Infusion of the human soul?

By David Fleischacker

Here is an interesting point think about. Lonergan writes in INSIGHT, that the human mind and will are intrinsically independent of the empirical residue (this is the way that he identifies what is meant by “spiritual” as opposed to material). Intrinsically, the human mind operates with respect to intelligibility and being and thus is not limited intrinsically in its operation by the empirical residue. In contrast, material objects are by definition intrinsically conditioned by the empirical residue, which means that these objects cannot be in act or operate without also being limited to doing so by the empirical residue.

The human being however is both spiritual and material. As spiritual, the operators of the mind and will transcend the empirical residue. As material, the motor-sensory matrix does not. This results in an interesting and important relationship between the mind and the “body” because the mind only reaches insight in an image. Hence though the mind operates in a manner transcendent to the empirical residue, it does not reach its answers save through that which is intrinsically conditioned by that residue. This is what Lonergan means when he proclaims that the mind is extrinsically conditioned by the empirical residue.

Now, one of the implications of this is that the human spirit cannot emerge in this world in the same manner that material objects can emerge. Hence, emergent probability operates a bit different in that which is spiritual because of the intrinsic freedom of the operators of the mind and will. In turn, this seems to be an argument for the claim that the “notion of being” (or in general, the transcendental notions of intelligiblity, being, and goodness) is infused. In other words, the mind is intrinsically caused by The Transcendent, and thus it is a created participation in the Divine Mind, rather than something that emerges in virtue of a proper statistical ordering of a lower manifold, as one might get from the emergence of organic life from a chemical soup. So, just as in the Thomistic understanding of efficient causality, nothing in this world can efficiently cause the existence of a rational soul, so in the Lonergan understanding of emergent probability, nothing in this world can emergently “cause” the rational subject.

Just a thought.


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