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Logic & First Principles, 22: Is there room for fresh (hylemorphically shaped?) thinking on minds, souls and bodies?

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In recent weeks, UD has been looking at the logic of being of minded intelligence, especially, embodied intelligence. One of the pivotal insights is outlined by Victor Reppert — pardon a bit of review:

. . . let us suppose that brain state A [–> notice, state of a wetware, electrochemically operated computational substrate], which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief [–> concious, perceptual state or disposition] that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

As a part of that discussion, I put on the table, an extension of Derek Smith’s two-tier controller bio-cybernetic loop model, identifying the higher order controller with a supervisory oracle:

A core issue is, that computational substrates are just that: GIGO-limited dynamic-stochastic systems, not freely rational insight-driven intelligences. Where, a general dynamic-stochastic system can be envisioned on a generic, feedback model (feedback being central to having memory and reflexive cause-effect capacity):

Are we looking at a contradiction, through self-referential undermining of the credibility of our claimed rationality and warrant, thus our knowledge base? No, though this does undermine evolutionary materialistic approaches, which would indeed reduce mindedness to computation and thus self-discredit. Cases in point, are legion, Alex Rosenberg and Crick being current exhibits A and B. Similar challenges go back through Skinner, Freud, Marx, Darwin and more. A jumped up monkey brain model is rife with the sort of difficulties JBS Haldane long since identified:

“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (NB: DI Fellow, Nancy Pearcey brings this right up to date (HT: ENV) in a current book, Finding Truth.)]

But, isn’t there an equal problem, to account for how some ghost comes to possess and take control of the bio-cybernetic machine? Again, no, once we consider that quantum influence is possible so that a supervisory oracle can be present and effective. In this context, I have used the artifice — or, conceptual window — of asking us to ponder how a fifth dimension entity can intersect with any locus (in principle) in our usual four-dimensional spacetime framework, using LOCUS, L = (x,y,z,t,f).

Now, let us extend thoughts by way of Ks. Tomasz Stępień in a paper, “ANGEL IN “ THE CARTESIAN THEATRE ” – AQUINAS AND THE MIND – BODY PROBLEM”:

Already in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the standard explanation of the mind faced multiple con- tradictions and unanswered questions, thus reductive materialism was no longer the only option. Therefore, the thesis of the existence of the soul started to be perceived as a real alternative answer of how to get across the “explanatory gap” . . . .

To see why St Thomas Aquinas’ metaphysics of a human being is so useful to deal with the mind-body problem we must underline its uniqueness. His argu- ments on substantial unity were not so common in the Middle Ages and most of the scholars perceived such as approach as too Aristotelian. Such a view, after the condemnation of 219 theses in 1277, was even perceived as dangerous because it was almost commonly accepted that following the Philosopher in his assumptions about substantial unity makes the argumentation on immortality of the soul im- possible. The originality of Aquinas lays in the balance of simultaneous claims of substantial unity and his demonstration on immortality of the soul. So Aquinas’ view of a human being can be called biological since his claims on the indispen- sable role of the body are so radical. St Thomas not only claims that the body is not bad and unimportant but he: “goes much farther than that, insisting not only
that our bodies play a positive role in our lives, but that they are in fact essential to our continued existence” (Pasnau, 2012, p. 363) . . . .

While intellectual activity, according to Aquinas, can be
performed without any change in the body (intellect and will do not have physical organs), sensual activity is always the activity of both the body and the soul. Aqui- nas concludes his demonstration by saying: “Since, then, sensation is an operation of man, but not proper to him, it is clear that man is not a soul only, but something composed of soul and body”. The opposite opinion, that the soul is man, leads to the necessary conclusion that sensual activity is the activity of the soul, which only uses the body as a tool. This was exactly the opinion of Plato with whom St Thomas
disagree (ST I, q. 75, a. 4, co.) 5 . Aquinas elaborates on those claims demonstrating that the soul is connected with the body as its form, and he once again underlines refuting Plato’s conceptions: “…that it is one and the same man who is conscious both that he understands, and that he senses. But one cannot sense without a body: therefore the body must be some part of man” (ST I, q. 75, a. 1, co.) 6 .

