William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: Plato On The Soul

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

The ghost in the machine, we learn, is an old fallacy.

Chapter 57 The opinion of Plato concerning the union of the intellectual soul with the body (alternate translation)

1 MOVED by these and like reasons some have asserted that no intellectual substance can be the form of a body. But since man’s very nature seemed to controvert this opinion, in that he appears to be composed of intellectual soul and body, they devised certain solutions so as to save the nature of man.

2 Accordingly, Plato and his school held that the intellectual soul is not united to the body as form to matter, but only as mover to movable, for he said that the soul is in the body as a sailor in a boat. In this way the union of soul and body would only be by virtual contact, of which we have spoken above. But this would seem inadmissible. For according to the contact in question, there does not result one thing simply, as we have proved: whereas from the union of soul and body there results a man. It follows then that a man is not one simply, and neither consequently a being simply, but accidentally.

Notes Ghost in the machine is an old problem! But it’s more of an evocative metaphor than sailor-in-a-boat.

3 In order to avoid this Plato said that a man is not a thing composed of soul and body, but that the soul itself using a body is a man: thus Peter is not a thing composed of man and clothes, but a man using clothes.

4 But this is shown to be impossible. For animal and man are sensible and natural things. But this would not be the case if the body and its parts were not of the essence of man and animal, and the soul were the whole essence of both, as the aforesaid opinion holds: for the soul is neither a sensible nor a material thing. Consequently it is impossible for man and animal to be a soul using a body, and not a thing composed of body and soul.

Notes The soul is the form of the body, as Aquinas points out again and again. Our intellects are not material, it’s true, but our intellects are part of our form. The fallacy of ghost in the machine nowadays arises, I think, because people falsely discredit the non-material, i.e. the supernatural.

5 Again. It is impossible that there be one operation of things diverse in being. And in speaking of an operation being one, I refer not to that in which the action terminates, but to the manner in which it proceeds from the agent:–for many persons rowing one boat make one action on the part of the thing done, which is one, but on the part of the rowers there are many actions, for there are many strokes of the oar,–because, since action is consequent upon form and power, it follows that things differing in forms and powers differ in action.

Now, though the soul has a proper operation, wherein the body has no share, namely intelligence, there are nevertheless certain operations common to it and the body, such as fear, anger, sensation, and so forth; for these happen by reason of a certain transmutation in a determinate part of the body, which proves that they are operations of the soul and body together. Therefore from the soul and body there must result one thing, and they have not each a distinct being.

Notes So much is easy to see. The remainder of this chapter is Aquinas examining Plato’s attempt at evading the force of paragraph 5. There are some interesting bits, but it can be skipped. Dog lovers might enjoy paragraph 8—and then not.

6 According to the opinion of Plato this argument may be rebutted. For it is not impossible for mover and moved, though different in being, to have the same act: because the same act belongs to the mover as wherefrom it is, and to the moved as wherein it is. Wherefore Plato held that the aforesaid operations are common to the soul and body, so that, to wit, they are the soul’s as mover, and the body’s as moved.

7 But this cannot be. For as the Philosopher proves in 2 De Anima, sensation results from our being moved by exterior sensibles. Wherefore a man cannot sense without an exterior sensible, just as a thing cannot be moved without a mover. Consequently the organ of sense is moved and passive in sensing, but this is owing to the external sensible. And that whereby it is passive is the sense: which is proved by the fact that things devoid of sense are not passive to sensibles by the same kind of passion. Therefore sense is the passive power of the organ. Consequently the sensitive soul is not as mover and agent in sensing, but as that whereby the patient is passive. And this cannot have a distinct being from the patient. Therefore the sensitive soul has not a distinct being from the animate body.

8 Further. Although movement is the common act of mover and moved, yet it is one operation to cause movement and another to receive movement; hence we have two predicaments, action and passion. Accordingly, if in sensing the sensitive soul is in the position of agent, and the body in that of patient, the operation of the soul will be other than the operation of the body. Consequently the sensitive soul will have an operation proper to it: and therefore it will have its proper subsistence. Hence when the body is destroyed it will not cease to exist. Therefore sensitive souls even of irrational animals will be immortal: which seems improbable. And yet it is not out of keeping with Plato’s opinion. But there will be a place for inquiring into this further on.

9 Moreover. The movable does not derive its species from its mover. Consequently if the soul is not united to the body except as mover to movable, the body and its parts do not take their species from the soul. Wherefore at the soul’s departure, the body and its parts will remain of the same species. Yet this is clearly false: for flesh, bone, hands, and like parts, after the soul’s departure, are so called only equivocally, since none of these parts retains its proper operation that results from the species. Therefore the soul is not united to the body merely as mover to movable, or as man to his clothes.

Notes A dead man is no longer a man, merely decaying flesh. A lump of tissue, as those keen on killing the young might say.

10 Further. The movable has not being through its mover, but only movement. Consequently if the soul be united to the body merely as its mover, the body will indeed be moved by the soul, but will not have being through it. But in the living thing to live is to be. Therefore the body would not live through the soul.

11 Again. The movable is neither generated through the mover’s application to it nor corrupted by being separated from it, since the movable depends not on the mover for its being, but only in the point of being moved. If then the soul be united to the body merely as its mover, it will follow that neither in the union of soul and body will there be generation, nor corruption in their separation. And thus death which consists in the separation of soul and body will not be the corruption of an animal: which is clearly false.

12 Further. Every self-mover is such that it is in it to be moved and not to be moved, to move and not to move. Now the soul, according to Plato’s opinion, moves the body as a self-mover. Consequently it is in the soul’s power to move the body and not to move it. Wherefore if it be united to it merely as mover to movable, it will be in the soul’s power to be separated from the body at will, and to be reunited to it at will: which is clearly false.

Notes So much for astral projection.

13 That the soul is united to the body as its proper form, is proved thus. That whereby a thing from being potentially is made an actual being, is its form and act. Now the body is made by the soul an actual being from existing potentially: since to live is the being of a living thing. But the seed before animation is only a living thing in potentiality, and is made an actually living thing by the soul. Therefore the soul is the form of the animated body.

