65. The Rights
Frank J. Leavitt
Medical Health Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel
The title of this paper will seem strange. We human beings are so accustomed to denying rights to one another that it hardly occurs to many people that people of other races or colours or religions have rights. And when someone comes along and requests that we respect the right of other species, like laboratory mice, even the most feeling and spiritual scientists may respond that the need to find vaccines and cures for human diseases is so urgent, and our energy and resources are so limited that we cannot justify taking special or extraordinary or expensive efforts to alleviate the suffering of animals. Obviously one who goes even farther than animal right and raises the issue of rights for plants and minerals will cause some of scientists to think that he or she is psychotic.
I believe nonetheless that all creatures,
including angelic, human, animal, vegetable, microbial and mineral
creatures, have rights, because they were all created by God.
These rights ought to be respected reverently and violated only
when we must do so. From this it follows that it is sometimes
ethical to kill or destroy. But this is only when we have no other
way to preserve ourselves. I am, therefore, not unqualifiedly
against eating animals, plants and minerals. Nor am I unqualifiedly
against scientific experimentation with animals, or cutting down
trees and breaking up rocks. But this is only when we have no
other way to preserve our life and health. In my opinion, therefore,
medical experimentation with animals may be ethical, at least
when the clear intent is to relieve human suffering and when careful
precautions are taken to keep animal suffering to a minimum. But
it is not ethical to torture animals in order to develop new cosmetics.
It is, moreover, ethical to kill and eat animals if we kill them
as painlessly as possible and if one has found no other way to
maintain health. And it is hard for one person to judge another
on this. Some people seem to need meat more that others. And not
everyone has the time or ability or facilities to prepare elaborate
and apparently completely nutritious strictly vegetarian meals
such as the Brahmins eat. It may be, moreover, ethical to use
rocks to build a dwelling to protect ourselves from the elements.
But it is not ethical blast and bulldoze rocks in order to build
a highway just to get people more quickly to their jobs in the
city, or to encourage tourism. And it is not ethical to quarry
stone, breaking up mountainsides, and then do all the pollution
which cutting, polishing and transporting it involves, just so
you can have a more aesthetically pleasing marble floor in your
house than your neighbors have in their houses. But all this has
been by way of general introduction . I now want to state my views
with a little more philosophical and theological precision. I
want to make three points as prolegomena to an ethic which recognized
the rights of rocks. (I) there can be no philosophy of rights,
but only prophesy can give us a reason for recognizing rights.
(II) If God gave rights to human beings then He gave them to animals,
plants, microbes and rocks as well. (III) Human beings cannot
be proved to have any special spiritual properties which do not
belong to animals, plants, microbes and rocks as well.
2.1. Prophesy, not philosophy, is the basis of rights
A number of years ago the American philosopher John Nelson, published a detailed attack against the idea of "inalienable rights", (1). I tried to answer Nelson's argument , basing myself on the religious background to the idea of rights in Scripture and in the very religious philosophy of John Locke, who is often regarded as the founder of the fundamental ideas of liberal democracy (2). but I did not make it clear enough that if you do not have a basis in prophesy, then Nelson is right and you have no grounds what so ever for saying that people have inalienable human rights. For suppose someone wants to torture or kill you, and you protest: "but you are violating my rights". and suppose the villain replies by denying that you have any such things as "rights", How can you prove the villain wrong? You might want to appeal to the rights granted you by society, with its customs and its laws. but this appeal can do no good because we know that some societies allow or encourage killing and torturing people who are considered "inferior" or "threatening": So society cannot be the final authority for deciding who has what rights. Or you might want to try to use philosophy to try to prove that you have a right not to be tortured or killed. Now if you use a religious philosophy, like those of Maimonides or John Locke, who took their principles from prophesy , then you might be able to prove this. But if your philosophy is totally secular then I do not know how one would even begin.
