May 29, 2012

Ecclesiastic Parallels: Aristotle, The Dumb Ox & A Monkey

Man...I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. You would think someone or Something watching over all of this actually planned this kind of stuff...

So...I’m reading Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica: First Part, Question 75- Man who is composed of a spiritual and a corporeal substance: and in the first place, concerning what belongs to the essence of the soul. It plainly states his position that man, is composed of a spiritual and corporeal [physical] substance. He goes on to state that a theologian (him) deals solely with man in this question in relation to the soul and only deals with the body when it has a direct correlation or connect to the soul (but he does deal with both as both are unmistakably part of reality). Thomas Aquinas then approaches his examination of the essence, power and operation of the soul in what can only be viewed as a scientific method/methodology (more on this later).

Aquinas first ponders the nature of the soul itself. I will attempt to summarize the main points of his conclusions in a succinct manner. Aquinas answered that, it must be allowed that the principle of intellectual operation which we call the soul, is a principle both incorporeal (physical) and subsistent (maintaining life). Therefore the intellectual principle which we call the mind or the intellect has an operation "per se" apart from the body. He concludes, therefore, that the human soul, which is called the intellect or the mind, is something incorporeal and subsistent. Aquinas further asserts after reasoning that "the soul is man," can be taken in two senses. First, that man is a soul; though a particular man. It could also be understood in a sense that there could be actions attributed to the soul itself apart from the corporeal man therefore the soul could operate independent of the corporeal body. That being said, sensation, like emotion is not a product of the soul nor the body alone. Therefore man is not soul only but something composed of body and soul. Aquinas also states that the soul has no matter. He further asserts that the human soul is incorruptible, immortal or imperishable.

Having consulted one of the premier Christian minds outside of Jesus Christ Himself we arrive at the aforementioned conclusions. What strikes me as peculiar is the language Aquinas uses. When reasoning his arguments he uses the Greek byproducts “genus” and “species”.

Aquinas literally states in relation to the differences between man and animal that, Although man is of the same "genus" as other animals, he is of a different "species." Specific difference is derived from the difference of form; nor does every difference of form necessarily imply a diversity of "genus."

He then goes on to show the same type of delineation between the human soul and angels.

Hmmm…this is where it gets real uncanny…

Then I realize why the peculiarities of these terminologies strike me as they do. To my novice formerly agnostic eyes they appeared Darwin-esque. Because of my reading Aquinas I find they were used centuries before Charles Darwin to describe things in the theological realm. If we do our homework we see that these biological classifications, as are many modern biological classifications are firmly based even farther back in time in Aristotelian philosophy. Ironically, this is the same Aristotle that viewed humans as having a vegetative, a sensitive, and a rational soul, capable of thought and reflection (De Anima). The same kind of thought or reflection that Darwin apparently did not do in an unbiased manner.

We also will find if we dig deep enough that the entire taxonomic ranking system actually owes a huge debt of gratitude to Aqunias’ scholasticism of the 13th Century. These terms and ideas were used long before they were pilfered by “modern” science and forced into an evolutionary framework of redefinition and strained sematic use. As a matter of fact, these terms are now nearly inseparable from the modern day biological associations. The irony is that when Aquinas used them he only mentioned the biological aspect or corporeal body of man when it came in relation to the soul which was of supreme importance to the interest of the theologian whereas the corporeal aspect (the biological body) was essentially disposable or a temporary dwelling since it had been made corrupted by the Fall.

In the end, knowing that Darwin was initially raised with a theological background and had even (at one time) entertained the idea of going to Seminary, I suggest that Darwin may have been familiar with Aquinas writing as he was clearly using the same Aristotelian terms coined by Aquinas who borrowed them from Greek philosophy. To me it just shows the Devil will use any means to confuse truth and subvert it. Philosophical terms borrowed to explain theological concepts then borrowed again to apply to theories of science that systematically abandons God as irrelevant. What amazes me is that Darwin in all his intellect never seems to have accounted for the nature of the soul or the incorporeal, the actual vital breath or spark of life or de anime. He only engaged the corporeal...half the picture. He divides up the corporeal reality around him but separates out the life essence itself and the spiritual, the supernatural and super-mundane thereby discards it. He ignored half of reality as do nearly all people of a non-theistic bend. The exact opposite of what Aristotle attempted to do be trying to explain reality in all its nuances. Conversely, Aquinas, the theologian took into account both, therefore grasping and incorporating and comprehending all of reality. So who was the smarter man and the most accepting of all the facts in a scientific manner/method? Which does the world hold up on a pedestal? Which does it frown upon? What does this say about most of the advanced world? Is there nothing new under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11~”What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

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