14 Moreover. Since both being and operation belong neither to the form alone, nor to the matter alone, but to the composite, being and action are ascribed to two things, one of which is to the other as form to matter; for we say that a man is healthy in body and in health, and that he is knowing in knowledge and in his soul, wherein knowledge is a form of the soul knowing, and health of the healthy body. Now to live and to sense are ascribed to both soul and body: for we are said to live and sense both in soul and body: but by the soul as by the principle of life and sensation. Therefore the soul is the form of the body.

15 Further. The whole sensitive soul has to the whole body the same relation as part to part. Now part is to part in such a way that it is its form and act, for sight is the form and act of the eye. Therefore the soul is the form and act of the body.

38 Comments

  1. It seems to me, if I am reading the translated medieval latin correctly, that Aquinas considers the soul to be a sort of homunculus residing inside the body. My own perception of a soul is that it is emerging from the brain, and therefore cannot be separated from it, nor can exist without it.

  2. @Hans Erren:

    “It seems to me, if I am reading the translated medieval latin correctly, that Aquinas considers the soul to be a sort of homunculus residing inside the body.”

    You are reading wrong. This is precisely one of the the things Aquinas argues *against* (hint: e.g. paragraph 9).

  3. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 23, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Hans, why bother with the translation when you can access the medieval Latin directly: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles2.htm#57 (left column)

  4. Of course the soul ’emerging from the brain’ is a whole nother kind of silly. I will give you this though–it would take a great deal of faith to actually believe it.

  5. And, of course, while that may be Hans’ conception it is not in any way his ‘perception of [any]soul.’

  6. Chirpy says: “Of course the soul ’emerging from the brain’ is a whole nother kind of silly.”
    and:
    “And, of course, while that may be Hans’ conception it is not in any way his ‘perception of [any]soul.’”

    But, but, but… surely that is the universal superstitious assumption of all materialistic evolutionism.

  7. swordfishtrombone

    October 24, 2016 at 4:41 am

    The form of a body is encoded in the DNA.

  8. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 24, 2016 at 7:37 am

    The form of a body is encoded in the DNA.

    Certainly, up to a point. Though there aren’t enough codons to “encode” everything, even as regards the physical form, so something must be going on beyond the mere “blueprint” metaphor. Maybe more like meta-rules.

  9. Stop calling me Chirpy–I mean Shirley.

  10. I’ll grant ‘assumption’ or ‘conception’. But nobody ever anywhere ‘perceived’ his soul (or anyone else’s) emerging from a brain that happened to be inside his own skull ( or that of the person whose soul is under consideration).

  11. Though there aren’t enough codons to “encode” everything, even as regards the physical form, so something must be going on beyond the mere “blueprint” metaphor. Maybe more like meta-rules.

    Like the environment? Looks like you’re saying you can’t there from here; you have to go somewhere else first. The blueprint for a building doesn’t exactly describe the result either. Things happen during construction: mistakes and the weather, for example.

  12. DNA and the weather. That’s all you need.

  13. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 24, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    The blueprint for a building doesn’t exactly describe the result either.

    No, not exactly that. The cells actually have self-repair and correction routines for things like copy errors and damage. And the same codons are used in multiple genes and for different purposes; sometimes the different codons are recruited to the same purpose. It seems to be a more dynamic affair than previously thought. Epigenetic factors come into play also, although I understand one of the Usual Suspects — Meyers or Coyne, I forget — has greatly pooh-poohed epigenetics.

    It’s a bit like saying that Moby Dick is encoded in 26 letters plus punctuation marks. It’s sorta-kinda true; but the letters and marks do not actually contain the information and do not tell you which letters in which order to use.

  14. It’s a bit like saying that Moby Dick is encoded in 26 letters plus punctuation marks.

    No, the arrangement of the letters is important to both.

    So DNA uses an error correction code and the message parts overlap? That’s a peculiarity of the message encoding. Clever, really. Compact yet error resistant. Doesn’t change that it is more like a building blueprint, though. Using a building blueprint can result in quite similar but not identical structures. Same with DNA apparently. Not a completely rigid message but one that allows for reaction to the environment in the resulting organism.

  15. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 24, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Doesn’t change that it is more like a building blueprint, though.

    Something has to read the blueprint, though.

  16. Something has to read the blueprint, though.

    Sure. Cant have things running around on their own. Think what that would do! Why not give what we don’t understand that which explains nothing — a name like ‘Soul’? There. It’s fixed.

    Now about that nightly bumping noise in the closet …

  17. swordfishtrombone

    October 24, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    @ YOS:

    “Certainly, up to a point. Though there aren’t enough codons to “encode” everything, even as regards the physical form, so something must be going on beyond the mere “blueprint” metaphor. Maybe more like meta-rules.”

    First of all, there isn’t anything else apart from “physical form” so I’ve no idea where that’s going. Second, where do you get the idea that humans don’t have enough DNA? Please cite your source.

  18. Quote DAV: “Why not give what we don’t understand that which explains nothing — a name like ‘Soul’? ”

    I suggest its for the same reason we call a feathered animal a bird. The name is not even intended to “explain” the mysteries of feathers or flight… it’s just a name that identifies or distinguishes that “thing” (a bird) from other “things” (that are not birds).

    Or, Why not give what we don’t understand that which explains nothing — a name like an ‘electron’?

    You don’t understand philosophy or physics, do you? There are many things we can’t “see” but we know that they’re “there” because we can see what they do.

    That’s where logic enters the picture. Ole Tom and his mates (along with any half-decently honest particle physicist) employ a process of deduction and induction to see what else we can know about this mysterious “thing” or “stuff”.

    The hubris of the most common egomaniac, on the other hand, if he doesn’t know or want to know anything that might be inconvenient to his paranoia, simply declares agnosticism… i.e. it can’t be known.

  19. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 24, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Why not give what we don’t understand that which explains nothing — a name like ‘Soul’?

