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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Computers, Artificial Intelligence, Brains, and Souls

Computers, Artificial Intelligence, Brains, and Souls
By Jim J. McCrea

Many computer scientists project a time when the current rate of the development of Computer technology will give rise to machines which will exceed the intelligence of humans. What is seen for the future is a situation in which the world will have to be shared between a legitimate machine species with their own rights, and the human race. A worst case scenario includes the possibility of computers, because of their superior intelligence, taking over the human race and enslaving it.

Does the above constitute a legitimate concern? My answer is no, not at all. The fallacy in the notion that the current rate of computer development will give rise to computers which are more intelligent than we are is based on the erroneous notion that intelligence is nothing but information processing speed and complexity. If intelligence is something other than information processing ability, what is it then? What is the nature and source of human intelligence? Materialists say that intelligence resides solely in the brain and that the brain is nothing but an information processor. Materialist make the error of saying that intelligence is solely information processing ability. Catholic philosophy, on the other hand, claims that true personality resides in a non material soul. This personality includes intellect, will, and heart.

This article will argue that it is rational to hold that personality resides in a non-material soul, and that it is irrational to say that personality exists completely within a physical organism. The difference between machine-executable logic and human reason will be discussed, and the difference between artificial intelligence and true human intelligence will be discussed. This article will also look at how the human intellect exceeds the capabilities of any possible physical system and will examine the relationship between the brain and the soul. Computers are essentially machines which can execute functions in logic very quickly and on an enormous scale. Data manipulation, word processing, video games, and mathematical calculations in a computer, are nothing but logical operations performed in a very fast and complex manner.

What exactly is the process of logic and why is it essential for the computer and also vitally important for human reason? The process of logic, essentially, is the drawing of certain information out of certain other information. If information A is drawn out of information B by a process of logical inference, information A must be contained in B in an implicit or hidden form. A is drawn out of B through a process which rigorously follows unchangeable laws of thought and reality. These are the principles of identity and non-contradiction. It is said that A is analytically contained in B and that it is an analytic process which draws it out. Consider, for example, the famous syllogism with three parts, which consists of two premises and one conclusion: (Premise 1) All men are mortal, (Premise 2) Socrates is a man, (Conclusion) Socrates is mortal. Intuitively it can be seen that the conclusion follows from the premises. The conclusion can be drawn from the premises because the conclusion exists in a latent or analytic form in the premises. In arithmetic 3+4=7 because 7 exists in an implicit form in 3+4. It is a process of logic which draws 7 out of 3+4 so that the logical functions within a computer can calculate such a sum.

All computers execute logical operations within their hardware. Just as matter has fundamental units called subatomic particles, computers have fundamental units of logical operation. These are executed in elements of computer hardware know as "logic gates." The first type is the AND gate. This gate has two inputs and one output. The fundamental operation which this performs is that a signal (a one) is produced on the output, only when a signal is fed into both inputs (two ones). If there is no signal on the inputs (two zeros) or if only one and not the other input gets a signal (a zero on one input and a one on the other), no signal (a zero) is produced on the output. The second type is the OR gate. It also has two inputs and one output. The operation which this performs is that there is a signal produced on the output (a one) if one or both inputs have a signal (0,1  1,0 or 1,1). One input or two with a signal is required so that a signal is produced on the output. If there is no signal on either input there is no signal on the output. The third type is the NOT gate. This has one input and one output. The operation of this is very simple. If the input receives a signal there is no signal on the output. If the input does not receive a signal the output produces a signal (zero is converted to one and one is converted to zero). A more exotic type of gate is the exclusive OR gate or what is called the XOR gate. Like the AND and the OR gates it has two inputs and one output. A signal will be produced on the output if and only if one of the inputs gets a signal. If both inputs have no signal or both do have a signal, no signal will appear on the output. The processors in modern computers consist of the combination of a vast number of gates connected together to perform vastly complex functions in logic. How this fundamental computer logic translates into the actual operation of a computer, as it is used in practice, is beyond the scope of this article. This I will leave as an exercise for the reader.

