Human "souls"

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Jac3510
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Human "souls"

#1

Post by Jac3510 » Fri Feb 13, 2009 11:52 am

Another forum I used to frequent has an argument going on over whether or not evolution is compatible with religion. The resident militant atheist there had the below as a reply. While I'm not involved in the argument, nor will I be, it got me thinking how I would reply, and I thought it would be an interesting conversation here.
Albaholic wrote:My larger point is that all these concessions to science that religion makes are largely at face value. If you want to be the smart Christian who says "Look guyz I accept evolution too!", then you have to [poop] or get off the pot. You can't just pay lip service to the theory whenever you can accomodate it and then ignore or reject it when it encroaches on your deeply held beliefs.

And this of course, is even before we get into the religious "soul that goes to Heaven" business. I mean if we're fundamentally similar to most animals (as evolution declares), do animals have souls (including worms, dust mites, and cloned mice)? Evolution, after all, is a gradual process... did our ape ancestors slowly build up souls piece by piece or was one eventual mutant born with a soul & prospered through natural selection? Did Cro-Magnon men have proto-souls or full souls? What about Neanderthals? Did they die out because they were soulless animals? Questions, questions.
Looking at the questions about souls . . . I enjoy a little "shock effect" when in these kinds of debates. My answer would have been this:

"Unfortunately, Alba, you've misunderstood classical Christianity. Sure, most individual Christians have bought into the popular idea that human beings have this immaterial substance called a 'soul' that is the 'real them' inside their 'body.' But that idea--substance dualism--isn't a part of Classical Christianity at all. It's a Greek idea that has become very popular thanks to Descartes. Bottom line: Classical Christianity doesn't think we have 'souls' at all, and especially not that we have souls while animals don't."

I'm curious how y'all would have responded to him, and what you think of my own reply. I think this kind of ignorance is a major problem for Christianity, and unfortunately, the ignorance goes both ways. Christians don't understand what they believe, and so they offer popular (and shallow) ideas that are, unfortunately, anti-biblical. I think this soul issue is just one example. The Bible nowhere presents human beings as being composed of two separate substances, one immaterial, the other material, one called a body, the other a soul. And it certainly doesn't say that we have a soul and animals don't. That kind of widespread misunderstanding, though, can create problems like the one above.

What's y'all's idea of a soul, and how would you reply to Alba (or me)?
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Human "souls"

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Post by Canuckster1127 » Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:00 pm

I tend to agree with you Jac in your proposed start. I think there is a great deal in what classical Christianity says or is perceived to say because it's been in places merged or interpretted through the lens of classic western philosophy a al Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinus etc.

I'd say, man doesn't "have" a soul, man is a soul and the term is used more wholistically than reductionistly in a biblical context without the greek philosophical baggage attached.
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Re: Human "souls"

#3

Post by Jac3510 » Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:41 pm

Canuckster1127 wrote:I'd say, man doesn't "have" a soul, man is a soul and the term is used more wholistically than reductionistly in a biblical context without the greek philosophical baggage attached.
So true . . . try saying that to a congregation and see how many :esurprised:s you get. :)
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Human "souls"

#4

Post by Canuckster1127 » Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:51 pm

Jac3510 wrote:
Canuckster1127 wrote:I'd say, man doesn't "have" a soul, man is a soul and the term is used more wholistically than reductionistly in a biblical context without the greek philosophical baggage attached.
So true . . . try saying that to a congregation and see how many :esurprised:s you get. :)
I've said it before .... and I have and am still accumulating some scars for daring to say or believe that ....... ;)
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Re: Human "souls"

#5

Post by BavarianWheels » Fri Feb 13, 2009 2:50 pm

Jac3510 wrote:
Canuckster1127 wrote:I'd say, man doesn't "have" a soul, man is a soul and the term is used more wholistically than reductionistly in a biblical context without the greek philosophical baggage attached.
So true . . . try saying that to a congregation and see how many :esurprised:s you get. :)
Mention this in an Adventist congregation and you won't get any "gasps"...just lots of heads turning to each other thinking, "This is news?" ;)
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Re: Human "souls"

