Summary Against Modern Thought: More On Intellects And The Body

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.

Chapter 69 is really a continuation of 68, an answering of the previous Chapter’s arguments, one by one. It may be easiest opening last week’s post in a separate tab for easy reading.

Chapter 69 Solutions of the arguments advanced above in order to show that an intellectual substance cannot be united to the body as its form. (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 With the preceding points in mind, it is not difficult to solve the arguments previously proposed against the union in question.

2 In the first argument a false supposition is made, because body and soul are not two actually existing substances; rather, the two of them together constitute one actually existing substance. For man’s body is not actually the same while the soul is present and when it is absent; but the soul makes it to be actually.

Notes You can’t have one without the other; as the song says.

3 In the second argument the statement that form and matter are contained in the same genus is true, not in the sense that they are both species of the same genus, but in the sense that they are the principles of the same species. So, if the intellectual substance and the body existed apart from one another, they would be species of diverse genera; but by being united, they are of one and the same genus as principles of it.

4 Nor is the third argument valid. For from the fact that the intellectual substance is in matter it does not follow that it is a material form, because that soul is not present in matter in the sense of being embedded in it or wholly enveloped by it, but in another way, as we have pointed out.

5 As to the fourth argument, the fact that an intellectual substance is united to the body as its form does not prevent the intellect from being, as the philosophers say, separate from the body.

For in the soul two things must be taken into consideration: its essence, and its power. Through its essence the soul gives being to such and such a body; by its power it performs its proper operations.

Accordingly, if a psychic operation is carried out by means of a bodily organ, then the power of the soul which is the principle of that operation must be the act of that part of the body whereby such an operation is performed; thus, sight is the act of the eye. But, if the soul’s operation is not effected by means of a bodily organ, then its power will not be the act of a body. And this is what is meant by saying that the intellect is separate; nor does separateness in this sense prevent the substance of the soul of which the intellect is a power (namely, the intellective soul) from being the act of the body, as the form which gives being to such a body.

Notes The meat is in this paragraph (which I split for emphasis).

6 Concerning the fifth argument, let it be said that because the soul is in its substance the form of the body, it does not follow that every operation of the soul must be performed by means of the body, so that every power of the soul will be the act of a bodily thing. For we have already proved that the human soul is not a form wholly embedded in matter, but among all other forms occupies a most exalted place above matter. That is why it can produce an operation without the body, as being operationally independent of the body; since neither is it existentially dependent on the body.

Notes As said before, we are not our brains: we are our brains and body and intellect. The intellect makes use of the brain and body, but it can also operate without them.

7 As for the arguments whereby Averroes endeavors to establish his theory, they clearly fail to prove that an intellectual substance is not united to the body as its form.

8 For the terms which Aristotle applies to the possible intellect, namely, that it is impassible, unmixed, and separate, do not compel us to admit that an intellective substance is not united to the body as a form giving being. For these expressions are also true if we say that the intellective power, which Aristotle calls the power of insight, is not the act of an organ, as though it exercises its operation by it. This point, too, is made clear in his own demonstration, since he proves that this power is pure of all admixture, or is separate, because of the intellectual character of its operation, whereby it understands all things, and because a power is the source of a thing’s operation.

9 Clearly, that is why Aristotle’s demonstration does not result in the proposition that the intellective substance is not united to the body as its form. For, if we maintain that the soul’s substance is thus united in being to the body, and that the intellect is not the act of any organ, it will not follow that the intellect has a particular nature—I refer to the natures of sensible things—since the soul is not held to be a harmony, nor the form of an organ. (As Aristotle in De anima II [12] says of the sense-power, it is a certain form of an organ.) None of these things is true of man’s soul, because the intellect has no operation in common with the body.

Notes It’s as well to note here that, all these existence proofs (or demonstrations) aside, we still do not know how the intellect operates, where that word is used in the same sense as we know (in vague terms, anyway) how a neuron works. We still have a few more weeks on this subject, so do stick around.

10 Now, by saying that the intellect is free from all admixture, or is separate, Aristotle does not mean to exclude its being a part or power of the soul which is the form of the whole body. This is clear from what he says toward the end of De anima I [5] in opposing those who maintained that the soul has diverse parts of itself in diverse parts of the body: “If the whole soul holds together the whole body, it is fitting that each part of the soul should hold together a part of the body. But this seems an impossibility. For it is difficult to imagine what bodily part the intellect will hold together, or how it will do this.”

11 Moreover, from the fact that the intellect is not the act of any part of the body, it clearly does not follow that its receptiveness is that of prime matter, for intellectual receptiveness and operation are altogether without a corporeal organ.

