A theological/philosophical question concerning Thomas Aquinas

Thomas

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... so is "the thinker" a material brain, or is it an immaterial essence?
Or, conversely, can a thought exist without a material brain to think it?

Can the material universe exist without a cause? I would say no.
So would I, but there's plenty of sound evidence that would, reasonably and rationally, disagree.

The cause is immaterial, as are our souls.
OK.

How many different types of immaterial "substance" can there be?
I've never thought of listing ... I wonder if it's one of those 'how many angels on the head of a pin' type questions?

A thought. A memory. Are they the same substance? I don't have answers ... I'm just musing.

What could you envisage a "spiritual substance" to mean?
I'd start with terms from Scripture:
nefesh (Hebrew) | psyche (Greek) | anima (Latin)
The animal or sanguinary soul, every 'living' thing has this.
"for the life (nefesh) of every creature is the blood of it" (Leviticus 17:14)
"for the blood is the life (nefesh)" (Deuteronomy 122:23).

ruach | nous/pneuma | spiritus
The term 'ruach' means 'breath' (in the anthropological sense) or 'wind' (in the spiritual), and as such can express the principle of life, rather than an individual being:
"In whose hand [is] the soul (nefesh) of every living thing, and the breath (ruach) of all mankind" (Job 12:10)
Ruach can imply a meta-personal quality, not necessarily above the cosmological. In reference to God it signifies the Divine, but in reference to the spirit of man, not necessarily, it's fallible: "They also that erred in spirit (ruach)" (Isaiah 29:44); it can signify disorder, passion, even madness, "Terrors are turned upon me: they pursue my soul as the wind (ruach)" (Job 30:15), or "Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind (ruach) and confusion" (Isaiah 41:29).

Neshamah| (pneuma/pnoe | spiritus/spiraculum/habitus)
The breath, be it human or divine. In Genesis God made man and 'breathed' life into him.
The Divine Breath not only animates, it can also confer a sanctified state, a state of grace.

I presume Islam has its own hierarchy? I know of ruh and nafs only in passing, but is there not a link to the Hebrew?
 

muhammad_isa

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Or, conversely, can a thought exist without a material brain to think it?

I don't think it matters .. bodies are a manifestation of God .. they can be created and destroyed at His will.

I've never thought of listing ... I wonder if it's one of those 'how many angels on the head of a pin' type questions?

Fair comment .. but I must say, that I can't envisage more than one :)

I'd start with terms from Scripture:
nefesh (Hebrew) | psyche (Greek) | anima (Latin)
The animal or sanguinary soul, every 'living' thing has this.
"for the life (nefesh) of every creature is the blood of it" (Leviticus 17:14)
"for the blood is the life (nefesh)" (Deuteronomy 122:23).

Yes .. I think this is more of a description of the relationship between the spiritual soul and the physical body.
Some Jewish thinkers talk about the soul being body and mind .. I am referring to the spiritual substance.
That can't include a body or blood by definition.

The term 'ruach' means 'breath' (in the anthropological sense) or 'wind' (in the spiritual), and as such can express the principle of life, rather than an individual being:
...
Neshamah| (pneuma/pnoe | spiritus/spiraculum/habitus)
The breath, be it human or divine. In Genesis God made man and 'breathed' life into him.
The Divine Breath not only animates, it can also confer a sanctified state, a state of grace.

I presume Islam has its own hierarchy? I know of ruh and nafs only in passing, but is there not a link to the Hebrew?

Yes, rūḥ al-qudus for example is the Holy Spirit.
nafs is similar to the concept of nephesh, I think. i.e. a spiritual essence of mankind / soul

However, word for word translations of concepts are not always possible.
I don't think that any of these terms are literal "substances", but is more of a question of language to explain
phenomena which are non-physical.
 

muhammad_isa

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Can you say what 'spiritual substance' means to you, or is it an open-ended term?

Well, for statrters..

When we are materialistic, we think of the material world as the most real thing there is, and things get progressively more unreal to us as our thoughts move to spiritual things, and finally to God–whom we see as a non-existent illusion believed in only by simple-minded and gullible people.

and then..

But as we move away from materialism and toward spiritual life, our perceptions of reality are turned the other way, and we more and more begin to think of God as the ultimate reality, and spirit as the “real world” for human beings, while seeing the material world as relatively unreal, and its pleasures and privileges as temporary, and even as illusory compared to spiritual pleasures.

..and yes .. I own up .. I copied & pasted that. I needed a kick-start in order to answer your question. :)
..so it's about "the spirit world", as opposed to this material existence.

We are all "spirits" [ no, not God .. God is infinite ], and there is no limit to the number of souls that make up the whole.
I don't believe that there is anything such as a soul made of "holy spiritual substance" or "non-holy spiritual substance".
..it's ALL merely "spiritual substance". All spiritual substance is "from" God.
I don't know how else to put it..
 

