William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Category: SAMT (page 1 of 31)

A tour through Saint Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles.

Summary Against Modern Thought: Man Does Not Share One 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.

Nobody alive appears to believe that all men share one soul. If pantheism is defined as God is the universe, than that all share one soul must be mantheism (sorry). This Chapter continues 41 original arguments, but I’m paring them back here since this is no longer a live controversy.

Chapter 73 That there is no one possible intellect in all men (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 On the basis of what has already been said it can be clearly demonstrated that there is not one possible intellect of all present, future and past men, as Averroes imagined.

Notes For those who don’t know, Averroes was a Muslim theologian-philosopher of the 12th century.

2 For it has been proved that the substance of the intellect is united to the human body as its form. But one form cannot possibly exist in more than one matter, because the proper act comes to be in the proper potentiality, since they are proportioned to one another. Therefore, there is not one intellect of all men…

Notes This argument is conclusive enough, but there are still some twists and turns of interest.

4 Again, Aristotle in De anima I [3] takes the ancients to task for discussing the soul without saying anything about its proper recipient, “as if it were possible, as in the Pythagorean fables, that any soul might put on any body.” It is, then, impossible for the soul of a dog to enter the body of a wolf, or for a man’s soul to enter any body other than a man’s. But the proportion between man’s soul and man’s body is the same as between this man’s soul and this man’s body. Therefore, the soul of this man cannot possibly enter a body other than his own. But it is this man’s soul by which this man understands: man understands by his soul, as Aristotle puts it in De anima I [4]. Hence, this man and that man have not the same intellect.

Notes Well, and so much for all those identity-swapping tales and movies, which used to swap old and young, and now swap male and female. Curious.

5 Then, too, a thing owes its being and its unity to the same principle, for unity and being are consequent upon one another. But every thing has being through its form. Therefore, a thing’s unity follows upon the unity of its form. Hence, there cannot possibly be one form of diverse individual things. But the form of this particular man is his intellective soul. Therefore, it is impossible that there should be one intellect for all men…

7 Now, the Commentator Averroes replies to these arguments by saying that the possible intellect comes into contact with us through its form, that is, by the intelligible species, whose single subject is the phantasm existing in us and which is distinct in distinct subjects. Thus, the possible intellect is particularized in diverse subjects, not by reason of its substance but of its form.

8 It is clear from what has been said above that this reply is worthless. For, if the possible intellect makes contact with us only in that way, man’s understanding is rendered impossible, as we have shown…

Notes Worthless? That St Thomas is so judgmental, isn’t he?

10 Moreover, a thing derives its species, not from that which is in potentiality, but from that which is in act. Yet the phantasm, as particularized, has only a potentially intelligible being. Therefore, it is not to the phantasm as particularized that this individual owes the specific character of intellective animal, which is the nature of man. And so we have the same result as before, namely, that the thing from which man’s specific nature is derived is not particularized in diverse subjects…

Notes The difference between potency and act is ever with us!

13 The source of man’s specific nature must always remain the same in the same individual as long as the individual continues to be; otherwise, the individual would not always be of one and the same species, but sometimes of this one and sometimes of that one. But phantasms do not always remain the same in one man; rather, some new ones appear, while some old ones pass away. Therefore, the human individual neither acquires his specific nature through the phantasm nor by its means is he brought into contact with the principle of his specific essence, namely, the possible intellect.

14 Now, if it be argued that this man does not derive his specific nature from the phantasms themselves but from the powers in which the phantasms reside, namely, imagination, memory, and cogitation—the latter, which Aristotle in De anima calls the passive intellect, being proper to man—even so the same impossibilities ensue. For, since the cogitative power is operationally limited to particular things, makes its judgments on the basis of particular intentions, and acts by means of a bodily organ, it is not above the generic level of the sensitive soul. Now, man is not a man in virtue of his sensitive soul, but an animal. Therefore, it still remains that the only thing particularized in us is that which belongs to man as an animal.

15 Moreover, the cogitative power, since it operates by means of an organ, is not that whereby we understand, for understanding is not the operation of an organ. Now, that whereby we understand is that by which man is man, since understanding is man’s proper operation, flowing from his specific nature. Consequently, it is not by the cogitative power that this individual is a man, nor is it by this power that man differs substantially from the brutes, as the Commentator imagines…

Notes Understanding is not the operation of an organ: we are not our brains! Animals don’t understand: man does.