In short, the mind/soul and body are intimately interconnected so that a human being forms as an embodied entity (though, on a traditional view of death, not inseparably connected . . . the soul/mind is tied to the body in the process of conception, gestation and birth, but it has distinct aspects and identity and both are equally part of what it means to be a whole human being). Feser amplifies:

. . . someone could have good philosophical reasons for thinking that there must be some way to combine hylemorphism and dualism. 

That, I submit, is precisely the position Aquinas finds himself in.  As an Aristotelian, he is convinced that the human soul is the form of the living human body.  It is therefore responsible for all the various human capacities — nutrition, reproduction, growth, sensation, appetite, locomotion, intellect, and volition — in just the way the souls of plants and non-human animals are responsible for their capacities.  But Aquinas is also convinced that our purely intellectual capacities cannot have a corporeal organ.  The reason is that he endorses philosophical arguments for the immateriality of the intellect of the sort that go back to Plato and Aristotle.  That much gives him grounds for concluding that the soul carries out immaterial operations alongside its corporeal ones.  Add to this the (independently motivated) Scholastic thesis that agere sequitur esse — that “action follows being,” so that the way a thing acts reflects the manner in which it exists — and we have grounds for concluding that, though the soul is the form of the body, it must in some way have a kind of subsistent immaterial existence.

Biologically rooted, biologically connected, but distinct and not inseparable. Where — most relevant for our purposes — mindedness is essentially non-computational, not tied inseparably to organisation and dynamic-stochastic functioning of a GIGO-limited, inherently non-insightful computational substrate.

Gyula Klima adds (and Wayback machine preserves . . . the Internet is annoyingly non-permanent) — and pardon how this begins to be technical, we are dealing with technical issues:

As St. Thomas reminds us:

“… nothing prevents some things from being many in some respect and being one in another. Indeed, all sorts of things that are many are one in some respect, as Dionysius says in the last chapter of On Divine Names. But we have to be aware of the difference that some things are many absolutely, and one in some respect, while the case is the reverse with others. Now something is said to be one in the same way as it is said to be a being. But a being absolutely speaking is a substance, while a being in some respect is an accident, or even [only] a being of reason. So whatever is one in substance, is one absolutely speaking, yet many in some respect. For example, a whole in the genus of substance, composed of its several integral or essential parts, is one absolutely speaking, for the whole is a being and a substance absolutely speaking, while the parts are beings and substances in the whole. Those things, however, which are diverse in substance, and one by accident, are diverse absolutely speaking, and one in some respect, as many humans are one people, or many stones are one heap; and this is the unity of composition or order. Likewise, many individuals that are one in genus or species are many absolutely speaking, and one with respect to something, for to be one in genus or species is to be one with respect to reason. [For example,] in the genus of natural things, some whole is composed from matter and form, as man from body and soul, who is one natural being, although he has a multitude of parts […]”[17]

So, although it is up to us to assign our criteria of distinguishing the integral parts making up some integral whole, which is, again, marked off by us as being the whole constituted by those parts, there will nevertheless be some absolute standard according to which the mereological constitution of the whole is not dependent on us, namely, the ontological status of the parts so distinguished and of the whole thus marked off. That is to say, even if we are absolutely free to regard a heap of stones as one, and an individual stone as a part of this one, nevertheless it is obvious that the unity of the individual stones is not of the same kind as the unity of the heap. For the heap is not a being in the same sense as the stones are, since precisely in that sense in which a stone is one being the heap is not one being, but rather it is several beings. Again, we are absolutely free to regard one half of one of these stones as one part of this one stone and the other half as the other part of the same stone, yet, it is clear that the unity of each of its halves is not the same as the unity of the stone, for in the sense in which one half of it is one being, the stone is not one being, but two beings, whereas in the sense in which the stone is one being, its halves are not even beings at all. For the stone is actually a being in its own right, while neither of its halves is actually a being in its own right; it only can be a being in its own right if the stone is actually cut into those two halves. But as the stone is actually undivided, it is one substance actually, while its two halves are two substances only potentially.[18]

