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CHAPTER LVI, LXIXHow a Subsistent Intelligence may be united with a Body, with a Solution of the Arguments alleged to prove that a Subsistent Intelligence cannot be united with a Body as its Form

A SUBSISTENT intelligence cannot be united with a body by any manner of combination: for combined elements, when the combination is complete, do not remain actually, but virtually only: for if they remained actually, it would not be a combination, but a mere mechanical mixture.303303The old distinction (I think it is now being challenged) between a ‘chemical combination’ and a ‘meehanical mixture’ answers fairly well to that drawn here by St Thomas between mixtio (μίξις) and confusio (κρᾶσις). Oxygen was supposed to become something other than actual oxygen, when it combined with hydrogen to form water. The spiritual soul is not lost in man in the way that oxygen is lost, or was supposed to be lost, in water. But this combination and consequent cessation of actual existence cannot befall subsistent intelligences; for they are imperishable.

It is likewise evident that a subsistent intelligence cannot be united with a body by any manner of contact, properly so called. For contact is only of bodies: those things are in contact, the extremities of which are together,304304‘Together’ means ‘indefinitely near’ absolute contact would be coincidence. as points, or lines, or circumferences, which are the extremities of bodies.

Still there is one mode of contact whereby a subsistent intelligence may be mingled with a body. For natural bodies in touching one another involve a change, and thus are united together, not only in their quantitative extremities, but also by likeness of one same quality or form, the one in pressing its form on the other. And though, if we regard only quantitative extremities, the contact must be mutual in all cases, yet, if we consider action and passion, there will be found some cases of touching without being touched, and some cases of being touched without touching. Any cases that may be found of contact without contact in quantitative extremities must still be ca]led instances of contact, inasmuch as they are instances of action: thus we say that he who saddens another ‘touches’ him.305305Read contristans tangit. The sun’s action of gravitation upon the earth, attracting it, would have furnished St Thomas with a better example, had he known of it, except that it is mutual, the earth likewise attracting the sun. St Thomas will not allow that the body acts upon the soul. According to this mode of touch it is possible for a subsistent intelligence to be united to a body by contact: for subsistent intelligences act upon bodies and move them, being more highly actualised than bodies are.306306Is the reference to organic action or to volitional control? Or if to both, is the action of the soul upon the body the same in both cases?

This contact is not quantitative but virtual, and differs from bodily contact in three respects. First, because in this contact the indivisible can touch the divisible, which cannot happen in bodily contact: for only that which is indivisible can be touched by a point,307307That is to say, point can only touch point. Hence we speak of the ‘point of contact,’ which is one, not two. whereas a subsistent intelligence, indivisible though it be, can touch a divisible quantity by acting upon it. The point and the subsistent intelligence are not indivisible in the same way. The point is indivisible as a term of quantity, and has a definite situation in a continuous surface, beyond which it cannot be thrown:308308The argument supposes the continuity of matter, that is to say, that the ultimate elements of matter are extended solids without interstices of vacuum. The dynamist theory on the other hand supposes that points, centres of attractive or repulsive force, are indissolubly bound up in primitive molecules, which molecules are extended, but not solidly continuous, there being vacuum between point and point of the multitudinous points which make up the molecule. In this theory, action takes place from each point, or centre of force, upon all points within the sphere of activity, accordingly to the law of the inverse square of the distance from the point, or centre of activity, attractive or repulsive. Thus every point is in immediate virtual contact with endless other points, but not in physical contact with any. Dynamism may be tenable or untenable: either way it is well worth the psychologist’s while to consider what physical theory any argument of his presupposes, and what it excludes; and conversely, what physical theory, if established, would necessitate a modification of his argument. whereas a subsistent 116intelligence is indivisible by being outside of the category of quantity altogether: hence no indivisible element of quantity is marked out for contact with it. Secondly, because quantitative contact is only with extremities, but virtual contact is with the whole subject touched: for the subject is touched inasmuch as it is acted upon and moved; but that is inasmuch as it is in potentiality; and potentiality extends to the whole, not merely to the extremities of the whole: hence the whole is touched. From this appears a third difference: because in quantitative touch, which is of extremities, the touching body must be outside of the touched, and cannot pervade it, but is stopped by it;309309St Thomas confines this speculation to solids. The diffusion of gases and the blending of liquids he would have called, not contactus, but perhaps confusio; and that he took to be no real union at all. As for the other alternative, mixtio, he has already shown that the union of spirit with matter is not that. whereas the virtual contact, which is proper to subsistent intelligences, reaching to the inmost recesses of things, makes the touching substance be within the touched and pervade it without let or hindrance. Thus then a subsistent intelligence may be united with a body by virtual contact.310310But so are sun and earth united by the virtual contact of gravitation. This virtual contact of mover and moved does not go far to explain the union of soul and body. St Thomas happily passes to a further explanation, identifying the union with that of ‘form’ and ‘matter,’ that is, of active and determinant with passive and determinable principle. Against which it may be urged that the body has a determinate existence of its own, and powers all its own, mechanical chemical, and many would say, vital also, if we consider the life of cells. This may be admitted or denied, — it was a theme of endless contention in St Thomas’ day, and the strife is not over yet, — but at least it is to be observed that these various powers are not co-ordinated to the purpose of one human life except by the presence of the soul. Thus the body is the determinable, the soul the determining element, by virtue of which the whole compound becomes one human nature, one man. In this general popular sense, without implication of the details of the Thomist system of matter and form, the General Council of Vienna (A.D. 1312) defined “the rational or intellectual soul to be of itself and essentially the form of the human body.”

