Sunday, December 09, 2018

(33) The structure of the human body

If we start with the body we shall soon see that it cannot be simply identified as a physical substance. Using the notion of encapsis we can see that properly speaking the body is made up of at least four different idionomies. These idiononies are encaptically bound together in a hierarchical order so that the lower idionomies act as substructures that support and anticipate the higher structures. The human body can be recognised as a whole because it takes on a visible, tangible form marked by unity and wholeness. This is experienced in a concrete way in our ordinary experience and is not to be thought of as a construction of the substructures about to be analysed. For example the structure and function of body organs, like the brain, can never be determined in isolation of their place within the total structure of the four encaptically bound idionomies since they function in all of them. The four idionomies from lower to higher are: 

(1) the physical-chemical substructure,

(2) the biotic substructure,

(3) the sensitive or psychical substructure and finally

(4) the act structure. 

The first three idionomies are the same as that of animals, however due to their character as substructures that support and anticipate the human act structure they are remarkably much more developed in several respects than the structure of any animal. Let us examine these in turn.

The first substructure of the human body is the physical idionomy qualified by the energetic aspect. It consists of the whole (inanimate) molecular structure of a human being. In and of itself this structure is not yet a human body, it is that only as it is bound to and lead by the higher structures. At death and with the process of decomposition of the body it is released from this encaptic relation to follow only the laws proper to it as a physical structure. To see the way the earlier substructures are intimately tied to the later ones we could consider the role of iodine within the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. While this gland has an idionomy that is biotically qualified, iodine has a physical-chemical qualification in respect of its own inner structure. The role of iodine is crucial for normal biotic growth, which in turn is foundational for emotional health.  So when the thyroid gland is hyperactive, it causes excessive energy use, which can generate a faster heartbeat accompanied by a general unease and a heightened nervous sensitivity. Or in the case of  hypothyroidism, often caused from iodine deficiency, in addition to the lethargy and slowing of the heart, one also discovers mental depression. This interweaving of iodine and the thyroid gland shows how the integrated functioning of the entire human being operates, without sacrificing the unique character of each substructure, and while resisting any reduction to the lowest idionomic level. So while maintaining its physical character iodine, in this example, nevertheless serves to support and enable the later idionomies and so has a special character that goes beyond what is found in animals. 

The second idionomy is qualified by the biotic modal aspect. Here we include the role of living cells, tissues, organs and other biotically qualified structures. It also includes the so-called autonomic nervous system that influences the function of internal organs and all that governs the vegetative body processes such as breathing, heartbeat, and perspiration, in so far as they fall outside of the guidance of the psychic or later functions. We might also think here of the organs of the body, like the sense organs, the brain and nervous system. However it is important not to classify these organs as belonging exclusively to the biotic idionomy. This is because they all necessarily play their role in all four of the idionomies.

The third idionomy is the sensitive-emotional functions which, as instinctive, are for the most part outside our conscious control. They include the functions of the central nervous system and more particularly those of the senses, brain, spinal cord and glandular system as well as the muscle tissues. These allow us to perceive the world around us and experience emotions as they are taken up into the final idionomy they are no longer merely received, but also interpreted and named, reflected upon and shaped for human purposes. These three idionomies function as substructures since they can only be fully understood in their structural interlacement with, and disclosure by the final and highest structure, the act structure. It is only as bound to this structure that the preceding idionomies can be understood as typical structures of the human body. Here a crucial different is to be noticed in that the act structure is not qualified or led by a modal aspect and as such is undifferentiated. This leads us to the final and most characteristic level of our analysis, the human act structure.

The act structure is sometimes understood to comprise all the modal aspects higher than the psychical and so constitutes the arena where the subject functions of these modal aspects are realised. This would seem obvious from the preceding analysis of the three substructures and is also supported by the common division (made by Dooyeweerd) between normative and non-normative modal aspects marked at the dividing line of the logical aspect. Against this we can point to exercise, diet and desires as realities that require human realisation as positive, normal, norming features of human life. In addition it must be recognised that it is not only analytic intelligence that is crucial to setting and embodying normative responses, but also one’s aptitude, temperament, memory, and the reserve of one’s character and convictions. A second point is that the act life of the human person comes forth out of the heart as that which expresses itself in the functions and lives exclusively in them. At this point we also recognise the important sense in which humans are free in both thought and action.  For although humans exist and function within the limits set by the laws of every aspect, the human self is not entirely the product of them or of any causal forces in creation. The human body is different to other entities we have investigated because unlike them because it lacks a qualifying or leading modal function. Instead it is the act structure that forms the highest qualifying structure and this is marked by its undifferentiated form. Dooyeweerd calls the act structure the “plastic expression of the human spirit” (Dooyeweerd 1942: Thesis XIX). ‘Plastic’ in the sense of having the greatest degree of flexibility to express itself in all possible differentiated structures. Here we arrive at the ‘open’ character of the human person which can only be understood from the perspective that as humans we know what it is to be called to bear responsibility, because we know the difference between good and evil.

