would not be much of an exaggeration to say that much of contemporary cognitive science is merely "applied" analytic philosophy.

But even if recent philosophy had not made any "practical contributions", how would that affect the current discussion in any way?

Alan Fox said...

I am not sure what you consider a "practical contribution", and I don't know what you consider "recent".

As to recent, let's say within living memory, perhaps post second world war.

As to practical, substitute useful, if you like; on the lines of "what have the Romans ever done for us?"

Alan Fox said...

Yes, there is a Wikipedia entry. Josh gave it to you. Read the last paragraph in the entry.

Thanks for your help, David T. The section on applied philosophy is a bit vague, however. Have you no specific achievement that springs to mind?

Alan Fox said...

Hadn't heard of Gottlob Frege, so thanks for the information. Is it fair to claim mathematics as an achievement of philosophy? Somewhat of a flawed character, apparently. Though perhaps anti-semmitism may have been a less objectionable stance, pre-holocaust.

One Brow said...

David T said...
Meant ironically, of course, but it nonetheless proves TheOFloinn's point doesn't it? ... People communicate many things through body language of which we are consciously unaware, including submission. When this happens, the submissive act is not mediated through a concept of "submission."

The difference between us and dogs is that dogs never get beyond this point. We, however, can analyze the submissive act through a concept of submission, raising it to the level of conscious rationality.


YOur argument is well-presented, and would make an effective counter to an argument that there is no difference between what dogs do when they submit and what humans do when they consider the concept of submission.

However, it does little to support the notion that the difference is a matter of degree, not kind. I fully acknowledge the same level of difference that you, Josh, and TheOFloinn see. What I don't see a reason to accept is that there is a fundamental disconnect between the abilities, as opposed to a continuum of increasing abilities.

Alan Fox said...

excuse typo anti-Semitism

David T said...

Alan,

"Is it fair to claim mathematics as an achievement of philosophy?" It's clear where you are going: Anything you would allow as a contribution, you would deny is philosophical. So the real question (a philosophical one) is what counts as a contribution.

David T said...

OneBrow,

A fair question. The answer is that the dog's behavior can always be resolved into particulars, whereas human behavior cannot (or, at least, cannot always).

Continue with the submission vs chess example. Doggy submission takes the form of one case from a finite set of behaviors. Dog rolls over and exposes its stomach, or something like that. As long as there is a finite set of these behaviors, it is possible to explain them in material (limited) terms.

What about chess? Chess has no necessary physical manifestation, even in terms of a limited set of behavior. The "standard" way of playing chess is to move wooden pieces on a board sitting between two players. But it doesn't have to be done that way. The players could use an electronic board on a computer screen, two different boards at two different locations (mailing each other moves), or many boards at many locations. In fact, no physical board or pieces are necessarily required (not even electronic), as top players can play games blindfolded and merely communicate the moves to each other (which again, could be done in an infinite variety of different ways - different languages, written or verbal, hand signals, etc.)

The difference between chess and doggy submission is, I submit, one of kind and not degree. The doggy submission is necessarily related to certain physical behaviors; chess playing is not. It's not the case that chess playing merely has a somewhat larger behavior set; it has an infinite behavior set because chess playing is essentially an abstract rational activity that transcends its physical manifestations. The doggy submission isn't.

One Brow said...

Josh said...
That I lack the eyesight of a dog, and therefore cannot have the same percepts as a dog, is irrelevant. Dogs sense, people sense. The difference there is a matter of degree.

I agree, and that was rather my point. We have all of the abilities of animals, all of the capabilites of animal souls with Thomsian metaphysics. Yet, Thomists say we supposedly lack the insight to describe them. Instead, their estimative sense is replaced with our conginitive sense, according to the link you provided. Perhaps Adam had his estimative sense replaced with a cognitive sense? Or is cognative sense an enhanced version of estimative sense?

After a fashion, yes. Take special care to note the word "similitude" in that Adler quote.

I'm sure Adler would never have said it was the same thing.

Again, it is the nature of universals that is in question.

That is an interesting connection, one I don't quite see. If universals are real, our ability to conceive of them as instantiating "red" is still a difference of degree from the abilities of animals to generalize based on the color "red". If universals are arbitrary groupings, our ability to conceive of them as instantiating "red" is still a difference of degree from the abilities of animals to generalize based on the color "red".

For a thing to be known as universal is to be known immaterially; I've asked which of Feser's arguments from pp.42-44 in TLS would be ripe for your analysis, and I'm really curious which of the premises in one of those you can take issue with.

I returned TLS back to the library in 2009. I'll try ot find the time to look up that sections again. Maybe this Saturday. That is, unless you want to present a summary of those arguments here or in the other thread.

If it is established that apprehension of universals, or forms, or concepts is immaterial, then the difference between animal and human is one of kind.

Why?

I'll quote Adler for the 3rd time:

I'm fine with Adler's quote. As long as we have no evidence non-human animals can distinguish classes of which they have no direct perception, we can certainly say that non-human animals lack intelligence. However, the Adler quote offers no evidence to the difference being one of degree or of kind.

Alan Fox said...

Regarding cognition in dogs. Returning the favour for links provided.

http://faculty.washington.edu/jcha/330_dog_social_cognition.pdf

And there's lots more. Reminds me of the horses teeth.

One Brow said...

Is it fair to claim mathematics as an achievement of philosophy?

Actually, yes. Mathematics may as well be considered a highly specialized branch of philosophy.

Alan Fox said...

I guess Mortimer Adler kept a dog. ;)

Anonymous said...

"Philosophy is useless or irrelevant" is itself a philosophical claim, so that to utter it would be to shoot oneself in the foot. Indeed, even to arrive at that philosophical claim as a conclusion would require a preceding chain of philosophical argumentation. Totally self-defeating, and it functions as a good litmus test for separating those who know what they're talking about (and whose thoughts are thus worth taking seriously) from those that don't (and hence whose thoughts aren't worth taking seriously).

Alan Fox said...

Actually, yes. Mathematics may as well be considered a highly specialized branch of philosophy.

Nitpick; achievements of philosophy. But isn't that a bit like the parent claiming all credit for the achievements of their child.

One Brow said...

The difference between chess and doggy submission is, I submit, one of kind and not degree. The doggy submission is necessarily related to certain physical behaviors; chess playing is not. It's not the case that chess playing merely has a somewhat larger behavior set; it has an infinite behavior set because chess playing is essentially an abstract rational activity that transcends its physical manifestations. The doggy submission isn't.

I agree with you in a sense. Submission (by dogs) is a physical activity, chess is a formal actvity. The activities are different in kind.

