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Malcolm Jeeves (ed.), The emergence of personhood: A quantum leap?

This book seeks an answer to the question of what we should regard, as human emergence as a distinctive character of human persons. In this effort the editor, Malclom Jeeves, puts together views from various disciplines to construct a better understanding of human uniqueness. How did we come to he the way we are? Jeeves uses the term 'quantum leap' to discuss what makes the difference between humans and other animals. The Science Digest explains 'quantum leap' in the following words:

A quantum leap, no matter how infinitesimal, always makes a sharp break with the past. It is the discontinuous jump of an electron from one orbit to another, with the particle mysteriously leaving no trace of its path. It is the instantaneous collapse of a wave of probabilities into a single real event.

It can be understood as a sudden process or a gradual process. To get an answer to these questions Jeeves juxtaposes scholars from various disci-plines. He describes his book as a genuine multiplicity of voices to speak to common themes' (p.2). This book, or the methodology of Jeeves to understand human nature, is more of what he describes as *trans-disciplinarity', which he explains from Fuentes: "Transdisciplinarity transports us: we then ask different questions, see further, and perceive the complex world and its problems with new insights" (Fuentes 2013, 106, 109).

In the introductory analysis Jeeves presents the depth of the problem, saying that what was traditionally understood as the difference between humans and animals is no longer the case with recent developments like the cracking of the genetic code by James Watson and Francis Crick. Today we know that we bear a great genetic closeness to our nonhuman relatives. Also the dramatic advances in neuroscience and neuropsychology demonstrated quite remarkable similarities between the architecture of our own brains and those of chimpanzees and other apes. To this extent the difference between animals and humans has come to seem very small. All these considerations tend to raise fresh questions about human uniqueness. Jeeves also rightly warns the readers of the danger that these efforts are surely not the final answer to the problem they confront. Any scientific theory remains open to fine-tuning in the light of new evidence. Now I will present a summary of various views represented in this book.

Opening Section One, Richard W. Byrne, one of Jeeves' successors as a professor of psychology at the university of St. Andrews, studies the evolution of cognition. He is concerned about the dividing line between humans and animals. He says the “discovery” of species would not permit us to apply to man such expressions as 'man the hunter', or 'man the toolmaker, previously used to distinguish man from animals. Even it is dirt. cult from the viewpoint of psychologist to assign to man alone the quality of planning ahead. Byrne makes clear that many of the 'obvious difference between humans and all other animals are misapprehensions. In his analysis he brings out the point that linguistic communication is the dividing line between humans and animals, and this is built on cognitive foundations that we share with other species. So there are some cognitive barriers holding back our closest relatives.

Ian Tattersall is a senior scientist in the division of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural history, widely acclaimed for his studies of speciation and diversity in the human fossil record. He says the term 'personhood' as we recognize it among human beings today-implies an active sense of self. So the great question raised here is that of consciousness in our predecessors. Today we understand consciousness in the sense of the capacity for self-reflection; human beings have possessed this quality only as long as their cognitive mode has allowed it. Tattersall holds the view that our brains are splendidly jury-rigged affairs, creative precisely because they have not been optimized to any particular function. In this sense individuals are bundles of behavioral paradoxes. In the concluding section he considers the term 'human personhood', or the human sense of self-individuality, as synonymous with the search for the origin of the unique human symbolic cognitive mode. He sees human emergence in this line.

Colin Renfrew, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge university and is internationally renowned for his contributions to archaeological theory and science as well as to the understanding of European prehistory and linguistic archaeology. In his article personhood: toward a gradualist approach', tackles the question of emergence as a prehistoric archeologist seeking to understand the human story on the basis of material remains that have come down to us from the human past. In his analysis he says it is not easy to identify a 'quantum leap' in the emergence of personhood and it may seem more appropriate to adopt a gradualist approach (p. 62). In his analysis he also brings out the problem of the soul. In reference to the Templeton discussion on the theme becoming human' and focusing on the Upper Paleolithic period of Europe (Renfrew and Morley 2009), the notion of soul was not discussed with much vigour. He says from such a perspective, it seems a reasonable question to ask when the soul makes its first appearance in the evolutionary story. To identify a specific moment would be difficult. Many theologians would take the position that 'persons' have souls, and in order to have a soul, it is a prior condition that one should be a per-son. This would represent a greater problem and the issue is not systematically addressed. With his view of emergence  of personhood as a gradual process, not a 'quantum leap'. Tatersall concludes that personhood, in the sense of undergoing and communicating an enriching personal life experience, continues to develop today.

