Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Hylomorphism is Not a Dirty Word III

The following is the final part in a series of posts about the principles of matter and form that we have been learning in our Philosophical Anthropology Class. My paper is entitled: Hylomorphism as outlined by Thomas Aquinas in Part One of the Summa Theologiæ, Questions 75-76.


The question of incorruptibility is similar to the subsistent article, but goes further to describe the soul as always wanting to exist because of its desires to exist and because its ability to know “existence absolutely.”[7] “Existence absolutely refers to the ability of the soul to know things apart from it and to understand everything which would become limited due to a material composition. Matter would disrupt the ability to know things because of its composition as material. Because it has intellect it naturally has the tendency to desire to exist and without matter which is corruptible it will be permanent. This really has to do with his proof that souls exist with God in heaven or hell for eternity.

Aquinas then asks whether the intellectual principle is united to the body as its form. He concludes, “The soul is the primary principle of our nourishment, sensation, and local movement; and likewise our understanding.” [8] He asks if the intellectual principle is multiplied according to the number of bodies. This question has to do with the understanding of the soul as one or many souls connected the various parts of a human body. Aquinas proves that each person has one soul. This question is mimicked a bit by the next question, which is the form of the soul and whether there are other forms besides the intellectual souls form. He demonstrates that the body has one soul (one form) because the intellectual soul is the form of the whole person. He states “It cannot be said that they are united by the unity of the body; because it is rather the soul that contains the body and makes it one, than the reverse.”

He questions whether the intellectual soul is properly united to such a body. The soul must be united to the body and be a unity otherwise the body would not be one. Many operations from the different form would divide the body. For instance this would mean that arms could function on their own without the rest of the body. The matter is for the form and form is not just for the matter. If the form of a rock were something other than the form of a rock it would not be a rock. Likewise was its matter not realized as “rock” by the form, the matter would not be rock. Similarly the soul is the substance of a particular man and has particular powers that pertain to a particular man and his particular body. Aquinas finalizes this when he says, “If however, the intellectual soul is united to the body as substantial form as we have said above, it is impossible for another substantial form besides the intellectual soul to be found in man.” [9]

Why does this theory or proof make a difference in the contemporary period? There are several ramifications for this perception of the soul. For one, we look at the consequences of a divorced science. Science is purely empirical in recent times. Pope Benedict, in his Regensburg Address, points out that philosophy and reasoned arguments are absent from the realm of good science.[10] What cannot be proven empirically is no longer considered valid in the scientific world. Humans are put on the same plane as animals, but having more intelligence. Instead of showing that animals have different, powers we to and prove the idea that man is an upgrade-a hop, skip, or jump from the animal kingdom-and not that our souls give us something intrinsically different. We are advanced mechanical beings, but not those who have rational souls which give us permanence. There is no need to see worth in a person. Without souls or even distant relationships of soul and body (with Cartesian thought), we understand the human equation very differently. The lack of continuity between a soul and mind would give the notion that what one does with the body does not affect the soul. Morality then doesn’t matter except on a useful level to keep order. When we understand the need for a soul body composite possessing rationality and subsistence, we then find everything we do matters very much. Our very souls are at stake when we commit any act of sin or do anyone violence. We really find through Aquinas an account of the soul which brings faith, reason, and science together. I have the courage now to say that we need to refine how science is done as well as rethink philosophy.

[7] 72

[8] 76

[9] 89