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Body, Soul, and the Mind/Brain Question

Frogs

In addition to my recent article, “Atheism and the Personal Pronoun,” Strange Notions has featured several related pieces, “Exorcizing the Ghost from the Machine” by Matthew Allen Newland, and more recently “Exorcising Epistemology” by Matthew Becklo. True to the spirit of the Areopagus and mission of Strange Notions, these authors and I have approached the much-debated topics of the mind-brain problem and consciousness from different perspectives, arriving at subtle and nuanced conclusions.

Digital dialogue, unlike its real life, real-time analogue of face-to-face debate, can limp when it comes to clarity and expression. My intention with the first piece was to point out the limitations of reductionist materialism—the effort to reduce subjectivity, consciousness, felt-experience, etc., to the brain’s material causality and it alone, to make shine the inherent limitations of an atheistic and materially-closed universe, and thereby to beg the God question. That aside, given what’s been written by Newland and Becklo (two marvelous pieces that I thoroughly enjoyed), and Philip Lewandowski’s most recent addition on the limitations of materialism, what appears needful at this point is a more thoroughgoing presentation of the mind-brain/soul-body problem according to the Aristotelian-Thomistic perspective, which holds to a hylomorphic (“matter” and “form” together) ontology.

According to this school of thought, the foundation and starting point is nature and its characteristic motions, changes, and growths—fish swim, trees grow, humans strive. The source of this motion, or principle of change or growth, is what Aristotle called soul, the substantial form of a living being. All living beings possess souls as their substantial form: bacteria, algae, amoebas, ferns, flies, fish, dogs, horses, and human beings all have souls. On the other hand, inanimate beings such as human artifacts, be they hammers, paintings, or super computers, lack a soul (substantial form) though they do possess form.

The distinction here is between the source and kind of the form present—for living beings, the soul (substantial form) is immediately given to the being itself at the moment it comes to be (in conception); for artifacts, however, the form is imposed gradually on some matter (and this is usually done by a human, albeit animals too impose form on matter, such as beavers imposing form on streams and marshes). A pile of bricks becomes a chimney when a mason imposes chimney form onto the raw material. Contra Descartes, the human soul is not a thing separate from and then inserted into a living body nor imposed from without, like Tony Stark stepping into his Iron Man suit (as handy as that analogy was in my last article). The ethereal Casper-the-ghost connotations conjured by the word soul distorts its etymological root meaning. Soul derives from the Latin anima, meaning animation or “animate,” i.e., alive. This etymology is helpful precisely because we are far less likely to conceive of “animation” all on its own; “animation,” as a property, inheres in a living being.1

The soul (substantial form) of all living beings is that which makes the organism a substance, a living, integral, particular being. It is the principle that, from the very beginning of the organism’s existence, exercises downward causality on the matter, guiding, directing, informing the “stuff” of the thing, making it to be this substance and not that. For example, frog form (or the soul of the frog) informs froggy matter as it grows and matures from a fertilized egg, to a tadpole, and finally to a fully grown bullfrog in a way that dog form does not. Froggy soul actualizes itself in froggy matter, and doggy soul in doggy matter, each making the substance to be the whole substance that it is—from its bone structure, to the constitution of the organs, to the size, shape, and type of brain and sensory systems the organism has, etc. Although similar molecules—amino acids, proteins, carbohydrates, oxygen and carbon dioxide, etc.—are present in frogs and dogs alike, the matter of each organism as formed and as organized as a whole, integral organism is different according to the substantial form and soul of each.

Form is not merely the outward shape or contours of the thing in question; rather, form designates the essence, the what of the thing predicated. In addition, substantial form and soul cannot be reduced to DNA, as many materialistic biochemists would argue. DNA, as organized and structured matter, is itself informed and semiotic—the information that DNA bears is immaterial. It’s the difference between a Rorschach Ink block card and a newspaper page—in the first, you simply have matter (ink) unorganized; in the second you have matter (ink) organized in such a way that it bears immaterial meaning, letters combining to make words, words to make sentences, and sentences to convey meaning, none of which is in the ink on the page. These strands of nucleotide bases are themselves material, bearing an immaterial “sentence” composed of millions of “letters.”2 Dr. Leon Kass, author of The Hungry Soul, provides a concise formulation concerning the relationship between form and matter. He writes: “Form and material [matter] are, in the first instance, relative and correlative terms: Form is the something made of certain materials; materials are, as materials, materials of and for the thing as formed.”3 Form, then, is the principle of actuality in the organism causing it to be.

Physiologically, the most fundamental life process that separates animate organisms from inanimate things is the metabolic system—the taking in of nutrients for self-maintenance and energy. Metabolism is the most basic prerequisite for a being to be animated, i.e., to possess a soul. Hence, the first function of soul as the substantial form is to metabolize. Food that is “originally outside and other…must be brought inside and transformed into same.”4 What persists through time, despite the continual exchange of old stuff for new stuff on the molecular and cellular level, is precisely the form, the soul inhering in ever-new matter. Despite the continual exchange of old cells for new cells, to the point that every cell in one’s body is different than the year prior, the organism remains the same. My dog, despite having all new cells a year later, still comes when called, sits when commanded, and prefers his favorite chew toy. In a word, he is the same dog despite having a completely new cellular make-up. To this point, Msgr. Robert Sokolowski from the Catholic University of America writes, “It is not true that all the causation [in living bodies] comes from the material elements in the body…rather, in living things the matter itself is shaped and reshaped by the thing as a whole, and hence by the animation [soul] of the thing.”5 From this, we gather that the soul does not emerge as a byproduct of trillions of neurons buzzing, or chemicals ebbing and flowing, or molecules splitting and dividing, but rather it is present from the beginning, actively making the body be an integral, unified whole through time.

Therefore, although the soul can be conceived as distinct from the body, to conclude that they are in fact actually distinct is a deep intellectual error the consequences of which modernity is deeply entangled. The error consists in treating the soul as if it were a piece in the whole of the body, like an organ. The soul and the body do not form a unity of parts “placed with each other side by side, like bricks in a building.”6 The soul is not one part among many in the body. On the contrary, soul and body are united in an essential, not accidental, way so that they are “grown-together.”7 They are non-independent components of the human person that, while existing in life, are intrinsically conjoined, causally so, with the soul actualizing the whole. A part such as the liver, for example, cannot subsist on its own apart from the unified body, nor would it make sense in its own right.8 A liver only makes sense when it is seen within the larger whole.

Dualism errs in separating the body from the soul, treating the soul as a part in the body. Likewise, materialism errs by eliminating form altogether, and insisting that bare, brute matter stands alone and can account for self-identity through time and the manifest organization of a whole, integrated being. The hylomorphic view synthesizes the two positions so that the soul, or substantial form, and the body are “grown-together in the enmattered form or the informed matter that is the given thing; the dog and its flesh, the oak and its roots…are each inseparably related and…mutually interdependent.”9 Therefore, the form or soul of living organisms is not some ghostly thing residing in the body for a period of time. Nor is it merely the outside surface of the skin, and yet, this epidermal boundary is intrinsically related to and caused by the unity and wholeness achieved by the form. It is neither visible nor tangible, and yet, through the matter it informs, the soul becomes, in a sense, visible and tangible. In short, the soul, the principle of animation, is that which makes a thing to be the thing it is through time as a unified whole.
 
 
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article on Friday.
 
 
(Image credit: Untamed Science)

Notes:

  1. Robert Sokolowski, Christian Faith and Human Understanding (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 154.
  2. Dr. Leon R. Kass, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1994), 43.
  3. Kass, The Hungry Soul, 35.
  4. Ibid., 20.
  5. Sokolowski, Christian Faith and Human Understanding, 155-156.
  6. Kass, The Hungry Soul, 30.
  7. Ibid., 30.
  8. It is only through the event of death that the soul and the body cease to be together. With the exit of the soul, the body loses integrity and begins to dis-integrate.
  9. Kass, Hungry Soul, 35.
Patrick Schultz

Written by

Patrick Schultz is a fourth year seminarian in formation at St. Mary Seminary in Cleveland, OH. He is passionate about good coffee, good conversations, philosophical apologetics, masculine spirituality and walking with non-believers as friends and intellectual companions; but his greatest passion is Christ the Living Mercy and sharing the reasons for his joy. He has a zeal for evangelizing and youth ministry, and looks forward with great anticipation to receiving Holy Orders, God-willing, in May 2016.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Bob

    What happens to the particular tree soul when it is turned it into the staff that pushes the stone that moves the leaf?

    What happens to the human soul when the individual loses parts of their body through amputation? Does it split into multiple parts in order to maintain the form of an ear, or two for the necklace that will subsequently be created?

    • Patrick Schultz

      Bob, thanks for the questions. What happens to a tree branch when it is cut from a tree is the same thing that happens to a limb when cut from a body--it disINTEGRATES. The soul is the principle of integrity-making the living organism to BE a unified whole from moment to moment. But, when part of the organism removed, it is detached from the principle of integration and, hence, will over time, disintegrate, break down, decompose. The soul, however, remains intact. Philosophically, though, we'd call an amputated limb a natural evil, a privation of a due good--there SHOULD be something here, but there's not.

      • Bob

        Thanks Patrick.

        So the soul does not go along with the body part.

        What happens to the soul when, if in the future it becomes possible, a functioning brain is transplanted into a different body?

        Which soul would this being then be composed of?

        • Patrick Schultz

          I'm no neurosurgeon, scientist, or futurist, but I think there are indeed inherent limitations to what science and medicine CAN do--in terms of manipulating the body, and I don't mean on simply a moral level. I think the idea of whole brain transplantation is an example of one of those limitations, though your question certainly poses an interesting thought experiment! It's the old "Brain in a Vat" scenario in a way

          • Bob

            I do not see why, in principle, such a scenario would be physically impossible (though grotesque for sure, in a Frankenstein sense).

            That said, it seems to me that in such a case, the person that comes out the other end would be the brain part of the mixture, more so than the bodily part.

            So, the soul must solely be the substantial form of the brain. (This seems evident from the amputation point you made earlier, since as long as the brain is functioning it appears that you have the person, regardless of any other "privations" of the body), or do you disagree?

          • Patrick Schultz

            I do disagree. Soul is the animating principle of the WHOLE body, not just the brain. The very same principle that orders the matter of the brain making it not only a human brain but THIS human brain also orders the matter that makes the foot to be a foot, a human foot, and precisely Tom's foot for example. The "person" is more than the person's brain tissue. I still would maintain that brain transplants are a bit more sic-fi than science, but I'm willing to concede that I could be off-base there.

          • Bob

            Don't you see the problem caused by this understanding of soul?

            What if, for instance, someone transplanted Tom's foot onto John's leg? Does Tom's foot then kinda hang outside John's soul zone, or does John's soul then expand to animate Tom's foot?

            This might be easier to swallow, but is in principle no different from transplanting Tom's brain into John's skull, though a name change would like be in order after said procedure.

