Monday, April 27, 2015

Animal souls, Part I


Here’s a postscript, in two parts, to my recent critique in Public Discourse of David Bentley Hart’s case for there being animals in heaven.  In this first part, I discuss in more detail than I did in the original article Donald Davidson’s arguments for denying that animals can think or reason in the strict sense.  (This material was originally supposed to appear in the Public Discourse article, but the article was overlong and it had to be removed.)  In the second part, I will address some of the response to the Public Discourse article.  Needless to say, those who haven’t yet read the Public Discourse article are urged to do so before reading what follows, since what I have to say here presupposes what I said there.

For the Thomist, it is because human beings are rational animals that our souls can survive the deaths of our bodies, since (as the Thomist argues) rational or intellectual powers are essentially incorporeal.  Non-rational animals lack these incorporeal powers, so that there is nothing in them that can survive the deaths of their bodies.  That is why there is not, and cannot be, any afterlife for non-human animals.

The telltale mark of the difference between a rational animal and a non-rational animal is language.  Here some distinctions need to be made, because the term “language” is often used indiscriminately to refer to very different sorts of phenomena.  Karl Popper distinguished four functions of language: the expressive function, which involves the outward expression of an inner state; the signaling function, which adds to the expressive function the generation of a reaction in others; the descriptive function, which involves the statement of a complete thought of the sort that might be expressed in a declarative sentence; and the argumentative function, which involves the statement of an inference from one thought to another.  Some non-human animals are capable of the first two functions, and in that sense might be said to have “language.”  But the latter two functions involve the grasp of concepts, and human beings alone posses language of the sort which expresses concepts, thoughts, and arguments.

You don’t have to be a Thomist to see this.  Donald Davidson presented an influential set of arguments to the effect that thought and language go hand in hand, so that no creature which lacks language (in the relevant sense of “language”) can be said to think or reason in the strict sense.  (See Davidson’s essays “Thought and Talk” and “Rational Animals.”)   Hence, suppose a dog hears someone jangling some keys outside the door and starts wagging its tail and jumping about excitedly.  A natural way to describe what is going on is to say that the dog thinks that its master is home.  If what this amounts to is (say) merely that the sound of the keys jangling triggers in the dog’s consciousness a visual image of the master walking in the door, which in turn generates a feeling of excitement, then the Thomist (and, presumably, Davidson) are happy to agree.  But what the dog does not have is a thought in the sense in which a human being might have the thought that the master is home.  That is to say, the dog does not have the concept “master” or the concept “home,” and thus lacks any mental state with the conceptual content of the thought that “The master is home.”

Davidson puts forward a number of considerations in support of this judgment.  (What follows is my own way of stating Davidson’s points -- perhaps he would not agree with every aspect of my formulations.)  Consider first that for the dog to have a thought in the sense of an internal state with conceptual content, there must be some specific content that the thought has.  For example, it will be a thought with the content that the master is home -- as opposed, say, to a thought with the content that the man who is the father of the children who live in this house is home, or a thought with the content that the man who goes to work for eight hours every weekday is home.  Now if the dog had language, there would be a way to make sense of his thought’s having the first content rather than the others.  The dog might utter the sentence “The master is home” but not the sentences corresponding to the other thought contents, or it might assent to the sentence “The master is home” but not to the others (if, for example, it knew that the man in question is his master, but did not know either that this man is the father of the children or that he goes to work when he is away from the house).  In the absence of such a linguistic criterion, though, it is hard to see how there could be a fact of the matter about which specific content the dog’s thought has.  And thus it is hard to see how it really could have a thought with a specific conceptual content.

A second consideration is this.  Crucial to having the capacity for thought is having the capacity for believing something -- for taking it to be true that the world is this way rather than that.  There are other kinds of thoughts, such as desires and intentions, but they presuppose belief.  For example, you can intend to have pizza for dinner only if you believe that there is, or at least could be, such a thing as pizza.  Now, to have a belief, in Davidson’s view, entails having the concept of belief.  For you cannot believe that it is raining outside without also believing that it is not the case that it is not raining outside.  That is to say, to believe that it is raining outside entails believing that the belief that it not raining outside is false.  But to know the difference between true belief and false belief presupposes having the concept of believing something.

Now, Davidson argues further that to have the concept of believing something entails having language.  For, again, to have the concept of believing something is to have the concept of a state which could represent the world either truly or falsely.  That entails being able to distinguish between a content of a belief which represents things correctly and a content which represents them falsely.  For instance, what makes the belief that the earth is spherical a true belief and the belief that the earth is flat a false belief is that the content of the former represents things accurately and the content of the latter represents things falsely.  But to be able to grasp the difference between these contents is just to grasp the difference between, on the one hand, the statement we might express linguistically in a sentence like “The earth is spherical” and, on the other, the statement we might express in a sentence like “The earth is flat.”

Now, if to be capable of thought entails having beliefs, and if having beliefs entails having the concept of believing something, then to be capable of thought entails having the concept of believing something.  And if having the concept of believing something entails having language, then being capable of thought entails having language.  In that case, Davidson concludes, any creature that lacks language also lacks the capacity for thought. 

Of course, it is sometimes claimed that some apes have been taught to use language as well as very young children can use it.  But as linguist Noam Chomsky has noted, “that's about like saying that Olympic high jumpers fly better than young birds who've just come out of the egg -- or than most chickens.  These are not serious comparisons.”  From a Thomistic point of view, what matters in determining whether a creature possesses language is not whether we can get it to mimic certain superficial aspects of language under artificial circumstances, but rather how it naturally tends to act when left to its own devices.  And in their natural state, no animals other than human beings ever get beyond what Popper calls the expressive and signaling functions of language.  But even if there were real evidence of ape language, that would not prove that thought doesn’t require language.  Rather, it would show only that there are more kinds of thinking (and thus language-using) creatures than we thought.

In any event, dogs, cats, and the other domesticated animals Hart and others would evidently like to think go to heaven certainly don’t have language.  And it would be ridiculous to suggest that they have it but (like the dog in the comic book panel above) have been determined to hide the fact from us.  Agere sequitur esse (“action follows being” or “activity follows existence”) is a basic principle of Scholastic metaphysics.  The way a thing acts or behaves reflects what it is.  If dogs, cats, and the like had language in the third and fourth of Popper’s senses, then at some time, somewhere, evidence of this would show up in the way they behave.  Since it never has, we must conclude that they lack language in the relevant sense.

But if Davidson is right (and I think he is) then it follows that these animals lack rationality.  And if they lack rationality, they lack anything that might survive the deaths of their bodies.  In which case there is no afterlife for dogs, cats, and the other non-human animals to which we sometimes become sentimentally attached. 

111 comments:

BB said...


Isaiah 11:6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.


Since this didn't occur with Jesus' first coming, it would be a reference to His second. So after the resurrection, it looks like there shall be at least wolfs, goats, leopards, lambs, cows, bears, lions, cobras and adders on God's holy mountain.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that an omnipotent God could re-create Fido after its death if he chose to, for example, in the new eden.

Greg said...

@ Anon

It seems to me that an omnipotent God could re-create Fido after its death if he chose to, for example, in the new eden.

Why? If A goes out of existence, and something like A comes back into existence, what would make the latter thing A?

In the case of humans, it's argued that we (with our post-resurrection bodies) can retain our identities because our forms are subsistent; the principle of a human's identity persists even when the hylomorphic whole is disintegrated. But if Fido's soul is not subsistent, then Fido cannot come back into existence once he has gone out. That's no constraint on an omnipotent God; it's a point of logic.

Gene Callahan said...

"The telltale mark of the difference between a rational animal and a non-rational animal is language."

This is just a confusion on what constitutes thought: abstract thought, which I might grant that only humans engage in, is *derivative* of concrete thought, and not thought simpliciter. To perceive is itself to think, since as the idealists demonstrated, no perception occurs without judgment, which is thought.

seanrobsville said...

The absolute distinction between rational humans and irrational animals implies a huge, sudden, evolutionary jump of a qualitative rather than quantitative nature at some time in the relatively recent (geologically speaking) past.

Al said...

@seanrobsville

Indeed it does. It's called the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution.

http://www.cameronmsmith.com/courses/EuropeanPrehistory2007/TheUpperPalaeolithicRevolution.pdf

Scott W. said...

The animals-in-heaven reminds me of the saw that not many people are in Hell, which always seemed to me a stalking horse for serious doubt about God's justice and mercy.

Jakub Moravčík said...

From original article:

Christ tells us that there will not be marriage in Heaven, and the clear implication is that there will not be romance or sexual intercourse, either. Young people find it difficult to understand how we could fail to miss all of this, and anyone with an amorous disposition can sympathize. But, in fact, we will not miss it. That’s the thing about the beatific vision: it rather leaves everything else in its dust. And I submit that if you won’t miss sex when you’re in Heaven, it’s a safe bet that you’re not going to give much thought to Fido either.

Although it may suprise some of you, exactly this is the reason why I am not looking forward to heaven, although I for sure hope to get there. But the fact that I will not miss almost anything in heaven gives me in sum only a negative motivation for getting there: and that is avoiding hell.