24 It is with respect to the conclusions of demonstrations, moreover, that there is science. For a demonstration is “a syllogism productive of scientific knowledge,” as Aristotle says in Posterior Analytics I [2]. Now, the conclusions of demonstrations are universals, and so, too, are their principles. Therefore, science will reside in that power which is cognizant of universals. But the passive intellect has no knowledge of universals, but only of particular intentions. Hence, it is not the subject of the habit of science…

29 And if there is one possible intellect for all men, it must be granted that if (as the Averroists assert) men have always existed, then the possible intellect has always existed, and much more the agent intellect, because “the agent is superior to the patient,” as Aristotle says. Now, if both the agent and the recipient are eternal, the things received must be eternal. It would then follow that the intelligible species existed from all eternity in the possible intellect; so, in that case, the latter receives no intelligible species anew. But it is only as the subjects from which intelligible species may be derived that sense and imagination have any necessary role to play in the understanding of things. Therefore, neither sense nor imagination will be necessary for understanding. And thus we shall come back to Plato’s theory that we do not acquire knowledge through the senses, but are awakened by them to the remembrance of things we knew before…

Notes Worse, if we’re all sharing the same learned things, we’re going to have an impossible time explaining our stupidity. The Averroist argument doesn’t explain how, if all understand as one, individuals are ignorant. As these next paragraphs show.

34 Since the intellect is a higher power than the sense, its unity must be greater. This explains the observed fact of one intellect exercising judgment upon diverse kinds of sensible things belonging to diverse sensitive powers. And from this we can gather that the operations belonging to the various sensitive powers are united in the one intellect. Now, some of the sensitive powers only receive—the senses, for instance; while some retain, as imagination and memory, which therefore are called store-houses. The possible intellect, then, must both receive and retain what it has received…

39 Then, too, the possible intellect, according to Aristotle, is that “whereby the soul and man understand.” But, if the possible intellect is one in all men and is eternal, then all the intelligible species of the things that are or have been known by any men whatever must already be received in it. Therefore, each of us, since we understand by the possible intellect, and, in fact, our act of understanding is itself the possible intellect’s act of understanding, will understand all that is or has been understood by anyone whatever; which is plainly false…

41 But, that this reply cannot wholly avoid the difficulty is made clear as follows. When the possible intellect has been actualized by the reception of the intelligible species, it can act of itself, as Aristotle says in De anima III [4].

This accounts for the experienced fact that when we have once acquired knowledge of a thing, it is in our power to consider it again at will. And since we are able to form phantasms adapted to the thinking that we wish to do, they are no hindrance to us [in our reconsideration of things], unless, perhaps, there be an obstacle on the part of the organ to which the phantasm belongs, as in madmen and those afflicted with lethargy, who cannot freely exercise their imagination and memory.

For this reason Aristotle says in Physics VIII that one already possessed of the habit of science, though he be considering potentially, needs no mover to bring him from potentiality to act, except a remover of obstacles, but is himself able to exercise his knowledge at will.

If, however, the intelligible species of all sciences are present in the possible intellect—which the hypothesis of its unicity and eternity necessarily implies—then that intellect will require phantasms, just as one already in possession of a science needs them in order to think in terms of that science; this the intellect cannot do without phantasms.

Therefore, since every man understands by the possible intellect as a result of its being actualized by the intelligible species, every man will be able to apply his mind at will to the things known in every science. This is manifestly false, since in that case no one would need a teacher in order to acquire a science. Therefore, the possible intellect is not one and eternal.

1 And sometimes even having a teacher is no guarantee of acquiring a science (sorry). Let us have madmen and lethargy (a burgeoning science lurks) as the final word!

Summary Against Modern Thought: The Soul Is The Form Of 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.

The points made here, while simple, must not be forgotten.

Chapter 71 That the soul is united to the body without intermediation (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 It can be inferred from the foregoing that the soul is united to the body immediately, no medium being required to unite the soul to the body, whether it be the phantasms, as Averroes holds, or the body’s powers, as some say, or the corporeal spirit, as others have asserted.

Notes Because, of course, the soul is the body’s form. Without the form, the (living) body wouldn’t exist.