          • Patrick Schultz

            I do see what you're saying and I can appreciate the challenges posed by organ transplantation with this vision of soul. The difference though is this (and let's use the example of a heart transplant, far more common than limb transplants): in order for Tom's heart transplanted into John's chest to stay alive, i.e. not turn gangrenous and disintegrate and decompose, John's body must appropriate and assimilate the heart, which is to say, that over time, John's soul and metabolic system "adopt" Tom's heart making it truly John's. In other words, once cut out of Tom's body, his heart will in short order dry up and turn to dust. But, if transplanted into a new whole organism, it could be organically assimilated into the jurisdiction of John's soul. For further exploration of this topic, let me suggest: "The Hungry Soul" by Leon Kass

          • Bob

            Thanks for the interaction Patrick, much appreciated.

            I'll leave you to ponder this...no reply necessary.

            Replace Tom's heart with a pig's heart in your previous response.

            Thanks again.

          • Phil

            Hey Bob,

            If the pig's heart could be assimilated and "adopted" by John's body, just as could be the case with Tom's heart, then one would say that this heart that came from a pig is now being organized and actualized by John's soul.

            We would hold that it is no longer a "pig's heart", but rather it is a heart that came from a pig and is now properly "John's heart". (Obviously, all this is assuming that it would be possible for the human soul to assimilate, and animate, a heart from a non-human animal.)

          • Bob

            Hi Phil, while it would no longer be a "pig's heart" it would continue to be a pig heart.

          • Luc Regis

            Very far fetched grasping at straws type of rationalization of your ideology......digging yourself in deeper and deeper.

          • George

            what would I be without my brain tissue?

          • Luc Regis

            if in the future it becomes possible, a functioning brain is transplanted into a different body?

            He did say if. I can't imagine that the possibility has not been discussed by apologists especially since it is more accepted even by Catholics,that consciousness and self awareness is an emergent property of the brain.

        • Andrew Y.

          Perhaps it would depend on whether the body assimilated the brain or the brain assimilated the body. I think that even if the transplanted brain retained memories from its previous body, if it were assimilated by the new body, it would no longer "retain" the soul.

  • Well said, Patrick.

    The distinction here is between the source and kind of the form present—for living beings, the soul (substantial form) is immediately given to the being itself at the moment it comes to be (in conception); for artifacts, however, the form is imposed gradually on some matter (and this is usually done by a human, albeit animals too impose form on matter, such as beavers imposing form on streams and marshes).

    One question: To the extent embryology suggests that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, the distinction, above, between living beings and artifacts, doesn't appear uncontroversial insofar as it seems almost arbitrary, metaphysically, to a priori suggest that one form is necessarily static, the other dynamic? For example, not even the Catholic Teaching Office considers the timing of ensoulment to be metaphysically demonstrable.

    • Patrick Schultz

      Thanks for the question. I need some help though. "Ontology recapitulates phylogeny..." I don't know what this means : ) Could you rephrase your question? Thanks

      • "Ontology recapitulates phylogeny"

        It's just the name of Johnboy's band :)

      • Hi Patrick. First, I'd done an immediate edit to correct that to ontogeny. Sorry about that. Secondly, even once corrected, it's an old trope that's not literally true. The general notion is that often we can gather hints about an organism's evolutionary history from certain structures that emerge during the embryonic development of the individuals of a given species. The takeaway is that human development is not static but dynamic.

        I'm aware that Aquinas' understanding was based on erroneous biology (just like the understanding of earlier biologists was erroneous when they took embryonic recapitulation literally) but credible debates still properly persist among substance ontologists regarding the timing of ensoulment. I'm not really interested in rehashing those debates point by point, but only wanted to recognize the controversial nature of your definitions, precisely because the critiques of that stance often charge it with dualistic implications.

  • Doug Shaver

    My intention with the first piece was to point out the limitations of reductionist materialism—the effort to reduce subjectivity, consciousness, felt-experience, etc., to the brain’s material causality and it alone, to make shine the inherent limitations of an atheistic and materially-closed universe, and thereby to beg the God question.

    Your intention was to beg the question? Is that an admission that you deliberately presented a circular argument?

    • Patrick Schultz

      Hahaha! Doug, thanks for the comment! Perhaps there was a better way I could have said that. My intention with the first article was to get the reader to think: "Okay, so there's a spiritual modality to the human person; that's irrefutable. Where does that spiritual modality come from?"

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        I have seen the phrase "beg the question" misused to mean "raise the question" so often that one might suspect an organized campaign to deconstruct the whole idea of circular argument.

        • That campaign pales in comparison to those organized around the premise that no further questions remain.

      • Doug Shaver

        My intention with the first article was to get the reader to think: "Okay, so there's a spiritual modality to the human person; that's irrefutable. Where does that spiritual modality come from?"

        So I gathered. I'd like to engage your arguments, but once I've said that I don't accept Aristotle's metaphysics, further comment seems redundant.

        • Phil

          You hit the nail on the head, Doug. One needs to first understand that reality cannot be properly understood without holding that formal and final causes do actually exist.

          In other words, modernity likes to take Aristotle's metaphysics and reduce them to material causality and a very limited type of efficient causality. But with just these two, a person cannot account for reality as it actually is. (I think we've discussed this before, so no need to beat a dead horse!)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't know if you were aware, but Dr. Edward Feser was actually an
            atheist-materialist some 15 years ago and had an intellectual
            conversion. His book, The Last Superstition, is a good one for showing
            why a proper metaphysics of reality must include not only material and
            efficient causality, but formal and final as well.

            I don't think that is the best book to recommend to an atheist. It is a rather bad polemic, littered with questionable statements.

          • Phil

            It definitely has some polemics, but read the polemics with the fact that this is an ex-atheist-materialist writing it (who has an intellectual, not emotional conversion)!

            But even so, I have found it is the best presentation for a popular audience of why throwing out final and formal causes can't be done.

          • Michael Murray

            I have found it is the best presentation for a popular audience of why throwing out final and formal causes can't be done.

            So why do you think the wider philosophical community is not convinced ? Or am I wrong in my impression that that is the case.

          • Phil

            I'd say the main reason is that many have become so entranced by the physical sciences. Remember, in the grand scheme of things, the modern physical sciences are relatively new. Because of this, many began to attempt to reduce (and in many ways assume that reality could be reduced) reality to mere physical and material causes--i.e., material and efficient causality.

            Only slowly are philosophers starting to realize that this is an endeavor that cannot succeed.

            Pride is very blinding to the intellect, and many look at modernity and think, "How smart we are compared to those pre-scientific people". That is a dangerous pride. We have to remember that people were not dumb pre-enlightenment. They didn't have the modern sciences, but they definitely knew how to use reason and do philosophy better than most today.

            I love the modern sciences and they are definitely capable of bringing us to truths about reality. But we also know that they cannot give us even close to the entire picture and truth of reality. We need to let go of our "scientistic" assumptions and insolent pride so that we can humbly seek truth. The psalmist knew what they were talking about when they said that, "Wisdom is like a woman". We must humbly approach and court wisdom, or we run the great chance of being blinded by pride.

            As it has been said, "A little philosophy turns turns a person into an atheist, while a lot of philosophy turns a person back to God."

          • Luc Regis

            As it has been said, "A little philosophy turns turns a person into an
            atheist, while a lot of philosophy turns a person back to God."

            I cannot even begin to express what I think of this pseudo 'pithy' comment lest I get deleted or banned.

          • Luke C.

            There's always Estranged Notions :)

          • Luc Regis

            Ah...fine....but it is hard to get on there...one has to pass the Andrew test....one cannot simply go there and post.But thanks anyway!

          • William Davis

            See my response to Phil if you're interested :)

          • William Davis

            Only slowly are philosophers starting to realize that this is an endeavor that cannot succeed.

            The natural sciences have been the most successful endeavor in the history of this planet. Reductionism will only take us so far however, and we are beginning to see fascinating new endeavors to reconstruct reality based on what we've learned via reductionism. The cognitive sciences are a great example:

            Cognitive science is the scientific study of the human mind. The field is highly interdisciplinary, combining ideas and methods from psychology, computer science, linguistics, philosophy, and neuroscience. Broadly speaking, the goal is to characterize the nature of human knowledge -- its forms and content -- and how that knowledge is used, processed, and acquired. Active areas of cognitive research in BCS include language, memory, visual perception and cognition, thinking and reasoning, social cognition, decision making, and cognitive development.

            http://bcs.mit.edu/research/cognitivescience.html

            Here is another great example, the Epic of Evolution:

            In social, cultural and religious studies, the phrase "epic of evolution" has come to refer to a narrative that blends religious and scientific views of cosmic, biological and sociocultural evolution in a mythological manner. According to Taylor's Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, an "Epic of Evolution" encompasses
            the 14 billion year narrative of cosmic, planetary, life, and cultural evolution—told in sacred ways. Not only does it bridge mainstream science and a diversity of religious traditions; if skillfully told, it makes the science story memorable and deeply meaningful, while enriching one's religious faith or secular outlook.

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

            Sorry friend, but this stuff is changing the world. There is no going back, and I have no idea why we would want to :)

          • Phil

            Make no mistake about it, I am all for scientific endeavor! Coming to know the true nature of reality is to re-think what was already thought into existence by our Creator. In that way, true science takes on a very contemplative dimension!

            I would simply point out that we need to recognize are the limits of the physical sciences. (As you mention in regards to reductionism.) This is especially true because, in the end, we can come to know a lot of stuff about reality from a scientific POV, but it will not fulfill our deepest desires. We will still be left with an emptiness inside. Our desire is for the infinite and only God can fulfill this desire!

            It would be such a tragedy for a person to come to know so much about the nature of reality, but never to come to personally know the One who holds this same reality in existence at each moment.

          • David Nickol

            As it has been said, "A little philosophy turns turns a person into an atheist, while a lot of philosophy turns a person back to God."

            Whoever said this was wrong. Surveys show that the majority of philosophers are atheists.

          • Phil

            What I find interesting in the mainstream "professional philosophy" is that there is this underlying assumption that materialistic-atheism must be true.

            There is an interesting phenomenon in "professional philosophy" (which usually is connected to the university system) that has been pointed out. As a department begins to be more "atheistic" in beliefs, they only begin to hire those that have similar types of thought. So that's one big reason we see stats like the one you pointed out.

            In other words, we only see one side of the coin. We don't see all the philosophers that are theists because many mainstream philosophy departments have become atheistic and are less likely to hire someone that has that view. I know--it points towards the great plurality and tolerance that the secular culture claims to promote!

          • David Nickol

            What I find interesting in the mainstream "professional philosophy" is that there is this underlying assumption that materialistic-atheism must be true.

            Assuming for the sake of argument that you are correct here, it seems to me you have two choices regarding your previous assertion, which was as follows:

            A little philosophy turns turns a person into an atheist, while a lot of philosophy turns a person back to God.

            You either have to give it up altogether, which seems the simpler choice. Or you have to qualify it somehow to exclude people who teach in and study in mainstream academic philosophy departments. How to survey such people would be a major problem.

            It is as if I were to claim that people who studied a little bit of evolution (or heliocentrism, or any view held by a majority of educators and educated people) believed it to be true, but people who really dug deep into the evidence discovered evolution (or heliocentrism) was false. However, I would excluded people who taught or studied evolution (or heliocentrism) from the universities, because we all know that universities are biased in favor of evolution (or heliocentrism).

          • Phil

            I completely agree with what you are proposing. That original comment was again more of a "musing". It wasn't meant to be a hardcore argument.