#6

Post by Jac3510 » Fri Feb 13, 2009 2:57 pm

Bavarian wrote:Mention this in an Adventist congregation and you won't get any "gasps"...just lots of heads turning to each other thinking, "This is news?" ;)
Yeah, but the right-streak stops at the grave . . . :(

Seriously, though, I know SDA's reject substance dualism. Glad for it, but what do you guys say the relationship is between the material and immaterial aspects of man? What is your philosophical position on it?
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Human "souls"

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Post by BavarianWheels » Fri Feb 13, 2009 3:14 pm

Jac3510 wrote:
Bavarian wrote:Mention this in an Adventist congregation and you won't get any "gasps"...just lots of heads turning to each other thinking, "This is news?" ;)
Yeah, but the right-streak stops at the grave . . . :(
I'll assume you mean the belief in "soul sleep"...heh. While it's debatable, if one believes as it seems you do, that the person is a soul and not body *and* soul, then it seems almost trivial IMHO.
Jac3510 wrote:Seriously, though, I know SDA's reject substance dualism. Glad for it, but what do you guys say the relationship is between the material and immaterial aspects of man? What is your philosophical position on it?
Are you asking me (I'm confused by the wording) what my position is on the soul and the body of a created human? Sorry for being so dense. Sometimes I can grasp things and other times I have difficulty.
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Re: Human "souls"

#8

Post by Kurieuo » Fri Feb 13, 2009 7:56 pm

Jac3510 wrote:Another forum I used to frequent has an argument going on over whether or not evolution is compatible with religion. The resident militant atheist there had the below as a reply. While I'm not involved in the argument, nor will I be, it got me thinking how I would reply, and I thought it would be an interesting conversation here.
Albaholic wrote:My larger point is that all these concessions to science that religion makes are largely at face value. If you want to be the smart Christian who says "Look guyz I accept evolution too!", then you have to [poop] or get off the pot. You can't just pay lip service to the theory whenever you can accomodate it and then ignore or reject it when it encroaches on your deeply held beliefs.

And this of course, is even before we get into the religious "soul that goes to Heaven" business. I mean if we're fundamentally similar to most animals (as evolution declares), do animals have souls (including worms, dust mites, and cloned mice)? Evolution, after all, is a gradual process... did our ape ancestors slowly build up souls piece by piece or was one eventual mutant born with a soul & prospered through natural selection? Did Cro-Magnon men have proto-souls or full souls? What about Neanderthals? Did they die out because they were soulless animals? Questions, questions.
Looking at the questions about souls . . . I enjoy a little "shock effect" when in these kinds of debates. My answer would have been this:

"Unfortunately, Alba, you've misunderstood classical Christianity. Sure, most individual Christians have bought into the popular idea that human beings have this immaterial substance called a 'soul' that is the 'real them' inside their 'body.' But that idea--substance dualism--isn't a part of Classical Christianity at all. It's a Greek idea that has become very popular thanks to Descartes. Bottom line: Classical Christianity doesn't think we have 'souls' at all, and especially not that we have souls while animals don't."

I'm curious how y'all would have responded to him, and what you think of my own reply. I think this kind of ignorance is a major problem for Christianity, and unfortunately, the ignorance goes both ways. Christians don't understand what they believe, and so they offer popular (and shallow) ideas that are, unfortunately, anti-biblical. I think this soul issue is just one example. The Bible nowhere presents human beings as being composed of two separate substances, one immaterial, the other material, one called a body, the other a soul. And it certainly doesn't say that we have a soul and animals don't. That kind of widespread misunderstanding, though, can create problems like the one above.

What's y'all's idea of a soul, and how would you reply to Alba (or me)?
This is like saying that any major Christian doctrine settled upon does not belong to classical Christianity because Greek's were big on thinking. Even if embedded in Greek thinking, this says nothing about the truth of such a concept. However, I think the concept of substance dualism can be found all the way back in Genesis and throughout the OT. Just like the concept of the Trinity is found in Scripture. In fact, substance dualism is I think more-so clear.

Let me start up by saying that theologically and philosophically, I have researched the mind/body problem much and so have settled much my positions on these issues.

