Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bodies, Animals, and Minds 3 --- Aquinas 1

In the last post, I pointed out that if we look at the region of space where I am now standing, we can identify at least three different sorts of things: an organic body, a living animal, and a mind. The question is, though, how are these three things related? Are they three distinct things in the same region of space, or is there just one thing here?

According to Aquinas, it would be ludicrous to say that here in this region of space that I now occupy, there are three entirely distinct things. As Aquinas sees it, there’s just one thing here, and it’s me, a human being.

Aquinas gives a number of arguments for why this must be so, but the one that really gets to the heart of his view is this: if a ‘human being’ were actually just a bunch of other individual things that just happened to occupy the same spot, then a ‘human being’ would really just be an aggregate of those other things. As Aquinas himself puts it:
‘Many . . . things do not make up one [larger] thing unless something unifies them and ties them together. So, for example, if Socrates were both an animal and a mind . . . , those two things would need to be united by some link that would make them into one thing. But since there is no such link [ex hypothesi], Socrates would just be an aggregate or a heap of many things’. --- From Quaestiones de Anima, in the Responsio to question 11.
And Aquinas clearly thinks that would be absurd. A human being is one individual thing, not a conglomerate of many things occupying the same region of space.

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