    Names, whether “soul” or “emergent properties” explain nothing. It’s the name for a thing, not an explanation of the thing. “Soul” is a Saxon word. The medievals used the Latin word “anima,” which simply means “alive.” A ‘soul’ is whatever a living thing has that its carcass does not. But it is not a thing in the sense of being made out of ‘stuff’ like “ectoplasm” (as imagined by the Moderns). The form of a basketball is a “sphere,” but the sphere is not a thing separate from the basketball. Rather, it in-forms the rubber and makes it a basketball, rather than say a football.

    Moderns are so imbued with the Cartesian muddle from the Scientific Revolution that they can’t help thinking in terms of substance dualism. But even Descartes did not propose that the res cogitans was made of Stuff.

    There is no matter without form. “Every ‘thing’ is ‘some’ thing.”

  20. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 24, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    where do you get the idea that humans don’t have enough DNA? Please cite your source.

    I don’t remember, but it was a book on fractals and complexity theory. The example given was Barnsley’s Fern. This is the attractor of an iterated function system. (Attractors are examples of what the medievals called “final causes.”) Rather than program detailed instructions on the drawing of a fern, Barnsley provided an iterative function system of only four equations. Any random set of inputs fed into the system will result after sufficient iterations in a drawing of the fern leaf.
    http://mathworld.wolfram.com/BarnsleysFern.html

    I used it once in a story called “Remember’d Kisses,” now available in the collection Captive Dreams. Two researchers in nanotechnology are trying to create repair bot for human injuries.

    But even a single tissue complex involved an incredible amount of data. There were hundreds of different proteins: enzymes and hormones. There were mitochondria, granules, and countless other cellular structures; each with a detailed set of “drawings” that described what it should look like. …
    Bill and he had been ready to quit at one point. They had gone to see Old Lady Peeler to tell her it was impossible. There was a natural barrier, they had said, like the speed of light. Information bits must be carried on matter-energy “markers,” and that set a lower limit on the scale for information processors. The machine could not be smaller than its information content. So, there was no way nano-scale processors could ever handle the data load for an entire organism, at least for an organism at the human level of complexity.
    Dr. Peeler had listened to them in silence. Then she stared thoughtfully into the distance, working her lips. Finally, she had shaken her head and muttered, as if to herself, “I wonder how genes manage to do it.”
    And of course she was right.
    Genes were natural nanomachines; yet they managed to build an entire complex organism from a single, undifferentiated cell. Morphogenesis, the biologists called it. The “unfolding” of structure from simplicity. Somehow, a zygote managed to contain all the information needed to grow a complete adult.
    And that was a paradox.
    Because the genes really weren’t big enough to handle the information load. There just wasn’t room for a complete set of elaborate blueprints in such a small space. Yet there had to be. Finally, in frustration, Henry had blurted out, “Maybe there aren’t any blueprints at all!”
    And that had reminded Bill of something. A dimly recalled oddity of the early 1980’s. Michael Barnsley, a pioneer in complexity theory, had discovered that random inputs to certain recursion formulas always generated the same precise shape. Take a simple random process, like tossing a coin, and define a positioning rule for each outcome. If the coin lands “heads,” move a specified distance and direction from the current position. If “tails,” a different distance and direction. Then start somewhere — anywhere! — on a grid and flip a coin. After the first fifty moves or so, start marking the positions where your random process takes you. Eventually, the recorded points will accumulate into a definite shape — the “limit shape.” Iterate the process thousands of times. The limit shape will always be the same, regardless of the particular series of coin tosses.
    Somehow, the end result was encoded in the formula itself, irrespective of the input. It was like a magical machine that always produced the same product, no matter what raw material it was fed.
    One set of Barnsley’s recursion formulas generated a drawing of a fern leaf. The same leaf appeared every time he ran the simulation, regardless of the particular inputs. That led him to suggest that the genes contained information, not on how the leaf was shaped, but on how to run the recursion formulas. With that information in hand, random chance took care of all the rest.
    — “Remember’d Kisses”

  21. The hubris of the most common egomaniac, on the other hand, if he doesn’t know or want to know anything that might be inconvenient to his paranoia, simply declares agnosticism… i.e. it can’t be known.

    Saying “I don’t know” vs. claiming to have all the answers is being an egomaniac? Wow! Being agnostic means not holding a belief either way. Agnostics can’t be held responsible for the lack of convincing arguments from either side.

    What is hubris and arrogance is to surmise an answer then jump from Could Be to declaring that it IS the answer.

    Think about this: something has to read the blueprint, though.

    That’s a supposition. Probably to avoid having something acting on its own. But — get this — the answer (supposition, really) is it’s something metaphysical that must be able to act on its own. See the irony? A thing can’t act on its own except the ‘other’ thing that does. You can’t get there from here. You have to go somewhere else.

    You don’t understand philosophy or physics, do you? There are many things we can’t “see” but we know that they’re “there” because we can see what they do.

    I’m guessing it is you who doesn’t understand them. We don’t ‘see’ them physically but we can detect them and predict their behaviors. You can’t say any of this about these supposed metaphysical things. We can only surmise given they are outside of things physical and can’t be experimented upon. That means there is no way to independently verify them.

    To head off the comparison with math: math does not necessarily have any correspondence to anything outside of mathematics. That it may have started as such is irrelevant to what it has become. So, if some philosophy wants to lay claim to being more than a circle jerk it must demonstrate it is so.

    YOS: I see you are back to the old word-play games again and missing the forest because of all the leaves in the way. I said a word LIKE ‘soul’. Since you want to talk about definitions that means a word similar in nature to ‘soul’. But then, you don’t need much of a reason to post long tracks about what others have said about leaf minutiae. Strangely, you omitted how the schools of thought of these particular minutiae might differ. Good job but you can do better. Keep trying.

  22. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 24, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    I see you are back to the old word-play games again and missing the forest because of all the leaves in the way. I said a word LIKE ‘soul’.

    Sure, but the point remains: words are intended as labels not as explanations. The problem is that modern usages of some of these words have strayed from the meanings they had when certain concepts were put in play. Like the fellow who wrote on another blog that Chaucer had been WRONG! when he wrote that “ffysche” included “whales,” and could not be swayed by the thought that in Chaucer’s day “ffysche” did not mean what “fish” means to a modern biologist. And is thereby deprived of enjoying the Canterbury Tales.

    you don’t need much of a reason to post long tracks about what others have said about leaf minutiae.

