Differentiation Between Reference Ability/Reason/Soul and the Observable Ability of the Biological

As I continue to wrestle with the issue of what is it that defines who man is; what is his soul, and as I argue the case that it is, in fact, ABILITY which is the root TRUTH of man, I continue to be unsatisfied in how I have heretofore explained the separation of this ABILITY from the biological…from the physical body of man, because it is so readily apparent that these two ideas “being able” and the body are inextricably linked. Though we are dealing with two different concepts, I am not wholly unaware of the relevance of the “if/ then” equation when talking biology and ability. And yet, I’m not settled on this. For man to be able to DO, it must be said thus: man must be able to do what he is able to do. And though this seems like semantic trickery, all I am trying to get across is the idea that there must be some kind of driving power behind the doing of the body…even if that “thing” in this life, is abstract. However, after pondering for a good bit of the afternoon, and musing upon my previous posts on the subject, I feel that I have arrived (at least to me, anyway) at a platform whereby I can relatively clearly articulate what I mean by ABILITY and why it is what I describe it as, and why also, it can be said that this ABILITY is also man’s soul, and the thing which is at the root of man, and makes him wholly separate from his Creator, and utterly culpable for all of his actions in accordance with God’s moral truths. What is less clear still, is the pragmatic structure of the soul; though, at the very least, I feel that I have discovered a clear and equal dichotomy of it, although I’m not entirely sure where these two parts of the soul fall into the equation, before or after the body, or both. But I hope to arrive at some conclusion about this soon. At any rate, what I have concluded is that there are two categories to man’s ABILITY: the rational, and the empathetic. Both of these find their root in abstract reason, and both are so important to the healthy spiritual make up of an individual that a destruction of either one (a topic upon I have already written while musing upon empathetic reason and rational reason), which I maintain is typically–except in the case of mental incapacity (e.g. insanity, cognitive impairment)–destroyed purposefully (though perhaps not permanently), by the individual so that they are culpable to God and man for the fallout; and which prevents, or is a large contributing factor to the prevention of, a person accepting Christ as Savior, and prevents him or her from carrying out those commands which are duly based on love, which of course, are the ones germane to the faith…that is, the two greatest commandments (love God, love your neighbor). So, empathy and rationality are, again, the paramount abilities of the soul. So much so that without either or both, a biologically functional individual (e.g.. one not insane, impaired) resembles more an animal than a human. And I mean this not facetiously, but that their views on others and the world are more akin to instinct and a forsaking of abstract conceptual reality in favor of something, at least philosophically, catering more to the gratification of immediate desires. That is, more of superficial “cause and effect” operative premise, as opposed to operating within the understanding of real abstract concepts which must, in order to be satisfactorily fulfilled, necessarily deny “self” to some significant degree. (By the way, I propose that REASON is why we can deny self as a matter of personal philosophy, unlike the animals; which may deny self, but are not habitually or consciously doing this. And, yes, neither are most people in a literal sense, however, I submit that “being human” regardless of culture necessitates a conscious awareness that we are oftentimes doing things that we’d prefer NOT to do. I’m not convinced that an animal is able to be so consciously aware of any “self-denial” we may observe in them. Anyway…I’m likely getting ahead of myself. I will present my theory that reason IS the SOUL shortly, and this may make more sense.)

I accept as axiomatic that man’s ABILITY needs a body for it to be manifested. But recently, I have come to the conclusion that ABILITY needs a body, not necessarily for itself to be manifested, but so that “ability” (lower case), can be manifested in the form of “doing” or “acting” or even “thinking” or “conceptualizing”. So, in that sense…that is, in the sense of the lower case “ability” I am content to concede the “if/then” premise. That is IF there is a body, THEN there must be ability. So, in a sense, I’m admitting that yes, ability = body (or the biological) in a certain context.

