Theological Anthropology: The Nature of Man

I. The Spirituality of the Human Soul 
The consideration of man and his powers will show that he has three endowments: spirituality of the soul, freedom of the will, and knowledge of the moral law. No one denies that man is made up of a body and a vital principle. The lower animals are similarly composed. Christianity further teaches, and I will demonstrate the evidence, that the human vital principle has specific and exclusive endowments, which differentiate man from all other animals. The first of these endowments is the spirituality of the soul. A spiritual substance is defined as one that is simple, and subjectively independent of material organs for its existence, and for some of its actions. Spirituality implies the power of existing and acting without the aid of material organs, and the absence of physical parts both integral and constitutive. 

The spirituality of the soul is proven:

a) from the object of our knowledge,

b) The soul perceives immaterial concepts totally inaccessible to the senses. That is, God, truth, beauty, goodness.

The idea of God is acquired by the synthesis of perfections from which finite limits have been removed, and which are conceived to have reached the highest degree. Truth is sometimes defined as the equation between the intellect and the object perceived.

The concept of beauty implies: 1) completeness, or integrity; 2) order, proportion, harmony; 3) clearness or brilliancy, so that the unity and order may shine forth.

Goodness is the realization of an ideal perfection beyond the power of sense to perceive. The soul perceives material objects in an immaterial way. The power of abstraction is coextensive with human nature. Even the child, when its mind has been stimulated by experience, forms general notions or concepts of material things, by neglecting the concrete materializing conditions which constitute the individual. But to be "followed by action", the action of a being follows its nature and is proportioned to it. The soul, therefore, from its spiritual mode of action must be in its essence spiritual.

The spirituality of the soul is demonstrated by its power of making reflex acts. The soul can make itself the object of its thought. No extended material object is capable of a reflex act. One part of an extended body may be applied to another part, but it is impossible to superimpose the whole upon itself. One part of a body may act upon another part, but the whole body cannot act wholly upon itself. This property is exclusively characteristic of spiritual substances.

The spirituality of the soul is also demonstrated by the will. Our will has for its object not particular concrete goods, but happiness in general. The will is free, whereas material natures are ruled by absolute determinism. If the will, a faculty of the soul, acts in a spiritual way, it follows that the essence or nature to which it belongs is itself spiritual. 

Two consequences follow from the spirituality of the soul: 

A. The soul is simple. That is, it isn't composed of physical parts either integral or constitutive. 

1. The soul has no integral or quantitative parts:

a) because of its power of abstraction which eliminates local extension and sensible properties;

b) because of its power of making reflex acts. 

2. The soul has not constitutive parts. That is, not composed of matter and form. 

The endowment of spirituality shows that the soul is independent of matter. In what sense is the soul composite? It is composite metaphysically, since it consists of essence and faculties, which are really distinct from the essence. It is also in a certain sense composite physically, since as the actions of the faculties are accidents, there is a composition of substance and accidents, while the soul is absolutely free from the physical parts which are known as quantitative and constitutive.

B. The second consequence of its spirituality is that the soul is essentially distinct from the body with which it is united to form a complete human nature. 

Materialistic Objections
1. Force is a property of matter; therefore the soul is material. 

Response: Forces belonging to the physical and material order are associated with material substances. Spiritual and immaterial forces, power of abstraction, determination of will, appreciation of the ideal, have their bases in immaterial substances. 

2. The mental activity of man is found in an inferior degree in the lower animals. Animals are admittedly material; therefore man is material. 

Response: Animals acquire sensitive knowledge, make use of the internal senses, imagination, memory, and appetite. Their will is significantly driven by instinct. However man alone can form an abstract idea. Hence between man and animals there is a difference not of degree, but of kind. 

II. Freedom of Will 
It is necessary to emphasize certain facts, and to distinguish clearly between different kinds of freedom.

A. An act may be necessary owing to physical compulsion, and this compulsion may be:
a) from without (e.g. a prisoner confined to his cell), or;

b) from within (e.g. all men are compelled to seek after happiness in general).

B. An act or abstention from an act may be obligatory owing to moral compulsion. That is, the acts enjoined or forbidden by moral law. 