When you read OT Scripture "soul" nearly always appears to be represented as a physical body+spirit (where spirit often Scripturally represents one's vitality and essense). Substance-wise, the OT appears to make no distinction between soul and spirit. In Ecclesiastes 12:7 we read when we die, "the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." I can not see how this is not supportive of substance dualism.

Today "soul" has many varying meanings. You have Descartes' Cartesian dualism which reduces the soul to the mind or our consciousness, then you have Thomists (like myself) who insist upon a more intimate relationship between the soul and body. In Genesis, we see a living soul consists of both body and "breath" (spirit). God breathed life into man and he became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7). The terminology of "living soul" suggests to me that there can be such a thing as a soul which is not living. This supports my Thomistic beliefs where I see a soul needs a body to interface with the world. Without a body, a soul would essentially exist in limbo, or sustained by God (as the author of Ecclesiastes appears to believe).

To elaborate further, I believe our soul possesses certain functional capacities (e.g., taste, touch, morality, sight, etc), and that our body is built upon these capacities allowing them to be expressed. Herein is the more intimate relationship of soul+body found in Thomistic form of substance dualism. This is going further into my beliefs, but one capacity I believe our soul has is a spiritual capacity (e.g., our "eyes" to God or the spiritual world), yet this requires the spiritual bodily component in order to be expressed and function. I often refer to this "spiritual bodily form" as our spirit. Our spirit is what I believe died in us when we sinned against God, severing our relationship with Him. Now we have to be spiritually "born again" (John 3:3-8) in order to receive our spiritual body back which allows us to perceive and even experience God again.

In any case, substance dualism, the idea that we are comprised of separate material/immaterial substances, is very much embedded I think in any form of Christianity. I also think it is very intuitively apparent that mental properties are quite distinct from physical properties. The only other alternative to Dualism, is Monism which either attempts to reduce everything to the physical/material, or vice-versa. So I wonder whether you believe Monism is better supported in traditional/classical Christianity?

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Re: Human "souls"

#9

Post by Jac3510 » Sun Feb 15, 2009 2:44 pm

Bav wrote:I'll assume you mean the belief in "soul sleep"...heh. While it's debatable, if one believes as it seems you do, that the person is a soul and not body *and* soul, then it seems almost trivial IMHO.
Trivial, no. Secondary doctrine, absolutely. I do not believe in soul sleep. I believe that people get temporary bodies in paradise (or hell) while awaiting the resurrection.
Are you asking me (I'm confused by the wording) what my position is on the soul and the body of a created human? Sorry for being so dense. Sometimes I can grasp things and other times I have difficulty.
I can see how my wording was . . . um . . . obfuscatory. ;) What I was asking for was your position on how the "soul" (however you define it) relates to the body. You rightly reject substance dualism, but I doubt you are a physicalist (as in monism, see my comments to K below). So when you use the word "soul," what do you mean by it, and how does it interact with our physical bodies? I'm looking for your philosophical position here, not your theological position. I'm well aware of the doctrine of soul sleep and the general framework to which it holds. I just want to know how it actually works for you.

Now, K . . .
K wrote:This is like saying that any major Christian doctrine settled upon does not belong to classical Christianity because Greek's were big on thinking. Even if embedded in Greek thinking, this says nothing about the truth of such a concept. However, I think the concept of substance dualism can be found all the way back in Genesis and throughout the OT. Just like the concept of the Trinity is found in Scripture. In fact, substance dualism is I think more-so clear.
I'll comment your substance dualism shortly, but here I want to comment on your main criticism. Naturally, just because the Greeks had an idea, that doesn't mean it was wrong. To the contrary, I hold to very much of the same philosophy as Aristotle, being a Thomist myself. The point which I was making, however, is that the idea of substance dualism, especially in the Cartesian sense of the term, goes back to Plato. It doesn't originate in Scripture. That may Christians hold to it is due to popular culture and our broadly Greek perspective, I believe. But just because most Christians think that way doesn't make it the case.