The reason why finite machine executible logic is limited relative to human reason and why such logic can never amount to human reason, no matter how fast and complex it becomes, is because human reason deals with reality itself, while such logic consists of the manipulation of tags which are applied to certain features of reality. Like the laws of physics, the laws of finite logic consist of abstractions from reality. Finite logic deals only with the relationship between certain type of truths in reality. Take for example the syllogism, All men are mortal - Socrates is a man - therefore, Socrates is mortal. It can be intuitively seen that this consists of a valid deductive argument. The actual form of this which makes it true is: All A are x, B is an instance of A, therefore B is x. To such a form we add the tags men, mortal, and Socrates. We could just as easily have applied the tags Vulcans, hemoglobin is based on copper, and Spock. With this, the syllogism would read. With all Vulcans their hemoglobin is based on copper - Spock is a Vulcan - therefore, Spock's hemoglobin is based on copper. The point is, man, Vulcan, Spock, Socrates, mortal, hemoglobin based on copper, are all tags which are inserted into that basic logical form. Finite logic itself knows nothing except that these tags are to be manipulated in a certain manner, according to the form, to obtain a logical result. It can know nothing about the realities themselves that these tags apply to. Only the human intellect can do that. The actual truth about men, Vulcans, Spock, Socrates, mortality, and hemoglobin - that is, what is real about them - is excluded from the process of finite logic. Even if the process of logic were so complex that millions of tags as names or truth statements were applied to millions of attributes of each thing, it would still not know the thing itself. These tags would only be millions of signs which represent millions of realities without actually knowing them. Because the human intellect can reach reality itself while finite logic cannot, the human intellect must reside in a soul which transcends the properties of matter.

Theorems in logic are logical statements which must be true by necessity - that is, they must be true because logic dictates it. Often they are expressed in symbolic form so that they resemble mathematical equations. A simple example is: given P is true (first premise); and that the truth of P implies the truth of Q (second premise); therefore, Q is true (conclusion). Symbolically this would be written P, P>Q|=Q. A practical application of this would be It is raining (Premise 1) - rain implies the sidewalk is wet (Premise 2) - therefore the sidewalk is wet (Conclusion). This may seem trivial until we realize that implication does not work in reverse. If it is given the sidewalk is wet, on the other hand, it does not imply it is raining. The sidewalk may have been wet with a water hose. Another truth is ~Q,P>Q|=~P. This says that if the sidewalk is not wet, given that rain implies a wet sidewalk, it is not raining. These are simple intuitively understandable examples of how symbolic logic works. In practice it can be used to analyze very complex systems of statements (which cannot be analyzed by sight) to determine if they logically hold together - that is, to determine if they are consistent (consistency means that there is no contradiction in the system). Inconsistency may indicate falsehood at some point. Statements in logic are required to properly model reality in order to be an effective tool in determining the truth. For example, the theorem that rain implies a wet sidewalk would not properly model reality if the sidewalk were covered with a canopy. The proper modeling of reality with logic requires experience and intuition. This is another limitation in finite logic - that something outside of it - namely the human intellect - is required to use it properly.

Now we address another type of limitation in finite logic. This is based on the "incompleteness" theorem discovered by Kurt Gödel in 1931. What this theorem says is that there are statements in logic which are true, but not logically provable. The process of deductive logic is incapable of arriving at their truth. Mathematics is an example of this. Much of mathematics can be proven with decuctive logic. It may be said that mathematics is reducible to logic. Take, for example, 3+4=7. Turning the numbers into binary (i.e. 7 is 111 in binary, 3 is 011, and 4 is 100), this sum can be calculated using a combination of the computer logic gates described above. However, not all of mathematics can be proven with such logic. This is what the incompleteness theorem says. It was once a dream to be able to run a computer program indefinitely (called a Hilbert program) and eventually have it derive all significant mathematical truths. Gödel's incompleteness theorem makes such a dream an impossibility. Another limitation in logic is that all truths in logic, which are derived through deductive logical analysis, must start somewhere. These start with first truths called "axioms." These axioms, since they are first, cannot themselves be derived by deductive logical analysis. They are given through experience and intuition. From this, therefore, we must appeal to something outside of deductive logic to make logic work. The way that the incompleteness theorem is handled is that if there is a truth in a logical or mathematical system which cannot be proven (and is known to be a truth) it is simply treated as another axiom on which to build other truths.

Since the computer is essentially a vast logical processor, Gödel's incompleteness theorem applies to computer science. There is what is known as the "halting problem." As a consequence of the incompleteness theorem it is impossible to construct a computer program which would determine if another computer program would ever come to a halt or keep running forever (in an infinite loop). Another application of the incompleteness theorem, to computer science, concerns viruses. It is impossible to construct a computer program which will detect all programs (viruses) which would alter the operating system which itself does not alter the operating system. Therefore, any sure-fire virus detector would do the type of damage that viruses themselves do.

