Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Immortal Souls

My book Immortal Souls: A Treatise on Human Nature will be published this summer by Editiones Scholasticae.  At well over 500 pages, it's my longest book yet.  Here are the back cover copy, endorsements, and table of contents:

Immortal Souls provides as ambitious and complete a defense of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophical anthropology as is currently in print.  Among the many topics covered are the reality and unity of the self, the immateriality of the intellect, the freedom of the will, the immortality of the soul, the critique of artificial intelligence, and the refutation of both Cartesian and materialist conceptions of human nature.  Along the way, the main rival positions in contemporary philosophy and science are thoroughly engaged with and rebutted.

"Edward Feser's book is a Summa of the nature of the human person: it is, therefore, both a rather long – but brilliant – monograph, and a valuable work for consultation. Each of the human faculties discussed is treated comprehensively, with a broad range of theories considered for and against, and, although Feser's conclusions are firmly Thomistic, one can derive great benefit from his discussions even if one is not a convinced hylomorphist. Every philosopher of mind would benefit from having this book within easy reach."

Howard Robinson, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Central European University

“Feser defends the Aristotelian and Thomistic system, effectively bringing it into dialogue with recent debates and drawing on some of the best of both analytic (Kripke, Searle, BonJour, Fodor) and phenomenological (Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Dreyfus) philosophy. He deftly rebuts objections to Thomism, both ancient and modern. Anyone working today on personal identity, the unity of the self, the semantics of cognition, free will, or qualia will need to engage with the analysis and arguments presented here.”

Robert C. Koons, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

CONTENTS

Preface                                                               

Part I: What is Mind?                                        

1. The Short Answer                                 

2.The Self                                                          

3. The Intellect                                              

4.The Will                                                       

Part II: What is Body?                                                            

5.Matter                                                         

6. Animality                                                   

Part III: What is a Human Being?                             

7. Against Cartesianism                                

8. Against Materialism                                   

9. Neither Computers nor Brains                  

Part IV: What is the Soul?                                          

10. Immortality                                              

11. The Form of the Body                             

Index                                                                           

47 comments:

  1. Going right on my Christmas list

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  2. I've always thought these book announcements were akin to hearing your favorite band is going to drop a new album. Congratulations on bringing it to the finish line (well, almost at least)!

    Not to be ungracious, but the cover is a little hard on the eyes - kinda how TLS was now that I think about it. Are we committed on the color? :)

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  3. That is a topic in great need of re-exposition, as we confront the essential nothingness of the current conception of the human person, and the subsequent evaporation of the idea of objective human value.

    Not, that most humans on the face of the planet ever affirmed it anyway. But "we" used to, before emotion and inchoate urges became the sole measure of man's meaning and fulfilment.

    Re-limning the lines of demarcation between the prevalent meat machine, no there, there, version of the human organism in all its nihilistic conceit, and a perspective which potentially gives us a deep reason not to smash the face of an annoying and unneeded other if one may do so conveniently, is a profoundly worthwhile effort.

    The western world is choking to death on its own deconstructed version of man. The supposed thought leading vanguard of taxonomic-humanity is frantically scrambling to escape its own humanness - on the basis of an impulse it cannot itself justify as anything other than as a brute, cosmically pointless, fact.

    Their anthropology, reduces to man as a collocation of meaningless appetites encased in a skin sack: no real self, neither conscious nor self-directed in any meaningful sense, yet proudly claiming agency and a social right to one's consideration. With pretentions of eventual godhood. Thus, a thing that does not understand itself, and which is in principle and on the basis of its own metaphysics incapable of doing so in any ultimate sense, nonetheless imagines itself as god.

    Perhaps this book can do some good before the race of man evporates completely. Or is forevermore conceived of as a deoxyribo automaton worm in a flesh sheath.

    Be sure and send a copy to the current pope. Kinda help him firm up his stupid fideist brotherhood of humanity business on a rational basis.

    Maybe.

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  4. Looking forward to adding this to my bookshelf.

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  5. Been waiting for this book for years now!

