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.


  1. Dr. Prof. Allen,

    Interesting! Has this article been published? I have an interest in critiques of physicalism as well as in Lonergan (see my MA thesis and a paper (undergrad) on Lonergan at my website. ( In retrospect, I should have incorporated Lonergan into my thesis... it would have been more interesting and positive. I'd love to read your work on this...

    Jeff Grace

  2. Hopefully later this year Jeff. Don't know yet... but it is a shortish piece.