Monday, October 25, 2010

Bodies, Animals, and Minds 4 --- Aquinas 2

In the last post, I explained that for Aquinas, there is just one thing occupying this region of space where I am now standing, and that’s me, a human being. Aquinas thinks it would be ludicrous to say that there is a distinct body, animal, and mind in this same region of space.

Now, at first sight, that probably sounds right to most people, and for good reason: it lines up with a number of intuitions that we have about material objects, and especially about living organisms.

For example, one intuition we have is that living organisms exhibit a very tight kind of internal unity. That is, the parts and functions of an organism are tied together very tightly and integrated into one single entity. It’s not as if I’m made of a bunch of lego bricks that can be pulled apart at will. If you pulled off my leg, it would be incredibly painful, and I would very likely die from blood loss, if the shock didn’t kill me first. I’m not a loose blob of parts; there’s a very tight connection between everything within me.

So we tend to think about living organisms as tightly unified individuals, and Aquinas’s view captures this intuition very well. When asked what it is that occupies this region of space where I am now standing, there’s got to be just one thing here, namely a single living organism (me).

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