Georgy Mancz said...

@seanrobsville

I don't see how the jump that is qualitative in character (and the distinction absolute) can be said to be evolutionary. Anyways, you seem to think this to be problematic.
Why is it problematic?

Besides, it's not the only "qualitative jump": there's the appearance of vegetative life, then of animals...

Crude said...

Although it may suprise some of you, exactly this is the reason why I am not looking forward to heaven, although I for sure hope to get there. But the fact that I will not miss almost anything in heaven gives me in sum only a negative motivation for getting there: and that is avoiding hell.

Wait a second. Are you serious here?

The lack of sex or desire for sex makes heaven, for you, so miserable a place that the only reason you even desire it is because you think the alternative is even worse?

Is this your claim?

Greg said...

@ Jakub

But the fact that I will not miss almost anything in heaven gives me in sum only a negative motivation for getting there: and that is avoiding hell.

Moreover, I am not sure why you would need to miss something in order to have more than a negative motivation to get to Heaven.

Jakub Moravčík said...

Greg

That´s not the way I meant it, of course that the fact that I would miss something in heaven will not give me positive motivation. I only wanted to say that the fact that you love something/somebody here on earth, confronted with the fact that you will not miss them (in that sense that you will feel "holy indifference" or something similar to it/them) in heaven, is frustrating and doesn´t give me anything as looking forward to heaven.

John said...

Jakob,
I think the key is that all good is created in the image of God, so whatever good you loved on Earth is a foretaste of heaven. The beauty of the Earth, delicious food, friendship, family, sex, it's all there (at least in part) to make you desire the greater good of God.
I find the Christian idea that there will be no marriage in the next life and that "eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him," so much more credible than, say, the Muslim or Mormon descriptions of the afterlife, which are just conglomerations of everything we like on earth.

Crude said...

I only wanted to say that the fact that you love something/somebody here on earth, confronted with the fact that you will not miss them (in that sense that you will feel "holy indifference" or something similar to it/them) in heaven, is frustrating and doesn´t give me anything as looking forward to heaven.

I don't think anyone has said that you won't love someone. It was about marriage and sex.

Tony said...

Since this didn't occur with Jesus' first coming, it would be a reference to His second. So after the resurrection, it looks like there shall be at least wolfs, goats, leopards, lambs, cows, bears, lions, cobras and adders on God's holy mountain.

We probably should not get bogged down on this, so let me just suggest a 'marriage' of this view with Ed's point that Fido will not go to heaven.

The positions are consistent - as Greg implies. God will not "bring" Fido to heaven after he dies, because there isn't any Fido to bring anywhere. There is nothing that corresponds to "Fido" that can be the subject of ANY action by God after he dies.

Yet God can make BRAND NEW dogs, wolves, lions, sheep, etc for us to enjoy / rule over in the New Earth (re)created after the eschaton, which animals can exist bodily alongside our own bodily existence after the resurrection of the dead. These new animals need not be enjoying the Beatific Vision to be part of the New Earth. They need only exist to complete man's fullness, which is after all bodily, in order to explain why God might do this.

And, if God can make new dogs, He can make a dog numerically distinct from Fido but similar to Fido in every way important to us, if that somehow serves a purpose. I doubt that such a thing would serve a purpose, but it isn't impossible.

So can we get on to discussing language and ways of "thinking"?

This is just a confusion on what constitutes thought: abstract thought, which I might grant that only humans engage in,

Gene C, would Ed's arguments then be valid and sufficient if modified by replacing "thought" with "abstract thought" in all relevant places? Ed is quite clear that he is willing to grant that animals have consciousness of stuff. If you want to call this a sort of 'thinking' that is concrete AND HAS NO ABSTRACT ASPECT, then this is, I think, something he would go along with, as long as we are always clear on just what kind of behavior is being asserted.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. Feser and all
This may be off topic, but I have read your post on qualia and how this is a hard problem for materialist. I understand why it is, but there is one thing troubling me a bit. If two people are both for example in freezing cold water, and say they both feel pain, could it be argued that their experience in the water is the same due to both feeling pain and they both know the experience of the other?
Thank you in advance.

Timocrates said...

Animals discriminate too but this doesn't involve judgment. Our dog knows who is and isn't his master amongst people. What he doesn't do is discriminate rationally. My dog doesn't discriminate in the form of if A, then B. But not B. Therefore not A.

Animal discrimination seems always based in instinct or instinctual drive. Dogs can be taught to do lots of things, but they have no desire whatsoever to even mimic our language. A dog knows to come when he has been trained to approach when "come!" is said; however, when a dog desires for you to rather come to him, he doesn't try to say "come". He perhaps just barks, but even this doesn't appear to be a mimicry of our speech as such, but what dogs do instinctively.

Mike M. said...

Where does he find these cartoons? I'm lovin it!

DNW said...

Crude said...

Although it may suprise some of you, exactly this is the reason why I am not looking forward to heaven, although I for sure hope to get there. But the fact that I will not miss almost anything in heaven gives me in sum only a negative motivation for getting there: and that is avoiding hell.

Wait a second. Are you serious here?

The lack of sex or desire for sex makes heaven, for you, so miserable a place that the only reason you even desire it is because you think the alternative is even worse?

Is this your claim?
April 28, 2015 at 6:50 AM "



Makes you wonder - specific instance here aside and no slam on the commenter intended - doesn't it.


I guess that what many, if not most of us have imagined an afterlife would be like is some church painting - God on a throne, a nimbus of light, and spirits of some kind chirping at His feet forever. And, aren't you glad you are bored to death here, instead of frying in hell?

Yet, whether there is a Heaven or Hell or God, surely this represents a tremendous failure of licit imagination, when, mock or believe as you will, even the secular world has listened to the NDE stories of Christians, and paused to reflect.

Yeah, they may prove nothing at all about an afterlife; and there are certainly theosophically tainted, and from a Christian perspective very suspect reports.

But, even considering these events as purely subjective manifestations of an oxygen deprived brain, and allowing in only the testimony of more or less orthodox Christians, the intensity of the experience these persons report, or imagine they report, leaves one wondering just how anyone would, confronted with such an experience, even give pets a second thought.

A professedly orthodox protestant Christian orthopedic surgeon. Make of it what you will, but ... the role of pets?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=as6yslz-RDw#t=1056

DNW said...

Just as a note here, those who are familiar with some of the literature of the "Dark Ages" may recognize certain themes repeated in the link I have left (minus the purgatory vision) with Bede's story in The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, of Dryhthelm of Cunningham's report of return from the dead.

A scholar at the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies links Bede's accounts to Gregory the Great's, Dialogues.

Maybe Mary Neal read Bede ...


http://library.alibris.com/Miracles-and-the-Venerable-Bede-William-D-McCready/book/10854558?qsort=c&matches=8

Anonymous said...

I don't doubt God's mercy--I doubt the mercy of the rationalist sort of Christian who thinks he has everything figured out. There is a kind of flip bullying dismissive quality towards animals on the Thomist side. Why on earth wouldn't we miss our pets in Heaven? They are innocent beings, capable of some small degree of affection. I would think we would be more compassionate in heaven ,not less, and the idea that we won't miss pets because we also won't miss chocolate or having sex misses the point. And anyway, there is some special pleading going on. Rational thought is for some reason supposed to be non material in a way that simple emotions (like a dog's affection for his human family) is not, yet I suppose we are also asked to believe that a human fetus in its earliest stages of development has an afterlife if it dies, while a chimpanzee does not. I seriously doubt that Aristotle and Aquinas managed to figure out the limits of God's power--if for some reason He wanted to resurrect a specific mosquito I would hesitate to say that He couldn't, even if some philosophers think they have completely solved all the problems of personal identity and know exactly what God can or cannot do. As for whether God does or does not resurrect Fido, we are all in the same boat. We don't know. We only know He will resurrect us because He told us so.



Greg said...

@ Anon

Rational thought is for some reason supposed to be non material in a way that simple emotions (like a dog's affection for his human family) is not, yet I suppose we are also asked to believe that a human fetus in its earliest stages of development has an afterlife if it dies, while a chimpanzee does not.

Rational thought is thought to be immaterial owing to its universality and formality. If you can create a parallel argument for the immateriality of dogs' emotions, I am sure we are all happy to hear it.

As far as the fetus/chimpanzee issue is concerned: yes. The fetus does not think yet; but it is metaphysically human in that it is identical with the human that it will (or could) later be, and that identity of substance is grounded (as it must be) in identity of form and therefore identity of soul. So it has a rational soul; that is, a soul capable of abstract thought. A sleeping human also has a rational soul, even if it might have to change (be actualized) in some way in order that it can actually think. As long as the change required for the capacity to exercise cognition immediately is accidental rather than substantial, as is the case, the fetus will have a rational soul.

Again, if you can create a parallel argument for the immateriality of a chimpanzee's soul, I am sure we are all happy to hear it.

I seriously doubt that Aristotle and Aquinas managed to figure out the limits of God's power--if for some reason He wanted to resurrect a specific mosquito I would hesitate to say that He couldn't, even if some philosophers think they have completely solved all the problems of personal identity and know exactly what God can or cannot do.