However, to the degree that I asked a question, it was about where the difference in abilities were a difference in kind, not the difference in activities. The dominant dog takes the actions of the submissive dog, such as lying on its back, and interprets that in an general framework of how to respond to submissive behaviors. They do not do so at the level of humans, but the behavior is interpreted, nonetheless. A relation of this particular to a general class of submissives behaviors must occur, or else the dog could not react to the submission appropriately. The difference in kind between this interpretation, and the interpretation of the chess player to the tipped king, is what I am seeking. I may have misunderstood, though, perhaps such a difference is not intended in Thomism.

Untenured said...

@Alan Fox:

Frege was a philosopher and not just a mathematician. One of the reasons he developed predicate calculus was to show that mathematics could be reduced to logic. This project was a purely philosophical enterprise, and it was later taken up by Bertrand Russell and Alfred N. Whitehead. This philosophical project was eventually derailed by Kurt Godel, who proved that mathematics cannot be reduced to logic. Moreover, Frege also made contributions to our understanding of language which are now embodied in formal semantics and cognitive science. His anti-semitism was unfortunate, but irrelevant to the claim that philosophers have made practical contributions to contemporary life.

Anonymous said...

WLW said:

"Philosophy rules that pure evolution is wrong."

We'll. Your 'version' of what you call philosophy says that. Many don't agree with your 'revealed wisdom' based motivated reasoning philosophy. Angels on heads of pins and Adam's rib and all.

Alan Fox said...

...the claim that philosophers have made practical contributions to contemporary life.

I asked the question:

Though I am curious as to if there is any practical contribution made to the human condition recently by any philosopher.

I did not actually claim there have been no useful or practical contributions to society by philosophers recently. I would possibly make a narrower claim; that philosophers have made no recent useful contribution, offered any useful insight, in the sphere of scientific research.

For example I wonder if a working researcher in the cognitive sciences would acknowledge a useful contribution from Frege or Adler, say.

David T said...

OneBrow,

Not exactly sure if I follow you, but here is a try:

The fact that dog submission is characterized by a finite set of physical behaviors means that we don't have to suppose that submission must involve reference to a general class of submissive behaviors. We only have to find the physical characteristics common to the behaviors which serve as cues to the dominant dog's behavior (e.g. exposing the stomach.) Such cues are always possible to find in a finite set (since the set of cues could simply be the set of behaviors).

We can call this "interpretation" if we want, but it's not the same thing we do in abstract reasoning involving general (abstract) classes.

Alan Fox said...

We only have to find the physical characteristics common to the behaviors which serve as cues to the dominant dog's behavior...

You might consider observing Canis lupus in the field to appreciate the evolutionary heritage of body language in the domestic dog. Horses teeth!

Untenured said...

@Alan Fox:

For example I wonder if a working researcher in the cognitive sciences would acknowledge a useful contribution from Frege or Adler, say.


But what of it then? Whether the researchers realize these contributions or not is irrelevant. What matters is whether philosophy has made practical contributions. And it clearly and obviously has. I don't need to know about Pythagoras in order to do geometry, but that doesn't mean Pythagoras failed to contribute anything to geometry.

At this stage, I really don't know what the point of your question is.

Alan Fox said...

At this stage, I really don't know what the point of your question is.

Simple really, I am asking what is the point of philosophy today. Let's say, your university philosophy department is being considered for closure as a cost-cutting exercise. What could you say that would give the faculty board cause for reflection? No doubt Pythagoras made worthy contributions to mathematics but would that impress them

Josh said...

One Brow,

Or is cognative sense an enhanced version of estimative sense?

Yes.

I'm sure Adler would never have said it was the same thing.

Cool, I'm glad we're clear on that.

If universals are real, our ability to conceive of them as instantiating "red" is still a difference of degree from the abilities of animals to generalize based on the color "red".

You are treating universals then like any other sensible object, in short, like any other particular object.

I returned TLS back to the library in 2009.

Well, then I'll pursue that line of inquiry another time.

If it is established that apprehension of universals, or forms, or concepts is immaterial, then the difference between animal and human is one of kind.

Why?


Because dogs don't do it, and every behavior that looks like they do it can be reduced to acts of perception and not conception. Which means that we can do something that they cannot do in principle, because animals are limited to the world of particulars. You don't get to the experience of the universal simply by adding more experience of particulars. That's why it is a difference in kind.

However, the Adler quote offers no evidence to the difference being one of degree or of kind.

Observing behaviors of animals doesn't count as evidence? For shame, empiricist!

Josh said...

Alan,

Simple really, I am asking what is the point of philosophy today. Let's say, your university philosophy department is being considered for closure as a cost-cutting exercise. What could you say that would give the faculty board cause for reflection?

I would say,"if you cut my department, then we will be overrun by Alan Foxes, and will have no way to fight them!"

Alan Fox said...

Jason Rosenhouse commenting on Professor Feser's post:

Biology provides good reasons for being highly suspicious of claims that an ability for abstract reasoning represents a clean break between humans and animals. Paleoanthropology provides no evidence that mental attributes we sometimes think of as distinctively human appeared suddenly, as opposed to gradually. These findings strike me as far more relevant and significant than the conclusions of so much armchair philosophy. If the empirical facts point strongly in one direction while a handful of philosophers say something different, then I think I know who is likely to have to yield.

Sort of begs the question, does Professor Feser feel that Rosenhouse is qualified to argue biology with Feser!

Alan Fox said...

Josh:

I would say,"if you cut my department, then we will be overrun by Alan Foxes, and will have no way to fight them!"

Hilarious, Josh! I can't match you for wit, so I won't try. But, seriously, could you justify keeping on the department now it's losing money?

Casey said...

One problem I would have with your account is that it would seem to make God more like the tinkerer you criticize intelligent design theorists for supposing.

Why would an all powerful creator use such a round about method for creating human beings?

Why wouldn't she just create them out of whole cloth like the literal story is meant to show.

It seems that in this account she's just tinkering at the edges. She already has this fully formed creature on her hands and then she just adds in the mysterious ingredient of the soul.

Vincent Torley said...

The O’Floinn

Thank you very much for supplying that valuable quote on “The Yuck factor” by citing Book XVI, chapter 8 of Augustine’s City of God. I knew there was a quote in St. Augustine like that, because I’d read it 25 or 30 years ago, but I couldn’t quite remember where, and I couldn’t remember the wording., so I was unable to locate it via Google.

Now, what does St. Augustine say about the definition of “human”? His reference to “a man, that is, a rational, mortal animal”, might suggest that these two criteria alone are enough. But in the precedence he rules this out: he says that the dog-like head and barking of the Cynocephali “proclaim them beasts rather than men”. So it looks like there are physical criteria as well: a human being has to look at least humanoid. Thus St. Augustine allows that apes and monkeys might be regarded as human if we didn’t know they were sub-rational, but he doesn’t say this about dogs. At the end of chapter 8, St. Augustine says: “either these things which have been told of some races have no existence at all; or if they do exist, they are not human races; or if they are human, they are descended from Adam.” So for Augustine, every human being subsequent to Adam must be descended from Adam.