            Looking towards the fact that as a person takes several philosophy courses in college it seems to turn people into relativists and agnostics/atheists. But as a person studies philosophy more and more, reason leads us to conclude that there must be something outside the physical cosmos that is responsible for the cosmos itself. (Taking a poll of university philosophy departments won't really help prove or disprove this.)

            So I guess the main point of that original "musing" was another way of stating that reason can, and will, lead us to God, if we allow the the evidence to lead it does.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks.

            It seems hard for me to believe that some kind of infatuation with modernity accounts for every philosopher who rejects your position. Surely they have actual arguments ? Whose arguments do you find the most seriously challenging ?

            We need to let go of our "scientistic" assumptions and insolent pride so that we can humbly seek truth.

            The irony, as I'm sure you are aware, is that many atheists feel a similar thing about your kind of metaphysic that regards the universe as being created by man.

            The psalmist knew what they were talking about when they said that, "Wisdom is like a woman".

            Oh dear. The psalmist had a rather old-fashioned attitude towards women!

          • Phil

            Surely they have actual arguments ? Whose arguments do you find the most seriously challenging?

            I do find Nietzsche to be one of the most intellectually honest atheists of all times (there have been others that have come to similar conclusions of a type of "will to power" and nihilism). Of course, this deals with him showing what is true if atheism is true.

            In regards to whose arguments in regards to materialistic-atheism are the best: The best argument against a Christian theistic worldview will always be those that revolve around the "problem of evil/suffering".

            But the interesting thing is that the issue of a loving God and suffering doesn't mean that God doesn't exist. It simply could mean that our conception of God is wrong.

            The only reason I can be so sure about the theistic belief, from a purely rational POV, is that there is no rational way to coherently hold both the existence of the physical cosmos and no God; no that is Creator distinct from it.

            Oh dear. The psalmist had a rather old-fashioned attitude towards women!

            If a person isn't into treating women with respect and love, them maybe! The psalmist recognizes that wisdom should be approached with respect, humility, and love. And so should we, especially men, approach women in this way.

          • Know how to get a philosopher off your front porch? Pay him for the pizza.

          • Michael Murray

            I think that works for pure mathematicians as well.

          • I always tipped the math majors more than the philosophy majors because they needed the spare change to buy erasers.

          • Ignatius Reilly
          • Phil

            Thanks!

          • Doug Shaver

            reality cannot be properly understood without holding that formal and final causes do actually exist in the most general way.

            I don't see why.

            modernity likes to take Aristotle's metaphysics and reduce them simply to material causality and a "bastardized" version of efficient causality.

            I'm not reducing them to anything. I'm just ignoring them.

            His book, The Last Superstition, is a good one for showing why a proper metaphysics of reality must include not only material and efficient causality, but formal and final as well.

            It's been on my Amazon wish list for quite a while. I'll probably be getting it pretty soon.

    • GCBill

      Colloquially, "beg the question" means something more like "invites us to ask the question." It definitely wasn't a good choice of words for a philosophical article, where one (rightly) assumes that words mean what they do to philosophers.

      • Patrick Schultz

        Thank you both for the clarification. I didn't intend to confuse anybody.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I looked it up, too, and the first definition was "to raise a question."

        • David Nickol

          Where did you look it up?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I googled, "What does beg the question mean."

        • If question serves as the subject of the sentence questions beg, I reckon that 's one way of suggesting a question has been raised. If, on the other hand, it takes the place of a direct object in the phrase beg the question, that's a way of suggesting a particular logical fallacy, suggesting that questions still beg, for example, because one might have embedded one's conclusions in the premises, even definitions, of one's argument. At any rate, it's certainly not the first concept begging disambiguation due to differences in colloquial vs philosophical use.

          • Loreen Lee

            I have thought of it as 'That's my understanding, my 'opinion', and your arguments are not going to convince me, -only my 'experience' is going to do that!!!!

  • Bravo! Lots to say but I'll wait until Part 2. Looking forward to it!

  • Vincent Herzog

    I really enjoyed this, thanks!

    Two thoughts:
    (1) "Froggy" and "doggy" matter will be more palatable to skeptics if they connect that paragraph to the one about form that follows and see that matter is never formless, but always informed, and not always subatomic. So, the "matter" of a frog body can include frog arms and legs and organs, etc.—distinctly froggy parts.
    (2) While I think your overall point about soul not as a part of the whole is nicely presented, I detect the possibility of a confusion about emergence that could distract people from the main point: the "emergence" of a thing from another can, in normal contexts, suggest temporal subsequence, but in this technical context it need not point to anything but causal dependence. But I raise this not as an objection but in the hopes to help you forestall any distractions from someone making too much of this point.

    • Patrick Schultz

      Thank you, Vincent! I appreciate the two points you bring up.

  • Matthew Newland

    Ah, so the discussion continues here. :) Just a quick one, as I've got a lot on my plate today, Patrick. The idea that the rational soul can exist apart from the body has never convinced me. Aquinas' argument that the rational soul contains the whole body within it (because I can imagine and understand my whole body, from the top of my head to my little toe, while my little toe is incapable of doing likewise) has never convinced me. And Aristotle didn't think that individual human souls could survive death (only GOD is immortal).

    The mere idea that the rational soul could survive death implies that the soul and body are capable of existing separately.

    Thoughts?

    • Loreen Lee

      Conservation of mass and energy?

    • In other words, if forms form and if form is a transitive verb, then where's the direct object? If we have a formal cause, then where is its effect?

      • Matthew Newland

        Aristotle and Thomas both say that form cannot exist without matter) contrary to Plato. But they both then make an exception regarding the rational soul. But how can this be? It's beyond mee little brain.

        • Phil

          Thomas would not actually say this because he believes in both God and angels. And if one holds that God and angels do exist, which one could say are "beings" that are immaterial yet show forth intellect, then this shows that intellectual forms can exist apart from matter. (Of course God is not a "being," but God is immaterial and has some type of intellectual characteristics.)

          Therefore, the hymorphist can rationally argue what I proposed below with the two points.

          • Matthew Newland

            See, Phil, that's why Aquinas made an exception for the rational soul. He says it can exist without a body. But ... I don't buy his argument. If I'm going to accept an immortal intelligence (Aristotle's one exception is GOD), then I would still have to admit that my mind/soul dies along with my body. Which is what Aristotle thought ... according to him, only GOD lives forever.

        • From an emergentist stance, if we conceive of formal causes in dynamical terms, more like Patrick described regarding artifacts, then, from the standpoint of energy expenditures and entropy, while morphodynamic forms thus could emerge as an artifact of thermodynamic, materio-energetic interactions, thereafter, they could, almost ineluctably unobtrusively but utterly efficaciously, tacitly influence, via boundary conditions and constraints, the outcomes of other novel thermodynamic and morphodynamic interactions, all with no incremental energy expenditures or entropy changes directly attributable to the forms, in and of themselves. The formal cause could thus be described as nonenergetic or as non-materio-energetic or as physically inert, although most seem to prefer immaterial. In short, a form, diachronically, over the course of its existence, would certainly emerge and dis-integrate in a materio-energetic milieu, but, synchronically, would efficaciously interact nonenergetically.

          Thermodynamic realities are constrained by initial, boundary and limit conditions. Morphodynamic realities emerge from those constraints and then further constrain thermodynamic processes. When morphodynamic structures then constrain other morphodynamic realities, teleodynamic realities emerge.

          I think Hartshorne's conception of nonstrict identity can be reconciled to more dynamical substance ontology conceptions and don't find the more static, essentialist approaches very helpful.

          This is all to suggest that the A-T intuition that form can exist without matter may have been an inchoate realization that mere formal causes, morphodynamically, interacting with efficient causes, thermodynamically, were insufficient to explain final causes, teleodynamically. If the physicalist account is internally consistent and externally congruent, though, tacit formal causes constraining other tacit formal causes might account for tacit final causes, all bounded and conditioned by and emergent from a materio-energetic milieu, diachronically, all influencing outcomes nonenergetically, synchronically.

          Honestly, a combox makes for quite the boundary constraint when trying to contrive a Reader's Digest version of philosophy of mind. In other words, I'm open to the possibility that I failed to communicate but also open to clarifying and restating it.

          • Matthew Newland

            This is a possibility, but are the interactions which result from my life and decisions, my fingerprints (my "ripples" in reality) actually ME or just my "side effects"?

          • That bounded existent, where a discrete human consciousness emerged per a nonstrict identity (cf. http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2833 ) would be you, your-self.

          • Matthew Newland

            See, I'm bottom-up rather than top-down. Intelligence emerges from material interactions.

          • Top-down doesn't necessarily imply violations of physical causal closure, e.g. Baldwinian evolution.

            Now, some philosophy of minds are radically bottom-up or robustly top-down, but they seem to be relying on faith ;)

          • Another way to think about downward causation from an emergentist stance is in terms of increasing complexity or what we might call ontological density, which presents hierarchically. In the hierarchy are levels of complexity. When a higher level influences a lower level, we can call it downward causation. It can take many different forms, such as mereological part-whole dynamics, such as novel morphodynamic boundaries or constraints, such as the novel teleodynamic influences we see in biosemiotics. As Jack Haught duly notes, we needn't a priori rule out a hierarchical level, which would transcend our own with a robustly conceived global Telos of ultimate or primal reality, but, vis a vis our local and proximate telic realities, that view competes with other interpretive stances, which are not unreasonable.

          • Loreen Lee

            The Christian perspective, I understand is in both directions: the procession, downward, and upward to God, the good, love, ethics, practical will, i.e. morality (including 'creation'!! however you define that) etc. through reason and what - intuition!!???

          • Mike

            Maybe matter has alot of non-material "information" baked into it from the get go: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/10/fearful-symmetries

          • Loreen Lee

            I'll be spending much effort to in understanding the 'allopoietic? '.

    • Phil

      Hey Matthew,

      The mere idea that the rational soul could survive death implies that the soul and body are capable of existing separately.

      First, a human body can't actually exist apart from a human soul. A human body without a human soul is an inert body matter that will decompose.

      Secondly, another way to think about this--if a rational soul could exist after bodily death, this
      does not mean that while the soul was informing the body that it had to exist in a
      dualistic manner. It is perfectly rational to hold that when a rational soul informs a body, it exists in a hylomorphic manner, and also that the rational soul can exist in some other manner after bodily death. In other words, there is nothing contradictory between those two statements.

      • I imagine what's at stake is whether that afterlife existence is due to a metaphysically intrinsic immortality, which does seem to imply a dualistic ontology, or an immediate supernatural re-instantiation, which would invoke a theological reality, but still wholly consistent with a hylomorphic conception. You present, however, a third option, a metaphysical substance ontology, analogous to and partly continuous with its expression in material realities, while otherwise
        discontinous with same, able to be expressed in a novel order of existence? I agree there's no reason to a priori rule that out or to say it's necessarily inconsistent, but maybe Matthew will change my mind in case I have misstepped. :)

        • Matthew Newland

          Thank you, Johnboy. I'm much bigger on bodily resurrection than I am ethereal, bodiless existence. This would qualify as "supernatural reinstatiation", I suppose, though I think the particles composing the body themselves are key to our continued experience beyond death.