One secular philosophy of ethics is utilitarianism, which says that you should try to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people . But of course if you have reason to think that if you can help most people by killing or torturing a few people, then utilitarianism would have to let you do this. I saw this point stated very clearly in a quotation from Mahatma Ghandji on a plaque at the Ghandji Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Ghandji said: "I do not believe in the doctrine of the greatest good of the greatest number. It means in its nakedness that in order to achieve the supposed good of fifty-one percent, the interest of forty nine percent, may be, or rather should be sacrificed it is a heartless doctrine and has done harm to humanity. The only real dignified human doctrine in the greatest good of all."
I don't know if practically speaking we can really work for the greatest good of all. Our abilities and opportunities are limited and most of us may be unable to help more than a few people in our immediate vicinity. But this does not mean we may harm a few innocent people to help a large number. But utilitarian philosophy has no choice but to approve of such a thing. Take the case of the Argentinean doctor who was caught a few years ago killing mental patients and selling their organs (3). This doctor was a perfect utilitarian. For by killing one mental patient he could make a lot of people happy. Two people could get corneas, one person a heart, one person a pancreas, etc. So utilitarian philosophy can provide no basis for rights. A utilitarian, if he or she is sincere, would have to say that this Argentinean doctor was a very virtuous moral person. So if we believe in rights we have to reject utilitarianism.
Another secular philosophy of ethics is that of Immanuel Kant. For many years Kant was thought of in Europe as the world's greatest philosopher. Kant said a lot of very nice things about treating others as ends in themselves and not as means to our own ends. And this sounds very beautiful until you notice that he doesn't talk about treating other "people" as ends in themselves. He talks about treating other "rational beings" as ends in themselves. I think that if you go carefully through his standard work on ethics, the Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals you won't find him discussing how to be ethical towards all people. You'll only find him talking about how to be ethical towards all rational beings. (Perhaps some erudite Kantian scholar can find exceptional passages). But this is an important point because now we have to ask what is a rational being, and are all human beings, all creatures born of woman, "rational" according to Kant's philosophy? Kant actually did explain "rationality" to us. In his Critique of Pure Reason he discussed rationality as the ability to think scientifically or mathematically. And in his Critique of Practical Reason he discussed rationality as the ability to make moral judgments. But what would Kant say about someone who is extremely retarded mentally, or perhaps someone from a very strange culture, who does not seem capable of thinking mathematically or scientifically or morally in any way which resembles our ways of thinking about these things, who cannot or does not want to enter into any scientific or mathematical or moral discourse with us? I do not think that Kant could call such a person "rational". So I don't think he would have any basis to tell us to treat this person as an end in himself or herself. So I don't think Kant can give us any grounds for recognizing this person's rights.
Kant liked to write about his dream of a "Kingdom of Ends", a society of very nice, rational people who go around treating one another as ends in themselves. But I think this is a very dangerous idea, for it is obvious that Kant's society of beautiful people can have no room for freaks or crazies or cultural or ethnic minorities who think so differently from the majority that they would find it hard to enter into harmonious social discourse and intercourse with the majority. The majority might quite naturally decide that such "misfits" are not rational. And then they would be quite in keeping with Kant's philosophy to deny that these "misfits' have any rights at all. It would be quite alright to kill them or torture them or do any one thing likes with them. For whoever does not fit an accepted definition of "rational" would have no claim to rights in Kant's philosophy.
One recalls the Book of Esther, in the Bible, where Haman says to the king: "There is a certain people scattered around and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the King's laws; therefore it profiteth not the king to suffer them. If it please the king let it be written that they be destroyed..." (4). Haman is saying that these people, the Jews, do not fit the kingdom's definition of rationality. They are incapable of participating in the harmonious life of the community. So Haman says they should be killed. And I don't think Kant can object to Haman (I am indebted to my former student, Gillie Shilo, in discussion with whom, and in a paper which she wrote in my course, it became clear that philosophy cannot really say much against the Biblical Haman).