I can’t see anything here which says that humans could have inter-bred with non-human beings, though, or that the progeny would have had rational souls if they had.

By the way, that’s a great blog you have.

Ben Yachov,

Thanks very much for the Hebrew references. Much appreciated. However, I noticed they said that the progeny of these inter-breedings would have lacked human souls.

More later.

Josh said...

Alan,

Hilarious, Josh! I can't match you for wit, so I won't try.

Thank you! High praise.

But, seriously, could you justify keeping on the department now it's losing money?

Well, I suppose I'd have to resort to a completely irrelevant, old-fashioned, useless to humanity, logic-chopping philosophical argument; something along the lines of "there's more to life than dollars, bro."

But then I'd remember that Philosophy is useless and see if I could come up with something in an Excel sheet. I'm not too skilled with that though.

BenYachov said...

VJ

>However, I noticed they said that the progeny of these inter-breedings would have lacked human souls.

The ones sired by Adam or Eve yes.

But their children with each other like Cain and Seth plus unamed daughters etc might be a different story. Never the less it's not necessary to canonized the whole scheme as is, rather to show the idea of other humanoid creatures contemporary to Adam & Eve and interbreeding with them is not beyond the pale.

BenYachov said...

Some unsolicited advice to Alan Fox.

Loose the anti-Philosophy New Atheist shtick. Why? Pride in reason and the human intellect if nothing else.

The scientism and positivism low brow anti-philosophy shtick is the Atheist version of Young Earth 6 day Creationism & twice as irrational.

The basic means of mere natural knowledge comes from both science and philosophy. Not science alone.

The later being either trivially true or self-refuting.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/03/scientism-roundup.html

There are a host of Atheist philosophers you could start with but ditch the Gnus. They are fundies without god-belief.

Just saying....

Daniel Smith said...

BenYachov: "Pius XII said Catholics can believe Adam's body can come from pre-existing living matter."

Would that make Adam an "artifact"?
(smile!)

Alan Fox said...

Thanks for the advice, Rock, but I was born that way. Some of us are emotionally impervious to the siren call of philosophy. What can you do?

Alan Fox said...

Hi Dan

(scuse OT)

One Brow said...

David T said...
The fact that dog submission is characterized by a finite set of physical behaviors means that we don't have to suppose that submission must involve reference to a general class of submissive behaviors. ... We can call this "interpretation" if we want, but it's not the same thing we do in abstract reasoning involving general (abstract) classes.

I agree it is not the same thing. I'm surious about why you think the finiteness of the class of behaviors is relevant to the non-existence of a general class. One can not generalize from finite instantiations?

Morever, every time a dog turns up its belly, it looks different than any other time a dog has turned up its belly, if possibly by a small amount. How is a dog recognizing nearly all of them as signaling the same thing not a case of generalization?

Edward Feser said...

George R,

I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Here's a third option: Why don't you try giving an argument instead of a series of undefended assertions?

Firstly, Pius XII never said that special transformism was compatible with Catholic orthodoxy.

I assume you've read Humani Generis. And thus you know that Pius XII there says that:

the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter.

Now, that's already verbally at odds with the quotes you provider from Popes Leo and Pelagius. They say that Adam was made from "the earth" (Pelagius) or "the slime of the earth" (Leo). And of course, that's what you'd get from a literal reading of Genesis. Yet Pius XII says that it is permissible to hold that Adam's body was made from "pre-existent and living matter." So, you've got two options. You could either admit the blindingly obvious -- that Pius XII is allowing that Adam's body being made from "the earth" need not be taken literally -- or you could say that Pius XII was was wrong. Since you seem to put the Magisterium of Pope George R above that of other popes anyway, perhaps you'll go with the latter option and declare Pius XII a heretic.

Nor is there any doubt that Pius XII had special transformism in mind. First of all, it is hard to see what he could possibly have meant by allowing evolutionary explanations of the human body from living matter if he didn't mean special transformism, since he explicitly condemns other evolutionary hypotheses and special transformism is the only one left among the theories being discussed at the time that could plausibly fit his words. Second, the orthodox manualists of the day -- people like Koren and Klubertanz, who were writing in the 1950s, just after Humani Generis, in books that received the Imprimatur and Nihil obstat -- put forward special transformism as a possibility, which they would not have done if it were not allowed by the Church.

Even Fr. Harrison, who (as the articles I cited seem to make clear) does not like evolutionary explanations of any sort, acknowledges that Pius XII had special transformism in mind in this passage from Humani Generis. No doubt you will label Fr. Harrison a "modernist," but on this issue his sympathies are clearly closer to yours, and yet he still admits that special transformism is a view a Catholic could hold.

(continued)

Edward Feser said...

(continued)

Secondly, the Flynn/Kemp scenario is not just “dubiously orthodox,” it’s blatantly heterodox, and completely asinine to boot.

Since their scenario is clearly a possible implication of special transformism, and special transformism is compatible with orthodoxy, their position is clearly not "blatantly unorthodox." And if you think otherwise, then, again, an actual argument would be helpful.

Thirdly, if early humans had mated with another species, that would mean the human race no longer exists, only a hybrid race. Moreover, Our Lady and Our Lord would not be human, but some kind of man-monkey hybrids. It’s completely blasphemous.

First of all, since what makes us human in the metaphysical sense is the presence of a rational soul, and all humans descended from Adam -- both those that did not mate with sub-intellectual hominids and those which (on the Flynn/Kemp scenario) did -- have rational souls, they are all equally human. So there is no "hybrid race" somehow different from those who did not interbreed with sub-intellectual hominids. Furthermore, since these sub-intellectual hominids would have been genetically comparable to us (just not intellectually comparable), there are no grounds for saying in the first place that they introduced something non-human into our gene pool.

Second, Pius XII explicitly allows that the human body could in principle have come from "pre-existent and living matter" -- which means, since the human body came from it, that this living matter was not itself human. Now, if interbreeding with non-intellectual hominids would in your view make later humans somehow impure, then our having bodily precursors in non-human living matter would for you likely have the same corrupting result. But then you'd have to say that Pius XII is saying something "blasphemous," something that amounts to claiming that the bodies Our Lord and Our Lady came from non-human living matter (horrors!)

For that matter, I guess Leo is a blasphemer too, since his words imply that the bodies of Jesus and Mary, being human, came ultimately from "slime" (oh dear!) And maybe even Pelagius and Genesis are blasphemous, since they imply that the bodies of Jesus and Mary had their distant origins in earth or clay (blasphemy!)

So, Pius XII, Leo, Pelagiius, and Genesis, all at odds with the Magisterium of George R. Tough luck for them, I guess...

One Brow said...

Josh said...
One Brow: If universals are real, our ability to conceive of them as instantiating "red" is still a difference of degree from the abilities of animals to generalize based on the color "red".

You are treating universals then like any other sensible object, in short, like any other particular object.