2 For we have shown that the soul is united to the body as its form. Now, a form is united to matter without any medium at all, since to be the act of such and such a body belongs to a form by its very essence, and not by anything else. That is why, as Aristotle proves in Metaphysics VIII [6] there is nothing that makes a unitary thing out of matter and form except the agent which reduces the potentiality to act, for matter and form are related as potentiality and act.

3 Even so, it can be said that there is a medium between the soul and the body, not, however, from the point of view of being, but of movement and the order of generation. Respecting movement, we find such a medium, since the movement of the body by the soul entails a certain order among movables and movers.

For the soul performs all its operations through its powers; thus, it moves the body by means of its power, and, again, the members by means of the [vital] spirit, and, lastly, one organ by means of another. And in the line of generation, a certain medium is found in the fact that dispositions to a form precede the form’s reception in matter, but are posterior to it in being. That is why the body’s dispositions, which make it the proper perfectible subject of such and such a form, may thus be called intermediaries between the soul and the body.

Notes This is clarified in the following chapter, which is also short.

Chapter 72 That the whole soul is in the whole body and in each of its parts (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 In the light of the same considerations it can be shown that the whole soul is present in the whole body and in its several parts.

2 For the proper act must reside in its proper perfectible subject. Now, the soul is the act of an organic body, not of one organ only. It is, therefore, in the whole body, and not merely in one part, according to its essence whereby it is the body’s form.

Notes The soul is not the mind; the soul is not a ghost in the machine, it is the form and lifebreath of the machine.

3 Moreover, the soul is the form of the whole body in such fashion as to be also the form of each part.

For, were it the form of the whole and not of the parts, it would not be the substantial form of that body; thus, the form of a house, which is the form of the whole and not of each part, is an accidental form. That the soul is the substantial form both of the whole and of the parts, is clear from the fact that not only the whole but also the parts owe their species to it.

This explains why it is that, when the soul departs, neither the whole body nor its parts remain of the same species as before; the eye or flesh of a dead thing are so called only in an equivocal sense.

Consequently, if the soul is the act of each part, and an act is in the thing whose act it is, it follows that the soul is by its essence in each part of the body.

Notes You didn’t miss the first sentence, did you? [T]he soul is the form of the whole body in such fashion as to be also the form of each part. That means a “lump of cells” living inside a would-be mother has a soul, too; i.e., a form, too.

4 And this is manifestly true of the whole soul. For since a whole is spoken of in relation to parts, the word whole must be taken in various senses, according to the meaning of parts.

Now, the term part has a double signification; it may refer to the quantitative division of a thing (thus, two cubits is a part of three cubits), or to a division of its essence (form and matter are in this sense said to be parts of a composite).

Accordingly, whole is used in reference both to quantity and to the perfection of the essence.

Now, whole and part quantitatively so called appertain to forms only accidentally, namely, so far as the forms are divided when the quantitative subject in which they reside is divided. But whole and part as applied to the perfection of the essence are found in forms essentially.

Respecting this kind of totality, which belongs to forms essentially, it is therefore clear that the whole of every form is in the whole subject and the whole of it in each part; just as whiteness, by its total essence, is in a whole body, so is it in each part.

The case is different with a totality that is ascribed to forms accidentally, for in this sense we cannot say that the whole whiteness is in each part. If, then, there exists a form which is not divided as a result of its subject being divided—and souls of perfect animals are such forms—there will be no need for a distinction, since only one totality befits things of that kind; and it must be said unqualifiedly that the whole of this form is in each part of the body.

Nor is this difficult to grasp by one who understands that the soul is not indivisible in the same way as a point, and that an incorporeal being is not united to a corporeal one in the same way as bodies are united to one another, as we explained above.

Notes Yet still we have not reached the point how, the practical how. How does the immaterial intellect “talk to” the corporeal non-corpse? There is an ever-so-slight hint next, which will be italicized (my emphasis). Physicists should pay attention here.

5 Nor is it incongruous that the soul, since it is a simple form, should be the act of parts so diverse in character. For in every case the matter is adapted to the form according to the latter’s requirements.

Now, the higher and simpler a form is, the greater is its power; and that is why the soul, which is the highest of the lower forms, though simple in substance, has a multiplicity of powers and many operations. The soul, then, needs various organs in order to perform its operations, and of these organs the soul’s various powers are said to be the proper acts; sight of the eye, hearing of the ears, etc. For this reason perfect animals have the greatest diversity of organs; plants, the least.

