Is Man an Animal or Image of God? Here is a question that has always preoccupied the human being himself. Not only is the definition of man not unanimous among thinkers; but also the opinions are divided on the subject of human nature: the different theories, the conceptions overlap, the ideas are so opposed that this problem continues to echo both in Science, in Philosophy and in Religion.
In ancient times, men were defined by two great oppositions. Above them, there were gods; beneath them there were animals. What men had in common with one opposed them to others; and what distinguished them from one bound them to others. Men had in common with the gods to be rational – which opposed them to animals, who cannot argue or reason. But men had in common with animals to be living mortals, which opposed them to the gods, who themselves are immortal living. So there were three kinds of living (zoa); so to speak three “fauns”: the rational immortal living; the living mortals without reason; and the man, between his two “Others”: neither irrational like the beasts nor immortal like the gods.
I – / Is Man an Animal or Image of God?
Man shares with other animals, that is to say, the living able to move, to perceive and reproduce sexually, many characteristics. So can we raise the question: is a man an animal like any other?
It is indisputable that man is an animal if one analyzes what makes his community of genus speaks like Aristotle with other animals. It is a species apart, but all species are. He perceives like other animals by senses and some have the same meanings as him. He moves like them. He breeds like them. More specifically, it belongs to gregarious animals such as bees or ants. This animality he cannot deny. She is, therefore, an essential dimension of her being, the one that makes her body cannot we nevertheless think that he has something specific?
Is Man an Animal, but a Political Animal …
Indeed, Aristotle in Politics (Book I, Chapter 2) shows that man is a real political animal, unlike other animals that live in society. The reason is that man possesses the logos (word or reason) that the philosopher distinguishes from the voice. This allows other animals to communicate their feelings. And this is the condition for there to be a society and therefore a common goal to which all participate. Man shares moral notions such as utility, justice, and so on. That’s why the city is not a simple society. She is a different reality. Does this difference put man aside?
Is Man an Animal, but a Thinking Animal…
If each living being is dominated by a specific soul: nutrition for plants, sensory-motor soul for animals, and only man according to Aristotle in the Treatise on the soul is endowed with reason. By this, he can deviate in a way from his animal condition. Indeed, not only is he capable of moral and/or political concepts, but he is also able to think about his place in the universe, to think what he is. This is the reason why knowledge manifests a dimension of its being that seems to cut radically with animality. According to Aristotle, it brings him closer to the divine whose thought is the activity par excellence as the “thought of thought” (see Metaphysics, L, chapter 9).
However, the notion of soul understood as the principle of life seems very obscure. Indeed, it implies in the living an external finality, that of nature which would act in a similar way to a craftsman by endowing a body of functions. The animal would receive its soul as well as the man, a soul that animate a body made of a relatively inert matter. Should we not rather think that the body is capable of all the functions attributed to the soul? How, then, would a man be an animal like any other?
Is Man an Animal, but a Conscious Animal…
From the point of view of the body, the man is an animal like any other that one can think of thanks to the model of the machine. Indeed, we execute many actions or functions without knowing them. Thus, before Harvey discovered the circulation of blood in the first half of the seventeenth century, it took place in us without any collaboration of our mind. Thus the mechanical model, though imperfect, makes it possible to think of the living without introducing a soul charged with performing its functions. If it does not allow in the form that Descartes gave him to account for the reproduction or the phenomena of regeneration, the reason for which was introduced the notion of vital force or formative force to use the expression of Kant in the Criticism of the faculty of judging (1790), it remains a better model in the sense that the mechanisms are complex but without any finality. The discovery of the mechanisms of reproduction, the reduplication of DNA, the genetic code that determines the construction of the organism, do not imply a vital force. Thus, all the behaviors of the living seem reducible to a mechanical model. Should not a spell be left to the thought or consciousness in the man?
Indeed, it is possible with Descartes in the Letter to the Marquis of Newcastle of November 23, 1646, to say that man is distinguished by his soul or consciousness which is manifested by speech. If another can recognize me as a man, it is because in speaking, I show that I am aware of what I say. First, my words relate to the subject in the sense of the theme. In this sense, even a madman shows that he is aware of what he says even if what is said is not reasonable. So it goes with this madman according to news of Cervantes (1547-1616) who believed to be in glass and who asked that we avoid breaking it (see New copies, “The licensee glass”, 1613). On the other hand, the parrot or magpie repeats out of any consideration of theme a few words learned. In addition, man is capable of inventing signs as shown by deaf-mutes. Finally, it is free that man speaks and not determined by some passion. Animals capable of uttering words like the magpie do so by dressage and not to say anything.
In general, human thought cannot be explained mechanically so that man is thus distinguished from animals.
Indeed, it can be said that animals do many things that men cannot do. In addition to instinct, that is to say, innate, automatic, and specific behaviors, one often finds acquired behaviors. But we can explain by the simple association of impressions and ideas the source of this learning. A man shows himself capable of thinking of himself. This is the meaning of Descartes’ cogito. It shows the possibility of putting all thoughts in question so that the absolute truth of the subject is shown, a truth that the subject grasps (see Discourse on Methodology, Part IV, Metaphysical Meditations, Second Meditation, Principles of Philosophy, first part, Article 7).
In one way or another, despite the differences between man and animal that we have raised so far, it seems that man is an animal apparently. But this conception is weak and has limits. Whenever we try to assert that man is an animal and that we place the difference between man and animal – we are to affirm that man is not an animal.
II – / And If, the Man Was Far From Being an Animal …?
