Anthropogenesis and the Soul

Terrence Ehrman, C.S.C.



The science of evolution acutely raises the perennial question of humankind’s place in the world. How does the theological anthropology of humans as imago Dei relate to an evolutionary anthropology with human beings derived from ancestral hominid species? Evolutionary biologists disclose ever greater similarities and continuity between animals and humans. Is human distinctiveness simply continuous with other ancestral forms of life or is there any kind of discontinuity? The answers to these questions depend not only on zoological considerations but also on one’s philosophy of nature. The standard anthropology within the Catholic Church is the dual-origin model: the human body originates through evolution, but the human soul is directly created by God. This formulation, however, is not without difficulties, primarily for its seeming Cartesian dualism of a body and soul as distinct substances. This paper develops the anthropology of David Braine who, drawing upon Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, clearly situates humans as animals in great continuity with them. However, as linguistic animals who think in a medium of words, humans have a form of life—a soul—that transcends bodily processes. Braine’s anthropology provides a more coherent anthropology to understand the continuity and discontinuity of the human person in phylogenetic relationship to other species within an evolutionary perspective.


evolution; language; hylomorphism; David Braine; Aquinas

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