So, technically, the origin of an idea doesn't deny its validity (to assert such would be to commit a genetic fallacy), the fact that this idea that we are souls who are driving around these things called bodies came from pagan Greek philosophy rather than from Scripture is a valid point to make. It is, I'm sure you agree, worth noting the origins of ideas, not to prove their rightness or wrongness, but to prove that they aren't a necessary part of a system.
Let me start up by saying that theologically and philosophically, I have researched the mind/body problem much and so have settled much my positions on these issues.
I'm sure. I've always appreciated your philosophical backgrounds in the discussions. I always thought it made things more productive!
When you read OT Scripture "soul" nearly always appears to be represented as a physical body+spirit (where spirit often Scripturally represents one's vitality and essense). Substance-wise, the OT appears to make no distinction between soul and spirit. In Ecclesiastes 12:7 we read when we die, "the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." I can not see how this is not supportive of substance dualism.
I follow you perfectly well until the last sentence. I can't see how it IS supportive of substance dualism. The fact that the OT speaks of the human being as ONE substance would strongly mitigate against the OT promoting substance dualism. To the contrary, this fact--the OT's apparent ignorance of substance dualism--is the major premise of soul sleep. It is telling that when people argue against that doctrine, they spend most of their time in the NT. If the OT held to substance dualism, you would expect opponents of soul sleep to be referring to the repeated dualist passages in the OT. But, there are none, and that, I think, because the Bible does not teach substance dualism.
Today "soul" has many varying meanings. You have Descartes' Cartesian dualism which reduces the soul to the mind or our consciousness, then you have Thomists (like myself) who insist upon a more intimate relationship between the soul and body. In Genesis, we see a living soul consists of both body and "breath" (spirit). God breathed life into man and he became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7). The terminology of "living soul" suggests to me that there can be such a thing as a soul which is not living. This supports my Thomistic beliefs where I see a soul needs a body to interface with the world. Without a body, a soul would essentially exist in limbo, or sustained by God (as the author of Ecclesiastes appears to believe).
I'll pick up your comment on Thomism in the next section. All I'll say here is that it seems to me you have made an incredible, unwarranted leap from "living soul" to substance dualism. I don't, for instance, consider myself a trichotomist, but such a doctrine could well reject substance dualism and still explain the difference in a "living soul" and a "dead soul." Still further, the words "living" and "dead" in this context have deep theological meanings. Your leap, then, comes in the fact that you assume a certain meaning for each of these terms that isn't proven and doesn't at all appear to me to be necessary.
To elaborate further, I believe our soul possesses certain functional capacities (e.g., taste, touch, morality, sight, etc), and that our body is built upon these capacities allowing them to be expressed. Herein is the more intimate relationship of soul+body found in Thomistic form of substance dualism. This is going further into my beliefs, but one capacity I believe our soul has is a spiritual capacity (e.g., our "eyes" to God or the spiritual world), yet this requires the spiritual bodily component in order to be expressed and function. I often refer to this "spiritual bodily form" as our spirit. Our spirit is what I believe died in us when we sinned against God, severing our relationship with Him. Now we have to be spiritually "born again" (John 3:3-8) in order to receive our spiritual body back which allows us to perceive and even experience God again.
Forgive me, but I think you've misunderstood your Thomism a bit. Thomists are NOT substance dualists. Here is a great little paper (only two pages) that details the differences in the Thomist and Cartesian approaches to the mind/body problem.

In short, Cartesians consider human beings as composed of two separate substances, one being an immaterial mind (soul) and the other being a material body. The question, which I think is damning, for any Cartesian must be, how, by definition, can an immaterial substance interact with a material substance? Descartes' answer, that it did so in the penal gland in the center of the brain only moves the problem back one step, because it doesn't answer the question. There seems to be no way for an immaterial agent to be a material cause, for it was a material cause, it would render the agent material!

Thomism has no such problem. It does not define a human being as being composed of two separate substances, but rather as being composed of one substance which, like all real things, is composed of both form and matter (I'm assuming that, being the Thomist you are, you are familiar with the terms). Form is, of course, immaterial, whereas matter is material. It is this fact that is so foundational that to take this away is to destroy the very foundation of Thomism as a system at all. But this fact also is the foundation of Thomist epistemology, which allows for real objectivity (contra Descartes), for it allows a way for external reality to actually get inside the mind, rather than only having a representation of reality in the mind. In any case, since all things have form and matter, all things have an immaterial and material aspect to them. Just so with humans. We have a form (our souls) and matter (our bodies). It is extremely important that one notice that the soul is form, and as form is not substance, we can in no way so that the soul is a substance separate from the body. Likewise, the body is matter, and as matter is not substance with form, so the body without the soul is not substance. Thus, we are not substance's that are informed by a soul, but rather, the human being, in Thomism, is a single substance composed of soul and body,

