Monday, October 14, 2013

Some questions on the soul, Part II


In a recent post I responded to a reader’s question about the Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of the soul.  Another reader asks another question.  Let me set out some background before addressing it.  From the Aristotelian-Thomistic point of view, strictly intellectual activity -- as opposed, say, to sensation or imagination -- is not corporeal.  This is the key to the soul’s immortality.  A human being is the sort of thing that carries out both non-corporeal and corporeal activities.  Though less than an angel, he is more than an ape, having a metaphysical foot, as it were, in both the immaterial and material camps.  That means that when his corporeal operations go, as they do upon death, it doesn’t follow that he goes.  He limps along, as it were, reduced to the non-corporeal side of his nature.  This reduction is drastic, for a great deal of what we do -- not only walking, talking, breathing, and eating, but seeing, hearing, smelling, and so forth -- depends on the body.
 
Even intellectual activity depends in part on the body.  Though not sufficient for intellectual activity, neural processes are, in the normal case, necessary for it.  As Aquinas writes, “the soul united to the body can understand only by turning to the phantasms, as experience shows” (Summa Theologiae I.89.1).  Consider, for example, the way that even when you grasp geometrical abstractions like triangularity -- which you cannot strictly picture before your mind’s eye, since any triangle you picture will have limiting features that aren’t true of triangularity per se -- you make use of mental imagery as an aid to intellection.  Consider also that intellectual activity can be severely impaired or even undermined entirely by brain damage.  For sensation and imagination are corporeal functions. 

This brings us to the reader’s question.  He writes:

[B]rain damage inhibits the exercise of the intellectual power.  In other words, as long as soul and body are united, you need a good functioning brain to engage in intellectual activities; therefore it seems the intellect is dependent on the brain… 

[So] it does seem to be a contradiction to say that the intellect can function independently of the brain after abstraction occurs.  How can [one] say that the intellect can function independently of the brain but yet is inhibited in its power when the brain is damaged?  It would seem that the power of intellection cannot be achieved independent of the brain, which of course would ruin [the] argument… for its survival after bodily death.   

End quote.  There are really two issues here which need to be disentangled.  One is the question of the intellect’s survival of death, the other concerns its operation after death.  Now the facts the reader calls attention to don’t affect the former question.  Remember, the Thomist allows that in the intellect’s normal state, corporeal activity is necessary for its operation -- it’s just not sufficient for it, which is why intellectual activity is essentially incorporeal.  Even if corporeal activity were necessary full stop, and not just under normal conditions, it wouldn’t follow that the Thomist’s arguments for the intellect’s immateriality are undermined.  Hence it wouldn’t follow that the soul does not survive death.  What would follow is only that it would be inert after death.  So the reader is just mistaken to think that the dependence of intellectual activity on the brain threatens to “ruin [the] argument… for its survival after bodily death.”  At most it threatens the claim that the intellect can function after death.  A proponent of the “soul sleep” theory of personal immortality could happily accept that, and argue that the intellect functions again only when the body is restored to it at the resurrection.

Now of course, the Thomist does not accept the “soul sleep” theory.  He holds that the intellect does function after death.  How can this be?  Remember that I said that corporeal activity is necessary for the intellect’s operation under normal conditions.  But as Aquinas argues in the article linked to above, it is not necessary full stop.  The intellect functions one way when it is in its normal state -- that is, when conjoined to the body -- but in another way under the abnormal circumstances when we are no longer “in the flesh.” 

Is this an ad hoc move?  Not at all.  To see why not, consider some parallel cases.  In normal circumstances a tree needs to be rooted firmly in the ground if it is going to survive.  That’s what roots are for, after all -- to root the tree to the ground so as to provide it stability and take in nutrients.  Knock it over so that it is torn out by the roots and it will die.  But there are, of course, abnormal circumstances wherein it can survive without being rooted to the ground -- namely when it is nourished hydroponically instead.  Similarly, normally a human being cannot be nourished without a properly functioning digestive system.  Destroy the stomach, say, and a human being will in normal circumstances die.  But of course there are abnormal circumstances in which nourishment can occur without a stomach -- via intravenous feeding.  Examples can easily be multiplied: In normal circumstances, you cannot walk without properly functioning legs; in unusual circumstances you can (e.g. when fitted with prosthetics).  In normal circumstances you cannot hear when the various parts of the ear are not functioning properly; in unusual circumstances you can (e.g. via an artificial tympanic membrane).  And so forth. 

All these cases involve interventions in the natural course of things.  In the natural course of things, such-and-such is necessary, and we remedy the loss of such-and-such by supplementing nature.  And that’s what happens, in Aquinas’s view, vis-à-vis the intellect after death.  In the natural course of things, the intellect cannot operate without input from sensation and imagination.  Hence if it is to operate after death it needs some supplement to make up for what it has lost.  Of course, unlike hydroponics, artificial limbs, etc., we can’t provide the sort of metaphysical supplement required in this case.  But God can.  As Aquinas says in the article linked to, “the soul in that state understands by means of participated species arising from the influence of the Divine light.”

Here’s an analogy that might help.  Think of the intellect as like a church’s stained glass windows.  The images are there in the windows whether you see them or not, but you can’t see them if the church is dark.  Light is necessary.  It might come from inside the church, such as from the lamps that illuminate the church at night.  Or it might come from outside the church, such as from the sun.  Now, the deliverances of sensation and imagination, to which the intellect has recourse when in the body, are like the light that illuminates the stained glass windows from within.  The divine illumination by which the intellect operates after death, by contrast, is like the sunlight that illuminates the stained glass from without.  Or, to mix metaphors, it is like a kind of cognitive manna that comes from above when, after death, you’re quite thoroughly “fresh out of flesh.”

87 comments:

malcolmthecynic said...

This has the rather frightening implication that if you're not Christian you'll survive after death, but unable to use your intellect. Yes?

DeusPrimusEst said...

no re-read the post mate:

"He holds that the intellect does function after death. How can this be? Remember that I said that corporeal activity is necessary for the intellect’s operation under normal conditions. But as Aquinas argues in the article linked to above, it is not necessary full stop. The intellect functions one way when it is in its normal state -- that is, when conjoined to the body -- but in another way under the abnormal circumstances when we are no longer “in the flesh.”"

Abnormal use of the intellect is permitted by God at least in principle.

Peter DO Smith said...

As always you 'illuminate' the subject with clever analogy and clear reasoning. I'm going to propose my own, rather unconventional view, using another analogy. Think of the soul as a special kind of computer program and the brain as a special kind of computer. When the brain dies the computer program (soul) is preserved in God's memory. Resurrection of the body is simply the computer program(soul) being instantiated in a new body and brain, much as I may transfer a program to a newer computer.

Now this is where I really differ from conventional belief. I believe that this 'resurrection' follows soon after my death. In other words my computer program(soul) is instantiated in a new-born body, minus the previous memories(which are preserved in God's memory). Therefore, for me, consciousness never ceases, it merely transfers from the old, deceased body to a new-born body. However, my soul has been shaped in some way by earlier experiences and this is carried over into my new experience, allowing for the possibility of incremental growth over a long period of time. In this way, as we become better and better, making a better world, we eventually create the Kingdom of God. If I am correct in this it also means that I have(or will) experience every kind of circumstance possible, good or bad, meaning that life is fair to all and that all eventually will have equal opportunity. It neatly solves the problem of evil. I will have been tested in every imaginable circumstance and my response to this will determine the growth of my soul. I call it the evolution of the soul where spiritual evolution is in some way analogous to biological evolution. I deliberately do not call this 'reincarnation' since that word carries to many non-Christian connotations. I suppose it is a form of Origenism.

