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 Post subject: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:14 am 
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If in the medieval people believed that ensoulment (when soul enters the body) happens AFTER conception, which means that one can't really say that abortion is murder, then what reason did they give for outlawing abortion?


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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:24 am 
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How long after conception? It could be 10 seconds after the sperm enters the egg...that's 'after', but the woman won't know for at least another 10-14 days that she's pregnant...


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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 7:28 am 
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beng wrote:
If in the medieval people believed that ensoulment (when soul enters the body) happens AFTER conception, which means that one can't really say that abortion is murder, then what reason did they give for outlawing abortion?
This isn't an answer to your question, but I just want to point out that their view on ensoulment was also partly based on their views of biology. According to John Haldane and Patrick Lee, an aristotelian-thomistic view on metaphysics, combined with what we know about biology, results in the view that ensoulment starts at the moment of conception. ("Aquinas on Human Ensoulmen." Philosophy 78, 2003, pp.255-278.) They write:

    First, on his Aristotelian view, the male is the sole active cause; second, the material (the menstrual blood) upon which the semen (as instrument of the male) works has only a very low degree of perfection or organization, not even possessing vegetative life; third, as a consequence, the distance between the initial point (menstrual blood) and the end point (a body sufficiently organized to receive a human soul) is quite long. The general metaphysical point is expressed by Aquinas as follows:

      Now it belongs to the natural order that a thing is gradually brought from potency to act. And therefore in those things which are generated we find that at first each is imperfect and afterwards is perfected.

    We believe that the general metaphysical principle is demonstrably true, and that the application of it in the second sentence is plausibly so. All three of the embryological beliefs, however, are known to be false. Modern embryology shows that the female provides a gamete (the ovum) which is already a highly organized living cell, containing highly complex, specific information, in the genetic structure of the nuclear chromosomes. This information (together with that provided by the genetic structure in the chromosomes of the male sperm) helps guide the development of the new living organism formed by the fusion of the sperm and the ovum. Hence the ovum is actually very close to readiness for rapid embryological development; it only requires fusion with the sperm and the activation that occurs with that fusion. To a certain extent the gradual transition from the simple to the complex that Aquinas sought actually occurs during gametogenesis (of which, of course, he was unaware). Thus, applying Aquinas’s metaphysical principles to the embryological facts uncovered since his time leads to the conclusion that the human being is present from fertilisation on.

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 9:20 am 
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beng wrote:
If in the medieval people believed that ensoulment (when soul enters the body) happens AFTER conception, which means that one can't really say that abortion is murder, then what reason did they give for outlawing abortion?

Many. But I will note that abortion before 40 days did not carry the canonical penalty of excommunication until Sixtus V, and even then the law reverted back to only after 40 days until the 19th century under Pius IX. To be more accurate, we did not have a code of Canon law, and so the law was applied according to the understanding held at the time. Sixtus the V signified the will of the legislator that it carried excommunication, and spoke of it as murder even before 40 days. His successors expressed that it only held after 40 days. Pius IX issued a legal decree, where he removed the distinction between abortion in general and that of a quickened child (which latter was before subject to excommunication, but not that of an unquickened "child"). This gives rise to the false notion that the Church did not condemn abortion until the 19th century!


Of course abortion, prior to quickening, would be a very grave form of contraception and hence always immoral. As Aquinas states

Unde post peccatum homicidii, quo natura humana iam in actu existens destruitur, huiusmodi genus peccati videtur secundum locum tenere, quo impeditur generatio humanae naturae.

Whence after the sin of homicide, by which a human nature already existing in act is destroyed, the genus of this sort of sin is seen to hold second place, by which the generation of a human nature is impeded.

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 10:27 am 
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Abortion ends human life. Period.

Ensoulment is something for the theologians and philosophers to decide. Even if ensoulment does not take place until that child draws his firs breath, abortion is still ending a human life and a grave evil.

In my pro life work, I do not use the word murder.

