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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 2:43 pm 
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How about an analogy:


I agree with this in regards to the moral value of reasoning. I think you have articulated exactly what I was grasping for.

-- Christopher


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 2:46 pm 
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Christopher VandeLinde wrote:
What about the building of nests or dams by birds and beavers?



Interesting. I'll have to think about that one.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 2:47 pm 
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. I agree, however, that if the dog moved or aligned the boxes in such a way as to make it easier for him to get to the cat, then that would indicate some abstract cognition.
Like a monkey stacking boxes to get at a banana. Or to use an example from a lower life form, an Octopus figuring out how to open a closed jar by unscrewing the lid to get at a crab.

Now the issue is the abstract concepts of "Up" and "Inside". The octopus would never develop a concept of "inside" and therefore the need to reach inside the jar if there were no crab in it. The need develops the concept and then the conclusion. In Man the abstract concept comes first. If, for us, it was simply a matter of "need", we would never have developed beyond a hunter/gatherer stage.

Barley used to brew beer was the first crop so we can thank the abstract concept of the "Party" for modern civilization. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 2:48 pm 
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Max Majestic wrote:
Christopher VandeLinde wrote:
What about the building of nests or dams by birds and beavers?



Interesting. I'll have to think about that one.


Do you think robots can also do that? Shall we call them "persons"? How about aliens on other planets?

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 2:58 pm 
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lbt wrote:
Max Majestic wrote:
Christopher VandeLinde wrote:
What about the building of nests or dams by birds and beavers?



Interesting. I'll have to think about that one.


Do you think robots can also do that? Shall we call them "persons"? How about aliens on other planets?


I think the question would be whether there is some sort of evaluation of a potential part of the nest - say, a twig - with an abstract conception of the nest and how it fits in that "blueprint". It could be, of course, that instinct simply compels the gathering of all objects of a certain size and then "automatically" fits them together. I find such a scenario difficult, although not impossible, to believe. It seems to me that the way birds use a variety of objects, not just twigs, in their nests argues for some sort of evaluative judgement, and hence a basic level of abstract thought.

As to the question of personhood, I'm standing by Tex's idea of being an essentially reasoning substance, instead of just being able to reason, as the determining factor.

-- Christopher


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:09 pm 
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Christopher VandeLinde wrote:
What about the building of nests or dams by birds and beavers?

It seems to me that instinct can account for what animals do, but not always for how they do it.


I have a hard time imagining a bird building a nest and thinking to itself, "This piece of straw will probably fit better over there than it would over here," and the same goes for beavers.

Another point: Does a beaver have an idea of a dam in general? Does he understand the dam as a thing?

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:10 pm 
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Geoff, this topic of yours is coming along nicely. You must really be enjoying metaphysics. Just a brief side question, have your studies delved into moral philosophy yet?

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:18 pm 
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Michael Francis wrote:
Geoff, this topic of yours is coming along nicely. You must really be enjoying metaphysics. Just a brief side question, have your studies delved into moral philosophy yet?


Metaphysics was two semesters ago, and I did enjoy it. I also enjoyed philosophical anthropology, which covered much the same material (and a lot more).

I did moral philosophy three semesters ago, and moral theology each of the last two.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:19 pm 
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Christopher VandeLinde wrote:
As to the question of personhood, I'm standing by Tex's idea of being an essentially reasoning substance, instead of just being able to reason, as the determining factor.


And you are correct. Otherwise, I would cease to be a person when asleep or unconscious.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:30 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Another point: Does a beaver have an idea of a dam in general? Does he understand the dam as a thing?


I think he would have to. Every process of building is unique; there are always particular problems to be solved that are not found elsewhere. I don't see how instinct alone can guide through these particularities.

Of course, I am no expert on beavers, and so perhaps instinct is capably of operating in a way I'm not accounting for. I just don't see it.

As an aside, I could also make similar arguments regarding hunting behavior. Nevertheless, the point is the same: decision making is to some degree an abstract activity. If an animal can behave in two different ways in the same set of circumstances, and they certainly can, then I don't see how instinct alone is sufficient.

Of course, if we can all accept as a definition of personhood an essentially reasoning substance, then this is perhaps a bit off-topic now.

-- Christopher


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:35 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Christopher VandeLinde wrote:
As to the question of personhood, I'm standing by Tex's idea of being an essentially reasoning substance, instead of just being able to reason, as the determining factor.


And you are correct. Otherwise, I would cease to be a person when asleep or unconscious.