          If some third way of existing exists I suppose that would work ... but is there such a way? Must we take it on faith? I'm a philosophy major, not a theologian. :)

          • While I reject non-overlapping magisteria, I do draw a distinction between a theology of nature, which, evaluatively, begins within the faith, after one has existentially leapt, so is more of a poetic, liturgical exercise, much like psalmody, and a natural theology, which, normatively, begins philosophically, after one encounters evidential realities. So, there's a difference between trying to make faith-based realities intelligible, employing metaphysical and analogical concepts, and trying to advance
            normative metaphysical arguments from evaluative theological constructs.

            The supernatural reinstantiation notion arises in the context of an intermediate state, which, per my reading of Kung and, then, Ratzinger (Pope Benedict), would not at all rely on an intrinsic metaphysical principle of the soul but, rather, God's creative love. It would still be distinct from the general resurrection, which would involve an even more robust notion of embodiment. As for that third way, it wouldn't have to necessarily begin as a theology of nature or within the faith, but could certainly proceed from a metaphysic within a normative philosophy as an interpretive heuristic. However, the further out in front of theoretic science one runs, conceptually, the less heuristic value it can impart to such issues as quantum interpretations, speculative cosmology, emergence of life, philosophy of mind, etc

            Amos Yong and I have suggested a pragmatic rubric, suggesting that 1) theoretic concepts have been negotiated 2) semiotic concepts remain non-negotiable 3) heuristic concepts remain still-in-negotiation and 4) dogmatic concepts are non-negotiated. The status-in-negotiation of concepts tends to reflect the pragmatic value that earnest communities of inquiry have cashed out in their value-pursuits. See:
            http://www.academia.edu/7739396/With_John_Sobert_Sylvest_Reasons_and_Values_of_the_Heart_in_a_Pluralistic_World_Toward_a_Contemplative_Phenomenology_for_Interreligious_Dialogue_Studies_in_Interreligious_Dialogue_20_2_2010_170-93

            This is to suggest that one can employ dogmatic concepts in their metaphysic, as it's almost unavoidable due to the nature of the subject matter being probed (primal and ultimate realities), but it's best to keep a very favorable ratio of theoretic-semiotic concepts to heuristic-dogmatic concepts if one hopes to be hypothetically fecund, ontologically parsimonious, etc

          • Loreen Lee

            So I would have a lot of work Googling all of the concepts above.
            But with my purposeful attempt at introspective analysis, may I suggest that a look at a past experience was most helpful comparatively. I once had a 'mystical', don't like that word, I preferred after much thought to call it an 'intellectual intuition.
            I related Kant's three 'ideas' to a visionary experience of space, as a kind of infinite ratio of mathematically perfect, tile like entities, and time, with two vibrant lights, self-reflecting and reflecting also in a mutually reciprocal way on what may I describe as a kind of 'lake?' or some kind of transparency. I was motivated to reread William James Varieties of Religious Experience, relative to this experience, which confirmed my awareness that I was still able to express verbal questions regarding this experience, even at the time I was having it. When I asked what then was God? I found myself with the 'normalcy' of experience. Just me, and my perceptions, or should I say my intuitions. I did consider it as a kind of 'summative' experience. The intuition then, being a kind of synthesis. That's the best I can do. I did not attain any such visionary experience in my attempt to be 'purposely' aware of the interaction of the neurons within my brain, or whatever? Except, that I'm not going to believe any more that 'my' intellect and or will, are in some way immaterial, especially when it is not considered to be dogma, my understanding, that these are only two of three trinitarian classifications. I leave it to your better capacity in philosophy to make any necessary correction. But I have come to the conclusion that Kant holds 'intuition' (in his third book) to be more 'fundamental?' than intellect within the what - upward movement. Both reason and intuition, yes? in relation. Poetry, as per Heidegger - yes!!!!

          • If some third way of existing exists I suppose that would work ... but is there such a way? Must we take it on faith?

            It's important to remember that we aren't talking descriptive sciences, propositionally, but interpretive metaphysics, heuristically. The former avails itself of inductive testing, thereby adding new information, while the latter doesn't aspire to explanatory adequacy, only acting as a categorical hatrack, helping science ask better questions, normatively. So, as a metaphysic, which is inescapably tautological until inductive methods present via falsifiable hypotheses and empirical measurements, one pretty much does proceed in a faith-like mode, even as a philosopher. To the extent Christianity remains in search of a metaphysic, I remain metaphysically agnostic, busting my philosophical theological move from a vague realist phenomenology, instead.

          • Loreen Lee

            The analytic philosophers have attempted a 'descriptive metaphysics'.....

          • Luc Regis

            Christianity remains in search of a metaphysic, I remain metaphysically agnostic,

            You have finally said one sentence which I can understand and agree with:) At least I think I understand the sentence, though most of the other things you say go over my head. No offense intended. I am just not cerebral enough to understand academic philosophical, theological jargon in all of it's many facets in which some of you seem to partake.

          • Loreen Lee

            Kant, the only philosopher that in my understanding attempted to bridge the divide, did distinguish the phenomenology of an empirical realism, from a phenomenology of the 'transcendental' i.e. person 'idealism'. That is, a recognition of 'human limitations', within my understanding. But it is still a 'transcendental'!!!

            The meaning of these words, for me and my understanding, continue to develop? with time and experience. As with biblical texts:: which display for me incredible, possible, different interpretations, even with respect to 'morals'. (Like Ruth and Naomi, and being freed from the burden of debt - saint or sinner??? Would I feel obligated to confess this, if the person I was dressing up for was not deemed by dogma to be a 'Christ figure'?) So even Neitzsche's perspectivism can be interpreted within a favorable context by the Catholic church? I think not! I've got to 'understand' hylomorphism.

          • Luc Regis

            I suppose, though I think the particles composing the body themselves are key to our continued experience beyond death.

            I don't understand how you see this as key in the event that most or all of the particles, atoms, sub atomic particles of one person's decomposing body become parts of numerous other bodies generations into the future post death.

          • Loreen Lee

            Whenever I have what I think is a particularly 'bright idea', I ponder the possibility that one of the atoms in my brain at that moment might be a visitation from the brain of Albert Einstein!!!! :)

          • Luc Regis

            Good one Loreen:)

          • Loreen Lee

            That was what fascinated me about the reductionist thesis? in relation to a resurrection Philosophical not Theological reflection, introspection..I considered it to be an ontological thesis, unlike the Positivist simple denial of metaphysics. However, my 'thoughts on 'my mental state of being' were regarded, ironically especially by EN as being 'incoherent' when I attempted to place my experience within a written context. I was just 'over-thinking'?!

            I have since this experience, decided it is better to be an animal than an angel, and wonder why the Holy Ghost is never included in the Two Pillars of the Second Temple: the Will and the Intellect as being 'immaterial'. At least they don't 'mention it'.

      • Matthew Newland

        I'm with you on item one. But the soul requires matter for its existence also. But as McTaggert once said, we could not imagine reason existing after the death of the brain any more than we could imagine digestion occurring after the death of the stomach.

        • Phil

          Why would the [rational/intellective] soul require matter for existence? If you are Catholic, then you would also believe that angels exist. Angels are some type of immaterial intellective being.

          If angels can exist without a physical body, there isn't any reason the intellective soul of the human couldn't exist without a body. Of course, it wouldn't be a human person (and neither would it be an angel) without a body, but it could still exist in some way.

          So I believe that a more accurate restatement of what you said would be "a human person, in the proper sense, requires a body". But again, this doesn't mean that the human soul couldn't exist apart from the body.

          And the resurrection of Jesus, and the promise of the Resurrection of the Body takes part of the physical body!

          • Matthew Newland

            Phil - This is where my speculations take hold. I have a different idea of what angels might be. And it's probably absolutely nuts ... but it doesn't require them to be material beings or immaterial beings.

            Ever read The Shining by Stephen King? There's a metaphysical connection between minds of the characters in that book (the boy Danny and Dick Hollaran, the cook, are psychic and share a "link"). King's sequel, Dr. Sleep, suggests that there are beings that live in the "space" between minds. Imagine them like electrical pulses linking neurons or computers.

            Maybe this is what angels are?

            (This idea is barely half-baked, but I intend to ponder it more in the months to come. For the time being I am focusing mostly on my thesis. But perhaps a future SN article?)

          • Pofarmer

            "but I intend to ponder it more in the months to come."

            Why? Why concentrate on complete fancy unless it's just for fun.

          • Matthew Newland

            Because it IS fun, Pofarmer. And I want to understand.

          • Pofarmer

            As long as you realize it's just mental masturbation.

          • Phil

            The word "immaterial" means anything that is not material in nature. So the 2 categories would be: 'material' and 'not material'.

            This means that angels actually must be either material or immaterial, because all of reality can only be split up into those two categories. This means anything that doesn't fall under the material category automatically falls under the category of "immaterial".

            Now, you could hold that angels exist in an immaterial way that is not like God, and that's fair.

          • David Nickol

            The word "immaterial" means anything that is not material in nature. So the 2 categories would be: 'material' and 'not material'.

            I would assume the two categories would be matter and spirit. But why should anyone who believes in an omnipotent God believe there are two and only two categories? First, there could be one, in which ultimately matter and spirit are forms of each other (in somewhat the same way that matter and energy are different forms of the same thing). Or there could be any number of categories in addition to matter and spirit. If you believe that God created the universe, does it not seem like a limitation on him to assume that if he wanted to create something other than spirit, it had to be matter?

            It also seems to me that it is putting a limitation on God to assume he could not have created matter in such a way that beings made entirely of matter could do such things as think abstractly.

          • Phil

            The two categories are "material" and "non-material" (also known as "immaterial"). So anything that is not material in nature, is non-material.

            Sure, there could be different types of material beings and different type of non-material beings. So spirit could be said to be a type of non-material being.

          • Luc Regis

            Still grasping at straws eh? Phil:)?

          • Matthew Newland

            I might be interested in your friends undergrad thesis, Phil. Could you tell me a bit more and/or refer me to him?

          • Phil

            Let me see if I can get a hold of it. I never got to read the final product as he only gave me bits and pieces of his thoughts that went into it.

          • Loreen Lee

            I've speculated on the possibility of dark matter and dark energy? but 'purely' as speculative 'nonsense'.

          • Loreen Lee

            Why is 'The Holy Ghost' seemingly always not considered, within the context of being immaterial, etc. in the way that the Will and the Intellect area?

          • Phil

            Hey Loreen--I don't quite understand the point you are trying to get at. Can you clarify? Thanks!

          • Loreen Lee

            Well, I always hear that the intellect and the will, are immaterial. Not very often is the word immortal used thought. Could the 'immortal' be viewed to be within the context of a materiality, for instance, as once possibility. I checked the word eternal on Google, for instance, and there is preternatural, eternal, etc. etc.But the big question is. Why is there no inclusion of the Holy Ghost. Is the Holy Ghost not immaterial too? Is the Holy Ghost not 'immortal'? Why does it seem the 'Spirit' is never 'discussed'? Would this go against scripture? What does a 'sin' against the Holy Ghost entail? (within this context or just generally?)

          • Phil

            The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity; the Holy Spirit is God. This would mean that the Holy Spirit is eternal, just like God the Father and God the Son.