. . . . it is clear that the term `body’ in the first sense, in which it is the genus of all bodies, since it is predicable of a whole human being and not only of some part of him or her, signifies the unique substantial form of any human being, and so what it signifies in human beings, their corporeity, coincides with their rational soul.[19] In this sense, therefore, we do not distinguish the body from the soul as a part from another part, but as the whole from one of its parts.[20] But this part of this whole, namely, the soul, is not distinguished from the other parts on the basis of dividing the quantity of this whole. Rather, the distinction is made on the basis of the different perfections, indicating the different modes of existence that we conceive in this whole, namely, the spatio-temporal, material mode of existence which this body has in common with all bodies, as opposed to the mode of existence which enables this body to perform several sorts of vital functions, that is, life, which it has in common with all living beings. But once we have distinguished these two modes of existence, namely, material, spatio-temporal existence on the one hand, and life on the other, we can obviously use different names, or the same names in different senses, to signify the substantial forms on account of which a thing has one of these modes of existence, or the other, or both in its own unique act of substantial being. So if we distinguish corporeity as that substantial form on account of which whatever has it exists in a material, spatio-temporal manner, whether the thing in question is alive or not, then the corporeity thus distinguished will clearly coincide in all living bodies with their soul, conceived as that substantial form on account of which whatever has this form is alive, whether it is a body or not. Therefore, in this non-exclusive sense, both the corporeity thus conceived and the soul thus conceived are nothing but the form of the whole, that is, the essence or quiddity of a living body. But if we conceive of corporeity as that on account of which whatever has it exists in a spatio-temporal manner, but is not alive, the corporeity thus conceived cannot coincide with the substantial form of a living body, so this conception of corporeity can mark out only some part of the essence of a living body. Also, if we conceive of the soul as that on account of which whatever has it is alive but is not a body, the concept of soul thus conceived can mark out only some part of a living body, in which both material existence and life are united in its single act of substantial existence, its spatio-temporal, material life.

Of course, spatio-temporality and life in themselves are not incompatible, which is shown by the manifest existence of living bodies. However, they do not entail each other either, as is shown by the manifest existence of lifeless bodies as well as by the at least conceivable existence of living immaterial substances. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we can form both the non-exclusive and the exclusive concepts of those substantial forms on account of which any substance has either life or spatio-temporality or both.

In short, the concept of an inherent but divisible unity is not incoherent. Man = body + soul is coherent, and the concept that the body without the soul is dead is also coherent. Likewise, the distinction between a supervisory oracle interacting with the bio-cybernetic loop and its being inherently non-algorithmic, not driven and controlled by dynamic-stochastic interactions according to some computational architecture, is also coherent.

In this context, it is even coherent to make a different usage, to view us as embodied spiritual beings, with soulish faculties as arising from the interface. That is, “spirit” speaks from an aspect that views a distinction that an aspect of our being is capable of distinctively spiritual functions such as having an awareness of and interacting with God. In that context, the sort of picture sketched by Clarence Larkin and others is not just a dismissible figment — identifying, here, the spiritual facet with our core, distinct being (that which marks us as unique relative to animals, which are also embodied, bio-cybernetic entities with souls, albeit apparently without the full panoply of rational, responsible faculties we have):

A typical, tripartite man Christian viewpoint. Note, heart and mind sometimes stand in for the inner man. The body is the outer man, on this frame. Hindus and those influenced by hindu thought will have a rather different view. The classic Greek view talks about body and soul. There are many, diverse perspectives.

How does all of this connect to the intelligence in the design inference?

First, it helps us identify the sort of intelligence in mind: a supervisory oracle that is inherently non-algorithmic and capable of rational, responsible insight. In that context, the point that such an entity may interact with matter (perhaps through quantum influence) renders the mind-matter gap moot. Third, the point that such may be disembodied points to what may exist antecedent to a material world, which arguably had a finitely remote beginning, on grounds of the challenge of reduction to now from the transfinitely remote past.

