This is the fifth article where I explain my thesis work, Thomistic Linguistics, in more chewable pieces. Here are the summative premises so far that I have explored in my articles:
#1: Everything that changes, that suffers a reduction of potency to act, has an immaterial formal cause, or an essence, just like the oak tree, and this formal cause actually and truly exists.
#2: We have forms, just like every other changeable thing, but our forms are unique and more noble because of the power of reason. Our reason is a complex existence of potency and act not just between our formal and material causes, but right within our formal cause.
#3: Words are primarily concoctions of sounds, sensory phantasms, and passiones animae are the Aristotelian forms of our words. Passiones animae are real and immaterial forms, but they are unique to one man’s experience as they relate themselves to real and immaterial forms of the outside world.
#4: Mankind’s active intellect is always shaping itself to some intelligible species for knowledge’s sake. In order to use language, word phantasms map themselves to a passio animae, and when we communicate we are communicating these passiones animae in order to communicate larger ideas. Acquiring a language is not just a discussion about learning the phantasms, but syncing their connection to passiones animae, something children struggle with less than older humans because they generally don’t have many logistical obstructions to prevent them.
The conclusion from all of these premises? That mankind has an Aristotelian form, and this form is integral to an explanation of the human phenomenon of language. Without this form, language doesn’t work. But if this form is such an important part of how we look at human existence, why haven’t you heard about it before? Why isn’t it talked about it your typical science classroom?
Because you actually have heard of it, just under a different name: the soul. For Aristotle such words would have been entirely interchangeable. In fact, according to this language, we may even be so bold as to say that animals have souls and plants have souls. Here, the soul refers to this foundational form that is the primary agent of something changeable. It is exactly because of the connotations of the word soul that you are not likely already familiar with this topic.
The inclusion of the soul as a point of discussion was commonplace up until the age of the ‘enlightenment,’ the 1600s. Around this time philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, and Bacon began come about and shove off the ideas handed down to them by their philosophical predecessors. They decided they didn’t like the ideas of the past and forged their own roads of study. We think of the problem of the soul as the problem of the ‘ghost in the machine,’ but the only reason this is even a problem is because of philosophers like Descartes. Before these “classical” philosophers we had ready answers for such questions, but with the advent of new thought, of a focus on material wealth and study, these answers were blotted out of secular memory. Metaphysical questions were set aside in favor of more physical questions.
Philosophers after Descartes and others, who assumed some sort of the existence of a mind, or soul, put aside the philosophical contemplations of the mind put forth by Descartes, saying that there was a ‘ghost in the machine’ problem with his work, and discredited the notion of a soul as non-provable. Can we see it? Touch it? Taste it? Hear it? Smell it? No? Then how can it exist? Clearly the things that exist are the things that we can sense (if we truly can sense). Descartes said the only thing we can trust to exist is our own mind, but for those who followed him not even that was good enough. The only thing we can trust is the physical world, because it shows us regularity through our senses.
Materialist and individualist thinking began to be more and more commonplace. Assumptions that the soul exist faded out into history or were accorded to a matter of religious faith.
For me, now, to suggest that the human soul not only exists, but that a true linguistic study is incomplete without its consideration is
I have no scientific evidence. The soul does not have an observable and measurable effect on the brain. We can’t see who’s pulling the strings, how the strings are attached, what pushes what button – except in arguing that out the battle would already be lost.
The scientific method can’t reveal everything about knowledge to us. Logic and reasoning themselves must inform a measure of our thought. This is why my thesis is relevant. It proposes, with serious argument and practical evidence, the definitive existence of the human soul and its tie to the existence of language.
There is no one, and I mean absolutely no one, seriously investigating the relationship between the human soul and language. For a world that doesn’t believe in immaterial things, and an academic world that would never support investigating it, the nature of the human mind is an enigma that has become a ‘classical’ philosophical problem.
EXCEPT IT DOESN’T NEED TO BE.
There is no reason for the soul to not primarily be at the core of any investigation into linguistics. If moment to moment existence and use of human language is reliant on the human soul, the form of a person, then it matters when studying human language. At the end of my thesis I explore exactly how the soul supports further language study, and exactly why it needs to be included. The answer to modern man’s questions about the nature of the mind exist right within our grasp, right underneath our finger tips. All we need do is reach out and grab it.