Would this also apply to a fetus - it is a person because it is a reasoning substance, regardless of whether or not it actually reasons? I think that is part of what bothers me about the idea of animals as non-rational, because that seems to open the door to Peter Singer's arguments for infanticide.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:36 pm 
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I'm stealing this from Aristotle's De Anima. I realize Aristotle died over 2300 years ago, but I'm not convinced anyone has substantially improved on the core of what follows in all the intervening time.

Let's think about something that I'll call psuche. Psuche at its most basic is what makes something alive. Setting aside viruses for the moment (it's an interesting question whether or not they're really alive, but let's not chase that rabbit trail now), the simplest living things are plants. To be alive, a plant must, at a minimum, be able to absorb and use nutrition. A being that has a psuche capable of this has what is called a vegetative psuche. Since plants can exhibit some movement (turning to face the sun, for example), that properly belongs to the vegetative psuche as well, as does the ability to grow and the ability to reproduce.

The next stop is to divide plants from animals. Aristotle suggests that the minimum difference is that animals are capable of taking in sense impressions--touch at least, and maybe others. And those sense impressions cause it to desire some things (food) and avoid others (predators), so it needs some sort of ability to recognize and organize the sense impressions. This came into Latin as sensus communis, but "common sense" in English means something much different, so it would be nice to call it something else. Unfortunately, there's no agreed-upon substitute that I know of.

The final step is to divide humans from animals. The key word here is "rationality". Humans are capable of rational thought, which implies the ability to think causally ("A causes B; if I want B to happen, I can bring about A"); to think about abstractions ("What are the properties of a triangle in general?"); and to think about thinking (philosophy). I will argue that animals do none of these things, and that having a rational psuche is therefore the distinguishing feature between animals and humans.

Angels and God, by the way, are even more rational than we are, so they are capable of all of the above things.

But what of a human who does not think rationally, because he is not sufficiently developed (an unborn child), or impeded (developmental defects), or deranged (insanity), or something else? Is he still a person?

The answer is that he is because it is in his nature to think rationally, and only his present circumstances prevent it from happening. The child as he grows will become able to do so; the developmentally handicapped person could if only his body would allow it; and the insane person will do so again if he can overcome his mental illness. It is in the nature of a person to think rationally, even if a particular person is currently (or even permanently) unable to do so.

A person is an individual substance of a rational nature.

Q.E.D.

What say ye?

(BTW, psuche is Greek for "soul", but people freak out when I talk about plants having souls, so it's easiest to start the discussion using a different word.)

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:37 pm 
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Christopher VandeLinde wrote:
Would this also apply to a fetus - it is a person because it is a reasoning substance, regardless of whether or not it actually reasons?


Precisely.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 3:48 pm 
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What say ye?


I'm happy with the distinction between the sensus communis and rationality. That seems to encapsulate the two ideas of abstract reasoning I was tossing around earlier.

I guess I'm saying I'm not ready to challenge Aristotle. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 4:03 pm 
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Last night, there was a discussion on EWTN TV show "The Theology of the Body" about persons. Fr. Richard Hogan and Katrina Zeno on the show discussed about three kinds of persons: divine persons, angelic persons, and human persons. They also discussed robots, Star Wars, plus several scientific fictions. The show was very interesting.

Theology of the Body

I haven't studied phenomenology, though. :(

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 4:12 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Christopher VandeLinde wrote:
As to the question of personhood, I'm standing by Tex's idea of being an essentially reasoning substance, instead of just being able to reason, as the determining factor.


And you are correct. Otherwise, I would cease to be a person when asleep or unconscious.



or watching tv....

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 4:21 pm 
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A person is an individual substance of a rational nature.

Q.E.D.

What say ye?


But the Trinity is one substance not three. Wouldn't it thus be better stated as "A person is an individual will of a substance with a rational nature"?


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 4:26 pm 
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Catholic Cadet wrote:
Quote:
A person is an individual substance of a rational nature.

Q.E.D.

What say ye?


But the Trinity is one substance not three. Wouldn't it thus be better stated as "A person is an individual will of a substance with a rational nature"?


Read back several pages.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 4:27 pm 
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mots137 wrote:
Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Christopher VandeLinde wrote:
As to the question of personhood, I'm standing by Tex's idea of being an essentially reasoning substance, instead of just being able to reason, as the determining factor.


And you are correct. Otherwise, I would cease to be a person when asleep or unconscious.



or watching tv....


:D

:thumbsup:

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 4:29 pm 
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Here's St. Thomas on the "person in the Trinity?" issue.

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