Can you prove by reason that we have souls?


#1

I am in a philosophy class and need to know how to prove to classmates that we have souls.


#2

there are at least two promising tacks to take for this:

  1. things like numbers, sets, propositions, types, and properties are traditionally considered to be abstract objects, which are themselves non-physical/non-corporeal. but we have knowledge of all of these things. but if the principle of human intellection was itself physical, it could have no acquaintance with non-physical objects. therefore the principle of human intellection must be non-physical.

  2. if human persons were exhaustively reducible to physical phenomena, then human persons would be exhaustively determined by the laws of nature. but if human persons are thus determined in every way, then human persons cannot make free choices. but if there are no free choices, then there is no moral responsibility. but, on the contrary, there is moral responsibility. therefore, human beings are not exhaustively reducible to physcial phenomena.

neither of these argument, clearly, is complete, and neither will demonstrate the existence of the “soul” considered as the subject of a robust theology. but they offer a starting point.


#3

In The Case for Life After Death, check section #4.


#4

There is a Catholic apologetics service on allexperts.com with archived questions here:

experts.about.com/q/Catholics-955/index.htm

One of the people who answers questions is a Catholic physicist and has expounded a rational proof for the existence of God and of the soul. Look on that list for any question answered by “Marco” and read what he wrote. Very interesting.


#5

[quote=john doran]…

  1. things like numbers, sets, propositions, types, and properties are traditionally considered to be abstract objects, which are themselves non-physical/non-corporeal. but we have knowledge of all of these things. but if the principle of human intellection was itself physical, it could have no acquaintance with non-physical objects. therefore the principle of human intellection must be non-physical.
    [/quote]

Does this principle also imply idealism?

Edit: incidentally, could a computer, an entirely deterministic and material system, abstract from a set of experiences and arrive at an abstract concept? (or “concept,” if you prefer).

  1. if human persons were exhaustively reducible to physical phenomena, then human persons would be exhaustively determined by the laws of nature. but if human persons are thus determined in every way, then human persons cannot make free choices. but if there are no free choices, then there is no moral responsibility. but, on the contrary, there is moral responsibility. therefore, human beings are not exhaustively reducible to physcial phenomena.

Well, I think it takes more than assertion to establish that there is such a thing as moral responsibility - I assume in the realist sense.


#6

Thanks to all for the help!
God Bless!!!


#7

Read the Summa Theologica by Saint Thomas Aquinas.


#8

St Thomas Aquinas proves it in question 75, article 1 of the Summa:

To seek the nature of the soul, we must premise that the soul is defined as the first principle of life of those things which live: for we call living things “animate,” *, and those things which have no life, “inanimate.” Now life is shown principally by two actions, knowledge and movement…

It is manifest that not every principle of vital action is a soul, for then the eye would be a soul, as it is a principle of vision; and the same might be applied to the other instruments of the soul: but it is the “first” principle of life, which we call the soul. Now, though a body may be a principle of life, or to be a living thing, as the heart is a principle of life in an animal, yet nothing corporeal can be the first principle of life. For it is clear that to be a principle of life, or to be a living thing, does not belong to a body as such; since, if that were the case, every body would be a living thing…* If the nonmaterial, noncorporeal soul were not the priniple of life for a living thing, then every corporeal thing would be alive. What distinguishes living things from non-living things is precisely the soul, which is a principle of life and organic unity. The bible says that nothing that grows can lack a soul. This is true. Think of death. What distinguishes a dead human body from a living body? How do we define death? Cadavers can still exhibit functions of living things such as brain and nerve activity, a beating heart, etc. Many cells remain alive long after the body dies. Various cells and tissues can live for quite some time. But they lack the organic unity necessary for the cadaver to be a living human being. The body lacks the synchronism and organic unity that would give life to the body. It is precisely the soul that communicates such organic unity to the body. Additionally, genuine knowledge and intellect cannot be explained by a purely material means.