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 12:44 pm 
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Solivagus in Mundi wrote:
beng wrote:
If in the medieval people believed that ensoulment (when soul enters the body) happens AFTER conception, which means that one can't really say that abortion is murder, then what reason did they give for outlawing abortion?

Many. But I will note that abortion before 40 days did not carry the canonical penalty of excommunication until Sixtus V, and even then the law reverted back to only after 40 days until the 19th century under Pius IX. To be more accurate, we did not have a code of Canon law, and so the law was applied according to the understanding held at the time. Sixtus the V signified the will of the legislator that it carried excommunication, and spoke of it as murder even before 40 days. His successors expressed that it only held after 40 days. Pius IX issued a legal decree, where he removed the distinction between abortion in general and that of a quickened child (which latter was before subject to excommunication, but not that of an unquickened "child"). This gives rise to the false notion that the Church did not condemn abortion until the 19th century!


Of course abortion, prior to quickening, would be a very grave form of contraception and hence always immoral. As Aquinas states

Unde post peccatum homicidii, quo natura humana iam in actu existens destruitur, huiusmodi genus peccati videtur secundum locum tenere, quo impeditur generatio humanae naturae.

Whence after the sin of homicide, by which a human nature already existing in act is destroyed, the genus of this sort of sin is seen to hold second place, by which the generation of a human nature is impeded.


I think I remember something from John Finnis where he quoted St. Thomas as saying that abortion prior to was indicative of a homicidal will. Does that sound familiar?

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 7:34 am 
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kage_ar wrote:
Abortion ends human life. Period.

Ensoulment is something for the theologians and philosophers to decide. Even if ensoulment does not take place until that child draws his firs breath, abortion is still ending a human life and a grave evil.

In my pro life work, I do not use the word murder.


I think the point of the OP was that in the Middle Ages, it was commonly held that there wasn't any life prior to quickening. So, it wasn't considered homicide (the ending of a human life), but it was still a grave evil because it was a very harsh form of contracepting. They still believed that what was in the womb was designed specifically to receive the soul (human life) so any offense against it was indeed an act against God's creative power.

However, now that we understand biology better, we now know that the fetus is very much alive from the moment of conception. And the type of life it is, is in fact human, as you correctly state. Certainly, this doesn't definitively answer the ensoulment question (though I dare say it makes it difficult to say otherwise) but it at least makes it clear that abortion ends human life as you say.

FJ

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:22 am 
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FJ, they certainly held that the fetus was a living organism prior to quickening, just not a truly human life. Indeed, if there is not the human soul then it isn't, in the proper sense, a human life. The form is what makes a thing to be this sort of thing. And the soul is the form. If it is human it has a human form, i.e. the rational soul

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 2:17 pm 
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ForumJunkie wrote:
kage_ar wrote:
Abortion ends human life. Period.

Ensoulment is something for the theologians and philosophers to decide. Even if ensoulment does not take place until that child draws his firs breath, abortion is still ending a human life and a grave evil.

In my pro life work, I do not use the word murder.


I think the point of the OP was that in the Middle Ages, it was commonly held that there wasn't any life prior to quickening. So, it wasn't considered homicide (the ending of a human life), but it was still a grave evil because it was a very harsh form of contracepting. They still believed that what was in the womb was designed specifically to receive the soul (human life) so any offense against it was indeed an act against God's creative power.

However, now that we understand biology better, we now know that the fetus is very much alive from the moment of conception. And the type of life it is, is in fact human, as you correctly state. Certainly, this doesn't definitively answer the ensoulment question (though I dare say it makes it difficult to say otherwise) but it at least makes it clear that abortion ends human life as you say.

