The Dialectic of Soul and Body
Dr. William Hasker evaluates Thomist anthropology and the anthropology of J.P. Moreland. He concludes that both views seem to point towards a dualism stemming from an emergent soul. Dr. Stewart Goetz comments on his argument.
Our philosophical discussions of substance dualism almost invariably begin with Descartes, of the challenges and difficulties that arise from his version of mind-body dualism. In many ways this is justified Descartes was arguably the first to discern clearly the challenge to our understanding of the human person, posed by the rise of mechanistic Natural Science, and his view set the stage for many of the subsequent debates on the topic. But there’s another older tradition of substance dualism one that still has numerous adherents and they could be seen as offering correctives to some of their Descartes more questionable claims and embassies. I’m speaking of Thomas Aquinas’ version of dualism, one which follows Aristotle in designating the human soul as the form of the human body. The present discussion will be directed at his version of dualism and we’ll also consider some other views that show some promise of overcoming objections to Aquinas’ view. The Thomistic doctrine of the soul as the form of the body has all the right intentions, it aims to promote a close integration of soul and body and more broadly of the human person with the overall world of nature, yet it does this without denying or minimizing the distinctive attributes of human beings as rational, moral, and religious creatures. And while emphasizing that the normal and the best state for human beings is as embodied persons, it makes room for their persistence disembodied after biological death, and their eventual re-embodiment in the resurrection. It’s all the more regrettable then that the view as usually understood, cannot accomplish these goals in a way that makes it a good candidate for our acceptance, at least that’s what I’m going to argue. I’ll then go on to consider a modification of the view that remedies the flaws, noted in the standard version but in the process becomes vulnerable to new and also formidable objections. Finally I’ll present an additional option one that is slightly more distant from the Thomistic doctrine but that chairs enough is its assumptions and motivations to qualify as a worthy successor. I begin with a brief survey of Aquinas’ view of the soul following the exposition of that view by Eleonore Stump. The place to begin with is with Aquinas’ notion of form, specifically with his notion of substantial form. According to Stump, a substantial form, is the form and virtue of which a material composite is a member of the species to which it belongs and it that is the form configures prime matter. Prime matter is the ultimate featureless stuff of which everything material is composed. Prime matter never occurs in its purest state, it always comes configured by a substantial form of some kind. All material things are composed of matter and form and quote the complete form of the substantial and accidental forms taken together of a nonhuman material object, is the arrangement or organization of the matter of that object in such a way that it constitutes that object rather than some other one and gives that objects its causal powers.
An important point is expressed by that last clause given gives to the objects its causal powers, as well see the causal powers given to living creatures in particular the animals by their forms, are quite impressive. Also worthy of notice is specification to non-human material objects, humans are indeed material objects but the substantial form of a human being is a different sort than the form of other such objects, this contrast holds in particular between humans on the one hand and plants and animals on the other. Plants and animals have soul, the vegetative soul and the sensitive soul but quoting, unlike human souls, the souls of plants and non-human animals are nevertheless material forms, and even a material form that is a soul, goes out of existence when the material composite it configures, goes out of existence. Such a form is characterized by Stump as a configurational state of the matter which it informs, I think that’s a fortunate description. Human souls however, are another sort of thing in addition to material forms there are subsistent forms, these are immaterial rather than material. An angel for example is a subsistent immaterial form such subsistent forms can exist without there being any matter which they configure. According to Aquinas, if there is a subsistent forms, it is immediately an entity and one that is it’s a real thing in itself, not needing matter to enable it to exist, he also states, nothing keeps a form from existing without matter, even though matter cannot exist without a form.
Now it might occur to us at this point that employing the same term form to designate both these immaterial subsystem entities and the configurational states of material composites. Aquinas is equivocating on the word form, I’m inclined to think there’s something in this criticism but Stump explains the commonality of meaning by saying that for Aquinas to be configured to be is to be configured or to have a form, and everything material or immaterial is what it is in virtue of a form, since this is so, Aquinas is perfectly content to deny a matter of God but he refuses to deny, form of God being even Divine being is configured . The human soul however is different from other subsistent immaterial forms that it’s from God and the angels, in that the human soul unlike an angel does configure matter. Aquinas puts it like this, “The human whole soul has subsisted being “in so far as its being does not depend on the body “but it’s rather elevated above corporeal matter, “nevertheless the body receives a share in its being, “in such a way that there is one being of soul and body “and this is the being of a human.” Stems up, Stump sums the situation by saying, “So for Aquinas the human soul “is the noblest and highest “of the forms that configure matter, “but it’s the lowest in the rank “of intellectual and subsisted forms “because it’s mixed with matter, “as the intellectual subsistent forms “that are angels are not.” It remains to say something about the way in which the material composite which is a human being begins and ends its earthly existence. Aquinas thinks that a human being is generated, when the human soul replaces the merely animal soul of the fetus in the womb, and that a human being is corrupted or decomposed, when the human soul leaves the body and is replaced by whatever other substantial form is in the dead corpse. Note that it’s not a pre-existing human soul that replaces the animal soul in the fetus rather the soul is created and infused in the same instant, the soul is created as the soul of this particular body. According to Aquinas this occurs some 40 days after conception for a male and 80 days for a female. An interesting consequence of this is that an early stage fetus not only is not a human being but will never become a human being, when one substantial form replaces another, a new substance comes into being. The commonality between the old substance and the new consists merely in the prime matter which is the same in both. What we can say of a fetus then is that it consists in part of the prime matter that if all goes well, will in time come to be the prime matter of a human being.