            So the Holy Spirit always was and will always be. I guess you could say that's "immortal"!

          • Loreen Lee

            Why then do the not also include Him along with the intellect and the will, as being 'immaterial'.? Are we just 'supposed' to just 'take that for granted? And with what, precisely is the Holy Spirit, 'identified' with? The 'beatitudes', in relation to ourselves? Beauty and order in relation to 'what'? These just suggest to me, something that 'evolves'....that is 'revealed' within a temporal context, that is also 'hidden',. and thus not 'strictly' immaterial?

          • Phil

            Well, the Trinity is the topic of an entire lifetime! So here are a couple articles to read up on it:

            http://www.catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/explaining-the-trinity

            http://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=5222

            -----

            In the end, the whole purpose, and end, of the human person--the thing that completely fulfills our deepest desires--is union with God (i.e., the Holy Trinity). And the Trinity can only be more fully understood by entering into prayer and allowing God to reveal these mysteries to so. In other words, the Trinity is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to enter into! Sorry I couldn't help more!

    • And Aristotle didn't think that individual human souls could survive death (only GOD is immortal).

      While Phil pointed out and I agreed that there's nothing contradictory in supposing the human soul informs the living body hylomorphically but exists in some other form after death, there's no escaping that such an hylomorphic conception remains, in part, dualistic, and that in so doing it marks a Thomistic departure from the Aristotelian account. Those who imagine that the Thomist account of a subsistent form squares with the Aristotelian notion of a substantial form are relying on what many believe was Aristotle's conception of the divine mind. It does make the Thomist move from the merely substantial to the subsisting substantial form seem
      somewhat ad hoc or arbitrary.

  • Raymond

    What is the difference between soul, mind, and body? The current discussion is using the term soul and connecting it with the extremely ambiguous "form", but this doesn't account for the concept of mind. If the mind is distinct from soul, and the mind is the experience of consciousness and thought, then what is the basis for believing that there IS a soul? And it certainly seems that mind is separate from soul, because the article states that grass and trees have souls, but they do not have minds.

    I presume that subsequent articles may address issues of mind, soul and body.

    And, disconcertingly, the entire premise of this discussion is dependent on the phrase "According to this school of thought,". If you reject the basic premise (and there are good arguments for not accepting the premise, then the entire discussion breaks down.

    • Patrick Schultz

      Hi Raymond, thanks for the question. Your question is more directly addressed in part two. Stay tuned!

  • William Davis

    DNA, as organized and structured matter, is itself informed and semiotic—the information that DNA bears is immaterial.

    I personally strongly disagree with this, the information in DNA is very material, that is how it works. It takes material to affect material, and DNA is constantly used while you are alive. Immaterial information can't directly affect the physical world (in my opinion). Even if dualism of mind is true (something else I strongly disagree with) then the soul must use the brain to use the body to actually DO anything.

  • Here are two important corrections.
    Inanimate beings, which are in contrast to animate beings are not human artifacts such as those which Patrick lists, but such natural beings as water and sand.
    Also, an organ removed from an animal does not lose its vegetative, and thus, animate form immediately upon removal from the control of the animal soul. A human liver is still a liver for some time after it is no longer animated by its former human soul. This makes organ transplants possible. The length of time an organ can retain its independent vegetative animate integrity depends upon the current state of technological art.

  • neil_ogi

    evolutionists claimed that 'without the brain, consciousness and the soul don't exist'..my question for them: 1. was the evolutionists' 'common ancestor' has a 'brain' so that it evolved into millions of species of life? 2. was the 'brain' involved in the creation of the universe?

    • Michael Murray

      1. Which common ancestor ? The common ancestor to vertebrates or earlier ? If you go backwards in time the brain simplifies until you have to decide at some point if you are going to keep calling it a brain.

      2. No. Brains as we understand them are constructed from molecules that hadn't yet been formed in the early universe.

      • neil_ogi

        nobody has seen your 'common ancestor' because it's just a' just so' story concocted by evolutionists. mind is eternal, always existed, even before time began.. when the universe is created,including the earth, which is filled with 'brain' organisms, the 'mind' begins to stay there.when that organism dies, the 'mind' (soul) will go back to the Creator who gave it

        • Michael Murray

          My common ancestor ? I'm not the one who said

          was the evolutionists' 'common ancestor' has a

          I'm asking what you mean by common ancestor ?

          • neil_ogi

            the 'common ancestor' that i usually read in evolution.. i'm quite confused, are there more than one 'common ancestor'?

          • Michael Murray

            Well it depends if you mean the common ancestor of two existing species, a bunch of species or maybe of everything currently alive ?

            If you mean two species there is an amusing tool here

            http://www.timetree.org

            using which you can discover things like the fact that the most recent common ancestor of humans and flies was around 800 million years ago. Biology isn't my field but my understanding is this is done comparing DNA.

            There is a smart phone app as well.

        • Andre Vlok

          Why does the Creator send this mind to live in a body here on earth, only to then at some stage return back to the Creator? Why is this round-trip necessary?

          • neil_ogi

            the Bible just say it so! The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” ecclesiastes 12:7

          • Andre Vlok

            "The Bible just say it so." I see.

          • neil_ogi

            because our 'body' is corrupted, and subject to die, whereas the mind is eternal

          • Andre Vlok

            You have not begun answering my question. Do you see that?

  • Papalinton

    Having read through all the comments, it is clear that the soul-ists have a heck of a lot of work ahead of them in proving its existence to be anywhere near in the race in the highly competitive marketplace of ideas.

    When ISIS beheads a journalist, as they have a predilection for doing, to which part of the divided body does the soul adhere? Patrick has already informed us that if an arm is amputated a portion of the soul doesn't reside with the arm: "The soul is the principle of integrity-making the living organism to BE a unified whole from moment to moment. But, when part of the organism removed, it is detached from the principle of integration and, hence, will over time, disintegrate, break down, decompose."

    So which part of the integrity-making part of the body would the soul migrate to, the largest mass of the body, to maintain integrity with the form, or, with the severed head?

    Again, as I read through the comments, with mechanical hearts, pig's hearts, electronic limbs, transplants of all kinds possible, hearts, livers and kidneys, amazing brain enhancement surgery currently available such as reduction of the effects of Parkinson's Disease, treatment of epilepsy by installation permanent electrical probes, dissecting the corpus callosum of the hemispheres, the feasible prospect of brain transplants into the future, the only elephant in the room, and undoubtedly the singular and most problematic notion in this whole debate is the misperceived notion of the 'soul'.

    Dispense with the arcane and jejune notion of the 'soul' and all other things become clearer. This silly punt to 'soul' is a non-explanation. It is a meaningless gap-filler for knowledge that has yet to discovered. In the meantime, that 'soul' is only survives, gratefully and parasitically limping through each and every day as its form, the body, is regenerated, repaired, and replaced through the marvels of scientific and medical breakthrough.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Have you been spending too much time with you nose in a thesaurus rather than attending to the arguments?

      The argument is that every living thing has a soul or animating principle that makes it what it is. Human beings have something in what they are that is immaterial--namely a rational intellect and free will. Being immaterial, they could exist independently of the matter they inform. That is a philosophical concept not a religious one.

      • Papalinton

        Get real Kevin. Clearly your intellectual pursuit on and about the concept of soul has largely been restricted by a proclivity to remain within the very narrow focus of Christian apologetics.

        When one does seek to read a little wider and from a variety of sources, it becomes clear very quickly that what is conceived as 'soul' is a veritable dog's breakfast of competing ideas and philosophies, from the corporeal atomist view of Epicurus, to the ridiculous idea of human ensoulment by divine cosmic fiat.

        The conception you tout is a Catholic post hoc conjuration of a bastardised Aristotelian idea cobbled together by Aquinas 1,200 years after the event.

        You might wish to look HERE at the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy entry. It provides an exceptionally good overview of the competing and various conceptions of what 'soul' meant during the Classical Period. Your conception of 'soul' is predominantly a religious one. The Christian version is simply one of so many on tap, the one that curried favour over the years of Catholic hegemony. But a cautionary tale in the conclusion, a cautionary tale that one should well note, forewarns the reader:

        "Nevertheless, these and other post-classical developments in every case need to be interpreted within the framework and context furnished by the classical theories that we have been considering in some detail." [My bolding]

        Or perhaps you might wish to look at THIS SOURCE which outlines why the explication of 'soul' has essentially been a philosophical dog's breakfast.

        "Human beings have something in what they are that is immaterial--namely a rational intellect and free will."

        If and until this claim can be proven fact it shall remain a theologically-soaked misconception with little epistemic transferability value wider philosophical discourse. It remains distinctly theological with the boutique appeal of a Feserite-Plantingan 'sensus divinitatis' variety.

        Sometimes one has to be a little terse to get the message through. Read a little more extensively and wider. It does wonders for your intellect.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I've read those sources already. You might as well say the word "love" is a dog's breakfast, which I guess it is until we start defining our terms and making distinction.

          The conception you tout is a Catholic post hoc conjuration of a bastardised Aristotelian idea appropriated by Aquinas 1,200 years after the event.

          As ugly as you try to make it sound, what is wrong with it adequately describes the reality?

          • Papalinton

            It is a 'reality' of sorts, Kevin. It's a Catholic 'reality' and is best left to be constrained within that context. When one talks of reality one must take a broader perspective, and the reality is that six of the seven billion people currently on this planet don't share that Catholic reality. Apart from an altogether parochial appeal to special pleading what makes Catholic reality any the more truer or more real than the realities under which those other six billion people live their lives, just as successfully as you do yours.

            No Kevin. You haben't brought to the table any compelling evidence in support of the claim that the Catholic 'reality' is any more special than any other cultural/social/theological/philosophical claim.

            Catholics [and Christians more broadly] are not only fooling but deluding themselves that the Christian 'reality' is the one and only. That to me smacks of pious arrogance.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Truth is what is. If seven sevenths of the world realize after they have died that they still exist then what they thought before they died cannot change that.

            The evidence or reasons have been presented over and over and will be presented further tomorrow (Friday's post).

            It is wearying to be called by my first name and then to be bombarded with words like fooling, deluding, smacks, pious, and arrogance (just in your last sentence).

            When I was a kid, my mother used to recite a little jingle that I have learned is truer than I thought then: "The ones who say it are the ones who are."

          • Papalinton

            "Truth is what is."
            Indecipherable and meaningless bunkum. I do not subscribe for one moment to that nonsense. It makes 'truth', as you phrase it, nonselective, undiscriminating, uncritical, haphazard, random, arbitrary, unsystematic, undirected. thoughtless, and careless. And, dare I say it, so damned convenient for those peddling religious supernatural superstition wishing to wallow in its ambiguity.

            Kevin, you have not addressed the matters I put forward. How else can you explain why it is that the catholic perspective is the one and only, contrary to all the evidence around you smacking you over the head? Six out of seven billion people, many if not most living successful and fruitful lives without the hegemony of Christianity,

            And I have to say it is pious arrogance of those that think Catholicism is the one and only reality worth a damn. It simply does not accord with the truth or the evidence for such a spurious claim.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is abuse.

