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Which Came First?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by SalixIncendium, Feb 11, 2019 at 7:24 PM.

  1. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Resident Hermit
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Dec 18, 2016
    I recently read a question in another thread that asks at what point in evolution that "we" developed a soul.

    Which begs the question, which came first?

    Did human form exist prior to the 'I' that governs it? Or is it the 'I' that manifested our temporal existence?
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  2. PruePhillip

    PruePhillip Active Member

    Jul 20, 2018
    This is not a scientific question.
    Science does not observe any 'soul'
    A good scientist will say souls are outside the scientific method,
    bad scientists will say there's no soul.

    If this is from a Judea Christian perspective then:
    it says that God commanded the earth to bring forth life
    and the seas to bring forth life (including birds)
    and man was last.
    But it says that God "breathed life" into Adam and he
    became a "living soul." That's strange because even
    the bible says that Adam wasn't the only human on
    earth, and no life was breathed into the animals and
    So I suppose Genesis is saying that there exists
    another plane to human life, ie that we live inside
    a mortal body of clay.
  3. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Mar 28, 2017
    It's a good question and gets to the question of the nature of consciousness.

    From what I can tell, chimps also have self-consciousness (for example, they pass the dot test) and so have a sense of 'I'. If true, then this suggests that the 'I' came before humans evolved.
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  4. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Apr 17, 2013
    That's an excellent and important question from a religious perspective, for those faith traditions that posit an immaterial essence or dimension to the human person, like my own does.

    The Catholic tradition has never been absolutely clear on this, and indeed the Church admits itself that we cannot be certain at what point a material being is ensouled from a strictly scientific perspective, for obvious reasons (not least that the soul is not discoverable by the tools of scientific investigation, sofar as we can tell).

    The general viewpoint today is that the process of the immortal, spiritual soul and mortal, physical body coming into being happens simultaneously at conception, with the parents providing the matter through the fertilized embryo and God infusing the soul.

    But this didn't used to be the common opinion, certainly not in the medieval period, and it's not doctrinally defined today either.

    In the Catholic Bible, we have a book in our Old Testament called The Wisdom of Solomon, which is part of scripture for us and the Orthodox but not for Protestants or Jews. This sacred text suggests something a bit different, which has long made commentators and theologians ponder:

    Wisdom 8:19-20 states: "As a child I was by nature well endowed, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body."

    At first, he says that a good soul "fell to his lot", which suggests that his body was created first and then became ensouled in the womb at some stage. But then, he seems to correct or qualify himself, by clearly contending that the "I" of his immortal soul came first and then entered his body.

    This is an exegetical issue, of sorts.

    The answer naturally has bearing on the morality of procured abortion. There was a long-standing debate in the early and medieval church, (between those espousing an Aristotelian and Pythagorean natural philosophy, respectively), over whether or not an unformed foetus should actually be considered "ensouled".

    A number of church fathers, popes and theologians - such as St. Augustine of Hippo, the Apostolic Constitutions of the 4th century, Pope Innocent III, Gregory IX and St. Thomas Aquinas - argued that for a number of weeks post-conception, the foetus wasn't a person and so, while abortion of pre-ensouled foetuses was overwhelmingly viewed as still being a sinful or undesirable practice, it could not be equated with murder until the foetus "quickened" in the womb and became formed; such that excommunications or equivalent ecclesiastical sanctions were for a long time only issued forth against women and male physicians who aborted 'formed' foetuses after their wombs had quickened, rather than early terminations of unformed foetal tissue.

    It was only in the 1860s that the opinion started to gravitate firmly towards the "conception is point of ensoulement" tenet of belief, due to a reaction against increasing secularization and the decline of Aristotelian science, courtesy of advances in embryology.


    History of Christian thought on abortion - Wikipedia

    Several historians have written[53][54][55] that prior to the 19th century most Catholic authors did not regard termination of pregnancy before "quickening" or "ensoulment" as an abortion...

    Penitentials in the Middle Ages normally distinguished between the two, imposing heavier penances for late-term abortions and a less severe penance was imposed for the sin of abortion "before [the foetus] has life".

    Augustine believed that an early abortion is not murder because, according to the Aristotelianconcept of delayed ensoulment, the soul of a fetus at an early stage is not present, a belief that passed into canon law.[23][24]Nonetheless, he harshly condemned the procedure (De Nube et Concupiscentia 1.17 (15))

    Thomas Aquinas, Pope Innocent III, and Pope Gregory XIV also believed that a fetus does not have a soul until "quickening," or when the fetus begins to kick and move, and therefore early abortion was not murder, though later abortion was.[10][23]

    The standard account can be read from Gratian's 12th century compendium of canon law, the Decretum (A.D.1140), which was essentially the medieval church's authoritative legal code:

    §1. He is not a murderer who brings about abortion before the soul is in the body. (Ibid. c. 8, C. 32, q.[2]). For even if an unformed embryo had, in some as yet unformed way, a soul (and one should not plunge into this great question and give a rash unreflective opinion), the law would not call it murder, because one cannot tell when a body that lacks sensation has a living soul.