Cino

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Well, since it is so easy to see how gross material factors influence "the thinker" (I mentioned alcohol, but also think about sleep deprivation, fasting, and other religious disciplines which bring about altered states of consciousness), to me the material brain is a necessary condition for "the thinker" to arise.

Every single thing I ever learned, I have learned via my material brain. This includes religious instruction.
 

muhammad_isa

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the material brain is a necessary condition for "the thinker" to arise.

Yes, that is what we perceive. We can see this material existence and analyse it.
We can make an assumption that that is all there is to it, but to me, that makes little sense.
I would be most surprised if it was possible for us to be a "simple" physical machine that just evolved, and has no spiritual component that is independent from this material reality. i.e. a souless machine

We are born .. we have a span of time in this world .. we die.
..and when we are dead, the reality of the eternal, spiritual cosmos disappears in a puff of smoke? o_O
 

Cino

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I would be most surprised if it was possible for us to be a "simple" physical machine that just evolved, and has no spiritual component that is independent from this material reality. i.e. a souless machine

To reply to your side remark about "simple" physical "machines" - that's a straw man you're replying to, not me, and I think you know it well, having discussed this very topic with me many times here.
 

muhammad_isa

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To reply to your side remark about "simple physical machines" - that's a straw man you're replying to, not me, and I think you know it well, having discussed this very topic with me many times here.

OK .. well it is a case of trying to determine what is the origin and nature of a "soul", then?
 

Cino

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OK .. well it is a case of trying to determine what is the origin and nature of a "soul", then?

Let's start with the nature of the soul, how we can know about it. How do you experience your soul, how do you know about it?
 

muhammad_isa

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Let's start with the nature of the soul, how we can know about it. How do you experience your soul, how do you know about it?

Where to start..
I can imagine a large set of thick books on psychology, on a bookshelf :D
..perhaps you should start off.

Cino said:
the material brain is a necessary condition for "the thinker" to arise.

Yes .. there won't be much of "a thinker" if the body and mind are not in equilibrium.
They work together, I would agree.
I don't agree with the notion of extreme behaviour, such as denouncing the world,
and living in poverty etc.
Nevertheless, neglecting spirituality is just as much a recipe for disaster.

+ + +

Descartes, influenced by the automatons on display throughout the city of Paris, began to investigate the connection between the mind and body, and how the two interact. His main influences for dualism were theology and physics. The theory on the dualism of mind and body is Descartes' signature doctrine and permeates other theories he advanced.

Known as Cartesian dualism (or mind–body dualism), his theory on the separation between the mind and the body went on to influence subsequent Western philosophies
.

What do you think about that?
 
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Cino

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..perhaps you should start off.

I'm not a psychologist. My SO is. maybe that's where the impression comes from.

Soul: There are processes that are clearly internal, subjective to me, which are however not consciously perceived by me, except maybe in dreams or deep meditation, and then, in ways that are not really obvious to my intellect. There are other ways besides dreaming and meditation to engage with these processes, such as creating and appreciating artwork, music, or nature.

As you pointed out in recent posts elsewhere, I agree that there is an emotional connection there, much stronger than the intellectual one. I like to call this aspect of soul, the Heart.

Your turn?

What do you think about that?

Cartesian dualism is a pimple on the face of Western philosophy.
 

muhammad_isa

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I'm not a psychologist. My SO is. maybe that's where the impression comes from.

Yes .. but I'm sure you take an interest, as do I.

Soul: There are processes that are clearly internal, subjective to me, which are however not consciously perceived by me, except maybe in dreams or deep meditation, and then, in ways that are not really obvious to my intellect. There are other ways besides dreaming and meditation to engage with these processes, such as creating and appreciating artwork, music, or nature.

That's true, yes. All these things are a type of communication with our "inner-being". Sometimes, these experiences can confuse us or perhaps "enchant" us, and sometimes they can truly enlighten us as to the nature of reality.
How to distinguish between the two is maybe where the "Holy Spirit" comes in.

I don't see anything magical about the Holy spirit, as such .. I see it as coming from within .. a kind of deep realisation of self/truth?

As you pointed out in recent posts elsewhere, I agree that there is an emotional connection there, much stronger than the intellectual one. I like to call this aspect of soul, the Heart.

Yes, does our heart rule our head, or does rational, logical conclusion?

Cartesian dualism is a pimple on the face of Western philosophy.

..so you agree with it, or don't agree with it?

..just "thinking"..