6 Reflection on the fact that the soul needs various organs for the performance of its multifarious activities was the occasion for some philosophers to say that the soul is in some particular part of the body. Thus, Aristotle himself says in the De motu animalium [X] that the soul is in the heart, because one of the soul’s powers is ascribed to that part of the body. For the motive power, of which Aristotle was treating in that work, is principally in the heart, through which the soul communicates movement and other such operations to the whole body.

Summary Against Modern Thought: The Intellect Is The Body’s Form

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.

Pretty much the remainder of Book Two is on our intellect, and this is the most important subject. It will be several weeks before it is proved that our intellects (soul, or form) does not perish with the body, but we’ll get there. We also come to a bit of naughtiness, discuss how animals are difference, and show the existence of angels. It’s all hard work! We’re on Chapter 70 of 101.

Chapter 70 That according to the words of Aristotle the intellect must be said to be united to the body as its form (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation this week.

1 Now, since Averroes seeks to confirm his doctrine especially by appealing to the words and proof of Aristotle, it remains for us to show that in the Philosopher’s judgment we must say that the intellect, as to its substance, is united to the body as its form.

2 For Aristotle proves in the Physics [VIII, 5] that in movers and things moved it is impossible to proceed to infinity.

Hence, he concludes to the necessity of a first moved thing, which either is moved by an immobile mover or moves itself. And of these two he takes the second, namely, that the first movable being moves itself; for what is through itself is always prior to that which is through another.

Then he shows that a self-mover necessarily is divided into two parts, part moving and part moved; whence it follows that the first self-mover must consist of two parts, the one moving, the other moved. Now, every thing of this kind is animate. The first movable being, namely, the heaven, is therefore animate in Aristotle’s opinion. So it is expressly stated in De caelo [II, 2] that the heaven is animate, and on this account we must attribute to its differences of position not only in relation to us, but also in relation to itself.

Let us, then, ask with what kind of soul Aristotle thinks the heaven to be animated.

Notes Sharp readers will recall Chapter 13 from Book One! And thus, before reading the next paragraph, recall Who is the “first unmoved mover.”

3 In Metaphysics XI [7], Aristotle proves that in the heaven’s movement two factors are to be considered: something that moves and is wholly unmoved, and something that moves and is also moved.

Now, that which moves without being moved moves as an object of desire; nor is there any doubt that it moves as a thing desirable by that which is moved. And he shows that it moves not as an object of concupiscent desire, which is a sense desire, but of intellectual desire; and he therefore says that the first unmoved mover is an object of desire and understanding.

Accordingly, that which is moved by this mover, namely, the heaven, desires and understands in a nobler fashion than we, as he subsequently proves. In Aristotle’s view, then, the heaven is composed of an intellectual soul and a body. He indicates this when he says in De anima II [3] that “in certain things there is intellect and the power of understanding, for example, in men, and in other things like man or superior to him,” namely, the heaven.

Notes Of course, the term heavenly bodies did not mean to Aquinas what it does to us who are saturated in modern science!

4 Now the heaven certainly does not possess a sensitive soul, according to the opinion of Aristotle; otherwise, it would have diverse organs, and this is inconsistent with the heaven’s simplicity. By way of indicating this fact, Aristotle goes on to say that “among corruptible things, those that possess intellect have all the other powers,” thus giving us to understand that some incorruptible things, namely, the heavenly bodies, have intellect without the other powers of the soul.

5 It will therefore be impossible to say that the intellect makes contact with the heavenly bodies by the instrumentality of phantasms. On the contrary, it will have to be said that the intellect, by its substance, is united to the heavenly body as its form.

6 Now, the human body is the noblest of all lower bodies, and by its equable temperament most closely resembles the heaven, which is completely devoid of contrariety; so that in Aristotle’s judgment the intellectual substance is united to the human body not by any phantasms, but as its form.

7 As for the heaven being animate, we have spoken of this not as though asserting its accordance with the teaching of the faith, to which the whole question is entirely irrelevant. Hence, Augustine says in the Enchiridion: “Nor is it certain, to my mind, whether the sun, moon, and all the stars belong to the same community, namely, that of the angels; although to some they appear to be luminous bodies devoid of sense or intelligence.”

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!

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