By all means, hesitate and think about it. But if the ground of identity is form, then diachronic identity will not be possible where persistence of form is not possible.

Maybe Thomists are wrong about the ground of diachronic identity. Maybe Thomists are wrong about the principle of proportionate causality. Maybe Thomists are wrong about God as Ipsum Esse Subsistens. Those are all questions that we are allowed to entertain (in cold, bloodless, rationalist Thomist fashion, of course). But interestingly, it is only in the case of whether animals survive death or can be resurrected that people get worked up and think Thomists must be up to something suspicious (and questioning God's sovereignty and power to boot).

Anonymous said...

I don't think a Thomist could ever be a veterinarian.

John West said...

I don't think a Thomist could ever be a veterinarian.

Why would Thomists care or want to provide medical services for animals less merely because animals lack the chance for eternal life?

Thomists' position on animal souls is not some choice based on subjective feelings, like dislike or apathy for animals. It's carefully reasoned and argued to be objectively true, whether they personally like it or not.

Greg said...

Well, my mother thinks dogs go to heaven. But she has also said she believes in reincarnation, so go figure... (She's Catholic.)

Grace said...


From: St. Thomas and the Keeping of Pets

Dominicana > Home / Philosophy / April 16, 2012 by: Br. Bonaventure Chapman, O.P.

There is a wonderful story about St. Thomas, teleology and a bunch of birds. It goes like this. A grand duke was visiting St. Thomas in the convent of St. Jacques in Paris and wanted to express his appreciation for St. Thomas and the Dominican Order by offering some sort of gift. The two went for a walk along the Left Bank of the Seine River and came upon a number of birds in cages being sold to passers-by. (I am told you can still buy birds at the spot today!) At this point, Thomas has an idea: will the duke buy him all these birds? The duke is more than happy to purchase the whole lot, and after the transaction is complete he asks what St. Thomas would like to do with his feathered friends. Thomas responds: “Open the cages.” Why? Well, St. Thomas wanted to make a point about the bird’s natures. They have wings, and therefore their perfection is served, not by being cooped up in a cage, but by exercising the natural abilities God gave them.

seanrobsville said...

@ Greg

"Rational thought is thought to be immaterial owing to its universality and formality. If you can create a parallel argument for the immateriality of dogs' emotions, I am sure we are all happy to hear it."

Such an argument might be based on the non-physicality of intentionality and qualia rather than of rationality.

Rational processes are fundamentally mechanistic and can be modelled and understood in terms of the operations of a Turing Machine, which are universal and formal (Church-Turing-Deutsch principle).

In contrast, qualia and intentionality are non-mechanistic processes that cannot be simulated by a TM.

It is generally accepted (though not strictly provable) that dogs experience qualia, and in most civilized countries inflicting unnecessary suffering on a dog is a criminal offense. They also seem to experience intentionality, and have emotions about their owners, bones, cats etc.

Therfore, there appear to be aspects of a dog's mind that cannot be accounted for by physical/mechanistic processes.

Jakub Moravčík said...

Crude:

The lack of sex or desire for sex makes heaven, for you, so miserable a place that the only reason you even desire it is because you think the alternative is even worse?

Is this your claim?


No.
Sex is only one of examples (totally BTW, I haven´t losen the hope that there will by any "spiritual equivalent of sex" in heaven).
My claim is that it is hard or even impossible to look forward to something when you know that you completely won´t miss it in the final state (i.e. heaven, I hope for my case). There is a I-think-classic question of how could be the mother happy in heaven if her son is damned. There is also a reply (I think that C.S.Lewis writes about it in Great divorce or elsewhere) that mother simply will not miss him - she will be completely fulfilled by love for God (and according to St. Thomas, viewing her son´s just punishment will maybe even increase her heavenly bliss - really horrific thought). So when you lack a love for God as me - although I´m trying to change it but so far without much success - then you have no connecting line of "looking forward" to heaven when you know that you will not miss anything there what you love here and what matters for you here (except God, of course).

(that´s also the reason why I once invented a heresy by changing the "I believe in ... the communion of saints" part of credo to "I believe in purely arithmetical summary of totally isolated kierkegaardic individuals eternaly being in absolute relation to Absolute". Put this in your translator - Bůh means God, duše means soul)

Jakub Moravčík said...

Tony:

God will not "bring" Fido to heaven after he dies, because there isn't any Fido to bring anywhere. There is nothing that corresponds to "Fido" that can be the subject of ANY action by God after he dies.


I doubt whether this is true, at least if eternalism is true.

Jakub Moravčík said...

I seriously doubt that Aristotle and Aquinas managed to figure out the limits of God's power--if for some reason He wanted to resurrect a specific mosquito I would hesitate to say that He couldn't, even if some philosophers think they have completely solved all the problems of personal identity and know exactly what God can or cannot do.

I resonate with this.

Arthur said...

'I seriously doubt that Aristotle and Aquinas managed to figure out the limits of God's power...'

It sounds to me like you're missing something here. The 'limit' on God's power of not, say, being able to make a round square isn't really a limit at all because a 'round square' isn't a conceivable thing. It's not that a round square is a legit thing and God is oddly unable to make one; the phrase 'round square' is simply a misuse of words.

The Thomists here are arguing that resurrecting Fido is much like that. It's not that 'resurrecting Fido' is a legit thing and that God is oddly unable to do it because of some artificial 'limit' on His power. It's just that there is no Fido to resurrect. (He could make a copy of Fido for reasons that have already been given.)

TheOFloinn said...

Some of the comments illustrate Barzun's observation that in the 1950s the phrase "I feel that..." began replacing "I think that..." in common discourse. The triumph of the will over the intellect.

Anonymous said...

If you are going to say some mental characteristic would identify the existence of a soul I think qualia would be it. Materialism can't explain qualia.

Also the empirical evidence from near-death experiences and evidential mediums indicate that many animals, dogs, cats, birds, horses etc have souls.

Greg said...

@ seanrobsville

Such an argument might be based on the non-physicality of intentionality and qualia rather than of rationality.

Sure.

Rational processes are fundamentally mechanistic and can be modelled and understood in terms of the operations of a Turing Machine, which are universal and formal (Church-Turing-Deutsch principle).

The Thomist would argue that rational processes are not fundamentally mechanistic. Turing machines are abstract objects; no physical object actually realizes the operations of a Turing machine. But physical approximations of Turing machines (i.e. desktop computers, Watson) aren't really rational. (I could reiterate arguments here, but I imagine you know them since you're familiar with Feser's blog and work.)

In contrast, qualia and intentionality are non-mechanistic processes that cannot be simulated by a TM.

I am happy to admit that qualia and intentionality are non-mechanistic processes and cannot be simulated by a Turing machine. It doesn't follow that they are non-material; Thomists aren't contemporary materialists when it comes to non-human animals. So I need not quibble with what you say here.

Your link suggests how someone might try to formulate an argument for the immateriality of non-human animal souls. But it depends on what one means by "Computers can simulate all physical processes". There is a weak sense of simulation according to which computers can simulate qualia and intentionality; there might be an artifact that behaves as though it has qualia and intentional states, even though it doesn't. That's a "simulation." If by simulation you mean duplication, then it's not evident whether the premise is true or why we should believe it.

For instance, can a Turing machine simulate digestion? A computer designer could choose some symbols to represent the 'inputs' and 'outputs' to digestion and model the operation, and we might call that a simulation. But it can't digest anything by virtue of realizing the formal model (however approximately) of a Turing machine.

So I don't think this argument really works. It is also worth stating that I have no problem per se with understanding (a particular sort of) intentionality as 'that which makes humans special'. The claim that rational processes might be mechanistic while intentionality is physically inexplicable strikes me as bizarre since rational processes are intentional. And a Thomist won't deny that non-human animals occupy intentional states; they even think there is something like intentionality in the inanimate world. But, as Feser says in the OP, it is a matter of the particular human sort of intentionality:

Hence, suppose a dog hears someone jangling some keys outside the door and starts wagging its tail and jumping about excitedly. A natural way to describe what is going on is to say that the dog thinks that its master is home. If what this amounts to is (say) merely that the sound of the keys jangling triggers in the dog’s consciousness a visual image of the master walking in the door, which in turn generates a feeling of excitement, then the Thomist (and, presumably, Davidson) are happy to agree. But what the dog does not have is a thought in the sense in which a human being might have the thought that the master is home. That is to say, the dog does not have the concept “master” or the concept “home,” and thus lacks any mental state with the conceptual content of the thought that “The master is home.”

He reviews Davidson's arguments for these claims. In the past, he has also cited some considerations by Hilary Putnam to similar effect; whereas a human cares about whether or not he eats synthetic meat, a dog doesn't. The upshot is that animals have a sort of intentionality--aboutness--but that is not obviously immaterial any more than any final cause in the inanimate domain is obviously immaterial. But humans have the salient form of intentionality.

Anonymous said...

http://news.discovery.com/animals/female-chimps-seen-making-wielding-spears-150414.htm

This means something?

