On the Nature of Non-Human Entities


Please tell me your religious affiliation, and then respond to the questions below, noting whether it is based on personal opinion, or an actual tradition of the Catholic church. (Quotes would be nice. :wink: )

Do animals have souls? Plants? Bacteria? Non-living entities? :confused:

If the don’t, are they conscious of God? And how is that possible without a soul? :confused:

Animals can clearly make choices, so do they have Reason? And can they obey and/or disobey God? And if so, does such a choice make them righteous or sinful? :confused:


All living things have souls. However, plants and animals have what is referred to as “material” souls (even tho they are not made of matter!) Their souls cannot exist separate from matter. (This necessary union with matter is the reason they are called “material” souls). Neither do the souls of animals and plants have the intellectual powers of reason and free will - the ability to make reasoned choices.

By distinction, humans have “immaterial” souls - our souls can exist separated from matter (from our bodies). In addition to all the powers contained in plant and animal souls, human souls have the additional powers of intellect and will.

We are leaving in about 20 minutes, so I don’t have the time right now to search out sources (eg. quotes from Thomas Acquinas, etc.) Hopefully someone else can add a lot more info.

You might consider putting this question in the Philosophy section (listed under the main Apologetics heading).


Animals indeed make choices, but only as a result of their immediate desires and any conditioning (training) they may have had. Animals do not have the ability to reason out the morality or the long-term implications of their actions (Lassie and Benjie movies notwithstanding) :slight_smile: .



Everything has soul but not immortal, which is something special given to humankind by God. The only specie that is aware of God (that we know of) is the human race because we are the only ones who can think about and contemplate about God. The reasoning ability of animals are limited by their brains and cranium. But they do not make moral or ethical choices and because of that, cannot consciously choose between good and evil.


Here’s how I was viewing things. The world has three earthly world has three classes of “awarenesses”:

  1. “Simple Awareness” - Seeing as all creation was created by God, and is wholly dependent on him, everything (living and non-living) is, in some way, aware of God. Of course, I wouldn’t say that non-living things have understanding or are conscious, but I think they still have some basic awareness of the Divine.

  2. “Material Soul” - Bacteria, fungi, plants, animals, etc. have more than simple awareness, they have souls. This gives them life, instinct and emotions. Judging from the fact that they can create tools, they must also be able to plan, conceptualise, speculate and think logically about concrete things.

  3. “Immaterial Soul” - Man is unique from other animals in that his soul is not earthy, but spiritual. It is has a nature similar to, but still lower than, that of angels. Thus it possesses all the attributes of Simple Awareness and Material Souls, but additionally possesses immortality and the capability to process abstract concepts such as love, truth, good, evil, etc.


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.