Vasco Gama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bedarz Iliaci said...

CS Lewis in Miracles held rational thinking to be supernatural, in fact a miracle, strictly speaking. He argued that if "nature" is defined as the great self-running interlocking system of cause and effect, then rational thinking that operates by ground and consequent must lead to a supernatural motion of atoms in brain or elsewhere. Otherwise, the physical cause-and-effect rule. If this chain of physical-cause-and-effect is associated with a belief, than this belief can not be a rational belief but a non-rational one.

I am not sure if I have got it exactly right and I would like to know if CS Lewis' idea that rational thinking is miraculous a true idea?

Anonymous said...

I think the physical world is like a playing field and life a game. The essence of the playing field is separateness and difference. To take part in the game, along with consciousness, a body is required for identity and a mind is needed to compute, recall and imagine.

'Outside' the playing field there is a unified field which we could call God. 'Here' all intellectual activity is unnecessary because there is no separateness or difference - a mind isn't needed to know. What is left is no doing, just Being.

Gyan said...

It is not clear why Thomism does not accept soul-sleep theory.
Is the object philosophical or theological?
That is, does soul-sleep violate a Church dogma or is there a logical or metaphysical problem with soul-sleep?

Ian said...

My question is the same as Gyan's. How do we know that the intellect is not inert after death? Is this part of revelation? If so, where?

Tony said...

I think that there are indeed parts of revelation that show it. For instance, in Jesus' parable of Lazarus and Dives, both of those and Abraham are depicted as being conscious - Dives is suffering and Lazarus is enjoying being with Abraham, and they converse with each other.

Likewise, 2nd Maccabees has us praying for the dead for their purification, which implies their ability to change.

Isaiah 14:9 "The shadow world beneath is astir with preparation for thy coming;"

1 Samuel 28:8-20 is much more direct:

Use thy enchantments, said he, to bring up from the dead the man I name to thee. Nay, said she, thou knowest well how Saul has been at pains to rid the country of diviners and soothsayers; why wouldst thou entrap a poor soul, to bring her to her death? 10 But Saul swore to her, As the Lord is a living God, no harm shall befall thee. 11 And when she asked whom he would have brought up from the dead, he said, Bring up Samuel for me. No sooner did Samuel appear to her, than the woman cried aloud, What is this trick thou hast played on me? Thou thyself art Saul! 13 But the king bade her have no fear, and asked what it was she had seen. It seemed, she told him, as if gods were coming up from beneath the earth.[1] 14 What form is it thou seest? he asked. And she said, An old man has come up, wrapped in a cloak. Then Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed his face to the earth, and did reverence. Why hast thou disturbed my rest, Samuel asked, and brought me to earth again?

Scott W. said...

That is, does soul-sleep violate a Church dogma...

I'm no expert, but it would seem so considering the teaching on the particular judgement. From Ott:

"Immediately after death the particular judgement takes place, in which, by a Divine Sentence of Judgement, the eternal fate of the deceased person is decided. (Sent. fidei proxima)"

Tony said...

it also means that I have(or will) experience every kind of circumstance possible, good or bad, meaning that life is fair to all and that all eventually will have equal opportunity.

Peter, there are literally an infinite number of possibilities of both good and bad things to experience, so in order to experience "everything" the world would have to go on forever before we could wind up everything in perfection. But that's impossible.

In any case, what you describe is a form of reincarnation (even if it does not partake of all of the details of some of the Eastern versions), and holds exactly the same fundamental metaphysical problems (at least from the standpoint of A-T teaching) that the other versions hold: the soul is the form of the body. Once human nature is instantiated in a specific body, the form is enumerated *by that matter* specifically. It cannot lose that matter and then be enumerated by a different body, that would make hash of what it means for form and matter to be the 2 intrinsic principles of a natural entity.

To have the same soul leave one body and be in another body is to make "man" to be a soul wandering about, not a union of body and soul - a type of Cartesian dualism. There are many, many problems with that, just one is that once you exclude from man's nature body as such, there is no basis for understanding man as being changed importantly with bodily events - the whole "show" ceases to be meaningful. "Experience" of events in the body could be achieved just as well by watching a play or movie, and just as (in)significant.

malcolmthecynic said...

I'm going to ask my question again, because I'm genuinely interested in the answer: Does this come with the rather frightening implication that if you're not Christian you'll survive after death, but unable to use your intellect? It seems like it from my perspective.

George LeSauvage said...

@Tony:

"Once human nature is instantiated in a specific body, the form is enumerated *by that matter* specifically. It cannot lose that matter and then be enumerated by a different body, that would make hash of what it means for form and matter to be the 2 intrinsic principles of a natural entity."

Could you expand on this? The part that troubles me is that this doesn't seem to be the way a form would normally work. Is not the form of, say, a white oak, the same in this oak over here, and also the one across the street? To say not would seem to mean they don't do the first item on forms' job description: being a universal.

If my soul is the form of a hylomorphic unity, as a man, should it not be, therefore, the same as yours, and Ed's, and Plato's? If not, how is it a form? If so, how is it the form of "this body" and not "that one"?

What am I missing?

George LeSauvage said...

@malcolmthecynic:

I don't see why you would think that follows? Could you work out the argument in full?

pauld said...

Bedzar asks:

"CS Lewis in Miracles held rational thinking to be supernatural, in fact a miracle, strictly speaking. He argued that if "nature" is defined as the great self-running interlocking system of cause and effect, then rational thinking that operates by ground and consequent must lead to a supernatural motion of atoms in brain or elsewhere. Otherwise, the physical cause-and-effect rule. If this chain of physical-cause-and-effect is associated with a belief, than this belief can not be a rational belief but a non-rational one.

I am not sure if I have got it exactly right and I would like to know if CS Lewis' idea that rational thinking is miraculous a true idea?"

C.S. Lewis's argument from reason which you describe is discussed at length (directly and indirectly) in various posts on this blogs and in Mr. Feser's books (e.g. The Last Superstition and Philosophy of the Mind). Mr. Feser agrees with and defends C.S. Lewis's argument.

I would note that there is a book, C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason. http://www.amazon.com/C-S-Lewiss-Dangerous-Idea/dp/0830827323 . I have not read this book, but it looks interesting. If you are interested in a comprehensive defense of C.S. Lewis's argument, you could begin by searching this blog and/or reading the books suggested above.

Scott said...

@pauld and Bedzar:

On the subject of Victor Reppert's C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason:

"I have not read this book, but it looks interesting."

I have, and it is. I recommend it highly.

Scott said...

@malcolmthecynic:

"Does this come with the rather frightening implication that if you're not Christian you'll survive after death, but unable to use your intellect?"

Like George LeSauvage, I don't see why it would; indeed the implication seems to be just the opposite. The Thomist holds that all intellects, not just Christian ones, function after death.

Scott said...

By the way, @Bedzar:

Yes, I think you've correctly summarized Lewis's view of rational thought. I don't believe he characterizes it as "a miracle, strictly speaking," but he most certainly does argue that it's supernatural in just the way you describe.

Anonymous said...

Could you expand on this? The part that troubles me is that this doesn't seem to be the way a form would normally work. Is not the form of, say, a white oak, the same in this oak over here, and also the one across the street? To say not would seem to mean they don't do the first item on forms' job description: being a universal.