12 Nor, again, does union with the body rob the intellect of its infinite power, since that power is not placed in a magnitude, but is rooted in the intellectual substance, as was said.

Notes Curious use of the word infinite here! Consider (briefly) that since the intellect is not a body, it does not have the finite restraints of a body. That little tidbit has vast implications. Consider, too, that universals are in a sense infinite, and that to know them, as we clearly do, involves some touching of the infinite. But as we all (should) know, there are hierarchies of infinities: they are not all equal!

7 Comments

  1. We do know ‘how’ neurones work. Certainly individually. What is not known is how this translates to intellect and experience and the person or the being.
    Sodium and potassium channels, neurotransmitter production and axon potentials and all that.

    What is not known is how this then ‘makes’ us.

    There is a manifestation which is not understood even if the physical is observed and mechanism is explained regarding transmission. So the how has been answered about neurones themselves. the join between the self and the neurone is not explained nor the why, which at a guess to know the metaphysical/physical how would be to know something of the why or the reason.

  2. Materialism insists that if you take all the chemicals that make, say, a rabbit, add great time, merciless confusion (turbulence), energy (electric sparks, heat, light etc.) then it will eventually, inevitably, turn into a live rabbit.

    However, we of the “great unwashed”, unenlightened by the great insights provided by education in gnostic esoterica, quite happily know with great certainty that if you take a perfectly good live rabbit and leave it for even a short time shaken and bombarded with every imaginable form of energy the poor brute will be deprived of life and eventually reduced to its simplest material components.

    Anyone here with an attention/retention span of more than a few seconds will know that I have consistently advocated that the material substances that compose the physical part of a live thing do not create, or spontaneously generate, the metaphysical “stuff” called life. Life precedes the chemical and physical activity of a Live organism. When life is absent the chemistry reverts to the natural chemistry of non-life.

    That life “occupies” the whole form of the body seems, to me, obvious. A part that does not have life is dead. But life is a metaphysical “stuff” so that one who has fewer, or smaller, parts to be enlivened does not have less life but that life is more confined. No big deal!

    Intellect is a power of the soul… it is not diminished by physical bits missing, or deformed, or malfunctioning.

    For those Materialistic neurologist types that ideologically assume that life, consciousness, intellect and all that can be “explained” by synapses, neurotransmitters etc. consider this; ALL those things fail when Life is absent.

    I have also consistently claimed that the brain (and all its associated paraphernalia) is just the physical organ that connects the metaphysical Mind with the physical world of sense and activity.

  3. Materialism insists that if you take all the chemicals that make, say, a rabbit, add great time, merciless confusion (turbulence), energy (electric sparks, heat, light etc.) then it will eventually, inevitably, turn into a live rabbit.

    Materialism also says if we take all the chemicals that make, say, an airplane, add whatever, it will eventually, inevitably, turn into a house. Overlooks that if you don’t know how the essentials of airplane construction then you likely won’t end up with an airplane.

    The same with “life” and “intellect”. You don’t know what those things are — let alone how they could be made — and use this ignorance as the basis of your argument.

  4. [quote DAV] The same with “life” and “intellect”. You don’t know what those things are — let alone how they could be made — and use this ignorance as the basis of your argument. [/quote]

    Are you trying to imply that if you don’t know the formula of how to construct something then it can’t be described or defined, or that it can thus be described or defined as anything at all?

    There are a great many things that can’t be constructed or dissected under a microscope, but we know for certain their existence because we can see what they do.

    For example, you can’t construct a matchbox full of gravity or dissect it under a microscope but its effects are known with great certainty.

    Don’t believe me? You go and define gravity according to any fancy you have, or just arbitrarily declare “I don’t know what makes it work therefore it doesn’t” then go and jump off a high cliff. You will let us know how you get on, won’t you?

  5. Are you trying to imply that if you don’t know the formula of how to construct something then it can’t be described or defined

    No. This has nothing to do with statements like Materialism insists that if you take all the chemicals that make, say, a rabbit, add [stuff] then it will eventually, inevitably, turn into a live rabbit..

    A description conveys little knowledge beyond a mapping of a symbol (the word “rabbit”, e.g.) to the subject (the concept of “rabbit”, e.g.). It only allows categorization and rarely conveys understanding (but it can do so some cases, e.g., what makes a triangle a triangle). A description of a “live rabbit” tells you nothing about what makes a “live rabbit” alive — only how to recognize one.

    In fact, there is no complete definition of “life”. You cannot find the moment when a “live rabbit” crosses over into a “dead rabbit” after you stop its heart. The period between stopping the heart and definitely dead will always have a life/death ambiguity because you don’t really know what makes it alive other than it possesses “life” whatever that is.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *