While gardening this past week I was musing to myself (shoveling dirt around does that) concerning the nature of the mind/soul and how it fits into nature. I have been listening to lectures by eminent physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne, and these thoughts are a combination of his thoughts, my reflection on them, my Aristotelian roots, and playing in the dirt of my garden (every philosopher should have a garden). I say mind/soul, even though this is a bit incorrect and perhaps confusing; I simply want to say several things about both.
Polkinghorne thinks that the human mind is an almost infinitely complex, infinitely rich information bearing pattern. This pattern includes memories, functions, social interactions, and much more. It is an intriguing idea and, since first hearing it several years ago, one that I have been entertaining in the back of my mind. Polkinghorne thinks that this is an extension, or perhaps a contemporary fleshing out, of a classical Aristotelian understanding of the soul as the form of the body, the first actuality of a (specifically) human body, that which bears rationality, the formal and final cause of the a human person, etc. On an Aristotelian account the mind is, strictly speaking, a function of the soul (not the body). It is, in the terms of Aquinas, a form of a form. Now, I am committed to an Aristotelian outlook for many of my positions in philosophy (for a variety of reasons). So, I am curious to see whether Polkinghorne’s ideas might be married to classical Aristotelian ideas and still make some sense.
Since this is taking me a long time to sit down and sketch out my thoughts, I will post this blurb then get back and add more