Because I made the comparison? I don't see any other aspect of the part you quoted that led you to this conclusion.

Because dogs don't do it, and every behavior that looks like they do it can be reduced to acts of perception and not conception.

I don't jump 3 feet off the ground. Many people do. I think we agree that is a difference in degree. You need to say more than "they don't do it". There needs to be something fundamentally immaterial to the nature of the process of our conceiving that is material to a non-human animal generalizing.

You don't get to the experience of the universal simply by adding more experience of particulars. That's why it is a difference in kind.

You also don't get the experience of jumping 3 feet off the ground by jumping six inches, six different times.

For shame, empiricist!

I am?

Edward Feser said...

Hi Vincent,

Re: Ross, it seems to me you've missed his point. Looking into the guts of the machine doesn't change anything, because the indeterminacy of the outputs exists at that level too. Even if there were a little sign in the machine that said "THis is a squaring machine, not a squiring machine," that wouldn't affect the point, because those words qua physical symbols would be as indeterminate as the output. And while we could of course just ask the programmers, the same problem will just recur in our interpretation of the sounds they make in response, in our interpretation of the neural processes which created the sounds, and so on and so forth -- IF, that is, we assume that such physical phenomena are all there are to deal with. Of course they are not -- the sounds, and ultimately the program the machine is running, are all the product of conceptual thought and for that reason (rather than any physicalistically definable properties of the machine, the neural processes, the sounds, etc.) have a determinate content.

Remember, Ross is merely making use of points that many physicalists themselves (e.g. Quine) have insisted upon, viz. that physicalistic properties alone cannot fix determinate meanings. Quine et al. accept this as a surprising consequence, but as Ross shows, it's really a reductio ad absurdum.

One reason it is important to distinguish Ross's point from the point about intentionality that I make in Philosophy of Mind is this. True, intentionality of any sort is impossible to account for on a modern materialist conception of matter precisely because that conception is mechanistic in the sense of denying to matter any inherent teleology or end-directedness. Since intentionality is a species of end-directedness, the materialist denial of inherent teleology or final causality thus closes the door in principle to a materialist account of intentionality, and entails eliminativism, whether materialists realize this or not.

But if one accepts an Aristotelian, teleological conception of the material world, then intentionality per se is not necessarily immaterial. For if the core of the notion of intentionality is "directedness," then if matter itself has a kind of built in directedness insofar as it exhibits built-in teleology, at least certain kinds of intentionality can be regarded as material. For example, an animal which seeks out water can be said to exhibit thereby a kind of intentionality, but is purely material.

It is only intentionality that has a conceptual component that implies immateriality for A-T, and indeed for classical philosophy in general. That is why you don't find Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, et al. argument for the immateriality of the mind on the basis of its "directedness" (which Brentano and contemporary philosophers think is what is central to intentionality) but instead on the basis of the universality of concepts vs. the particular character of matter, etc. (Similarly, you don't find them arguing about "qualia" -- that sort of thing is only plausibly "immaterial" on a modern, post-Aristotelian conception of matter.)

So, Ross is (rightly, in my view) just reflecting the older, pre-modern Scholastic tradition here -- while at the same time showing that contemporary writers (Quine, Kripke, et al.) have inadvertently provided reinforcement to that tradition.

David Ty said...

OneBrow,

Yes, one can generalize from a finite number of instances, which is what our human intellects do. The question is whether it is necessary to posit such a generalization to explain dog behavior. I don't see that it is.

Not every instance of dog submission is physically identical, that is true, but they are similar enough to serve as cues for the dominant dog. It is the physical similarity that is significant to the dog, not the intellectual similarity we recognize in the concept of submission. A motion detector doesn't require identical motion to work; it can detect a broad range of motions without ever having recourse to a concept of "motion." Or a smoke detector can be set off by a variety of different types and levels of smoke. But it will never be set off merely by the idea of "smoke" or someone uttering the word "smoke"... it's got to be physical smoke. And a dog will respond to physical acts of submission as long as they include the physical features that serve as cues to its behavior.

StoneTop said...

Arcanum is an encyclical on Christian Marriage. Pope Leo was teaching about the nature of Christian marriage he wasn't defining anything about the nature of Adam & Eve's creation. He was merely talking about them matter of factly from Scripture.

That seems rather contradictory... as it sounds like he is presenting his interpretation of the account he has read in the Bible. Indeed it seems quite striking that he would make such statements in the late 1800s, when the Theory of Evolution (though still in its infancy) was widely known.

Most Fathers teach Adam was created fully grown. If Adam was created by infusing a Hominid with a Soul then that creature ceases to exist and an New Creature is created in it's place and the biological forbears of that body are not His True parents. Adam has God alone as his Father.

The first part I agree, the text does indicate that Adam was formed "fully grown"... but what evidence do you have to support your second assertion? That when the "church fathers" refer to Adam being created from the earth they are referring to a hominid being "ensouled"?

FM said...

Once one starts "demythologzing" the opening chapters of Genesis, what prevents someone such as Raymond Brown from taking the same approach to the infancy narratives?

Well, apart from the fact that Augurstine and Aquinas already regarded The beginnings of Genesis as allegorical...

... Genesis (at least the first 12 chapters or so) and the Gospels are quite two different pieces of literature, written in a different way.

The creation-fall story was written after 1000s of years these events occured. The nativity stories were written 60-70 years after Jesus was born (which is a really short time for ancient records to appear)

Is it legitimate for a Catholic exegete to believe that Jesus wasn't born in Bethlehem or to question whether there were Magi, Shepherds or a flight to Egypt?

Yes it is legitimate to ask questions.

---------

@djindra

You are the USUAL TROLL.

as if Aquinas would know

He probably knew more than you ever will realize, and was certainly far less idiotic than you are.

As usual, Feser has no idea what he is talking about. The biblical story of the Garden of Eden does not indicate that God gave Adam and Eve our human souls. God tries to keep them from gaining those unique souls.

You are SO IGNORANT that it hurts.


In the bible story God 'breaths' into Adam, giving him life... breath- Ruach in hebrew- was also understood as the 'soul', the spiritual part of man.

God tries to keep them from gaining those unique souls. After all, what is more human than our constant wrestling with good and evil? God forbade that. He wanted humans to remain clueless about distinctions of good and evil. We were to be like the beasts, without any knowledge of good or evil. We were not supposed to eat of, and therefore know, moral distinctions. Without eating of the Tree we would know neither evil nor good. We wouldn't even suspect God was good. It was Eve who gave humanity its true soul. It was she who took what God forbade.

I think that you are greatly confused between what a 'soul' is and what 'morality' or 'understandong of good and evil' is.

---

@ Alan Fox

Thanks for the advice, Rock, but I was born that way. Some of us are emotionally impervious to the siren call of philosophy. What can you do?

Yeah they are called 'idiots'.

