Philosophy of Evolution: Man Unique

The State of the Question


Man is essentially different from the other animals.


The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome has a philosophy department that currently maintains an irreducible difference between man and the other animals.1 The current course at the Gregorian University explores the difference between man and animals extensively (chapter six of the student notes). The external and internal sense faculties are treated. The relationship of animal instinct to human intelligence is examined. Language is noted as an important factor in the discontinuity between man and the other animals. La Vecchica who currently teaches the course on evolution is an expert in philosophical linguistics.2 Finally, an examination and critique of animal experiments comes to the conclusion that there is an essential difference between man and the other animals.

The Scholastic philosophers of the twentieth century, and Scholastic philosophers generally, have always maintained that although man shares sensation and sense knowledge with the animals, man is essentially different.3 Observation and natural history lead to the conviction that animals in general have a sensitive psychic life, and sometimes that life is most perfect in its own order. It must be conceded that in certain ways that sensitive life of animals is even more perfect than the sensitive life of mankind.

Regarding the term "intelligent," some authors, who consider the sensitive life of animals, describe the perfection of animal activity as more or less "intelligent."4 This way of speaking is entirely inappropriate, arises from false doctrine, errors and confusion, and is without philosophic proof; such use of "intelligent" ought to be avoided in writings on experimental science.

The truth contained in the thesis is very important and extremely useful.5 Scientifically, it leads to a better understanding of the nature of man and his dignity. The position of the adversaries would deprive man of that dignity. Further, under a moral and practical aspect, human dignity emphasizes the need of charity to the poor. Animal protection societies fill another type of need.

Author:  John Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
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