There is much more in Aquinas’ view that invites discussion but the bare bones as set forth here should enable us to see how the view meets the desiderata listed at the beginning of the essay. By making the soul the form of the body which structures the body and enables its distinctive powers and activities, the view points us to a closer and more profound integration of the two, than is apparent either in the platonic dualism which Aquinas rejected or in modern Cartesian dualism at the same time the distinctive nature of the human soul as contrasted to the souls of animals makes it plain that humans are not merely animals, rather they are rational animals with all that implies. The fact that souls are subsistent immaterial forms means that they are fully capable of continuing to exist after physical death, albeit in an imperfect state that looks forward to the resurrection. One might well ask, what is there in all it’s not to like? Unfortunately the answer to that question is quite a bit, the problems I shall indicate become evident if the view is scrutinized in the light of certain developments in science and philosophy, developments which Aquinas could not have taken into account. I’ll now argue that one, this holistic view fails to convincingly integrate human beings with the rest of nature, two, the work actually done by the human soul following Aquinas theory is surprisingly limited, and three, the case for including such souls in our system as opposed to thinking of human beings as composed of matter and nothing else, or nothing but material forms is comparatively weak. Here’s the argument. I’ll begin by pointing out that by making the human soul so fundamentally different from the souls of animals, the view already postulates a pretty wide gap between humans and the rest of animate creation, a gap which is papered over but not narrowed by the claim that each has a soul which is the form of its body. Beyond this however, I claim that the work actually done by the human soul is surprisingly limited, in fact I shall argue that this work amounts practically just to the difference made to human life by the fact that humans are rational creatures, that’s no small matter to be sure, but it falls short of the wide-ranging influence on human biology one would expect, given that the soul is said to be the substantial form of the body. To see why I say this, consider that by the time the soul’s infused into the fetus, which may be a relatively late stage fetus if we follow Aquinas, most of the essential biological structures are already in place, albeit in early stages of development. Consider also that very similar structures exist in the fetal development of an animal, say a gorilla or a chimpanzee at a comparable stage. Now the chimpanzee fetus quite unaided by any subsisting immaterial form will naturally develop into the magnificent animals we’ve recently learned so much about through Jane Goodall and others for instance. This animal will function biologically in ways that are essentially similar to the functioning of a human being and will exist, but a rich and complex mental, emotional and social existence which while lacking in some of the distinctive features of human life, nevertheless compels our admiration and wonder. Must we not suppose that the human fetus if it were not infused with an immaterial soul would be capable of the same sort of development?
To this I will reply that the sensitive soul which is said to guide the development of the animal organism, does not continue in the human fetus but is rather replaced by the subsisting human soul. And on account of this it is indeed the immaterial human soul that guides and accounts for the development of the biological structures and functions of the mature organism. To which I reply, that’s what the theory says but this metaphysical fact, if it is a fact, seems to make no biological difference at all. According to the theory the human being which has an immaterial soul as its substantial form is a new substance different from the purely material substance of the fetus which previously existed, nothing carries over from the early fetus to the human being but prime matter. But a physician observing a fetus at the moment of infusion will not see its characteristic structures and processes suddenly disappear, in order to reappear an instant later under the supervision of the subsistent soul. Biologically everything carries on just as before, the only difference even granting the theory is that certain distinctively rational capacities will gradually become apparent, capacities which by hypothesis would not be present in the absence of an infused soul. It’s very difficult to avoid the impression that the configurational state of the organism, remains whether or not it’s still called the sensitive soul, and that it retains to the efficacy which it had before the soul’s infusion, and this of course leaves quite a lot less work to be done by the immaterial soul. This is what I meant by saying that practically speaking the difference made by the soul is limited to human rationality.
The other criticism is that the case for the existence of subsistence souls is weak. The main philosophical reason given for their existence is that the activity of reason has no material organ, unfortunately this is one point on which it’s very difficult for us to agree in the light of contemporary brain science. Stump for one simply admits that the traditional view is wrong about this. We should not however overlook the point that this is very nearly the only philosophical argument which is available for the immateriality of the soul. There will of course be the theological argument from an afterlife, but we would greatly prefer not to have a vitally important metaphysical position rest solely on such a theological arm, at least I would prefer that okay. But why must this be so, are there not other arguments which can be used and which are in fact to be used by duelists and others opposed materialism? Indeed there are. There’s the notorious hard problem of consciousness, the problem of some let’s put it, of how soggy gray brain stuff gives rise to technicolor phenomenology. There’s a problem of intentionality, how is it that a state of a physical system can represent, can mean something entirely different from itself perhaps something that does not exist at all? There’s a problem of teleology how can matter behave in a way that is genuinely purposive, as opposed to merely giving the impression of purpose due to clever design, say like a thermostat. In particular how can the course of our inquiries be oriented to the desire for truth, rather than being guided merely by the mechanistic processes of our bodies and nervous systems? There is one of my own favourites the unity of consciousness argument, how can a mere collection of physical parts exhibit a unified consciousness, given that a complex physical conscious state cannot exist parceled out among the many pieces of a complex physical system?
