A Soul in Space and Time: What Kind of Unique Self?
The soul absent from philosophy
Not many people would disagree with the remark that the term ‘soul’ is not often used in philosophical circles or heard in philosophical discussions nowadays. Its use is also quite limited in psychology, which, despite the etymology of its name has now little to do with an anatomy of the human psyche.1 They both, however, concern themselves with questions concerning the human self, personhood and identity. So most contemporary perspectives on self and identity exclude reference to the ‘soul’ which, to all intents and purposes, they view as a conceptual oddity.
For its part, philosophy discusses such questions in the framework of its sub-field philosophy of mind. In its broad outline the latter is demarcated from other disciplines by questions concerning the nature of the mental, its connection to the physical, consciousness, intentionality, and personal identity. Quite often, it addresses important questions generated by developments in artificial intelligence. In these contexts, the pair of concepts ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ constitutes the actual focus of investigation. Given this, an inquiry into human individuality, into ‘what makes me me’ is routinely shaped by investigations pertaining to the way the mental and the physical interact. As a consequence, questions as to what makes one an individual human being are commonly treated as if all they were solely about the constitution and functions of the human mind. This being the case, it is very difficult to introduce questions about human individuality and identity which go beyond the way(s) in which our mind relates to our brain.
What is worth noticing at this point, however, is that the picture just sketched pervades both sides of the materialist/dualist divide. Dualists of a largely past era and the currently dominant materialist/physicalist paradigm are united in thinking about the mind in similar ways, despite their irreconcilable views as to whether the mental is independent of, connected with, or reducible to the physical: they view it as a reality behind the outward human expression and responses, a kind of explanatory hypothesis which can account for why mental beings behave they way they do; definitely a reality at least one level behind what is open to view in human life and interaction. 2 This way of looking at things makes it easier to talk about the mind as conceptually independent from the physical, not only in the case of Cartesian dualists but even in the philosophical perspective of hard bitten materialists. Within the non dualist camp the latter tendency is more obvious among the advocates of functionalism and the causal theory of mental states such as Hilary Putnam. The claim is that the mind is no more than a causal intermediary between stimuli and behavioral responses which may conceivably be ‘realized’ in any material medium (in Swiss cheese, to use Putnam’s example), 3 or even in an immaterial one such as a Cartesian soul, (again Putnam’s example).4 A radical conceptual separation of the human mind from the human body and from whatever the latter brings along with it ensues.
This seems to enhance the similarity with the dualists’ attitude concerning the issue. Both generic camps attempt to pinpoint what is most characteristically human by accepting and even presupposing that their object of inquiry is a distinct locus, as it were. A distinct locus, in the sense of a reality whose basic structure does not have to be embedded in the human body and /or a social context. Paradoxically, both materialists and dualists fail to see that the notion of a human body is something very different from the notion of a physical stuff or a physical part of us. They invariably see the human body as a theater stage on which the drama of mental life to unfold. 5
If things are as described above, the general framework within which the concept of the soul may be discussed seems quite narrow. Moreover, it seems that, given the main options that it offers (dualism versus various forms of materialism), it can only allow a very limited array of possible answers. These answers can be roughly classified into two types: a) for materialism (its particular versions making no real difference here) there is no such reality as the ‘soul’. Materialists do not include the term ‘soul’ in their ontological vocabulary. They can dismiss it as a figure of speech, part of folk psychology, but in any case their silence about the ‘soul’ speaks louder than words. b) Dualism, on the other hand, emphasizes that the ‘soul’ is an irreducible, substantial part of our ontology and the basis of legitimacy for claims of human uniqueness. 6
On the basis of this divide, one can directly conclude that the (generally) speaking materialist camp does not accomodate the concept of ‘soul’. The most obvious reason for this is materialism’s fundamental association with ontological reductionism. The way materialism sees it, an ultimate pronouncement as to what ‘really is the case’, ‘the fact of the matter’, has to rest with the hard sciences. Science, mostly neurophysiology, can offer an account of ‘the soul’ which is reductionist, in the sense of its being cast in terms of biophysical processes. This may seem to be a legitimate move, however, it preserves precious little of what the ‘soul’ is associated with, in non scientific and non philosophical contexts. Given all this, it is not hard to see why those who may consider the near total eclipse of the soul from the contemporary agenda of philosophy as an impoverishment cannot warm up to materialism. Dualism appears to them as the only possible path to take.