A man wrote to say that he accepted nothing but Solipsism, and added that he had often wondered why it was not a more common philosophy. Now Solipsism simply means that a man believes in his own existence, but not in anybody or anything else. And it never struck this simple sophist, that if his philosophy was true, there obviously were no other philosophers to profess it. :oops:
 

Cino

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That's true, yes. All these things are a type of communication with our "inner-being". Sometimes, these experiences can confuse us or perhaps "enchant" us, and sometimes they can truly enlighten us as to the nature of reality.
How to distinguish between the two is maybe where the "Holy Spirit" comes in.

I think it is useful to distinguish between moods like enchantment or clarity, and the causes of such moods, which is what I understand you to mean by the Holy Spirit.

I don't see anything magical about the Holy spirit, as such .. I see it as coming from within .. a kind of deep realisation of self/truth?

You also mention Satan in your posts. Similar?

Yes, does our heart rule our head, or does rational, logical conclusion?

There's more than these two, but they are the most noticeable. It's not a hierarchy, either. The thing is, we tend to identify with the conscious "head", ascribing it more agency than it actually has.

..so you agree with it, or don't agree with it?

I don't. I thought I had made that clear on numerous occasions, over the years here.

A man wrote to say that he accepted nothing but Solipsism, ...

Interesting, what has solipsism got to do with our discussion about Cartesian dualism, or the soul?
 

muhammad_isa

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You also mention Satan in your posts. Similar?

In a way. We are all individuals [ souls ], with differing intentions. There is a constant battle going on in the world,
that is comprised of all these souls, and satan can refer to the "originator" of evil or those souls that are in a similar state
due to their emotional dislikes / fears / arrogance etc.
Those that are "filled with the Holy Spirit" are those souls which dislike satan and his contempories .. they have
the protection of "The Holy One" against evil.

I don't. I thought I had made that clear

My memory might not be what it was..
..so the mind is not something separate from the body .. is that right?

Interesting, what has solipsism got to do with our discussion about Cartesian dualism, or the soul?

Well, if we are discussing the nature of "a soul" .. one's "inner being", we need to look at it from the point of "the whole",
and not just our own personal experience.
 

stranger

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..just "thinking"..

A man wrote to say that he accepted nothing but Solipsism, and added that he had often wondered why it was not a more common philosophy. Now Solipsism simply means that a man believes in his own existence, but not in anybody or anything else. And it never struck this simple sophist, that if his philosophy was true, there obviously were no other philosophers to profess it. :oops:

Interesting thread, way past my pay grade, but interesting. My father dabbled a bit with Christian philosophy in his latter days, was part of a discussion group along with a lady friend (My mom had passed away some time earlier, the relationship between my dad and his friend was completely platonic.) There was one philosopher that he found particularly amusing, and I'm not completely familiar with his system, but apparently it had to do with one's perceptions creating the reality around them. It seems his students seized upon this and ran the logic out to monstrous proportions, joking: "We better take care of this guy, because if he goes, we all go." :) I can still remember on several occasions my dad telling that story and laughing... I can almost hear his laugh now... He deserved better than me as a son but I think in many ways he was quite proud of me.
 

Thomas

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I don't believe that there is anything such as a soul made of "holy spiritual substance" or "non-holy spiritual substance". ..it's ALL merely "spiritual substance". All spiritual substance is "from" God. I don't know how else to put it..
Fair enough. I was thinking yesterday, and I think the term 'substance' is the trick one, as we use it, the Ancients used it, but we tend to think of it in modern terms ...

I think 'substance' is an unnecessary term that can lead to misunderstanding. I've been looking at Aquinas, for example, and if we're talking about 'substance', we'd have to factor in 'essence' and 'subsistence' and 'nature' and all manner of philosophical technical terms ... As we're not, I'm inclined to think the term 'substance' is redundant.
 

muhammad_isa

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I think 'substance' is an unnecessary term that can lead to misunderstanding.

..this reminds me of the the Blasphemy of Sirmium..

But since many persons are disturbed by questions concerning what is called in Latin substantia, but in Greek ousia, that is, to make it understood more exactly, as to 'coessential,' or what is called, 'like-in-essence,' there ought to be no mention of any of these at all, nor exposition of them in the Church, for this reason and for this consideration, that in divine Scripture nothing is written about them, and that they are above men's knowledge and above men's understanding;

"the fourth Council of Sirmium, also in 358, proposed a vague compromise: it said simply that the Son was homoios ("like") the Father."

We are ALL "like the Father" [ made in His image ], aren't we?

I've been looking at Aquinas, for example, and if we're talking about 'substance', we'd have to factor in 'essence' and 'subsistence' and 'nature' and all manner of philosophical technical terms ... As we're not, I'm inclined to think the term 'substance' is redundant.

Yeah .. "substance" conjures up something physical really, I would agree.
 
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