Scientism and Logical Positivism, where you clearly stands, are not only philosophical positions, but DEAD philosophical positions (the very thinkers who proposed them put the tomstone on them... yes YOU are the one believing fairytales ;) ).

TheOFloinn said...

Thirdly, if early humans had mated with another species, that would mean the human race no longer exists, only a hybrid race.

Oh dear. The commitment to a purely materialistic view is truly undermining. The unexamined assumption in the comment is that a rational soul has something to do with differentiating biological species; but that would be true only if the soul were regarded as a biological organ, like a spleen or a lung.

Hybridization, of course, shows up in the genes; so on which gene on which chromosome do you imagine the soul to lie?

Josh said...

One Brow,

I don't jump 3 feet off the ground. Many people do. I think we agree that is a difference in degree. You need to say more than "they don't do it". There needs to be something fundamentally immaterial to the nature of the process of our conceiving that is material to a non-human animal generalizing.

That analogy doesn't hold because you are talking about a physical ability, and we are asking if conception is a physical ability. And there is something fundamentally immaterial about concepts; that is the point.

You also don't get the experience of jumping 3 feet off the ground by jumping six inches, six different times.

"Experience" was a poor word choice; it allowed the misinterpretation that I was referring to sense experience. Let me amend: you don't get to know a concept merely by piling up precepts.

Wall o text:

"A physical change alone is not enough to explain knowledge. Otherwise the film in the camera could know the image imprinted on it...Since, however, the act of sensation is the act of a bodily organ, the sensible form is still individualized, for wherever there is body there is matter, and wherever there is matter there is individuation."

Meaning that there are no physical universals, because everything physical is particular. And if the sum total of our knowledge is physical, then it is only knowledge of physical, individuated, particular things. So universals are fundamentally non-physical. Peter Kreeft has some arguments for the characteristics of universals, but it might be too long to post here.

djindra said...

FM,

"I think that you are greatly confused between what a 'soul' is and what 'morality' or 'understanding of good and evil' is."

I think you are superficial if you think a being is human without having the ability to know good and evil. The god of Eden did not want that for humanity. The "soul" Eve created for herself is not the beast's "soul" God breathed into Adam.

djindra said...

Josh,

"...there are no physical universals, because everything physical is particular. And if the sum total of our knowledge is physical, then it is only knowledge of physical, individuated, particular things. So universals are fundamentally non-physical.

Your first mistake is in begging the question. If the brain knows universals then of course it, being physical, is evidence that there are indeed physical universals. You can complain that I'm begging the question too but this simply means that neither of us has enough evidence to avoid begging the question.

Next problem: It simply does not follow that knowledge -- being physical in our brains and received through physical means -- cannot be knowledge of universals. By necessity we cannot be limited to knowledge of only individuated, particular things. It's physically impossible for this to be the case. We don't have enough brain cells to remember all the details of our empirical encounters in nature. We *must* limit what we remember. We must remember similarities and differences. The merging and cross-linking of similarities is the foundation of abstraction and that is the foundation of universals. That's how brains work -- all brains.

djindra said...

Ed,

"Since intentionality is a species of end-directedness, the materialist denial of inherent teleology or final causality thus closes the door in principle to a materialist account of intentionality, and entails eliminativism, whether materialists realize this or not."

This reminds me, you went to a lot of trouble in Philosophy of Mind to present the brain in a jar or evil spirit scenario. We were supposed to question our access and/or knowledge of the outside world. Later the idea of intentionality -- the supposed downfall of materialism -- is defined in terms of thoughts or representations directed outside ourselves. This struck me as inconsistent. If we are locked inside our brains we cannot really direct anything outside it. The idea we are directing thoughts outside ourselves is an illusion if we are to believe the early parts of the book. Additionally, if we admit we are controlled by an outside evil spirit or alien race, that opens up the likelihood that our thoughts are, indeed material. For to control us so thoroughly implies an outside manipulator who has totally figure out what nerve endings do what to make us jump and think of jumping at its command. Of course the evil spirit might be God but that opens up a bigger can or worms.

Josh said...

Ed,

Steersman in another thread calls attention to Peter Dillard's piece "Two Unsuccessful Arguments for Immaterialism" in ACPQ (the same issue where your paper appears) which apparently takes aim at Ross' paper. Given that you put forth Ross here, perhaps a post on their papers and who comes out on top? Since most of us don't have access to Dillard?

Edward Feser said...

Josh,

I've got a philosophy of mind conference paper to write up by next spring, and I'll be dealing with Dillard's paper in it (along with some other objections people keep raising), but I've got several other deadlines to meet before then. So, I'll get to it, but it might take a little while.

BenYachov said...

@Stone tops

>That seems rather contradictory... as it sounds like he is presenting his interpretation of the account he has read in the Bible. Indeed it seems quite striking that he would make such statements in the late 1800s, when the Theory of Evolution (though still in its infancy) was widely known.

I have read Arcanum you have not my friend the judgement of "sounds like" based on a brief sound bite is not a valid form of analysis. It is about marriage not the nature of creation. Pope Leo takes on the heterodox views of marriage of his time (such as belief in divorce and the view a Sacramental Christian Marriage may be disolved by anything short of the death of one of the spouses) He is clearly matter of factly refering to the Genesis narative to show how it was God who gave Adam his wife and thus Marriage is God given institution. Not a mere man made social convenence according to the profane secular and modernist views.

If he had intended to define the nature of the creation of either man or woman that should have at minimum been the subject matter of the Encylical(like Humani Generis) but that is clearly not the case.

>The first part I agree, the text does indicate that Adam was formed "fully grown"... but what evidence do you have to support your second assertion? That when the "church fathers" refer to Adam being created from the earth they are referring to a hominid being "ensouled"?

They don't need too but I did cite the Rabbis teaching Adam and Eve broke up for a while after the death of Abel and before the birth of Seth. They each had children by mating with humanoid creatures without souls "demons".
Of course Angels and Demons are substansive forms without matter and cannot literally mate with humans. But they could possess a physical creature who could.

http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48931772.html

BenYachov said...

I must agree with FM.

Alan Fox has chosen the path of stupidity.

>Some of us are emotionally impervious to the siren call of philosophy.

Which is silly since philosophy is a rational discipline that has nothing to do with mere emotion.

Clearly your Atheism is something you believe on purely emotional grounds. A Quintin Smith or a William Rowe would make rational philosophical arguments for their Atheism.

You it seems disbelieve based on your emotions. That simply won't do here.

Alan Fox said...

The Dalai Lama wrote (in "The Universe in a SingleAtom")

My confidence in venturing in science lies in my belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

and it seems Professor Feser is taking the same course. When it comes to matters of truth, shared experience enriched with empirical research is a powerful tool.

The art is to find the literal truth and sift it from the allegory in regard to biblical accounts. The trouble is how (presuming you would care) to convince the sceptic the process is anything but arbitrary.

Alan Fox said...

Clearly your Atheism is something you believe on purely emotional grounds.

