The Interaction of Noetic and Psychosomatic Operations in a Thomist Hylomorphic Anthropology

Daniel De Haan



This article, the second of a two-part essay, outlines a solution to certain tensions in Thomist philosophical anthropology concerning the interaction of the human person’s immaterial intellectual or noetic operations with the psychosomatic sensory operations that are constituted from the formal organization of the nervous system. Continuing with where the first part left off, I argue that Thomists should not be tempted by strong emergentist accounts of mental operations that act directly on the brain, but should maintain, with Aquinas, that noetic operations directly interact with psychosomatic operations. I develop a Thomist account of noetic–psychosomatic interactions that expands upon the first part’s rapprochement between the new mechanist philosophy of neuroscience and psychology and hylomorphic animalism. I argue that noetic–psychosomatic interactions are best understood as analogous to the way diverse higher and lower order psychosomatic powers interact by actualizing, coordinating, and directing the operations of other psychosomatic powers. I draw on James Ross’s arguments for the immateriality of intellectual operations as realizing definite pure functions in order to elucidate the way noetic operations uniquely actualize, coordinate, and direct the psychosomatic operations they interact with. I conclude with a conjectural sketch of how this presentation of Thomist philosophical anthropology understands the noetic and psychosomatic deficits brought about by damage to the nervous system.


Hylomorphism; New Mechanist Philosophy; Neuroscience; Psychology; Philosophical Anthropology; Aristotelianism; Intellectual and psychosomatic operations; Thomas Aquinas; Thomism; Emergentism

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