JMC : Logic and Mental Philosophy / by Charles Coppens, S.J.

Chapter V.
Origin and Destiny of the Human Soul.

207. Many ancient philosophers, finding the soul of man so evidently and immeasurably elevated above the entire material creation, erroneously conjectured that it, in some way or other, must have emanated from the very substance of the Divinity. To-day a very different error has not a few advocates among the votaries of the physical sciences: they imagine that man may be a mere evolution of the brute, and the highest step in a universal movement of evolution.

208. The most popular shape in which this vagary has found favor with the modern public is the Darwinian theory, which may be stated thus: All plants and animals, man included, are evolved from inferior species, and, as many of Darwin's disciples add, ultimately from unorganized matter, by means of natural selection. The process of natural selection is as follows : All plants and animals tend to increase their numbers in a geometrical progression; hence arises a severe struggle for existence, in which contest nature causes the weakest individuals and species to perish, and the best-constructed to multiply, thus producing the survival of the fittest. Consequently, organic life must ever be ascending in perfection and lower species have thus been developed into higher species. (See Mivart's Genesis of Species, pp. 17, 18.) This theory is interesting and ingenious; but its disastrous consequences to morality, to religion, to social life, and to individual happiness for time and eternity are so obvious, that nothing but the most convincing evidence of its truth could possibly excuse those who love to disseminate its noxious principles.

209. And yet the Darwinian theory, far from being established beyond a doubt, is totally devoid of demonstration, and is a mere figment of the intellect. Charles Elam, M.D., after an accurate analysis of facts in three articles of the Contemporary Review, continues thus (Dec., 1876, p. 132): "The conclusions which necessarily follow from the foregoing observations may be briefly summed up in one syllogism, embracing not only Natural Selection, but also the larger theme of Organic Evolution generally:

"'Without verification a theoretic conception is a mere figment of the intellect' (Tyndall's Fragments of Science, p. 469).

"But the theory of Organic Evolution is an unverified conception.

"Therefore Organic Evolution is a mere figment of the intellect."

To prove the minor, we may quote the rule laid down by Huxley, that the only way in which any hypothesis of progressive modification can be demonstrated is "by observation and experience upon the existing forms of life." Now, he grants in the same paragraph that the Darwinian hypothesis has not yet received such demonstration. (Lay Sermons, p. 226. See further Mazzella's De Deo Creante, Disput. iii. art. i. § 3.)

210. We have proved above (Thesis VIII.) that the species of plants and animals are fixed, incapable of transformation. With regard to the evolution of man, in particular from a lower animal species, and of the intellectual from the sensitive soul -- the main point with which we are here concerned -- we add the following:

Thesis XV. The gulf between brute and man is absolutely impassable by any process of evolution.

Proof. The brute animal is entirely material: though it is animated by a simple soul, still that soul is only the substantial form of the body, the principle of bodily action and nothing more; it can neither exist nor act except in matter, so that all its life, all its activity consists in material modifications of a material organism. This much is admitted by modern philosophers and scientists generally, as well as by the Schoolmen. Now, what is merely material can never be developed, whether by the Darwinian process or by any system of evolution, into a spiritual being; or, which is the same thing, matter cannot possibly be evolved into a thinking, a reasoning being. For all evolution is merely a modification of matter; but matter in all its modifications remains matter; therefore evolution of matter cannot produce anything but matter. Now, matter cannot possibly reason; for reasoning implies universal ideas, since at least its middle term must be distributed (Logic, No. 32); and matter cannot conceive a universal idea. For an idea is an image of the object, and every image in matter can only be a concrete image of a concrete and singular thing; while a universal idea is an abstract image of what is neither concrete nor singular, and therefore cannot possibly be imaged in matter. Therefore matter can never become capable of reasoning. But our soul reasons; hence a material being can never be evolved into the human soul; or, the gulf between brute and man is absolutely impassable by any process of evolution.

As a fact, evolutionists find it impossible to account, in their theories, for the spirituality of the human soul; hence they either deny this spirituality, believe in nothing but matter, and become Materialists; or they refuse to draw the logical conclusions which flow from their false principles, and, to veil their inconsistency, they assume the sceptical position of Agnostics.

211. Thesis XVI. The soul of man cannot originate except by creation, i.e., by being made out of nothing.

Proof. If it were made out of anything, this would be material or spiritual. It can be neither: 1. Not material; for, as we have just proved, no change in matter can fit it for the acts of thinking. 2. Not spiritual; for it cannot be made out of a part of that spirit, since a spirit has no parts: nor out of the whole of that spirit, which would then cease to be when the soul begins to be. Among all the wanderings of genius, no philosopher has ever maintained that the soul is made out of a previous spirit which then ceases to exist. The human soul, therefore, cannot be made out of another being; hence it is created, made out of nothing.