As even more famous example of Kantian "Kingdom of Ends" was the Nazi dream. The Nazis wanted a society of "beautiful" people who would all be "rational" in the same way so they could all live harmoniously together. The way to achieve this is to kill off everyone who cannot or will not participate in this "beautiful" harmony. Then whoever are left can all live very ethically with one another. So the Nazis killed millions and millions of people who would not fit in with their Kingdom of Ends. I have discussed two philosophies of ethics, utilitarianism and Kantianism, and explained why they cannot give any basis for believing that all people have rights. Of course there may be some other philosophy of ethics which can provide a foundation for rights, but I am not aware of any such philosophy. I taught and studied philosophy for a long time before I woke up and realized that I was looking in the wrong direction if I wanted to find a basis for human rights, or a guide to ethical life of any kind. I don't think that custom or law or philosophy can teach us to be ethical at all. For this we have to turn to prophecy.
Custom, law and philosophy can only deal
with facts, with what is. But ethics goes beyond what is and discusses
what ought to be. But the world, as the philosopher Wittgenstein
saw, is just all the facts there are, interpreted logically, so
to get to ethics you have to go beyond the world. Prophecy
teaches us what is beyond the world. I'll clarify this a little
further by expanding on a point I once heard in a lecture which
the Israeli philosopher, Yosef ben Shlomo, gave in Kiryat Arba,
Hebron. To be ethical you have to respect everybody equally. You
have to believe that in some sense, all people are equal. But
all experience shows that people are not equal. Some are smart
and some are not so smart. Some are more athletic or more artistic
or more gentle than others. To reach the conclusion that all people
are equal you have to go beyond experience, beyond the world.
This means turning to prophecy. Prophecy, as we shall see, demands
that we respect the rights of all God's creatures, not only human
beings but also animals, vegetables, fungi, microbes and rocks.
That will be clarified in section II. But first it is necessary
to explain what is meant by "prophecy."
2.2. What is Prophecy?
The "world" consists of all the events which can be known by sense experience, i.e. all the spatio-temporal situations of bodies, together with all conclusions which may be deduced from these events with the aid of pure logic. But we can be sure of many things which are not part of this world. These include, for example, our belief in the rightness of: insights of scientific or mathematical genius which are underdetermined by evidence; the confidence with which we sometimes do brave acts involving rash risks and requiring abilities which no one would have thought we had; the deep conviction that we must treat our fellow creatures with love and kindness.
Such instances of conviction, insight and confidence are part of the "world" to the extent to which they are feelings. But there is nothing in the world to justify these feelings. The justification of these feelings lies outside the world. If another person is smelly and ugly and a burden on society, for example, there can be no more rational justification, based on evidence, for ignoring or getting rid of him or her, than there is for love and kindness. So if our love and kindness are justified, the source of the justification must lie outside the world. This source is called prophecy.
Prophecy can be good or bad. That is to say that we may be inspired by God or His angels. But we may also be inspired by demons. Those who reject all mysticism as superstition may be surprised to learn that this point was clearly recognized not only by ancient spiritual texts but also in the philosophical tradition. For example, the famous mathematician and philosopher, Rene' Descartes, wrote a book called the Meditations on First Philosophy which is probably studied in every university in the world today. In this book Descartes explained that he got his mathematics and scientific insights, what he called his "clear and distinct" ideas, directly from God. In absolutely literal terms it can be said that Descartes, the inventor of analytic geometry , thought his ideas were prophetic inspiration, just like the inspirations of Scriptural prophets, for he thought he got his ideas from God. But he also thought he might sometimes be deceived by a bad angel, a demon and he made great efforts to construct a philosophy which this demon could not corrupt, a philosophy based on ideas which cannot be doubted. We may also be deluded sometimes or fool ourselves into thinking that we have prophesy when we don't.
Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) who was Israel's first bioethicist, a great rabbi, physician and philosopher, wrote about ways to distinguish true prophesy from false. (5) but this paper will only discuss true prophesy. False prophesy, charlatans, fake gurus, etc., will have to be investigated in another essay.