There are to be sure answers to these arguments by materialists and the controversy rages on. but for the Thomistic dualist there’s a more fundamental problem, namely this, the two Thomistic dualist, cannot use any of these arguments because she’s already conceded, all of the points in dispute. She holds that animals who by hypothesis have no subsistence souls but only the appropriate configuration of the material organism, exhibit all the phenomena in question. Sensory experience, pleasure and pain, intentionality, who that has loved and been loved by a dog, can doubt that a dog has ideas of particular individuals, purposefulness and unified states of consciousness. For her, none of these phenomena gives any purchase for an argument to the existence of an immaterial soul and other arguments that will serve that purpose for her may be hard to come by. Next we examine a version of dualism developed by J.P. Moreland. Actually Moreland’s dualism comes in two versions, corresponding to the two traditional Christian ideas about the origin of the soul, creationism and traducianism, Creationism is by far the majority Christian view, it holds that each human soul is directly and individually created by God, whereas traducianism holds that human souls are in some way derived from the parents, through the natural process of reproduction. We consider here Moreland’s creationist version. Moreland terms his view Thomistic substance dualism though he acknowledges that he deviates at some points from Aquinas’ view.
For our purposes three of these deviations are especially important, since they provide the key to alleviating the difficulties noted above for the original version. They are as follows, one, the possession of immaterial subsistence souls is not limited to human beings but rather is common to all animals indeed to all living things. Two the infusion of souls occurs not at a later stage in the development of the organism as it does for Aquinas, but rather at the very beginning for humans at the time of conception. Three the infused soul is unambiguously involved in and necessary for both the development of the essential biological organs and their successful functioning. It’s the third point that I take to be most central because it enables Moreland to make good on the full integration of soul and body that was aimed at, but not convincingly achieved in Aquinas’ original version. Here are some quotations which illustrate the nature and intimacy of the relation as Moreland conceives of it. The soul is a substance within essence or inner nature which contains as a primitive unity, a complicated structural arrangement of capacities and dispositions for developing a body. Taken collectively this entire ordered structure can be called the substance’s principle of activity and will be that which governs the precise ordered sequence of changes that the substance will go through in the process of growth and development. The various physical and chemical parts and processes including DNA are tools, instrumental causes, implied by higher order, employed by higher order biological activities in order to sustain the various functions grounded in the soul.
Thus the soul is the first efficient cause of the body’s development as well as the final cause of its functions and structure internally related to the souls essence. The functional demand of the souls essence determine the character of the tools but they in turn constrain and direct the various chemical and physical processes that take place in the body. Moreland sums up his view of the human organism in a series of points. The organism as a whole the soul is ontologically prior to its parts, the parts of the organisms body stand in internal relations to other parts and to the soul’s essence, they are literally functional entities; the heart functions literally to pump blood. The operational functions of the body are rooted in the internal structure of the soul. The body is developed and grows in the teleological way as a series of developmental events that occur in a law like way, rooted in the internal essence of the human soul. The efficient cause of the characteristics of the human body is the soul, the various body parts including DNA genes are important instrumental causes the soul uses to produce the traits that arise. This material elaborates the third of the points noted above in which Moreland deviates from Aquinas original version of Thomistic dualism. The other two points it will seem are natural compliments of the third, if it’s the soul that guides and directs the development of the organism throughout, then it’s appropriate and perhaps inevitable that this will begin to occur coinciding with the beginning of the organisms existence, rather than at some later time. The similarity in the biological growth and development between humans and other animals and plants argue strongly for a similarity in their basic causes, thus the attribution of immaterial subsistent souls to plants and animals as well as to humans. This does not mean of course that animal souls let alone those of plants are similar in all respects to those of humans.
We can gain some grasp of the differences by observing the differences in the capacities typically exercised by relative health adult members of the various species. Nevertheless the souls and animals and plants belong to the same metaphysical category, as the souls of human beings. This seems to be inherently plausible and also does much to bridge the ontological gulf between humans and other living creatures that in spite of all good intention, still remains for Aquinas’ version of dualism. Even this brief somewhere I believe is sufficient to indicate that Moreland’s view of the soul body relationship is well developed and deeply considered, it’s a view that demands in turn our serious consideration the view clearly overcomes all three of the objections urged against the original version of Thomistic dualism. In the light of the quotations above the close integration of soul and body requires no further comment. But the view also makes it possible as Thomas’s own view does not, for its advocate to utilize the full battery of arguments critical of materialism and in favor of dualism, this is because Moreland unlike Thomas does not at the outset, concede to the materialist the phenomena that are the basis for those arguments. Since the active involvement of the soul is said to be essential from the very beginning of the organisms life and development, and for animals as well as for human beings, Moreland has no need and no inclination to conceive that such phenomena as qualia, intentionality, purpose, and unified consciousness can be adequately explained by structures and processes that are wholly material. Admittedly, arguments based on these phenomena can and will be resisted by materialists and this debate shows no sign of ending in the foreseeable future. But a dualist who has access to these arguments has available formidable dialectical resources for advocating and defending her view. Something which as we have seen is not the case for the traditional Thomistic dualism.
Now the downside. [laughs] There are hell for at least two major areas in which Moreland version of dualism encounters new problems of its own, problems that were not an issue for Aquinas’ view. First of all it’s abundantly clear from the material quoted above that the view is committed to, excuse me I have pages stick together, to vitalism which holds definition first that in every living organism there is an entity that is not exhaustively composed of inanimate parts and second that the activities characteristic living organisms are due in some sense to the activities of this entity. Now it’s an undisputed fact that vitalism has had an extended history in the biological sciences has been advocated by many prominent biologists. It’s also a fact however that the view has lost credibility for almost all biologists for about a century, it’s now universally regarded as a failed research program that has been abandoned for good reason. The association of Moreland version of dualism with this failed research program is not to put it gently, a point in its favor. Moreland is aware of this complaint and devotes some effort to defending his view against it, and brief his answer is, is the cruder forms of vitalism in the past were rightly rejected because they make unjustified assumptions concerning the individual essence, assumptions which his view has no need to accept. He goes on to say that a more adequate vitalism which wish to use his term of the Thomistic substance view and we prefer the term organicism, grounds the doctrine of substance and factors like an irreducible organic holistic relation among parts to parts and parts to whole, the species specific eminent laws of organization and development and the internal structural form and normal functioning found in living things.
