Saturday, October 15, 2005

Critique of Contemporary Understanding of the Human Person

Eeek! I just discovered that we were supposed to cover 5 lessons in the last month, not just 4 through 6. So I have two more to cover before I start my paper. Bad Theocoid!

Here are the questions for lecture 6.

What distinguishes human persons from animals?

While animals have consciousness (the ability to be awar of particulars), they are not able to gain abstract knowledge or insight from that of which they are conscious. While animals are aware and can act upon sense data, they cannot think about their knowledge and come to new knowledge.

What distinguishes human intelligence from the human senses, interior and exterior?

Human senses give us data. We gather this data from the outside world or from our own interior senses. Our intelligence helps us to filter out that data that is irrelevant, combine and process the data that is relevant, and come to new conclusions that would otherwise not be self-evident. While the brain can process and store sense data, it does not account for intelligence, which is self-conscious.

What is the relation between the soul and the body in the human person?

The body is our material presence, but our soul cannot be separate from it in the manner that the Platonists believed. We know ourselves as physical beings, and as self-conscious beings. However, the soul cannot itself be material, or it would have a location apart from the entire self. You could identify a location in the body as the seat of the soul (which is what Descartes attemnpted to do). The soul and the body are together the human being. To be human is to have body and soul together.

Is the human intelligence identical with the operations of the brain?

Operations of the brain are electrochemical functions. They are process by which the brain transfers data from one place to another. That is not human intelligence. Animal brains do the same. Human intelligence must be able to filter data, process it, and come to new insights. The ability to abstract from particulars is what makes human intelligence different from mere brain function. Granted, we can't demonstrate much of the former without the latter, but in animals we can see the latter without the former.

What is the distinction between cognition and affectivity in the human person?

Cognition is the ability to recognize and interpret sense data. Affectivity is the means by which we evaluate the sense data to make free choices. Affectivity (or feeling or emotions) is that which helps us to determine advantages, disadvantages, desirable or undesirable outcomes, and hence allows us to use our intelligence toward free choice. However, we must use both together. Affectivity with no use of intelligence makes us subject solely to our drives. If we can gather data but cannot act on our abstract knowledge to out advantage, we likely do not have free choice.
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