Consequently there are different kinds of liberty:

1. Physical liberty:
  • freedom from external compulsion called technically "liberty from constraint";
  • freedom from internal compulsion called "liberty of indifference". 
Liberty of indifference may be:
  • Liberty of contradiction. For example, to love or not to love.
  • Liberty of contrariety. For example, to love or to hate.
  • Liberty of specification. The choice of performing specifically different acts. For example, to walk or to sing. 
2. Moral liberty:
  • The power of performing or omitting an act which is forbidden or enjoined by the moral law. 
In claiming for a man free-will we don't claim for him complete liberty from constraint. There are physical necessities which are obvious. Nor do we claim moral liberty, since a rational being is always bound by the moral law. We claim for man liberty of indifference. We maintain that though man is compelled to seek after happiness in general, he is free in the choice of the means which he judges to be conducive to this end. How then should we define free-will ? A good definition would be as follows: an endowment in virtue of which the will can, in presence of a particular good, which is presented as a means of attaining happiness in general, choose it or not choose it.

The first proof is an appeal to consciousness. Every man is swayed by different motives of action. To the average man the materialistic or sensual appeal is in itself stronger than the spiritual or supernatural appeal. The reason isn't difficult to grasp. The materialistic appeal comes from a present concrete object, whereas the supernatural appeals to many only in a dim, far-off way. Yet consciousness testifies that a man can, if he chooses, shut out from his thoughts the seductiveness of the materialistic appeal, and can by concentrating his thoughts upon and realizing the cogency of the supernatural appeal make it immeasurably the stronger. I know that I can give or not give alms to the poor (liberty of contradiction), I know that I can devote money to relieving a poor man's needs or use it to procure personal enjoyment (liberty of specification), I know that I can employ my money in procuring legitimate pleasure or culpable indulgence (liberty of contrariety). Obviously the liberty of contradiction to act or not to act is sufficient to justify the claim of free will.

The second proof rests upon the absurd consequences of the denial of free will. If man isn't free, there is no difference of worth or merit between the good and evil acts which he performs, and the "still small voice" of conscience has no spiritual significance, no objective value. Certain results follow from the examination of the endowment of freedom and its conditions.

Corollary I
Freedom of the will can be affected in its exercise by:
  • Ignorance-It is obvious that unless there is awareness of the mind in its normal state there can be no freedom, because there isn't the requisite exercise of reason. The actions, for example, of someone experiencing somnambulism aren't imputable.
  • Fear-If one is compelled to act in virtue of an over mastering fear the action is not free. This is why, for example, fear is one of the impediments of matrimony, which makes the contract null and void.
  • Tyranny of passion-It is conceivable that an action which follows sudden and great provocation, though the action has serious results, may be devoid of moral culpability. Even the law of the land recognizes that, in some cases of the taking of human life, the provocation has been so great that the verdict of "murder" is reduced to one of "involuntary manslaughter." 
Corollary II
The essence of moral evil lies in a negation. Moral evil is a "non ens." Therefore, the prohibitions of the moral law, which forbids the doing of evil, isn't a detriment to the exercise of free will. If I claim the right to believe that 2+2=5, I don't exercise free will, since I'm resisting a truth which is intrinsically evident, I oppose reason, and the result is a perversion of freedom. Similarly the claim of the right to contravene the moral law isn't a legitimate exercise of freedom, but a perversion of the gift.

Corollary III
Since we have the power of self-direction, it is easy to see how absolutely our characters and dispositions depend upon the wise use of the endowment of free will. A man, for instance, may naturally be of a hasty temperament. Using the power given him by free will, he may on a particular occasion suppress the manifestation of his anger, and the suppression may have cost a considerable effort. On a second occasion he also conquers and as the victories are multiplied, the effort becomes easier, until owing to the help of the psychological power of habit (restricting ourselves to purely natural agencies) his old disposition gives way to one of patience and gentleness. No matter how unfavorable our environment may be, how powerful certain hereditary tendencies, how serious the lack of wise moral education we've received, there is still in the human soul the mysterious power of free will, the exercise of which can correct faults, weaken the power of inherent tendencies, and develop the growth of virtues, so that under the influence of God's grace the light of sanctity is able to disperse the darkness of sin. 