But here, we don't have the Cartesian's problem, because we aren't trying to ask how an immaterial substance interacts with a physical substance. That isn't an issue because Thomism doesn't postulate separate substances for the soul and body. We speak of an immaterial aspect and a material aspect of the single substance, and there seems to be nothing philosophically difficult about that at all. We can, from there, start talking about the "functions" of the soul (i.e., hearing, seeing, etc.). In doing so, we would be trying to answer the question, "Where is sense found: in the body or in the soul?" It sounds like you would argue the latter, but I don't know for sure. In any case, that's another debate, though obviously related. I'll let you respond to the above rather than bringing up too many points.
In any case, substance dualism, the idea that we are comprised of separate material/immaterial substances, is very much embedded I think in any form of Christianity. I also think it is very intuitively apparent that mental properties are quite distinct from physical properties. The only other alternative to Dualism, is Monism which either attempts to reduce everything to the physical/material, or vice-versa. So I wonder whether you believe Monism is better supported in traditional/classical Christianity?
I hope I've shown above that substance dualism isn't at all necessary or even suggested by Christianity. We are NOT composed of two separate substances. We are ONE substance with a material and immaterial aspect. Secondly, there is a third alternative to dualism and monism, which would be, to use Millard Erickson's term from his popular Christian Theology, "Conditional Unity." It is a hybrid of the two--basically a restatement of the classical Thomism. Here, a human cannot be a person without being both material and immaterial. Now, in classical Thomism, there was a debate about whether or not we could speak of the soul's of people in heaven as actual people. Aquinas grants the major premise in the argument, namely, that souls without bodies are not people, but he excepts in this case by saying it is okay to address such souls by their names (when praying to the saints) to indicate one's belief in the Resurrection (source, see objection five and response).

Here, I have to part ways with the great doctor. I would simply say, as I did to Bav above, that the "souls" in heaven are still persons for the simple reason that they receive temporary bodies. Thomas, perhaps, rejected that claim because it seems ad hoc. Forms can well exist apart from their materials (though not as a separate substance, for they still must be in another, in this case, the mind). But I think the nature of the objection requires it, for the only exist apart from their original material when they have another material to inform. In the case of epistemology, I see a tree, which is a real thing composed of the form 'tree' and the matter informed by it. What I actually see is the matter, and it is the matter that impresses the form on my mind. Thus, the form itself--and not a mere copy of it--is passed into my mind as an impressed species. All fine and good, but what that shows is that forms must have something to impress upon if they are to remain in existence. If the soul, as the form of man, has no material to inform, then it must cease to exist. The obvious way for that to happen, which is confirmed repeatedly by Scripture, is to say that people in heaven have bodies. These bodies must be temporary, though, not because they themselves are not sufficient (whether they are or are not, we are not told), but because we are told elsewhere in Scripture that at the Second Advent we will receive glorified bodies.

All this, then, is the position of Conditional Unity. I am a person on the condition that I have both an immaterial aspect (commonly called the soul) united with a material aspect (commonly called the body). Once either of these is removed, I am no longer a person. Just as a corpse is not a person, so a "disembodied spirit" (to speak loosely) is not a person.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Human "souls"

#10

Post by Kurieuo » Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:40 am

Jac, I'm going to nibble here and there at your response as time allows.