The features to which Moreland appeals here can be grouped under the general label of antireductionism and he clearly believes that biological research gives some support to such claims even though as I trust he would admit the specific claim about the entity that it is not exhaustively composed of inanimate parts, whose activities are responsible for the activities characteristic of living organisms, this is generally rejected by biologists. That is that they may accept antireductionism, but they don’t accept this immaterial substance. Perhaps he hopes that this more specific claim will eventually be supported by a vitalist research program that’s better conceived than those that have been abandoned. Or he may consider that the more specific claim is not one that can be expected to have observable biological consequences and thus is outside the scope of a legitimate biological research program, either way he seeks to insulate his view from the failure that such endeavors have met with in the past, whether this is a promising and attractive line to take I have to leave it to you to decide. The other major difficulty for Moreland’s version of Thomistic dualism is found in the theory of biological evolution it’s quite difficult to see how his theory can be reconciled with any plausible version of evolutionary theory.
The options are narrowed considerably when Moreland states quote for the Thomist, a genus and species in the category of substance are not degreed properties that is either they are fully predicable of an entity, or they are absence, an entity either is or is not a human person or some other type of person. This is admirably clear and definite and it rules out immediately the widely held notion that in a broad evolutionary perspective, biological classification such as genus and species are blurred and mutable. To be sure it need not be the case that species in Moreland’s metaphysical sense masks directly onto the biological concept of species, a concept which is itself very much in dispute. But in view of the detailed way in which the soul directs and energizes the development of the organism, the kinds of souls must themselves be very numerous, kinds of organisms that are different in any major or substantive way, will need to have different kinds of souls overseeing their growth and functioning. These species of souls, furthermore are immutable and immutably distinct nor is it all plausible in the light of this view that God first waits until a suitably advanced organism has evolved and then supplies a new soul with enhanced capabilities to animate it. For one thing, this would contradict the fundamental assumption that the organism as a whole that is the soul, is ontologically prior to its parts, parts such as DNA for example. Nor would such a view make sense biologically. Absent the right sort of soul, the DNA that codes for evolutionary advance would be non-functional, and would not be preserved by evolutionary selection.
So far as I can see, the only variety of evolution compatible with Moreland’s view would be one in which God simultaneously brings about the desired change in the mechanisms of heredity DNA and so on and also produces a new kind of soul with the capability to develop and energize the new higher organism. But this of course would not by any means be evolution as a natural process, and we can confidently predict that it would be rejected by evolutionary biologists, theists and non-theists alike. The more likely position for one who accepts this variety of dualism is the theory of progressive creation, according to which God from time to time creates ex nihilo, new kinds of organisms as the surrounding environment has become ready to accept and support them. Moreland himself probably would not see this as a defect of his view, since he may already be inclined for other reason to accept both progressive creationism and the intelligent design theory which provides support for creationism. For those of us on the other hand who regard such a process as unpromising, the evolutionary objection forms a formidable barrier to acceptance of his creationist version of dualism. This point I must acknowledge that the objections I’ve raised against both Aquinas’ original version of dualism and Moreland’s adaptation of it, are not likely to prove compelling to everyone.
I hope however that I’ve done enough to motivate us to consider an additional view on the soul body relation, a view that has enough in common with the Thomistic doctrine that it can be recognized as a kindred attempt to reach some of the same objectives to this alternative we now turn. And this surprise is emergent dualism okay. the final view to be considered did not grow out of the Thomistic tradition that it can be viewed as standing a certain dialectical relation to the views already surveyed. The original Thomistic view establishes a kind of balance between the capabilities attributable to matter, that is made material stuff plus the material forms including the vegetative and sensitive soul, and those attributed to immaterial divinely created souls. Matter in the material form suffice for all subhuman life-forms and for the earlier stages of human developments where as immaterial subsistence tools are required for human rationality and everything that goes with it. I’ve argued that this balance tends to be unstable and that the Thomist has few resources with which to oppose the counterclaim but the inherent powers of matter in the material forms, suffice for human life as well. Moreland’s version of Thomistic dualism, tilts the balance decisively in favor of the divinely created souls, such souls are essential for both the development and the functioning of the organism at all stages of its life. The genetic and other materials present at the beginning of life, have the status merely of tools, instrumental causes employed by higher order biological activities in order to sustain the various functions grounded in the soul, but they are incapable of creating and sustaining life on their own, absence the active powers of the soul; even a blade of grass, needs a soul to enable it to function. Arguably such a view is more coherent internally than the original Thomistic version but as we’ve seen it runs afoul of conclusions that are widely held to have been established by the biological sciences, evolution and so on.