Now we move on to the subject of artificial intelligence itself. Artificial intelligence uses sophisticated computer programs which attempt to perform some of the functions of human intelligence. One example is that of an expert system. An expert system is an analysis and diagnostic tool which performs a task in some field of human expertise. For example, there are expert systems which can perform the functions of a doctor in very cleverly diagnosing disease. It contains a sophisticated set of rules which outputs a diagnosis in response to the inputting of symptoms. Another example of artificial intelligence are computer programs which play chess. They have to "think" of what move to make to defend its own pieces while capturing its opponent's. The recognition of printed letters and human speech is another example. The creation of music is another.

All of these applications of artificial intelligence take place in what is known as a "micro-world." A micro-world, as it applies to artificial intelligence, is essentially a vast set of logical rules which do a specific task in "intelligent" analysis. However, it can never amount to human reason. First of all, a micro-world is not reality itself. The artificial intelligence program which works with the micro-world cannot reach reality itself, as does human intelligence. It consists solely of finite logical forms abstracted from reality. Secondly, the manifold of reality present to human experience and human reason is infinitely complex. Artificial intelligence can only model some finite portion of that. In practice, micro-worlds are very very narrow compared to reality itself and cannot work outside of their assigned field. When the description of a rusty car was given to a medical expert system, it diagnosed measles. For the first time, in 1997, a super computer named Deep Blue defeated top chess grand master Garry Kasparov. He said that, in the match, he was defending the supremacy of the human race. However, this supremacy was never in danger because of his defeat. Even though the strategies in chess can be exceedingly complex and ingenious, they constitute an exceedingly narrow cross section of the total spectrum of human intelligence.

Unlike artificial intelligence, human reason is capable of reaching the essences of things. Essences are the "what" of things. When we inquire as to what something is, we are inquiring as to what its essence is. A feature of essences is that they are one rather than multiple. "Catness," "dogness," "chairness," "carness," etc. are understood "as is," as a "lump," as "one thing." There is a simultaneity and instantaneousness to the vision, by the human intellect, of essences. They are grasped all at once. This completely transcends the methodology of the physical sciences which understands things part by part in succession. This vision of oneness of essences, when you look at a person as a whole, for example, has a mystery of transcendence which exceeds the mere sum of his or her parts. This vision is an objective view of the mystery of reality. It is not merely subjective. Essences are fundamental units of intelligibility. As mentioned above, finite logic cannot reach essences but simply puts tags on things and looks at the truth relationships between different statements representing things.

Human reason transcends artificial intelligence because it can understand the interaction of various types of essences with each other in the real world. Essences interact with each other according to their own type of logic which transcends the classical finite type which computers perform. This logic of essences can only be gained by experience. This is why true education cannot be simply limited to books. Hands on experience, of elements in the real world, is required for a proper education. The expertise of a craftsman is an example of the requirement of the knowledge of how essences interact. Working with wood or metal requires an understanding which transcends classical finite logic. For example, the craft of a wood worker requires a knowledge of how the essences of the various tools interact with the essences of the various blocks of wood he is working with, and how the essences of the various blocks of wood go together to make the essence of the finished product. Here experience is essential. Working with people requires an understanding of the essences of personalities and how they interact. This can only be gained by experience. The complexity and subtlety in this domain is such that there is a type of infinity to it. It constitutes an infinite form of logic. Interpersonal interactions are those which most completely transcend classical finite logic and are those which are most completely removed from the domain of what can be performed on a computer.

** footnote - Engineering, which involves the design of technological entities, very heavily depends on the use of mathematics. This is because the artificial essences (and their behaviors) created by technology and science are heavily laden with features which closely approximate mathematical forms (this is generally much less so for natural forms). However, being real essences these mathematical forms are mere features of them, and these essences necessarily have a "thickness" which exceeds these features and which cannot be completely captured by mere mathematics. The mathematical model is like the skeleton and the thing being modeled is like the skeleton with flesh on it. Rarely can an engineer design a finished product using mathematics alone. Mathematics, in engineering, constitutes the starting point for the design. From there, the finished product can only be perfected by observing how the real thing behaves in real life as it is being constructed. This can only be done by using experimentation, observation, and experience.

The understanding of essences - that is, the understanding of things in their oneness and their "whatness" - allows the intellect to understand classical finite logic itself in a manner which transcends the methodology of classical finite logic. For example, the human intellect can understand 2+2=4 or ~Q,P>Q|=~P as single units in simple acts of intuition. This understanding of logical truths simply and intuitively transcends the computer's methodology of working them out step by step. However, for a human, the logical form must be quite simple in order for the human mind to do that. The pure spirits (which exist between the material world and God), which we call angels, have intellects which are far superior to that of humans. It can be speculated that they are able to grasp very complex systems of logic simply and intuitively. Since their vision is a function of intellect (which is essentially a spiritual faculty) Gödel's incompleteness theorem would not constitute a limitation for them. At a glance they would be able to determine whether a computer program would eventually halt or keep running forever. They could determine if anything is a virus-like computer program, which would alter a given operating system, and do that without touching the operating system itself. From an understanding of the inner essence of mathematical truth they would be able to see all possible theorems in mathematics if the incompleteness theorem forbids classical finite logic from deducing them all.