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  6. See's Heidegger, is interested

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  7. Dr. Feser, do you would send this book like a gift to David Bentley Hart (just a jokey). I buy the book of him on mind- and I waiting arrived. And, of course, I going to buy your book on soul. I really thing that you and him could talking more about mind and soul; and I would appreciate if you talking more about the vision of Dr. Hart with respect monism - especially now that him will release a book about this theme.

    I compelling with this vision - especially the vision of my compatriot, Bernardo Kastrup, on analitycal idealism - inasmuch I think that is more cogent and simple. In the question of analitycal idealism, despite of good thesis about that the more fundamental is mind, Kastrup continue with one of the greatest dogma of naturalism: mecanicism - how intentionality could evolve if the subvenient basis is mechanical? Doesn't make sense at all.

    Anyway, from the land of Vera Cruz, God bless you Dr. Feser.

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  8. Very excited to see and read this! Thanks for all your hard work, Dr. Feser!

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  9. Dr. Feser, congrats on the upcoming release of the your new book. Am very much looking forward to reading it.
    Since my philosphical anthropology is Wittgensteinian based I'm glad to have the opportunity to do a detailed comparison of the two.

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    1. I hope he interacts with P. M. S. Hacker’s recent treatise on Human Nature.

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    2. To Anonymous,
      One would hope so, bu I am very doubtful. He seems to be focused on addressing the claims made by analytic philosophers who are more in the mainstream of analytic philosophy. That would include folks like Searle, Dennet , Kripke and the Churchlands. Which makes sense, because most materialists or naturalists rely on their work when critiquing those in the supernatural camp.

      Also, Hacker's tetralogy on human nature is more than 1,500 pages long. Impossible to address it adequately while still presenting one's own views.

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  10. Looking forward to your analysis of Heidegger. Despite never having studied his work as a stand alone subject [ pre or post "turn"] in an academic setting, I have a shelf full of his works; some well worn, others briefly engaged. And naturally, having done course work in Phenomenology and Existentialism, as well as philosophical anthropology, one would encounter him. But oddly enough, almost tangentially.

    The standard bibliographical note that he started out studying scholastic philosophy is kind of interesting, and we shall see if it bears on the trajectory of his thinking [ viewed positively or negatively] in your coverage.

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  11. Thank you for the work you put into this.

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  12. I CAN'T WAIT TO PUT MY HANDS ON IT!!!

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  13. As big as it is, I could use the book to keep my door propped open

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  14. pretty good comments, professor. some wry, some cute, others, well this is not my point. If, and only if, the immortal soul notion is right, then I will change my stance on the life/death question. More later---when I can figure it out.

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    1. Paul, this side of the grave, no one will ever be able to really "figure it out." But many people, many very learned people, will think they have.

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  15. Looks awesome! Excited to read and study it.

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  16. When is it hitting the shelves?

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  17. The most important announcement of the year!

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    1. Yes, it is always therepeutic to have a good laugh in these glum times.

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  18. "Souls on board"

    The terminology we habitually use to describe ourselves, i.e., our lives, in the most critical moments may tell us quite a bit about our largely ingrained and unconscious assumptions about existence.

    I was surprised to hear airline pilots and traffic controllers use terminology that most of us encounter only in novels about 19th Century seafaring disasters.

    I would have expected "seat occupants", or "live cargo units".

    See instead, 5:58 of the mayday call exchange.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=u88OZrltEFs

    In this case, captains hanging on to tradition must have some other explanation than the pathetic and contemptible one deployed when the soulless flesh-robot meat computers of the religion of scientism claim that they continue to use the language of intentionality, free will, and purpose, merely out of convenience. (And not because these acolytes of scientism - so brave! as they are - fear the practical and corrosive blow back effects of being themselves socially reduced to, and then treated by others as, quasi zombies on a predetermined trajectory, and therefore liable to ordinately be treated [ or rather, ' dealt with' ] like any other material thing: which of course, their own ideology implies that they are.) Right Daniel? Can you hear me down there??