The view now to be considered, tilts the balance in the opposite direction in favor of powers held to be inherent in the nature of matter itself, it amounts then to embracing the alternative that was seen to be threatening to the original to Thomistic doctrine, the view that the powers inherent in matter are sufficient for humans and all of its aspects, human life and all of its aspects, the human soul we shall say is a new substance which emerges from the living functioning human body and particular from the human brain and nervous system the view in other words, is one of emergent dualism. I might say this is similar in many ways to Tim O’Connor’s view which we presented, only on this view there is a new substance, a new thing, a new entity, the soul that doesn’t happen according to O’Connor. This sort of view immediately raises a host of questions only a few of which can be addressed in the space available here. One point to notice is that while the Thomist view of the soul is not generally thought of as emergentist, the notion of emergence is not really foreign either to Aquinas or to Moreland. According to Stump, mental properties are emergent on Aquinas’ view hence* far as there are features which are dependent on the configuration and composition of the whole. Moreland goes even further, when setting out the traducian variant of his theory and this is the one he really believes, he states that quote, “The union of sperm and egg “amounts to a form of substantial change “in which two different entities come together “and this gives rise to the emergence “of a new substantial whole, a soul.” Moreland’s view on this traducian interpretation is itself a version of emergent dualism, so welcome to the club J.P.! [Audience laughs] There are certain difficulty, differences between the emergent dualism proposed here and Moreland’s version but we won’t take time to discuss those differences now.
Perhaps the most important questions that need to be addressed revolve around the worry that if we adopt this view we shall be conceding too much to the materialists, and we’ll be unable to maintain the distinctive character and dignity of human persons, to say nothing of their destiny and an afterlife. I don’t believe this worry is justified, it’s true that emergent dualism attributes some rather remarkable powers to ordinary matter, though not a great deal more than is the case on Stumps version of Aquinas and arguably less than with Moreland’s traducian variation. There are however a number of arguments available to us, that show the inadequacy of the currently popular forms of materialism. I mentioned these and I won’t go over them again, except I want to say a little bit about the unity of consciousness argument, which is what on my view forces us to affirm an immaterial substance, here the question is when we’re aware of a complex state of consciousness, what is it that experiences this awareness. It’s out of the question, the complete complex state of consciousness should in its totality by, it be experienced by say a single neuron let alone by a single atom or a single elementary particle. But here’s the key insight. A complex state of consciousness cannot exist divided among the parts of a complex physical object, even if each bit of the conscious state were encoded in say a single neuron, that would still leave unanswered the question, what is it that is aware of the conscious state as a whole? And the answer to this I maintain, must be found in the emergent soul. As Leibniz said long ago, “It’s in the simple substance “and not in the composite or in the machine “that one let’s look for perception.” It should be evident however, that a full appreciation of this or any of the other arguments would require a much fuller discussion than I can give here.
Finally, what of the life to come? If the mind or soul is a distinct substance and not merely an aspect of the physical organism, then it’s at least logically possible for it to exist apart from the organism, after the latter has decayed in death. On the other hand, if the organism and the self are the same thing, it looks like when you die you’re gone, that’s the problem that Tim was wrestling with yesterday. To be sure, the soul is initially generated from that very same organism and it’s ordinary functioning sustained by it, but it’s open to us, to suppose, that once generated, the soul acquires the capability to exist on its own after the death of the body or if not that, then that it can be sustained in existence by God in the absence of its ordinary bodily support, actually some supposition like that is needed by any view that extends the possession of souls even to animal in general that is that the soul can be sustained by God absent the body, assuming that we don’t wish to hold that all animals are naturally immortal. By way of summary, the hypothesis of emergent dualism accomplishes all of the desiderata for a mind body theory set out at the beginning of this lecture, it betrays a close integration between soul and body and between the human person and the rest of nature it also enables us to honor the distinctive excellences of human beings and to affirm their existence in an afterlife after biological death, arguably it’s more successful in the task of integration than is the original Thomistic dualism since it does not postulate a soul which is immediately created by God, it has no need to defend such a view, furthermore it’s well placed to use any or all of a battery of arguments directed against the currently fashionable varieties of materialism unlike Moreland’s version of Thomistic dualism, it’s not committed to any form of vitalism nor is it obliged to defend the absolute fixity of species whether they be species of biological organisms or of souls without doubt there’s much more that can be said for and against such a view but my time is gone so I have to leave that for later discussion, thank you. [audience applauds]
The last time Bill and I were paired together was, I don’t know if you remember this, about 30 years ago and you gave the paper on agent causation and I not being a fan of agent causation, it sparked some real, I remember I think was Richard Purtill had stood up and said maybe I can find some peace between you guys and but I won’t be that way today though, Professor Hasker begins by focusing on the standard to mystic doctrine of the soul, I’m largely sympathetic with his assessment of standard Thomism for example if the human soul is the form of the body, the work that it does seems as Hasker points out surprisingly limited by the time the human souls infused into the fetus most of the essential biological structures are in place they’ll develop to a limited degree as Bill points out and the fetus of an animal like a chimpanzee which will never be informed by a rational, immaterial soul will develop into an adult with a psychological life that includes pains, pleasures and perhaps some degree of emotion but if a material form can give rise to this kind of psychological life, the subject of psychological properties need not be something immaterial, some kind of dual aspect theory seems to capture adequately what goes on in the psychology of beasts so the only thing for which an immaterial soul is needed on the standard Thomistic view is reasoning. If I read Hasker correctly he thinks standard Thomism about the soul leaves us with little or no reason to believe in the existence of the immaterial soul after all if experiences are of pain and pleasure, intentionality, purposeful action and the unity of consciousness can all be had by non-human animals that are infused within