This should make it clear why –with rare exceptions- the ‘soul’ is only mentioned in theological discussions with overtly dualistic committments. The tight interconnection of the concept of the soul and religious claims comes as continuation of a long tradition at least in the Western Christian intellectual milieu. At this juncture, two main points can be introduced: a) if it is accepted that the concept of the soul available today has been shaped within a religious tradition, can it gain autonomy from the religious field and establish itself as part of a secular ontology, as well? In plain words, can the concept of the soul have something to say to a non-religiously committed person? b) given the origins of the ‘soul’, substance dualism is unquestioningly considered an absolute presupposition of central religious claims. These involve claims to human uniqueness among other living beings, self awareness, self reflection, moral conscience, the spiritual aspect of human beings, as well as the eschatological promise of eternal life after one’s physical death.
Is such a presupposition so obviously valid, however? Does the dualistic understanding of what the ‘soul’ is and of what we may associate it with offer the best support a religious point of view can get? If the answer to this question is in the affirmative, then it seems both that one cannot be a religious believer without committing himself or herself to substance dualism, and, that the concept of the soul cannot break free from religion and enter into the conceptual apparatus of standard, non-religiously colored ontology. In order to address the two questions above, one has to examine how the (dualistic) concept of the soul we are familiar with -at least in the Western world- was formed.
Augustine’s introspective turn
An exploration of the concept of the soul in its historical dimension cannot ignore St. Augustine. One of Western Christianity’s greatest figures, Augustine of Hippo is a thinker historically placed after Plato and before Descartes. As contemporary scholarship points out , Augustine accepts Plato’s dichotomy between body (σώμα) and soul (ψυχή) 7 and reworks it in a way which takes him to a proto-Cartesian notion of the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer’. The term ‘proto-Cartesian’ we owe to Charles Taylor’s very interesting account of Augustine in his Sources of the Self: the Making of Modern Identity. According to Taylor, Augustine’s contribution lies primarily in the emergence of what Taylor calls ‘radical reflexivity’ or ‘the first person point of view’. 8 To him this is a fundamental difference between Augustine and Plato’s psychology as put forward in Republic.
In the Republic, Plato had presented a concept of the soul focused on reason: the soul, with its rational part is the vehicle through which one can aspire to a vision of the Form of the Good. To reach the Good, the rational soul must line up with the rational order of the world which the Good maintains. So the task of the soul is to appropriate the rational world order in an arduous ascent to the Good. According to the idea of the soul’s prenatal existence in the realm of the forms, the soul has been a part of the rational order and so it can be raised to it anew. The rationality of his soul can raise man to the rationality of the universe. As Taylor rightly discerns, rationality for Plato involves seeking the ‘real reality’ (όντως όν), which is to be found in the world of the forms and not within oneself. The soul certainly stands at the center of Plato’s picture for he thinks that looking after one’s soul is a presupposition of knowledge.
Preoccupation with the soul, however, is not construed by Plato as introspective awareness of a pure self. It is rather seen as an effort to keep the right balance between its rational and non rational parts, to lead a certain kind of life and to be a certain type of person: a person who aspires to excellence (αρετή), or as İlham Dilman beautifully shows in his book on Plato’s Phaedo, to a philosophical life. 9
The introspective stance is a novelty meant to come with Augustine. As a Christian, Augustine cannot combine the idea of a God-Creator with talk of the soul pre-existing in a suprasensible world before birth. Thus he locates the Platonic forms into the divine mind so that the truth of everything in the world springs from God’s mind. The peak of rationality is not to be found in an objective, even if ideal world, but in the divine mind itself. Thus, in order to apprehend the rational order of things, one has to come closer to God and be illuminated by the divine light. Surprisingly, though, this requires not an orientation upwards but inwards.