As an Israeli Jew I believe that the most important prophesy is reported in the Bible, the Holy Scriptures. But I think that prophesy is given to many people in many different ways in many parts of the world. Some people think it is somehow threatening to Judaism to say that prophesy is given not only to the people of Israel, but also to other people . But this need not be threatening at all. For Holy Scripture itself describes God speaking with Adam, Have (Eve) and Noah, all of whom lived long before the people of Israel ever existed. The people of Israel, moreover, are all of the descendants of Israel, who was also called Yaakov (Jacob). (The word "Jew" , "Jewish", "Judaism", are misnomers. They really apply only to the tribe of Yehuda (Juda) who was one of Israel's twelve sons. But the gentiles mistakenly used the word "Yehudi" (Jew) for all of the descendants of Israel who were exiled together with the Tribe of Yehuda (6)). But God also gave prophesy to Israel's father Yitshak (Isaac) who was also the father of Esav. And God and angels also spoke with Israel's grandfather , Avraham, who also gave spiritual wisdom to his other son, Ishmael , the father of the Arabs. And after Avraham's wife Sara died, he had children by other women, and gave them spiritual gifts and sent them eastward (7), (Avraham himself came to the land of Israel from the east. It is assumed he started in the vicinity of Iraq, but there is no evidence it was not much further east).
There is therefore plenty basis in Holy Scripture and rabbinic tradition to recognize the existence of prophesy in other parts of the world, some older then the people of Israel. I believe there are sparks of prophesy in Hinduism, in Buddhism and Taoist meditation, in Shinto spirit possession. Prophesy is something which can be taught. The prophet Shmuel (Samuel) taught groups how to prophesize (8). It seems to have involved techniques which were taught in a kind of school. Of course many people have prophetic insight without going to school to learn how to get it. But there seem to have been teachable techniques to enhance this ability, and achieve high-level communication with the Divine. Some of the conditions for prophesy are explained in depth in Book Two of Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed. We have a Rabbinic tradition according to which prophesy was lost to the Israeli people when we were exiled, and will be restored as we return to our Land.
But how are we to revive these for forgotten
techniques? We have a tradition which says that the Israeli people
lost much knowledge during our exile. For example it is said that
the Tribe of Issahar had books on mathematics and astronomy. These
books were lost and we had to re-learn mathematics and astronomy
from the Greeks (9). Perhaps just as the Greeks preserved and
developed mathematics and astronomy so some of the techniques
necessary to achieving the highest levels of prophesy are preserved
and developed by Hinduism, Buddhism, Tao and Shinto. Perhaps a
critical, reflective spiritual dialogue among Israel and other
Asian spiritual traditions can help progress towards reviving
the highest levels of prophesy, which may open channels for Divine
guidance on the difficult bioethical questions to which religion
has not yet found answers.
3. If God gave rights to human beings then he gave them to animals, plants, microbes and rocks as well.
This section will be divided into two
subsections. The first will explain what is a right. The second
will explain the basis in Holy Scripture for rights for all of
3.1. What is a right?
A right is the freedom to do something. There are ethical rights and unethical rights. An example of an unethical right is the Israeli law which forbids the loud playing of a radio, television or stereo only between the hours of 2300 and 0600, and between 1400 and 1600. This means that anyone who can afford to buy one of these electronic devices has the right to control all thought in a fairly large neighborhood during the hours from 0600 to 1400, and from 1600 to 2300. For all this person has to do is to turn up the volume so loud that no one in the neighborhood will be able to think about anything except for the nonsense coming out of the radio, stereo or television. This unethical right is often practiced in Israel. Indeed the Israeli government not only allows this practice by law. It also uses the law to encourage this unethical right actively. Almost all Israeli radio and television stations are owned by the government Broadcasting Authority. And all car owners must, when paying the yearly license fee, pay an additional "radio tax" to help support the Broadcasting Authority even if one does not own a radio or television in one's car or elsewhere.