Roy F. Baumeister, is a professor of psychology at Florida State University. He is known for his research in social psychology, spanning topics ranging from the human need to belong and the effects of rejection to hous people seek to make their lives meaningful. In his analysis of self, brain and body he brings out the importance of culture. He says, the brain may be the central controlling unit of the human body, but the brain itself does not have a central controlling unit. Instead, it seems organized on the basis of multiple sites and systems that operate in parallel and interact in mysterious, complicated ways (P.70).

Section Two

Francisco J. Ayala, a pioneering geneticist and evolutionary biologist., asks readers to note the distinction between biological evolution and cultural evolution. His article is entitled 'morality and personhood', and his central thesis is that the capacity for ethics is the outcome of biological evolution, and moral norms in populations are products of cultural evolution. He differentiates between moral behaviour and moral codes. Moral behaviours are effects of biological evolution and moral codes are the result of cultural evolution.

Warren S. Brown and Lynn K. Paul make an attempt, based on clinical, empirical and theoretical surveys, to prove an 'emergence from connectivity' hypothesis. They argue that the properties of personhood are rooted in physical processes and seem to be emergent in our evolutionary trajectory. According to them the best current physicalist hypothesis is that the basis of the distinctive characteristics of human persons cannot be attributed to (or reduced to) specific physical structures or physiological functions per se; rather they are emergent from patterns of interaction between various systems and subsystems, particularly those within the cerebral cortex of the brain. So the emergence from connectivity hypothesis includes the emergence of high-level causal properties of the whole through dynamic self-organization (i.e. when pushed far from equilibrium by environmental pressures, large interactive aggregates self-organize into larger patterns that are constituted by relational constraints between elements). The characteristics of dynamic system help us to understand the formation of personhood. The dynamic system, the self-organization of each human brain, is both constrained and opened to potentialities by its history of interactivity and self-organization. The second aspect Brown and Lynn discuss with regard to their hypothesis is disorder of the corpus callosum, and autism. Both are to be understood against the background of connectivity with development of personhood. The first is the absence of interhemispheric connectivity. In autism the pattern of connectivity is one of overgrowth during infancy, followed by a disruption in the maturational processes of differentiation. The authors also bring to our notice, when speaking about connectivity in hi. mans and primate brains, that humans do not have larger brains but relatively larger cerebral cortices, as a result of increased white matter. In discussing personhood the existence of Von Economo neurons is also important.
These neurons are relatively exclusive to humans (Nimchinsky et al., 1999).
They are few in new born babies but by the age of four they are as numerous as in adults. So the difference between human cerebral cortex and that of other primates appears to be due to differences in the quantity and pattering of neuronal connectivity - both within and between the cerebral hemispheres. So at least in part the emergence of uniquely human intelligence and personhood depends on unique patterns of interconnections over white-matter axonal pathways. In the final analysis, the authors say, clinical neuropsychological syndromes together with dynamic system and network theories provide support for the hypothesis that the emergence of higher cognitive capacities in humankind is related at least to the pattern of connectivity present within the cerebral cortex of the brain. They conclude that precisely what emerges is going to a product of the patterns of organization that come to exist in the system.

Adam Zeman is professor of cognitive and behavioral neurology at the university of Exeter medical school. His clinical research focus is on the neurology of cognition, including neurological disorders of sleep. In his presentation on the 'origins of subjectivity', he presents several forms of subjectivity that emerged over the course of biological evolution, which include sensory-motor responses (the process of being acted on, and acting in response, is the foundation of subjectivity in its most basic form), the capacity for conscious perceptual experiences, the capacity to recognize our own bodies, the capacity to think about our own and other's minds, and the capacity for mental time travel. 