‘Noli foras ire, in te ipsum redi; In interiore homine habitat veritas’.10
For Augustine, turning oneself towards one’s soul reveals God’s pure presence to one. Being aware of one’s soul, in opposition to everything external (the body as well) will trigger off an awareness of a reality higher than the soul by which the soul was created. In one’s soul one encounters the eternal truths of reason and is illuminated by the Christ as the interior teacher.11 In Taylor’s own words
Augustine’s proof of God is a proof from ‘the first person experience of knowing and reasoning… So I recognize that this activity [thinking] which is mine is grounded on and presupposes something higher than I, something which I should look up to and revere. By going inward, I am drawn upward’. 12
Scholars like C. Taylor and E. Gilson see Augustine’s introspective turn as a move within the first-person perspective. What is meant by this term -not Augustine’s own, for sure- is a framework which asserts the centrality of introspective awareness. According to this view, introspection can offer a ‘direct perception’ of oneself experiencing or thinking. The notion of ‘directness’ involved implies that nothing coming from the exterior senses interferes in the process of self-cognition, which is considered to be a ‘pure’ act of thought. Juxtaposed to this is the third person point of view.
The third person experience is contrasted to the first person one and considered indirect since it involves factual and objective claims about something other than oneself. On this picture, for example, the first person proposition ‘I am thinking’ or ‘I am distressed’ are direct and certain whereas the third person one ‘he is thinking’ and ‘he is in distress’ are not. There is a firm asymmetry between the way I have access to my own sensation or thinking and the way I do to someone else’s. Augustine’s endeavor finds itself within the first-person perspective for he draws heavily on first person experience in introducing (as quoted before) the notion of the inner man (homo interior). I think and I perceive myself thinking: thus I become aware of my own ‘inner self’. I cannot have such awareness in somebody else’s case. In contemporary jargon, this can be expressed by saying that we can only infer that somebody else thinks from expressions on his face, and other symptoms in his behavior. 13
Taylor suggests that Augustine models the inner space of the soul and its activities upon the image of the Christian Trinity. 14 According to this, Augustine uses two triads of concepts: mind, knowledge and love (mens, notitia, amor) and memory, intelligence, will (memoria, intelligentia, voluptas) in order to describe the trinitarian process of moving from the outside to the inside and from there towards God.15 An important point to be stressed here, however, is that this postulation of an inner self and the subsequent appeal to introspection is inextricably linked with central aspects of Christianity, one of which is the attempt to prove God’s existence.
In his book on Augustine , Etienne Gilson claims that
… on ne saurait distinguer chez saint Augustin le problËme de l’existence de Dieu du problËme de la connaissance; c’est une seule et mÍme question de savoir comment nous concÈvons la veritÈ et de connaÓtre l’existence de la veritÈ, aussi la preuve s’accomplit-elle tout entiËre ‡ l’intÈrieur de la pensÈe, sans que la consideration de “l’ordre sensible doive obligatoirement intervenir. 16
The ‘inner’ [realm] of thought which Gilson emphasizes is important for understanding the nature of Augustine’s turn inwards. The intÈrieur is the space where truth is to be sought and God to be discovered as its source and guarantor. In it one opens up to the intimacy of his own self-presence and at the same time to a vision of God. Then the soul can get to know the world through subsuming sensible particulars under the forms in God’s archetypal intellect. For Gilson, …
nous venons de voir que le chÈmin qui va des corps ‡ la veritÈ divine passe par la pansÈe; alors mÍme qu’elle part du monde extÈrieur, l’ itinÈraire normal d’une preuve augustinienne va donc du monde ‡ l’ ‚me et de l’‚me ‡ Dieu. 17
From all of the above, it becomes apparent that Augustine conceives the soul from the reflexive perspective, a perspective, which ‘builds’ the world from a first person point of view. One could perhaps talk about an ‘autonomous self’ in connection to Augustine, albeit to do so with a caveat: the soul that Augustine raises to the status of an autonomous pure self is autonomous in the sense of its total detachment from the world of the ‘exterior senses’, from the ‘exterior man.’ The latter Augustine does not tire of unfavorably comparing to the ‘inner man’ that he considers as the abode of higher reason.