DNW said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

... female-chimps-seen-making-wielding-spears-150414.htm

This means something?


The site provides its own answer.

This:

" ... by showing that A. afarensis was involved in these activities, we showed that you do not need a large brain to do this," added Alemseged, director of the Department of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences.

Brown agrees that braininess may not always explain how much or little certain species use tools.

"Are there physical and or ecological constraints on tool use?" he said.

"Hopefully if we do this we can get away from the notion that 'humans use tools so tool-users must be smart like humans.'

That idea seems to be leading us in circles."


(Paragraphing introduced)

TheOFloinn said...

Tool-making is not an indicator of intellect. It can be handled quite easily by sensation and imagination.

Most of the modern myths regarding animal intelligence were born in the Scientific Revolution. It would not have startled Aristotle or Aquinas that chimps used tools, but it would have gobsmacked Descartes and Bacon.

Jack Ferrara said...

This raises a question I've long had, e.g. how did humans first acquire a rational soul? (this is sloppily worded I admit)

Let me unpack this a little bit:if humans physically shared ancestors with other animals that are non rational, does that mean that humans suddenly developed a soul while their ancestors did not have one?

I'm not trying to make an argument here, this is honestly a question I've thought about and I'd love to hear if there is any theological discussion about this.

Scott said...

@Jack Ferrara:

"I'd love to hear if there is any theological discussion about this."

Start here and, from there, follow any links that look interesting.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that specifying two aspects of language is alone necessary: Speech and grammar.

By speech I mean 'artificially ordered vocal sound'. Whether speech be qualitatively lyrical or prosaic it is always, besides being an aspect of 'language', a species of music. Although, we may refer to 'natural speech' as the order of vocal sounds that might be produced in warfare, if you know what I mean.

By pure grammar we may generally mean the forms of consciousness or, if we may be bold, the forms of reality. By 'forms' we may mean subjects and anything emergent from subjects (complex subjects, objects, relations, etc.).

All other species or modes follow from here.

Anonymous said...

"if for some reason He wanted to resurrect a specific mosquito"

This form of statement cannot be said of God for there is no distinction between actual and possible in God. Therefore one cannot use the word 'if' or make statements which imply non-actual possibilities from the standpoint of Eternity. Those statements only reflect a temporal and finite perspective therefore, etc.

Jakub Moravčík said...

Anon:

This form of statement cannot be said of God for there is no distinction between actual and possible in God.

But can then anyone speak of possible world(s) at all?
What are "non-actual possibilities"? Does such term make sense?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we get things wrong. Dr. Feser, who I really enjoy reading, is wrong on this subject.

God has put good into animals, and did this with a purpose. I know this because I experience the good in my own animals. God will not destroy good. My animals will not be destroyed, other than their imperfections.

Any attempt to refute this requires that you assert that God WILL destroy that which is good. And I will reject such an argument.

Great blog otherwise.

Greg said...

@ Anon

God puts good into everything he creates. Not just animals, but trees. Not just trees, but mountains.

Why no argument that trees will not be destroyed (except their imperfections)?

Scott said...

"God has put good into animals, and did this with a purpose."

As Greg notes, everything God creates is, thus far, good, but quite a lot of it seems to be corruptible. Surely it's not your contention that God will never allow anything He creates to become corrupted.

But if not, then it's not clear why you make an exception for non-human animals. Would God have to be more "active" (so to speak) in their corruption than He is in the case of trees and mountains? For example, does a mountain corrupt "naturally" while a dog must actively be "destroyed"?

And an earlier remark (perhaps from a different Anonymous):

"[T]he empirical evidence from near-death experiences and evidential mediums indicate that many animals, dogs, cats, birds, horses etc have souls."

That's not at issue here; no Aristotelian or Thomist would deny that animals and even plants have "souls." The question at hand is whether those souls are immortal.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. Feser and all
This may be off topic, but I have read your post on qualia and how this is a hard problem for materialist. I understand why it is, but there is one thing troubling me a bit. If two people are both for example in freezing cold water, and say they both feel pain, could it be argued that their experience in the water is the same due to both feeling pain and they both know the experience of the other?
Thank you in advance.

Timocrates said...

@ Anon,

They know the other's experience only by inference. He doesn't actually experience the other's experience as such: there are two experiences of pain, presumably, in your situation.

That is actually an interesting thing about us: we can be in pain from being stranded in dangerously freezing cold water (such as so many of those poor souls were after the Titanic sank), but let's say our misfortune was shared with some random young boy. Knowing he is also in pain can add to our own pain from, e.g., sadness or a sense of helplessness or injustice in knowing another person -especially a doubtless innocent- is suffering too. The one pain is physical, the other mental or strictly arises from knowledge or understanding.

Anonymous said...

@Timocrates,
thank you for your response as it helped clear some issues I have, but I'm still wondering that since both people in the same situation such as in cold water both feel pain, could a materialist argue that due to this the experience of pain is in the physical objective world and not just our subjective conscious experience. I saw this argument presented on the rational wiki, and I wonder if anyone can refute it(granted this is the rational wiki were talking about, but this objection still got me thinking.)

John West said...

Anonymous,

[C]ould a materialist argue that due to this the experience of pain is in the physical objective world and not just our subjective conscious experience[?]

I think that would be to conflate the cause of the experience of pain, which is the physical objective world, with the experience of pain itself.

Glenn said...

Anonymous,

Sometimes we get things wrong. Dr. Feser, who I really enjoy reading, is wrong on this subject.

This is the second time recently you have used the fact that people can be wrong as a basis for your confidence that you are right. **

Surely you have something a little more rational to support your position than the fact that people can be wrong? Or are you not a person, and thus excluded from possibly being wrong?

** "It is a wonderful condition about us humans that we can never - ever - be correct about literally EVERYTHING." -- Hart jumps the shark, April 9, 2015 at 7:20 AM

Glenn said...

Anonymous,

Btw, I've no interest in inciting or contributing to a diminishment of your affection for your pet(s). Although I haven't any now, I have had a number of pets during my life. And though I never thought of the question at the time, using hindsight I can say now that every moment I might have spent wondering where they might go when no longer here, was a moment not spent enjoying them while they were here.

Anonymous said...

"But can then anyone speak of possible world(s) at all?
What are "non-actual possibilities"? Does such term make sense?"

Every possible world is actual from the standpoint of eternity, but these possibilities do not form a discrete multitude, total quantity, etc. They are called 'virtual' and nothing more can be said of them. For, from an Absolute perspective, the actual and the possible are identical. This is what 'eternity' in its true meaning signifies. The limitless virtual reality which is in and through God is not available for discourse, but the present state of affairs and its dependence upon God is available for discourse. As for the latest stage of modern (or 'late modern', 'postmodern', etc.) philosophy; I can't comment on it for it diverges too much from pure metaphysics.

For example, when medieval doctors write about God's effects being 'objectively eternal' (although not subjectively eternal) they are referring to God's infinite power and the virtual reality of any possible object.

Jakub Moravčík said...

Anon:

your post reminds me of using the differentiation of "standpoint of eternity" and "standpoint of time" or "staindpoint of God" and "standpoint of man" as a final point of resolution, or, in other worlds, final kind of argument. But how could we know anything about absolute´s standpoint when we are not absolute? More, if these two are standpoints, then it seems there has to be some common standpoint from which we can view both standpoints. If not, post-modernists have won because then we have here two mutually absolutely intransferable viewpoints. I have written a blog post about this topic but it is only in czech language.

Tony said...

I doubt whether this is true, at least if eternalism is true.

Jakub, I don't which version of eternalism is the version you are thinking of, here, so I will side-step specific arguments about it. Let me run at it a different way.

As Christians we believe that Christ died (in time) and THEN, on the third day (as time is measured) by the power of God he resurrected from the dead. Whatever eternalism says about Christ's life, death, and resurrection, with respect to time they happened in a sequence.

As Christians, we believe that after we die we too will be raised from the dead to life. The sequence of before and after will be LIKE TO that for Christ, though with a pretty long time in between for most of us.

In both of these cases, what comes after death causally requires a continuity of being of some sort. That continuity of being we call the immortal soul. In both cases, I am limiting my consideration to what happens in time.

If God were to resurrect Fido from the dead as like unto the way He will do for Christian men, Fido too would have to have some kind of continuity of being.

If, on the other hand, God were to exert his power in some OTHER manner than that in which he resurrects men, we can't really say much about that, can we? And, on yet the other hand, if we want to speak to ALL of these things that "happen" and "transpire" in a sequence of before and after, as from an eternalist perspective instead of a temporal one, then we might end up with some quasi-analogous representations, not of what "happened" but rather of "what is", like "Fido is" which representation in some way disregards some other perspective that "Fido is not" with regard to the periods before he was born or after he died. Since, as humans, we are unable to formulate even a verb tense that can be used successfully in that kind of representation, I won't try to get it "right". All I will say is that perspective, Fido's death is just as real as Christ's. Can you say with equal certainty that Fido's existence "with respect to after his death" is just as real Christ's resurrected existence?

Anonymous said...