          • Papalinton

            Having now had for the first time a proper and veritable response of mine to the phrase, "Truth is what is" expunged by the moderator on the basis that someone took personal offence to the truth entailed in the comment, suffice it to say that "The truth isn't what it is".

            The off-handed "Truth is what is" response speaks of naiveté and offers no meaningful explanation.
            I am saddened by the hypersensitivity of some commenters. I can only say: "You can't handle the truth". :o)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is nothing naive about the claim "Truth is what is."

            Truth is the correspondence between what is in one's intellect and what is the case in reality.

            If ten people look at a glass filled with clear liquid and all say it is water and it is actually vodka, their belief has no effect on what is actually in the glass. If those ten persons' "reality" is that they think it is water, their "reality" is not reality. It is a false belief.

          • David Nickol

            It's not quite that easy, since standard Vodka is 60% water.

          • Papalinton

            Kevin: "Truth is the correspondence between what is in one's intellect and what is the case in reality."

            So 1.2 billion Muslims are correct when they cite that Christianity is not the truth but a mistaken interpretation. HERE IS an Islamic explanation for the Trinity, the central tenet of Christianity.
            Yeah. I could go along with that.

            Jewish intellect and 'what is the case in reality' equally informs us that there is no truth in the Christian Jesus-God conjuration, let alone the irreconcilably problematic nature of the Trinity. SEE THIS JEWISH SITE for a recap. I add for historical effect, Jews have never subscribed for one millisecond over 2,000 years what you assert is 'truth' of the intellect. Nor have they ever subscribed at any time during that period to the Christian JesusGod, for what to them was the case in reality, nothing other than a folkloric narrative.

            I would say, whatever your rendition of 'truth' that might correspond between one's intellect and what is the case in reality, is perhaps not as confirmatory as you imagine or wish.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let's start over.

            First is reality. What is really the case.

            For example, whether or not, say, Jesus rose from the dead as depicted by the New Testament and, say, as the Catholic Church understands the Resurrection.

            Next comes what is in our minds. If what is in our minds corresponds to what actually happened, then we have the truth.

            Thinking something does not make it true. If what I wrote in the third paragraph of this comment is not the case then Catholics are wrong. They don't have the truth. They have a false belief.

            But that is not because Muslims, Jews, or atheists think differently.

          • Papalinton

            It's not that Muslims, Jews and Atheists think differently, just as you say. But none of them subscribe to any factual reality contained in your third paragraph. They have concluded that whatever arguments Catholics try so hard to assert are true about the resurrection is simply not supported by fact or evidence.

            This conclusion is not new. Jews apprised no evidence, facts or proofs substantiating the resurrection are simply not there. Muslims, even with the benefit of 600 years of historical and intellectual hindsight, again, in concert with the Jews concluded there was no compelling, incontrovertible fact that Allah was ever resurrected from the dead, let alone that He ever set foot on this planet in manform [for want of a neologism].

            I cannot understand why Christians are so obtuse to something so obvious. Just because Christians believe in the resurrection doesn't make it true. It is a belief based on a failed epistemology, faith.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I never claimed that belief makes the Resurrection true. The Resurrection is only true if it really happened.

            So Catholics could be wrong. Jews could be wrong. Muslims could be wrong. Atheists could be wrong.

            Truth is what is.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Jews have never subscribed for one millisecond over 2,000 years what you assert is 'truth' of the intellect. Nor have they ever subscribed at any time during that period to the Christian JesusGod, for what to them was the case in reality, nothing other than a folkloric narrative.

            That is a weird thing to say considering how the first Christians were all Jews and even today some Jews convert to Christianity.

          • Papalinton

            Spare me the apologetics, Kevin. That is as helpful as claiming that all early Protestants were Catholic, or heaven forbid, all early Mormons were Catholic. What's even more amusing is the strong claim made by the Eastern Orthodox to be the one and only Christian Church down through Apostolic succession, formalised by Constantine and his Nicean convention until the 11thC schism that resulted in the Roman Catholics parting from the Mother Church:

            "Almost from the very beginning, Christians referred to the Church as the "One, Holy, Catholic (from the Greek καθολική, or "according to the whole, universal") and Apostolic Church".[21] The Orthodox Church claims that it is today the continuation and preservation of that same Church.
            A number of other Christian churches also make a similar claim: the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Assyrian Church and the Oriental Orthodox Church."
            SEE HERE

            Coming back to first principles, the early christians were simply Jewish heretics, in the same way that Catholics branded Protestants as heretics.

            I would have thought anyone with a modicum of comparative religion studies would have known this.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You said "never, ever." The first Christians came from Judaism. Some Jews have become Christians ever since. Therefore "never, ever" is false.

          • Papalinton

            Oh II think you know very well what I mean Kevin when I say Jews 'never, ever' subscribed to the Christian narrative. Please don't get all precious. :o)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Since I can now communicate with you via mental telepathy cuz I know very well what you mean, we won't have to use words anymore.

    • Pofarmer

      They seem to mainly be engaged in wishful thinking. When one of them deigns to have their philosophy inductively tested, then I might take notice. They are all big on "Philosophy of the mind, etc, but what they fail to recognize is that we can't really have a coherent philosophy of the mind unless we know somehow how it operates. It would be something like having a "Philosophy of air travel" in the 1860's, or like all these articles you see every New Years on what the future will be like. You can't properly assess what you don't fully understand. So, all these "Philosophies of the mind" playing with this or that mechanism, relying on some immaterial foo are really just laziness. If they were interested in actually learning something, rather than propping up their "faith" they would be working in neuroscience.

      • Papalinton

        ✔ Spot on.

      • Loreen Lee

        I recently read a 'new'? interpretation of the Aristotelean term 'metaphysics'. Yes we are aware of its sequential order as being written or found 'after' the 'physics'. We are aware of the interpretation of being 'beyond' metaphysics. But this analysis suggested, from direct quote of Aristotle himself, that metaphysics should only be taken 'after' the science, and it is what is 'talked about', or something, rather than the science per se, especially when done within the parameters of an incomplete science.
        That's the best I can do. Maybe you can 'check up on me'. Don't take my word for it. I too could have misinterpreted. I haven't the energy to follow through in coming to grips within all the oppositions stated in these com-boxes? But I do 'seriously believe', there there tends to be on-going confusions within the on-going interactions between epistemologies and ontologies.

  • Peter

    Daniel Dennet says that we have a soul but it's made of lots of tiny robots. It is mechanical, made up of neurons, but it does the work the soul is meant to do. It is the seat of reason and of moral responsibility.

    Even if this is true, even if the soul does emerge from the matter of the brain, this most certainly does not preclude the existence of a Designer who from the beginning of time has intended to create sentient species in his own image and likeness.

    This is because we do not understand what extreme material complexity, such as that found in the human brain, is capable of. Of course we see the effects of it, in the human person, but we do not understand the processes by which it comes about.

    Just as the Designer would have configured simple inanimate matter to evolve into living matter, and for living matter to reach a high degree to complexity, so too would he have configured complex living matter to reach a critical point of complexity which is the human brain.

    At that critical point, the human brain would begin to create an identity for itself, a mind, which would appear separate and distinct from the mechanical activity which generates it. How it does so we do not know. We do not understand the relationship between mind and matter. But what we do know is that the cosmos appears to be designed to create matter from energy, to create living matter from inanimate matter, and to create mind from living matter.

    To those who seek to use the material emergence of the soul as an excuse for the non-existence of a Designer, they are barking up the wrong tree. The creation of mind, through which the soul is manifested, is the result of latent processes at the beginning of the universe and represents the pinnacle of their achievement. That the creation of mind is inevitable, and even necessary, is a sign that it was intended from the start.

    • Pofarmer

      Except humans aren't the only species that have minds.

      • Peter

        Dennet wouldn't agree with you:

        "Yes, we have a soul, but in what sense? In the sense that our brains, unlike the brains even of dogs and cats and chimpanzees and dolphins, our brains have functional structures that give our brains powers that no other brains have - powers of look-ahead, primarily. We can understand our position in the world, we can see the future, we can understand where we came from. We know that we’re here. No buffalo knows it’s a buffalo, but we jolly well know that we’re members of Homo sapiens, and it’s the knowledge that we have and the can-do, our capacity to think ahead and to reflect and to evaluate and to evaluate our evaluations, and evaluate the grounds for our evaluations"

        However, if you're implying that other sentient species like ourselves are likely to exists elsewhere in the cosmos, then I would agree with you.

        • Pofarmer

          If that is true then why do animals self associate into like groups

          • Peter

            Just because animals identify others like themselves, it doesn't mean they know what they are.

          • Pofarmer

            Ah, but why isn't it the basis of the behaviour? We are mostly all related, ya know, back to our earliest successful mammilian ancestor. I am currently reading a book by Patricia Churchland called "braintrust" in fits and starts. It is not a particularly easy read, but she is attempting to tie evolutionary biology into human behavior and understanding. IMHO, that's the best bet.

          • Peter

            Whatever occurred in the past doesn't alter the fact that human brains have evolved to be unlike those of other animals.

          • Pofarmer

            But that's the point. Human brains aren't unlike those of other animals any more than human bodies are unlike those of other animals. Different, sure, but certainly not unlike.

          • Peter

            Of course human brains are not physically unlike those of animals but, as Dennett said above, they are unlike them in the sense that our brains have functional structures which give them powers that no animal brains have.

          • Pofarmer

            Yes, our brains are better at some things than animal brains, and anima brains are better at some things than our brains. And animal brains vary from each other. Each brain is unique, we just happened to get the one that was the best at planning and abstract thoughts. Current reseach indicates that other species may be more self aware than we have previously given them credit for. Look it up. Here's the rest of his quote, btw.

            "It’s this expandable capacity to represent reasons that we have that gives us a soul. But what’s it made of? It’s made of neurons. It’s made of lots of tiny robots. And we can actually explain the structure and operation of that kind of soul, whereas an eternal, immortal, immaterial soul is just a metaphysical rug under which you sweep your embarrassment for not having any explanation.” "

          • Peter

            However animal brains differ from each other, they are all unlike human brains in the sense described by Dennett.

            Even if the mind, through which the soul is manifested, is generated through the mechanical activity of the brain, we do not understand the process by which this comes about and the ensuing relationship between the two.

            How can we? How can we know how mind comes from living matter when we don't even know how living matter comes from inanimate matter? I prefer to keep an open mind, not a closed one like Dennet's.

          • Pofarmer

            But once again, human brains are not unlike unlike animal brains. This is just sloppy thinking. Cinsciousness trials that apply to humans are done in animals. Cognitive trials that are done in animals apply to humans. The processes in other mamillian brains and human brains are essentially the same. Seriously, read some Patricia Churchland. It's because of the similarities between Human brains and primate brains and other mammal brains that we can start making sense of how we evolved and where we came from and how we got to be where and how we are today. And the Soul isn't manifested on the brain, it is generated there. Just another feel good concept generated by religion. And then you end with a God if the Gaps? Really? The best you have is we don't know therefor God?

          • Peter

            You may disagree with Dennett on whether human brains are unlike animal brains, but I don't.

          • Pofarmer

            I have a strange feeliNg you disagree with Dennet on much else.