Firstly,
Jac wrote:
K wrote:Today "soul" has many varying meanings. You have Descartes' Cartesian dualism which reduces the soul to the mind or our consciousness, then you have Thomists (like myself) who insist upon a more intimate relationship between the soul and body. In Genesis, we see a living soul consists of both body and "breath" (spirit). God breathed life into man and he became a "living soul" (Gen 2:7). The terminology of "living soul" suggests to me that there can be such a thing as a soul which is not living. This supports my Thomistic beliefs where I see a soul needs a body to interface with the world. Without a body, a soul would essentially exist in limbo, or sustained by God (as the author of Ecclesiastes appears to believe).
I'll pick up your comment on Thomism in the next section. All I'll say here is that it seems to me you have made an incredible, unwarranted leap from "living soul" to substance dualism. I don't, for instance, consider myself a trichotomist, but such a doctrine could well reject substance dualism and still explain the difference in a "living soul" and a "dead soul." Still further, the words "living" and "dead" in this context have deep theological meanings. Your leap, then, comes in the fact that you assume a certain meaning for each of these terms that isn't proven and doesn't at all appear to me to be necessary.
My reference in Scripture was not to produce evidence (indeed it is not much at all) so much as it was to provide a form of coherentism with it.

Regarding "substance dualism", please Google "Thomist substance dualism". This is not to say I don't think you "get it", but rather I'd like to quibble of what is entailed in such a position rather than terminology. I feel "substance dualism" for you may be bound to a particular concept, perhaps even one I may not hold to.
Jac wrote:
K wrote:To elaborate further, I believe our soul possesses certain functional capacities (e.g., taste, touch, morality, sight, etc), and that our body is built upon these capacities allowing them to be expressed. Herein is the more intimate relationship of soul+body found in Thomistic form of substance dualism. This is going further into my beliefs, but one capacity I believe our soul has is a spiritual capacity (e.g., our "eyes" to God or the spiritual world), yet this requires the spiritual bodily component in order to be expressed and function. I often refer to this "spiritual bodily form" as our spirit. Our spirit is what I believe died in us when we sinned against God, severing our relationship with Him. Now we have to be spiritually "born again" (John 3:3-8) in order to receive our spiritual body back which allows us to perceive and even experience God again.
Forgive me, but I think you've misunderstood your Thomism a bit. Thomists are NOT substance dualists. Here is a great little paper (only two pages) that details the differences in the Thomist and Cartesian approaches to the mind/body problem.
Moreland, who I am much in debt to for helping me to formulate my own beliefs re: this, defends the position of substance dualism which he defines as: "the view that the soul- I, the self, mind- is an immaterial substance different from the body to which it is related." So, "I am my soul and I have a body." (Moreland's Substance Dualism: Part 1)

If you can embrace these two statements in some way, then I believe you follow a form of substance dualism. Aquinas, as far as I am aware, never reduced his philosophy of human nature to that of property dualism. Many Thomists are in fact "substance dualists".
Jac wrote:In short, Cartesians consider human beings as composed of two separate substances, one being an immaterial mind (soul) and the other being a material body. The question, which I think is damning, for any Cartesian must be, how, by definition, can an immaterial substance interact with a material substance? Descartes' answer, that it did so in the penal gland in the center of the brain only moves the problem back one step, because it doesn't answer the question. There seems to be no way for an immaterial agent to be a material cause, for it was a material cause, it would render the agent material!
To quote from a paper I wrote:
The argument that we do not understand how a soul interacts with a physical body, appears to be based on an appeal to our ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam). For it assumes if we do not know “how” A causes B, especially if the two consist of different properties, that it is not reasonable to believe the two can interact. Yet, as Craig and Moreland point out, a tack can be moved by a magnetic field, and gravity acts on a planet millions of miles away. (Moreland and Craig, Philosophical Foundations, 260) Gravitational forces and magnetic fields appear to have very different properties to the solid and spatially located entities they affect, and although we may not understand “how” such interaction takes place, it nonetheless does—just as we are alert to causation between the mind and body. As another example, even if one is not a theist, most do not view it as inconceivable to believe that God (given God's existence) created the material universe and could act within despite each one being very different.