This should lead us on to the central issue of religion, however we pause to consider the long tradition of thinking of the human person as body and soul.


Monday, December 03, 2018

(32) The meaning of being human

What does it mean to be human? This is certainly not a purely philosophical question.  Long before philosophy came onto the scene, people had a picture of themselves and their role in the cosmos.  Here we should speak of a conviction more than a conception.  It develops close to life and within its practical concerns, but perhaps also even more when these concerns are undermined by accident or illness, or when the reality of suffering becomes inescapable. And so we come to ourselves and seek answers that will satisfy deeper religious concerns, answers that can come to inspire and guide a culture.  This is not just the case in societies of long ago but is just as true in the modern world.

Since science is bound to a special-modal view of reality it can provide no answer to the boundary questions of what it means to be human, of how humans are different from animals. The central scriptural teaching relevant to this theme is that human nature is centred in the human self, which scripture usually calls the ‘heart’.  As the deepest point of human existence it is the centre of thought, belief, knowledge, will and feeling.  As Proverbs puts it: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (4:23).  The heart is the genuine, the authentic, the true self.  While man looks at the outward appearance, it is only God who sees into a person’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7; 2 Chronicles 6:30; 1 Kings 8:39; Jeremiah 17:9, 10).  Despite the diversity of a person’s activities and functions, these all lead out of and back to the heart.  The heart represents the human person as an essential unity; as such it is the focal point of the person’s relationship towards, or away from, God.  It is with the whole, undivided heart that one must serve the Lord.  It is thus also the root source of the good and evil a person thinks or does (Matthew 12:34-35; 15:18)

Reformational philosophy rejects an individualistic understanding of individual human beings.  Instead, it starts with the spiritual fellowship of humanity in Adam and its renewal in Christ. In everyday life we experience ourselves as a unity, an experience we indicate with the word “I”.  So for example we do not say that my hand writes, but I write.  Not, my legs walk, but I walk; not, my mind or thought thinks, but I think and so on.  In our practical experience of life we relate everything that plays a role in our life to our “I” as the central point.  It is the “I” that acts and relates in multiple ways to the people, things and situations around us.  All our possibilities are related back to this central point as a kind of concentration point. Only God can know this central “I”, the human heart, and as the ultimate subjective root of all human activity it cannot itself become its own object of thought.  This precludes the possibility of getting a conceptual grasp of our central identity; a worked-out analysis is not possible since I myself must be the agent of the analysis.  This does not mean we can have no idea of the human heart.  However, since knowledge of the self is dependent on knowledge of God, any idea of human nature will inevitably reflect what people take to be the divine origin of all. When we talk about our self in its many expressions and life activities we take a position almost as if from the outside.  Here it is common to speak of the “self” which is, so to speak, the expression of the “I”, and so we come to the problem of the unity and diversity of our being human.

The traditional way of accounting for this is by the distinction between body and soul. To speak of the human person as body and soul is not in itself a problem, this language is consistent with the use in scripture and can be taken as different ways to emphasise the unity of the human person looked at as the inward person and the outward person. Unfortunately the language of body and soul has tended to move away from the unity of the person toward a view that has the body as merely necessary for earthly life to be discarded at death with the true person identified as the soul that lives on in a spiritual realm. This approach has been very widespread among Christians despite its pagan origins and many problems. Amongst Christian philosophers and theologians there is now a move towards the conception of Thomas Aquinas which gives greater weight to unity employing an Aristotelian model rather than the more traditional Platonic form of dualism. Before exploring this issue more fully we turn in the next section to an analysis of the structure of the outward person the human body.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

(31) What’s wrong with substance?