          • Michael Murray
          • Pofarmer

            Yeah, like that. ;0}

          • Andre Vlok

            Before you get too enthused by Churchland, also have a look at Satel / Lilienfeld's "Brainwashed". One finds the wonderful term "neurobollocks" there, a term that is hard to unlearn.

          • Pofarmer

            I think they are somewhat dealing with different things.

          • Andre Vlok

            Not at all.

          • William Davis

            "Neurobollocks"...now there's a mouthful ;)

          • Andre Vlok

            Belongs in the Oxford dictionary ;)

          • Andre Vlok

            If you're interested in that sort of thing (as am I) treat yourself to some Frans de Waal.

  • I don't have much disagreement with this. I just see no point in using the word "soul" to describe the arrangements of matter that make up living things. I think "living" is a fine category.

    I do disagree that the shape of something exercises "downward causality" on living things. It would appear to be quite the opposite. The shape or form of a being appears to be the a result of its DNA and environment. It seems this article is saying the form is the cause of the form.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Soul means anima or "the life." Soul does not mean form as in "outward shape" but animating principle.

      • But that is not what this essay describes. It describes the language some use to describe form of living things.

        I don't know what you mean by "animating principle" but if you mean what makes living things move and grow, a better term would be chemistry.

      • Kevin, you make an important point that's consistent with the soul as a unifying principle. There's an integral process involved such that material and efficient causes are mediated by formal/final causes effecting emergent realities.

        While the formal/final causes refer to uniformities, they do so vaguely, not necessarily describing their nature in precise ontological terms. The concept serves, therefore, as an investigatory bookmark, suggesting that real questions have been raised that will require further explanation, as soon as our methodological constraints are overcome and inductive testing can proceed. So, an Aristotelian account will not be robustly explanatory and doesn't, in and of itself, describe an emergent reality, adding new information to our scientific probes in spatio-temporal-materio-energetic terms. It's an interpretive heuristic that makes explicit what appear to be the implicit methodological and ontological presuppositions that make science work in the first place. In so doing, it meta-critiques science, sometimes saying: Good work! and occasionally saying: Keep working!.

        That's why the emergentist paradigm and A-T are converging, because they both serve as heuristics that bookmark science's unfinished business. When philosophers smuggle in concepts like supervenience into emergentist accounts, the Aristotelian heuristic smiles and says: Keep working!. By the same token, when someone offers an A-T account as an exhaustive explanation, the scientist can protest: Yes, that may be true, but you haven't told me anything, scientific, that I don't already know!

        Sometimes formal causes do turn out to be surface shapes or information patterns or physical laws or who knows what?

      • George

        And this would be separate from the chemical energy which drives muscles?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think the answer is yes, because chemical energy does not know the difference between a possum and a person.

          • David Nickol

            How does an "animating principle" leave the body at death and go to heaven, hell, or purgatory?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            As Hilary would say, "What difference does it make? People died!"

            I don't know the answer to your question.

          • neil_ogi

            richard dawkins was interviewed: "what happens when you die?" he answered: "i don't know" -- this really made me sick.. dawkins a die-hard atheist, just didn't know what will happen to him when he die? why not he just answer: "What difference does it make? People died!"

          • Michael Murray

            Why does an honest answer make you sick ? Richard Dawkins always says he is 6 or sometimes 6.9 on his scale of atheism here

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

            1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know."

            2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. "I don't know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there."

            3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. "I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God."

            4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. "God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable."

            5. Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. "I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be skeptical."

            6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."

            7. Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one."

            He's never claimed to be a 7.

          • neil_ogi

            richard dawkins is the most vocal of atheism. he always mock theists to be irrational, unscientific, and so on.. why he not just answer 'i know that dead people are just dead' and not 'i don't know'?. he also published his famous book, 'the god delusion'..

          • Michael Murray

            I can't speak for Dawkins as I'm not he but I would imagine he says he doesn't know because he doesn't know.

            By the way I think you will find that he mocks theists beliefs not the theists. There is a difference.

          • neil_ogi

            then what's your opinion: 'creationists are creotards'? atheists always say that!

          • William Davis

            Considering the terrible way you write, and the things you say; I would avoid telling people what positions you hold to be true. You can only harm a position by associating yourself with it, you seem terribly uneducated. I'm not trying to attack you directly, just warning you that this is the affect you are having, completely counterproductive to your apparent goals (it is possible that your goal is to insult atheists, if that is your goal, then you are a comedian, please continue ;).

          • neil_ogi

            be informed that english is not my first language.. maybe you misunderstood how the way i convey/constructed my words. i'm not insulting atheists here, as what you've claimed. i'm just saying: 'why atheists are name-calling theists (creationists) creotards?' you claimed that i'm 'uneducated'? what's your proof, then?

          • Michael Murray

            What's my opinion on what ?

            For personal reasons I really dislike the word "retard" used as an insult as is common in the US. Sadly it's becoming part of Australian culture as well. So no I wouldn't say that.

          • neil_ogi

            maybe my words are wrong: it should be: 'then, tell me, why atheists are fond of calling 'creationists' creotards?

          • Michael Murray

            Well it's a contraction of creationist and retard. Like I said I don't use it so really you should ask someone who does. But I assume the implication is that you would have to be really stupid to be a creationist. That is not an unreasonable point considering the overwhelming evidence for evolution by natural selection. Whether someone wants to make the point politely or rudely is a separate issue.

          • neil_ogi

            a what? will you provide evidence, of course, overwhelming evidence for evolution? and not the classic 'just so' stories of 'frog evolving into a prince'? the past was never been observed, so these all macro-evolution, were based on 'blind faith'.. but first, you have to provide proof that non-living thing evolved into living things.. i need it right now!

          • Michael Murray

            but first, you have to provide proof that non-living thing evolved into living things.. i need it right now!

            Nobody knows how non-living things became living things although there are some good proposals about. That is not part of evolution by natural selection but a subject called abiogenesis. Have a look at

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

            will you provide evidence, of course, overwhelming evidence for evolution?

            In 100 words or less on the internet ? Surely you are joking. There are some shortish popular accounts about such as

            http://www.amazon.com/Why-Evolution-True-Jerry-Coyne/dp/1491577517

            if you are really interested.

          • neil_ogi

            science only deals with observation and experimentation. evolution, especially, macro, was never been observed. even if you cite numerous scientific and peer-reviewed journals about it, they can't prove it occurring or have occurred. no, i'm not joking, all you have are claims

          • Michael Murray

            No science deals with observation, modelling (hypothesis) and testing the model. You can test a model of something that happened in the past by seeing what it predicts the present should look like. For example models of what might have happened in the early expansion of the universe affect the distribution of the cosmic microwave background.

            they can't prove it

            Of course not. Science never proves anything. You develop models and test how well they fit reality. You refine and improve them to improve the fit.

            no, i'm not joking, all you have are claims.

            No. That is not all we have. We have claims which have been tested. That is a completely different thing.

            You might want to read some things scientists have written about what science does. This one is good

            http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/07/03/what-is-science/

          • neil_ogi

            the 'origins' issues are not subject to natural causes. tell me how our universe came to be? tell me how life came to be, the DNA, the information in the DNA, etc. evolutionists are fond of publishing 'peer-reviewed' 'just-so' stories that can't be proven. i haven't seen in internet the 'laws of evolution'..

          • Michael Murray

            Did you read that Sean Carroll article I pointed you to about how science works ? Did you read the Jerry Coyne book ? You don't show much sign of it.

          • neil_ogi

            as i've said, atheists published 'just-so' stories , but these stories can't be proven! it's just a waste of time reading them

          • neil_ogi

            i will believe all sean carroll's arguments for the origins issues if he was there observing the creation of the universe and life.. but if not, he's just making another 'just-so' stories!

          • neil_ogi

            'just so' stories are myth and fantasies. why atheists believe on something that's never there?

          • neil_ogi

            so did carroll know about the 'origins' issues? or just another 'just-so' stories?

          • neil_ogi

            'Science never proves anything. '- so then how come atheists always say that creationists are always wrong? so who got the authority to interpret data?

          • Michael Murray

            Science works with evidence not proof. The evidence is against the creationists.

          • neil_ogi

            nope.. just cite one example of transitional fossil. so tell me your evidence for macro-evolution, big bang, abiogenesis??

          • neil_ogi

            you said earlier that 'science doesn't prove' anything? if science proves that evolution is just a fairy tale, evolutionists are quick to say that science doesn't prove anything!

          • neil_ogi

            ' You develop models and test how well they fit reality. You refine and improve them to improve the fit.' - do the data from macro-evolution fit? so tell me how the 'molecules eventually evolve into a human'?

          • Michael Murray

            so tell me how the 'molecules eventually evolve into a human'?

            I have made no claim to being able to answer that question. I've already told you that science doesn't have an agreed on theory of abiogenesis yet. I've pointed you at an introductory wikipedia article. Why don't you read that?

          • neil_ogi

            there's already the 'law' of biogenesis. why atheists kept on denying it? you see, science is just 'neutral'.. but when atheists' theories failed, they ignore the laws of sciences (e.g. genetics, biogenesis, 1st, 2nd and 3rd laws of thermodynamics, etc) and concocted their own laws!

          • neil_ogi

            so are you telling me that 'abiogenesis' is true? we have science, and science is telling me that 'life only comes from existing life'.. that's a fact, and, again, evolutionists are publishing thousands of 'scientific' papers (the 'just-so' stories) to prove abiogenesis is true, but where's the evidence? even the brightest scientists who use their 'intelligence', they can't produce 'life', let alone 'unintelligent' causes

          • Michael Murray

            I wish you would stop using the word prove. Science doesn't prove anything. I've explained that. Why not read some of the links and books I've suggested.

          • neil_ogi

            sciences prove all its 'laws'.. only atheists' laws are impossible to believe!

          • Michael Murray

            OK you aren't reading my posts so I'm done with this conversation. Thanks.

          • neil_ogi

            as i've said, evolutionists will try to publish lengthy articles about evolution, and yet they can't prove them.. science can't prove them! if evolutionists theories are not in agreement with science, they will question science, and announce that 'science can't prove things'

          • neil_ogi

            if science doesn't prove anything, then, why evolutionists are still using science as defense for 'god-of-the gap' theories?

          • neil_ogi

            so tell me what's the difference between: prove and evidence?

          • neil_ogi

            'Nobody knows how non-living things became living things ...' - then why evolutionists are invoking aliens for the explanation of the life's origin on this planet?

          • Michael Murray

            Who ?

          • David Nickol

            From the Wikipedia entry on panspermia:

            Sir Fred Hoyle (1915–2001) and Chandra Wickramasinghe (born 1939) were influential proponents of panspermia. In 1974 they proposed the hypothesis that some dust in interstellar space was largely organic (containing carbon), which Wickramasinghe later proved to be correct. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe further contended that life forms continue to enter the Earth's atmosphere, and may be responsible for epidemic outbreaks, new diseases, and the genetic novelty necessary for macroevolution.

            In a presentation on April 7, 2009, physicist Stephen Hawking stated his opinion about what humans may find when venturing into space, such as the possibility of alien life through the theory of panspermia.

            “Life could spread from planet to planet or from stellar system to stellar system, carried on meteors. ”

            —Stephen Hawking, Origins Symposium, 2009

            It's sad to see that almost nothing of Fred Hoyle's science fiction is still in print (although a lot is available in the used book market).