The soul is not autonomous as far as its relation to God is concerned. It depends on God and without God it does not make sense to talk of a soul and its functions. The Augustian soul only has a place in a universe created and held together by God. To say the least, only a believer who affirms God’s existence can then discover and get to know his own soul and God therein. God enters Augustine’s picture before the individual soul. However, we can talk about an autonomous soul or self (or at least of an augury of what will become clearly so in Descartes ) in the sense that Augustine’s soul is a soul shaped by the first person point of view. It does not begin to know the world around it until after it achieves its mystical union with itself and through this with God. This union, however, takes place outside the life of a human community, and so outside language and culture. One is said to be illuminated by the divine light and Christ as the Interior Teacher 18 through pure, diaphanous introspection. An awareness of ourselves rendered possible through our ‘discovery’ of God and free from cultural and linguistic specifications, is a philosophical perspective very similar to Cartesian individualism.
More importantly for the present discussion, Augustine’s ‘discovery of the soul’ constitues part of a long effort to prove the existence of God. As Gilson points out,
… Aucune partie de la philosophie augustinienne n’Èchappe donc au Credo ut intelligam, pas mÍme la preuve de l’existence de Dieu. 19
The postulation of an immaterial pure soul is necessary for proving God’s existence, and at the same time, belief in God is the starting point for coming to know one’s soul. In this sense, Augustine’s effort to prove the existence of God through the ‘discovery’ of the inner self has been formative of a very influential theological tradition.This tradition emphasizes the existence of the soul as the essence of a person, his or her divine core, in juxtaposition to the body and the worldly affiliations and attachments which the body renders possible. It is, as Taylor has it, the articulation of a Proto-Cogito thirteen centuries before Descartes, for it endorses and promotes a strict body-soul dualism. In this point of view, God’s existence goes hand in hand with the immaterial and immortal soul’s existence.
The body-soul dichotomy was to take its definite and classic form through Descartes’ project of methodological doubt. Since his attempt to overcome solipsism and reach the Archimedean point of certainty is very well known, it does not have to be reiterated here. It is rather better to highlight two points, the first of which is also familiar: Descartes’ effort to reach a first point of certainty can only come about through the so called three deductions: from awareness of myself as a thinking being, I deduce the existence of my mind, from that the existence of God and then, from it, the existence of the physical world.
This seems to be very similar to the way Augustine’s introspection intertwines knowledge of the self, knowledge of God, and knowledge of the world. Taylor’s comment to the effect that in the Augustinian picture ‘By going inward, I am drawn upward’ is quite apposite in Descartes’s case as well. Moreover, just like in Augustine’s case, the all-important factor is again God. If Augustine’s proof of God does not itself escape the Credo ut intelligam as Gilson has been above quoted saying, neither does Descartes’ final certainty can separate itself from the presupposition of veracitas Dei. If God’s existence as an omnibenevolent being is not accepted, Descartes’ deduction of the physical world cannot leave the ground. Descartes’ understanding of the mind/soul as an immaterial substance is offered through an act of immediate self-awareness, epitomized in the Cogito. Nevertheless, it is very important to notice that my certainty that I am a thinking thing does not by itself succeed in keeping the evil demon at bay. If there is no truth loving God, the doubt as to whether I may just be playing at the hands of the evil deceiver, cannot go away. It is thus reasonable to conclude that for Descartes the postulation of the mind/soul as res cogitants, an immaterial mental substance, is inseparable from his Christian faith.
The second point which demands attention is the role of language within Descartes’ picture of methodological doubt, and the solipsism which ensues. Descartes describes his condition before being paralyzed by doubt in the following way:
I considered myself, firstly, as having a face, hands, arms, and the whole machine made up of flesh and bones, such as it appears in a corpse and which I designated by the name of body. I thought, furthermore, that I ate, walked, had feelings and thought, and I referred all these actions to the soul; but I did not stop to consider what this soul was, or at least, if I did, I imagined it was something extremely rare and subtle, like a wind, flame or vapour, which permeated and spread through my most substantial parts. 20
A little later, Descartes says that such functions of the soul as eating and walking cannot be retained when he assumes that he has no body. There is one of them, however, which, as he claims, can continue even under the assumption that he is a bodiless being:
… Another attribute is thinking, and I here discover an attribute which does belong to me; this alone cannot be detached from me. I am, I exist: this is certain; but for how long? For as long as I think, for it might perhaps happen, if I ceased to think, that I would at the same time cease to be or to exist. I now admit nothing which is not necessarily true: I am therefore, precisely speaking, only a thing which thinks, that is to say, a mind, understanding, or reason… 21
For Descartes an immediate introspective awareness of himself as a thinking substance marks the way out of the skeptical crisis. Serious epistemological questions arise at this point, though. This is, certainly, nothing new to say. Nevertheless, it is worth exploring a certain dimension of Descartes’ argument which has not attracted as much attention as other parts of his Cogito project: Descartes’ presuppositions concerning language and the nature of the language he uses while fighting the evil demon.