You could blame my childhood. The attempts to instil me with the tenets of Christianity (admittedly UK Protestantism is pretty watered down to start with, hardly any fire and brimstone) were pretty dilatory, even at the faith schools I attended. I think there is good evidence that emotional attachment to the supernatural is at least partly heritable and varies. One thing baffles me. Sometimes, there seems some are overly concerned about the personal beliefs of others, when personal freedom should be paramount.

A Quintin Smith or a William Rowe would make rational philosophical arguments for their Atheism.

I don't want to argue anyone out of their beliefs. An exchange of view can be interesting but until someone demonstrates that religious claims that are contrary to shared human human experience are not illusory I'll remain sceptical. I may be emotionally crippled from your point of view but there you are.

You it seems disbelieve based on your emotions. That simply won't do here.

Sorry if it won't do but it is religion that attempts to appeal to the emotions and as rational explanations for phenomena emerge over time it can make the religious explanation look a little bizarre.

For example the contortions I observe here involved in fitting Genesis to the changing picture of actual human evolution and history created by observation and research.

StoneTop said...

He is clearly matter of factly refering to the Genesis narative to show how it was God who gave Adam his wife and thus Marriage is God given institution.

Right, because God created Adam from the earth and then Eve from one of his ribs... so what quotes can you provide to show that the Pope in question did not believe that the Genesis account was a literal one?

If he had intended to define the nature of the creation of either man or woman that should have at minimum been the subject matter of the Encylical(like Humani Generis) but that is clearly not the case.

Unless he is using your deities creation of A/E as a foundation for his argument about marriage. Which is what you are doing as well, so that seems like a quite reasonable assumption to make regarding the Pope.

They don't need too but I did cite the Rabbis teaching Adam and Eve broke up for a while after the death of Abel and before the birth of Seth.

For someone who decries private interpretation by others you don't hesitate to do so yourself. Or can you cite where the above is part of Catholic Dogma?

Of course Angels and Demons are substansive forms without matter and cannot literally mate with humans. But they could possess a physical creature who could.

So you believe in daemons?

djindra said...

BenYachov,

"Which is silly since philosophy is a rational discipline that has nothing to do with mere emotion."

That statement is profoundly ignorant of philosophy itself.

BenYachov said...

@Stone Tops

In other words "Wait, you’re not a fundamentalist! That’s not fair!”

>Right, because God created Adam from the earth

Animals are brought forth from the Earth via Genesis thus according to the transitive property of logic a=b, b=c then a=c. Creating from pre-existing living matter is no different then being brought forth from the Earth. Or being made from the slime of the Earth since pre-existing living matter is made of the same stuff.

>and then Eve from one of his ribs...

The Hebrew for rib can also mean "side" it can be physical or not. Perhaps Adam's body as a fertilized Ovum was XXY & due to a freak but fortunate accident of mitosis via Divine Providence two Ovum where produced one XY & the other XX? It’s not hard.

>so what quotes can you provide to show that the Pope in question did not believe that the Genesis account was a literal one?

It doesn’t matter what the Pope personally believed. It is what he formally and clearly taught that matters. So President Clinton believed gays should be in the military? Big deal, till he formally and unambiguously issues an Executive order changing the Policy then his personal belief means very little. Gays where still banned til Obama. As Aquinas said not everything the King says is the Law. Only when a King is speaking clearly as a King and Law Maker do his words have that force. If the Pope meant to bind Catholics to a dogmatic belief in the literalistic interpretation of Genesis then he would have clearly said so. Nobody questions Pius IX meant to make the Immaculate Conception a Dogma since he went out of his way to formally say it was & enjoin Catholics to believe it. Well then via the Standards of Papal Infallibility via Vatican One how are Pope Leo’s words dogmatic definitions binding Catholics to interpret Genesis literalistic-ally? Do tell? They simply are matter of fact citations. Nothing more.

>Unless he is using your deities creation of A/E as a foundation for his argument about marriage.

As a Theistic Evolutionist I believe God created Adam and Eve.
I don’t see how Pope Leo is at odds with this theory? You are just assuming George R. fundamentalist mentality.

> Which is what you are doing as well, so that seems like a quite reasonable assumption to make regarding the Pope.

It is possible to interpret Pope Leo that way but Pope Leo never unambiguously tells us that is the only interpretation & formally binds us to that belief. Compare this statement with Pius XII dogmatic degree on the Assumption of Mary & tell me how they are similar if at all? Then we will talk.

>For someone who decries private interpretation by others you don't hesitate to do so yourself.

This view is consistent with Catholic teaching not against it so how can it be private interpretation?

>Or can you cite where the above is part of Catholic Dogma?

I never claimed that this interpretation is Dogma. Only the Pope & the Church can bind belief. I offer a theory consistent with evidence and tradition. Yes Catholics can hold to it or some other theory till the church rules on the matter if ever. You have been trying to grant yourself authority to say this must be only the literalistic interpretation & doing a poor job of it. You seem to hold the “Whatever the Pope says is doctrine” fundie mentality. I would rather think as a Catholic and employ the clear unambiguous standards of Vatican One.

>So you believe in daemons?

No I believe in angels and demons. I don’t know what a daemon is outside of AD&D and I switched to Scifi RPG’s later in life.

BenYachov said...

@Alan Fox

>For example the contortions I observe here involved in fitting Genesis to the changing picture of actual human evolution and history created by observation and research.

Not as bizarre as I find your decrying of philosophy(which is itself a philosophical view) and a mindless dogmatic unconscious, one might almost religious & unexamined belief in Positivism (i.e. Science is the only true knowledge).

Simply amazing. I'm sorry Alan but your pop version of Atheism is clearly beneath me. I need to think & New Atheism is not for thinking men. There are more rational ways to be an infidel than holding a failed philosophy reflexively just because Dawkins does it.

Sorry but that is the way it goes.

BenYachov said...

I used to flirt with Young Earth Creationism is college. Thought I never held it dogmatically since the Catholic Church gives you a lot of liberty in that regard.

But I grew out of it. I just wish A1 type Gnu'Atheists would outgrow Dawkins and become rational. I care if they continue to doubt God just stop doubting reason.

DNW said...

"If the brain knows universals then of course it, being physical, is evidence that there are indeed physical universals."

In other words knowledge is another term for a particular kind of change of state in the material brain, and that change of state is another word for the universal.

Thus if the brain knows an instance of when someone is driving a car fast, then the brain is driving fast.

Wait, that can't be right.

Nonetheless universals do exist as material objects in the particular brain. Which as particulars are of course not then actually universals. Nor are they objects.


But anyway, universals are material.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi everyone,

OK. Here’s a REAL ethical dilemma for those who believe in biologically human sub-rational hominids.