In analyzing the biological basis of subjectivity, Zeman seeks to explain its nature, function and origin. With regard to the origin, he says it is a natural process. In his analysis of subjectivity he also answers common objections like the belief that the brain is robotic, and the view that biology and culture belong to separate, incompatible realms.
Authors who have worked in this field are: Panksepp and Northoff (2009), who discussed the 'proto-self in some detail, emphasizing the connection between conscious processes and the biology of the self; Critchley and Harrison (2013), who offer insights into the bodily self in their work on the insular cortex and its connections; and Stoerig and Cowey (1997), who explains by the example of 'blindsight' the contrast between 'knowing' and 'knowing that one knows'. It was in monkeys that the phenomenon of blindsight was first explored (Stogis and Covey 1995). The pioneer of blindsight, Lary Weiskrant 11997, in the discussion on the position wherein the brain makes the transition from 'knowing' to 'knowing that we know', suggests that it must involve the 'frontolimbic system'. There we other who made proposals like 'a global neuronal workspace' by activation or sensory processing via feedback connections, synchronizations and thr  activation of associated neuronal activity. When he analyses the origin of consciousness, Dehaene is concerned with the mode of information-processing involved in consciousness which includes perceptual knowledge of the world, while others like Panksepp and Northoff emphasize 'self-centered' affective-motivational processes, in the simple forms of feeling, as being at the root of consciousness. Zeman concludes that in simple forms of consciousness, 'knowing' and 'feeling' are inseparable.

With regard to the capacity to recognize our own bodies as the process of subjectivity, Zeman begins with the study on chimpanzees which use a mirror to examine otherwise invisible parts of their own bodies (Gallup1970). Studies show that human children begin to recognize themselves in mirrors at around eighteen months - the age at which they begin to use the first-person pronoun - and these 'mirror tests' have also been performed on gorillas and dolphins to demonstrate that the body they see is their own (Reiss & Marino 2001).

With regard to the capacity to think about our own and others minds, brain imaging techniques have shed some light on the neural basis for this ability which the author refers to as 'theory of mind'. The concept of mind has a fascinating tendency to appropriate biological qualities such as immateriality and immortality.

The capacity for mental time travel to liberate us from the here and now is crucial to our self-knowledge. It creates an extended self, different from the 'core self. It expands our subjectivity to the fourth dimension.
Tulving has referred to it in an influential set of distinctions as 'autonoetic awareness' (Tulving 1985). The author suggests that our knowledge of our own bodies, our understanding of the workings of the minds of others, our recollections of the past and our models of the future, all surely make a promising start toward an explanation of the occurrences and qualities of consciousness. In his analysis the author also proposes that human subiectivity is a layered phenomenon using knowledge broadly to encompass all the ways of apprehending the world.

Timothy O'Connor's article, The emergence of personhood: reflections on The Game of Life, is based on John Conway's cellular automaton The Game of life, and simple variations on it. Human beings are the most profound point of convergence of the world's basic forms of complexity. A key question raised by the author in this essay is whether these and other remarkable abilities and tendencies signal a discontinuity in the evolution. ay process that gives rise to personhood and if so, to what extent and in what form. He analyses this question from the perspective of abstract philosophical lenses of a pair of concepts of emergence. The author makes a distinnction between weak and strong emergence. Weak emergence assumes strict continuity at the fundamental physical level. The author notes some opinions that strong emergence, while possible, is inherently improbable, given the methods of science and especially the advances of physical and biological science from the beginning of twentieth century (Mclaughlin 1992). O'Connor tries to challenge these views, firstly historically. He says that from the mid nineteenth century to the early twentieth there was a robust scientific philosophical tradition in chemistry and biology, that involved commitment to something like strong emergence. But it was designated as a failure by a raft of evidence in twentieth century science which showed that lower level processes continuously and directly impinge on and partly regulate those at higher levels. But the author strongly argues that the capacities associated with human and other animal conscious awareness, and with the enhanced conscious feature of subjectivity are not only weakly but also strongly emergent. So O'Connor scrutinizes the various uses of emergence by analyzing their commonalities and their differences in usage by various scientists.