He certainly thinks of himself, of what he calls the ‘I’as identical with his mind whereas his body is excluded from his picture of himself. As clear from the quotation above, he cannot see how bodily attributes could possibly be ascribed to his most essential self. However, he has thoughts about his own body and he includes terms relating to bodily characteristics into the language that he shares with himself in introspection. He does not doubt the meaning of such words, or his own understanding of them, or his remembering them correctly, when nobody can be around to correct him if he makes a mistake. Is this a legitimate move though? Descartes does not see any problem here, but it is not a question that allows for easy dismissal. Certainly Descartes’ problem is not limited to words referring to the body and bodily characteristics. The issue is just more pointed when it comes to such terms, but extends far beyond them.
Essential to Descartes’ picture is the idea that language can get its ‘life’ through introspecive reference to inner experience without any connection to bodily elements or to any non-mental, tangible surroundings. His disembodied mind ‘speaks’ the same language as people around Descartes used to speak before radical skepticism swept their existence away. While people and any tangible social life have been ex hypothesi removed from the picture, the language which emerged in the context of their life together did not follow them, but remains as an ethereal, pure language of thought going on in Descartes’ inner self.
A lot of criticism has been levelled at Descartes for the easiness with which he considers his mind a thing (res) which thinks; not so much has taken issue with what kind of sense the standard human language used by people in time and space can have in the pure context of a solitary mind, as Descartes has it. For, after all, ‘thinking’ and ‘thing’ are words in a language of embodied beings, a language used in the context of human life. Against such a background their meaning is clear. But is this a meaningful possibility when bodily nature and the communicability it engenders are by definition ruled out? Descartes attempts to re-build the world that his methodological doubt has shattered, by using all the conceptual apparatus of the standard language in a radically different ‘context’ (if con-text at all): that of a mind potentially deceived by the evil demon. Descartes may respond to such a challenge by saying that once he becomes certain about his mind, the validity of its contents is guaranteed by the Veracitas Dei, the omnibenevolent and truth loving God. Still one can press the question further as to where Descartes gets himself the concept and understanding of God from. After all, he may be thinking that he thinks of God, and be mistaken in such a thought. Ex hypothesi there isn’t anyone near him to help him realize and rectify a possible mistake. So if there can be no independent judgement as to whether an immaterial mind’s thoughts are indeed about God or not, it makes little sense to assume that such a concept –our standard concept of God which we all understand in ordinary circumstances- can be presupposed there. Descartes’s view holds fast to the idea that it is possible to postulate a mind independently of any tangible (= non-mental) surroundings whatsoever, as well as to avail oneself of language by reference to such a mind’s contents.