212. As to the question when the souls of men are created, Plato supposed that all human souls lived before in the stars, whence they were banished for crime; others have taught the transmigration of souls from one body into another, even into brutes, as a punishment for their moral degradation; Leibnitz and Wolf pretended that all human souls were created in the beginning of the world, but remained without intelligence till united to their destined human bodies. All such theories are destitute of proof and even of plausibility. Why should a soul exist before it can do work suited to its nature? The scientific answer is that which is derived by careful reasoning from known facts. The soul of each man must begin to exist when its work begins. Before biology became a science, it was supposed that the human soul was not created till the body was sufficiently organized -- first by a previous vegetative, and next by a merely animal soul -- to become the fit organism of that higher principle which was to build it up into a distinctively human body. That principle was the intellectual soul. At present it is far more probable that the rational soul is created, and made the substantial form of the body, from the very moment of conception: the infant of a day has already an immortal soul; hence the wilful destruction of its life is murder.

213. Thesis XVII. The human soul does not perish with the body.

Proof 1. This is one of the most universal judgments of common sense.

Proof 2. The justice and the wisdom of God require that there shall be a sufficient sanction for the moral law -- i.e., that there shall be such rewards for virtue and punishments for vice as shall make the good ultimately much happier than the wicked. But such a sanction does not exist in this world, where the virtuous are often oppressed, despised, persecuted unto death; therefore it must exist in a future life.

214. Thesis XVIII. The human soul is immortal.

Proof 1. The Creator has given us a longing for a never-ending existence, an endless happiness; but He could not have done so if our souls were not really destined for an endless life. For it would be unworthy of His goodness to give us a longing after a great good, which we could not possibly attain; and it would conflict with His truthfulness to give us, in such natural desires, an implicit promise of immortality, if He did not enable us to attain it.

Proof 2. A spiritual being is capable of acting and existing for ever; in fact, immortality is natural to it, because, having no parts, it cannot be dissolved or corrupted as to its substance. Therefore it is natural for it to exist till it be annihilated by its Maker. But the Creator can have no reason to annihilate it, as long as it can answer the purpose of its existence; now, it can answer that purpose for ever, by showing forth the justice, the power, and the goodness of God, and thus contributing to His external glory. God makes nothing useless; but the natural indestructibility of the soul would be useless if God should annihilate it, no matter after how long a period.

215. Can we prove that the souls of the wicked shall suffer for ever, that the pains of the lost are eternal? We can certainly prove by reason: 1. That it is natural for all spirits to exist for ever; 2. That God is not bound to destroy those who He intended should glorify Him throughout eternity; 3. That a being which freely fails to attain its destined happiness must naturally expect to be disappointed for ever, and can only blame itself for its unhappiness; 4. That God is not bound to give new chances to a free creature which has with full deliberation rejected His sincere offers of beatitude; 5. That it is proper for every immortal being not to be in a provisionary state for ever, but to come sooner or later to a definite and final condition, and to remain in the same for eternity; 6. That there would be no complete sanction of the moral order, if the punishment of such as will persevere in their wickedness till the end would not last for ever; 7. That no motive but the dread of eternal punishment is under all circumstances sufficient to restrain man's passions. Hence it is abundantly proved that reason itself appears to demand eternal punishment for those who die in a state of rebellion against their Maker.

216. Those who deny the spirituality and, consequently, the immortality of the soul are called Materialists, since they admit nothing but matter in the world. Many recent writers, anxious to disclaim this odious title, have invented the less unpopular appellation of Agnostics. "I called myself an Agnostic," writes Huxley. "Surely no denomination could be more modest and appropriate" (Lay Sermons, p. 294). These strive to evade the arguments of all sound philosophers by pretending that such questions as concern the existence of God, the nature of the soul, its future destiny, etc., are too deep for our investigations. Still, while pretending to keep aloof from such matters, they are constantly alluding to them, arguing against the great truths of philosophy in a covert manner. They do not prove their thesis, but they take it for granted, calling God the Unknown, as if no man knew anything about the necessity and the greatness of the Creator, sneering at the spirituality of the soul, as if it were a self-contradiction, etc., etc.

217. Thesis XIX. Agnosticism is destructive of all sound Philosophy.

Proof. That system is destructive of Philosophy which renders all the most important inquiries impossible: in particular, which denies that we can know anything certain about the existence of the soul as distinct from the body, of a future state, of a wise and personal God, the rewarder of good and evil; and which, consequently, makes it doubtful whether there is anything worth living for beyond the gratification of the passions. For Huxley himself admits that "The question of questions for mankind, the problem which underlies all others, and is more deeply interesting than any other, is the ascertainment of the place man occupies in nature, and of his relation to the universe of things. Whence our race has come, . . . to what goal we are tending, are the problems which present themselves anew, and with undiminished interest, to every man born into this world" (Man's Place in Nature, p. 57).

Now, Agnosticism renders all such inquiries futile and such questions incapable of satisfactory settlement. The same writer acknowledges this: "Why trouble ourselves about matters of which, however important they may be, we do know nothing and we can know nothing?" (Lay Sermons, p. 145).

The Mental Philosophy of the Schoolmen, so far briefly outlined, answers all these questions clearly and without hesitation. Its voice comes to us from the most distant past, strengthened by the approving accents of all intervening generations.

The advancement of true science, so far from having weakened its teaching, has strikingly confirmed, and daily confirms more and more, the truth of its doctrines. It alone satisfies the reason and the heart of man.

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