Do Properties Think?

In Plantinga’s fine chapter “Materialism and Christian Belief” (ed. Peter Van Inwagen, Persons: Human and Divine) he notes a difficulty in Thomism where it tries to defend dualism.  Dualism is the standard Christian belief that man cannot be reduced to a merely physical being.  Aquinas, with dualism, acknowledges that the soul is a thinking part of the body.  But he also says the soul is the *form* of the body, and Plantinga argues that makes it a property.  And properties can’t think (Plantinga 101).

What is a property?  Peter Van Inwagen defines it as “something that can be said of something.”  I guess that’s good enough.  Let’s look at Plantinga’s argument more closely:

P1: Aquinas–soul is a thinking part of the body (so far, so good).
P2: Soul is the form of the body (standard Aristotle and Aquinas)
P3: (P2) makes the soul a property.
C1: Yet it seems odd to say that properties can “think.”

If Plantinga’s argument holds, then this puts considerable strain on Thomism, and I do reject Thomism, but I am not so sure of (P3).  Let’s see if we can make it work.

P3*: The soul is the principle by which the body lives.
P4:  The soul is the property that gives the body life.
C2: The soul is a property.


2 thoughts on “Do Properties Think?

  1. Couldn’t you say that while the soul is the thinking property, it is the enhypostization of the Human nature, of which soul is a part, that does the thinking? Therefore, what’s lacking in the Thomist schema is the recongition of the person, the hypostasis, or something distinct, the subject, from merely the properties that makes us ‘us’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s possible, and I think that highlights a tension in Plantinga (and by extension Descartes). For them soul = person, and I am not willing to say that. For others, as I think you are hinting above, it is the enhypostatized soul that thinks. I think that could work.


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