It’s 2,000,000 years B.C. (actually, archaeologists say B.P., and go backwards from 1950). You’re a biologically human being, of species Homo erectus: the first species to get a rational soul. You have a rational soul. Your wife (luckily for you) has one, too. So does your three-year-old son. However, your sister doesn’t have a rational soul.

It’s a few decades after the Fall, and death is now stalking the human race. There is a terrible famine in the land. You are continually hungry. Your baby is crying for food, and growing thinner every day. Your wife is fading to a shadow, and can barely feed him. They’ll be dead in a few days unless you find food for them both.

Your sister is still alive. Everyone else has gone. If you kill, cook and eat your sister, your wife and son will survive. If you don’t, they die. What do you do?

Here’s the problem. If you were a father in that situation, with a dying wife and baby, surely the only decisive reason for not killing your sister is that she has a right to life. But rights don’t come in halves – you either have a right to life or you don’t. Sub-rational beings don’t. So it seems OK to kill your sister. On the other hand, if you kill your sister, then you are acknowledging that it’s sometimes OK to kill a biologically human being. Try telling that to the pro-life movement. What’s more, you’re acknowledging that it’s sometimes OK to kill your own kith and kin – your sister, and even your father and mother – who are of the same species as yourself, so long as they’re sub-rational.

Someone may object that God would never let this happen. In reply: (a) that’s empirically false – look at the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., where mothers ate their own babies; (b) in any case, it’s the ethical principle that is at stake here.

Thoughts?

TheOFloinn said...

God created Adam from the earth... so what quotes can you provide to show that the Pope in question did not believe that the Genesis account was a literal one?

It was the best science of the age. Why not believe it? Anyone can observe empirically that when a man died his body decayed into soil. It would seem a reasonable inference that the first man came directly from the soil. It was not the ancients' fault that the science was wrong. Once the science was corrected to a new and less-wrong mythos, matters could be understood with greater clarity.

Josh said...

I've got a philosophy of mind conference paper to write up by next spring, and I'll be dealing with Dillard's paper in it (along with some other objections people keep raising), but I've got several other deadlines to meet before then. So, I'll get to it, but it might take a little while.

Great! Looking forward to it

One Brow said...

David Ty,

You answered your own question, but perhaqps not in the way you intended.

The question is whether it is necessary to posit such a generalization to explain dog behavior.

And a dog will respond to physical acts of submission as long as they include the physical features that serve as cues to its behavior.

The selection of specific physical features from overall actions, and connections to behaviorial cues, is generalization, as far as I can tell. If you think otherwise, what is the distinction?

Now, I have agreed and will continue to agree that it is not a generalizaiton of concepts, nor a conceptualization. Dogs may not do that at all, and we don't need it to explain this behavior. But that puts the difference back in the realm of degree, not kind.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi everyone,

I'd just like to sum up my objections to Kemp's inter-breeding scenario with a closing statement. We can argue all we like about whether it's really compatible with Genesis or with Church tradition, or whether inter-breeding is bestiality, or whether it could have been part of God's plan for humanity. But the core issue is what this proposal says about the meaning of humanity.

What I find most alarming, as I have mentioned above, is that Kemp denies that the concept of humanity is one and indivisible. In his article, on page 232, he speaks of three different ways of being human: being biologically human (the property possessed by any animal able to inter-breed with us), being philosophically human (the property possessed by any animal with a rational soul) and being theologically human (the property possessed by any rational being having an eternal destiny), in decreasing order of scope. This is a theological novelty: nowhere in the Fathers can we find any mention of the idea that an organism could be "biologically human" (i.e. a human animal) without having a rational human soul. For instance, Aquinas, like many of his contemporaries, mistakenly believed that the rational human soul was infused at the age of 40 or 80 days, but he nowhere describes the embryo as "biologically human" before that date, and in any case, he attributes to it a vegetative soul, not an animal soul. Aquinas also taught that any human animal is also by definition a rational animal. Kemp's article completely contradicts Aquinas on this vital point.

Kemp's proposal is also disastrous, because it undoes forty years of good philosophical work done by pro-life writers, who have striven to refute the notion that an organism (in this case, the fetus) could be biologically human without being a human person (i.e. philosophically human). Kemp's article proposes that there was an actual time when there were biologically human beings who lacked rationality, and who were therefore not philosophically human. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how pro-choice proponents could easily twist such a proposal. I maintain, with Aquinas, that the life of a human being is one, and whatever is biologically human is also philosophically human. That doesn't mean that humanity can be described in purely material or biological terms. What it means is that our human biology is in fact inseparable from our human rationality - even if they happen to be conceptually distinct.

Kemp's article also goes against the recent trend in theology to abandon outdated talk of man having a completely fulfilling natural end (St. Anselm's limbo theory), as well as a higher supernatural end (Heaven). We now recognize that man is a natural creature with a supernatural end, and that this alone can completely fulfill us. Whatever is philosophically human is also theologically human. The last two Popes were therefore right in moving away from the old limbo theory that we once learned at school.

Kemp might seek to buttress his position by appealing to the teaching that the human soul is immaterial; but it does not follow from this that an animal having a human body could lack a human soul. Kemp might also argue that the creation of the human soul is a supernatural act, and hence a free one on God's part; but this would prove too much, as it would mean that we have no assurance that every human being living today actually has a rational human soul, either. If we have that assurance today, then we also had it in the past, and for the same reason. God keeps his promises, and cannot do otherwise.

So that's my verdict on Kemp. Let me say that I'm not accusing him of heterodoxy, but he has overturned a lot more in the Catholic tradition than you might think – and with pretty bad consequences, I believe.

djindra said...

DNW,

"In other words knowledge is another term for a particular kind of change of state in the material brain, and that change of state is another word for the universal".

Nope, not even close. My statement takes the form of:

If we believe there are yellow ducks then finding a yellow duck is evidence there are yellow ducks.

The A-T form is:

There can't be yellow ducks because although we find them they aren't really yellow at all because yellow is a figment of our imagination.

One Brow said...

Josh said...
That analogy doesn't hold because you are talking about a physical ability, and we are asking if conception is a physical ability.

The analogy's only purpose was to illustrate that the argument "they don't do that" did not suffice to conclude the difference is kind, not degree.

One Brow: There needs to be something fundamentally immaterial to the nature of the process of our conceiving that is material to a non-human animal generalizing.

And there is something fundamentally immaterial about concepts; that is the point.


Concepts are the subject of the process, not the entirety of the process. Do you think these two statements express different views?

1) The perceptions of the dog are are different in kind from the conceptualizations of a human.

2) The processes that a dog uses to generalize its perceptions are different in kind than the process a human uses to categorize its conceptualizations.

I am more than willing to grant 1) for the sake of this discussion, and am much more interested in 2).

Let me amend: you don't get to know a concept merely by piling up precepts.

I agree there is more to the process.

Meaning that there are no physical universals, because everything physical is particular.

I accept that.

Peter Kreeft has some arguments for the characteristics of universals, but it might be too long to post here.