    That was in answer to a different point. Someone had asked where I had gotten that business about genes not being large enough to contain all the information needed to build a body. It was a book on fractals and the mathematics of complexity. I had been trying to point out that what they seem to “encode” is actually an algorithm for drawing the blue print rather than the precise specifications for the blueprint itself. We call this sort of thing “emergent.” That is, the fern leaf emerges from the system of recursive equations, but it is not actually specified by it.

    Strangely, you omitted how the schools of thought of these particular minutiae might differ.

    Sure, not everyone agrees on things like epigenetics or even fractal geometry, though I’m not sure how they divide into “schools.”

  23. swordfishtrombone

    October 26, 2016 at 8:09 am

    @ YOS:

    “I don’t remember, but it was a book on fractals and complexity theory.”

    In other words, not a piece of established science by a biologist or geneticist. Even if it were true, encoding a structure using a recursive formula is still encoding. Let me return to my initial point: The form of a human is encoded in DNA. The article says a soul is the ‘form’ of a human. What does ‘form’ mean in this context?

  24. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 26, 2016 at 9:07 am

    In other words, not a piece of established science by a biologist or geneticist.

    You are correct that biologists are generally weak on mathematics.

    encoding a structure using a recursive formula is still encoding

    Which is what I said at the beginning. It is not encoding in the simple sense, bur more like encoding in the eminent sense. From a certain perspective, it is encoding the encoding. The DNA helps the body build proteins, and from the proteins various structures are built. Granted, the computer metaphor provides support for the old vitalist position, but it has limitations just as the old mechanist and hydraulic metaphors did. Only different limits.

    Further, there are observed cases in which populations with identical DNA develop different physical structure because the conditions under which they express themselves differ. Pupfish from the endangered Devil’s Hole population were raised in a more benign pool elsewhere and developed into larger, differently colored pupfish. Helmeted water fleas did or did not develop their characteristic ‘helmet’ depending on whether they hatched in tanks tinctured or not tinctured with a chemical marker for their predator; etc.

    The article says a soul is the ‘form’ of a human.

    It should have said that a soul is the substantive form of a living body. It need not be human, although the human anima is more complex than that of sensitive beings or vegetative beings.
    https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-2BHPolMuuPo/VsUq1IrtuDI/AAAAAAAABTU/RpIVq4S7NXssFg2724gk7tUwJzDhCHUVQCPcB/s400/Slide5.JPG

    See here for background:
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/07/in-psearch-of-psyche-some-groundwork.html

    What does ‘form’ mean in this context?

    Form is that which makes a thing some thing. For example, a trombone rather than a clarinet; or this trombone rather than that one. For artifacts, this is generally no more than shape (formatio et terminatio materiae). But for living things — vegetable, animal, or rational — there is more complexity.

  25. I’ve been a bit distracted by important things like friends and family. So I’ve not been inclined to try to challenge fashionable drivel.

    Chaos theory (fractals, Mandelbrot results etc.) is fascinating. As I said to a friend of mine who thought that “chance” could produce and explain everything; “I’m not surprised that there is order even in chaos.” But that provides the wonderment… what the hell is chaos?

  26. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 26, 2016 at 9:19 am

    what the hell is chaos?

    In mathematics, it is a misnomer for “complexity theory.”

  27. swordfishtrombone

    October 30, 2016 at 9:13 am

    @ YOS:

    “You are correct that biologists are generally weak on mathematics.”

    When you’re in a hole, stop digging. The notion that human DNA does not carry enough information to encode a human is just flat-out false. In any case, if the information were encoded by means of fractals or by recursive means, that would still be encoding, as you admit.

    “Further, there are observed cases in which populations with identical DNA develop different physical structure because [snip]”

    Epigenetics again! My google research tells me that epigenetic changes aren’t passed down through successive generations so aren’t any sort of challenge to or replacement for evolution by natural selection. At least I’m learning about biology while refuting this creationist nonsense, even if you’re not.

  28. swordfishtrombone

    October 30, 2016 at 10:43 am

    @ YOS:

    “It should have said that a soul is the substantive form of a living body. It need not be human, although the human anima is more complex than that of sensitive beings or vegetative beings.”

    (Link to baffling diagram of unknown meaning.)

    “See here for background:”

    (Link to your own blog.)

    I have to admire your style in linking to yourself as a reference! You write very well but after having read it, I’m left thinking that your argument is still rooted in Dualism – your “substantive form” is an unnecessary, superflous “meta” layer attached to what is really only a collection of atoms. Human beings are encoded in (physical) DNA. That encoding specifies our growth and development. What else is there?

  29. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 30, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    The notion that human DNA does not carry enough information to encode a human is just flat-out false. In any case, if the information were encoded by means of fractals or by recursive means, that would still be encoding, as you admit.

    I’m really not sure what you’re all knickers-in-a-knot about. This was my original comment on this topic:

    The form of a body is encoded in the DNA.

    Certainly, up to a point. Though there aren’t enough codons to “encode” everything, even as regards the physical form, so something must be going on beyond the mere “blueprint” metaphor. Maybe more like meta-rules.

    IOW, I contended only that the DNA is not a mere “blueprint” metaphor, but something more in the lines of the way “flocking behavior” is emergent from three basic rules which in themselves say nothing about how to get the flock out of here.

    Epigenetics again! My google research tells me that epigenetic changes aren’t passed down through successive generations so aren’t any sort of challenge to or replacement for evolution by natural selection.

    I didn’t say it was. I only said that DNA did not in itself contain the information to build the human body; but rather that it contained the rules for generating that information. Note that DNA constructs no proteins unless and until it is embodied in a living being at the moment of conception; at which point the matter becomes a self-unfolding system. Now, genetics was itself a scientific replacement for the metaphysical notion of “natural selection,” but that is another story.

    while refuting this creationist nonsense

    It was my impression that all this was cooked up by actual biologists, esp. of the microbiologic and genetic sort; rather than by, say, mid-Victorian country squires with a hobby in natural history. It turned out that genetics was not so simplistic as previously supposed. That’s all.
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.2013.Rethinking_the_(Im)Possible_in_Evolution.html

    What the genes express depends to some extent on the conditions under which they are expressed. The Mediterranean wall lizards that developed a new organ in the space of twenty years after they were transplanted from a sere island in which they lived by insects and cannibalsm to a lush one in which they lived by plant-eating continued to express that organ; although it might be interesting to see what happens if their descendants were repatriated to their original habitat. Will the organ vanish from their grandchildren?