In short, a designing intelligence that is rationally insightful, non-computational (i.e. not a dynamic-stochastic process on a computational substrate) is not incoherent. Designers do exist and are credibly actually rational and responsible, but those characteristics are inherently not reducible to dynamic-stochastic processes on a computational substrate. So, we have to take the possibility of a “fifth dimensional” supervisory oracle seriously; even in the teeth of a dominant but incoherent evolutionary materialistic school of thought.

This, as a side-point, refutes the attempt to tie inference to design as intelligently directed configuration (and thus to intelligent action, thence onward to agents of such action) to embodiment. Computational substrates do not credibly account for designing intelligence. We must be open to there being more to reality than the obvious, physical realm. On pain, of self-referential incoherence.

Coming back, we also see why inference to design as process is not inference to a particular designer. For, obviously, different designers are possible. Empirical evidence that intelligently directed configuration has happened does not directly implicate any particular “suspect.” Other circumstances have to be considered to get to that.

So, too, yes, there is room for fresh thinking on minds, souls, spirits and bodies. END

13 Replies to “Logic & First Principles, 22: Is there room for fresh (hylemorphically shaped?) thinking on minds, souls and bodies?

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Logic & First Principles, 22: Is there room for fresh (hylemorphically shaped?) thinking on minds, souls and bodies?

  2. 2
    PaoloV says:

    “We must be open to there being more to reality than the obvious, physical realm.”

    “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” -Max Planck

  3. 3
    Brother Brian says:

    We must be open to there being more to reality than the obvious, physical realm.

    I think most people are open to it. But the fact that their is no compelling evidence for the existence of a mind outside of the brain leads some of us to believe that the mind is the result of physical interactions, given that quantum effects are physical in nature.

  4. 4
    doubter says:

    BB @3
    “… the fact that their is no compelling evidence for the existence of a mind outside of the brain…”

    You evidently don’t consider the vast panoply of empirical evidence from parapsychology, including veridical NDEs and verified reincarnation memories to be “compelling”. Are you ignorant of this, or do you simply dismiss it? If the latter, on what grounds?

  5. 5
    ET says:

    Brother Brian:

    But the fact that their is no compelling evidence for the existence of a mind outside of the brain…

    And there isn’t any evidence that the brain arose via materialistic processes.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    BB, it would almost be amusing to see the usual evolutionary materialist selective hyperskepticism, but then it is saddening. First, please look again at the Reppert clip in the OP: no composite computational substrate can account for rational, responsible, insightful mind — evidence no 1 that there is more to reality than the spacetime, matter-energy realm is your own mind. If you don’t think you have one [apart from emergence from your brain], kindly explain how that delusion achieves rational, responsibly free insight — nope, poof, magic does not work. Next, kindly note this case, and the millions who report and manifest life transformation by way of encounter with God through it. Along the way, if you dismiss God, kindly ground how your mind is governed by duties to truth, right reason, prudence, justice etc — and if you can’t thanks for the warning. Lastly, were it not for a miracle of guidance for my mother 50 years ago, I would be dead some fifty years now — yes, I am one of the millions. Perhaps, what you really mean, is that there is no evidence you are inclined to acknowledge as credible; but that is a very different proposition, one you can work on fixing. KF

  7. 7
    Brother Brian says:


    no composite computational substrate can account for rational, responsible, insightful mind…

    And in the late 1800s there were many who had concluded that powered flight was impossible. And well into the 20th century many had concluded that human powered flight was impossible. With regard to a rational, responsible, insightful mind, all that can be said is that a man-made composite, computational substrate has not succeeded in making one. You can certainly voice your opinion that you don’t think it will ever be possible. And I might agree with you.

    nope, poof, magic does not work.

    This is humorous coming from someone who believes exactly this. Or have you proposed any mechanisms by which our minds are created.

    Along the way, if you dismiss God, kindly ground how your mind is governed by duties to truth, right reason, prudence, justice etc.

    This is getting tiresome. This has been explained to you by myself and others, several times. Or do you deny that education, indoctrination, life experience, feedback and societal pressures can have a significant impact on our psychology?