I am not sure I can put all the details together the right way, but I will try to make a couple of points. First, before an actual thing in actual existence is created, say an oak, the "universal" "oakness" doesn't exist properly speaking, what exists as the form "oakness" only "exists" in a manner of speaking. However, in God the exemplar oakness "exists" notionally (speaking in analogical terms, of course, for in God all thought is as one). When God creates a specific oak, then "oakness" has real existence IN the oak tree itself, which consists of oakness informing this specific matter. The matter is the principle of individuation of "oakness", which without the matter would remain merely a universal "sort of being". Thus the form gives the whole is KIND and the matter gives the whole of this kind its individuality. When the form ceases to inform the matter because the body of the tree is cut up and burned for firewood, the tree is no more, and there is no way to "restore" that particular instantiation of oak: even if you recovered every single atom and put them all back together again in the exact same order so that it was, again, a living oak tree, it would not be the OLD oak tree because there would be no underlying source of unity that persisted between. All you could ever say is that the new tree is "just like" the old, not numerically identical.

Now, for man, this is all pretty much the same except that the form is the form OF matter but has itself a spiritual aspect. That is, there is more going on than that the form is the form of the matter. The matter still is the principle of individuation, but ONCE the matter individuates the form "humanity" as a THIS INDIVIDUAL MAN, the form is, also, a principle of immaterial faculties of mind and will. These faculties require and imply a soul that is not mortal like the soul of an oak tree: unlike the oak (or a tiger), the whose faculties of soul are entirely circumscribed by specific matter, the soul of a man can grasp universals as universal, not as instantiated in a this or a that. So when the matter of the body is damaged beyond supporting such a soul, the matter ceases to be informed by the soul and ceases to be the matter of Socrates, but the soul remains having known both individuated reality (by sense) and universals (by mind), and thus is not the sort of thing to be annihilated by ceasing to be the form of the body.

It is, I think, fundamental that while the soul's distinctness originates only with the condition of being the soul of an individual body, it ceases to be directly dependent on union with that body for its continued distinctness. But the principle of the distinctness remains as having been the form of an individual body.

In order for the soul to "go back to God" it would either have to cease to be its own distinct self, (and thus be annihilated as a self at all leaving only "human-ness" behind) or it would have to retain something of its distinctness by the principle of that distinctness, its relation to a specific body. Therefore, for God to then impose or "combine" the soul with a different body would be something of a metaphysical impossibility: either the result would be a monster - a soul that remains distinct by relation to one body while being the form of another body - or the soul isn't really the form of the second body but just inhabiting it as a form-fitted glove, or something else equally problematic.

Tony said...

Sorry, that was me responding to George L.

Tony said...

And I probably should have replaced "and thus is not the sort of thing to be annihilated by ceasing to be the form of the body "

with

"and thus is not the sort of thing to be annihilated by ceasing to actually inform the body now"

Scott said...

(I see that Tony has already responded while I was composing this, but I may as well post it anyway; a little redundancy won't hurt.)

@George LeSauvage:

"Could you expand on this? The part that troubles me is that this doesn't seem to be the way a form would normally work. Is not the form of, say, a white oak, the same in this oak over here, and also the one across the street? To say not would seem to mean they don't do the first item on forms' job description: being a universal."

On the A-T view, though, the forms don't exist on their own. What fundamentally exists is a substance—this white oak, say—which consists of a unity of form and matter from which either can be c onceptually abstracted but neither of which exists independently. So for A-T, when we say the forms of two such oaks are "the same," we mean not that one and the same form is literally present in two places or substances but that there are two substances that have the same form when we consider that form in abstraction—prescinding from their matter, as a Scholastic might put it. The "sameness" here is not meant to be numerical.

(I have my issues with this as well and it's one reason I'm more (neo)Platonically inclined on the subject of universals; the A-T view seems to me to slip easily into nominalism and/or conceptualism if one isn't very careful. But it's defensible—arguably at least as defensible as the Platonic alternatives, which have problems of their own—and at any rate it's Aristotle through and through.)

On this view, when this white oak dies, its form simply ceases to be. It doesn't make sense to say that its form goes on to be instantiated in a different oak; what happens is just that another oak comes into existence that has "the same" form in the sense just described.

The difference with the human soul, the substantial form of the human body, is supposed to be that our forms are of a special sort that don't simply cease to be when we die but can exist temporarily without our bodies, and it's therefore possible for a soul to be embodied again. But not just any old body will do; your form is ineluctably related to the body you have now even when it exists temporarily apart from it.

That's my understanding, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Somewhat off topic but I love this reference to immaterial minds and qualia in a pretty ordinary anime called "Coppelion".

Aoi: Normal people can't live in this environment. Does this mean we're puppets, after all?
Ibara: Dumbass! Would a puppet enjoy eating a rice ball so much?

David T said...

"He argued that if "nature" is defined as the great self-running interlocking system of cause and effect, then rational thinking that operates by ground and consequent must lead to a supernatural motion of atoms in brain..."

The Aristo-Thomist, of course, would deny the premise here, and hold that rational causes (formal and final causes)are just as real (and natural) as efficient causes.

Lewis is right that, if rational causes are denied a place in nature, then they must exist in supernature.

George R. said...

Scott writes:
So for A-T, when we say the forms of two such oaks are "the same," we mean not that one and the same form is literally present in two places or substances but that there are two substances that have the same form when we consider that form in abstraction—prescinding from their matter, as a Scholastic might put it. The "sameness" here is not meant to be numerical.

This is incorrect. Substantial form precinding from all matter IS numerically the same. If it were numerically different, there would have to be a cause of individuation that could make one form numerically two. But matter (which we have precinded from, remember?) is the only cause of individuation. Therefore, substantial form abstracted from matter is numerically one.

Scott said...

@George R.:

"Substantial form [prescinding] from all matter IS numerically the same."

Perhaps my wording was unclear. When I wrote "The 'sameness' here is not meant to be numerical," I was referring to the earlier, "un-prescinded" samemess of the two substances (the hypothetical oaks). As I said, the two substances have the same form when that form is considered in abstraction, and I agree that that sameness is a numerical sameness. It's the un-abstracted forms that of the two actual, existing oak trees that are not numerically the same.

Scott said...

Oops, the first "that" in my last sentence shouldn't be there.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

As I said, the two substances have the same form when that form is considered in abstraction, and I agree that that sameness is a numerical sameness.

Actually, George got it wrong. The intelligible species that become united with the intellect are numerically distinct and wholly individual (SCG b2 ch75.9-10). The possible intellect is not a "view from nowhere" capable of knowing Platonic universals: it simply takes on individual forms that are in some sense "like" the individual forms present in substances. This "likeness" is what allows us to understand the forms tied to matter. As you said before, such a theory lapses into nominalism and skepticism very easily.

George R. said...

Scott, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to quibble with you again.

You write:
It's the un-abstracted forms that of the two actual, existing oak trees that are not numerically the same.

First of all, there's no such thing as an un-abstracted form. The "un-abstracted form" you refer to is not a form at all, but rather a composite of form and matter. Now the composites of form and primary matter in 2 oaks, I agree, are numerically not the same, though they are specifically the same. However, the substantial form of the 2 oaks, which is in both of the oaks as a principle of their being, is numerically the same. And it doesn't matter if there are 2 oaks or a trillion, the total number of forms in all of them will be one.

rank sophist said...