But only in the sense of the lower case “ability”, that is, again, the manifestation of the “doing” of the body, according to the biology of the brain which drives all the doing. But here is where I split, and here is where I continue to support my previously stated notions of ABILITY, albeit with more clarity (which is as much for me as for anyone else…so that I may be more at ease about the clarity with which I have grasped this subject). However, before that, here are a few illustrations to clarify what I mean by the relationship between ABILITY, or SOUL, and the BODY (which includes the brain, which houses the mind) and “ability”, which is manifested as both the “rational” and the “empathetic”. (Note: Diagram to come)

Note in the figure the use of the term REFERENCE ABILITY (or R-ABILITY). That is, the SOUL is the ABIILTY by which man’s rational and empathetic abilities, the “practical” abilities (those that are manifest by the body as “action/doing”) are able to function from an awareness—or “grasping of”–and understanding of real and true concepts so that the outworking of man’s “ability” is rendered true to the senses, and efficacious so that the work of man may be seen and understood by the senses to be in keeping with conceptual truth.

Now, I also accept that the term REASON may be another synonym with SOUL or R-ABILITY, in a very real sense. And what I mean by that is this: I submit that REASON is not just part of the SOUL but IS the SOUL (and you’ll note the external label: REASON, with an arrow pointing to REFERENCE ABILITY). Or better illustrated: REASON = R-ABILITY = SOUL/SPIRIT (and each label should always be included in the equation, for each label has a broader meaning which is both useful and applicable; but, in another sense, they can certainly be interchangeable, for they are the same thing, again, each with a unique angle on how to describe that thing). For it is REASON that allows man to grasp objective, conceptual, abstract TRUTH. According to Wikepedia, which offers as good a definition as any, reason is:

“Reason or “reasoning” is associated with thinking, cognition, and intellect. Reason, like habit or intuition, is one of the ways by which thinking comes from one idea to a related idea. For example, it is the means by which rational beings understand themselves to think about cause and effect, truth and falsehood, and what is good or bad.”

This being the case, I finally decided that indeed I would no longer hesitate to fully embrace an idea I had several months ago when I began pondering the metaphysical logic of the Christian faith- in response to the strange and contradictory metaphysics of Reformed Doctrine, specifically, Calvinism, of which I adhered to for the better part of 15 years. This idea was: that the beginning of every human being, regardless of who, what or where they were/are was reason. The beginning of man is reason. For said another way, and to reiterate what I’ve already stated, reason is simply the soul of every human alive. Reason is what makes man, man; and the lack of reason is what makes the animals the animals, and the rest of creation the rest of creation. Reason is the soul which allows us to grasp conceptual abstract TRUTHS, not the least of which is our God, the Creator. It is how we are eternal…that is, it is our R-ABILITY which cannot be made UNABLE. It is how we realize that we are both part of creation, and yet separate. It is how we are culpable for our actions in this life and whatever lives are yet to come, in whatever bodies they will be lived in. This reason is our R-ABILITY. It is the ability by which man is able to do whatever he can do, as a function of his WILL, in accordance with, or against his physical body, or emotional needs or whatever other practical temporal thing may drive him or the rest of creation. This ability to reason is the eternal soul of man. It is the TRUTH by which all things are accepted as true, including God’s truths, and God Himself, as well as faith, and everything. Even blind faith is a function of reason…an act born out of rational thought and decision; though pragmatically irrational, perhaps, but rational according to the TRUE understanding of what is “right” or “good”, etc., to the individual…what constitutes what is reasonable to him, and even him alone (e.g. why some people like chocolate ice cream and others vanilla…for every preference is preferred because the person decides it is reasonable; the act of eating one is more pleasurable than the other, thus, almost instantly in such a case, the abstract concept of “preferable”, based on reason, is born as a function of the R-ABILITY, which is why man liking something is different than an animal liking something. To the animal, there is no abstract, conceptual truth which drives this—a concept recognized as such, and could be, for whatever reason, willfully violated in favor of some other reasonable abstract truth; and again, this is not the case with animals. Self-denial of an animal or self-choosing, or preference, or want, or whatever, is a fundamentally different thing for a human than an animal because for a human the driving understanding of WHY is the conceptual, abstract TRUTH of WHY, understood ultimately as a conceptual, abstract truth/law, and able to be willfully manipulated as such (adhered to, violated, etc.), as a function of the R-ABILITY which is, again, the SOUL, and REASON.
And this is why I submit that man is wholly separate from God, and yet culpable to His TRUTH. It is not because God’s TRUTH is man’s objective standard (and even if it is, how do men recognize it as such? By their own objective TRUTH…their R-ABILITIES). It is because man’s TRUTH, man’s R-ABILITY, his REASON, which is his SOUL, recognizes God and His TRUTH, as being in whatever sense to the individual, reasonable, and thus, should be chosen (or not chosen, in accordance with the “reasoning” of the individual, which is reference by the R-ABILITY the same way “choosing” God is).