An ethical right, on the other hand, is
the freedom to carry out a moral duty. If, for example , you have
a moral duty to support your family, then you have an ethical
right to earn the means to support your family. This point was
partially seen by those philosophers who used to write that "ought"
implies "can". Another example is that if you have a
moral duty to think deeply about ethical questions then you have
an ethical right to the quiet you need to think deeply.
3.2 The basis in Holy Scripture for rights for all of God's creatures including rocks
In many Western philosophical sources, from old Greece onward, it is thought that God creates by thinking thoughts. Usually mathematical thoughts. And then the world somehow exists in such a way as to exemplify the laws contained in these thoughts. In Aristotle's Metaphysics, for example, the world supposedly strives to imitate the thoughts which are thought by purely spiritual gods who do nothing but think. How such a world comes into existence in the first place must forever remain a mystery. For all Aristotles' eternally thinking gods can supply is the pattern according to which the world should exist if it exists. But this pattern has no power to cause something to exist if that thing did not exist already. It is therefore not surprising that Aristotle believed that the world never came into existence but always existed, neatly avoiding the problem of how it would start existing if it did not exist already.
The Israeli God is different: He does not create by thinking thoughts, He creates by commanding, He commands the light to exist. He commands the heavens to exist and separate the upper waters from the lower. He commands the waters on the earth to gather into seas, and he commands the dry land to appear. He commands the earth to give forth plants, and the plants to bear seeds, which produce more plants. He commands the fish and the birds and the animals and the humans to exist. And he blesses all and commands all to be fruitful and to multiply and to fill the earth. He creates in the imperative voice, not the indicative.
Of course there is a form to the imperatives by which God creates. These forms are inherent in the Hebrew letters which make up the names of the things which are commanded to exist. These letters are really spiritual powers which give life to the things which are commanded to exist. The visible and audible forms of these letters are only their superficial appearance. In reality they are the divinity of which all created beings are only the superficial appearance. All created beings , without exception, are only the superficial appearance of Divinity. The idea of a hierarchy - mineral vegetable, animal, human - and the idea that the mineral is farther from the Divine than is the vegetable, the vegetable farther than the animal, the animal father than the human: these ideas belong much more to Greek philosophy than to Israeli philosophy. Indeed it is accepted in our mystical thought than "even stones and soil and water have a kind of soul and spiritual life"(10) which God bestows upon them through the Hebrew letters in the words by which He commands the world to exist.
All creatures are equally created by God, equally appearances of the Divine. But it is often thought that Judaism believes in an hierarchy, in which the lower things are created "for the sake of" the higher. According to this idea, humanity is the highest creature, so every thing is created for us, and we may use all creatures as we please, dominating them at will.
In a very famous article in Science, Lynn White Jr. claimed to find this idea in the "Judeo - Christian Tradition", which he thought was at the root of our domineering attitude toward nature, and caused "our present ecological crisis" (11). Feminists have also said that it was an easy step from this "Judeo-Christian" human domination of nature to "patriarchial attitudes" which justified men dominating women (12). In fairness it has to be admitted that there is some truth to this view. The Bible at Bereshit (Genesis) I,28, can be translated as having God say to Adam and Hava: "...reproduce and multiply and fill the earth and conquer it and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and all animals which move on the earth." But this is only an English Translation, while the real Bible was written in Hebrew, a language with an intentionally built-in ambiguity. The words VEICAVSHUHA and UREDU can be interpreted as meaning a dictatorial and dominating kind of conquest, giving us permission to do "as we wish" with the animals and other creatures, as Nachmanides wrote in his commentary on this Scripture: "tearing up mountains for copper" , for example. And to be fair it has to be admitted that the structure of the Hebrew word VEKAVSHUHA - you (human beings) conquer it (The Earth) - allows also for it to be pronounced VEKAVSHA - you (man) conquer her (woman). And Rash'i wrote in his commentary on the same passage: "The male conquers the female so that she should not run around..."