Now we turn to an aspect of the perception of reality by the human intellect which transcends not only finite logic, but also what we understand as the capability of any type of machine. The material sciences understand perception as elements of sensation impinging on the senses, and from this we understand the outside world. For example, we see things by light being reflected off of them and then by that light entering the eyes and impinging on the retina. However, in addition to a physical component to perception, there is a metaphysical component. To perceive a thing, the intellect reaches out to embrace that thing, as it is, where it is. At sixteen years old I recall looking at scenery across the lake. I began to reflect on the nature of perception itself in what I was perceiving. Something struck me which was infinitely subtle, as well as infinitely natural and ordinary at the same time. It struck me that if what the material sciences say is true - that vision is nothing but the effect of light on the retina - my act of seeing should be nothing but the perception of light being experienced on the back of my eyes. However, it was clear that my act of vision was very different from this. My actual vision was the embracing of the actual reality of what was across the lake itself, as it was, where it was (although incompletely, of course). From this act of introspection, it could be determined that the human field of consciousness is not confined to the body, but extends far beyond it, to truly and literally embrace what is in its environment.

The question of how we know whether our objects of consciousness (given in perception) correspond to the reality outside of ourselves can, in part, be answered by saying that the realities outside of ourselves are the objects of our consciousness. We grasp things themselves, not mere representations of things (although we do not completely comprehend them. When we see a television set, we truly see it, but not everything about, such all all of its internal circuitry) When our intellect reaches out, it embraces things in four distinct metaphysical moments: (1) their essence - that is, the "what they are" of them; (2) their existence - that is, the "that they are" of them; (3) their externality, which means that they are objectively real and distinct from the ego; and (4) their individuality, which means that they have the identity and individuality they do and not the identity and individuality of something else. These four metaphysical moments are simply themselves - that is, they are primordial and cannot be reduced to anything else. I depart here from many classical scholastic philosophers who have traditionally maintained that the perception of individual objects belongs to sense alone (such as individual cats) and that only universals (such as "catness" which is common to all cats) belongs to the intellect - and that intellectual operations deal only with abstraction. I maintain that the direct perception of individual objects is also truly intellectual in nature. I base this on the fact that this perception, in addition to the physical element of sense, involves the above mentioned four metaphysical moments. These moments are truly attributes of being as being and are infinitely removed from functions of mere sense.
Being is the very object of the intellect. This apprehension, by the intellect, of things in their concreteness and individuality may be called the zeroth level of abstraction, because it is not a level of abstraction at all, but is the starting point of all abstraction. (In classical scholastic philosophy the first level of abstraction is the understanding of universals, such as "catness." The second level of abstraction is an understanding of the forms of mathematics. The third level of abstraction is an understanding of being as being, which is the object of metaphysics).

The fact that the human intellect infinitely transcends anything physical is demonstrated by the fact that it has the inherent capability to gaze upon being as such. The famous 20th century Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain in his book A Preface to metaphysics - third lecture, talks about what he calls an "Intuition of Being as Such," or what may be alternately called, a "Metaphysical Intuition of Being." Many people have experienced this. It is the sudden clear intuition of what it means to be an IS. An understanding of the act of existence, as such, appears in a clear light. This act of existence is perceived in all existing things. This goes completely beyond any type of analysis. It is an intuitive vision which is superhumanly simple, straightforward, and obvious. It is precisely its exceeding ordinariness and commonality which causes it to escape most people. It would be something like a fish being aware of the wetness of the water it is swimming in. The act of existence, in this intuition of being, stands out strikingly as being the opposite of nothingness and standing outside of nothingness. In the intuition of being, one becomes aware of the contingency of things - that their "energy" of existence requires a cause to hold them outside of nothingness. This cause is seen as He Who Is Being Itself - who is God. Because He is Pure Being, He must necessarily exist and must necessarily be infinite.