George,

However, the substantial form of the 2 oaks, which is in both of the oaks as a principle of their being, is numerically the same. And it doesn't matter if there are 2 oaks or a trillion, the total number of forms in all of them will be one.

This isn't Aquinas's position. I can't remember where he says this, but he follows Aristotle's argument that, even if there was a separately-existing form, it would be numerically distinct from all other instantiations of itself. The idea that there is a principle of absolute identity between substances is a Platonist one.

Tony said...

However, the substantial form of the 2 oaks, which is in both of the oaks as a principle of their being, is numerically the same. And it doesn't matter if there are 2 oaks or a trillion, the total number of forms in all of them will be one.

George, remind me, it's been a while for me. Isn't the "substantial form" a reference to "the form" just insofar as it is the fundamental whatness of this actually existing oak?

One can speak of "oakness" abstractly, without referring to any definite oak. But when I start talking about the oak next to my driveway, for THAT oak, the oakness that informs its matter is its substantial form. Adding the term "substantial" to just "the form" explains that we are not talking about any of the accidental forms, such as green, or rough, or tall, or hard, but about what makes it to be the kind of thing it is at base.

If that's true, then adding "substantial" to "form" doesn't seem to change the overall usage: oakness in the abstract is one, oakness in actual trees is many exactly insofar as individuated by matter. To speak of the form "oak" to be many just is to speak of it as individuated, and the principle of individuation is matter, not form.

Anonymous said...

The intellect functions one way when it is in its normal state -- that is, when conjoined to the body -- but in another way under the abnormal circumstances when we are no longer “in the flesh.”
Is this an ad hoc move? Not at all. ,,,,
All these cases involve interventions in the natural course of things. In the natural course of things, such-and-such is necessary, and we remedy the loss of such-and-such by supplementing nature. And that’s what happens, in Aquinas’s view, vis-à-vis the intellect after death. In the natural course of things, the intellect cannot operate without input from sensation and imagination. Hence if it is to operate after death it needs some supplement to make up for what it has lost. Of course, unlike hydroponics, artificial limbs, etc., we can’t provide the sort of metaphysical supplement required in this case. But God can.


I hope you realize how completely unconvincing this sounds to anyone not already in the sway of religious belief. Some questions:

These disembodied intellects which function like plants on hydroponics -- do they continue to learn and change and gain experience and age, as normal intellects do? If not, then what do they do all day? Or does disembodied also involve being released from the normal operations of time?

Also, given this theory of the intellect after death, is there a parallel theory for the intellect before birth? Is the soul also on hydroponic support before it gets planted in the soil of the body? Since it hasn't had any actual experience then, what does it think about?

Crude said...

I hope you realize how completely unconvincing this sounds to anyone not already in the sway of religious belief.

I hope you realize how criticisms like the above sound completely unconvincing to anyone who isn't terrified of religiously relevant possibilities.

And really, it's not 'religious belief' which is centrally operative here, but the arguments and metaphysical views Ed has laid out, in this post and in past posts. You may as well say 'materialism sounds completely idiotic to anyone who isn't already in agreement with it'.

dover_beach said...

Yes, it seems that materialists are afraid of considering the possibility of the immateriality of thought because it might led to the immortality of the soul.

Scott said...

rank sophist writes:

"This isn't Aquinas's position. I can't remember where he says this, but he follows Aristotle's argument that, even if there was a separately-existing form, it would be numerically distinct from all other instantiations of itself. The idea that there is a principle of absolute identity between substances is a Platonist one."

That's my understanding as well. I do think George R. is correct, though, that the forms of two oaks as abstracted from matter by the intellect must be numerically one for A-T; in the end that form is just our concept of "oak," which is surely numerically the same no matter how many individual oaks we use it to refer to. I don't have a citation from Aquinas to back that up, however, and I'll be happy to be corrected if I'm mistaken.

Jules said...

I hope you realize how completely unconvincing this sounds to anyone not already in the sway of religious belief.

Is not obvious that Feser is addressing this question from a traditional catholic perspective, not giving reasons why it is true? Would be impossible to have a blog if one had to argue all the premises from the very first one every time they write on a topic.

George LeSauvage said...

Thanks for the responses. But my reading (don't have it to hand, alas) is what Scott & George R said, that the forms are numerically the same. Doesn't St T also say that our ideas are true when the same form is in our intellect, and the substance from which we abstracted it? (Or from whose phantasms, etc...)

Oh, and please, rank sophist (and others) use initials for us George's. (To make matters worse for me, my middle initial is actually "R"; gets hard to follow.)

George LeSauvage said...

@Anon (10/15 at 2:02)

"I hope you realize how completely unconvincing this sounds to anyone not already in the sway of religious belief."

But the first part of Feser's discussion is dependent on pre-Christian ideas, on Plato & Aristotle, and is not dependent, in itself, on Christianity. This is actually natural theology.

The question of exactly what the soul is doing after death, now that would entail revelation of some kind, except that we can rule a few things out. E.g., we will not sense anything by nature, as sensation depends on the body. That is where God comes in.

(Note that your pre-existant soul would get Plato's vote, but not Aristotle's.)

rank sophist said...

Scott,

I do think George R. is correct, though, that the forms of two oaks as abstracted from matter by the intellect must be numerically one for A-T; in the end that form is just our concept of "oak," which is surely numerically the same no matter how many individual oaks we use it to refer to. I don't have a citation from Aquinas to back that up, however, and I'll be happy to be corrected if I'm mistaken.

As I said above, Aquinas specifically states that the form in your intellect is numerically distinct not only from substantial instantiations of that form, but even from the very same form in another's intellect. As he writes: "Now, intelligible species, in common with all other forms, are individuated by their subject, which in this case is the possible intellect" (SCG b2 ch75.10). This is a key element in Aquinas's attack on Averroes's theory that the possible intellect of all men is one.

Lower down in ch75, Aquinas writes this:

For Averroes' statement that knowledge in the disciple and in the master is numerically one is partly true and partly false. It is numerically one as concerns the thing known; it is not numerically one either in respect of the intelligible species whereby the thing is known, or of the habit of knowledge itself.

In other words, the forms in the master and student are numerically distinct, but they relate to a single object of knowledge--which, I assume, is this or that particular instantiation of the form in question. So, in no way is there such a thing as a "single", absolutely identical form present in multiple places. If I remember correctly, Aquinas calls this idea a contradiction somewhere.

I'm still in the process of figuring out how such a thing as a species can exist under this system, though. Without absolute identity to ground the relation between substances, it seems like some kind of similarity or likeness is the ground of species. Humanity would be a set of instantiated forms that were similar in some way, without being exactly the same. Very murky waters.

Anonymous said...

You mistake my intent, I don't care what you assume or you prove, I just wanted to point out that the schema outlined by Feser sounds completely ridiculous, kludgy, a system of Ptolomaic epicycles desperately trying to hold together an untenable belief system. The only reason one would bother is to try to justify a religious belief; without that, the much more straightforward naturalist view.

Plus, I thought you folks believe in something like "the soul is the form of the body". If that is true, then what in the world does it mean to say that it persists after the body is gone? If it exists in some atemporal platonic formspace, well, that's very nice, but (as I implied earlier) that is not "after" death, but outside of life, death, and time itself.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"So, in no way is there such a thing as a 'single', absolutely identical form present in multiple places."