The notion of a substance found in ancient Greek philosophy and later in scholastic thought in the middle ages, is based on the idea of substantia, that is some essence that exists on its own, independent of other things, and unchangeable. A substance is the underlying reality that gives support to attributes or qualities and unifies them into a single thing.  The idea is that reality has an objective quality, something robust, independent and stable in spite of the variety and change we experience.  Attributes are changeable whereas substances are that which is constant through change, this helps us explain how the tree outside remains the same tree through the changing seasons and its growth to maturity.  Also attributes are not fixed to a spatio-temporal location, the same attribute can crop up in many places at once so that comparisons can be made between different, but similar objects.  Since attributes can be in many places at once there is a need for a centre around which attributes can be unified into a single object.  Thus substance provides an answer to the question why properties do not just fall off and scatter, but are instead collected into the unity of an object.  A final consideration that invites the idea of substance is that there are centres of force which have the active power to initiate change in itself or in others.

First we should say that notions of centres of force have been superseded by modern physics so that substance no longer plays a role in the natural sciences. Nevertheless we can still see that philosophy needs to account for constancy amidst change and unity amidst diversity, why not here appeal to the notion of substance? It seems that christian philosophers are often attracted to the notion of substance and we will deal later with the main application of this concept in Christian thought to the problem of body-soul dualism. For now we make three brief criticisms.  First the notion of substance is a reification, that is it takes a theoretical abstraction to be a real thing. Second it cannot do justice to the relational and temporal character of reality. Thirdly the notion of substance relativises the religious relation of dependence on God.  We explain each in turn.

We can only arrive at the notion of substance, as an underlying reality (substantia) behind the changeable phenomena of the world (accidentia), through theoretical abstraction.  While in experience we are familiar with both constancy and change, we never experience one without the other, so we cannot say that we experience some entity that is distinct from all change and that lies behind it. This abstraction only exists as an artefact of our logical thinking about cosmic reality. The problem is that this theoretical concept is projected back onto reality, as if this abstraction – this distinction between substantia and accidentia – did not exist as a result of our thinking but also in cosmic reality as such. 

Whereas the first criticism focuses on the role of our thinking in arriving at the notion of a substance before projecting this back on reality the second comes from the side of the reality being abstracted.  What we have with substance, or the closely related idea of essence, is an entity that is cut off from the full, immanent relationships and coherences in which we experience things (see §§21-23).  Since only some qualities of the thing, be it an apple, a flower or a human person, will be considered essential the result is a loss of reality.  This is even more the case when substance is taken as a bare support or substratum for all of a thing’s qualities as in John Locke’s famous phrase “substance or something-I-know-not-what”. Reality is lost because it is thoroughly relational, nothing exists in and of itself except God, all else depends on their creator, to cut a thing off from this relationality is to denude it. 

So thirdly the notion of substance can be opposed on the basis of the Christian confession that reality, that is creation, only exists within the power of God in Christ, who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3) and in whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). A consequence of this is that there is nothing in creation that can be found to be what all else in creation depends on for existence. To this line of thought it may be objected that by emphasising the complete dependence of all things on God we end up seriously threatening the integrity and goodness of creation. This could not be further from the truth! As we have just been indicating it is the notion of substance that cuts off things from their full interconnected reality, it is reformational philosophy that begins always with the affirmation of the goodness of creation. The issue at stake in this third criticism is the rejection of any hierarchy of being, or any reductionist strategy that assigns a semi-absolutised position to some element of creaturely reality. Reformational philosophy wishes to speak up here for an equality of being, and join with Gregory Palamas in claiming “The Christian can tolerate no mediating substance between God and creatures…”

Monday, November 12, 2018

(30) Example: the limits of neuroscience

Staying with the themes of the philosophy of mind we can extend these points in relation to neuroscience which as a fast-developing field of scientific inquiry has created significant excitement within philosophy.  It is no surprise that philosophers are interested in the relevance of the results of neuroscience for topics like the nature of consciousness, freedom and determinism, and ethics.  However we should be cautious about how these results are used.  The first point to make is that the relevance of empirical inquiry for philosophy requires care over the use and application of concepts.  For empirical enquiry to make a philosophical difference a prerequisite is conceptual clarity.  Experimental results that claim to have profound consequences for the way we think about consciousness or freedom, will prove nothing if they are based on a confused or dubious use of the relevant concepts.   So for example if you want to run a test to see if someone is lying, you need to know what it is to lie. This may seem obvious, but there are important related concepts such as deception, role playing and joking which need to be distinguished.

A condition for lying is that a speaker states something that they believe to be false, but this in itself is not enough since in the context of tell ing a joke or reporting someone else’s words, a false assertion is not a lie. When in the context of a scientific experiment someone is told to assert false statements it is far from clear whether they can be said to lie.  As such any link between the observed neural activity and lying is far from being established.  