A second defense is that the question of “how” the mind interacts with the body may not even arise. As Craig and Moreland explain in depth:

"One can ask how turning the key starts a car because there is an intermediate electrical system between the key and the car's running engine that is the means by which turning the key causes the engine to start. The “how” question is a request to describe that intermediate mechanism. But the interaction between mind and body may, and most likely is, direct and immediate." (ibid., 244)

If the interaction is direct and immediate, as Thomists would tend to believe, then there is no reason to assume there is an intermediate mechanism that facilitates the interaction.
Jac wrote:Thomism has no such problem. It does not define a human being as being composed of two separate substances, but rather as being composed of one substance which, like all real things, is composed of both form and matter (I'm assuming that, being the Thomist you are, you are familiar with the terms). Form is, of course, immaterial, whereas matter is material. It is this fact that is so foundational that to take this away is to destroy the very foundation of Thomism as a system at all. But this fact also is the foundation of Thomist epistemology, which allows for real objectivity (contra Descartes), for it allows a way for external reality to actually get inside the mind, rather than only having a representation of reality in the mind. In any case, since all things have form and matter, all things have an immaterial and material aspect to them. Just so with humans. We have a form (our souls) and matter (our bodies). It is extremely important that one notice that the soul is form, and as form is not substance, we can in no way so that the soul is a substance separate from the body. Likewise, the body is matter, and as matter is not substance with form, so the body without the soul is not substance. Thus, we are not substance's that are informed by a soul, but rather, the human being, in Thomism, is a single substance composed of soul and body
You are correct Thomism does not leave itself open to this attack. Still, contemporary Thomists believe we are our soul and our material bodies depend upon the soul for their existence. There is a more intimate relationship with our soul being the "form" with certain inherent capacities (for sight, sound, smell, love, etc) and the "body" allow the capacities of the soul to be expressed. Although they may be interwoven together and work as a unity, they are still seen as two different substances exhibiting very different properties on each other. And I believe correctly so.

I do not know if this is "raw" Thomism, as I am only familiar with contemporary Thomistic thought re: human nature like that of Moreland.

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Re: Human "souls"

#11

Post by Jac3510 » Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:23 am

I'll let you spend more time getting to my last post, as per your first line in your response. I will, though, simply say that Moreland isn't a great source on this (despite my own reference). He has simply misunderstood Thomism in this regard, and lest that sound like some novice attacking an expert, it's no difficulty for me to provide more than a few "experts" themselves who point out that fact.

There is a "contemporary Thomism" that reinterprets Aquinas to be a substance dualist, but there is just no doubt that Thomism proper holds to a composition view--that is, the human being is one substance composed of a material and immaterial aspect.

Now, that doesn't mean that just because Thomism proper rejects substance dualism that substance dualism is necessarily wrong. Thomism isn't the Bible. It could well be wrong, and substance dualism could, in fact, be correct (although I certainly don't think so). In any case, a discussion on whether or not Thomism is substance dualism or not is an interesting debate, but I doubt either one of us would be very enthusiastic about it. If you want to continue to defend dualism, then we can continue the debate in that direction, regardless of what label we decide to put on it.

I have read your paper, btw. In my response to you, when I referenced Moreland, I had already googled "Thomism Substance Dualism." If you do so, you'll find the link I provided is the first; your paper is the second. If you want to use that as a basis of discussion, we can do that as well.

Anyway, I'll leave you to finish your response to my previous reply; I'll then reply there, and take your arguments from your paper if you like and we can discuss dualism vs. conditional unity and see how far we can get.

God bless
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And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Human "souls"

#12

Post by ageofknowledge » Tue Feb 17, 2009 5:59 am


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Re: Human "souls"

#13

Post by Kurieuo » Thu Feb 19, 2009 4:45 am

*nibble nibble*
Jac3510 wrote:
K wrote:This is like saying that any major Christian doctrine settled upon does not belong to classical Christianity because Greek's were big on thinking. Even if embedded in Greek thinking, this says nothing about the truth of such a concept. However, I think the concept of substance dualism can be found all the way back in Genesis and throughout the OT. Just like the concept of the Trinity is found in Scripture. In fact, substance dualism is I think more-so clear.
I'll comment your substance dualism shortly, but here I want to comment on your main criticism. Naturally, just because the Greeks had an idea, that doesn't mean it was wrong. To the contrary, I hold to very much of the same philosophy as Aristotle, being a Thomist myself. The point which I was making, however, is that the idea of substance dualism, especially in the Cartesian sense of the term, goes back to Plato. It doesn't originate in Scripture. That may Christians hold to it is due to popular culture and our broadly Greek perspective, I believe. But just because most Christians think that way doesn't make it the case.