material forms what grounds is left for believing in the immaterial soul, he turns to the thought of Professor Moreland who advocates a non-standard form of Thomism dualism, I’m going to try and link these because JP is up next. Moreland’s non-standard Thomism dualism is fundamentally motivated by cartesian intuitions. I’ve been here for four months, practically every time I came in to Biola I was picked up by JP Moreland and the first thing he’d ever say to me when I get into the car was welcome to paradise Goetz, I’m from Pennsylvania but I got the little give and take with him on his Thomism form of dualism which I find interesting is actually grounded in Cartesian intuitions and I’ll just read some of these to you, I just picked five here’s what Moreland thinks are the justifications for believing in the soul. One I have the deep intuition that I cannot exist in degrees, if I lose say half of my body or brain, I do not become half of a person, I am an all-or-nothing kind of being, I’m either there or not there. Two I have the deep intuition that my consciousness is unified at a moment of time, at any given time my mental states, my thoughts and sensations are all seamlessly united in a single stream of consciousness that is mine and I have no difficulty in identifying which mental states are mine. Three I have the deep intuition that my consciousness is unified across time as I move from one room of my home to another I seem to be the same person that lives through and owns each successive experience of my home. Four, I have strong intuitions of psychological criteria of personal identity in terms of memories character and personality traits are neither necessary nor sufficient for my continued identity through change, thus I could remain the same person where I’d undergo a change in personality and lose some or all of my memories and just because the personality in memories that I have never changed does not guaranteed that I remain as the same person another person might have the same personality in memories and that person not be me. Five, I have strong intuitions that I and my body have different persistence conditions, conditions that if fulfilled entail that the same entity continues to exist, for example I could continue to exist as the same person with less than a fully intact body, I could lose an arm or a leg or a different body or no body at all. Now according to Moreland, the best explanation of one through five these different things that he him Cartesian intuitions is that I’m at I am directly aware of myself as a simple non extended indivisible spiritual substance because I’m directly aware of myself as such a substance, I have the intuitions described in one through five in short the intuitions captured in one through five, I quote J.P. here, “are easily unified if they’re grounded “in a direct awareness of the self “as a simple spiritual substance “and they are hard to unify and justify otherwise.” End of quote.
Now as Hasker states, Moreland ‘s view of the soul is too Thomistic insofar as it asserts that the soul is involved in and necessary for both the development of bodily organs and their successful functioning. By contrast, Descartes believed that the soul did not give life to and facilitate the develop the body. *In conversation in the car coming in the morning,* I have asked Moreland if he’s aware from the first-person perspective of informing and giving life to his body, and he has denied that he is. However he has told me that in addition to the five Cartesian considerations that I’ve already mentioned plus a couple of others he has, he’s also aware from the first-person perspective of being spatially present in the entirety at the points in space occupied by his physical body. In other words if you all just sit there right now, sitting there, you could feel yourself like you feel like you’re present in your hands and your feet and your head and Moreland cites this as a first-person datum. Descartes as traditionally understood denies this kind of spatial location to the soul that was affirmed by Aquinas and by Moreland. Hasker says that Thomism has all the right intentions when it aims to promote a close integration between soul and body by making the soul the form of and giver of life to the body? However what is an adequate account of the integration of the soul and the body? Moreland’s told me, again in conversation, that he would still be a soul body dualist and believe the soul is closely enough integrated with its body even if he were to become convinced that the soul while causally interacting with and occupying the same space as its physical body, did not inform it or give it life. So he would still be a dualist. Presumably he would consider this an adequate account of the integration of the soul and the body. But if that’s the case, what is sufficient for being an adequate account of the integration between the soul and body? As a substance dualist myself, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how to answer that question I lean toward what I think of as a kind of C.S. Lewis, mere dualist position, take Lewis’s mere Christianity translate it over, and you get mere dualism.
I’m committed like Moreland and Hasker to affirming what I know about myself in the first-person perspective, here I include that I am a substantively simple entity, I have no substantive parts with various psychological powers and capacities, and that I regard a certain physical thing as my body because one, I seem to fill it, I’m with Moreland on this, I do seem to fill the space occupied by my physical body, two when certain things are done to it, I experience say pleasure and pain and three, when I intend and choose for purposes to act and move, it moves and the idea here is precisely what professor Swinburne was referring to yesterday when we intend to do certain things, our bodies move and Jeffery Schwartz, when we kind of refocus our attention, we’re affecting our brains. So I think we have this, we regard this body as I would regard it as mine because I can actively impact it. Perhaps I give life to my body, perhaps I don’t, while I believe I causally interact with my body, I wouldn’t be uncomfortable with admitting that I don’t. Perhaps occasionalism is true. For those of you not familiar with these philosophical crazy distinction some might think, on an occasionalist view, every time I intend that my body move in a certain way, God causes it to move, I don’t, and so on every occasion that I attend, God will produce the motion. Perhaps leibnizian pre-established harmony is true. Whichever of these positions is correct, I consider what I’ve just said about what I am aware of from the first person perspective to provide an adequate account of my integration with my body but maybe I’m wrong about that. What now about the coming into existence of the soul? Hasker advocates an emergent dualism which says roughly that when the human brain and nervous system reaches a sufficient degree of complexity, a new substance soul, emerges ex nihilo The more traditional Christian theistic view which I’ll just refer to as the traditionalist account is that God directly creates the soul ex nihilo. Is either of these views preferable to the other, because according to it the soul is more closely integrated with its body? Again I’m not sure how to answer that question, but once again I lean toward a mere dualism. I believe that I am a metaphysically contingent soul and ultimately depend for my existence at every moment that I do exist, on the creative preservative power of God, while I believe that God directly created me, my soul ex nihilo.