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks David.

            William Davis posted a link to a really interesting video here

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/outshinethesun/outshine_the_sun_estranged_notions_is_there_life_elsewhere_in_the_cosmos/#comment-1996114117

            on a related topic. Nick Bostrom is talking about the Fermi Paradox and why it means that the more we discover that suggests that life is easy to begin the worse it is for us.

          • neil_ogi

            where's the alien come from?

          • neil_ogi

            so they published 'just-so' stories about the aliens seeding life on earth. then, why only on this planet has many life forms? even if their hypotheses is true, then who or what is the 'prime mover'? just like a man who wants to have a muscular body and yet he doesn't do exercises (although he got gym equipments and exercise machines), and yet he's still not muscular..why, because he doesn't use them..

          • neil_ogi

            in the first place, science only deals with 'natural' causes

          • neil_ogi

            'who' - you don't know who were the originators of 'panspermia'? or you just deny it?

          • Michael Murray

            If you had mentioned panspermia I would have known who you meant but I was not aware that the originators of panspermia were atheists. Do you know that for a fact ?

          • neil_ogi

            wickramasenghe and r. dawkins even suggest that aliens are possible candidate for the 'seeding' of life here on earth. because evolutionists don't have any answers for that, they resort to aliens.. just be honest, if evolutionists don't know the answer, then why not just admit 'we don't know'.. just like the cause of the universe, at least, they're honest with their answer (we don't know)..

          • neil_ogi

            ' That is not part of evolution by natural selection' - then why did evolutionists say that the chemical evolution is not a part of natural selection?? why chemicals have to 'self-arrange' or 'self-organize' themselves and voila, a cell is born? and then eventually, it evolved into different forms of life? is this not goal-oriented or just a 'chance'? so tell me, who or what is the 'prime mover'?

          • neil_ogi

            the "animating principle" returns to God who gave it, (ecclessiates 12;7) and not to heaven, hell or purgatory. when Jesus returns the second time, the resurrection of the dead will occur, and the 'soul' of unrepentant sinners, including their physical bodies, will be thrown to 'hell' as the 'second death' (meaning complete annihilation, no eternal punishing), and the 'soul' of those who were saved, will enjoy eternal bliss in heaven with their Creator

          • Andre Vlok

            If there is complete annihilation, why must the soul first be returned to the body?

          • neil_ogi

            after our physical body is dead, the 'animating' soul will be returning to the Creator who gave it (because the soul has no more to 'live' inside a dead body, 'he' is returning to God, and wait until the resurrection of the dead). when the resurrection of the dead is occurring, the soul that returned to God will re-unite again with the body, and if that person is not worthy to live in heaven, he will be thrown to the hell where he can experience the 'second death', and not eternal punishing of fires and brimstone, as taught by the catholic and some protestant churches. this doctrine goes in harmony with the real teachings of Christ and the Bible

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What religion is this?

          • neil_ogi

            that's the teachings of seventh day adventist church. it conforms to the real teachings of the Bible re: hell, soul and annihilation of the unsaved

          • Michael Murray

            So how do you know that you are right and the Catholic's are wrong ?

          • neil_ogi

            it's based on interpretations of the Bible. matt 10:28 NIV; Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

  • VicqRuiz

    Mr. Schultz, how exactly would you define a "form"?

    For example, can you define a "froggy form" without dependence upom the observed attributes of those organisms which we humans have chosen to call "frogs"?

  • George

    So why does evolution occur then?

    • You looking for a reason or a sufficient reason?

      • George

        I'll just put it in a longer question. why doesn't the form spirit impose consistency across the forms and prevent mutations from happening or accumulating?

      • George

        I'll put it as a longer question: why doesn't the form spirit impose consistency across the forms by preventing mutations, or at least preventing their accumulation?

        • I defer and demur because, regarding that specific matter, I have neither an earthly idea nor a heavenly notion.

        • Although the why eludes me, the what has always fascinated me.
          When we talk in terms of consistencies and inconsistencies, the caused or uncaused, the random or systematic, the symmetric or asymmetric, patterns or paradox, continuities or discontinuities, order or chaos, and such, we are foremost saying something epistemic about ourselves and our explanatory attempts. This is not to deny that there may be ontological implications, that certain uniformities in nature could be mere regularities or clear necessities, but that would require further probing. So, we prescind, metaphysically, from a modal ontology of possible, actual and necessary to possible, actual and necessary. Even when we observe a uniformity that seems necessary or law-like (nomicity), we don't know if it is emergent and ephemeral or might extend back to the earliest moments after the Big Bang or beyond, even, the hot dense state.

          What's most interesting to me is the pattern we witness in emergence, in general, evolution, in particular, where most of the incremental change appears to involve high frequency (happens often), low amplitude (limited interactivity) events and low frequency (happens seldom), high amplitude (much interactivity) events. Nature doesn't present many low frequency, low amplitude or high frequency, high amplitude events.

          What has emerged, interestingly, are increasingly auto-genic (self-replicating), auto-poietic (self-organizing) and auto-nomic (self-governing) realities, which themselves employ this pattern. When humans employ the pattern, I call the continuum of high frequency, low amplitude to low frequency, high amplitude events, the Axis of Creativity. I call the continuum of low frequency, low amplitude to high frequency, high amplitude events, the Axis of Codependency. The first axis might be interpreted as the continuum from empathetic influence to sympathetic intervention, while the second represents the continuum from apathetic indifference to pathetic overinvolvement. The first has life-giving and relationship-enhancing efficacies, the second major inefficacies. We see these dynamics play out in things as varied as pesticide application (frequent spraying vs occasional roach bombs), addiction psychology (codependency), parenting and organizational management, just war theory and liberal polity, etc The common theme seems to be optimizing freedom.

    • Peter

      Because of entropy.

      • George

        So the form spirit doesn't carry out any push back against entropy?

  • David Nickol

    The problem, it seems to me, is not that it is difficult to imagine human beings are made of matter and spirit. It is that probably 99.9 percent of believing Christians believe (and for good reason—because that is what Christian churches teach) that the disembodied soul is a "fully functional" person.

    The soul leaves the body at death. In Catholic thought, most souls that achieve salvation do something without their bodies that is absolutely essential to their worthiness: They go through some kind of "punishment" in purgatory that is their final purification necessary to enter heaven. Abraham's souls may not, strictly speaking, be Abraham. But Abraham's soul is purified in purgatory as fully representing Abraham himself.

    Then, once in heaven, at least according to popular piety, souls that have just arrived meet and socialize with the souls of loved ones who have preceded them. Souls in heaven also hear prayers and intercede with others in heaven for help (including miracles).

    Stop people on the street, ask them if they are Christian, and then ask them what they hope will happen when they die. I am sure the vast majority will say they hope to go to heaven. I would guess that to the vast majority of Christians, N. T. Wright's essay Heaven Is Not Our Home would come as somewhat of a shock. Just now one of the earliest things I ever learned in my Catholic education (from the Baltimore Catechism) popped into my mind:

    Q. Why did God make you?

    A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.

    So, it seems to me, that the vast majority of Christian believers have no doubt that they are made of body and soul.

    The problem here is that, apparently Gilbert Ryle was so scathing about the "ghost in the machine" that no matter how apt it is for a description of what most Christians believe, it has to be denied. Ryle said:

    Such in outline is the official theory. I shall often speak of it, with deliberate abusiveness, as "the dogma of the Ghost in the Machine." I hope to prove that it is entirely false, and false not in detail but in principle. It is not merely an assemblage of particular mistakes. It is one big mistake and a mistake of a special kind. It is, namely, a category mistake.

    So we get attempts at defining things such as hylomorphism to try to demonstrate that body and soul are really one, as when the Catechism says, "The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the 'form' of the body." And yet we have souls flying away from bodies when people die and taking up long-term residence in heaven.

    The problem is not imagining the soul is some kind of "ghost in the machine." The problem is that almost everyone who believes in the soul does imagine it very much like a ghost in a machine, and the attempted explanations for why it is not seem self-contradictory and out of conformity with what almost everyone believes.

    • Popular piety, yes.

      Hence the distinction between the: 1) exoteric, which is suitable to be imparted to the public and those belonging to the outer or less initiate circle, and the 2) esoteric, which is designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone, requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group.

      Hence Fowler's developmental account of faith. Hence Merton's lament that our religious institutions accomplish a lot more socialization than they do transformation. And then there's fundamentalism and literalism, both by apologists and their interlocutors.

      It's a journey. A pilgrim people.
      Most of them good and beautiful and loving, even when invincibly ignorant about speculative metaphysics because of the transformative efficacies of right belonging (ortho-communal) right desiring (orthopathy) right behaving (orthopraxy), even when right believing's problematic.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I don't know who Gilbert Ryle is but whatever he posited was not the cause of the concept of hylomorphism. That is way, way old.

  • Luc Regis

    I sometimes wonder if there is really any point in commenting in this venue...since comments seem to get arbitrarily removed. If a comment is removed...I think good Christian manners would behoove the moderator to explain why or where a commenter has crossed the line....but no....the comment is just gone. I had a comment less than a day old to Phil that went poof. In disqus it was shown as removed.

  • David Nickol

    Are all souls equal? Do highly intelligent people and people with intellectual disabilities have equal souls but different brains? Was it something in the souls of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven that enabled them to write music, or is it physical limitations in the rest of us that keep us from being geniuses?

    As I understand it, spirits do not have physical locations. So how can a spiritual soul leave the body and go to purgatory?

    How is it possible to know when the soul leaves the body? I have read a bit about priests who are called to give the last rites and arrive after a doctor has pronounced the patient dead. It is apparently still standard practice to give the last rights (conditionally, anyway).

    • My friend and collaborator, Amos Yong , has crafted both a theology of disability and a theology informed by disability, should those types of reflections interest you. Google Scholar might return some relevant results. As for the metaphysical angle and the soul,
      well, I haven't pursued that.

    • "Are all souls equal?"

      Equal in what respect? Equality is always in reference to a particular aspect. For instance, men and women are equal in dignity but not in anatomy. But if by equal you mean "identical," then the answer is no.

      "As I understand it, spirits do not have physical locations. So how can a spiritual soul leave the body and go to purgatory?"

      You understand spirits correctly. But purgatory is not a physical location, so there is no problem.

      "How is it possible to know when the soul leaves the body?"

      For humans, this is not possible. We know afterward that a soul has left a body (once it is dead) but we cannot know precisely when a soul leave s a body.

      "It is apparently still standard practice to give the last rights (conditionally, anyway)."

      Sure. Why not? There's a slim chance the doctor's pronouncement could be wrong, or at least mistimed.

    • neil_ogi

      every single soul has different talents and skills, and yet each soul has equal numbers of chromosomes and DNA in their body. therefore, the physical DNA is not the sole regulator of every soul's capabilities, there is something 'more' to it, which is the soul

  • Andre Vlok

    I'm going to go with Thomas Merton on this :

    "The inner self is not a part of our being, like a motor in a car. It is our entire substantial reality itself, on its highest and most personal and most existential level."

  • Geraldine Zipf

    So...the soul is to the body as God is to creation...