Such a tendency to promote the logical priority of a disembodied mind, is evident in central aspects of Cartesian thought. Towards the end of the Second Meditation, after he presents the celebrated wax example, Descartes expresses the view that ordinary language is misleading. The pasage runs as follows:
However, I am greatly astonished when I consider the weakness of my mind, and its proneness to error. For although, without speaking, I consider all this in my own mind, yet words stop me, and I am almost led into error by the terms of ordinary language. For we say we see the same wax if it is put before us, and not that we judge it to be the same, because it has the same colour and shape: whence I would almost conclude that one knows the wax by the eyesight, and not by the intuition of the mind alone. If I chance to look out of a window on to men passing in the street, I do not fail to say, on seeing them, that I see men, just as I see the wax; and yet, what do I see from this window, other than hats and cloaks, which can cover ghosts or dummies who move only by means of springs? But I judge them to be really men, and thus I understand, by the sole power of judgement which resides in my mind, what I believed I saw with my eyes.22
This passage is quite well known for it introduces an important difficult for Cartesian epistemology: the so-called ‘problem of other minds’. Descartes maintains that human figures walking in the street, their movements and overall demeanor, cannot in themselves offer any certainty as regards their human character and qualities. For all we know they may not have a conscious life, they may be completely deprived of sensations, emotions, feelings and thoughts. According to this, only an act of judgement should decide that what I see in the street are people and not automata. I judge that they are men, he says, although they may well be ghosts or dummies. Looking at the figures in the street, and seeing that they are capable of moving naturally, still leaves plenty of room for doubt about their human status: they may in the end be mere automata activated like puppets. Implicit here is the idea that there is no logical connection between what one experiences ‘inside’ and one’s behavior ‘outside’. The term ‘men’ as opposed to ghosts or dummies is used to denote beings with sensations, emotions and thoughts, people just like I (i.e. Descartes himself) am.
Now given that Descartes considers his mind to be the core of his existence whereas the outward part of himself is just coincidental to who he is, it is reasonable to assume that when he talks about ‘men’ as opposed to automata he means beings who bear the kind of qualities that his mind does. This is why a judgement is needed: Descartes needs an argument in order to establish that the figures in the street have a mind and only on such a basis the term ‘man’ can then be predicated of them.
The argument from analogy, the seeds of which are introduced in the Second Meditation, was later put forward by J.S.Mill and is still a respectable tacit assumption in contemporary philosophy of mind. It attempts to establish the reality of other minds – the fact that the argument is about minds rather than human beings is itself a point of the utmost philosophical importance. It proposes a parallelism or comparison between them and my own case, my own mind. According to this, I infer that she has the same sensations, feelings and thoughts as I have, when I see her reacting in the same way that I react when I experience the same things internally.
In his Knowledge and Certainty, Norman Malcolm has argued quite convincingly that this approach is quite unfruitful. The argument is caught in the trap of the notion of similarity that it presupposes. The idea of sameness is crucial: if we assume that the figures in the street are beings similar enough to us, so that a level of mental complexity is to be inferred from their ‘external’ behavior, then this is to concede a major part of what we need to prove: that they are beings similar to us, human beings.23
If, on the other hand, no similarity of any kind between me and these other beings in the street is presupposed, then a potential conclusion to the effect that they do have feelings, sensations and thoughts, would not make anything clearer. For if such beings, who are presupposed to be crucially different from me, have feelings, sensations and thoughts, then we would not know what such concepts mean or amount to when applied to them. In any case they would have to be very different from the feelings, sensations and thoughts ascribed to beings of my kind. There is no way at all to grasp what it would mean to say that such beings have feelings or thoughts.
Since any internal, logical links between the outer and the inner have been ruled out, we regress to solipsism. This is how: if we take the first option the argument becomes redundant, and if the second, the argument fails. It is vital to notice, though, that in either case the argument collapses upon the concept of similarity which it presupposes. In the first case, other beings are considered as sufficiently similar on the basis of their similar bodily form, whereas in the second one, the denial of similarity is primarily a failure to acknowledge any importance to the similarity of their human form. So, in the first case the inclusion of physical, bodily similarity as a factor important for the course of the argument, makes the untenability of central dualist presuppositions apparent. In the second case, the denial that a being’s body and outward demeanor have any logical significance, prevents our applying terms to them; in this way the argument melts down to solipsism.
The problem with the argument from analogy
Substance dualism in its classical Cartesian form creates the problem of other minds. It is a problem constituted by an unhelpful contrast between the introspective awareness of myself as a conscious mental being and an inference concluding that other people are also conscious bearers of mental life, just like me. Is the ‘problem of other minds’ important for our understanding of the ‘soul’? In what follows an affirmative answer to this question will be attempted.