But there doesn't need to be in order for my own intellect to use one and the same form to conceptualize two different oak trees. Sure, for A-T, the form in my intellect is numerically distinct from the corresponding form in yours. But I'm not denying that. I'm saying that, for A-T, when I exercise my intellect and grasp the form(s) of two individual oak trees, I get one concept, not two.

Again, I have my own issues with this approach, and I'm not offering a defense of it. But that's what I understand A-T to be saying, and I don't think the passage of Aquinas you quoted (which I looked up when you first referred to it) says or implies otherwise. If he says or implies otherwise somewhere else, though, I'll be happy to learn about it.

David T said...

You mistake my intent, I don't care what you assume or you prove, I just wanted to point out that the schema outlined by Feser sounds completely ridiculous, kludgy, a system of Ptolomaic epicycles desperately trying to hold together an untenable belief system. The only reason one would bother is to try to justify a religious belief; without that, the much more straightforward naturalist view

It's always refreshing when early Enlightenment thinkers like Baron d'Holbach drop in to the conversation. Their confidence, blissfully unaware of the coming centuries of secular thought that would show the naturalist view to be anything but straightforward, is always bracing, a tonic to those of us wearied by the perpetual debate.

May all of us embrace the hope and confidence of the innocent!

George R. said...

Rank Sophist and Scott, I don't think the the case of the intelligible species is the same as that of the substantial form, because the former is a kind of composite of potency and act; for it invloves the reduction from potency to act of the possible intellect. Therefore, you could say that the possible intellect behaves as a kind of principle of individuation.

I know I said above that only matter can individuate form, but that's for things that exist in reality, and the intelligible species only exists in the mind.

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous,

Well done! You've got the "making sweeping, question-begging assertions" thing down pat. Your "flinging cliches around" technique is a little unsubtle, but still it's clear you've had a lot of experience with that too. So, overall, just excellent, excellent work, and I'll concede that the rest of us aren't as good at that stuff as you are.

But around here we prefer, you know, actual arguments. So, your posts are kind of like a plate of bacon at a vegan picnic, y'know?

Timotheos said...

@ anon

If you want to stay around on this site, you need to provide real arguments, not blatant assertions. Suppose I answered a post where you outlined a sophisticated version of Russel's attempted naturalistic solution to the mind-body problem. How would you take it if I answered in the following way?

"I just wanted to point out that the schema outlined by Russell sounds completely ridiculous, kludgy, a system of Ptolomaic epicycles desperately trying to hold together an untenable belief system. The only reason one would bother is to try to justify a non-religious belief; without that, the much more straightforward is the dualist view."

I hope you should be able to see the problem with your post by now. So please, give us some arguments, or stay quiet until you have something non-question begging to say.

malcolmthecynic said...

George and Scott,

Sorry for being absent all day, I almost totally forgot this thread! Thank you for taking the time to respond.

My logic is death: After death, it is agreed that the soul survives, but with no body to "Activate" the intellect, for lack of a better word. So God activates it for us instead. But if Christianity is not true why is God activating the intellect?

dover_beach said...

You mistake my intent, I don't care what you assume or you prove, I just wanted to point out that the schema outlined by Feser sounds completely ridiculous, kludgy, a system of Ptolomaic epicycles desperately trying to hold together an untenable belief system. The only reason one would bother is to try to justify a religious belief; without that, the much more straightforward naturalist view.

The question-begging is strong with this one.

George R. said...

To speak of the form "oak" to be many just is to speak of it as individuated, and the principle of individuation is matter, not form.

Yes, but the individuated form is a composite, not a form. A form qua form can neither be multiplied nor come into being, but is the cause of those things that do come into being.

Untenured said...

"You mistake my intent, I don't care what you assume or you prove, I just wanted to point out that the schema outlined by Feser sounds completely ridiculous, kludgy, a system of Ptolomaic epicycles desperately trying to hold together an untenable belief system. The only reason one would bother is to try to justify a religious belief; without that, the much more straightforward naturalist view."

Translation:

Don't you know how ridiculous you sound to me and the other 1200 or so philosophers who currently control the discipline and who only bother to read other analytic philosophers from the last 120 years or so? All that other stuff is irrelevant because contemporary analytic naturalists have basically solved every philosophical problem ever...using SCIENCE!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, was there an argument for the soul surviving death that I missed? Seemed like bald assertion to me

Naturalism is not without its problems, but it least it isn't transparently silly.

Nobody has bothered to answer my questions yet. If you try, maybe you can convince me that your picture of the soul makes sense. What is this disembodied existence like?

Crude said...

Sorry, was there an argument for the soul surviving death that I missed? Seemed like bald assertion to me

Yep, it was explained in part in the OP. You probably missed what a 'soul' even is in A-T terms.

Naturalism is not without its problems, but it least it isn't transparently silly.

'Naturalism' only sounds non-silly when the content of naturalism is not at all being discussed. The moment you start getting into Alex Rosenberg style meanderings or talk of 'brute facts' or denying the PSR, etc, etc, it starts sounding vastly more magical than anything a religion has ever dreamed up. A-T and various other non-naturalist views sound downright sensible in comparison.

Nobody has bothered to answer my questions yet. If you try, maybe you can convince me that your picture of the soul makes sense.

I don't think anyone around here is interested in trying to convince someone who clearly has no interest in discussing the subject seriously, precisely because they find the idea of taking it seriously emotionally threatening.

We'd be interested in arguments, though. How about justifying that whole 'naturalism isn't transparently silly' claim? Convert us, oh sage, to your view. Let's start with philosophy of mind.

DeusPrimusEst said...

@ Anonymous,

to understand the soul, you would have to have a grasp of the relevant background A-T metaphysics such as forms and universals and realism etc. It would take far too much effort for me to explain all that, at least concisely, but others here may be willing to take the time to set all that out. Try searching this blog for keywords such as those above, and see what you find. Better yet, read Feser's the Last Superstition.

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous wrote:

Sorry, was there an argument for the soul surviving death that I missed?

Well, yeah, of course there was -- it's in e.g. my book Aquinas, supplemented by the considerations developed in the ACPQ article cited in the original post, discussed by me in other places too and defended by other people in yet other places, etc.

I mean you didn't really expect me to repeat all this in a short blog post devoted to answering a specific question raised by a reader, did you? When a naturalist or atheist writes a blog post on some specific question about naturalism, do you expect him to start out by rehearsing all of his arguments against theism etc.?

Here's a tip for reading blog posts: Keep in mind that they are blog posts. Not books, articles, etc. If you want to read something book-length or article-length or just more detail on the issues merely touched on above, follow the links to the right or check out the list of articles on my main page, as well as all the many other blog posts you'll find here. You'll find tons of arguments therein.

And when you've actually bothered to read them and have got some actual rational response to them, as opposed to ill-informed smartass remarks, you're welcome to come back and raise your objections here in the combox.

Ty said...

Anonymous:

Perhaps it would be helpful if you tried to *understand* the metaphysical structure beneath the A-T theory of the soul instead of just smashing your head into it.

You might still end up thinking that we're full of shit. But if it then seems to you that a chain of reasoning lacks substance, at least you'll know that it wasn't 'cause you missed key premises argued for elsewhere.

Step2 said...

People on this thread keep mentioning grasping with their intellect, but that is a feeling of reach and touch. Interestingly, Andrew Wiles when describing his method for proving Fermat’s Last Theorem phrased it in terms of stumbling his way around a completely dark mansion until he developed a familiarity with all the furniture and then finding the light switch which illuminated what he understood by touch. So here's the question: Does losing the senses cause one to lose their "grasp" of objects?

