Friday, October 31, 2008

Ontology of the Soul Part 3

Ontology is the science of identifying fundamental principles, the doctrine of making distinctions between: 1) "entities", i.e., existents; 2) the qualitative attributes of entities; and 3) the relationships between 1) and 2).

Catholics, who believe human life is endowed at conception with a soul say it is the animating cause, the volition, of the zygote, (if not the sperm). The Catholic Encyclopedia (CE) says "'soul' denotes the source of our vegetative activities" [as much as it is the source of our minds]. [click, then scroll The Religious Identity of "Soul"]

The antithetic argument is that human volition begins with the first syllogism. All other determinations of when the soul begins falls between these two extremes.
These two extremes are the basis for this topic of making the identification of the entity we call the soul. This attempt must be made because it is the basis for the debate about abortion and the cloning of stem cells with their subsequent destruction, and whether it is murder to engage in either act.

We began with a comment by Jean Kazez in Abortion Sense and Nonsense (Talking Philosophy - The Philosophers' Magazine Blog), which brought up an ontological question about the human fetus: what is it? Religion deplores abortion for killing a soul.

Kazez wrote: "A 5-day old embryo composed out of undifferentiated, pluripotent cells is not a complete person like you and me. A 2-month-old fetus, even with its complete set of rudimentary organs, is not a complete person like you and me." The soul is the obvious deciding factor in answering what a fetus is, because a fetus without a soul would be the object of many more abortions, and abortion would not be the object of fierce debate.

Yesterday in Ontology of the Soul Part 2, I showed how the Catholic Church defines the animating volition of humans as a principle called the "substantiality of the soul."

I also showed how the Church defines substantiality as "a genus supremum [which]cannot strictly be defined by an analysis into genus and specific difference..." The CE could only define it this way by making the reader draw his/her own inferences in this matter since it gave no definition whatever of substantiality, but rather made it referential to all the other things it did say about soul and substance.

It thus was made clear that the most powerful and ancient Christian Church cannot define "genus supremum". As a matter of fact, that definition is an entry missing from its pages. It is left as a floating abstraction.

The Church obviously prefers not to ontologically identify the entity soul, while at the same time describing its volitional qualites as those which 'animate' even the vegetative parts of the human being. No wonder it defines the soul as a 'principle.'"

Qualities, when identified, will necessarily lead one to an ID of the genus of the entity that possess those qualities, unless the qualities are themselves not concretely identified. The definition given by the CE of soul is not concrete.

In the same sense that the CE says soul is both mind and non-mind (vegetative,) Naturalism.Org, a humanist/naturalist website that says it depends on science to determine the views of its adherents describes it this way:

"[H]uman minds and behavior are indeed explicable as physical, chemical, biological, psychological and social processes subject to law-like cause and effect relationships at various levels. [ ] [T]here’s no scientific evidence that we possess an immaterial soul or mental 'supervisor' that has a contra-causal, libertarian free will, that somehow intervenes in and trumps natural causality."

This is a secular view, based on determinism, and the website's contributors are well-known authors, speakers, philosophers, professors, etc. But the site's description of this "immaterial soul" that we do not possess is is defined as "physical, chemical, biological, psychological and social processes subject to law-like cause and effect relationships at various levels."

This sounds as though scientific naturalism is defining as "genus non-supremum" something we might call the "principle of the non-soul". After all, if these processes do not consist of contra-causal libertarian free will, it is certainly not sui-generis, which the religiously defined qualities of the soul would make it. Yet, they would at the same time appear to be made of "substance," made of "physical" processes.

But what if the soul is actually all the processes that scientific naturalism says it is, yet volitional, meaning dependent on one's own mental initiative irrespective of all the physical processes?

To define it as being within the genus of substance does not deny the theory of religious substantiality when the soul is housed in the physical body, that the naturalist description of the processes might actually be the physicalized nature of the soul.

Why should there be an insistence on my part, as a part of the law of Identity, i.e., "the aspect of existing as something in particular, with specific characteristics", that the soul should exist?

To repeat from Part 1 of this discussion, something is self-evidential. What is not evidential is that this something is physically material; it takes science to prove that the processes of physiology, body chemistry, and psychology relate to that which is self-evidential.

It is also not self-evidential that this something is transcendental, i.e., extending beyond physiologial life in either direction; nor is it self-evidential that it ought not be given metaphysical value as a "mental supervisor," and as an intimate part of the ego by which we can make sense of our moral abstractions.

Scientific naturalists deny the metaphysical value of what they admit is self-evidential. They does so because scientific naturalism operates on the metaphysical belief in determinism. Since random forces, such as existence itself, intrude into our power to operate willfully, then--say scientific naturalists--we have no libertarian free will. It is true that we do not have libertarian free will, in the sense that they mean it.

They mean that we cannot cause the sun to stop shining, cannot cause our hunger to go away, cannot cause the cancer in our bones to vanish, and cannot make a pot of gold appear at the end of the rainbow--at will.

The comment about the gold is not meant to be facetious. If contra-causal libertarian free will is the scientific definition of the form of will we are said not to have, then it necessarily follows that if we did have it we could turn anything into gold, cause heaven to come to earth, and do all things that empirical reality will not allow us to do.

This is why the metaphysical emphasis placed on our lack of libertarian free will is of no consequence to the argument of whether man has free will. Free will is in the rationality of man, not the accidental circumstances surrounding his being.

"On the one hand, does 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? Or, on the other, are man's thoughts and volitions, his character and external actions, all merely the inevitable outcome of his circumstances?" CA

Taxonomically, free will is of the genus arbitrium with respect to reason, and of the specie liberum, with respect to the will which can be turned toward either good or bad ends. Peter Lombard, Libri Quattuor Sententiarum, 1150

Free will, then, is the doctrine that human beings are free to control their own actions, actions not determined in advance by God or fate. It is, therefore, tied inexorably to the soul.

The soul, as we have discovered, is at one end of the spectrum considered placed by God in the fertilized egg immediately at conception, thereby releasing the potential human to be free of fate at birth. At the other end of the spectrum volition, the actions of freedom, are declared to begin with the first syllogism.

This second idea is tied to tabula rasa, the idea that nothing exists in the mind apriori, that all knowledge, including knowledge of one's own volition, is born of experience.

This is logical, since a child is most certainly not volitionally free of his empty but growing mind, of his inability to feed and clothe himself, of his lack of language, his environment, and his genes, not to mention his nutruring.

Since free will is Liberum arbitrium, and since that was initially a Catholic concept, then the soul is either the liberator, or freedom from determinism sows the seeds of the soul.
In our last look at this subject tomorrow, we will see how freedom from determinism is the link in our search for the answer to whether or not the fetus has a soul. We can then answer the question: Does the fetus have a soul?

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