So I’m a traditionalist I right now believe that God created me as a soul and continues directly to preserve me in existence largely for the reason that Hasker cites which is that the power to bring something into existence ex nihilo is a remarkable power, so that with Bill’s view I’m always just a little uneasy bringing something into existence ex nihilo just seems to me to be absolutely a remarkable power and to think that something material has it, uh, I don’t know that’s not the best fit. But again, if I were to learn or become convinced that God did not create my soul ex nihilo but rather I was brought into existence by some complex arrangement of material parts, I would be okay with that. Given that Hasker believes creation ex nihilo, [clears throat] excuse me, is a remarkable power, why does he believe God has bestowed it on matter? In his book, The Emergent Self, Hasker says the following I’m gonna give us a lengthy quote here from Hasker. If we persist in supposing that at least some animals enjoy mental lives, we have to suppose them endowed with souls, then at least some animal, we have to suppose them endowed with souls in the same sense in which humans are so endowed and this in turn leads into a whole tangle of intriguing questions. The doctrine of the special creation of individual souls will then have to be extended from the human case to all other in soul creatures. This may not seem terribly problematic as applied to dolphins and horses, but it boggles the mind, when we* come to slugs termites and mosquitoes. [clears throat] Excuse me. It does seem that some responses do from dualists on these issues. Still more difficult however is the problem that arises with cloning or with other situations in which an animal is physically divided into parts, with each part subsequently developing into a complete organism, prior to the division there’s one animal and one soul, afterwards there are two animals and two souls, but where does the additional soul come from? Are we to suppose that God is so to speak on call to provide an additional soul whenever one is required. And finally there’s the difficulty that there does not seem to be any plausible or natural way to incorporate Cartesian souls into the process of biological evolution, should we suppose that once an organism has physically evolved God creates, should we suppose that once an organism has physically evolved, God creates for it an appropriately different kind of soul than that which animated its forebearers, that’s Hasker.
Now here’s a Hasker’s own view, “This theory emergent dualism,” I’m quoting him here, “is completely free of embarrassment “over the souls of animals, “animals have souls just as we do, “their souls are less complex “and sophisticated than ours “because generated by less complex nervous systems.” End quote. On Hasker’s view then, matter was created by God, so that when it evolved to a certain level of complexity, it had the power to create souls ex nihilo, moreover God created matter so that when it reached other developmental milestones of less complexity, it had the power to create beastly souls of different kinds, dolphins, horses etc ex nihilo. But won’t Hasker have to face the question, of where in the evolutionary process an arrangement of matter first reached a level of complexity sufficient for the remarkable power of creating souls of some kind ex nihilo. In his words quote, “It boggles the mind “when we come to slugs, termites and mosquitoes, “it does seem that some responses “do from traditional dualists,” like me, “on these issues.” End quote. But does Hasker owe us a response? And it seems to me he does if the traditional dualist owes a response on this. My point’s as follows, there are intrusions into the evolutionary story both in an account where God directly creates souls of different kinds ex nihilo and on an account where he does so indirectly by endowing matter with this remarkable power. It’s hard for me to see at least how one account has a leg up on the other with respect to the evolutionary story. Perhaps the preference for one account over or the other is a matter of personal taste. Hasker sees the traditional account as requiring God to get his hands dirty too often. The traditionalist sees Hasker’s account as incorporating a view of God as a kind of distant figure. At Dean Zimmerman’s talk last night I thought it was interesting, Dean painted this picture, oh yeah I think the word he used was neater, the emergentist view is just a neater picture, and then Jeffrey Swartz I believe if I understood this right shot back, “Well I think my picture’s neater”, and then I think you said it was a value judgment at that point. Here I want to stress once again, I’m going to close here, by saying that I’m inclined to evoke, invoke mere dualism and say I’m committed to affirming that I and other souls are metaphysically contingent and ultimately dependent for their existence at every moment like myself on the creative preservative power of God. While I’m inclined toward the traditional view of the soul’s origin, I can intellectually live with Hasker’s account, surely in the end, in the end be convinced of it. But unless there’s some way to draw up widely accepted necessary and sufficient conditions for what accounts as a closed integration of soul and body, all of these seem to me to be matters of this family dispute. And there we go. [Audience applauding]
Well strange as it might seem we’re running precisely on schedule. [Audience laughs] and that means, we’ll have a panel discussion after our second session, where we’ll have an opportunity for some more dialogue between Professor Gats and Professor Hasker, but we have now 10, 15 minutes or so for some QA directed for Professor Hasker. So can I ask you to come up again and field some questions? Fantastic. So we’ve got about 10 minutes or so for some Q&A.
I thought he was gonna let you go but he didn’t let either, any of us go. [Attendee laughs]. I see a hand here. Are you doing? Okay yeah so.
Professor Hasker, I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t have your paper in front of me, so I have to depend upon what I heard.
So you’ll forgive me, if I misheard your paper but I think some of your critique of Thomas Aquinas is inapposite in this sense, for instance, when you talk about the fetus and the development of the fetus before what was it the 40 days.
The fetus has a soul yeah.
That seems to me, what you’re doing there, is you’re critiquing the Thomistic theory as if it were an empirical theory and you’re showing it’s disconfirmed and that’s one thing, I mean that’s, to treat Thomism as a kind of a scientific theory and saying well it’s disconfirmed, we now know that that isn’t the case, that is not a philosophical critique right, I mean you’d have to work within the assumptions of St. Thomas in order to actually give a philosophical critique of St. Thomas, but what you’ve done there is an inapposite* critique of saying well it’s a disconfirmed empirical theory but that doesn’t really affect some of the ideas of what St. Thomas is actually saying from a philosophical perspective. And then well I mean I have a have a number of,
Well let me let me respond to that, first of all I fully admit that Thomas’s theory is consistent with I mean philosophically it’s consistent with the view that the soul is infused at the moment of conception and but I mean this is what he says, so I’m commenting on his theory and I don’t see that it’s inapposite in the sense that I’m asking whether Thomas’s theory is one that that we can and should accept today. Now if we make that modification, most of my criticisms still remains, so that that isn’t oh I think it’s kind of interesting that his view has those weird consequences, that’s not the center of my, the central part of my critique.