St Thomas Aquinas writes further in question 75:

[quote]It must necessarily be allowed that the principle of intellectual operation which we call the soul, is [noncorporeal,spiritual]. For it is clear that by means of the intellect man can have knowledge of all corporeal things. Now whatever knows certain things cannot have any of them in its own nature; because that which is in it naturally would impede the knowledge of anything else. Thus we observe that a sick man’s tongue being vitiated by a feverish and bitter humor, is insensible to anything sweet, and everything seems bitter to it. Therefore, if the intellectual principle contained the nature of a body it would be unable to know all bodies. Now every body has its own determinate nature. Therefore it is impossible for the intellectual principle to be a body. It is likewise impossible for it to understand by means of a bodily organ; since the determinate nature of that organ would impede knowledge of all bodies; as when a certain determinate color is not only in the pupil of the eye, but also in a glass vase, the liquid in the vase seems to be of that same color.

Therefore the intellectual principle which we call the mind or the intellect has an operation “per se” apart from the body. Now only that which subsists can have an operation “per se.” For nothing can operate but what is actual: for which reason we do not say that heat imparts heat, but that what is hot gives heat. We must conclude, therefore, that the human soul, which is called the intellect or the mind, is something incorporeal and subsistent.

Since Aquinas is so Aristotelian, it is likely that in a close reading of De Anima on might find a proof, though I have only read parts of De Anima and am not sure if it is in their or not.
[/quote]


#9

[quote=EnterTheBowser]Does this principle also imply idealism?
[/quote]

no.

[quote=EnterTheBowser]Edit: incidentally, could a computer, an entirely deterministic and material system, abstract from a set of experiences and arrive at an abstract concept? (or “concept,” if you prefer).
[/quote]

no.

[quote=EnterTheBowser]Well, I think it takes more than assertion to establish that there is such a thing as moral responsibility - I assume in the realist sense.
[/quote]

sure, i guess. just like it takes more than an assertion to establish that ~(A&~A)…


#10

Don’t know if you’ve seen this, but I have an article on my apologetics site about this question:

Is the Human Soul Immortal?

Phil P


#11

[quote=J Anthony]I am in a philosophy class and need to know how to prove to classmates that we have souls.
[/quote]

This can be argued for, but not proved. No reasoning is free of axioms, and all axioms are themselves debatable - such as the axioms underlying that pair of assertions. One would have to prove the spirituality of the soul, and its simplicity - as the proofs themseves require proof, and so on, proof is impossible.

Besides, it is not clear that things are really distinct from one another in kind - which is not far removed from idealism or monism: it would be compatible with a materialist position such as that of those Fathers who thought the soul was created out of ethereal matter (which is one reason why they did not all believe in the inherent immortality of the soul).

Besides, there are many different philosophies, with different conceptions of reality - a proof convincing to one would not be adequate to convice all


#12

I post, therefore, I am.


#13

[quote=pnewton]I post, therefore, I am.
[/quote]

Now that’s putting Descartes before the horse.


#14

[quote=john doran]no.
[/quote]

Actually, let me ask what the principle is:
that the physical can never affect the nonphysical?
that the nonphysical can never affect the physical?
something else altogether?

no.

Any particular reason?

sure, i guess. just like it takes more than an assertion to establish that ~(A&~A)…

Moral principles and logical ones are definitely in the same cateogory, I’m sure.


#15

[quote=EnterTheBowser]Actually, let me ask what the principle is:
that the physical can never affect the nonphysical?
that the nonphysical can never affect the physical?
something else altogether?
[/quote]

that no concrete entity can have knowledge of abstract entities.

not every non-physical entity is an abstract entity. the soul, for example.

[quote=EnterTheBowser]Any particular reason?
[/quote]

because you need a soul to be acquainted with abstract objects, and your computer has no soul, ex hypothesi.