    The survival of advantageous traits can certainly be better understood when we take into account what the organism is actually trying to do. If the lizards are trying to eat plants, the digestive organ is an “advantageous” feature, but it is not “advantageous” in some cosmic sense.

    Creation has nothing to do with evolution, save that the former is a prerequisite for the latter. Something must exist before it can change.

    (Link to baffling diagram of unknown meaning.)

    Well, there was a link to some explanatory material.

    I have to admire your style in linking to yourself as a reference!

    Nothing without style!

    your argument is still rooted in Dualism

    I can neither agree nor disagree unless I understand what you mean by “dualism.” If you mean the Cartesian substance dualism cooked up during the scientific revolution, with its ectoplasm and other trappings, I must demur. But if you mean there are not two principles upon which being is predicated, it is surely obvious.
    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/is-substance-dualism-about-substances/

    your “substantive form” is an unnecessary, superflous “meta” layer attached to what is really only a collection of atoms.

    A collection of what? Surely you don’t suppose that atoms are formless, even if we restrict ourselves to Daltonian “atoms.” Atoms have their own substantive forms that make them what they are. Their material causes are protons and electrons, but a sodium atom and a chlorine atom are composed of the same parts. What makes one a flammable metal and the other a poisonous gas is the number and arrangement of those parts: IOW, their form.

    The forms of inanimate bodies are in fact the easiest to discern. Sodium, e.g. consists of eleven electrons bound in three energy levels of 2, 8, and 1 electron, resp. These are coupled with eleven protons and bulked up by twelve neutrons. (Neutrons are thought to be compounds of a proton with an electron, but the jury is still out.) This arrangement, or form, is not itself a material thing, but is a necessary second principle to explain the being of sodium. “Every thing is some thing.”

    This form endows sodium with its emergent properties. It is a silvery metal; it is highly reactive (that single valence electron!) and so on. In the “baffling” powers model, the four basic powers of the inanimate form are Gravitation, Electromagnetism, Radiation (weak), and Nuclear (strong).
    https://web.archive.org/web/20041127002931/http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02002.htm#4

    To take another example, consider that the matter of DNA — the thymine, guanine, et al. — has no powers unless in the form of a double helix. The phosphate links are easily severed and easily reconstituted, which enables the replication.

    But, a challenge: name any thing in nature that is lacking in form.

  30. “The soul of dogs part 1” HA!
    Like
    “The lottery result for next week,”(introduction.)
    We don’t need Ed’s help.

  31. swordfishtrombone

    November 5, 2016 at 9:41 am

    1) Evolution:

    Every time evolution is mentioned, you try to undermine it by dragging in Epigenetics; some idea you’ve read that DNA doesn’t have enough storage capacity; the idea that natural selection is “only” a theory, or the idea that genetics is a replacement for natural selection. The theory of evolution-by-natural-selection is perfectly capable of explaining all relevant facts and observations, whether it’s fossil evidence, animal behaviour DNA sequencing or anything else. If you have an alternative theory (god dunnit?), please explain what it is using very short words and very few sentences.

    2) A soul is the form of a Human being:

    “a sodium atom and a chlorine atom are composed of the same parts. What makes one a flammable metal and the other a poisonous gas is the number and arrangement of those parts: IOW, their form.”

    I agree, but I assume you’d agree with me that the behaviour of those sodium atoms is just a consequence of the fundamental forces of nature acting on their parts and nothing more. I also think that human beings are like those sodium atoms – just a collection of parts which behave in a certain way. I’m still left with no idea what a ‘soul’ is supposed to be, or how it’s supposed to survive death.

  32. Ye Olde Statistician

    November 5, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Every time evolution is mentioned, you try to undermine it by dragging in Epigenetics

    How does epigenetics “undermine” rather than “expand” evolutionary theory? See, e.g., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19606595

    natural selection is “only” a theory

    What do you mean “only”? Gravitation is “only” a theory; Maxwell’s equations are “only” a theory. I’m sure Darwin’s equations have a similar status. We already know that any finite body of facts can be explained by multiple theories; so theories are always susceptible to falsification.

    genetics is a replacement for natural selection.

    It provided a scientifically-based and objective set of evidences for heritable traits and their frequencies and disposed of the fatal flaw in Darwin’s theory; viz., what prevents the original “mutation” from being “diluted” out within a few generations? Science beats metaphysics for scientific explanations.

    The theory of evolution-by-natural-selection is perfectly capable of explaining all relevant facts and observations

    Of course, it can. So can evolution-by-fairies-and-brownies, as long as we are content with just-so stories and do not demand the kind of objective evidences we require in physics or chemistry. A tautology like “survivors survive” can explain anything so long as you don’t have to cash out the metaphor.

    If you have an alternative theory (god dunnit?)

    Lower-case god or upper-case God? There’s a difference. But like most fundamentalists, you seem to presume that God acts like just another efficient cause in the world according to the natural order.

    [They say] “We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.” You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so.
    — William of Conches

    If you have an alternative theory, please explain what it is using very short words and very few sentences.

    Sure. Genome change is not the result of stochastic errors but of biochemical (i.e., cellular) action. It can come about due to combination of genetic components from different lineages (e.g., nucleated eukaryotic cells) and not only DNA changes in a single lineage. DNA change is non-random but due to well-defined biochemical operations, each of which leaves a characteristic “footprint” in the DNA structure. Collectively, these operations are called “natural genetic engineering” rather than “natural selection.” DNA change is also non-random in the sense that the natural genetic engineering operators are subject to cellular regulatory regimes, often epigenetic in nature, that respond to sensory inputs in ways that activate them. Natural genetic engineering events can be targeted within the genome “by a variety of molecular mechanisms at certain DNA sequences, at certain DNA structures, or as a result of specific processes, such as replication or transcription.” Consequently, DNA change can be massive, specific, and rapid — which squares better with the fossil record than the overbreed-and-winnow gradualism of natural selection. It also pulls the rug out from under statistical objections that there has not been enough time in the universe to allow for all the random mutations required to produce the range of species we have today (and in fact have had for millions of years).