So, technically, the origin of an idea doesn't deny its validity (to assert such would be to commit a genetic fallacy), the fact that this idea that we are souls who are driving around these things called bodies came from pagan Greek philosophy rather than from Scripture is a valid point to make. It is, I'm sure you agree, worth noting the origins of ideas, not to prove their rightness or wrongness, but to prove that they aren't a necessary part of a system.
Good we agree on something. Do you remember when we seemed to agree on a whole lot more? :lol:
Jac3510 wrote:
K wrote:Let me start up by saying that theologically and philosophically, I have researched the mind/body problem much and so have settled much my positions on these issues.
I'm sure. I've always appreciated your philosophical backgrounds in the discussions. I always thought it made things more productive!
Just thought I'd add I only mentioned this NOT to parade it as some sort of intellectual badge, but rather I think it is good to sometimes identify whether the ideas being discussed are being thought of on the spot (as often happens in forum discussions), or whether they have been more thoroughly thought through. In this case, I have thought my beliefs through but you'd still be surprised. Let me just say for now that Panentheism, the idea that everything has its existence in God and the belief that everything came from God (a spiritual being) seems to me a hard fit for substance dualism proper. ;)

Still, we quite intuitively distinguish between physical and mental properties as being quite different in the world we live. The mind/body issue in philosophy would not exist or make sense if we intuitively saw they are the same. Yet, what is physical seems very different to that which is not like mental thoughts. As my paper you found attempts to demonstrate, mental and physical states are quite distinct. I also note in my paper the arguments presented favour property dualism (one substance expressing mental and physical properties). There are various types of property dualism, the most popular being epiphenomenalism (which I am quite sure, or at least hope, you do not advocate - at least I would be quite perplexed if you did). As a Christian, I think one ought to be clear about what they see this one substance is. Without proper reasoning it seems absurd to me to just assume it is so when the contrary seems the case.
Jac wrote:
K wrote:When you read OT Scripture "soul" nearly always appears to be represented as a physical body+spirit (where spirit often Scripturally represents one's vitality and essense). Substance-wise, the OT appears to make no distinction between soul and spirit. In Ecclesiastes 12:7 we read when we die, "the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." I can not see how this is not supportive of substance dualism.
I follow you perfectly well until the last sentence. I can't see how it IS supportive of substance dualism. The fact that the OT speaks of the human being as ONE substance would strongly mitigate against the OT promoting substance dualism. To the contrary, this fact--the OT's apparent ignorance of substance dualism--is the major premise of soul sleep. It is telling that when people argue against that doctrine, they spend most of their time in the NT. If the OT held to substance dualism, you would expect opponents of soul sleep to be referring to the repeated dualist passages in the OT. But, there are none, and that, I think, because the Bible does not teach substance dualism.
The passage in question speaks of the physical and immaterial. If this is not substance dualism, I don't know what is. Where does the OT speak of the human being as ONE substance? My words only convey that in OT Scripture "soul" when used often represents the entire human being. This does not rule out whether such a being is made of one or two substances (and I think Genesis 2 provides a good scriptural basis for a body+spirit complex).

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Re: Human "souls"

#14

Post by obsolete » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:35 pm

Isn't to believe in an afterlife believing in substance duelism? There are many other religions that believe that a person has a soul. Unless you believe in reincarnation, or the atheist.
In Ecclesiastes 12:7 we read when we die, "the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." I can not see how this is not supportive of substance dualism.
I have to agree with Kurieuo from this Biblical stance. If this were not so I don't think that the Holy Spirit would have allowed Paul to write it.
Jesus died for ALL. End of story.

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Re: Human "souls"

#15

Post by Kurieuo » Tue Feb 24, 2009 3:14 am

obsolete wrote:Isn't to believe in an afterlife believing in substance duelism? There are many other religions that believe that a person has a soul. Unless you believe in reincarnation, or the atheist.
In Ecclesiastes 12:7 we read when we die, "the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." I can not see how this is not supportive of substance dualism.
I have to agree with Kurieuo from this Biblical stance. If this were not so I don't think that the Holy Spirit would have allowed Paul to write it.
I think you might be confusing Ecclesiastes with Ephesians (i.e., Paul writing it)?? :wave:

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