@john west
What do you mean by conflate experience with cause, could you elaborate more please?

Mr. Green said...

A remark on the issue of resurrected pets: I note not only a lack of arguments as to how an animal could be meaningfully resurrected, but also arguments as to why. I myself am open to possible arguments from haecceity or the like, but we need to bear in mind that going to Heaven isn't like going to France, or Antarctica. You won't miss dear old Rover because his absence leaves a Rover-shaped hole in your life. In Heaven we not only see God, but we see everything else through God's eyes, as it were. In Heaven, even our memories will be more vivid than our direct experiences now. You won't miss Rover because you will appreciate everything about him as much as it is possible for you to do so. Having Rover physically present would not actually add anything to your appreciation, so there will be nothing to miss! (It would be a bit like, say, having this really lovely postcard of the French Riviera and then one day you finally get to visit the Riviera in person and your reaction is, "Oh, it's very nice and all, but I sure miss that postcard!")

(This also, I think, is relevant to Jakub's concern about the saved not missing the damned. It's not merely that we will be content to see God's justice done — and it's not clear why Jakub thinks it "horrific" that Mrs. Hitler (assuming she makes it to Heaven) not be upset that her unrepentant son (assuming he doesn't) be punished; I don't know what Frau Hitler is supposed to be thinking instead, "Poor Junior, he wasn't responsible for slaughtering near as many millions as Stalin, what's the big deal?" We can wring our hands at abstract alleged horrors, but seriously, how could this possibly play out if you actually start to fill in any of the details? — not only do we see that justice is good, but in the Beatific Vision we would see and appreciate all the goodness that the damned have to offer, to whatever extent that exists (at the very least, their existence as God's creatures). Of course, not only are the other saints present because by definition they are sharing the Beatific Vision, but we must consider theosis, and how this raises up the saved to a level that was not present in their earthly lives — something new that cannot be appreciated merely in retrospective. Obviously, even if animals could be resurrected, this would not apply to them.)

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: If two people are both for example in freezing cold water, and say they both feel pain, could it be argued that their experience in the water is the same due to both feeling pain and they both know the experience of the other?

Actually, I would answer: yes and no. Certainly there is a sense in which we each have a separate pain, since the pain is in our bodies and our bodies are separate. But there is also a sense in which we are experiencing the same pain — if you describe your pain at being immersed in the freezing water, I'll say that I know just what you mean, I feel it too! On Aristotelian terms, qualities really do inhere in material substances, so two people (or animals) can share a qualitative form; that is the form can be instantiated in both of us. If we both turned green, clearly that would be a case of applying the same form to two individuals; it would be likewise, then, for other qualities.

(This hearkens back to the recent discussion of animal experiences. A robot can't think, nor can an animal (in the intellectual sense), but both can be freezing cold. Of course, unlike the robot, the animal can feel cold because it is a subject, an actual substance; while the robot is not a "thing", not a substance, but a collection of multifarious parts. But coldness is something that exists in the matter of the subject, so when the matter is gone, there's nothing left. Conversely, it can't be an immaterial part of an animal that experiences the qualities because something immaterial couldn't be cold in the first place (or textured or coloured, or any other such quality).

Anonymous said...

These comics panels. You must tell us where you get them.

George LeSauvage said...

@Mr Green: At 12:09, I think you got it on pets. If I understand you, I'd put it this way: all that I've loved in my dogs will be fulfilled in heaven, and yes, that will include a clearer picture of how they lived in this life.

I'd add to the 12:25 comment that it is also true that the phantasms of the 2 cold people (or people and animals) would be or could be the same, and for the people, the forms they abstract from them would also be the same. In that sense, they could be said to have the same experiences.

@Tony & Jakub: One thing about humans in the afterlife: it would have to include some kind of time. Given that we have bodies, and those bodies would not be pure act, they would be moveable, and since time is the measure of motion, this would seem entailed, wouldn't it?

George LeSauvage said...

@Mr Green: At 12:09, I think you got it on pets. If I understand you, I'd put it this way: all that I've loved in my dogs will be fulfilled in heaven, and yes, that will include a clearer picture of how they lived in this life.

I'd add to the 12:25 comment that it is also true that the phantasms of the 2 cold people (or people and animals) would be or could be the same, and for the people, the forms they abstract from them would also be the same. In that sense, they could be said to have the same experiences.

@Tony & Jakub: One thing about humans in the afterlife: it would have to include some kind of time. Given that we have bodies, and those bodies would not be pure act, they would be moveable, and since time is the measure of motion, this would seem entailed, wouldn't it?

Jakub Moravčík said...

Mr. Green:

Your first paragraph is really interesting and thanks for it.

Second:
I don't know what Frau Hitler is supposed to be thinking instead, "Poor Junior, he wasn't responsible for slaughtering near as many millions as Stalin, what's the big deal?"

Maybe something like this: Poor Junior, although God foreknew that he will be damned, he nevertheless created him (or he created completely determined possible world in which he will be damned and which, in order to be really creatable and not only uncomplete uncreatable fiction, must containt all his evil deeds, unrepentance etc.) and let him to do his brutally evil deeds, although he could leave him uncreated. Of course, I write this primarily as a mind booster because by saying this Frau Hitler would in a sense say that God did something a little wrong, which would be impossible if she´s in heaven. Anyway, this topic returns us back to the topics as why God creates people whose damnation he foreknew, whether and in what sense is it better to be damned or not to be created at all, to the statut of possible (uncreated or so-far-not-created) people etc ...

Anonymous said...

@Mr.Green,
but if both people have the same experience as you say couldn't a materialist from non-aristotalein make the same claim as you do that qualia is objective and in the physical object, thereby making it possible for all humans to experience the same qualia at the same object and know the experience such as one knows the physical properties of the object such as it's length, which would render qualia as not supportive of the immaterial aspect of the mind and support materialism instead of a form of dualism?(P.S does anyone know if Dr. Feser or other non-materialist have responded to claims like this and if so does anyone know where they has done so)

John West said...

Anonymous,

What do you mean by conflate experience with cause, could you elaborate more please?

Say two humans split a batch of hallucinogens, take them, and have identical hallucinations. Surely the hallucinations wouldn't thereby become objective. Hallucinations are a paradigm case of subjective experience. Instead, we would say the hallucinogens (drugs) caused each human to hallucinate identical things as a result of the drugs' effects on the human brain (our evidence for saying both people had the same hallucination would come from talking to them afterwards, or observing them while they hallucinate).

There is a difference between hallucinations and what it feels like to be in pain, but I think it's a similar situation with the ice water (and its effects on the human body and nervous system) and the experience of pain.

John West said...

Also, I wrote that before reading Mr. Green's reply.

Crude said...

Are people saying the point of the resurrected body is participation in the Beatific Vision? But the BV doesn't require the body, from what I understand.

So, what's the point of resurrection?

Anonymous said...

@john west,
but if they both feel cold in cold water how could their experience be different?
(sorry if I'm being annoying, I just want to grasp why qualia is immaterial more clearly and refute materialist/atheist objections towards them)

John West said...

[B]ut if they both feel cold in cold water how could their experience be different?

I don't think it matters whether their experience of cold is different.

John West said...

Anonymous,

I'm not the best person to be answering your questions, but

I just want to grasp why qualia is immaterial more clearly and refute materialist/atheist objections towards them

writing from personal experience, since I'm already uncomfortable as a dualist, I tend to not find arguments involving thought experiments very persuasive. I find arguments focussing on conceptual thought make less use of these than arguments focussing on qualia, and so tend to prefer them. You may, however, find the arguments focussing on qualia here, here, or here useful.

Anonymous said...

@John West I've found some quotes by John Searle which seem relevant to this topic

" I used to treat subjectivity and qualitativeness as distinct features, but it now seems to me that properly understood, qualitativeness implies subjectivity, because in order for there to be a qualitative feel to some event, there must be some subject that experiences the event. No subjectivity, no experience. Even if more than one subject experiences a similar phenomenon, say two people listening to the same concert, all the same, the qualitative experience can only exist as experienced by some subject or subjects. And even if the different token experiences are qualitatively identical, that is they all exemplify the same type, nonetheless each token experience can only exist if the subject of that experience has it. Because conscious states are subjective in this sense, they have what I will call a first-person ontology, as opposed to the third-person ontology of mountains and molecules, which can exist even if no living creatures exist. Subjective conscious states have a first-person ontology (“ontology” here means mode of existence) because they only exist when they are experienced by some human or animal agent. They are experienced by some "I" that has the experience, and it is in that sense that they have a first-person ontology. "
"My pains have a subjective mode of existence in that they only exist as experienced by me, the subject. But mountains and molecules have an objective mode of existence because they exist whether or not they are experienced by any subject. It can be an epistemically objective matter of fact that I have a pain even though the mode of existence of the pain is ontologically subjective. "
I am a bit hesitant to read all of Searles's work as I believe he is a naturalist

Scott said...