And then with respect to the angels, the discussion of the subsistent forms I think I think with respect to angelic forms, I think we need to discuss the distinction between essence and existence that Thomas had because he believes that these forms can exist disembodied because God is the ultimate ground of being and therefore that he provides the, he provides the being for these disembodied forms, so this is how,
I didn’t comment on anyway on that topic, so I don’t see how it’s relevant
Okay I’m sorry.
Yeah I mean sure, what you’re saying is true of course, but I don’t see how it’s a comment on my paper.
Thank you Dr. Hasker, great instruction there. I had a question at the end of your discussion you were critiquing Moreland’s view of traducianism, and your critique as I understood again, these are my hand notes you can correct me, is you were saying, he’s really welcome to the, as an emergent dualism.
Well I mean he is an emergent dualist
Yeah, yeah , okay.
So it’s not a critique it’s he brings,
That’s not my question.
Okay okay, yeah.
I just want to, okay. So welcome your emergent dualist but your criticism of that view of traducianism as emergent dualism is that you believe this view gives too much power to emergence then right after that you go to your explanation at the,
No no, I’m sorry emergent dualism is my view I mean.
Okay let me just try to get the question out, then you can see if I got it, okay.
Okay okay, okay okay.
The idea is that you yeah you’re critiquing traducianism Moreland’s view of emergent dualism, okay maybe I can get it out, and then you can—oh yeah get it out, get it out
Correct me okay…
I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Emergent dualism and you just made the comment I’ve written down actually your words that you said believes that you believe this view just gives your uncomfortableness with traducianism,
Moreland’s view is that, it gives too much power to emergence there and then you go at the end and you say my view of emergent dualism of course has to explain also life after death. So at the end of life then there’s an emergence that comes about, and I guess my question is why is Moreland wrong to assert that at the beginning of life and you’re right to assert it at the end of life?
I guess I have trouble with all of this, I do not critique the criticism of Moreland or the criticisms of the creationist version, now I do have some differences with Moreland on his traducian version but I didn’t go into those at all, so I wasn’t critiquing that that in any way, so I just again, it doesn’t seem, I don’t see how this registers on my view. I mean I know I presented my view very briefly at the end, so it’s understandable that it wasn’t fully clear and I’m sorry for that.
Oh Doctor Hasker, I remember a while ago I read about an experiment that was very very interesting, where they taken a circuit board and or and then made random variations of the circuit board and then tested them to see if they could actually determine between words yes or no. And of these circuit boards they threw out through under the crusher all the ones that didn’t end up even registering anything and then over generations, they ended up with a circuit board that could actually distinguish between the word yes and no and actually put out a signal that indicated that it perceived that. Okay so here you have a device that basically evolved to perceive and you see exactly the same thing in nature where you see voila predators actually focusing in on the color red because that happens to correspond with you know hemoglobin, okay. So these things actually evolved to perceive and survive. Now when you have a body that perceives, isn’t it kind of redundant to also have a soul that perceives and instead maybe you have a soul that hijacks a perceiving body, so I’m just basically saying we’re probably not going to be doing calculus in heaven.
Yeah well in order to answer an answer that I would have to go into the arguments that are critical of materialism, which I did not have a chance to develop. I mean I just couldn’t develop those in the paper, however I just I will you know reference again the unity of consciousness argument when I have a conscious experience, what is it that has that experience? And I maintain, it can’t, the experience can’t be divided up among many different parts or elements in my body. But again to answer that in full would be several more other lectures I think honestly. So excuse me but I have to say read my book, [laughs] okay?
I’m a little bit skeptical of your reasons for rejecting vitalism, just because scientists or something like vitalism, just because scientists no longer hold it, doesn’t mean it was ever refuted, and I think of somebody like Rupert Sheldrake, when you look at the issues of morphogenesis, like how the cells know how to differentiate into the right patterns, first of all there seems to be way more information in the three-dimensional structure of the body than contained in the DNA, that’s one problem and so very difficult to see how chemical gradients or anything like that could do the job. So Sheldrake, and he’s probably the most one that pushes this line the most but other people dealing with morphogenesis have similar problems, he pushes the line that there’s some kind of morphic field or some invisible field that directs it. Now that is sounding to me similar at least to JP’s idea of the soul. So I would be, and one more analogy I’d make there that the very, it’d be like somebody’s saying, rejecting dualism because most neuroscientists if you took a poll of most neuroscientist probably 99% would not be dualist but we wouldn’t think that was a good necessarily a good reason for rejecting dualism.
Well of course philosophers disagree about everything as you know whereas among scientists we hope for some sort of consensus. But really I mean I take your point seriously and it may be that what you’ve indicated is you might say the germ or the beginning of a research program that will reinvigorate vitalism, so I don’t in principle, I don’t have any objection to what you’re saying, I mean, I think empirically it’s the fact that the view was held tenaciously for quite a long period of time and then has been abandoned because apparently it didn’t provide illumination in biological research but it could be re, it could be revived that’s certainly possible.