    Don't worry folks. There is no harm in talking like that, really. It lived, more or less morphed into a giant lump of gasping flesh, then it died, and it is and feels no more. And now apart from whatever advantage or utility can be derived from its residuum, it can be forgotten about. Unless you happen to be an emotionally sensitive type.

    Anyway, the audio reminds us it was not always presumptively seen as so regarding the human person: and not too long ago, at that.

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    1. Still obsessed with Daniel? I think his family, friends, colleagues and former students are celebrating his life., while you just vent into the blogosphere.

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  19. Please ask them to include headers on the pages so that one can know what part one is in while flipping through. Aristotle’s revenge is harder to navigate without headers.

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  20. Talk with Sam Harris about will.If you want...I left a remark today on *the problem with hell*, @ another blog. Shortly put, it seems to me there is no problem. I commented there, roughly, the problem would come without a 'problem' of hell. That would render axiology and deontology pointless. Although, as a practical matter, they already ARE pointless. Nihilism? No, realistic pragmatism. Carry on...Professor.

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  21. WCB

    A quick look at Amazon seems to have a number of books on the subject of the soul available. Not all seemingly worth reading. Are there any books on the soul worth reading?

    WCB

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    1. Thomistic Psychology by River Brennan

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  22. J.P. Moreland, Ph.D is an evangelical Christian philosopher who written a number of books.
    https://www.amazon.com/Soul-How-Know-Real-Matters/dp/0802411002/ref=asc_df_0802411002/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=693373621819&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=5725642790750795543&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9012821&hvtargid=pla-492050638239&psc=1&mcid=148bcf201f2e3bf7b9251d40ece4a052&gad_source=1

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  23. I am interested in whether Prof. Feser's new book will talk about the relation between soul as principle of motion in the animal and the First Unmoved Mover. Aquinas says in his commentary on the De Anima that "soul itself is the source (fons) and first principle (principium) of all motion in ensouled things" (In I DA l. 1.7).

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  24. I don't know about the belief basis for questions and answers on such matters. Gerald Edelman hypothesized there were primary and higher order levels of consciousness in living things. Like it or not, this supports notions of evolution---like it, or not. Insofar as I am not bound to belief, doctrine or dogma, this labels me athiest. Or, at best, agnostic. OK. I look to science for guidance. Nothing more to say.

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  25. Congratulations Ed, looking forward to read it!

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  26. Can't wait to read it, thank you!!

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  27. Hi Ed. I hope that in your book, you'll be addressing the scientific evidence that we store concepts in our brains, and that "by linking up different clusters in the brain that are responsible for storing groups of concepts, our species gained the capacity to think and communicate using metaphor." That's a quote from an article titled "How Neanderthal Language Differed From Modern Human," by Steven Mithen, Professor of Early Prehistory at the University of Reading.

    Here's the link:
    https://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2024/05/21/how_neanderthal_language_differed_from_modern_human_1032870.html

    See also this article on how concepts are encoded in the brain (you can read the PDF online):
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811916301021

    Additionally, Steve Mithen has found archaeological evidence that human language (which enabled our ancestors to engage in forward planning, which helped them during hunting) appeared in a rudimentary from about 1.6 million years ago, about 300,000 years after the appearance of Homo erectus. Language gradually became more sophisticated over the course of time, and did not become fully modern until about 100,000 years ago, when our ancestors acquired the ability to use metaphors. See here:

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/human-evolution-language-origin-archaeology-b2517744.html

    In short: the scientific evidence that the brain thinks is very strong, and there appears to be no clear dividing line between humans and non-humans. All we can say is that before 1.6 million years ago, our ancestors weren't human, and that over the next 1.5 million years, they became increasingly more human. This doesn't square well with the Thomistic claim that it is our rational soul (not our brain) that forms concepts, that a vast infinite gulf separates animals with rational souls from those lacking them, and that there was a definite moment in history when the first animal with a rational soul appeared. Comments, anyone?