Another, more complex, example is that of freedom. This concept must face apparently serious challenges coming from the empirical findings of various sciences.  In particular the experiments by Libet and Walter where brain activity was measured using an EEG machine found that conscious awareness of decision making is preceded by activity in the brain.  Also the social sciences often focus on social factors that determine human choices thus giving the impression that human freedom may turn out to be nothing more than a comforting illusion.  What is clear is that here we have another example of the modern problem of how to deal with the apparent tension between theoretical or scientific accounts of human actions and our concrete experience of the same. 

The main argument in defence of the reality of freedom is based on our self-experience as an individual who is a free agent and not just an element in a chain of cause and effect.  We find it necessary in our social life to assume that people can be held responsible for their actions, whether in the legal sphere or in the context of institutions such as family life, schools, businesses and so on.  In each it is necessary to understand human behaviour in terms that are not reducible to cause and effect. However there is an additional issue raised by the kind of experiments done by Libet and Walter which is the actual concept of freedom being assumed.  Here, as in many discussions about the freedom of the will, freedom is understood in terms of a decision made at a specific moment in time. The agent who makes the decision is then thought of as somehow being outside the situation controlling what is happening, and so making a free decision which then gets relayed to the body that obeys. While some decisions may be understood in these kinds of terms they are not typical. For example the decision to raise my hand just to demonstrate this kind of freedom can hardly be thought of as a typical expression of human freedom. In most cases my free acts are part of a practice, which itself has been taken up in the light of longer term goals and values, as such they are not isolated events. So freedom is implied in the overall practice and in the overall conduct of my life, and is not only to be located in specific, let alone isolated choices.

These problems are perhaps not insurmountable.  Once careful attention is made to the relevant concepts better experiments can be devised.  However here a second problem arises.  Many of the concepts under discussion involve normative characteristics which in part constitute their meaning. Human actions are normed and so gain their meaning through their response to these norms.  A thought can be lucid or equivocal, it could be consistent with or contradicted by other thoughts; brain processes like neurons firing, as viewed from the abstract perspective of neuroscience, cannot have these features.  Given that there is this disconnect between the abstract view of brain processes and the normative character of human actions we might conclude that neuro-scientific experiments have no relevance at all to these philosophical questions.  To help think about this we can consider an example of what Selim Berker describes as the best-case scenario: “We notice that a portion of the brain which lights up whenever we make a certain sort of obvious, egregious error in mathematical or logical reasoning also lights up whenever we have a certain moral intuition.”  Now what should we conclude from this?  Do we automatically question the moral intuition?  This must depend on the case itself, in the situation where we can see no connection between the moral intuition and the mistaken bit of mathematical reasoning the neurological result can only make us stop and think.  We look again at the moral reasoning and see if we can find anything untoward about it, or if we can see an analogy with the mathematical reasoning.  In and of itself the neuro-scientific experiment cannot be decisive. 

In the absence of any normative connection we are best advised to continue trusting the moral intuition and wait to see if later neuroscientific results are able to make finer distinctions that throw light on the connection between the faulty mathematical reasoning and the moral intuition.  To take this further we can give a more specific example, again borrowing from Selim Berker, “Suppose the same part of the brain that lights up whenever we affirm the consequent also lights up whenever we have an intuition that infanticide is impermissible; would you be willing to start killing babies on those grounds?” The point of the rhetorical question is that our moral intuitions can have a strength and decisiveness that should rightly resist the alleged conclusion of complex empirical investigations.

Now we can develop a second scenario where we do come to see that the moral intuition in question rests on the same sort of confusion present in the mistaken bit of mathematical/logical reasoning, then of course we would have good reason to look more critically on the moral intuition, but in that case the neuroscience isn’t playing a direct justificatory role. Further our moral judgement that infanticide is wrong may well rest on more than just the given moral intuition now cast under suspicion.  What is the role of the experiment?   We can notice that “we might not have thought to link the moral intuition to that sort of mathematical/logical blunder if we hadn’t known the neuroscientific results; but again, once we do link them, it seems that we do so from the comfort of an armchair, not from the confines of an experimental laboratory. It is as if, while trying to prove whether or not some mathematical claim is true, your mathematician friend had said to you, “Why don’t you try using the Brouwer fixed point theorem?” If you end up proving the claim to be true using that theorem, your justification for the claim in no way depends on your friend’s testimony. (After all, she didn’t give away whether she thinks the claim is true or false.) Nonetheless, your friend’s testimony gave you a hint for where to look when trying to prove or disprove the mathematical claim”