It has been a long time since I read Aristotle's view on survival after death, but my recollection is that it could be reconciled with a type of cultural memory and interaction, which of course I don't have any problem with at all. In other words, I don't see a problem with naturalism accepting that important and even unimportant writers, statesmen, and artists have left legacies of their intellect, willpower, and skill that people still learn from and expand upon today. So in that limited sense their intelligence and insight still operates in the world.

Anonymous said...

I mean you didn't really expect me to repeat all this in a short blog post devoted to answering a specific question raised by a reader, did you?

Not really, but then why am I expected to make a full detailed argument in a blog comment?

Still waiting for answers to my questions, which don't have to be detailed arguments, just straightforward answers to straightforward questions. They don't have to convince me of anything, I just want to get clarification of your theory. Apparently nobody is capable of doing that.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

But there doesn't need to be in order for my own intellect to use one and the same form to conceptualize two different oak trees. Sure, for A-T, the form in my intellect is numerically distinct from the corresponding form in yours. But I'm not denying that. I'm saying that, for A-T, when I exercise my intellect and grasp the form(s) of two individual oak trees, I get one concept, not two.

It looks like I misunderstood what you said before. You're right, here. I understand numerically diverse forms through one corresponding form in my intellect. I thought you were making the more controversial claim, with GR, that one numerically identical form was the principle of a given species.

GR,

A form qua form can neither be multiplied nor come into being, but is the cause of those things that do come into being.

Something that doesn't have being can't cause anything. The only forms with causal power are the numerically distinct ones within substances. There is no singular form prior to diverse forms, even conceptually. Other than God, no unity grounds the diverse instantiations of a form. Even when we try to consider a "form-as-such", we rely on a numerically individual form in our own minds.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"It looks like I misunderstood what you said before. You're right, here. I understand numerically diverse forms through one corresponding form in my intellect. I thought you were making the more controversial claim, with GR, that one numerically identical form was the principle of a given species."

Thanks. I think my point was unclear because I referred to e.g. "our" concept, which might have seemed to suggest that it might be shared among more than one person and thus be numerically identical between intellects. But in fact the more controversial claim is precisely what I'm disagreeing with George R. about (at least insofar as it's supposed to be what A-T teaches, not necessarily about whether it's true, which is another subject).

Scott said...

@malcolmthecynic:

"My logic is death: After death, it is agreed that the soul survives, but with no body to 'Activate' the intellect, for lack of a better word. So God activates it for us instead. But if Christianity is not true why is God activating the intellect?"

Your logic seems to require a different question: if Christianity is true, then does God "activate" the intellects of non-Christians after death? And the answer is "yes."

Scott said...

"Still waiting for answers to my questions, which don't have to be detailed arguments, just straightforward answers to straightforward questions. They don't have to convince me of anything, I just want to get clarification of your theory. Apparently nobody is capable of doing that."

You mean these questions?

"These disembodied intellects which function like plants on hydroponics -- do they continue to learn and change and gain experience and age, as normal intellects do?"

Yes.

"Also, given this theory of the intellect after death, is there a parallel theory for the intellect before birth? Is the soul also on hydroponic support before it gets planted in the soil of the body?"

No.

Well, that was easy.

DeusPrimusEst said...

two questions:

1. Given the basic understanding of A-T metaphysics, does one's gender exist as part of the soul or rather AS the soul? A little detail here would be appreciated, if anyone is able.

2. How do we determine what the natures of things are in such a way as to forestall the objection that such statements are simply ad hoc stipulations?

for example when we say that the essence of man is "a rational animal" that such a statement is in fact true, and demonstrably so?

Sorry if that was slightly incoherent; a reflection of the inner turmoil it seems.

DeusPrimusEst said...

two questions:

1. Given the basic understanding of A-T metaphysics, does one's gender exist as part of the soul or rather AS the soul? A little detail here would be appreciated, if anyone is able.

2. How do we determine what the natures of things are in such a way as to forestall the objection that such statements are simply ad hoc stipulations?

for example when we say that the essence of man is "a rational animal" that such a statement is in fact true, and demonstrably so?

Sorry if that was slightly incoherent; a reflection of the inner turmoil it seems.

malcolmthecynic said...

Your logic seems to require a different question: if Christianity is true, then does God "activate" the intellects of non-Christians after death? And the answer is "yes."

Yes, as a Catholic I understand that much. But my question is, if the Thomistic God, the God of the philosophers, the First Cause, what have you, exists, but Christianity isn't true, what does that mean for the souls after death? Are their intellects simply never activated by God, then? Why would they be?

rank sophist said...

Deus,

Given the basic understanding of A-T metaphysics, does one's gender exist as part of the soul or rather AS the soul? A little detail here would be appreciated, if anyone is able.

Gender is an accident that has no essence. However, it remains part of the soul, since every form adapts to the matter that it informs. Even when a rational soul is severed from its matter, it retains an "imprint" of that matter. Therefore, a soul would remain male or female even after death, just as it would remain "the soul of Sarah" or "the soul of Paul".

How do we determine what the natures of things are in such a way as to forestall the objection that such statements are simply ad hoc stipulations?

The Porphyrian tree. See Oderberg's Real Essentialism for more details. Alternatively, read the Wikipedia article on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porphyrian_tree.

DeusPrimusEst said...

Rank,

How does a soul or essence have accidental properties?

How does a soul retain an imprint of matter upon death?

If gender is accidental that means that there is no essential difference between the sexes. This seems to present a problem in that then gender becomes a mere construct, thus undermining an arguments to the effect that women cannot be priests.

Re the porphyrian tree thanks for that; I guess ill have to get Real Essentialism to learn more.

Tony said...

Yes, but the individuated form is a composite, not a form. A form qua form can neither be multiplied nor come into being, but is the cause of those things that do come into being.

In some discussions that might be OK, but here I think it lacks precision. Let me see if I can clarify it.

The individual THING is a composite, not a form. A form qua form cannot "come into being" said simply, but the states of affairs ABOUT "oakness" can differ between the "being in a sense" that is valid when there are no oak trees in existence to the "being, simply" when there is an oak tree in existence. The two states of affairs about "oakness" are not simply identical to "not being" versus "being".

Oakness is one in principle but many in concrete instances. Likewise, the knowledge that Socrates has of "oak" is insofar as his intellect apprehends "oak" via a concept "oakness". The oakness in Socrates' mind is the same oakness that is in Plato's mind: same in form, different in number, for Socrates' knowledge is an accident of Socrates and Plato's is an accident of Plato, they must be distinct in number.

George R. said...

Rank Sophist writes:

Something that doesn't have being can't cause anything.

I never said that forms don’t have being. I said they don’t come into being, which is undeniable, because only composites can come into being, and form qua form is not a composite. Even angels, which have no matter, are composites of form and existence. Therefore, they can come into being. But forms, if they exist in any way, must be eternal, which is exactly my position.

The only forms with causal power are the numerically distinct ones within substances.

There’s a problem with this. If forms depend on substances in order to exist, how can the former be said to be the cause of the latter? Rather we should say it’s the other way around, i. e., that substances are the causes of forms. But that would turn A-T philosophy on its head.

There is no singular form prior to diverse forms, even conceptually.

Even conceptually? Are you saying that forms don’t exist is the mind of God before they exist in diverse substances?

Other than God, no unity grounds the diverse instantiations of a form.

That statement is not even internally coherent, because it’s expressly saying that ONE form has diverse instantiations.

