Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ontology of the Soul, Finish

Over the previous three days discussion I have said a lot, yet I have said little. The original question about the ontological nature of the unborn human as regards having a soul has yet to be answered. But we learned why Catholics, who have the strictest beliefs about this subject, believe the soul begins at conception, and that the Catholic definition of the soul cannot be concretized by their own admission. They say the soul "cannot strictly be defined by an analysis into genus and specific difference," yet they link it to free will and give free will the taxonomy of Liberum arbitrium, i.e., a "genus and a specific difference." source Catholic Encyclopedia (CE)

This causes a conspicuous problem. How can free will be given a genus and and specie name, while at the same time denying that what it names as the source, the soul, can have neither a genus nor a specie name?

It is in this same way that Homo sapiens cannot be the specie of the genus Homo unless Homo itself is the specie of another genus, Hominini; which is a specie of Himinidea, which is a specie of Primates; etc. Some species are the only specie in their genera--take Homo sapiens, for example. But everything is either a specie or a genus until all things are taxonomized to "Being" or "Existence."

In the same way, if liberum is the specie of arbitrium, then arbitrium must have its own genus, and that would be genus supremum; but genus supremum is what the CE describes as not strictly definable as to genus and specie--in other words, it is said to be an undefinable specie of the genus "Being". Therefore, it follows that free will cannot be a specie of an undefined genus called soul.

Yet Catholics insist the soul is given to man by "Supernatural Order, by God, for the purpose of raising the rational creature above its native sphere to a God-like life and destiny."

The soul cannot both be indefinable as a genus, yet carry the name of genus with an identified specie, free will.

It is clear that either the Catholics are wrong about the soul being given to man to raise him from his position as the rational animal; or they are wrong about free will being a specie of the soul.

The soul is self-evident to the senses. The material nature of the soul is also self-evident, because our senses cannot detect what does not exist. Our minds can conceive of things that do not exist, but our minds cannot perceive what the senses cannot detect, and if the soul is self-evident to our senses, it must, therfore, be material.

What is not self-evident is the ontological nature of the material. Scientifically it is all those things--and probably much more--that science tell us it is: "physical, chemical, biological, psychological and social processes subject to law-like cause and effect relationships at various levels."

But evident in this description are two genera, the physical, and the psychological. Social processes are by their nature an affect on psychology, and of course commonly held psychologies can have an affect on social processes, as can strongly held psychologies by a few if they are influential enough.

The physicalizied nature of the soul may be said to be like a petrie dish, in which the psychology of its owner may grow. Since psychology cannot be granted by the grace of God at conception without creating fate or determinism, as well as the the lack of free will--both of which would be antithetical to the soul being God-given at conception in order to free man from his position as the rational animal, then it must be clear that psychology grows as the child grows.

Psychology, i.e., the volitional purposes of the mind, must grow from the state of tabula rasa: nihil in intellectu nisi prius in sensu, meaning "nothing in the intellect unless first in sense (the senses)." "[B]ased upon Locke's view, [this] appears fully justified..." Confinia Neurologica 1961 VI. Causality and Related Concepts. pp 183-192.

But there is a caveat added by Leibniz: nisi intellectus ipse (except the intellect itself). It is this intellect which is the petrie dish of the biology of the mind, and it is waiting to be struck by its first sensory impressions, which are the traumatic overload of the sensual act of birth.

The intellect is a faculty, like sight or hearing or digestion, but it a non-sensual faculty. The tabula rasa intellectus, the petrie dish, is fed by the sensual faculties. As a child comes to understand, even prior to gaining language, his own emotions in light of what he has sensually encountered, then his psychology begins to grow from the simple biological needs of crying when hungry or when his diapers need to be changed. He learns to control those emotions because he begins to comprehend the nature of the physical world and at the same time the nature of his own consciousness.

"A 5-day old embryo composed out of undifferentiated, pluripotent cells is not a complete person like you and me," wrote Jean Kazez in Abortion Sense and Nonsense (Talking Philosophy - The Philosophers' Magazine Blog). "A 2-month-old fetus, even with its complete set of rudimentary organs, is not a complete person like you and me."
Kazez' observation is what brought us to this discussion. Why is an unborn child not a complete person like you and me? If it is not, then at some point in its development it must become like you and me; either that, or it is like you and me from conceptions.

When religion says the soul is endowed by God at conception, religion is placing an equal metaphysical value on the fertalized egg if, by "endowed," it means the soul is fully caused and complete.