Sunday, November 04, 2018

(29) Limits of theory

The structure of a thing is not universal in the same way as the modal aspects, they are typical.  While this helps give a theoretical account of concrete things it does not get us to the uniqueness of things, this is beyond the grasp of theory.  What we understand naively as a whole in our experience becomes in analysis something far more complex.  Rarely do we meet with entities that can be analysed as a simple whole, instead they are built up in a typical interlacing of simple structures of atoms, molecules and cells for example (ESL, I 209).  We have seen that this requires us to look at complex wholes where simple structures are encapsulated in larger structural totalities.  Now we wish to emphasis again the character and limits of theoretical thinking.  The attempt to give a theoretical account of entities confronts us with the apparently insoluable problem of how we can arrive at the whole entity through analysis given that analysis necessarily breaks up what in reality is an indivisible whole.  Indeed the unity of an entity is something that transcends the boundaries of the modal aspects which provide the necessary entry-points of theoretical analysis.  This means that theoretical access to the individual whole is impossible, instead an analysis of the typical-structure of a thing must presuppose its unity.  We have already seen that the typical-structure or idionomy of an entity is expressed within the modal aspects which are accessible to theoretical analysis and so a theoretical account of idionomies is possible.  However if we forget the limits of theory and seek to discover the true nature of things through theory alone we will end with deep theoretical problems.  This is well exemplified in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant.  Since he took theoretical analysis to be primary without any critical investigation into its character and limits he took the abstract view of perception (that is the psychical modal aspect understood by empiricism) as what we experience.  Once the aspects have been taken as the primary given in our experience, entities in their totality and unity fall away behind the abstracted aspects as mysterious “Ding ansich” (the “thing-in-itself”).  So an over-theorised view of our practical experience turns the concrete unity, identity and totality of things into a necessary but unprovable hypothesis.

The importance of this point, that you cannot reconstruct theoretically the unique character of concrete reality, can be shown in relation to the philosophy of mind.  This field is now dominated by anti-dualistic viewpoints and when speaking of a person the move is often made, without comment or reflection, from the personal ‘I’ to a mind.  This though crosses a boundary as you cannot identify the subjective ‘I’ with mental phenomenon (a functional approach).  Attempts to explain philosophically the nature of personal identity goes beyond the capability of theoretical thought.  When our everyday knowledge and experience of reality is replaced with concepts you lose the concrete.  This concreteness is a feature of reality and not merely a subjective colouring that we give to reality, and as such it cannot be replaced by scientific theories, which of necessity presuppose and abstract from this reality.

A second point of importance is that the analysis of reformational philosophy begins with the recognition of the diversity of things and so can account for the distinctive features of different entities in the world.  A functional approach easily misses the richness found in ordinary experience.  An example of this can be found in discussions in the philosophy of mind about artificial intelligence.  From a purely functional viewpoint it can be difficult to explain the difference between a human mind and a computer.  A reformational theory of entities shows up the vast difference between the two.  We begin to see clearly the role of human design and use of computers so that the objective-functioning of the computer can make sense only against the subjective functioning of human persons. This can explain the importance of language as an object function of the computer. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

(28) Encapsis

An entity is a whole that consists of parts. A chair, for example, consists of legs, a seat, and a back. It is a human artefact and so is founded in the formative modal aspect, but as a piece of furniture that provides a resting place for people it is qualified or guided by the social aspect. However if we look again at the chair we can say that it is a physical object made up of wood or other material. This wood has its own typical structure. There is one chair, but it seems we must analysis it in terms of at least two different idionomies. These two idionomies are intertwined in a specific way which Dooyeweerd described using the term encapsis. Hopefully this word reminds you of the word encapsulate. It means that a certain thing may be encapsulated within some other entity. The wood is encapsulated within the idionomy of the chair. In other words there is an interwinement of the two idionomies.

There are a number of different ways in which idionomies can be intertwined. For example there is a symbiotic encapsis in the case of the yucca plant and the yucca moth. There is correlative encapsis between a living being and its habitat, or between a church and a state. Then there is a subject-object encapsis of the snail and its shell, the spider and its web, or the bird and its nest.