And this choosing, then, is a function of both the empathetic and rational “abilities”, which is employed under the understandings of conceptual, abstract truth which is referenced by the R-ABILITY. The love of self/God/family/others/life/etc. and the reasonable-ness of God and His power to be and do what He declares He is and does. Every man and woman alive appeals to reason. It is the SOUL of man.

Now, it must be understood that I am not implying that the concepts themselves are IN the r-ability (heretofore to be spelled lower case, as well as “reason”, or “soul”…with the understanding that the prefix “r” is excluded from “ability” when I am referring to that ability which is inherent to the body/biological). I am not implying that man is born with all conceptual truth inside himself, innately, and is relying upon the biology to access it. No, concepts are a function of the external world, real, and able to be grasped as an objective “thing” so to speak. The reference ability of reason is the ability to understand these concepts and accept them as being what they are: truths. Without this r-ability, man is more an animal than human being; a function of instinct, not reason. This definition of r-ability is why not all men accept the same concepts as being TRUE. I define reason as the ability to grasp abstract concepts, recognize them as such, and not the concepts themselves. And not all men find the same concepts reasonable (e.g. for cultural reasons; reasons of personal taste or preference), however, it is by this reason that more than one man can agree that something, whatever it may be, is, in fact, a conceptual, abstract truth, and is how one man can accept that something is an abstract, conceptual truth by the tangible manifestation of IT, or a consequence of IT, which is apprehended by the senses, even if no one else does (the fact that you are the only one in the world who likes peanut butter and mustard sandwiches doesn’t mean it is less of a reasonable truth…something you choose because it is an abstract truth, which is realized by the sense of taste as being pleasurable). That is the ability which makes man, man.

This is the operative conclusion that I have arrived at. I welcome anyone to disagree…admittedly, this is just a theory. However, in light of the understanding of reason which academics and scholars have arrived at (based on my study…which is not necessarily comprehensive), I believe that reason can certainly be classified as what I call the “reference ability”, and thus, the “spirit” or soul, which is the eternal ability by which man must first exist, and which is the core of man and which, then, being the utter end of man, cannot be rendered “unable”. The eternal ability…the IS of man, as I call it.

As far as descriptors of this ABILITY go, I have no problem interchanging the labels: r-ability; soul/spirit; reason. Depending on the point I am making, one term may be better suited than another based upon the nuances of meaning. Having said that, there is a clear reason why I choose to use several terms to describe this core of man.

If we simply use soul, then I fear that an underestimation of what the soul is capable of will ensue. It is not some wisp of a ghost, moving this way and that through the eternal ether until it is provided a body by God so that the minor abilities of reason and empathy can function as a product of the biological structures. It is the root core of man which gives reference to his entire understanding of everything; because, at the end of the day, with man, everything is a concept of one kind or another; judgments are always being made in regards to what the senses perceive, and the soul provides the individual with a frame of reference by which he or she can “know” if the outcomes of the body are in accordance with “truth”. However, I do feel that the use of term “spirit” is helpful in conveying the eternal nature of this r-ability.