[quote=EnyterTheBowser]Moral principles and logical ones are definitely in the same cateogory, I’m sure.
[/quote]

then we agree.

oh, wait - is that sarcasm again? i think i’m getting the hang of this…

moral principles and logical principles are in the same category: they’re principles, and as such are not subject to demonstration by appeal to prior and more certain truths.

“the good is to be done and pursued”, as a principle of practical reason, is the same in that regard as “~(A&~A)”, as a principle of theoretical reason.


#16

[quote=john doran]that no concrete entity can have knowledge of abstract entities.

not every non-physical entity is an abstract entity. the soul, for example.
[/quote]

So why can’t a concrete - physical - material - whatever - entity have knowledge of these abstract entities? Is it because the abstract and the material cannot interact? Or is there some other reason, or some more specific stipulation?

because you need a soul to be acquainted with abstract objects, and your computer has no soul, ex hypothesi.

Alright… are numbers abstract entities? And does one need knowledge of numbers to do math?

oh, wait - is that sarcasm again? i think i’m getting the hang of this…

moral principles and logical principles are in the same category: they’re principles, and as such are not subject to demonstration by appeal to prior and more certain truths.

“the good is to be done and pursued”, as a principle of practical reason, is the same in that regard as “~(A&~A)”, as a principle of theoretical reason.

Well… what happens when someone disagrees with you re morality? Is there any way to convince them that they’re wrong? Are you both right? What is the good, anyways?


#17

yes…

arguments from the body-mind problem and our capacity for rational thought…

also another favorite…principles and virtues, the natural law and dualism…

an eagle swoops down into the river grabs a fish crushes its head and begins to devour it…another eagle comes along and kills the first eagle and eats it fish…if people did this we would be sent to jail. why if we are merley phsical creatures, we are literally no different…


#18

[quote=EnterTheBowser]So why can’t a concrete - physical - material - whatever - entity have knowledge of these abstract entities? Is it because the abstract and the material cannot interact? Or is there some other reason, or some more specific stipulation?
[/quote]

for the same reason the lid of my coffee cup isn’t circleness - concrete entities are singular, they are ***tokens ***- i can only ever draw a circle on a peice of paper becaise if i could somehow draw circleness, then once the circle i had drawn was erased, there woud be no more circles.

[quote=EnterTheBowser]Alright… are numbers abstract entities?
[/quote]

yes. in the same way that there is only one letter “t” in this sentence (and in the english language).

[quote=EnterTheBowser]And does one need knowledge of numbers to do math?
[/quote]

sure, if one is actually doing math and not just performing a function of one’s programming…

[quote=EnterTheBowser]Well… what happens when someone disagrees with you re morality?
[/quote]

same thing that happens when one disagrees with your math…

[quote=EnterTheBowser] Is there any way to convince them that they’re wrong?
[/quote]

like, in a determinative way? no. of course not. i couldn’t convince someone that water is wet if they didn’t want to be convinced…

[quote=EnterTheBowser]What is the good, anyways?
[/quote]

that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?

but that is as may be - that doing it and avoiding its negation is a (self-evident), whatever it turns out to be upon reflection, principle, seems clear enough.

sort of like ~(A&~A); what does it mean for something to be “contradictory”?


#19

enterthebrowser it seems you have been imbued and seduced by relativism…moral relativism is logically absurd! :slight_smile: I can prove it if you want. pm me.

and yes the mind-body problem shows that purley materialistic proposals are inadaquate for explaining the human phenomenon, rational thought, etc. besides this an appeal to moral responsibility(natural law and our cosncience) and so on can be adaquate in establishing the duality of the human person.


#20

[quote=J Anthony]Thanks to all for the help!
God Bless!!!
[/quote]

The mind produces concepts. Concepts are immaterial. The physical brain does not posses an immaterial component. Therefore it cannot produce immaterial concepts. Thus it is necessary that their be an immaterial aspect of the mind. I.E. a soul.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.