Philosophy of mind and human nature

In Brian Davies & Eleonore Stump (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas. Oxford University Press (2011)
Abstract
A theory of human nature must consider from the start whether it sees human beings in fundamentally biological terms, as animals like other animals, or else in fundamentally supernatural terms, as creatures of God who are like God in some special way, and so importantly unlike other animals. Many of the perennial philosophical disputes have proved so intractable in part because their adherents divide along these lines. The friends of materialism, seeing human beings as just a particularly complex example of the sort of complex organic structure found everywhere on Earth, suppose that we are ultimately constituted out of just the same material from which squirrels and rabbits are made. The friends of dualism, instead, think that such a story can hardly do justice to what is special about human nature. Likewise, the friends of a libertarian, robustly non-deterministic conception of free will see something special in human spontaneity and moral responsibility. To their opponents, human beings operate on the same principles, albeit more complex, as do squid and plankton. These and other such disputes need not divide along religious lines. One may oppose naturalism without embracing a supernatural theistic perspective; one might, for instance, think it simply a matter of fact that human beings are fundamentally unlike other biological organisms, but yet not suppose we are made that way by any higher power. Conversely, the theist may think it part of the divine plan to have made human beings as nothing more than the most complex of biological organisms, constituted out of the same stuff and constrained by the same laws. So although the choice I have described between two perspectives –
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