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    1. None of it squares well with Genesis or indeed the rest of the Scriptures. God of course labels Adam a 'living soul' in 2:7 but this of course is the Hebrew word nephesh which is the exact same word he also uses of the animals throughout ch 1! Indeed the scripture repeatedly states 'man is like the beasts that perish' and 'there is no advantage for man over beast for all is vanity' and ' do not trust in mortal man...his spirit departs he returns to the earth in that very day his thoughts perish' and 'they sought the young childs soul to destroy it' and 'the soul is IN the blood' (!!!) etc etc.
      So either we're purely material beings in our fallen state or we're the combination of a spirit and a material body ie spirit + matter = living nephesh. When the spirit departs we then become dead nephesh or dead souls. If there was no resurrection of the dead there'd be no hope as Paul EXPLICITLY affirms in 1 Corinthians 15.
      (The scientific evidence is not helpful to the secular mind. It would appear from your references that humans appeared much earlier in a sophisticated state which leaves much less time for evolution and therefore makes Divine Intervention even CREATION even more necessary)

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    2. There are more possible concepts than there are possible brain states. Hence there cannot be a one to one mapping of brain states to concepts.

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    3. I don’t see why any of that should be taken as evidence against the Thomistic claim. Concepts are immaterial, phantasms are material. The immateriality of the soul is the bright line between humans and non-human animals.

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    4. As the other anon said, I didn't see anything in that second link that would surprise or even really challenge the Thomistic claim. The experiment conducted seems to be merely correlating activity in certain brain regions with the usage of language...which is what one would expect, A-T philosopher or otherwise. It's not like they conceive of the brain as a useless hunk of grey meat that plays no role in human cognition.

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    5. Vincent, in your estimation, do the scientific discoveries you cite hold any more evidential value against the Thomistic idea of the soul than the existence of intoxicating substances? Why or why not?

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  28. I have another question about something Aquinas says in his commentary on the De Anima. He says that the "Platonici" used to posit that understanding (intelligere) is either by "phantasia" or not without phantasia. Where did Aquinas get this about Platonists? It seems wrong.

    Although Plato represents people as coming to know intelligibles by recollection from many cases of working with sensibles, and as using sensible things as images from which to reason, Plato also represents the highest stage of reasoning as operating by means of the intellect upon Forms; cf. e.g. Phaedo 79a: "you could not grasp the things that are without change by any other instrument than the reasoning of thought, but they are eternally in this way [i.e. unchanging] and not visible."

    Not all acts of intellect use phantasia in the sense of mental picturing. Is Aquinas attributing "phantasia" to Platonists under some other signification, or is he using a superficial, secondary source?

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    1. Great news! Congratulations.

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    2. If i'am not mistaken, St. Thomas had from Plato only a part of the Timaeus, the rest of his sources on the man were secundary. I don't believe he had much more from the other "pure" platinists.

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    3. First, where exactly is this located in the commentary? And secondly, isn't it a commentary on Aristotle's work? So is it not Aristotle and rather than Aquinas who is telling us what the Platonists were thinking?

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  29. @bmiller: it's at "In I DA" l. 2.18.

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  30. @bmiller #2: R.J. Henle SJ in 1956 wrote a book on the Plato and Platonici texts in Aquinas. I got it by googling some of the Latin words in the De Anima commentary. About the statement at paragraph 18, Henle says: "Source: I have been unable to find a proper source for this doctrine. Themistius says {De An. Par., V [CG V, 90.29]) that Plato described phantasia as a combination of sense and opinion."

    As far as my word searches go, Aristotle mentions Plato only once in his De Anima, and there only to refer to Plato's saying in the Timaeus that "Plato makes the soul out of the elements" (404b17).

    Henle provides other passages where Aquinas quotes a Latin translation of Themistius. So he seems to have access to Themistius via a translation. Maybe Henle's answer to my question is the best I'm going to find, at least for now.

    I have not found a place in Plato where phantasia is described as a combination of sense and opinion (doxa). Without searching further, I am guessing that Themistius made an inference from Plato's Theaetetus or Sophist.

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