Do intelligent animals have rational souls?

There are very intelligent animals out there. For example, the grey parrot can do basic math, knows human language, can count, understand the concept if zero, say what their favorite food is, and express their desires. Some are said to have the intelligence of a 5 yr-old child.

Aren’t these indications of a rational soul? What are indications and tests that a being has a rational soul?

Self awareness, moral judgement.

The only animals on earth who have rational souls are human beings. Some animals may exhibit some crude form of so-called ‘intelligence’, not because they have an intellect, but by instinct, the instinct and natures God created them with. Do parrots or any other animals build computers, cars, cities, airplanes, write books, etc.? There is a manifest big difference between human beings and all the other animals on the earth.


Self awareness and moral judgement is lacking in animals.

Proof? We see no moral change or improvement among them. They are not aware of their own actions.

One parrot is not more morally perfect than any parrot that has ever existed. They do not strive for such a thing. They are goverened by instinct, not reason.

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To be morally responsible requires more than basic intelligence. Even in those baptised, there can be no eligibility for loss of grace until the use of reason develops, generally to the ability at age seven – some however never achieve it – even so, the human rational soul has the capacity.

Saying a parrot has more intelligence than a young child, even if true, and therefore has a rational soul leaves much out when considering the rational soul from at least certain theology from a Catholic religion perspective which of course not everyone will agree with, but this being a Catholic forum here goes. It leaves out the natural end of the rational soul which is by intellect and will to reason to grasp and act according to the truth, the truth being God.

Even in the case of a not yet fully rationally developed child or any human who from disability or illness is not capable of full rationality that person by virtue of being human still has a rational soul, unlike a non-human animal even if more intelligent than an individual human for reasons I’ve just mentioned.

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It is not Christian (including Catholic) teaching or Jewish teaching that animals, no matter how intelligent, have rational souls. They have spirits but not the equivalent of human souls. Personally, however, I believe they do, and also believe that, if there is a heaven, they go there just as children and infants do, because all of them are innocent. LOL The rest of us: I’m not so sure. THIS IS PERSONAL OPINION ONLY, NOTHING MORE.

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Aren’t there many studies that suggest that at least some animals have self awareness?

Doing maths is an example of having a soul?

That’s below the age of reason.

Well, below the age of moral reason. Surely a 5 year old has a soul, even though they aren’t at the age of reason.

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But animals show these traits. Self-awareness is well documented in several animals including primates, dolphins, elephants and some birds.

In terms of moral judgement, by traditional definitions, many animals follow a moral code. It may not be OUR moral code, but it is a code nonetheless. The only way to really proceed is to have you define morality.

Regardless, I think it’s a mistake to define pre-requisites for having a soul. Why not just say only humans have souls, period?

That means a soul does not equate to reason. Is that right??

Animals are not just biological machines. They are aware and have a sense of self and pattern recognition and limited computing abilities.

When they have a language like we do and start discussing and creating philosophy and art and goodness and the like then that serves as a definite indicator that they grasp universal concepts and are capable of intellection (which requires a rational soul, at least as explained and demonstrated in the Thomist philosophical tradition, but seems to be what’s meant more generally too).

If people are going to claim that we have a soul it might be beneficial to define exactly what it is we are supposed to have. Otherwise it’s just…human-ness.

I wouldn’t say that - it just means that the soul is in a diminished state as a substance. The soul still exists as its potential, but that potential hasn’t been made actual yet. The soul has the capacity for reason. Just like how a human soul without a body is still human, just a radically diminished human, to paraphrase Ed Feser.

This is a new one for me. A ‘potential soul’. The human brain has the capacity for reason. Which develops as one gets older. In what way is the soul then different?

I’m using ‘potential’ here in the Aristotlean Thomisitc sense of the word. It can be a bit complex, but this blog post might open up a rabbit hole for you.

This wording isn’t exactly correct. It’s always an actual human soul. Certain traits natural to being human just haven’t manifested yet due to lack of development in the body or, in the case of certain injured or mentally ill people, due to a deficiency or harm to the body.

That just says what it is to be human. As opposed to, for example, an ape. But what we are as humans has evolved very gradually from apes. So unless you are of the opinion that at some specific point God instilled into a person a soul therefore making him or her a human being (and then that soul was passed on down through the generations) then our ‘human-ness’ is an evolved property. We weren’t human - we were apes. Then a little less ape-like and a little more human-like. Rinse and repeat for a while.

If you go with the proposal that God installed a soul into someone then one would assume it was fully formed. Otherwise, if we go with Fesser’s definition of a soul representing our human-ness then that first person would only be a potential human.

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