Tony said...

Yes, as a Catholic I understand that much. But my question is, if the Thomistic God, the God of the philosophers, the First Cause, what have you, exists, but Christianity isn't true, what does that mean for the souls after death? Are their intellects simply never activated by God, then? Why would they be?

Malcolm, for the philosophers who understood that the soul is immortal, there was a variety of opinions about ongoing activity of the mind after death. Some thought it was a gray non-activity, others accepted the "traditional" religious view that the afterlife is active, without necessarily positing a specific cause. Nothing about the philosophical view precludes intervention by God to activate the soul.

Tony said...

Rank says:

There is no singular form prior to diverse forms, even conceptually. Other than God, no unity grounds the diverse instantiations of a form.

To which George R says:

That statement is not even internally coherent, because it’s expressly saying that ONE form has diverse instantiations.

Like George, I must protest against Rank's declaration: If there is n absolutely NO unity to ground the particular instantiations of a form, then all of A-T, and Platonism as well, falls into complete incoherence. For that unity is precisely the point of the whole business about forms - there there is a SAMENESS about this tree and that tree, and the sameness is said to be by reason of the FORM, where my use of "the" is definitively singular. If the form is not formally one, then there is no point to talking about form and matter.

Now, one may argue that yes, there is the formal unity of the form "oakness" that is the "same" everywhere, but underneath THAT reality is God as the exemplar cause of "oakness". So Rank's statement is still true: "Other than God."

But this puts the cart before the horse in terms of the order of coming to know. In the order of causality, of course, God is before ALL forms and all beings and all everythings, and so none of them would "be" without God. But our knowledge of the oakiness of the oak tree next to my driveway does not come about by reason of my knowledge of God. Quite the reverse, my knowledge of God (i.e. the philosopher's knowledge via one of the proofs) is borne through and after I realize the form-matter distinction, and therefore after I first apprehend "oakness" as a universal as distinct from this instantiation.

So, conceptually, a person can REALIZE that there are (a) a form of oak that is one formally, and (b) that it is many numerically in concrete oak trees, without realizing that both the formally unitary "form" and the numerically many instantiations all depend on God.

Now, in the order of causality, the cause is prior to the effect, even if in the order of time the cause is simultaneous with the effect. For EXTRINSIC PHYSICAL causes such as a physical agent, the agent must precede the effect in time as well as in the order of causality. For the final cause, the agent must apprehend the end prior to (order of causality) causing the effect. Yet in the order of being the final cause is NOT prior to the effect, rather the final cause is after the effect - it is the terminus toward which the act tends, and eventually achieves (if not impeded). For INTRINSIC causes, the cause does not have to precede the effect in time, it may be simultaneous with it. Thus in the order of causality the formal cause precedes the THING, but in the order of being the SUBSTANCE and the FORM are temporally simultaneous.

The form of oak "depends" on the substance, oak tree, not as effect depends on cause, but as form depends on something else for actual concrete existence. That is, we don't want to say that the substance causes oakness to exist, rather oakness exists really (instead of formally) IN VIRTUE of the substance having existence.

Scott said...

@malcolmthecynic:

Ah, I think I see how I misunderstood your original question. You had written: "This has the rather frightening implication that if you're not Christian you'll survive after death, but unable to use your intellect."

I took that to mean that you thought the implication was that God activated the intellects of Christians after death but not those of non-Christians. But if I understand you correctly now, what you meant was something more like, "If Christianity itself isn't true, then God won't be activating anybody's intellects after death."

But I still don't see why. In order for your implication to follow (and here I'm amplifying a bit on what Tony says), something in strictly natural theology would have to say or imply that God won't activate anyone's intellects unless such-and-such special revelation is true. If anything, I think natural theology cuts the other way.

Scott said...

@everybody, on forms:

I think it might be helpful to distinguish as carefully as we can between (a) what Aquinas (or A-T generally) says on the subject and (b) what we ourselves think, whether or not we think A-T is right. In some of the replies, I'm not sure which one is being argued—whether, that is, the view presented is being attributed to Aquinas/A-T or not.

rank sophist said...

GR,

But forms, if they exist in any way, must be eternal, which is exactly my position.

The only sense in which forms are eternal is that they are contained in the mind of God. In the here-below, there are only substances, and any form possessed by those substances is particularized and temporal. What holds a species together is not the numerical identity of a single form (a contradiction), but something much weaker and more vague. Aquinas: "Now, species or forms which are specifically the same and numerically diverse are individual forms" (SCG b2 ch75.3). Somehow, Aquinas holds that forms are numerically distinct, but one in species. What this means is anyone's guess.

If forms depend on substances in order to exist, how can the former be said to be the cause of the latter? Rather we should say it’s the other way around, i. e., that substances are the causes of forms. But that would turn A-T philosophy on its head.

Forms are the cause of substances insofar as a given form is always ontologically prior to a given substance. But this "given form" remains an individual one, contained within and transferred by a prior substance. The only forms that are not transferred by prior substances are those created immediately by God, which are numerically individual as well.

Even conceptually? Are you saying that forms don’t exist is the mind of God before they exist in diverse substances?

I could have explained it better. I meant that, even when we consider the matter abstractly, there is no numerically singular form prior to numerically diverse forms. Even the forms that we rely on in our possible intellects are numerically distinct from all other forms. Certainly forms pre-exist in the mind of God.

That statement is not even internally coherent, because it’s expressly saying that ONE form has diverse instantiations.

I meant "numerical unity". Apologies. Of course some unity exists between forms: it just isn't the absolute numerical one-ness that you are arguing for.

Tony,

For that unity is precisely the point of the whole business about forms - there there is a SAMENESS about this tree and that tree, and the sameness is said to be by reason of the FORM, where my use of "the" is definitively singular. If the form is not formally one, then there is no point to talking about form and matter.

Formal or specific unity is not the same as absolute numerical identity--which is what GR claims is the principle of unity for a given species. I can't tell you what formal or specific unity is (I'm in the dark on that myself), but it's certainly different from and weaker than numerical identity.

rank sophist said...

Deus,

How does a soul or essence have accidental properties?

First, erase from your mind the idea that the soul is a "thinking thing". A soul is simply the individualized form of a living thing. It is not consciousness: consciousness (intellect, will, etc.) is an accident attached to a particular soul. There is nothing special about gender being attached to a soul as an accident. Any particularized soul will possess accidents, which stem from its being (or having been) a substance.

How does a soul retain an imprint of matter upon death?

On this topic, I recommend SCG b2 ch68-69.

If gender is accidental that means that there is no essential difference between the sexes. This seems to present a problem in that then gender becomes a mere construct, thus undermining an arguments to the effect that women cannot be priests.

There is no essential difference between the sexes. Gender, though, is not entirely a construct. It is obviously true that much of gender is socially constructed within particular cultures, as the different views of men and women in different societies and time periods show. However, significant portions of what we think of as "essential" gender are not constructs but generalizations, which are based on very common traits in men and women. It is common for men to aggressive and women to be nurturing, for example. These facts are non-binding and morally neutral, and they do not apply in every case.

As for women being priests, there is only one relevant argument against the idea, and it has nothing to do with gender traits. Simply put, the disciples of Jesus were all men, and the priesthood is a continuation of discipleship. This is a tradition that cannot be changed. As far as I know, JPII was the one who gave this argument its modern formulation; but it underlies every argument against women in the priesthood.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"Aquinas: 'Now, species or forms which are specifically the same and numerically diverse are individual forms' (SCG b2 ch75.3). Somehow, Aquinas holds that forms are numerically distinct, but one in species. What this means is anyone's guess."