It is important to understand that encaptic relationships are whole-whole relationships and not part-whole. “We identify a whole by its typical structure or idionomy, where there are two idionomies the relationship will be an encaptic one and not a part-whole one. This is very important when later we investigate human society. Consider now a living cell which has very clear parts, such as the mitochondria, they are parts of the cell because they derive their (biotically qualified) idionomy from the cell as the whole. But the molecules within the cell are not parts of it, for they have an (energetically qualified) idionomy of their own. Their energetic idionomy is encapsulated within, or encaptically intertwined with, the biotic idionomy of the cell.” (Ouweneel 2014a 89) This example is a case of foundational encapsis which is possibly the most important type of encapsis when thinking in terms of our place in the cosmos, whereas correlative encapsis is more important in understanding the coordination of our tasks together in the cosmos. In the example of molecules within the cell the idionomy of the molecules within the cell forms the foundation for the idionomy of the cell as such. Without this idionomy – without molecules – there could be no cell. At the same time, the cell is much more than the sum total of its molecules. It has an idionomy of its own, that is qualified, or guided, by the biotic aspect.

If we now return to our first example of the chair we see another example of foundational encapsis. The idionomy of the wood is foundationally encapsulated within the idionomy of the chair, together they form an encaptic whole. Without the wood there is no chair, but the chair is much more than a configuration of wooden pieces. The demands of the chair with its social qualifying function guides the structure of the wooden pieces. The structure of the chair is superimposed on the structure of the wood, just as the structure of your house is superimposed on the structure of the bricks and mortar that is its basic material. Now contrast this with an ornamental plant, or a pet dog, their character goes beyond their natural idionomy but not because they are encapsulated within a new whole, rather they are encapsulated within a new context and so form a correlative encapsis with their new environment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

(27) Non-human subjects

The example of the bird’s nest once again highlights the fact that it is not only humans that are subjects. Animals also function subjectively in many of the modal aspects. In philosophical anthropology the tendency has been to emphasis the differences between human persons and animals. The attempt is then made to identify some characteristic of being human that is distinctive. We are different from animals because of, so it has been claims, our rationality, our moral sense, our use of language.  These and other features are then used to identify the human mind or soul.  While this approach is rejected in reformational philosophy it has often made the point that only humans function subjectively in the post-psychic aspects. Here, however, we shall follow Stafleu who rejects this approach and points to evidence of animal functioning in higher modal aspects. He also argues that emphasising this point of supposed difference detracts from another view of this philosophy, namely that a person is primarily religious.

To begin with we should note that it is not only birds and mammals that form things, but also insects such as bees and ants, spiders, and fish. It will also be difficult to maintain that animals have no distinguishing abilities. It is sometimes stated that human logical thinking is necessarily based on the use of concepts, and that animal distinguishing lacks this ability. It is true that animals lack concepts, but it is more accurate to say that conceptual thinking is opened-up thinking, theoretical thought. Natural thought is not necessarily linked up with conceptual thought. Animal thought is natural, not opened-up, i.e., not anticipating later modal aspects. Conceptual thought implies the formati­on of concepts, hence it anticipates the formative aspect. It also anticipates the lingual aspect, because concepts are worded. Hence, if animals do not use conceptual thought, this does not mean that they are not functioning subjective­ly in the logical modal aspect. Further some animals display a primitive use of language. The significance of the dance of bees is well known. Birds are able to warn each other against danger. In groups of apes a recognizable system of communication is established, and some have been taught elementary sign-language. Many animals display social behaviour: bees, ants, birds during their seasonal migration, mammals living in herds, families of apes, and so. A certain amount of division of labour is sometimes unmistakable. Studies have identified primitive ethical behaviour among some animals.

Making these points might worry some, as it may appear to down play the difference between humans and animals. However this need not be the case at all. Firstly the key difference, which we shall come to later, is that humans are inescapably religious. We should also note that the subjective functioning of animals in the post-psychic aspects is invariantly primitive and instinctive.  Stafleu here makes use of the distinction between the retrocipatory direction and the anticipatory direction of the modal aspects (discussed in §19). Human activity, because of its religious character, is opened-up, anticipating, transcend­ing and so significantly more varied and sophisticated than animals. Crucially human activity involves responsibility and so freedom. When we compare human language to animal communication we perceive a huge difference, so to when we compare human and animal social structures. But also lower down the modal scale we have to acknowledge huge differences. To spill human blood is quite different to spilling animal blood, and human saliva is not the same as animal saliva. When the members of the Sanhedrin spat on our Lord at his trial (Matthew 26:67), all the hate-filled contempt of their evil hearts for His suffering person was in this spittle. To view the human person as basically an animal with respect to our body and human with respect to our soul is to contradict the reality of our practical experience. Animals are glorious and enigmatic creatures who can bring us to a greater understanding and appreciation of God (Job 39-41), however humans in every fibre of their being respond to God as religious creatures made in God’s image.