    Examples of evolutionary change where molecular evidence shows that they did not occur by the gradual accumulation of random mutations:

    1. Multiple antibiotic resistance in bacteria;
    2. Origin of the eukaryotic cell;
    3. Origin of photosynthetic eukaryotic lineages;
    4. The “abominable mystery” of rapid angiosperm evolution.

    Bacterial antibiotic resistance, for example, evolves by “horizontal transfer of plasmids and the accumulation of multiple resistance determinants by transposition and site-specific recombination.”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bacterial-antibiotic-resistance_b_1192507.html

    I agree, but I assume you’d agree with me that the behaviour of those sodium atoms is just a consequence of the fundamental forces of nature acting on their parts and nothing more.

    What “fundamental forces of nature” are those? Are you talking about invisible beings that act at a distance? The generic inanimate form possesses four basic powers: gravitation, electromagnetism, nuclear, and radiative. These are emergent from the form itself, not something somehow existing “outside” the atom.

    I also think that human beings are like those sodium atoms – just a collection of parts which behave in a certain way.

    No, that only defines a “heap” not a “thing.” A sand dune is a collection of sand grains, but an atom is not simply a collection of protons and electrons; nor is an animal like a human being simply a collection of atoms. Not even a computer is “simply” a collection of switches and circuits. As von Hayek put it in his Nobel lecture, the problems of third wave science deal with structures whose character “depends not only on the properties of the individual elements of which they are composed, and the relative frequency with which they occur, but also on the manner in which the individual elements are connected with each other.” You will recognize “the elements of which they are composed” as the Aristotelian material cause and “the manner in which the elements are connected with each other” as the formal cause.
    http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/1974/hayek-lecture.html

    I’m still left with no idea what a ‘soul’ is supposed to be

    Because, I think, you are still imagining it as a distinct res, like Descartes’ res cogitans. A soul is that which a living thing possesses when alive that it no longer possesses when it has died.

  33. swordfishtrombone

    November 13, 2016 at 6:15 am

    @ YOS:

    “A tautology like “survivors survive” can explain anything so long as you don’t have to cash out the metaphor.”

    What a load of rubbish. You ask for “hard evidence” while spending most of your time playing metaphysical word games. Your position is akin to saying that there’s evidence for gravity but no evidence for Newton’s theory of gravitation, a tautological statement in itself.

    “Genome change is not the result of stochastic errors…”

    It looks like you got most of this from one book by James Shapiro. I don’t think you’re making honest criticisms of Darwinism but rather attacking it for ideological reasons. You should come out of the closet as an Intelligent Design advocate as that’s really where this is headed.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/shapiros-anti-darwinian-book-gets-panned/

    “A soul is that which a living thing possesses when alive that it no longer possesses when it has died.”

    How is this not just a description of some behaviour? Your use of the word “possesses” is misleading – something behaves in one way then later behaves in a different way – that could apply to almost anything:

    A soul is that which a car possesses when working that it no longer possesses when it has stopped working. Do cars go to heaven or do they just stop working?

  34. Ye Olde Statistician

    November 13, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    “A tautology like “survivors survive” can explain anything so long as you don’t have to cash out the metaphor.”

    You ask for “hard evidence” while spending most of your time playing metaphysical word games.

    Why do these survive, but not those?
    Because they are better fit for their niche.
    How do we know they are better fit?
    They survive more often.

    Your position is akin to saying that there’s evidence for gravity but no evidence for Newton’s theory of gravitation…

    The empirical facts are the motions of falling bodies (including free falling bodies in space, if you like).
    Gravity is a theory that explains these motions. If you stop there, you have a tautology:
    —Why do these bodies fall?
    ——Gravity.
    —How do you know gravity exists?
    ——Bodies fall.
    Newton’s theory is a particular theory of gravity. It postulates an infinite, absolute and distinct space and time. And supposes that “gravity” is a “force” that somehow reaches out from a body and acts at a distance on other bodies, pulling them in.
    Einstein’s theory is a different one. It postulates that all motion is relative to other motions, that space and time are neither distinct nor absolute. And “gravity” is due to the presence of mass causing a distortion in the space-time manifold (the field of Ricci tensors) such that the geodesics are curved relative to an observer. (In everyday language: space-time is “curved” by the presence of mass.) The tendency of motions to follow these geodesics is perceived as an attraction toward the larger body.
    Because these are scientific theories, they can be falsified by novel facts.

    You should come out of the closet as an Intelligent Design advocate as that’s really where this is headed.

    Intelligent design is theologically unsound. It assumes that God acts in the same way as natural efficient causes and is, in fact, a rival to them. I know of nothing in Shapiro’s microbiology that requires an intelligent designer; although Fodor did criticize Darwinism from an atheist perspective, arguing that natural selection is inherently teleological.

    Gould’s book on punctuated equilibrium was also severely criticized even though there was nothing in it that was “anti-Darwinian.” This is the language of orthodoxy confronted with heresy, not the language of science confronted with a new perspective.

    “A soul is that which a living thing possesses when alive that it no longer possesses when it has died.”
    How is this not just a description of some behaviour?

    Because behavior is a result, not a cause.

    Your use of the word “possesses” is misleading – something behaves in one way then later behaves in a different way

    When a living thing no longer possesses anima (life) it is no longer, by definition a living thing; so there is no “later” behavior. It is in fact no longer a “thing” (ousia, substantia) but only a “heap.” A dead petunia does not behave differently. It does not behave at all. It is not even a petunia anymore, except by courtesy.

    A soul is that which a car possesses when working that it no longer possesses when it has stopped working. Do cars go to heaven or do they just stop working?