Classical scholastic philosophers (based on St. Thomas Aquinas) make a two-fold distinction within the human intellect. They distinguish what they call the "agent intellect" from what they call the "possible intellect." The agent intellect is an active power of the mind which abstracts universals from individuals. For example, it would remove "catness" from an individual cat so that the essence of catness could be understood as such (to abstract means to draw forth. To abstract is to separate in the mind what is joined in reality). The possible intellect is simply the mind which perceives catness. It is that which is aware. The possible intellect is a passive power. Since my position differs from the classical scholastic philosophers, in that I maintain that the perception of the individual is a true intellectual act, I use the terms "agent intellect" and "possible intellect" in a slightly extended sense. The agent intellect would include the act of the intellect reaching out to the individual object (through the instrumentality of the senses) in order to perceive it. The possible intellect would include that which actually perceives the object (once it has been reached).

It is the function of the intellect to grasp the attributes of being as being. In most people this is subconscious or semiconscious, however, it is required for the use of the human mind in every-day reality. It is the operating system of the human intellect. It is the metaphysician who brings this operating system to some form of conscious understanding. For example, (even though many philosophers have denied it) the human intellect understands the distinction between substance and accident - that is, between the thing itself and the attributes that the thing has. For example, if John dyes his hair, gets a face-lift, puts on 20 pounds, and contracts cancer, everyone understands that some of his attributes have changed, but it is still the same John. The human intellect understands the distinction between essence and existence - that is, the distinction between a thing's "what" and its "that." People meaningfully understand that things that do exist can cease to exist, and that the simple idea of things (essence) does not necessarily imply that they are. The fact that things that do exist can possibly not exist, motivates us to preserve them. It is meaningful to understand that things that do not exist can possibly exist. This allows us to make things. Making is the turning of an idea into a reality, which is to confer existence upon essence. The distinction between matter and form is understood by the human mind. Every school boy knows that a proper model airplane kit has all the parts of the model airplane (the matter), but that he has to work to put the parts together (giving it form) to have an actual model airplane. It is a natural function of the human intellect to reach the existence of God through the existence of created beings. This is based on an understanding of the above-mentioned distinction between essence and existence. If the very idea of something does not imply that it exists, its existence cannot come from its essence, but another whom we call God. The mere making of something by man (or some natural force) does not completely account for its existence. It accounts for its becoming, but its contingent being in the here and now must come from God's sustaining activity in the here and now. God necessarily exists because his essence is his own existence. As we can see, all of the above (and many more) metaphysical principle are required for our functioning in day to day life. It is the metaphysician who studies these principles as such.

** footnote - animals make things, but this making is a purely instinctive response to their environment. They do not make the intellectual judgment: 'All the parts are here, and if I assemble them, I will have the finished product.'

One of the attributes of the human intellect is the capability to understand infinity. Often doubters of this fact can be encountered. They ask if we can imagine infinity - that is, if we can picture an infinite quantity. In this is a confusion between the imagination and the intellect - between objects of sense and objects of understanding. We cannot picture infinity as an object of sense but we can understand it as a concept - as the concept of something that goes on forever and has no limits. The term "infinity" is intelligible to us. When it is mentioned, we understand what is being talked about. For contrast, suppose someone gives us a term which is unintelligible. Suppose someone says that such and such is "squigligid." We would know immediately that it is nonsensical. Nothing would register in the understanding. However, with the term "infinity," even though we have no picture of it, our understanding accepts it as something meaningful. Scholastic philosophy has long been acquainted with the distinction between objects we picture and objects we understand. For example, when we look at a cat, we make the judgment "this is a cat." Again, it is another one of the functions of the operating system of the human intellect to be able to grasp the essence of something, within the individual, from the sense impression. However, the essence is not to be identified with the individual. This is because we can rightly go to any cat and judge "this is a cat." This identical catness or essence of cat exists in all types of cats of different shapes, sizes, and colors (otherwise we could not call all of them cats). Therefore, the picture of the individual cat is an object of sense, while the essence catness is not an object of sense because it is not identified with any particular sense impression of a cat. It is an object of understanding, abstracted from sense, which transcends sense. It is therefore spiritual. This is another one of the bases for the fact that the human intellect resides in a non-material soul.

