Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Nonreductionism and the Soul: Using Science and Theology to Redefine the Human Being

Andrew P. Malionek.

Philosophers and theologians constantly disagree with how to answer the question, “What is a human being?” Now, cognitive scientists say it is their turn dismissing a belief in the soul and its causal properties as religious fiction. Physicalism and reductionism is the new religion enabling determinism to supplant the authoritative role of the soul. Such a perspective strips free will, moral responsibility and self-identity from the individual leaving an unsettling notion that all we are is the result of neurobiological processes. But something more substantial exists behind the “I” lending significance to our mental and physical behavior. In this paper, I will argue against the inadequacies of a reductionist and determinist definition of a human being drawing extensively from the research of Nancey Murphy whose work in cognitive theology has bridged a gap linking science and theology together in the quest for self-knowledge. Murphy introduces nonreductionism as a practical and a logical way to define the human being. She promotes the notion of downward causation as an explanation for our actions, thoughts, behaviors, et cetera, since subatomic particles are not the only causes of activity. Her approach uses the philosophical concepts of supervenience, subvenience, and emergence to restore the “self” or “soul” to its causal role and reestablishes responsibility in the human being. In the conclusion, a new definition of a human being will be given in light of nonreductionism and its union of scientific and theological dialogue supporting the emergent soul and its causal properties.


Andrew P. Malionek  (United States)
PhD Student at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland
Theology teacher in Braintree, Massachusetts

I am a doctoral student at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. My research concerns Bernard Lonergan's Cognitive Method and its critique of Physicalism. I have taught both theology and philosophy at the high school, college, and adult levels. Presently, I am teaching theology at a high school in Braintree, Massachusetts. My goal is to teach theology/philosophy at the collegiate level. I received a master's degree in Philosophy from Boston College and studied at Oxford University (Keble College).

  • Nonreductive Physicalism
  • Reductionism
  • Determinism
  • Soul
  • Emergent properties
Person as Subject
  • Murphy, Nancey

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)