    Analogies are not equivalences. A car does possess an ???????? (energeia), a word which appeared first in Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and was the Greek equivalent of anima or “soul.” However, unlike a living being, a car is an artifact. Art imitates life, not vice versa. In an artifact, the sundry parts comprising the artifact have no natural tendency to come together to form the artifact. In a natural being, the parts grow out of the whole itself. (This is another place Intelligent Designers go awry: the mousetrap analogy to the flagellum is not apt. The paramecium grows, the mousetrap is built.)

  35. swordfishtrombone

    November 14, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    @ YOS:

    “Why do these survive, but not those? Because they are better fit for their niche. How do we know they are better fit? They survive more often.”

    You’ve already made this exact argument before! Your Darwinism-is-a-tautology claim is wrong and is based on a (possibly) deliberate mischaracterisation of natural selection and the concept of ‘fitness’.

    Quote: “There is nothing tautological about saying, for example, that moths possessing dark coloration will be less visible than light colored moths to predatory birds when resting on dark-colored trees.”

    Quote: “An historian studying nineteenth century America might begin his investigation with the fact that the North won the Civil War. From this starting point he will naturally ask himself what advantages the North had that allowed them to emerge victorious over the South. But the assumption that the North had such advantages will not be the sum total of his investigation. And no one would consider it reasonable to object to his work on the grounds that it is based on circular reasoning.”

    Quote: “We have thus provided two answers to the tautology objection. The first is that its central premise, that there are no criteria of fitness independent of survival, is false. The second is that natural selection is not applied in practice in the simplistic way the phrase “Survival of the fittest,” suggests. Instead, scientists use selection based reasoning to develop specific, testable hypotheses about the organisms under investigation.”

    Next, your explanation of the differences between Newton and Einstein’s theories is unnecessary as I understand them quite well.

    Then onto Intelligent Design: The defining feature of ID is its “Darwinism is false therefore god dunnit” position. That appears to be your position also, or am I wrong?

    “When a living thing no longer possesses anima it is no longer, by definition a living thing; so there is no “later” behaviour”

    Now who’s using a tautologous argument!

    “A dead petunia does not behave differently. It does not behave at all.”

    That’s odd, I could have sworn that a dead petunia actually does do things, such as wilt and decay.

    (In response to: Do cars go to heaven or do they just stop working?)

    “…unlike a living being, a car is an artefact.”

    Why shouldn’t an artefact have a soul? Wait! I know, it’s because it’s non-living and only living things have souls. But how do you know living things have souls – is it because they aren’t artefacts?

  36. Ye Olde Statistician

    November 14, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    “Why do these survive, but not those? Because they are better fit for their niche. How do we know they are better fit? They survive more often.”

    “There is nothing tautological about saying, for example, that moths possessing dark coloration will be less visible than light colored moths to predatory birds when resting on dark-colored trees.”

    But there is something “just so” about them, when a) the moths must be hand-placed on the trees for photographic purposes (Do they actually rest there in nature, or do we simply assume they must?) and b) each generation of moths produces the same range of light and dark colored moths, and so there is no movement of the species toward one or the other (i.e., no actual evolution). The trait must be heritable first of all; that is darkwing moths must give birth to other darkwing moths rather than a mix of colorations.

    (It could be that variability itself is the survival trait, as it enhances species survival regardless of tree coloration.)

    An historian studying nineteenth century America…

    History is not science. Her methods are different.

    natural selection is not applied in practice in the simplistic way the phrase “Survival of the fittest,” suggests.

    That’s why I wrote, “better fit for its niche” The problem with just-so stories is that you can always find something and declare that it is what made the species better fit. This was Jerry Fodor’s critique of the inherent teleology of natural selection, where he builds on Gould’s “spandrel” analysis. If your historian finds these spaces richly decorated, he might infer that they were designed to bear the decoration, but he would be wrong. (Gould was also wrong to call them “spandrels,” but never mind.)
    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n20/jerry-fodor/why-pigs-dont-have-wings

    Instead, scientists use selection based reasoning to develop specific, testable hypotheses about the organisms under investigation.

    Testable theories are few and far between in this area. Theories about the advantage of the giraffe’s neck, for example overlook that giraffe’s don’t typically graze the tops of the trees, but bend their necks nearly horizontal to nibble away at the center; and their quondam co-specifics, cattle and deer, flourished quite well with rather shorter necks.

    Here’s another theory. Organisms find themselves with some feature or trait and, in their struggle to survive, put it to use. So the panda uses its protruding wrist bone to strip tender leaves from bamboo shoots. It was not that it was trying ineffectually to strip the leaves across its wrist and the wrist bone fortuitously protruded to facilitate this.

    your explanation of the differences between Newton and Einstein’s theories is unnecessary as I understand them quite well.

    You had seemed hung up on the tautologous nature of gravity. A clear distinction between the tautology of the definition and the non-tautology of the multiple theories deployed to explain it did seem in order.

    Recall that Darwin himself did not insist that the natural selection engine (overbreeding + massive die-off) accounted for all evolutions. He allowed that there might be other mechanisms and even had a kind word for Lamarck by the time the 6th Edition came along.

    The defining feature of ID is its “Darwinism is false therefore god dunnit” position.

    Actually, I understand that they conclude only to an intelligence. It may be space aliens or creatures from another universe of the multiverse. It need not be God, or even a god. Like Darwinism, ID assumes a Newtonian metaphysic of the world and would place God (if and when) as a mere efficient cause in competition with other efficient causes. This is what Thomists find objectionable. From a Thomist perspective, Darwin’s theory, to the extent that it is a scientific theory at all, is simply one more evidence for the creator.

    Besides, if the Darwinian theory is wrong, it does not entail that theokinetics is the only alternative. There might be other natural theories. If tomorrow scientists proved conclusively that the Darwinian approach had been falsified, would you immediately drop to your knees? Or would you begin searching for another scientific theory?

    That appears to be your position also, or am I wrong?

    You are wrong.

    “When a living thing no longer possesses anima it is no longer, by definition a living thing; so there is no “later” behaviour”

    Now who’s using a tautologous argument!

    Definitions are always tautologies. Try chasing down the definition of “energy” in physics.

    “A dead petunia does not behave differently. It does not behave at all.”

    That’s odd, I could have sworn that a dead petunia actually does do things, such as wilt and decay.