    (Decretum gratiani, part 5, Case 32, q II, C8)

    Officially, therefore, Catholic Christianity traditionally tended to support a doctrine of "mediate" animation, i.e., the fetus was not formed into a true person or soul until some time during pregnancy.

    The Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566), also dismisses the idea that the soul is infused at conception (i.e. that personhood is conferred upon fertilization) and actually uses the supernatural nature of Jesus's conception to clarify this:

    THE CATECHISM OF TRENT: The Creed - Article III

    "What surpasses the order of nature and human comprehension is, that as soon as the Blessed Virgin assented to the announcement of the Angel in these words, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word, the most sacred body of Christ was immediately formed, and to it was united a rational soul enjoying the use of reason; and thus in the same instant of time He was perfect God and perfect man.

    That this was the astonishing and admirable work of the Holy Ghost cannot be doubted; for according to the order of nature the rational soul is united to the body only after a certain lapse of time."

    And that was a statement of an ecumenical council. It blithely and unquestioningly assumes the distinction between an "unensouled" fetus at conception and an "ensouled" fetus after a 'certain lapse of time'.

    Jesus was thought to have been the only human animated at conception courtesy of a miracle of the Holy Spirit, whereas everyone else started out as unensouled fetal tissue until a certain lapse of time in which the fetus became 'quickened' in the womb (capable of sensation and movement).

    The Church didn't define the length of the time lapse from conception, just that there was one. Generally, however, the quickening was long thought by theologians to occur at the time the woman first felt movement in her womb. If talking about specific time periods, it thus ranged from 40 - 80 days after conception but there was no completely agreed definition.

    Even today though, the Church does not teach that we can be sure that the embryo is animated at the point of conception. The stance actually goes that probabilism may not be used where human life may be at stake, thus the 1992 Catholic Catechism notes that the embryo must be treated from conception "tamquam, "as if" a human person". That's an important qualifier. It further states that: "the church has not determined officially when human life [i.e. personhood] actually begins" and respect for life at all stages, even potential life, is generally the context of church documents.

    Consider this Vatican document:

    (Donum Vitae 1987)

    This Congregation [for the Doctrine of the Faith] is aware of the current debates concerning the beginning of human life, concerning the individuality of the human being and concerning the identity of the human person...

    Certainly no experimental datum can be in itself sufficient to bring us to the recognition of a spiritual soul...The Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature, but it constantly reaffirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion.

    So it refrains from directly affirming the moment of ensoulement and leaves it open that the earlier, traditional Thomist understanding could still be the correct one. But a lot of Catholics don't realize this.
    #4 Vouthon, Feb 11, 2019 at 8:00 PM
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019 at 8:25 PM
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  5. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...

    Aug 29, 2013
    None, a humanist who doesn't even worship humans
    I'm sorry for you that I am first to respond, because it won't do your thread any good at all.

    But let me say, what a fascinating question!

    You see, it implies, without, of course, any evidence, just what we humans actually think...that we are something other than natural denizens of this planet, that we are somehow unrelated to all of its other creatures. Or perhaps, that something has been "added" that was not for any other creature on earth.

    And yet, it would not take very much study at all to realize that this is simply not true. Yes, we have a level of intelligence that does seem to surpass that of any of earth's other creatures, though all of earth's other creatures possess strengths we couldn't even begin to match...not least of which is strength.

    I think what I'm trying to say is that this idea of a "soul," something that is somehow a part of us which surpasses us, but does not apply to any other creature on earth, is completely without merit, without evidence, and therefore not something we should even question. It's rather along the line of questions like "how did the moon get to be made of green cheese" or "why is Thursday the heaviest day of the week?"

    By which I mean, either you need to show the moon is made of green cheese, or not ask the question, or show that Thursday is "heavier" than Monday, or not ask the question, or show that you have a soul and an elephant doesn't …. or don't ask the question.
  6. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist LGBT Stonewall historic marker

    Oct 31, 2014
    Artist and Healer
    Other soul/personality/identity, as I was reading, starts around 4 years old. That's when the "I" develops or, in other words, we come to know we are separate from our parents.

    As for the metaphysics, I think many people have a sense of something beyond their physical self. I think that gets mixed up with the " I " as in seeing our soul as just defined as above. Some people get in touch with what they feel is beyond the " I " while others live in the I as we have since we were young.

    Which came first?

    The human form. We can't recognize we have a "something beyond" until we have tools or body to develop that experience of knowledge. We also need bodies as we're the soul develops.

