Die theologische Lehre von der unsterblichen Seele vor dem Hintergrund der Diskussion in den Neurowissenschaften

  • The theological doctrine of the immortal soul in the light of the discussion in neuroscience

Scheyda, Gerhard; Lüke, Ulrich (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2014)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2014


(The theological doctrine of the immortal soul in the light of the discussion in neuroscience).In eight chapters, this work deals with the scientific results of the transition in theological and philosophical views from soul as material object to soul as mental object. The first chapter shows the development of the Christian concept of the soul, which in ancient Christian-Greco-Roman times is still largely influenced by Platon’s dualism. It was only since Augustine that it was able to shed Platon’s heritage. The concept of the soul from the era of Augustine shapes theology up to the early 13th century. New aspects only arise with Thomas of Aquinas. The second chapter presents the Aristotelian-Thomistic "anima unica forma corporis" doctrine and its consequences for current theology. The third chapter discusses the understanding of the soul from the perspective of neuroscience and attempts to clarify in how far and under what circumstances this understanding is similar to the understanding of the soul from Christian tradition. Chapter four assesses the chances of solving the mind-body problem in the form of a comparison and assessment of monistic and dualistic theory. The result of this comparison returns the formula "dualism in ideology, monism in ontology", since even seemingly open approaches to an intellectual and spiritual acting force do in fact conceal monistic materialism. The fifth chapter evaluates why naturalism with its epistemological postulates is of little help to solve the body-soul problem. For this purpose, the theories presented in Chapter 4 are summarised under the category of "naturalism" in order to arrive at an evaluation. Naturalism’s formerly bold promise to overcome the body-soul problem could so far not be fulfilled by any of its varieties. The sixth chapter examines the relationship between naturalism and theology. According to the naturalistic ideal of science, theology is not deemed a science as the ideal requires naturalism as "belief" and thus excludes the idea of God. However, both knowledge disciplines base themselves on certain conditions. In its scientific reasoning, naturalism replaces the word "God" with the term "Nature". Despite all concerns against naturalism it is an important reference for criticism of theology when it prompts it not to evade answering its questions, e.g. relating to the creation of the soul. The seventh chapter: "Soul - what could it be?" transfers the previously acquired insights to a direct comparison of theological and naturalistic statements about the soul. For theology, the Bible serves as primary source of knowledge about the phylogenetic act of soul creation. The scientific explanation of this act draws upon the period from prehistory that holds evidence for hominids to have experienced a reference of transcendence or a "relation to God". The fusion of sperm and egg, itself the earliest moment of full personhood, is explained as ontogenetic or individual act of soul creation. Considering the constant change of the material body due to metabolism, naturally the body cannot be the bearer of the personal identity of a human being - this can only be ascribed to the soul. From the "perspective of the bereaved", physical death constitutes "Judgment Day". The earthly body decays while the soul preserves the personal and biographical identity of that human being. Death and completion take place "outside of time" in the same moment. The resurrection within death is not an alternative to the resurrection of the whole man on Judgement Day - it is rather identical to it. The eighth chapter is a summary of the work.


  • Chair of Systematic Theology (Catholic) [781110]