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Two Arguments for the Soul

By Luke Lancaster

Catholicism teaches dualism: that each human person is both body and soul. Humanity has a non-physical aspect to them which is unseen by science. This non-physical aspect is called the soul. Many people today believe that there is no immaterial soul, for they believe that only the material body exists. To answer such an objection, various arguments have been brought forth. Two such arguments for the existence of the soul are the qualia and conceptual arguments.

The qualia argument refers to the first person conscious experiences of people. Such experiences are called "qualia," and they indicate that there is more than just the material brain. For why does one person who drinks a milkshake have one experience, whereas another person who drinks that same exact milkshake have a totally different experience? One person has an itch here, another person has an itch there. These unique individual experiences cannot be measured by science, for such experiences are immaterial. To summarize:

(1) Physical things can be observed by anyone.

(2) 1st person experiences cannot be observed by others.

(3) 1st person experiences are nonphysical.

The conceptual argument argues that the intellect is immaterial because concepts are immaterial. This argument can be found in 20th-century philosopher Mortimer Adler's book, Intellect: Mind Over Matter. Adler believes that abstract concepts such as "octagon" or "table" are non-physical things. Humans can categorize eight-sided shapes as "octagons" and can recognize them from other types of shapes. Such an ability to understand "universal essences and principles," according to Kreeft and Tacelli, denotes the soul (Handbook of Catholic Apologetics). To summarize:

(1) Concepts apply to a number of material particulars.

(2) Concepts are universal.

(3) Material things are not universal and cannot ever become universal.

(4) Whatever possesses these concepts must be immaterial, or else the concepts wouldn't be.

(5) Humans possess concepts, so some aspect of humanity is immaterial.

(6) The intellect or soul possesses concepts.

(7) Therefore, the intellect or soul aspect of humanity is immaterial.

These two arguments from qualia and concepts are valid and sound. The material human brain is consciously awakened by the immaterial soul and allows one to experience things differently from other people. The soul works in harmony with the brain to conceptualize material things in an immaterial way.

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