"I just want to grasp why qualia [are] immaterial more clearly and refute materialist/atheist objections towards them"

But qualia aren't "immaterial" (or at least not wholly so) according to an Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of "material." It's only according to the modern understanding of "material" that qualia are banished to the realm of the purely subjective. An Aristotelian or Thomist would say, for example, that the apple that appears red really is red*.

The argument you seem to be trying to counter is actually an argument for Aristotelianism and Thomism.

----

* Anna Marmodoro would even go so far as to say, correctly in my view, that the apple really is all the colors it appears to be to various viewers under various conditions.

John West said...

Scott,

But insofar as he's asking if a materialist (presumably using their usual Cartesian definition) can run the argument, it fails right?

Anonymous said...

Glenn and others,

Sorry I didn't come back sooner.

No, I do not maintain I'm right because someone else is wrong. Maybe we are both wrong. Don't argue like that - it makes you sound like a sycophant (and that's not an insult - just the plain truth).

And I do not maintain that God wouldn't put mountains and trees or anything else in Heaven. I, by the way, didn't even maintain that God WOULD put pets or other animals INTO Heaven.

If God is the ONLY source of "goodness", and God has put "goodness" into something, then God has put something of Himself into it, no matter WHAT that thing is. You can't possibly argue otherwise. So explain to me how it is that God is going to destroy any of those things?

Answer: He won't, because that would require that He destroy something that was derived FROM GOD, just like rationality.

You don't have to agree with me. But since you don't, then I only ask for you to explain God allowing something derived from His own NATURE to be destroyed.

Scott said...

Sure. I'm just pointing out that that doesn't mean qualia are really wholly immaterial; it means the materialist's idea of "material" isn't sufficiently rich (and nonreductive).

And mainly I'm replying to his question about Mr. Green's response: whether that view might "render qualia as not supportive of the immaterial aspect of the mind and support materialism instead of a [presumably Cartesian] form of dualism." I'm pointing out that, properly understood, qualia aren't supportive of dualism as opposed to materialism, and I don't see why that's a problem because I don't see why we should accept Cartesian dualism and reductive materialism as the only alternatives. That's a bit like granting for the sake of the discussion that π is an integer and then arguing about whether it's odd or even.

Scott said...

(Sorry, that last post was in reply to John West. Another post intervened while I was composing it.)

John West said...

I don't see why that's a problem because I don't see why we should accept Cartesian dualism and reductive materialism as the only alternatives. That's a bit like granting for the sake of the discussion that π is an integer and then arguing about whether it's odd or even.

Well put.

Scott said...

Thank you.

Another clarification/elaboration: When Aristotelians/Thomists want an example of something immaterial, the go-to example in human experience is not qualia but the intellect. It does no harm to the A-T case to acknowledge that qualia are in some sense and to some degree (possibly even 100%) "material."

So if Anonymous's interlocutor thinks that because qualia are material, materialism must therefore be true, then he's working with too small a range of examples. He might as well argue that because a triangle and a circle are both just plane figures, "two-dimensionalism" must be true.

Timocrates said...

Okay about affection towards pets as this is getting concerning.

Your pets are still animals. Dogs have a strong social nature that makes them highly suitable for being pets; however, your treading dangerous waters when you overly humanize them. Most people misinterpret the behaviour or actions of dogs. The spell of affection can always be broken quite suddenly by a bite because we are misunderstanding what an animal, such as a dog, is doing.

I know someone who trained dogs to be good pets. One thing consistently in my life that I learned from this person was that she was by no means naive about the animals as animals. She was consistently alarmed when pet owners who had children misinterpreted by humanizing the behaviour of their dogs. She'd say, "That dog is going to bite you or one of your kids or someone's kids one day and it's your fault. That dog is going to be put down because of you." But some people were so taken by their affection for their pets that they thought such a thing inconceivable because their dogs seemed so "nice" or affectionate. She knew a dog is still an animal with basic instincts.

Again. Notice how dogs tend to look away when people or children are playing with them and smiling. The reason is that for a dog a show of teeth is always a sign of aggression. They therefore tend to look away from us when smiling even though dogs otherwise tend to seem to like looking at us even in the eyes. Their social nature causes dogs to be able to restrain a lot but we can't forget that they are restraining things sometimes. When a dog is peeved sometimes it is best to leave them be or even be concerned: sometimes further training is the answer but other times there just might be something wrong with the animal.

There can almost be something cruel about overly humanizing your pets. You are putting expectations on them their nature doesn't afford them. Most animals are just like fire: you can domesticate it but you always have to respect its nature.

Timocrates said...

@ Scott,

Good analogy.

I think a lot of people might be sparked to being more open-minded about the immaterial aspect of things or reality by considering the relation of mathematical truths to physical things. We typically identify plants and animals by their shapes or figures but it is obvious that this is done by using not absolute quantities but rather based on ratios of proportions (and of course even this can be misleading). But still there is a general correspondence between, say, the height and width of tree trunks for each species of tree. This, of course, is not strictly accidental (except in a sense) to the nature of the species.

But of course a ratio is being physically realized in the tree and not itself totally physical. It is definitely not some separate physical thing existing alongside or independently of the thing in question. But in many cases we can hardly separate the ratio from the thing in question, as we say this is in some way part of its proper nature (that is to say that it normally grows along or according to such-and-such lines).

Again. A house is definitely material but the material parts are not placed in any what way. Rather, the foundation is on the bottom, the walls on top of the foundation, and finally the roof above all. Pervert this order or arrangement and the thing is simply not a house, even if all the material parts are not only actually there and present and attached to each other.

I think such examples help people to approach the immaterial aspects of things. They are at least of such a nature that most reasonable people feel a need to explain them or account for them. But listening to their accounts will in turn provide further examples of things that are more or less immaterial.

Glenn said...

Anonymous,

1. Glenn and others,

Sorry I didn't come back sooner.

No, I do not maintain I'm right because someone else is wrong. Maybe we are both wrong. Don't argue like that - it makes you sound like a sycophant (and that's not an insult - just the plain truth).


I did not say that you maintain you're right because someone else is wrong, only that you used the fact that people can be wrong as a basis for your confidence that you are right.

2. From a comment to an earlier post:

If God is the ONLY source of "goodness", and God has put "goodness" into something, then God has put something of Himself into it, no matter WHAT that thing is. You can't possibly argue otherwise. So explain to me how it is that God is going to destroy any of those things?

From a comment earlier in this post:

God has put good into animals, and did this with a purpose. I know this because I experience the good in my own animals. God will not destroy good. My animals will not be destroyed, other than their imperfections. Any attempt to refute this requires that you assert that God WILL destroy that which is good. And I will reject such an argument.

In light of what St. Thomas has to say about how God, and thus His goodness, is in something, I do not see how or why the destruction of something corruptible might cause the slightest concern that said destruction in any way entails the destruction of goodness from God:

"A thing is wherever it operates. But God operates in all things[.] Therefore God is in all things.

"God is in all things; not, indeed, as part of their essence, nor as an accident, but as an agent is present to that upon which it works. For an agent must be joined to that wherein it acts immediately and touch it by its power[.] Now since God is very being by His own essence, created being must be His proper effect[.] Now God causes this effect in things not only when they first begin to be, but as long as they are preserved in being[.] Therefore as long as a thing has being, God must be present to it, according to its mode of being. But being is innermost in each thing and most fundamentally inherent in all things since it is formal in respect of everything found in a thing[.] Hence it must be that God is in all things, and innermostly." -- ST 1.8.1

If something corruptible is destroyed, then that something no longer exists for God to operate in. But that something no longer exists for God to operate in, does not mean that goodness from God has been destroyed.

Daniel D. D. said...

Ok, guys I have another response to evaluate. I've only skimmed through it, and will sit down and read it in a bit.

From a quick skim through, the author seems to be assuming conceptualism and ascribing consciousness to Chinese conversing rooms. He might be assuming that semantics is reducible to syntax too, which would beg the question I imagine, or he might just be missing the point about meaning (and thus the thought experiment) altogether. Here:

https://disqus.com/home/discussion/outshinethesun/outshine_the_sun_sn_in_exile_the_opening_of_the_scientific_mind/#comment-1226055075

If rooms can be conscious, this could be a way to explain ghost activity...boooooooooooo

Christi pax.

Anonymous said...

Material subjects are composed and dissolved necessarily. This is what it is to be material. However, for material things to be real and to be specifically what they are as subjects is to be informed.

Man is intellectual. The object of the intellect is form. The form of forms is God. God is the true object of the intellect. But, man is a discursive intellect and God is an Infinite Subject. The intellect knows an object most adequately through intuiting the subject. Finite intellect cannot intuit the subjectivity of an infinite object except confusedly and only after rational cognition; the resulting end is marked by the discursive path taken to it hence the end is understood 'confusedly' and not in a non-discursive mode. Man in this way has a unique object in the beatific vision.

The will is essentially discursive. Man in this life may perfectly objectify God in the act of faith which is a singular act of will. But, the rational soul is prepared in this life both intellectually and morally for its true object which is non-discursive. The beatific vision, the resurrection and the glorified state ought not to be spoken of lightly or with any triviality. One must remember that images are often symbols, but symbols are certainly not 'lies', 'myths' or falsities. Symbols signify realities in an appropriate mode.