But the Hebrew of Scripture is so rich as to allow for many interpretations. In particular the word UREDU, which can be translated "and rule over" or "and have dominion over" is equally open to a translation as "and go down", meaning that God is commanding us to go down from our lofty, pretentious positions, to abandon our snobbery, our illusion that everything was created for us, to "go down" among the other creatures and recognize that we are all of us, humans, animals, plants, microbes, rocks equally created by God, who desires the existence of each of his creatures because he desires each and every one of us, and not because he needs some of us for the sake of others (this interpretation is very much in line with Maimonides's interpretation in Guide for the Perplexed III, 13).
The hierarchical philosophy of domination is European: Specifically Greek, not Israeli. The following passage is not from our Bible, it is from Aristotle: "In like manner we may infer that, after the birth of animals, plants exist for their sake, and that the other animals exist for the sake of man..."(13). For many years, especially during our exile, Greek and other western ideas influenced Jewish thinking. Among Jewish philosophers and Biblical scholars, just as among Christians, it becomes accepted to interpret our Scripture according to Greek philosophy, Even Rashi's remark about the man conquering the woman reminds one of Aristotle's: "the male is by nature fitter for command than the female" (Ref 13, I, 12, 1259b 3). Maimonides also frequently quotes Aristotle with great respect. but there is a dispute among scholars as to whether Maimonides's seeming Aristotelianism is to be taken literally or whether it is an "outer garment" meant to conceal a deeper, mystical doctrine. The reason why English translations of the Bible are so unsatisfactory is that English is incapable of reflecting the fact that Biblical Hebrew is so rich that one word simultaneously carries many, many meanings. The Rabbis said that there are "seventy faces to the Tora", and of two contradictory views it was said: "Both these and those are the words of the living God".
The hierarchical philosophy of domination may not be entirely false. It may have been an entirely appropriate, indeed a true interpretation of Scripture during the wanderings of the Jewish people as strangers in the strange lands of Europe, England and the Americans. But now that we are returning to our own West Asian soil, holy soil in the sense that it is the spiritually appropriate place for our specific kind of spirituality, it is time for us to abandon the western philosophy of domination and to start anew, examining Scripture and Israeli mysticism afresh. And we must do this while we are in constant dialogue with other Asian spiritual traditions, Shinto, Buddhist, Hindu, and others, seeking points of spiritual communication. (14) This will be the start of Mystical Bioethics. Teleological philosophy (from the Greek Telos meaning an "end" or "purpose") is also a Western philosophy. It is the impudent HATSUFA philosophy which says that we can know the meaning of life, that we can know God's purposes in creation, that we can set ourselves up as judges and decrees that this one thing exists for the sake of that other thing. It was Aristotle, not the Israeli Bible, who said: "Now if nature makes nothing incomplete and nothing in vain, the inference must be that she has made all animals for the sake of man. And so, from one point of view, the art of war is a natural art of acquisition, for the art of acquisition includes hunting, an art which we ought to practice against wild beasts, and against men who though intended by nature to be governed, will not submit, for war of such a kind is naturally just". (Ref, 13, I, O, 1256b 20-25).
We must abandon this western philosophy
of domination for a new philosophy of humility and simplicity.
We may destroy our fellow creatures only when no other way is
available to preserve health and life, for we too were commanded
by God to live. Many of our Rabbis teach that we are now at the
beginning of the era known in Israeli tradition as the "Coming
of the Messiah". There is an urgent need for international
discussions of whether this era is the same as that which others
refer to as the New Age. A rabbi once taught me that it says in
our ancient mystical tradition that in the time of the coming
of the Messiah the stones will speak, and if we are not good people,
if we are not walking on them for good purposes, they will cry
out at us for daring to walk on them. This is a philosophy of
4. Our Sisters, the Rocks
I refer to the rocks as our "sisters" rather then "brothers" only because the Hebrew word for rocks, EVEN is grammatically feminine. I don't yet know if this has any philosophical or bioethical significance. I want to indicate why I believe in our kinship to the rocks, but I have not yet managed to work this out philosophically with the detail and precision which the subject deserves. Especially since returning from India I have had to start to rethink much of my bioethical philosophy. And this will take a long time to do properly. Meanwhile I'll just have to make a few brief, vague and somewhat cryptic remarks. I apologize to the reader that I cannot yet give this subject the deep treatment it deserves.