If we simply use the term “reason” to describe this ability, I feel the danger is that we ascribe too much of this meaning to the biological structures which formulate thought and then proceed to action. That is “reason” seems too temporal in its implication, while really the idea is that “reason” is eternal; it is the innate r-ability of every single person which designates that person as a human, as opposed to an animal, or some other life form. If we use a term that lends itself to more biological underpinnings of “understanding”, then what will happen is that the human-ness of certain individuals (cognitively impaired, children, infants, etc.) will be undermined, I fear, and truncated. This is not at all what I am arguing, which is why I do not necessarily prefer the term “reason” along, but rather r-ability, which seems to me to better describe a characteristic that every human being has, regardless of who they are or what their condition. The fact of the matter is that every human is FULLY human, regardless of their biological state. The limitations of their biology will only limit the practical out-workings of the lesser rational and empathetic abilities (not necessarily in equal measure, though…depending on the particular status of the individual); it will not limit that which makes them fully human…their core, their r-ability. The limitations of the body will only make it more difficult for them to access the reference. But this, of course, is no fault of their own, and as such they are either not culpable at all for their actions (including thoughts, physical acts, etc., etc.), or are only somewhat culpable…insofar as they CAN be by the biological functions they are allowed in their state. I have not yet determined exactly to what extent certain states or disorders limit culpability, but I do have believe that by virtue of reason and of LOVE (more on this later)—that is, our empathetic abilities, which make proceeding in compassion in all we do possible, even in cases where the strict letter of the Christian “law” may be violated—and on the neurological and psychological/psychiatric sciences, we can make reasonable assumptions about the level of culpability of persons.

As always, when in doubt, we should of course employ our empathetic ability and err on the side of mercy.

Now, it may be that the argument is somewhat difficult to “prove”, however, any philosophical argument is difficult to prove, as metaphysics, by definition, are not always validated by the scientific method, and “hard” data. However, as creatures of innate reason, it is axiomatic that “love” and “mercy” and “justice” are real concepts, and that we are able to grasp them in their truth, and so, in this way, I utterly accept this as being unquestionably and infallibly TRUE: that all people are fully human, and are subject to all rights and expectations of love and mercy that we are obliged to as rational creatures. To deny this, it is my belief, means conceding that humans are, in fact, mere animals, and that all human life and action is entirely meaningless, and thus, contradicts our very existence. If we deny the right of the label “human” to anyone, then we are not fit to call ourselves rational creatures, capable of doing anything with meaning, let alone label ourselves Christians. For me, it all comes down to culpability. For example, it is popular to describe a sociopathic murderer as “not human”, however, this is really not the case. The sociopathic monster is either not “insane” and thus, is utterly culpable for his crimes before God and civil institutions charged with regulating the larceny of people and property, or he is truly insane and, though dangerous and needing removal from rational society, is not culpable for his actions (or culpable in whatever part) due to biological constraints which are not his fault, nor are anything which he could have consciously prevented. (Incidentally, this is why I feel (unlike many of my Calvinist friends) the schools of psychology and psychiatry are so vitally important. These sciences must be the practical arbiter of such matters. Otherwise, humans are likely to suffer at the hands of vacillating and capricious “opinions” when it comes to these kinds of issues; and human history shows the horror time and again which results from human beings substituting opinions and religious interpretive assumptions for reason and fact.

At any rate, to help clarify my point, I have created these simple illustrations: (Note: Diagrams to come)

This is a useful illustration for understanding the relationship between the body and the soul, which is reason. The r-ability is separate from the body, and thus must be undiminished, and so it can be said that the human core is unchanged…however, as a function of the body, the r-ability cannot be accessed in the event of diminished physical body (brain/cognition as a function of biology). The circle which represents the body may become larger or smaller to illustrate degrees of impairment. So, I maintain that the primary r-ability is indeed separate from the body, yet no less real and true. In fact it is the IS of man, so that, again, all people can be considered fully human. Fully human is a function of the soul, not the body. If it is the body, then we concede that impaired persons are not fully human. And the rational conclusions of this mindset are too horrific for words.

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