Section three

Justin Barrett, a specialist in the cognitive study of religion, and his student Mathew Jarvinen, state that the cognitive equipment that gives rise to religious expression is presumed to have evolved under selection pressures unrelated to religion or religious entities. They also refer in their chapter to the imago Dei, a key concept for theologians with the assumptions that humans and no other animals are imago Dei.

Vladimir Lossky notes that the biblical narrative of imago Dei points to no specific human capacities as characteristic, rather it views representing God as a product of our unified wholeness. "If the image is identified with uniqueness, as the first chapter of Genesis maintains, then all attempts to ground uniqueness in some quality to be found only in humans will sooner or later fail, (Reinders 2008, 238). He says that human uniqueness can be adequately understood only by relationality. Of course there are relational impairments in humans; in particular individuals with conditions such as autism or agenesis of the corpus collosum often have marked relational impairments. Limiting imago Dei to relationality still fails to include such individuals. According to Reinders, relationality is not the inner human capacity in itself, rather it is communion with God as modeled in the Trinity (p. 165). According to him such Christian anthropology maintains sufficient universality necessary to characterize imago Dei. Others who write in these terms are: F. Leron Shults, who chronicles how such a focus on relationality has emerged across disciplines (Shults 2003); Stanley Grenz, who grounded this relational emphasis within Trinitarian perspectives (Grenz 2001,9); and Jack Balswick, Pamela King & Kevin Reimer who ollow Karl Barth in regarding imago Dei as a relational concept.
Barth and Martin Buber championed the concept of the I-Thou relationship;
Thiselton regards the relational capacity as the most promising way that allows us to represent God on earth; Wolterstorff interprets imago Dei from a fundamental human nature rather than any actualized capacities. Alasdair Macintyre, recognizing human's relational nature, expands the concept of disability beyond the individual to include the community in which they belong. He says communities can serve to fill in the gaps where individuals lack certain capacities of imago De, opening up a richer embodiment of imago Dei through relational interaction. He also brings out the Higher Order Theory of Mind as a capacity that makes possible a qualitatively different kind of interpersonal relationship. He says that this capacity serves as the lynchpin for not just a new type of sociality, morality, and even symbolic communication but also a new type of religious thought and experience markedly different from that of ancestral species which did not have this capacity. This incremental change in Theory of Mind capacity could have been the key for the emergence of a different being capable of a personal but shared relationship with the Divine (p. 181). With the Higher Order Theory of mind two individuals can share an interpersonal relationship with the same God. The author concludes by saying that the development of HO-ToM could be the central mechanism that made possible the development of the kind of love and communion, both with God and with others, that justify our role as bearers of imago Dei.

Theologian and Hermeneutics scholar Anthony Thiselton focuses on the idea of imago Dei. He focuses on three key aspects of what it means to be made in the image of God namely relationality, representation and vocation. He does this in the light of some of the contributions from the scientists.

Systematic theologian Allan Torrance argues from the perspective of Christian theism for an open-minded understanding of personhood. He says this approach points us away from the desperate search for a quantum leap in the scientific emergence of personhood. He says a full-orbed understanding of what it is to be a human person requires the integration and indeed correlation of insights of disparate disciplines. Philosophical and scientific reductionism may be evident in various ways, as especially pointed out by Nancy Cartwright in her book The Dappled World (1999), which repudiated the fundamentalist assumption that 'all facts must belong to one grand scheme'. She referred to this position as 'nomological monism' (1999: 32-33).

This description is first used in Donald Davidson's 1970 article Mental events where mental entities were identical with physical entities and subject to strict correlating laws. Torrance says this is the position one would assume must result from the scientific materialism associated variously with Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins. These views contrast with the opposite one, known as 'anomalous dualism', which holds that there are no laws correlating mental and physical reality. Nancy Cartwright challenges the nomological monism that derives from reductionist, materialist ac-counts. She says in her book that the dappled world of our experience is characterized by diverse forms of causal agency and interaction between causal agents at a host of different levels.

