Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Abstract for submitted paper on the Soul

The following is an abstract for a paper I've submitted for publication:
Critical responses to classical body-soul dualism claim that physicalism is compatible with core Christian theological doctrines. Yet, such critics reject the soul as a doctrine that is unsubstantiated by scientific perspectives on personhood. This paper argues that the soul is a plausible concept that is coherent with emergence theory and the Thomist tradition, particularly in the thought of philosopher Bernard Lonergan. In the first part, I outline the Thomist perspective on the soul in terms of the substantial form of the person. I describe Lonergan’s interpretation of the Thomist perspective. For Lonergan, unlike classical Thomists, the soul is an ordering principle for the exercise of a wider rationality, one which mediates the self-transcendence of human subjects, moral emotions and God’s grace. Second, I show how the application of emergence theory to human personhood in act corroborates Lonergan’s account. For both Lonergan and emergence theorists, consciousness and mind are evolutionary realities which demonstrate top-down causation. The mind’s unified free potential implies the existence of the soul, a natural form that I show to be confused with the specifically theological concept of the imago dei, of humanity as image of God. In concluding remarks, I suggest that human dignity is a moral/political concept that necessitates a prior ontological evaluation of ordered personhood.