FJ


Thank you -

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 2:18 pm 
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Solivagus in Mundi wrote:
FJ, they certainly held that the fetus was a living organism prior to quickening, just not a truly human life. Indeed, if there is not the human soul then it isn't, in the proper sense, a human life. The form is what makes a thing to be this sort of thing. And the soul is the form. If it is human it has a human form, i.e. the rational soul


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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 2:19 pm 
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Solivagus in Mundi wrote:
FJ, they certainly held that the fetus was a living organism prior to quickening, just not a truly human life. Indeed, if there is not the human soul then it isn't, in the proper sense, a human life. The form is what makes a thing to be this sort of thing. And the soul is the form. If it is human it has a human form, i.e. the rational soul


I think that is clear from Aquinas, but not everyone did. In fact, I dare say that SOME of the initial stages would not have been viewed that way at all in regard to the zygote, especially prior to implantation. There were some who viewed it as a sort of vessel that was being weaved in the womb and that quickening was when the spark of life was given. However, I don't think any of the opinions I read on the subject when researching this a while back were actually trying to do science, so it is probably an error to glean from them a sort of scientific pronouncement. Though Aquinas was probably the majority view among the learned, it was not the majority view from the average Catholic. Keep in mind that our understanding of the zygote in recent times has reshaped the debate and that we are being a bit anachronistic when we frame this debate using what we now know about those initial conditions and the writings of the medieval theologians and scientists. Certainly, the knew a whole lot more than we give them credit for, but they didn't know everything we now know.

But, I do think it is the case the modern embryology has made either of the medieval positions of delayed ensoulment more difficult to hold.

I really don't want to debate this part of the question, and I am not trying to be argumentative. I think we are all trying to say the same thing. The question was about why abortion prior to ensoulment was seen as evil. I think that question has been answered. And I will gladly give you the last word on the medieval view.

FJ

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 2:29 pm 
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Solivagus in Mundi wrote:
FJ, they certainly held that the fetus was a living organism prior to quickening, just not a truly human life. Indeed, if there is not the human soul then it isn't, in the proper sense, a human life. The form is what makes a thing to be this sort of thing. And the soul is the form. If it is human it has a human form, i.e. the rational soul


This has perplexed me - would the soul have changed from something else into a rational soul, then? I thought every creature had a soul.

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 6:35 pm 
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Benedetta wrote:
Solivagus in Mundi wrote:
FJ, they certainly held that the fetus was a living organism prior to quickening, just not a truly human life. Indeed, if there is not the human soul then it isn't, in the proper sense, a human life. The form is what makes a thing to be this sort of thing. And the soul is the form. If it is human it has a human form, i.e. the rational soul


This has perplexed me - would the soul have changed from something else into a rational soul, then? I thought every creature had a soul.


This is an argument I have heard from some evolutionists. They have used Aquinas' argument to say that a creature could have an animal soul and then be given a rational soul. I am not an expert on this part of Thomism to know whether the argument works, but I have heard it from some people I highly regard. As I understand it (from them) yes, the being in the womb would have a soul (because it is alive) but not a rational soul. Still, however, as per the OP, to abort it would be wrong because what it is is meant to be a human being. So, it is contraception.

FJ

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:22 pm 
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Benedetta wrote:
Solivagus in Mundi wrote:
FJ, they certainly held that the fetus was a living organism prior to quickening, just not a truly human life. Indeed, if there is not the human soul then it isn't, in the proper sense, a human life. The form is what makes a thing to be this sort of thing. And the soul is the form. If it is human it has a human form, i.e. the rational soul


This has perplexed me - would the soul have changed from something else into a rational soul, then? I thought every creature had a soul.

No. The soul itself does not change. As far as contemporary Thomists saying things like that...I can see some River Forest being careless in their speech, but surely they know that such an idea would be anathema to Thomas!

Rather, the sensitive soul is suceeded by the rational soul. It is not subsumed or changed into it, but replaced by it.

Every living creature has a soul.

