Animals make choices. Does that mean they have a rational soul?

Animals make choices on a regular basis. They pick one mate over the other. They strategize and set up ambushes on their prey. They play dead in the face of danger. They look for the perfect pebble to attract their mate. They build nests for their offspring. They refuse to go outside during a violent thunderstorm in the winter. They sniff each other’s…well, you get my point.

Animals make choices all the time. So how can it be said they don’t have a rational soul? All of the above activities involve some kind of choice or rationalization, right?

Short answer: No.
It means they are reacting to instinct.


If animals had immortal souls, we wouldn’t be able to eat them. Yet Jesus ate lamb and fish. ‘Rational’ depends on your definition. In your examples, it doesn’t equate to human free will.

Crows are pretty smart. Here’s a complex series of decision making…


They make choices, but they don’t make moral choices.


Well… We could say that they have a mind…
Yet… they cannot have a Soul as does Humans…
This we know from Catholic Magisterium

I don’t think animals make choices based on reason or logic.


Right a cat will choose the fish in preference to the potato. Is that what we mean by rational?

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Only if we assert that the cat is thinking, “well… I really don’t need all those carbs, and fish really does have all those healthy Omega-3 fatty acids”…! :rofl:


No. Unless you’ve ever had a dog come up to you and tell you why he chose to mate with one dog instead of another.


Some animals have limited rational capacity:

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My female dog is smart as anything. She can problem solve. My male is as smart as a bag of hammers.
Example. I slide a treat underneath a kennel and out to the other side. One dog stands sniffing where it went underneath, the other goes straight around to the other side and gets it. She can think and come up with solutions. I didn’t show her that.

I would guess God gave animals this for survival. If one animal gets food, another can steal it. This is not a moral issue for them.

“Fish tasty. Potatoe bland.”

It’s nothing deep philosophically, but the cat is still weighing the pros and cons of its options.

Animals might make rational choices (i.e. use intellect to make choices based on some rational), but that is not what we mean by a rational soul.

The difference between animals and humans is that animals have material, versus immortal/spiritual souls. That means that their soul is integrated into the material aspects of their existence. At death the soul ceases to exist (no material life -> no material soul). Their soul is the animating principle to allow their physical existence with no concern for life beyond. What you describe is a function of the intellect and not the soul.

Humans on the other hand have both intellect and will. Our will is our capacity to love; loving God in particular. The differentiation is we can use our intellect in service of knowing and loving God. If all we use our intelligence for is to better our physical needs then it is a deficit of the will.

I think the disconnect is that we mean rational with regard to the soul as the ability to chose to love God or not. That is not in the capacity of an animal soul.

Yes. Just because they’ll choose sole . Doesn’t not mean they have a “Rational Soul”


Animals don’t have souls, but they are living things. :slight_smile:

Souls are what animate living beings. Aquinas would assert that animals have ‘sensitive souls’ but not ‘rational souls’. One of the major differences (besides rationality!) is that human souls are eternal, while plant and animal souls are not.


No. Yes animals have a type of soul, but not the same as ours. My parrot is also very intelligent and has a rudimentary emotional awareness. She, however, does not have a conscience or sense of morality.

The word “animal” actually MEANS “something that has a soul”. From the Latin anima meaning soul.

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  1. Human beings: Rational souls.
  2. Animals: Sensitive souls.
  3. Plants:Vegetative souls.
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