Does it matter to Catholic profession, liturgy, and life if human thought, and the human mind and brain, are completely material, without remainder?
Note that this question is strictly theological. It is not philosophical. The philosopher wants to know what the human mind is like. The theologian must ask a different question: whether Catholic profession, liturgy, and life rule out some particular answer to the question of what the human mind is like.
The strictly Catholic theological answer is No, it doesn't matter either way. It doesn't matter whether the human mind is completely material or also has a non-material dimension, because whatever our human mind is like, Jesus the Lord had a human mind, too.
Thus, the Catholic need not be troubled in any way if human thought is completely material, with absolutely no 'non-material' component. For whatever our brains and our minds are like, the problem of human moral agency, or any other theologically-relevant issue or difficulty, is not in the least solved, is in fact utterly impossible, if Jesus is not the Lord; and if Jesus is Lord, then He had our human brain and our human mind, whatever they are like.
Which is to say, the relevant theological question is always and everywhere, "Who do you say that I am?" The relevant question is not, "is there a dimension of human thought that we can prove is 'non-material', and then, whether by conflation, assumption, or some argument, show that human thought therefore has a 'spiritual' dimension?"
The only 'spiritual' dimension actually necessary for human thought, and for human minds and brains, comes about through the Eucharist, via Baptism. True, a philosophical system may weigh itself down with many other supposed 'necessities', but theologically, Baptism and the Eucharist suffice.
Simply put, no aspect of the Catholic profession, liturgy, and life rises or falls if Mortimer Adler, St. Thomas, Aristotle, Plato, or the cognitive scientist at the local university is correct about the real nature of human thought.
If human thinking is as completely material, without remainder, as human breathing, what of it? If 'intellection' is not a thing 'out there', but is instead a description of human activity, like 'work', what of it?
Is Jesus the Lord, or not? Did He have our human brain and mind, whatever it is like, or not? Did He suffer death and was buried, or not? Did He truly die, or was the 'spiritual' dimension of His human mind spared death, or not? All of these questions already have definitive answers within Catholic profession and liturgy.
If human thinking is as completely material, without remainder, as human breathing, would the Cross of Christ be then insufficient to our salvation? Of course it wouldn't. No human power is adequate to salvation, to begin with.
The human mind, whatever it is like, is insufficient for salvation -- is in fact wholly worthless for salvation, except in Christ.
There is no question that some philosophers think that it is necessary for human thought to have a non-material aspect, and that some other philosophers think it is necessary for human thought to have a purely material substance.
But both schools err whenever they act as if Catholic profession, liturgy, and life would be in jeopardy unless that philosophical question is answered in a particular way -- as if there were some vital doctrine, liturgy, profession, or aspect of Catholic life that could not be sustained without philosophical support and resolution on this particular issue.
Catholic profession, liturgy, and life does not need, and will never need, shoring up from some particular theory about what Thought is and how the human mind works. And acting like they do is just silly, at best. The Catholic faith does not wait upon such a flimsy reed as the resolution of any philosophical controversy, let alone stand breathless in abeyance, waiting like Schroedinger's cat to be true or no, dependent on its resolution.
In short, absolutely nothing of the Catholic faith is in jeopardy if human thought and the human mind are proved to be completely material. The resolution of the philosophical dispute over the exact and true nature of human thought and the human mind -- if indeed it ever occurs -- is, not precisely irrelevant, but inconsequential, to the Paschal Mystery, for in fact Jesus had our human mind, whatever it is like.
It remains interesting and worthwhile to investigate the nature of human thought, and of the human mind and brain. But it is wholly unnecessary to the Catholic faith that human thought, and the human mind and brain, have some sort of non-material or 'spiritual' aspect. For Jesus is the Lord, He is like us in all ways save sin, and through His Cross and Church and Eucharist alone, we may be saved -- whatever our human minds are like, whatever human thought is like.
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