If you like, you can send it to me as an email. I'll even guest-post on my blog for you, if you want it public (your profile does not list a blog of your own).

Josh said...

One Brow,

2) The processes that a dog uses to generalize its perceptions are different in kind than the process a human uses to categorize its conceptualizations.

Yes, though there is a similitude, or an analogical relation between the two. The mode of the process is different in kind because of the objects that each processes. There is nothing in a dog's behavior that indicates processing of the second nature that you listed; all the behaviors can be explained as generalization of perceptions.

If you like, you can send it to me as an email. I'll even guest-post on my blog for you, if you want it public (your profile does not list a blog of your own).

We can keep it to the public space, I suppose, Kreeft's arguments are very simple and would easily invite comments.

Alan Fox said...

Not as bizarre as I find your decrying of philosophy(which is itself a philosophical view) and a mindless dogmatic unconscious, one might almost religious & unexamined belief in Positivism (i.e. Science is the only true knowledge).

I'm happy for you to disagree with me. I've been following the Coyne - Feser dialogue-of-the-deaf and just wanted to ask about the literal/allegorical rules that seem so arbitrary. I guess a few little side-lines developed while waiting for Professor Feser to respond.

Interestingly, people here got rather defensive at the question about practical developments in philosophy. Philosophy seems to have morphed somewhat into religious apologetics these days and maybe that is enough reason for philosophy departments to continue to exist.

TheOFloinn said...

There can't be yellow ducks because although we find them they aren't really yellow at all because yellow is a figment of our imagination.

iirc, it was the Scientific Revolutionaries -- Galileo, Hume, Descartes -- who denied the objective reality of secondary qualities like color. An A-T philosopher would insist that the duck really is yellow. The scientists would have insisted that the yellow is a subjective reaction in the perceiving subject.

DNW said...

"It’s 2,000,000 years B.C. (actually, archaeologists say B.P., and go backwards from 1950). You’re a biologically human being, of species Homo erectus: the first species to get a rational soul. You have a rational soul. Your wife (luckily for you) has one, too. So does your three-year-old son. However, your sister doesn’t have a rational soul."

"Thoughts?"


How is it that Mr. Homo erectus knows that his sister has no soul?


"Here’s the problem. If you were a father in that situation, with a dying wife and baby, surely the only decisive reason for not killing your sister is that she has a right to life. "

Why do you say decisive? What principle are you assuming that makes the choice to kill your biologically human but non rational sister, decisive?

TheOFloinn said...

just wanted to ask about the literal/allegorical rules that seem so arbitrary.

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/12022.htm

DNW said...

"Interestingly, people here got rather defensive at the question about practical developments in philosophy. Philosophy seems to have morphed somewhat into religious apologetics these days and maybe that is enough reason for philosophy departments to continue to exist."

September 15, 2011 9:13 AM"

As some people have pointed out already, your I'm-a-plain-man demand that philosophy - or radical and systematic questioning - justify itself on the basis of an improvement of the human condition as you conceive of it, is itself a kind of practical, if inferior philosophy.

And what shall we call "recent"?

Although you did not know who Frege was, certainly you know who Carnap, and Popper and Ayer were, and presumably you would while agreeing with their anti-metaphysical positions not challenge their self-identification as practitioners of philosophy.

If not, you would seem to tacitly acknowledge that some philosophers, even if it is only those like Quine who have sought to turn out the lights on philosophizing itself, have improved the human condition via uhhh ... philosophy.


That said, I too have often wondered in the abstract how philosophy has advanced the practices of plumbing or carpentry or added to the pleasures avid club-goers, or to the self-esteem of physically weak and emotional males.

But since the trades will get along without philosophy, and I don't care about the fates of latter two classes of persons, I don't wonder about it too much.

Someone might of course say that I should care, but that seems to me to be a philosophical question plain men can do without.

The calculus of personal advantage should in fact give a plain man all the information he needs to evaluate the worth of the weak and annoying.

George R. said...

Ed,

First of all, just to show you what a swell guy I am, I withdraw my hybrid/blasphemy charge, since it is not metaphysically impossible that a man and another species could generate a man and not a hybrid; not that I for a second believe any such thing actually happened, nor is it orthodox.

Now here’s what you quote from Pius XII’s encyclical:

the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter.

Then you write:

Now, that's already verbally at odds with the quotes you provider from Popes Leo and Pelagius. They say that Adam was made from "the earth" (Pelagius) or "the slime of the earth" (Leo). And of course, that's what you'd get from a literal reading of Genesis. Yet Pius XII says that it is permissible to hold that Adam's body was made from "pre-existent and living matter."

The problem is that Pius XII does not say “that it is permissible to hold that Adam's body was made from "pre-existent and living matter.” He merely says that “research and discussions” can take place to investigate the issue. What’s more, he doesn’t say that the research and discussion is to be carried out by all and sundry, but by those who are “experienced in both fields . . . of human sciences and sacred theology.” Sacred theology? Why sacred theology? Because he knows that sacred theology, the highest of all sciences, will have something to say about determining whether the doctrine of evolution has any merit. And what are the principles of sacred theology? None other than the articles of the faith and the teachings of the pope. And that’s where the quotes of Popes Leo and Pelagius come in: they put the theory in a hole from which it is very unlikely to emerge. In other words, it is the teachings of the popes that determine the validity of the theory of evolution, not the other way around. In short, Pius XII allowed discussion and research. He never said that evolution would come through such an investigation as tenable thesis.

Then you write:
So, you've got two options. You could either admit the blindingly obvious -- that Pius XII is allowing that Adam's body being made from "the earth" need not be taken literally -- or you could say that Pius XII was was wrong.

The problem is that it is impossible “that Pius XII is allowing that Adam's body being made from "the earth" need not be taken literally,” because the Church has always understood it in the literal sense, and Vatican I expressly condemned the thesis that the teachings of the Church could be taken in a different sense than that in which they have always been taken. Not to worry though, because Pius was not saying that evolution is true, or that it is compatible with Catholic orthodoxy. He was just allowing it to remain an open issue for the time being.

One Brow said...

Josh said...
The mode of the process is different in kind because of the objects that each processes.

What are your justifications for that assertion?

There is nothing in a dog's behavior that indicates processing of the second nature that you listed; all the behaviors can be explained as generalization of perceptions.

I agree (at least for the sake of this discussion). I tried to make that clear, but apparenly was less than successful.

We can keep it to the public space, I suppose, Kreeft's arguments are very simple and would easily invite comments.

It would be my honor.

Anonymous said...

Attention everyone on the other thread Alan has stated he was hasty to generally condemning philosophy.

Carry on.

Alan Fox said...

Attention everyone on the other thread Alan has stated he was hasty to generally condemning philosophy.

That's bizzare! I thought I posted a comment here on A J Ayer, Karl Popper and Mike Tyson. I had several windows open and I've lost it. Never mind.

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