” Starting from the assumption that science proves that man is an animal like the others; Francis Wolff demonstrates that man is not an animal like the others because he has access to degrees of knowledge and higher desires peculiar to humanity. These higher degrees are science and morality. ”
To say that science proves that man is an animal like any other is to say at the same time that man possesses science … and in this case, he is not an animal like the others!
If we return to the ancient vision, we can say that the proper of man is the “Logos”, which can be translated both by reason and language. Man is a rational animal. The philosopher Francis Wolff gives us some details.
By the Reason …
We have all these faculties of receiving, of feeling (in the first degree, like an animal).
-But we have in addition the second degree of knowledge, which is no longer just a belief in something external that will push us to action: we have metacognition, knowledge about our own belief, about which we can produce a judgment (a belief on belief). It is a predicative structure.
– Humans can go to a third-degree: This is the idea of truth. There are beliefs that can be right, or wrong, with a judgment to wear that can be verified. This is a deduction, I can say “because”. It’s a belief about a belief, about a belief…
– Can we reach a 4th degree, which would have universal reach? In which one would use universalisable procedures of justification of the judgments… This is what we call science.
Today there are forms of animal communication. But they are different from human language. Even if we can teach some rudiments of human language to bonobos, we know that human communication is done naturally in its environment, which is not the case for animals.
There are three functions in animal communication – which is a peculiarity of a species -: reproduction, feeding, protection against predators. The message is invariable, non-transferable, and it determines the action.
What is called animal language is unrelated to human language, which is characterized by infinite power, allowing the immediate comprehension of sentences never heard, by the infinite possibility of producing new sentences. This language includes the possibility of dialogue, talking about the same subject, and always saying new things. We can talk about things that do not exist, about imaginary things… Human language is unique to man.
By the Action…
Conscious animals act according to (mobile) desires that move them: to seek food, to flee the predator, to reproduce…
And, in the man? There is in man desires for action, but also, a second degree, the desire for desire (volitions of the subject who may or may not want …). I may want to drink, or not to drink. I can desire or not desire. And there are prohibitions of desire in all human cultures.
This is called human freedom, which is linked to the will. This does not seem possible at the first level.
I can have justified volitions, recourse to justifications, to values … Desires on desires of desire, or justified volitions … Example of values: Survival of humanity, social justice, science, honor, glory, wealth … I can act on behalf of something that is a higher value. Only humans act in the name of values.
If we admit that man is far from the animal. Does not he have another approach? It’s good about religion to answer – who is the man?
III – / And if the Man, Like the Image of God…?
According to the Bible, there is indeed a considerable difference between man and animal. Certainly, men and animals have things in common. Each of them carries blood. Each of them has flesh. Each of them has a soul. In short, each of them is a creature of God. In spite of all the man is not an animal in the proper sense as Science indicates it to us, moreover as the theory of evolution does not teach it either.
Some people think that we are nothing but animals – highly developed animals. The majority of people believe that man is a superior animal …
Contrary to this belief: the Bible declares that man is a creature quite unique among the creatures of God. We are the only beings created in the image and likeness of God. After creating all the wonderful things of the world, God crowned His work with the most extraordinary act of creation, namely the creation of man and woman, to whom he entrusted all creation. Read the chapter on Creation (Genesis 1, Genesis 2: 1-7, 18-25).
When we read the story of creation, we notice that God made a distinction between these creatures – man and animal. He does not stop there, to mark the superiority of man over the animal, he confided the domination of the earth to man.
Let’s see the value that the Bible gives to man.
” When I contemplate the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars that you have created: What is the man for you to remember him? And, the son of man, so that you take care of him? You did it inferior to God, and you crowned him with glory and magnificence. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands, you have put everything under his feet, the sheep-like oxen, and the animals of the field, the birds of the sky and the fishes of the sea, all that runs along the paths seas. LORD, our Lord! Your name is wonderful on all the earth! ” Psalm 8: 4-10. And around the Psalmist David to recognize this value: ” I praise you that I am such a wonderful creature. Your works are admirable. And my soul recognizes it well. ” Psalms 139: 14.
As a result, it is clear that man is not an animal – an animal is not a man. Man is therefore according to the Bible the creature in the image and likeness of God.
“ O man, are you God? No. Because you were created by God in his image and likeness. This says that you carry the divine faculties in you: that of thinking and exercising your will. This is the meaning of being created in the image and likeness of God. “ (Thomson Dablemond).
Therefore, you are “little gods”, in the sense that you know good and evil and that you have free will. (Thomson Dablemond). As it says in the Bible, ” The LORD God said, Behold, the man has become like one of us, for the knowledge of good and evil, let him now not to advance his hand, to take of the tree of life, to eat it, and to live forever. ” (Genesis 3:22).
Here again, we emphasize through this passage, we emphasize another divine faculty possessed by man: morality. The knowledge that we have of good and evil makes us “little gods” if we can express ourselves thus. At the same time, we find that man does not have a divine nature: eternity. And it is verified because just like the animal, the man too is mortal.
In this case, if a man is neither animal nor divine, then who is the man? The answer to this conclusion will be the conclusion of our reflection.
Conclusion on “Man is an Animal or God’s Being?”
It seems that we return to what we have advanced in our introduction which I allow myself to repeat: “In ancient times, men were defined by two great oppositions. Above them, there were gods; beneath them there were animals. What men had in common with one opposed them to others; and what distinguished them from one bound them to others. Men had in common with the gods to be rational – which opposed them to animals, who cannot argue or reason. But men had in common with animals to be living mortals, which opposed them to the gods, who themselves are immortal living. So there were three kinds of living (zoa); so to speak three “fauns”: the rational immortal living; the living mortals without reason; and the man, between his two “Others”: neither irrational like the beasts nor immortal like the gods. “