Our ability to understand infinity is essential to our ability to grasp the concept of God. One of the most ingenious arguments for the existence of God, in the history of philosophy, was given by Descartes in his third meditation. He said that his idea of God who is infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, etc. could only come from an actual being which is infinite, all powerful, and all knowing. This is not, in fact, an ontological argument (from an idea of God to the existence of God), but a very refined form of cosmological argument (from some general effect in the universe to the existence of God). This is because Descartes is not arguing from the idea of God as idea, but as effect. The pure type of ontological argument was given by St. Anselm (d. 1109). He said that if God is that which a greater cannot be conceived, he must truly exist because he would be greater in actual existence than merely in the understanding. If God were simply an idea in the understanding, he would not be that which a greater cannot be conceived, because he would be greater if he actually existed. Therefore, He must necessarily exist. Most philosophers have rejected this because it attempts to go from the idea to reality without leaving the realm of ideas. Descartes' argument is different. He says that the idea he has of God must have an actual cause adequate to produce it within him. The principle of sufficient reason states that all things must have a sufficient reason to explain them. One of the elements of the principle of sufficient reason says that the reason must indeed be sufficient - that it must be adequate. From this, an effect cannot be greater than its cause. When we understand "what God is" (his essence) or "that God is" (his existence) this understanding only exists in as far as our mind has a concept of him. Therefore, what we understand by "God" is only co-extensive with the concept we have of him in our mind. This understanding cannot exceed this concept. This may seem tautological but it elucidates an important point. Our concept of God must contain the attributes of essence (i.e infinite power, goodness, knowledge etc.) in as far as we can understand them, in order to understand them. At this moment we are looking at essence without yet having determined the status of existence. Now this concept we have of God's essence is infinitely great. This must be so if we are able to understand God's essence as infinitely great. A concept must be adequate to the reality we are understanding through it. It must, therefore, have a cause in such an essence, with the same infinite greatness, which actually has existence. The principle of sufficient reason states that our idea of God must come from God who actually exists, since the unreal cannot cause anything. When we judge "God exists." this judgment does not exceed the concept we have of God which must come from God. Because anything we grasp about God cannot exceed what is in our intellect, theologians have always taught that even in the vision of God, in heaven, we will not be able to see all of him - that is, we will never be able to totally comprehend him. This is because the type of infinity which the soul has can never be coextensive with the absolute infinity of God, otherwise the soul would be God. Only God is fully capable of comprehending God.

** footnote - this argument of Descartes for the existence of God is not to be confused with another one of his which is purely ontological. In his form of ontological argument, he maintains that the very concept of God is that of a being whose nature it is to exist. Thus from the concept itself we must judge that God truly exists. The problem with this is that we cannot determine if the idea of a being whose essence it is to exist is coherent from the mere concept. Our intellects, in this life, are not equipped with such intuitive powers. For example, a professor may write two complex mathematical statements on a black board connected with an equal sign. This does not automatically make them equal. We have to do the actual mathematics to determine their equality. Similarly when we determine God's existence from some effect in the universe, we come to a knowledge of the coherence of the idea of God as a being whose nature it is to exist. In the beatific vision of God in heaven we will see directly that God is a being who must exist.


Now we will look more closely at how the intellect grasps reality.

The fact that our field of consciousness reaches out beyond the confines of our body and grasps things as they are, where they are, is something that cannot be known within the field of the empirical sciences. Our very introspection and self-reflection can tell us that this is true. In our act of perceiving things, we can perceive (as a reflective act) that what we perceive is objectively real. Therefore, "objective-reality-ness" is given to us. The transcendental argument can demonstrate that perception is not a mere function of sense. The very "sense-only" argument is based on the premise that we have an objective knowledge of the physical senses - that is, that we make real contact with the actual reality of the sense apparatus with the metaphysical element of our intellect. The very basis of the sense-only argument is contradicted by its foundation. Nevertheless, we absolutely depend on our senses to make contact with the outside world. For example, when a blindfold is placed on us, everything in our field of vision disappears. If all of the information we have about the outside world must come through our senses, how does the non-material intellect reach out metaphysically to grasp things as they are in themselves? Interesting question!

Scholastic philosophy maintains that when we sense an object, a form of that object is impressed within the soul via the senses, and it is by that form that the object is known. But how would we go from the impressed form to reach the object itself? It seems as though we know something in terms of something else which is not that thing, therefore, it seems as if we cannot reach the thing itself, only an impression of that thing. This dilemma can be solved by understanding that a real identity can exist among two or more things which are distinct. The essence or "whatness" of things is an example. Consider two tomatoes side by side on a table. If you look at one you judge that it is truly a tomato. It has "tomato-ness" as its essence and this essence really exists within the tomato. However, material essences have a transcendence. Even though this essence exists within the individual tomato, it is not confined to it. This same essence also exists within the second tomato. That is why you also call it a tomato. Similarly, we reach the objective reality of the thing through the impressed form of the thing in the soul because, even though there is a distinction between the thing and the form, there is also a real identity between the thing and the form due to the fact that one is a likeness of the other.