But if this is what it means, fully caused and complete, then that description defeats the purpose of saying endowed "by Supernatural Order, by God, for the purpose of raising the rational creature above its native sphere to a God-like life and destiny."

The soul cannot both be fully caused and complete yet remain a faculty by which man is raised from the fate he would endure as a non-rational animal. It is not by accident that the CE asks whether man possess "genuine moral freedom, power of real choice, true ability to determine the course of his thoughts and volitions, to decide which motives shall prevail within his mind, to modify and mould his own character?"

These "motives within his mind" by which he "moulds his own character" are the forces of the intellect coming to grips with the emotional chaos of infancy, a grip that comes only by reflection as the infant overcomes his emotional behavior with rational, ordered behavior.

This distinction alone demands that we admit that the born child is like you and me, in that he has had his intellect awakened and set in motion. At what point in the existence of a fetus does it become that complete, "like you and me"?

The CE asks whether "man's thoughts and volitions, his character and external actions, [are] all merely the inevitable outcome of his circumstances...inexorably predetermined in every detail along rigid lines by events of the past, over which he himself has had no sort of control? This is the real import of the free-will problem."

It seems obvious that free will cannot be free of circumstances until such time as the child gains that grip over the battle between using his emotional behavior to meet his needs, and using his intellect to meet them. He cannot do this until he is conceptually ready of mind. He is not conceptually ready until he has had an encounter with that specie of his intellect called his soul.

Such an encounter may come from another trauma, such as a death, or of conceiving of something that makes him face his soul. When he faces it, he will realize it is the identification of his intellect, and that is why his soul carries so much metaphysical value.

"The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not," wrote Ayn Rand. "[Y]ou are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival—[and that man] needs a code of values to guide his actions." For the New Intellectual p. 120

This would place the soul in the genus of "consciousness," even if it is a sub-conscious entity of consciousness. Once the infant begins to grasp the correlation between his thoughts and his emotions, he knows something about himself. Without language he does not have that clear, overt comprehension of his soul, but when the event comes along to point him to it, as one points to the sky and says, "That is blue," he will know that his soul was there before he identified it.

As a specie of consciousness, it must necessarily begin to grow in the petrie dish only after birth, for before birth there is nothing to be conscious of. The unborn may be aware of what he will learn to identify as sounds, emotions, and physical sensations--after all, the unborn do kick the womb to determine the nature of their space, but with no reference to anything but the womb, there is no overt consciousness.

Ontology is the science of making identifications of entities, their qualities, and the relationships between entities and their qualities, which are evaluated metaphysically. Taxonomy is the identification of the specific relationships.

The specie of soul is of the genus intellect. The genus intellect is one of the species of consciousness. The genus of consciousness is one of the species of sentience, but consciousness cannot occur without something to be conscious of. Consciousness is awakened by the trauma of birth, when the overwhelming flow of sensations of all kinds awaken the newborn to existence within the unknown.

It is this entity of the unknown, and its relationship to consciousness, that creates the quality of consciousness called the tabula rasa. The relationship between the consciousness and the tabula rasa is that of a diner waiting to be served. At birth, this "diner" is served his first meal, and it is all foreign.

So at what point does the fetus become an entity that is the same as you or me? It happens ast the point where the potential of its intellect meets the reality of the survivability of the intellect. Until then the soul, as a species of the intellect, is only a potential. It is the function of the soul to provide one with a conscience. One may not have a conscience until one has something to be consciencious about. That does not happen until one learns right from wrong.

The soul may not be an undentifiable genus supremum, yet contain within a specie called free will, and another that is the volition of the vegetative functions of life. The volition of those vegetative functions is life itself, and life is a given for those forms of being that have it.

Birth is not a duty. When the fetus is viable, it would be immoral to subject it to the trauma of being killed as its first act of consciousness. Then, and only then, does it become the responsibility of the mother to allow its birth one way or another, and that responsibility is subject to the mother's own health and survival.
Until the time of viability, a fetus does not have the right to life because its intellect and its resultant soul are only potentials. Potentials do not have rights.

But viability denotes actuality, and it is at that point that the right to life begins. (This does not address the murder of a fetus by murdering the mother, which is a different subject. It is not the right of the murderer to determine the time and manner of death for either mother or child.)

Viability is the specie of the genus of unalienability, legally speaking. Potentiality is of the specie of property, legally speaking.

There is no doubt that life begins at conception. It is unthinkable to me that the question of when life begins could be the subject of debate, let alone of referendums or legislation or Constitutional Amendments.

What should not be conceivable is that potentiality might someday be declared unalienable.

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