    Unless there is a concept of reincarnation or so have you, Id say the body came first, we developed a soul starting around age four. We develop methods of reflection gradually. Then we realize we are not the "I/soul".

    Kinda a complicated question.

    Here's some info

    Personality: Where Does it Come From and How Does it Work?
  7. whirlingmerc

    whirlingmerc Well-Known Member

    May 12, 2016

    We developed a soul when God fashioned us out of the ground and breathed life into us.
  8. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Apr 17, 2013
    I often think St. Bede, a Doctor of my Church, made a germane point about this, from a Catholic POV:

    [A] sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall and out through another.

    While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storm; but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came.

    Even so, man appears on earth for a little while, but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing.

    (Saint Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, AD 731)​

    (Sorry to use the royal "we" @SalixIncendium, if I may say so on behalf of Venerable Bede of Northumbria, of Blessed Memory)

    Another Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo, also reflected similarly in his Confessions (A.D. 397) where he wrote,

    But what, O God, my Joy, preceded that period of life [in the womb]? Was I, indeed, anywhere, or anybody? No one can explain these things to me, neither father nor mother, nor the experience of others, nor my own memory

    (Confessions VI.9).​
    #8 Vouthon, Feb 11, 2019 at 8:45 PM
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019 at 8:56 PM
  9. Fool

    Fool ALL in all
    Premium Member

    Jan 12, 2016
    there really isn't a fixed form to associate with the "Infinite I". the form is constantly morphing, transforming
  10. dybmh

    dybmh Active Member
    Premium Member

    Jan 6, 2019
    I think it's like an author writing a story. The author came first, then the characters in the story came after.
  11. Salvador

    Salvador Conscious Being

    Mar 2, 2015
    Matrixism and Swedenborgianism

    I've hypothesized programmed human consciousness begins in our simulated universe at the point where the first individual of the genus Homo-species formed from a couple of Australopithecus hetero zygotes, each of whom had the same type of chromosome rearrangements formed by fusion of the whole long arms of two acrocentric chromosomes, mated together and reproduced viable and fertile offspring with 46 chromosomes.

    This first generation of Homo habilis then incestuously bred with each other and reproduced the next subsequent generation of Homo habilis.

    1. J. Tjio and A. Levan. 1956. The chromosome number of Man. Hereditas, 42( 1-2): 1-6.
    2. W. Ijdo et al.1991. Origin of human chromosome 2: an ancestral telomere-telomere fusión. PNAS, 88: 9051-9056.
    3. Meyer et al. 2012 A high-coverage genome sequence from an archaic Denisovan individual. Science, 338:222-226.; K. H. Miga. 2016. Chromosome-specific Centromere sequences provide an estímate of the Ancestral Chromosome 2 Fusion event in Hominin Genome.Journ. of Heredity. 1-8. Doi:10.1093/jhered/esw039.


  12. osgart

    osgart Nothing my eye, Something for sure

    May 1, 2017
    Spiritual Naturalist
    The body conforms to the I-ness. I cant see it any other way. Concept creates the art.

    It beats the stuffing out of i just so happen to have a head with ears, nose, eyes, mouth and it arbitrarily coordinated with my sense of I. Thats absurdity!
  13. Dan From Smithville

    Dan From Smithville Well-Known Member
    Premium Member

    May 7, 2017
    I have wondered if the 'I' that is the human us started with H. sapiens or if it originated earlier. If chimps possess a similar awareness, it potentially implies that this was a characteristic of our common ancestor.
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  14. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

    Dec 27, 2014
    In the book Darkness at noon by Arthur Koestler a novel about Soviet show trials he talks about the destruction of the "I", or as the character terms it 'the grammatical fiction'. An old revolutionary intellectual who has been purged is trying to come to terms with his imminent death in a world were "I" doesn't exist.

    “Rubashov tried to study this newly discovered entity very thoroughly during his wanderings through the cell; with the shyness of emphasizing the first person singular customary in the Party, he had christened it the “grammatical fiction”. He probably had only a few weeks left to live, and he felt a compelling urge to clear up this matter, to “think it to a logical conclusion”. But the realm of the “grammatical fiction” seemed to begin just where the “thinking to a conclusion” ended. It was obviously an essential part of its being, to remain out of the reach of logical thought, and then to take one unawares, as from an ambush, and attack one with daydreams and toothache...

    ... the difference was that at that time he had known those inner processes of which Ivanov spoke so contemptuously, merely as an abstraction; but since then he had experienced the “grammatical fiction” as a physical reality in his own body. But had these irrational processes become more admissible merely because he had a personal acquaintance with them now? Was it any the less necessary to fight the “mystical intoxication” merely because one had oneself become intoxicated by it?...

    ...The Party taught one how to do it. The infinite was a politically suspect quantity, the “I” a suspect quality. The Party did not recognize its existence. The definition of the individual was: a multitude of one million divided by one million.”
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