The objects of lesser animals are different and they are happy with their objects. If we must cry over any other animal, it is our fellow men who live like lesser animals; forgetful of their true object. Did you not come to know your pet sufficiently? Did you not love it sufficiently? It is only a particular object, but the will and the whole person have an Absolute object in God.

If you actually love some particular thing, you virtually love God. If you know this then you are very close to perfection and your love is truly wonderful. Although, you yourself may not know it since the act of the will is essentially discursive, but your beloved ones know it and there is also One who did never not know it.

Anonymous said...

@Scott and Timocrates,
if an Aristotelian-Thomistic view of the mind is more accurate than materialism and is more in line with what we know about the brain/mind through neuroscience do you know any pieces of work which explain this thoroughly and would it render Searle's reasoning for the subjectivity of the mind false?

Anonymous said...

Why not consider a completely different understanding of the relationship between human beings and the non-humans, and their intrinsic capacity to communicate via telepathy - a skill/capacity that any human being can learn and cultivate.
Thousands of references come up if you google the topic.

Glenn said...

(Not to (over) belabor the point, but...

(If something corruptible is destroyed, then that something no longer exists for God to operate in. But that something no longer exists for God to operate in, does not mean that goodness from God has been destroyed.

(Kind of like when a plant is destroyed. When a plant is destroyed, the light without which it would not have had life is not also destroyed. So, the light remains when a plant is destroyed, even though there no longer is a plant to be affected by the light, or for the light to have an effect upon.)

Scott said...

Glenn has already pretty much covered this, but I may as well throw in my two cents.

"If God is the ONLY source of 'goodness', and God has put 'goodness' into something, then God has put something of Himself into it, no matter WHAT that thing is. You can't possibly argue otherwise. So explain to me how it is that God is going to destroy any of those things [or allow them to be destroyed]?"

Aside from proving too much (that God can't allow anything whatsoever to become corrupted, so not only mortality but at least quite a lot of genuine change is impossible), this argument has a deep logical problem.

On the one hand, you seem to be saying that the "goodness" that belongs to any created thing is God's own goodness.

On the other, you seem to be asking how God could allow the created thing's "goodness" to be destroyed.

By your own premises, what you really should be asking is how God could allow His own goodness to be destroyed. But that question pretty much answers itself.

Scott said...

"[I]f an Aristotelian-Thomistic view of the mind is more accurate than materialism and is more in line with what we know about the brain/mind through neuroscience do you know any pieces of work which explain this thoroughly[?]"

I'm not sure what level of work or degree of thoroughness you're looking for, but have you read James Madden's Mind, Matter, and Nature? It's introductory, but there's nothing wrong with introductions and this one is quite good. (There's not much "neuroscience" in it, but there doesn't need to be; neuroscience doesn't interpret itself.)

Tony said...

Why not consider a completely different understanding of the relationship between human beings and the non-humans, and their intrinsic capacity to communicate via telepathy - a skill/capacity that any human being can learn and cultivate.
Thousands of references come up if you google the topic.


What (if anything at all) has the possible communication by telepathy got to do with anything here? If some humans communicate that way, fine. If some animals do it too, fine. So what? Are you suggesting that communication by telepathy is, inherently a communication of a different order of meaning than, say, that by words, or by the actions / sounds that animals use? Does communication by telepathy MEAN something about the immortality of the soul?

Scott said...

It doesn't seem to me that telepathy would be any more weird or amazing than the ability to make a few buzzing and hissing noises with my mouth (or, derivatively, marks on a surface) with the result that someone else shares my thought. In fact, that this happens after my thought is in a sense "converted" to a physical medium arguably makes it more impressive.

At any rate, even supposing telepathy exists, the important question is still what it communicates. And as far as I can see, there's no more reason to think that a dog sends me rational/intellectual content via telepathy than that he does so by barking or growling.

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Anonymous said...

As a preliminary I should say I think this assertion that non-human animals are qualitatively different from human beings in terms of their rationality is implausible. Experiments with crows etc seem to be quite definitive here.

But leaving that aside,I think that the more intelligent non-human mammals have very similar brains to human beings.

If such mammals do not have a "life after death", this would seem to entail that their brains either produce their consciousness, or in some ways the brain activity simply *is* consciousness.

But since human brains are extremely similar, it would be peculiar indeed if non-human mammals brains produce consciousness but human brains do not. Surely the similarity between our brains and dogs brains suggests they perform a similar function irrespective of whether this function is producing or merely altering consciousness?

Also if one brain produces consciousness, and the other merely alters consciousness, one would think the more complex brain -- the human's -- would produce consciousness!

In addition if we consider there is some ultimate purpose or goal to our existence, then this could only obtain if we do not cease to exist at some point. Is it really plausible to suppose we humans have some ultimate purpose to our lives (not just our own meaning impose on our existence), but no other animals do??

Anonymous said...

Greg said:

"Rational thought is thought to be immaterial owing to its universality and formality. If you can create a parallel argument for the immateriality of dogs' emotions, I am sure we are all happy to hear it".

In that case you fail to understand what it means to be material, and hence immaterial. Rational thought and dog's emotions are immaterial because they do not possess any attributes of the material i.e they do not have mass, momentum, electric charge, location etc.

Daniel said...

At Anon,

In addition if we consider there is some ultimate purpose or goal to our existence, then this could only obtain if we do not cease to exist at some point. Is it really plausible to suppose we humans have some ultimate purpose to our lives (not just our own meaning impose on our existence), but no other animals do??

Well, to be fair this is only other earthly animals. There maybe thousands of other rational animal species in the cosmos.

Scott said...

"If [the more intelligent non-human] mammals do not have a 'life after death', this would seem to entail that their brains either produce their consciousness, or in some ways the brain activity simply *is* consciousness."

So if basketballs don't have immortal souls, it follows that rubber either produces or just is sphericity?

"Rational thought and dog's emotions are immaterial because they do not possess any attributes of the material[.]"

Only because rational thought and emotions are already themselves "attributes" from which the material has been prescinded. By that logic, particle spin can't be "material" because it doesn't have mass.

The claim (and argument) is that rational thought is immaterial, and dogs' emotions are not, because the latter requires material organs and the former does not. Greg has it exactly right.

Anonymous said...

Hello Scott,

The sphericity is part and parcel of what a basketball is. That wouldn't be the case with a human being since then the concept of a philosophical zombie would be unintelligible.


Scott "Only because rational thought and emotions are already themselves "attributes" from which the material has been prescinded. By that logic, particle spin can't be "material" because it doesn't have mass".

Particle spins is what a particle *does*. To say consciousness is what the body does is to espouse a form reductive materialism. Reductive materialism is incompatible with the existence of consciousness.

Scott

"The claim (and argument) is that rational thought is immaterial, and dogs' emotions are not, because the latter requires material organs and the former does not. Greg has it exactly right".

No, he and you are incorrect. The fact that emotions require material organs could not change the nature of emotions so as to make them material. The material is that which is discernible from the 3rd person perspective; is measurable; is characterised by structure and dynamics etc.

Moreover there is plenty of evidence which suggests that after death we are not that different from when we were alive. Certainly if we are reincarnated.

And of course it is preposterous to imagine you can somehow abstract ones rationality from ones emotions.

Timocrates said...

@ Anon (May 1, 2015 at 9:41 PM ),

Short answer, no I do not. But there is a pretty straightforward way for showing that the mind grasps the more formal aspects of things first. Indentifying or understanding the material nature or principle of things is actually more difficult.

For example. You can recognize that a thing is a house long before you know what it is made of. You can recognize the various parts (roof, walls) long before you know the actual material they are constructed of: you can declare the thing to be of basically sound organization before you can declare if the materials are adequate (again, that the foundation is on the bottom, the walls on the foundation and the roof atop the walls (= sound); whereas, if the order were different, you'd recognize all the proper parts of a house but know it wasn't really a house or sound as a house). You can be surer of the identity of the colour you see than the nature of the material surface it is in (is it in paint or the natural colour of some wood or is it concrete or rock or stone?).

Again. A lot of people are aware of atoms and their parts: electrons, neutrons and protons. People who remember their high school chemistry may even remember specific differentiating properties (e.g. positive, negative or neutral charge) but likely they rather remember the natural position: the electrons circle the atomic nucleus (the protons and neutrons). But what are electrons, protons and neutrons materially? Aside from being bodily few people can describe the underlying material nature of these things. That is more mysterious than the formal aspects of these things. Indeed, even a rock or stone has a mysterious material nature in this sense. But is this or that great ancient monumental structure made of quarried stone or rock or rather brick, which is quite different from rock or stone? Ancient bricks were made from earth and straw. But I recognize and correctly identify the pyramids of Egypt (and so could a child) regardless if its material parts are made of brick or quarried rock or stone. We can definitely recognize that it is at least a pyramid.

Position, shape and order are highly formal and we tend to rely on these for identifying things as the specific material basis that underlies these things may not even be necessary for them (e.g. a house can be made from various materials and still be a house).