This raises another question. How do we perceive the thing as being objectively real (out there) and not as a mere picture that may have been produced in our mind? That is, how is "objective-reality-ness" given to us, and how does our field of consciousness reach out to grasp things? Traditionally, the location of the soul has been understood as being within the body and in every part of the body. This is a sound view because the soul is the substantial form of the body. However, this is not the only consideration. The answer to the question as to where the soul is located is not exhausted by saying that it exists within the body. Being spiritual, the soul can also be said to exist nowhere in particular and everywhere in general. The intellectual soul is capable of grasping all things because, in a real sense, it is in contact with all things. Being pure spirits, the angels do not exist within an enclosure of three dimensional space and do not move from place to place. They are only said to be located where they happen to be acting. If an angel is active in Toronto it can be said that he is located in Toronto. His being, however, cannot be said to be located in Toronto. Being spiritual, his being transcends location. Similarly the essences of material things, because they themselves are not material, transcend location. Even though essences exist in individual material things, they are not confined to given material things, but the same essence can exist in innumerable material things spread throughout the universe. It is precisely this spiritual nature of the intellectual soul, in not being confined to a particular location, which allows it to grasp things as they are, where they are.

We understand things in our environment as being objectively real because of our dynamical action amongst them in our day to day life. We touch, we taste, we feel, we hear, and we see. When moving dynamically among things, we experience them from an infinity of different angles. For example, if we look at a bicycle while moving around it, we see it from an infinity of different viewpoints. Each view gives us a different picture which depends on the perspective. However, the different perspectives are of the same thing. Here, an extremely subtle judgment of the intellect is made which is a form of infinite computation. It is one function of the operating system of the intellect to know that because of a certain coherence between the infinity of different pictures which comes from the different perspectives, they must be pictures of the same thing. The intellect "calculates" an identity between the different pictures, yet because they are different it also judges an independence between them. This independence means that one cannot be derived from the other, and this identity means that they must come from the same source. This infinity of different pictures are an infinite number of "arrows" all pointing at the same thing. Therefore, they point to something beyond any particular sense impression. What these "arrows" point to is something "thicker" than anything the intellect or imagination can produce, therefore "objective-reality-ness" is given. This identity/independence complex is not something which is mechanically calculated but is grasped by the operating system of the intellect immediately, simply, and as one thing. It is a spiritual function. The four metaphysical moments, of the thing being perceived, of essence, existence, "being objectively real," and "this-ness" are contained in the identity/independence complex, in the human intellect. It is through the identity of the four metaphysical moments in the identity/independence complex with the four metaphysical moments in the real thing that the intellect reaches the real thing. Since the intellect is spiritual, the thing as it exists in the intellect in the identity/independence complex, exists in no particular location, therefore, it does not have to travel to reach the being in reality. Through the principle of identity it is immediately and instantaneously there. Through the connection of identity, the being in our intellect is the being in reality.

Of course those who are blind or deaf grasp the objectively real. Even if a sense is missing, the remainder of the senses can provide the proper information about the outside world. Even the famous Helen Keller, who was both blind and deaf, could grasp the outside world through the remaining senses. Simply by touching things in all sorts of ways, this identity/independence complex was given to her intellect which allowed her to reach objective reality.

This identity/independence complex, used in a different fashion, allows us to know the truth of things we have not directly experienced - either things in another part of the world, or historical events. By a principle of convergence, when data about the same thing is given in two or more different ways from two or more independent sources, this allows us to judge that that thing is true. This is because the truth of that thing can be the only possible cause of the way we are receiving information about it. This is precisely how the true faithful Catholic knows that his religion is true. It is the subconscious operating system of the intellect, which understands the nature and operations of being as such, which is responsible for this. This is because, generally speaking, the certitude of the true faithful Catholic about his religion exceeds his capacity to explicitly understand the reasons for that certitude. Bishop Fulton Sheen said that a learned atheistic professor may be able to demolish a believing student's beliefs intellectually, but if the Faith of this student is properly grounded, it will not be shaken. We must understand that true Faith is not a mere function of this identity/independence complex. It is only the natural foundation of Faith. True faith is given by a supernatural light from God which gives supernatural form to this identity/independence complex and illuminates it supernaturally. The certitude of Faith is, therefore, supernatural which infinitely exceeds any natural certitude. Faith is a participation in God's own divine intelligence (even though the things of Faith are seen obscurely and not clearly).


Now we will examine the nature of the brain and the connection between the soul and the brain.