In question 118 of the prima pars we move to the production of the soul. St. Thomas affirms that the sensitive soul (the soul of animals) is not produced by an act of creation, but through the agent reproducing. The argument to the contrary, he states, rests on the premise that an animal soul is simple and self-subsisting. If this were true, then it would have to be made through creation. He denies the premise because, as he argued earlier, the animal soul does not subsist. The reason is that in brute animals, who have sensation but no intellect, there is no operation that is not involved with some organ. Since every operation then is of the composite
acting as a unity, there is no per-se operation of the animal soul. Since being follows upon operation, there is no warrant to claim that the animal soul is subsistent. It must then perish with the body.

Because of this it is not proper to speak of the animal soul being made, but rather the composite being made. It is the composite that exists, not the animal soul, except inasmuch as the existence of the composite is through the form. Hence, the soul is produced in the matter through corporeal agency, similar to non living things. The semen acts as a medium in the case of reproduction, it is an instrument of the generator. For St. Thomas the semen has a force that acts on the foetal matter given by the woman. The foetal matter has vegetative life and takes in nourishment. The force of the influence of the semen transmutes it until in some principal part the sensitive soul is present (the sensitive soul is not in the semen, but effect by the semen). Once this happens the semen is no longer exists as the semen gets dissolved. If we adapt his explanation to modern science, we may say that when the sperm joins the egg a change is effected such that in a principal part (say the nuclei of the egg) the form is already present. From thence, the substantial form in the body is able to work to the perfection of that body without any more need of influence from any sperm.

In the next article we find that we cannot say this about the human soul. Indeed, St. Thomas say that it is heretical to believe that the human soul is generated by the semen. The reason is that the human soul is intellectual. Now the intellect has an operation this does not involve the body, such as happens in understanding universals. Since this is the case, a material agent could never produce it. Further, this being the case, that it has a per se operation apart from the body, it is subsistent unlike the animal soul. Being simple and subsistent it needs be created by God. This holds true in every instance of human generation, not merely the creation of the
first man.

Several objections are raised. The most important is the second.
Quote:
In man there is one and the same soul according to substance, intellective, sensitive and nutritive. But the sensitive soul is generated in man by the semen, just as in other animals, whence also the philosopher says in his book on the generation of animals that animal and man are not made at the same time, but first an animal is made have a sensitive soul. Therefore the intellective soul is also caused from the semen.


St. Thomas’ answer here is very informative. He rejects two positions pretty quickly. One is that the vital operations of the embryo are caused by the mother or the semen. But this cannot be because nourishment, growth, etc cannot be caused from an exterior principle. So at least the nutritive soul is present in the embryo from the get-go. He rejects also that there are three souls in man, where the intellectual soul stands as act to the sensitive soul, which stands as act to the nutritive soul. This is rejected because one must reject really the notion of substantial form to hold it.

The third position he argues at length against. This holds that the same soul evolves from nutritive, to sensitive and to intellectual. This position even affirms God doing this.

He rejects this for several reasons. One is that substantial form does not admit of more or less. By adding or subtracting we get a different species, just as by take a species of number, say 5, and adding unity, we no longer have the same species but a new one, viz. 6. The same identical form cannot belong to multiple species for an obvious reason that either the form would not be
the same, or the species would be identical. Second, an animal would come to be in a continuous motion. But in substantial change we do not have a lapse of time. Either this thing is a man or isn’t. He may be a man who is bleeding to death, but he is still fully a man while he is a man. Third, this would not be generation, which is always the bringing of a new thing into the matter and hence the end of an old thing, This against what we observe in nature. Lastly, we must either say that the intellectual soul is subsistent in which case it needs be distinct from the pre-existing form it evolved from or that like the pre-existing form it is not subsistent, but that is false.

The upshot for our inquiry here is that the soul must 1) be created and 2) cannot emerge or evolve.

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:05 am 
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Well, the soul is the animating force behind a creature. All animals, and even plants, have a soul. The human soul happens to be a spirit as well, whereas animals and plants etc. do not have a spirit. So, being that a fetus, at conception, is animated, it would be only logical to say that the fetus has a soul. Being that said fetus is a human fetus, it would have a human soul. Being that human souls are spirits, the fetus would be a true human in essence.

