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Philosophy of Evolution: Not Man's Soul

Participants in Dialogue


Various philosophers have argued about the human soul and its origin.

Indirectly adverse to the thesis are all the Materialists, who deny the reality and spirituality of the human soul.6 Adversaries of the soul in general are those who deny or diminish intellectual activity, or on the other hand those who extol intellectual activity too much.7 The first group, who deny or diminish intellectual activity are the Empiricists and the Positivists. Examples of the Empiricist position are found in Locke, who holds the soul is a fiction of the mind (fictio mentis); Hume who holds the soul is a collection of perceptions; and Bergson who holds reality is a continuum of becoming (fieri continuum) knowable by intuition which perceives the unity of consciousness but does not explain it. Examples of Positivists8 are Taine, who holds the soul is the common form of internal events; Ribot and Lehmann who hold the soul is a unity from one organism; and Ebbinghaus who holds the soul is just the sum of phenomenon. The second group of adversaries of the soul are those who extol intellectual activity too much, such as the Subjectivists and the Idealists. An example of the Subjectivist position is Kant, who holds that the soul is just a postulate of practical reason.9 The Idealists hold that nothing exists except to know self (ipsum cognoscere).10

Adversaries to the proposal in this chapter are Emanatism and Generationalism.

Emanatism encompasses many opinions, either openly Pantheistic11 or reductively Pantheistic, which have a manifestly false notion of God.12 They formerly flourished, and once again in our time propagate their doctrine. The human soul, in their opinion, arises from an emanation or flux from the substance of God Himself, either as a sort of spark of divinity, or as God existing in the just one soul.13 Among the Emanatists are numbered the Manichaeans, and the Priscillianists; in modern times the Theosophists and Spiritists. St. Thomas also noted that the Pythagorians and the Stoics had a form of Emanatism due to unwillingness to transcend imagination, so that they said God was a body, and so it follows that the soul would be in the nature of God (Confer: Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 90. 1).

Generationism is the doctrine of those who hold that human souls arise just like bodies arise, by generation, that is, by means of some seed transmitted by the parents to the children. They are called Traducionists as a metaphor, since they cut off a living part (a cutting), in the same way that vines and some plants are propagated. Materialistic Generationism is attributed to Tertullian. Spiritualistic Generationism asserts that the spiritual soul is produced by some spiritual seed, and is attributed to St. Augustine among others.14 In the nineteenth century, Rosmini professed a form of Generationism, condemned by Pope Leo XIII in 1887. Frohschammer (1821-1893) taught that God gives parents, when generating, the creative force.15

Proponents of the thesis are the Creationists. Creationism holds that the human soul is created by God, that is, produced from nothing, with no previous subject.16 All the Neo-Scholastics, except Rosmini, belong to this school.

Adversaries who reject the proposal make it clear that the thesis proposed is a serious subject for discussion. The thesis proposed and defended as true presents an objective problem worthy of dialogue.

Adversaries who seriously contradict the proposal in this chapter deserve respect. These adversaries have reasons for their position. In every false position there is some truth. In dialogue, every attempt should be made to clarify that truth. In this case, between excess of Rationalism and defectiveness of Empiricism there exists an experiential philosophy of Aristotle and St. Thomas.17 Accordingly, even if our proposal and its proofs demonstrate the adversaries wrong, their reasoning can be understood and respected.

Author:  John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
Copyright 2009 by The Genealogist, 3236 Lincoln, Franklin Park, IL 60131 U.S.A.