Materialists claim that the brain is solely an information processor and that human intelligence is nothing but information processing capability in the brain. As argued above, it has to be more than that. First of all, we have to ask the question: how does the brain work? Science does not have a complete understanding of the brain's physical processes, but its basic operation is understood. The main cells that compose the brain are called neurons. A long tube known as an axon extends from each neuron and branches thousands of ways. At the end of each branch is a synapse, which is a small gap, which separates the end of the axon from an extension on another neuron called a dendrite. When a neuron fires, it generates an electrical impulse which travels along the axon. Chemicals called neurotransmitters are released from the end of the axon and travel across the synaptic gap to the next neuron. Each neuron gives impulses to thousands of other neurons and each neuron receives impulses from thousands of other neurons. With the brain's activity, each neuron fires hundreds of times per second, and sends hundreds of impulses per second to each of the of the thousands of neurons connected to it. Each neuron receives hundreds of impulses per second from each of the thousands of axons connected to it from other neurons. The time delay from one firing of a neuron to the next is determined by the impulses it receives from other neurons. Some impulses it receives inhibit this firing and others encourage it. Each neuron, in itself, is something like a vast computer which determines firing time based on the impulses it receives. It is by this immensely complex passing of impulses from one neuron to another, that the brain and the nervous system process information. It is by receiving impulses from the senses and combining them with what is in memory, that thoughts, words, and actions are produced. Of course, the activities of true personhood - with intellect, free will, heart, human dignity, human rights, and sanctity of life - requires that human beings are not simply pieces of meat, with vast processing capability, which simply behave a certain way in response to stimuli. For true personhood, a non-material soul is required. It is true that the brain and nervous system processes information, but acts of intellect and will occur essentially in the soul. The brain and the nervous system act as an interface to the soul, so that information can pass between soul and brain. How would this interfacing work?

Empirical science cannot come up with a definite answer to this and it is impossible to determine philosophically, with any certainty, how this works. What will be said here is somewhat speculative. Many neuroscientists and philosophers think that quantum processes are required for the operation of the human brain. How these quantum processes work is a matter of controversy. The science of quantum mechanics examines how matter behaves on the molecular, atomic, and subatomic levels. In quantum mechanics, there is something known as the "Heisenberg uncertainty principle." This states that the precise position and the precise momentum of a particle cannot be known at the same time. Greater knowledge of one variable permits less knowledge of the other. This is a fundamental law of physics. As a result of this uncertainty principle, matter on the atomic level does not behave in a fixed predictable way, but its behavior is subject to uncertainty, and one would not be able to predict how its behavior would develop in the future. It is this quantum uncertainty which could be the means by which the soul communicates with the brain. Perhaps this could take place within each neuron. A neuron is a biological entity and not a machine. Biological entities behave in a fluid like manner and their behavior does not entirely depend on machine like parts interacting with each other in a rigid and determined manner. As mentioned above, neurons fire in response to impulses received from thousands of other neurons which either inhibit or encourage that firing. A vastly complex process, which is poorly understood by science, occurs within each neuron, which determines its exact firing time. Since the neuron is biological and fluid like, activity on the atomic level would influence the way it processes information. This activity on the atomic level would, in turn, be determined by quantum processes. It is through these quantum processes that the soul would influence the brain. The soul's activity would then influence how the neuron would fire. With coordinated influences, in the neurons in the brain, the soul would then determine how the brain processes information. For example, suppose you choose to smile at someone, as an act of charity. This will to act in this charitable way, which originates from the pure and simple "I choose" in the soul, influences quantum processes in the neurons of the brain in a certain manner, which modulates the physical activity in the brain and nervous system in a certain way, which causes certain muscles to contract, which causes a smile.

Catholic philosophy and theology as always maintained that man is a composite of body and soul. The soul is the substantial form of the body - that is, it is the "put-together-ness" of the elements of the body. This put-together-ness is also a spirit with intellect and will. With animals, this put-together-ness, is also their soul. However, it is a soul of a lower order. It rests solely on the material elements, and the soul of animals is an emergent property of these elements put together properly (an emergent property does not exist in any of the parts of a thing, but only comes out when these parts are properly assembled. An emergent property would be consciousness in the brain of an animal). The soul of man, even though it is the put-together-ness of the elements of his body, is not an emergent property of it. The soul being spiritual, is created directly by God, and is infused in the body at the moment of conception. The put-together-ness of man's body is his soul because this put-together-ness is of such a sublime nature that it cannot be entirely supported by matter, even though it exists within matter. This is the reason why even the nature of man's body transcends that of the body of animals. With man, the world of spirit and the world of matter are united.