The basic point is that we are made up of subatomic particles just like the rocks, and we obey the same laws of physics. Progress in genetics seems to be moving in the direction of explaining not merely physical characteristics and clinical disease, but also character traits and intelligence in terms of genes. And doesn't genetics really boil down to chemistry, which is basically a matter of subatomic particle exchange, i.e. physics? And non-genetic co-factors in determining human traits (which may include aspects of physiology which are not strictly genetically determined, and also nutrition, environment, education, etc.) will probably also be explained eventually as physics. This is called "reductionism". But "reductionism " is not a curse word in my vocabulary. "Reductionism" is thought of as denying soul and spirituality. I do not deny soul and spirituality. I think that our genetics, explained eventually in terms of particle physics, is our souls.
Particles of physics are more spiritual than they are bodily. This is for reasons which I shall state too briefly:
(a) Gross bodies have definite and simultaneous position and momentum, but the particles of physics according to Heisenberg's Principle of Indeterminacy, have only probabilistic position and momentum. So particles are unlike gross bodies. As was said by a great physicist whose name I have forgotten, the world looks like a great thought rather than like a great machine.
(b) Gross bodies have colour, sound, taste, smell, and palpable weight and texture. But colour, sound, taste, smell and palpable weight and texture exist in our minds as the consequences of the actions of the particles of physics on our sense organs. These qualities do not belong to the particles of physics, the physical world as it is in itself. This again seems to make the particles of physics seem more spiritual than bodily, because they have none of the obvious sensible qualities which we attribute to gross bodies.
(c) Finally, the philosopher, George Berkeley, clearly saw that we have no first-hand experience what ever with the particles of physics. We only experience colours, tastes, smells sounds, palpable weight and texture, feelings. The particles of physics are only hypothesized on the basis of our first-hand experiences. They are what Bertrand Russell later called "logical constructions out of sense-data." If they exist at all they are mental and not bodily.
The above considerations, and others which I'll have to try to explain in another essay, suggest that to say that we are made up of particles is not to deny soul. It is to explain what soul really is. The particles of physics, of which our genetics is one of their expressions, are one of God's ways of revealing Himself in this low world. These particles are our soul.
But this will seem strange to those people whom Western philosophers like Descartes lead them to think that one's soul is a simple, indivisible entity, i.e. a vast number of particles. This same point can be put in other words if we say that each of us is made up of many souls, i.e. many particles.
This doctrine is consistent with Kaballa, Israeli mysticism. According to Rabbi Itshak Luria, (the Holy Ari) "...every soul has many parts and sparks, and all of these parts together are called one soul" (15) (free translation). The particles of physics seem to be today's way of understanding these spiritual "sparks".
The only well known Western philosopher who seems to have grasped the point that the soul may be a vast multiplicity rather than a unity, was Leibniz, who called these spiritual sparks "monads". Although it is known that Leibniz studied Maimonides's Guide to the Perplexed and wrote notes on it, it is not yet clear to me whether and to what extent Leibniz knew Kabbala.
Descartes's belief in a mythically simple and unified soul required him to believe that nerves end in a central point in the brain, where all of the workings of the nervous system and brain are integrated and passed on the soul. But subsequent neurobiology does not seem to have found this supposed central integrative point. I am only an amateur in biology but I think it is true that there are many, many different events and chains of events going on in the brain, but there is no reason to think they all end up by some simple central integrative point. Neurobiologists may correct me if I am wrong, but I think the Kabbalistic model of "many parts and sparks" is more consistent with today's neurobiology than is Descartes "simple soul" model.
But a rock is also made up of many "parts and sparks", many subatomic particles, making it much more similar to ourselves than we once thought. But I must apologize again for my brevity.
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