    Lastly, were it not for a miracle of guidance for my mother 50 years ago, I would be dead some fifty years now…

    Forgive me if I expect a little more than your word for such a claim. The unexplained is not the same as a miracle.

  8. 8
    Silver Asiatic says:

    KF Along the way, if you dismiss God, kindly ground how your mind is governed by duties to truth, right reason, prudence, justice etc.

    BB …do you deny that education, indoctrination, life experience, feedback and societal pressures can have a significant impact on our psychology?

    Education is grounded in truth, right-reason and virtue. So it indoctrination.

    So, you ground truth and right-reason in education, which is grounded by truth and right-reason?

    In an evolutionary context, truth and rationality (Logos) have no reason to exist and they cannot be grounded in a blind, unintelligent origin that has only survival and reproductive advantage as goals (in fact, which has no goals at all really).

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    BB, false analogy. The issue raised has to do with the known causal processes of dynamic-stochastic systems applied to computational substrates, including wetware electrochemical neural networks. Those dynamics, categorically, cannot account for rational, meaning based insight and responsible inference. Similarly education and indoctrination may shape moral views but such are incapable of grounding moral government. And that’s just to begin with. Let’s put it this way: in C 5 BC, they confidently asserted that the diagonal and side of a square are incommensurate. That still holds, as we don’t tell truth by the clock but by soundness. That’s the challenge before you and you have not met it. KF

    PS: FYI, testimony is evidence. Your reaction kinda makes my point, as I know the reality from the inside, I can still see that open taxicab at the foot of a clinic’s stairs (no doctors were there), and I can still hear that voice opening the door to why I had a future. But there is more: there are millions who have been transformed by encounter with the same living God who grounds both the IS of reality and the OUGHT of rational freedom. There are so many cases (including many that shaped civilisation) that if we are all delusional or deceitful, it brings the credibility of the human mind into severe discredit by way of grand delusion.

    PPS: The requisites of mind are not poof, magic. That for us to have an intellectual culture minds must be credible is a given. That points beyond the known realities of computational substrates; mind simply does not work by dynamic-stochastic, algorithmic processes, if it is really rational. That points to dimensions of reality beyond what evolutionary materialistic scientism is willing to accept — ending in inescapable self-referential incoherence and self-falsification.

  10. 10
    Silver Asiatic says:

    The origin of things from Design by God is not magic. It is the emergence of beings from ultimate, fullness of being, through a rational prospect and decision of Will, by love.

  11. 11
    john_a_designer says:

    The following is a picture of a piece of marble. Is that all it is?

    Aristotle and Aquinas would have said, “No.” What sets this piece of marble a part is its form. It has the form a young human male. But what is form? Is it something that emerges from the marble? You would have to be an idiot to believe that it does. In the same way it is absolutely idiotic to argue that mind and consciousness somehow emerge from mindless matter because the brain is physical. Though there is no doubt that the brain is somehow used by the mind instrumentally and it may even be necessary for the existence human intelligence and consciousness.

    Of course with hylemorphism we’re not talking about form as shape but form as function. But still the analogy of the form or the shape of a statue is an apt one. Shapes do not exist within a piece of marble the shape is imposed (created) on the marble by an intelligent agent. In the same way mind and consciousness are not emergent properties of matter. The claim that they are is totally baseless and without warrant.

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    BTW, Merriam-Webster on magic:

    magic noun
    mag·?ic | \ ?ma-jik
    Definition of magic

    (Entry 1 of 3)
    1a : the use of means (such as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces
    b : magic rites or incantations
    2a : an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source Both pitchers, although they are older, haven’t lost their magic.
    b : something that seems to cast a spell : enchantment all the mystery, magic and romance which belong to royalty alone— J. E. P. Grigg
    3 : the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand entertained with acts of jugglery and magic

    Power over nature by manipulating hidden influences is precisely the opposite of the God who is inherently good and utterly wise who creates the world and sustains it by his powerful word.

    In short, we need to be clear on the core idea of God.

    In that context, miracle is a work of God beyond the ordinary course of nature [which he upholds], and serves as a sign pointing to its Source, for those in need of a sign-post.


  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, food for thought. KF

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