    Nope. And for two reasons. First, it is no longer a “petunia” in any meaningful sense. It is an ex-petunia, a heap of matter that was once a petunia. (cf. http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/Forms.html) Second, a “heap” lacking the internal unity of a “thing,” it doesn’t “do” anything. Rather, things happen (or are done) to it. It is the object, not the subject of its acts. It wilts, for example, because it no longer is engaged in its metabolic activities; it decays because other things (bacteria, et al.) are doing things to it.

    Why shouldn’t an artefact have a soul? Wait! I know, it’s because it’s non-living and only living things have souls. But how do you know living things have souls – is it because they aren’t artefacts?

    Not quite. Any inanimate thing lacks an anima. A grain of sand, for example, or a sodium atom. These have natural forms, but they are not animating forms. An artifact does not even have a natural form. Rather, it has a form imposed extrinsically, by the artisan (which is why the ID folks are off the rails with their mousetrap analogy). In this sense a grain of sand is more complex than the most elaborate machine.

  37. swordfishtrombone

    November 18, 2016 at 6:12 am

    Okay, a final word from me (until another occasion, no doubt) on these two subjects.

    1) Darwinism:

    It appears that you employ motivated reasoning on Darwinism, sourcing your ideas solely from a number of fringe books by non-scientists. Unfortunately, your sources have been refuted by leading scientists (and philosophers). In some ways I dislike Jerry Coyne, but it’s undeniable that he and others have completely demolished Fodor and Shapiro. There’s no point in my arguing about ideas which are irrelevant footnotes and I find Coyne’s arguments convincing, not yours. I’d be interested to see how far you’d get name-dropping technical terms like “alleles” in the comments section of Coyne’s blog – why don’t you give it a go?

    Try going to https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/ and searching for “Fodor”.

    “History is not science. Her methods are different.”

    True, but the logic of the argument is the same.

    You may not classify yourself as an ID proponent, but if it quacks like a duck…

    2) Souls.

    Just: no. There is no life-force, no “anima”, no meta-layer of any kind. Your definition of a soul remains nothing more than a relabelling exercise. Even if it were valid, it would provide no evidence at all that a soul could survive death – in fact it would support the opposite conclusion.

  38. Ye Olde Statistician

    November 18, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    True, but the logic of the argument is the same.

    Logic was the very basis of Stove’s critique.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/838691/posts?page=51

    it’s undeniable that he and others have completely demolished Fodor and Shapiro.

    Completely demolished? Really? Fodor’s critique was logical, too, which is something philosophers know something about (though scientists do not always); but he also objected to the essential teleology of natural selection. How do you tell the difference between a trait or feature that was shaped by natural selection and one that “just happened” but which the organism uses to its advantage ex post facto? Fodor, like Stove, is an atheist and so cannot be driven by a devotion to ID.

    fringe books by non-scientists

    But Shapiro is a molecular biologist, which I believe actually qualifies him as a scientist. (Is Coyne qualified to comment on molecular biology? His Wiki entry is short on scientific creds.) Shapiro does not say that natural selection is not a factor in evolution. He says that natural genetic engineering may be at least, if not more important. Surely, the metaphysical insight of a Victorian country squire is not immune to the progress of scientific thought when the more empirical work of folks like Newton, Ampere, Maxwell, and others has been constantly altered and revised!

    Sometimes, I think Dr. Coyne’s reflexive defense of orthodoxy overlooks the distinction between facts and theories. (No surprise: it’s better known in the hard sciences than in the more squishy sort.) Hence, the constant confusion between evolution and natural selection. His very blog is called Why Evolution is True. But evolution is a fact and a fact is not true and is not false. It just is. A physical theory intended to explain the fact may be true, in the sense of true-to-the-facts (just as a novel may be true-to-life). It may also be true in the sense of logically consistent with the body of theories, as in mathematics. (i.e., Truth of Correspondence and Truth of Consistency).

    You may not classify yourself as an ID proponent, but if it quacks like a duck…

    …it may be a hunter waiting in a duck blind; or a frog. “Quack,” from Middle English *quacken, queken ?(“to croak like a frog; make a noise like a duck, goose, or quail”). See also: Latin coaxare “to croak,” Greek koax “the croaking of frogs,” Hittite akuwakuwash “frog”). Middle English on the quakke (14c.) meant “hoarse, croaking.”

    But if it requires no more than a doubt that natural selection is the whole ball game as far as evolution is concerned is enough to make someone “quack like a duck,” you would have to count Darwin himself as an “IDer,” since by the time of the Sixth Edition he had expanded his theories well beyond his original natural selection.

    The decision that all evolutions take place in small incremental stages was an epistemological call, not one based on actual empirical evidences. There is no reason in principle why an evolution cannot be sudden, massive, and specific due to internal microbiological processes and these changes can be just as subject to selective pressures as the more incremental sort. Not only does this fit better with the fossil record, but it also pulls the rug out from under criticisms from IDer and statisticians when they point out that there has not been enough time in the universe to account for the observed variety of species and traits. Mediterranean wall lizards developed a new organ in the space of 25 years, for example, simply because they had been transplanted to a different environment.

    There is no life-force, no “anima”, no meta-layer of any kind.

    At the time of the debate biologists had nothing like software to serve as a model for the vitalist program, and so they rejected it; not because it had been disproven but because they couldn’t see the rationale. Now we have “software everywhere” just as in an earlier epoch the proliferation of mechanical devices provided a model for the mechanist metaphor.

    Besides, the anima is not a “layer.” Is “sphere” a “layer” of a pool ball?

    Even if it [anima] were valid, it would provide no evidence at all that a soul could survive death – in fact it would support the opposite conclusion.

    Indeed, that is the conclusion for the vegetative and sensitive souls, any soul whose powers are entirely rooted in matter. If the matter passes away, so do the powers. There is no seeing without the eyes; and just as importantly, the eyes do not see if the body is dead (in-animate). It is not the definition that demonstrates a portion of the soul to be imperishable any more than the definition of a sphere proves that the pool ball will fall into the side pocket. (Of course, if it is cubical instead of spherical, it will not roll very far.)

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