I think we want to be careful here, because in this passage Aquinas is summarizing an argument of Averroes which he subsequently (SCG b2 ch75.7) refutes.

The basis of his refutation is not, however, his disagreement with the premise you've quoted, but Averroes's failure to distinguish between that which we understand and that by which we understand. So Aquinas isn't actually disputing the numerical diversity of individual forms (at least here); he's merely arguing that this diversity doesn't imply that all men have the same intellect.

Is there a passage where it's clear that he's he positively and unequivocally accepting that numerical diversity himself and not merely arguendo?

(For that matter, is there a passage where he explicitly rejects it? It's been my understanding that he does accept it, but I wouldn't mind being proven wrong.)

George R. said...

Scott,
I don't recall Aquinas ever saying that forms are numerically one. But the thrust of my argument is that the principles of true philosophy, i.e., A-T philosophy, lead of necessity to the conclusion that substantial forms are both numerically one and eternal. Every attempt to avoid this conclusion must lead invariably to a case of putting the cart before the horse, the effect before the cause, and the composite before the principles thereof.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

Aquinas clearly endorses the idea of a difference between specific and numeric identity in ch75.6, when he refers to the possible intellect. Quote:

As to the first argument adduced above, we admit that the possible intellect is specifically one in different men and yet is numerically many

He makes a similar point in ch83.34:

Human souls do not differ specifically from one another, but only numerically; otherwise, men also would differ specifically, one from the other.

Lower still, in ch93.3:

Moreover, things specifically the same, but numerically diverse, possess matter. For the difference that results from the form introduces specific diversity; from the matter, numerical diversity.

Also, I managed to dig up the line of Aquinas's regarding Plato's Ideas being numerically distinct things. From de Anima a2 ro5:

The human soul is an individuated form and so also is its power which is called the possible intellect, as well as the intelligible forms which are received in the possible intellect. But this does not prevent these forms from being actually known, for a thing is actually known because it is immaterial, not because it is universal. Indeed, the universal is intelligible because it is abstracted from material individuating conditions. Moreover, it is evident that separate substances are actual intelligibles and yet are certain individual entities; just as Aristotle says in the Metaphysics [VII, 14, 1039a 23], that the separated forms which Plato claimed to exist, were individual things.

Finally, a sentence from de Anima a3 ro8: "[B]y its abstractive power the intellect makes this universal unity [between substances of a particular species] itself, not as though it were a unity existing in things themselves, but as an immaterial representation of them." The forms present in two different humans are totally individual, but our intellect is capable of seeing them as numerically one by analyzing their specific similarity, by "which [they are] like other things". There is no such thing as a numerical identity between multiple instantiations of a form in reality. Again, the question is what "specific" identity is, and how it differs from numerical identity.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

Thanks; that's pretty much the sort of thing I expected, and it certainly comports with what I understand of Aquinas in this context (which, I emphasize, is no sort of expert or professional opinion).

I think George R. is probably right that this view isn't stable and leads logically to a more Platonistic view of universals, but I continue to think that this somewhat-more-Platonistic consequence isn't (quite) what Aquinas taught (even if Thomism is committed to it by implication).

Anonymous said...

What's the evidence that after death God intervenes so as to allow the intellect to continue to cognize in the absence of a body?

Bedarz Iliaci said...

@Scott,
Thanks for your answer.
However, if the rational causes were to be taken in the natural realm, then what is the scope of "supernatural"?

That is, what is the demarcation line between the natural and supernatural realms?

jmhenry said...

Simply put, the disciples of Jesus were all men...

Uh, I think you mean the apostles were all men. Jesus had plenty of women disciples.

Discipulus Humilis said...

@rank sophist
Thank you for digging up the quotes, especially the last one contrasting A-T with Platonism.

@Scott
Exactly what I was expecting, too!


So, I agree that all human forms are specifically one and numerically many. I'm not sure how this applies to the rest of the animals. What about dogs? Are the forms of all dogs specifically one? Or only all Boston Terriers?

Taz said...

@Scott

"The difference with the human soul, the substantial form of the human body, is supposed to be that our forms are of a special sort that don't simply cease to be when we die but can exist temporarily without our bodies, and it's therefore possible for a soul to be embodied again. But not just any old body will do; your form is ineluctably related to the body you have now even when it exists temporarily apart from it."

If people who die very old, or very young, or very disabled, can be re-embodied in a form that is not very old, or very young, or very disabled, then why not also re-embodied in just a different looking body?

And the alternative consideration doesn't bear thinking about.

Justcurious said...

I'd like to know the philosophical (from an A-T standpoint) and possibly also theological (from an RC standpoint) view of a related issue.

Just as bodily processes, in this case specifically neural, are, in the normal case, necessary for intellectual activity, they are necessary for interaction with the physical world and communication with other human beings, with e.g. the chain involved in oral communication being: intellect - brain - nerves - vocalization muscles - sound waves - ear of the listener - brain of the listener - intellect of the listener.

My question is: is it necessary to hold that any bypassing of this normal chain during this life involves *necessarily* a *direct* divine intervention overruling natural laws every time it happens? Or is it in principle admissible (i.e. not against any dogma of faith or non-negotiable philosophical tenet) that there are special circumstances in which the soul can naturally bypass the normal channel to interact with the world and/or another soul? In other words, that the normal restriction that the soul interacts with the outside world through the body is not naturally airtight?

Example: my aunt A with Alzheimer, sometimes not even able to recognize her own son, i.e. my cousin. The day another aunt B, who was A's sister, died, A told the surrounding people "B went to heaven, B went to heaven", while nobody had told her about the event, which had taken place hundreds of miles away. Actually nobody around her *knew* about the event.

Anonymous said...

@ Justcurious,

definitely. however, all such phenomena must be carefully investigated and must be impugn well established principles.

Anonymous said...

must NOT*

Tony said...

Or is it in principle admissible (i.e. not against any dogma of faith or non-negotiable philosophical tenet) that there are special circumstances in which the soul can naturally bypass the normal channel to interact with the world and/or another soul? In other words, that the normal restriction that the soul interacts with the outside world through the body is not naturally airtight?

Curious, there is nothing offensive to the faith in the suggestion that the soul can initiate motion in the tongue and vocal cords without first putting motion into the nerves. The soul is the animating principle of the ENTIRE body, not just the brain.

However, there is nothing about A-T philosophy to make specific room for the possibility of the soul of human person A reaching out and affecting the soul of person B naturally. without an intermediary, for the NATURE of the human being is such as to operate, body and soul, matter and form, in such wise that the soul is the animating principle OF THAT PERSON'S body. If person B is affected by person A's soul directly, that suggests action outside of its nature.

Suggestions of ESP and other forms of natural action distinct from the 5 clearly known senses are also not offensive to the faith. If there is a sense faculty by which person B can pick up, say, nerve patterns of person A and read them, (kind of like a shark picks up electrical patterns off the nerve array of its prey), that would still be a natural operation.

Anonymous said...

@discipulus humilis
A boston terrier has in it the form of the genus, dog, and the form of the species, boston terrier. Both the essence dogness and the essence boston terrierness. This is apparent because whatever is proper to dogs is proper to the boston terrier.

"Genus" here refers not to any genus of Being, but only the genus in relation to the species "boston terrier."