Torrance brings out the following evaluation of the term person. An approach to the history of emergence of this conception suggests that we are left with two options with the use of the term 'person'. The first is to elevate human beings above the rest of the animal kingdom: this would generate two inclinations; either to endorse a particular capacity (such as reason, language, the moral sense, or conscience, altruism, creativity, heuristic problem solving, the sense of self, or a capacity for 'transcendence'), or to seek to safeguard the relevant capacity or capability by suggesting that it denotes a difference not of degree but of kind, thereby setting human beings apart from the rest of the animal kingdom and constituting warrant for the exclusive attribution of the term 'person' (p.212). Such an approach inevitably prompts the question whether it is appropriate to use the term 'person' of human animals with mental disabilities, who may not exhibit the relevant abilities. Thirdly, given that the evolutionary process is ongoing, certain nonhuman animals would be likely to evolve and even overtake the capacities of Homo Sapiens. This qualitative difference might be temporary and others among the higher apes could experience evolutionary 'quantum leaps'. This would mean that the concept of the person has no ultimate or ontological significance. The second approach to the person does perceive the concept of the person as possessing ontological significance. This approach does not point to some capacity that elevates the human, but the category of the personal is perceived as pointing to the grounds of and also the ultimate purpose of reality per se (p.213). It is this kind of approach that most Christian theology would endorse. That is, the person is conceived theologically in the terms that a person is created for relationship and then constituted as such in communion with God and the other (A. C Thiselton's chapter in the present volume). So the categories of covenant, communion and participation explain the concept of person better than the western individualistic categories that conceive the self as self-contained. Theologically speaking, human creatures remain on the way' to becoming 'persons' in truth, to becoming the new humanity. Therefore personhood is fully achieved or realized as and when God's creative, reconciling and recreative purposes are complete, when God's interpersonal 'kingdom' is fully actualIzed. Till then personhood is defined not by any kind of generic, empirical investigation of human creaturehood but in and through the presentation of that unique form of communion with God and with his fellow creatures that is manifest in the person of the incarnate Son. He quotes from the work of John Macmurray, Persons in Relation, that no form of empirical science that treats human animals as 'objects' of study is going to lead to a definition of what it is to be a 'person'. It is because the perception of the 'personal' is a primordial perception that is grounded in the subjective recognition of the 'thou'. So, as a conclusion, if we are looking for a 'quantum leap' in the emergence of personhood, the 'nodal point' would not be the acquisition by Homo Sapiens of some capacity but God's bringing human animals into a specific kind of I-Thou relationship. It is in the context of this theological history that the term 'person' finds its warrant and its use becomes appropriate. The roots of the concept of the 'personal' lie within the Judeo-Christian tradition, for which personal existence needs to be understood in the light of establishing a relationship with the human animal.
This happened in the person of Jesus Christ.

To conclude this book in the afterword, Malcolm Jeeves reaffirms from Leon Turner (2011, 135) the necessity of listening to secular accounts of personhood in theological anthropology to avoid theoretical isolation from a wider academic world. Here we have diversity of opinions and debate continuing as more data accumulate and theories are refined or dis-carded. Jeeves tries to identify shared assumptions and common themes in the diverse disciplinary approaches taken in the book. Diversity of opinions may help toward a profound awareness of the complexity of issues and searching not for unity but concordance.

I would strongly recommend this book in the context of so much discussion about what really makes us persons. There is an emerging tendency among some philosophers and those involved in animal welfare that certain animals should also granted personhood. The idea of extending personhood to all animals has the support of legal scholars such as Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe of Harvard law school and on May 9th2008, Columbia university press published 'animals as persons: essays on the abolition of animal exploitation', by prof. Gary L. Francione of Rutgers University. There are several other likely categories of beings where personhood is at issue.
Here we see the importance of a comprehensive vision like the work of Malcon Jeeves, as an aid to our scientific and theological discussions.

Naveen George
Antonianum University

 Reprinted from ESSSAT News and Reviews, n. 26:2 (June 2016), pp. 19-27.