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:32 pm 
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Assuming ensoulment occurs at some later point of conception, what objections would arise if a non-human soul [vegetative, animal, etc.] accompanied human life along it's development. At each developing point a different soul takes over.

I know SiM mentioned that a soul must die with it's body/life; but could one not say that in a way, the vegatative matter or animal matter did die in our development and hence poses no problem?

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:35 pm 
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Servant of Guadalupe wrote:
Well, the soul is the animating force behind a creature. All animals, and even plants, have a soul. The human soul happens to be a spirit as well, whereas animals and plants etc. do not have a spirit. So, being that a fetus, at conception, is animated, it would be only logical to say that the fetus has a soul. Being that said fetus is a human fetus, it would have a human soul. Being that human souls are spirits, the fetus would be a true human in essence.

Human souls are made of spirit.

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 8:56 pm 
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Dominic wrote:
Servant of Guadalupe wrote:
Well, the soul is the animating force behind a creature. All animals, and even plants, have a soul. The human soul happens to be a spirit as well, whereas animals and plants etc. do not have a spirit. So, being that a fetus, at conception, is animated, it would be only logical to say that the fetus has a soul. Being that said fetus is a human fetus, it would have a human soul. Being that human souls are spirits, the fetus would be a true human in essence.

Human souls are made of spirit.

Are you making an argument or simply agreeing with me?

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:02 pm 
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Servant of Guadalupe wrote:
Dominic wrote:
Servant of Guadalupe wrote:
Well, the soul is the animating force behind a creature. All animals, and even plants, have a soul. The human soul happens to be a spirit as well, whereas animals and plants etc. do not have a spirit. So, being that a fetus, at conception, is animated, it would be only logical to say that the fetus has a soul. Being that said fetus is a human fetus, it would have a human soul. Being that human souls are spirits, the fetus would be a true human in essence.

Human souls are made of spirit.

Are you making an argument or simply agreeing with me?

I think he is agreeing with you as far as the part you quoted goes. Though I for one don't like the language of "made of spirit" only because it sounds like spirit is some generic substance you can fashion an angel, or a human soul or whatnot out of. In reality, things like human souls and angels are not not even under the same genus. Someone remarked once that the difference between two angels was greater than that between a cat and a bee. But I am picky with word choices. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Ensoulment and abortion
PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:25 pm 
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ForumJunkie wrote:
Benedetta wrote:
Solivagus in Mundi wrote:
FJ, they certainly held that the fetus was a living organism prior to quickening, just not a truly human life. Indeed, if there is not the human soul then it isn't, in the proper sense, a human life. The form is what makes a thing to be this sort of thing. And the soul is the form. If it is human it has a human form, i.e. the rational soul


This has perplexed me - would the soul have changed from something else into a rational soul, then? I thought every creature had a soul.


This is an argument I have heard from some evolutionists. They have used Aquinas' argument to say that a creature could have an animal soul and then be given a rational soul. I am not an expert on this part of Thomism to know whether the argument works, but I have heard it from some people I highly regard. As I understand it (from them) yes, the being in the womb would have a soul (because it is alive) but not a rational soul. Still, however, as per the OP, to abort it would be wrong because what it is is meant to be a human being. So, it is contraception.

FJ


Edward Feser made that argument (whether he held to it or not is another question).

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09 ... art-i.html
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09 ... rt-ii.html


He argued that soul is the "form" of man (body is the "matter").


Going from this he argued that polygenism could be reconciled with the Church teaching on original sin.

It went something like this. So, there was this monkey/ape community (for lack of a better word). It just so happen that one of monkey/ape mommy and daddy have two or maybe three babies. Now, during conception only two of them were given rational souls (ie. Adam and Eve). Voila, two humans whose parents do not have rational soul.


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