The doctrine of free will is denied Determinists.

I. Mechanical Determinism
The argument adopted by Mechanical Determinists is based upon the indestructibility of energy. The sum of energy in the cosmos is constant, and, as the will is a material force, it is subject to the law of Conservation of Energy.

  • The faculty of the will is not material.
  • The exercise of the will merely changes the kind of energy, but doesn't affect the sum. If one wills to move his arm, there is a change from potential to kinetic energy, but the Law of Conservation is untouched.
2. Psychological Determinism
The chief protagonist of this school was Leibnitz, and he and his followers claim that the will is determined by the strongest motive.

Response: We can, by the exercise of free-will, make the weaker become the stronger motive. Some maintain that the will can act from a motive while it remains the weaker. It is sufficient for the vindication of the doctrine of free will to know that we can determine the strength of the motive as already explained.

3. Physiological Determinism
The Physiological Determinist objects, saying our course of action is due to temperament.

Response: That heredity, environment, education, or want of education are largely responsible for the character and action of an individual no Christian apologist can deny. However, there is a power of resistance in the will which can and does rise above these influences.

4. Theological Determinism
Theological Determinists teach that free will is incompatible with the providential arrangements of God and with the Divine foreknowledge.

Response: To God, the future and the past are present, and He sees from all eternity the free determinations of the human will. Therefore the exercise of free will isn't in conflict with the providence or foreknowledge of God.

III. The Binding Force of Natural Law
The natural law, the echo in the human soul of the Eternal Law, may be defined as a "Divine Command", manifested by the light of reason, binding us to do good and to avoid evil. As the object of the natural law is to furnish guidance to man so that he attains his created end, the morality of an action depends upon its influence and power to help us reach the end for which we have been created. The distinction between good and evil is essential and objective. It cannot be explained as springing from the pleasure or pain which an action entails, nor from the utility which results from an action, nor can it be based upon convention; the distinction is absolute and universal.

That the Natural Law exists is proved by:

1. Conscience which witnesses to the essential distinction between good and evil.

2. The testimony of humanity.

Cultures, in accordance with the degree of civilization to which they have attained, differ in regard to what is right and wrong, but all recognize the essential difference between the two ideas of good and evil.

a) There is universal agreement regarding the truth and the binding force of the first principles of the moral law, such as: Good should be done. Evil should be avoided. God should be worshiped. Benefactors should be honored. Do unto others and you would have done to you.

b) Regarding the precepts which flow directly and immediately from the first principles, such as the Commandments of God (with the exception of the Sabbath), there is almost universal agreement.

c) With reference to the precepts, which are derived remotely and mediately by study and thought from the primary principles, there may be and are differences of opinion. Thus the necessity of a sound and safe system of moral teaching, the possession of which is one of the treasures of the Christian Faith.

A necessary condition of the binding force of a law is its due promulgation. The Natural Law is promulgated through human reason. As soon as a child comes to the years of discretion he or she by the natural light of reason sees the distinction between things good and bad, but, of course, at that  early stage the power of discernment, though present, needs instruction and guidance.

The sanctions of the Natural Law are:
  • Interior sanction-praise or blame of conscience.
  • Natural sanction-health or sickness.
  • Public sanction-esteem or contempt of man.
  • Legal sanction-recompense or penalty established by positive law. 
Tt is clear that these sanctions aren't sufficient. A hardened criminal, for example, has no remorse of conscience, and may escape the penalty of the law. Without the sanction which is based upon a future life of eternal reward or eternal suffering, the sanctions enumerated aren't sufficiently strong to help man so that he may withstand the power of Inherited Depravity.

Independent Morality, or Morality without God is:

1. An error, because, a) morality has a necessary relation to man's created end, and, b) the obligatory character of morality is based upon the Divine Will.

2. A disaster. It has been shown again and again in the histories of individuals and of nations that morality divorced from religion has no binding force.