Elements united by such contact are not absolutely one: they are one in action and in being acted upon, which does not involve absolute oneness of being. Such absolute oneness may be in three ways: in the way of indivisibility, in the way of continuity, and in the way of natural unity. Now out of a subsistent intelligence and a body there cannot be made an indivisible unity: it must be a compound of two things. Nor again a continuous unity, because the parts of a continuum are quantitative. It remains to be enquired whether out of a subsistent intelligence and a body there can result such a unity as means oneness of nature.311311Ratione unum. Ratio here is not opposed to res: it means first the definition of a thing, and then that which is specially denoted by definition, the essence or nature. This meaning of ratio is not uncommon in the Contra Gentiles. The word may often be rendered ‘essential notion,’ meaning the object of such notion. See note on p. 111. But out of two permanent elements there results no being one by nature except that which results of the union of substantial form with matter: for out of substance and accident there results no being one by nature, for the nature or essence of ‘man’ and ‘whiteness’ is not the same.312312Man is not essentially white, but he is essentially body and soul This question then remains to be studied, whether a subsistent intelligence can be the substantial form of any body. Looking at the matter argumentatively, it might seem that the thing is impossible.

Arg. 1. Of two actually existent substances no one being can be made: for the actuality of every being is that whereby it is distinguished from another being. But a subsistent intelligence is an actually existing substance: so likewise is a body. Apparently therefore no one being can be made of a subsistent intelligence and a body.

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Arg. 2. Form and matter are contained under the same genus: for every genus is divided into actual and potential. But a subsistent intelligence and a body are of different genera.

Arg. 3. All that is in matter must be material. But if subsistent intelligence is the form of a body, the being of such intelligence must be in matter: for there is no being of the form beyond the being of the matter. It follows that a subsistent intelligence could not be immaterial, as supposed.

Arg. 4. It is impossible for anything having its being in a body to be apart from the body. But intelligence is shown to be apart from the body, as it is neither the body itself nor a bodily faculty.313313The reference is to Aristotle, De anima, III, iv; “Nor is it reasonable to suppose it (intelligence) to be blended with the body”; of which separateness of intelligence from body much will be said presently.

Arg. 5. Whatever has being in common with the body, must also have activity in common with the body: for the active power of a thing cannot be more exalted than its essence. But if a subsistent intelligence is the form of a body, one being must be common to it and the body: for out of form and matter there results absolute unity, which is unity in being. At that rate the activity of a subsistent intelligence, united as a form to the body, will be exerted in common with the body, and its faculty will be a bodily (or organic) faculty: positions which we regard as impossible.

(Chap. LXIX). It is not difficult to solve the objections alleged against the aforesaid union.

Reply 1. The first objection contains a false supposition: for body and soul are not two actually existing substances, but out of the two of them is made one substance actually existing: for a man’s body is not the same in actuality when the soul is present as when it is absent: it is the soul that gives actual being.314314This doctrine is maintained by Father Bödder, Psychologia Rationalis, pp. 356-362, ed. 2, who mentions other Catholics as opposing it. Their grounds may be something as follows: — The doctrine was formulated in an age when cell-life, protoplasm, blood corpuscles, microbes, were undreamt of. If there is any value in the well-worn analogy between the constitution of man and that of a State, the State, it may be observed, contains many minor associations, which it does not absorb or transform into things political, but is content merely to co-ordinate, guard, and set bounds to. We now recognise both molar and molecular mechanics: is there not also such a thing as molecular life, with principles or ‘forms’ of its own, besides the molar life of the mass of the body as such? Otherwise how could there ever be such a thing as a fever or a morbid growth in the body? Are not these abnormal developments exaggerations, we might almost say ‘rebellions,’ of secondary lives with which in its ordinary state the body is replete, — secondary lives which in health work in harmony with the main life, of which the soul is the principle?

Reply 2. As for the second objection, that form and matter are contained under the same genus, it is not true in the sense that both are species of one genus, but inasmuch as both are elements of the same species. Thus then a subsistent intelligence and a body, which as separate existences would be species of different genera, in their union belong to one genus as elements of the same.

Reply 3. Nor need a subsistent intelligence be a material form, notwithstanding that its existence is in matter: for though in matter, it is not immersed in matter, or wholly comprised in matter.

Reply 4. Nor yet does the union of a subsistent intelligence with a body by its being that body’s form stand in the way of intelligence being separable from body.315315νοῦς χωριστός, the much debated Aristotelian phrase, De anima, III, iv, v. This reply should be carefully borne in mind. In a soul we have to observe as well its essence as also its power. In point of essence it gives being to such and such a body, while in point of power it executes its own proper acts. In any activity of the soul therefore which is completed by a bodily organ, the power of the soul which is the 118principle of that activity must bring to act that part of the body whereby its activity is completed, as sight brings the eye to act. But in any activity of the soul that we may suppose not to be completed by any bodily organ, the corresponding power will not bring anything in the body to act; and this is the sense in which the intellect is said to be ‘separate,’ — not but that the substance of the soul, whereof intellect is a power, or the intellectual soul, brings the body to act, inasmuch as it is the form which gives being to such body.

Reply 5. Nor is it necessary, as was argued in the fifth place, that if the soul in its substance is the form of the body, its every operation should be through the body, and thus its every faculty should be the actuation of some part of the body: for the human soul is not one of those forms which are entirely immersed in matter, but of all forms it is the most exalted above matter: hence it is capable of a certain activity without the body, being not dependent on the body in its action, as neither in its being is it dependent on the body.


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