Again. The correct order for something to be an atom is more readily grasped and recognized than the underlying material nature of these things, which is highly mysterious. But if the electrons are where the protons or neutrons should be and the latter where the electrons ought be, I can easily deny that the thing is properly an atom.

Scott said...

"The sphericity is part and parcel of what a basketball is. That wouldn't be the case with a human being since then the concept of a philosophical zombie would be unintelligible."

You seem pretty sure it isn't. Is such confidence justifiable? A human being is, after all, a rational animal; do you suppose it's intelligible that such a being could in fact be a p-zombie?

"Particle spins is what a particle *does*. To say consciousness is what the body does is to espouse a form reductive materialism."

Good thing I didn't say that, then. Consciousness may be something a substance "does," but I certainly didn't, and wouldn't, identify that substance with its material/body.

"The material is that which is discernible from the 3rd person perspective; is measurable; is characterised by structure and dynamics etc."

Fine, but there's not the slightest reason for you to insist that Aristotelians or Thomists accept that definition/understanding of "material." In fact both expressly reject it (for reasons that seem to me decisive), and unless you understand that, you also won't understand what Greg meant in his reply.

"[T]here is plenty of evidence which suggests that after death we are not that different from when we were alive."

Which, assuming that such evidence is genuinely available, is pretty much what we should expect on the Thomist view of human beings and immortal souls.

"And of course it is preposterous to imagine you can somehow abstract ones rationality from ones emotions."

And of course it is preposterous not only isn't much of an argument, it's a pretty clear indication that you're not really interested in engaging the views you're undertaking to criticize.

In this instance it's also pretty obviously incorrect. I have no trouble "abstracting," say, the reasoning process by which I solve a differential equation from the "yippee" feeling I experience when I've succeeded.

But perhaps you merely expressed yourself infelicitously, and all you mean is that it's not possible to separate rationality from emotion in reality in actual rational animals. If so, I don't know why you'd expect me to disagree.

Be that as it may, I'm about to go be busy elsewhere so I'll have to leave you to the tender mercies of others for the time being.

Anonymous said...

Scott said:

"Fine, but there's not the slightest reason for you to insist that Aristotelians or Thomists accept that definition/understanding of "material." In fact both expressly reject it (for reasons that seem to me decisive), and unless you understand that, you also won't understand what Greg meant in his reply".

Yes it's the modern conception of the material I have in mind -- namely that which arose out of the birth of modern science in the 17th Century. I have little knowledge of Aristotles' and Aquinas' metaphysics.

I think the crucial issue is the assertion that rational thought is something which survives where as emotion is an attribute or property of the body.

In my opinion the rationality of human beings is hugely overstated. Emotions govern what we essentially are and it seems to me it would be an impovirshed surival if in an afterlife we were bereft of all emotions, including the positive emotions of happiness, fulfilment, the feeling of love towards others etc.

A philosophical zombie is not a contradiction in terms. Indeed, for all I know, it might be the case that no-one else is conscious except myself. If this is simply metaphysically impossible it would be interesting to hear the reason.


All this is drifting away from the main issue I was originally interested in though, and that's the notion that we human beings have a "life after death", but elephants, dolphins and crows do not. I think the viable options are that all creatures that are conscious survive, or that we all cease to exist forevermore.

Timocrates said...

@ Anon,

"Love" isn't emotional. That would be a terribly impoverished form of love, like an infatuation or initial romantic high, even though for us even these aren't totally divorced from our intellect: we typically love and desire what we perceive to good, true and beautiful. It's our rational nature that really makes love special and even spiritual. We can value the good for its own sake. Our reason and knowledge can support us when emotion or feeling fails or falters. Hence we can endure suffering and even death for what we believe to be good, even simply because it is good (or loveable).

It's reason that should govern emotion in man. The alternative is in fact contrary to our happiness and well-being. Manipulating people's emotions is based on this truth, though perversely. When something good happens to another and I feel jealous or angry, my reason commands rather that I should feel joy for them and, regardless, what good can come from being bitter or jealous or envious in such an instance? Reason can help us to know even when emotions are helpful or complimentary to certain rational ends. Perhaps a measure of anger at wrong-doing is fine in order to spur on or overcome fears or hesitations in doing what is right or correcting wrong or supplying justice. But even then we have good reason to except judges to be virtually devoid of emotion when considering a case.


Happiness seeks permanence and ultimately blessedness. This is exactly why classic philosophy and ethics warns against cultivating one's happiness based on things highly precarious or changeable. Wisdom, rather, is to be sought above all else (something Greek and Hebrew wisdom literature both commended). Intellectual goods can be enjoyed so long as you are conscious (and we scarcely need to worry about ourselves when we are not). Truth does not change and wisdom is knowledge of what is most true, good and beautiful. But emotions do not supply us with these, nor can we be certain they will be permanent or remain. Indeed, the worst emotions tend to have the longest staying power. We can be bitter and angry about things our whole lives.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon above:

Emotion as I understand it may be either passive or active.

If it is active, then it is rational, but it is 'felt' with a certain intensity due to the finite nature of the subject.

If it is purely passive then it expresses that finite nature without any active intention on the part of the intellect.

It seems then that the emotional experience, to have any value, must be essentially tied to rational cognition and intuitive intellection or accidently to praiseworthy customs. By 'rationality' I mean either less or more than what common rhetoric may imply by this term. If 'rationality' is purely instrumental or 'oriented towards problem-solving' in your eyes, as in the eyes of many, then you've lost the primal, spiritual understanding of what is called 'reason'.

After all, is it not those emotions which are most adequately controlled and channeled which are most beautiful? For example, when one listens to Gesualdo and experiences how this man dominated and conformed many notes and many human voices to one whole, one work of art; is this not a certain mastery and direction of emotion towards an excellent end? And so on, etc.

Anonymous said...


"It seems then that the emotional experience, to have any value, must be essentially tied to rational cognition and intuitive intellection or accidently to praiseworthy customs."

By the way, I mean that VALUABLE EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE must be 'essentially tied', etc. hence deriving the VALUE from something other than itself. I do not mean that emotion per se and rationality per se are 'essentially tied' to one another.

It seems even that emotion in a purely isolated sense, as passion, must be more-or-less evil; even though these words, as words, sound harsh I should not think them difficult to grasp when considered.

Anonymous said...

Think it's a bit confusing with all these anonymouses.

I'm the anonymous who posted about p-zombies etc. Anyway I note that Ed has submitted another blog entry on the same subject and might contribute on there.

Anonymous said...

Think it's a bit confusing with all these anonymouses.

Indeed! There really should be a name attached to these comments, even if it's some made-up persona -- something to help those of us who merely lurk keep track of who's saying what!

~Anothernonymous ;-)

The Soaring Turkey said...

You guys know there's a Name/URL option, right? You could choose poultry handles.

John West said...

Anonymous (10:12 AM),

In my opinion the rationality of human beings is hugely overstated. Emotions govern what we essentially are

Would you mind unpacking that statement?

Jakub Moravčík said...

When something good happens to another and I feel jealous or angry, my reason commands rather that I should feel joy for them

This is hardly conceivable in case that some man takes away from you the heart of your beloved girl and marry her. It´s hard to feel joy for the happines of others when this happiness is in some relevant sense based on (or conditioned by) your unhappiness.

Ian W said...

OK I was the "anonymous" who talked about p-zombies and was debating with Scott. And today is the first time I've ever commented, although I have read some of Ed's posts previously. I'll call myself "Ian W" on here in future.

Natural Mind said...

Am I fairly correct in making the following Feserian/Thomist paraphrase?

"Animals will not make it to heaven because only truly non-material aspects of being -- in particular, the property of rationality unique to human beings –– are eternal."

Replies much appreciated (sorry for late entry into this discussion).

Anonymous said...


"This is hardly conceivable in case that some man takes away from you the heart of your beloved girl and marry her. It´s hard to feel joy for the happines of others when this happiness is in some relevant sense based on (or conditioned by) your unhappiness."

I cannot conceive of my happiness depending upon vice. I'm not the one to whom you are responding, but the image you are providing does seem a bit cliché. If I were betrayed in such a way, I would first and foremost question myself and my capacity to render adequate judgments, to determine the true value of objects and so forth. At the very most, I might question the state of society that some such betrayal should be permissible, but I would first and foremost find an occasion for serious introspection.

I also am inclined to believe that 'happiness' is not being rigorously defined in this instance.

Jakub Moravčík said...

Anon:
I unintendely conflated two different things. I agree that happiness must not be based upon vice. But one thing is to settle someones happiness on vice and the other is to feel joy for the good of someone where that good is based on (conditioned by) my "evil".

Etzelnik said...

Well, there is a rather robust school of thought (Maimonides would be a wonderful example) that maintains that these verses are allegorical, and refer to the notion that formerly predatory societies shall no longer be so.

Sandymount said...

With studies such as http://www.theguardian.com/science/2003/jul/03/research.science about dolphins intellect is there any observation of animal behaviour that would lead you to change your view on animals amd souls because it seems an empirical one. Eg if animals displayed certain behaviour that one couldnt somehow carve out as a different category to that which humans have... .?