Sunday, April 01, 2007

Do the passions remain in the separated soul?


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Dear Professor Romero,

I need your help in understanding the faculty of the passions (affections or emotions). I was told that the passions are rooted in the body. It is the body also in which the temperaments are rooted. The souls in heaven are free from any passion. The thing that I don't understand is that is it not the soul that directs, or at least should direct, the passions. If the soul is then separated from the body, then how can the souls in heaven feel love, hate, etc. Please help this poor fellow in Scholastic Philosophy.


God bless.
-Tony.


Good question, Tony; and a very appropriate one to ask during Passiontide.

First, a little bit of background. There are three kinds of soul. First, there is the vegetative soul, which is proper to plants. This type of soul is very basic in that it only enables its bearer to operate qua vegetative being--viz., to assimilate food, to regenerate cells, and to reproduce.

Second, there is the sensitive soul, which is proper to brute animals. As such, this type of soul has two parts, a vegetative part and a sensitive part, each of which which enables the animal to operate qua vegetative being AND qua sensitive being, respectively--viz., the vegetative part enables the animal to assimilate food, to regenerate cells, and to reproduce (vegetative functions); and the sensitive part enables him to see, smell, hear, touch, and taste, as well as to imagine, to remember and to feel fear, anger, desire, and joy (sensitive functions).

Third, there is the spiritual or rational soul, which is proper to rational animals, i.e., humans. As such, this type of soul has three parts, a vegetative part, a sensitive part, and a spiritual part, each of which which enables the human being to operate qua vegetative being AND qua sensitive being AND qua rational being, respectively--viz., the vegetative part enables the human to assimilate food, to regenerate cells, and to reproduce (vegetative functions); the sensitive part enables him to see, smell, hear, touch, and taste, as well as to imagine, to remember and to feel fear, anger, desire, and joy (sensitive functions); the rational part enables man to understand intellectually and to exercise his will (which are specifically spiritual/rational functions).

So, as you see, the passions, along with the temperaments, are sensitive faculties, which means they reside in the sensitive part of the human soul, or in the sensitive part of the animal soul. In the brute animal soul, the passions (and temperaments?) rein freely and act according to nature and, ultimately, Divine Providence; that's why lions can't abstain from meat on Fridays: they are carnivores and that's what they do, every day of the year--and that's the way nature and Divine Providence intended it. But in man, the rational part must "reach down" to the sensitive part and give it a sort of rational order, so that the passions are acted upon only according to reason. So that we can subdue our cravings when it is appropriate; and also act upon them when appropriate.

As you implied, this sort of rational governing of the passions can only happen here in this life (in via). The reason is this: both the sensitive and the vegetative parts of the human soul are dependent on the body for their existence and operation; all the faculties associated with those two parts reside in the body-soul composite. Consequently, when the body-soul composite is destroyed (at death) these faculties also cease to be. So, yes, that means that the separated (disembodied) soul of St. Peter in heaven cannot assimilate food, or smell, or imagine anything--although Our Lord and Our Lady can because they have glorified bodies. Peter, however, will have to wait until the last day--and so will we--to be able to smell anything again and do other things of the sort. (But don't worry about him not being able to smell: he's in heaven and, somehow, that means he must be having a blast.)

However, the rational part of the soul and its faculties (intellect and will) are completely independent from the body* and thus they remain in the separated soul. So the separated soul of St. Peter in heaven love because love is an act of the will and, as such, it is an exclusively spiritual/rational operation. Similarly, a separated soul in hell can hate because hate is also an act of the will.

*For their existence, not their operation. For their operation, the intellect and will need either the indirect "input" of the senses (down here, in via) or the direct "input" of God's Beatific Vision (up there, in patria).

I hope this helps.

In Domino qui passus est pro nobis,
-FJR.
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