Descartes seeks certainty about the mental life of other beings, and more specifically of beings who ‘externally look human’, by way of effecting a transition from the way we ‘know’ ourselves to the way ‘we know’ others. Much like Augustine’s belief that ‘in interiore homine habitat veritas’ Descartes highlights the first person perspective as the venerated spring of all knowledge and certainty. Let us keep in mind however, that the first person perspective is a certainty about an immaterial substance, our mind or soul. It is not a perspective which establishes a certainty about an embodied subject, a fully blown human being the way we understand people to be when away from abstract speculation. In it the conceptual separation between a human being and his/her body goes hand in hand with a similar dichotomy between the bodies of others and their own self, their inner life, their mind or their soul. Just like I can conceive my mind/soul in complete independence from my body I can draw a wedge between what I see in other beings and their pututively hidden, invisible real self, their mind or soul. For Descartes it is conceivable that there may be no such thing behind these moving silhouettes clad in cloaks and hats that he vividly presents in the Second Mediation.
The crucial point here is that the same philosophical perspective which makes it so inexorably hard to escape skepticism about other people is also the one which which looks at the body as conceptually, and this is to be strongly emphasized: conceptually – contingentto who we essentially are. At the same time, the classical type of substance dualism which Descartes gave shape to, is still regarded as the only available option for those who wish to retain the concept of the soul and to consider the existence of the soul a fundamental reality of the human condition. If these two elements are combined, the conclusion follows that the philosophical point of view to which one may wish to take refuge from materialism’s refusal to acknowledge the soul, constitutes, at the same time, a constant source of skepticism as to whether other people are indeed mental beings, beings with a soul and not mere automata.
If one were to affirm his or her belif in the soul and adhere to substance dualism, s/he would be confronted with the following picture: he/she is a substance dualist because this philosophical position makes it possible to claim that humans are not only material realities, physical beings; they have a soul and this is what makes them so unique among all other living beings. Their having a soul is an explanatory ground of their ‘outer’ life, their behavior and overall demeanor, their being aware of themselves, reflecting upon themselves, being moral agents, commanding respect, or having a life with a spiritual dimension which goes above mundane concerns. For a dualist this is exactly what makes human beings human and constitutes the essential core of humanity. Paradoxically though, dualism cannot take it for granted that other people, apart from myself, do indeed have souls. It cannot, that is to say, philosophically sustain the ‘soul believer’s’ fundamental presupposition that humans around one are beings with a soul. It can take us only as far as inferring that it is rather likely for this material being who looks and acts like me to be a real being with a soul and not just a lump of moving matter. For dualism the ‘humanity’ of others, or, the fact that others have a soul, can never be proclaimed as a general philosophical certainty. It sees it as an empirical issue to be decided on a case to case basis: thus, I may be (more or less!) sure that my parents, or my meighbours or colleauges are not automata but the same cannot be assumed in all possible cases. Nevertheless, a suspicion is always at place about me making a mistake not only about the quality of other people’s experience: what they think, what they feel, what they intend, etc. No, a more radical doubt is always possible, it is, according to substance dualism, conceivable in all cases. There is no conceptual problem or inconsistence if I am to assume that all others are just automata, very sophisticated mechanisms, masterfully orchestrated and wonderfully deceptive. This senario must always be a valid one, if one is to follow the Cartesian presuppositions through.
Wittgenstein and the soul
In this way the following question can be raised: is there any philosophical reason for the belief that human beings have souls and that something of value is captured by the term ‘soul’? from now on this question will be addressed by drawing on the thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein.
On the face of it, Wittgenstein seems an unlikely name to bring in amidst an exploration of the soul. This is due to an unfortunate but still widespread misconception to the effect that he is a behaviorist in disguise24 or that he ‘destroys the subject’ and rejects the concept of the self. An examination of his few suggestive remarks in the Philosophical Investigations (PI) will attempt to show that Wittgenstein’s antithesis to dualism is a philosophical position very critical of central materialist assumptions as well. Also that a philosophical understanding of the soul would have a lot to benefit from Wittgenstein’s perspective on mental life.
An important part of the Philosophical Investigations consists of a series of arguments against the conceivability of a private language. A substantial presentation of this issue goes beyond the scope of this paper; it is worth, pointing however, that, on Wittgenstein’s view, a private language is a language whose terms describe one’s exclusive subjective experience and do not have any logical ties with the human body and its expressiveness. In this way (according to Wittgenstein) the idea of a private language involves very similar assumptions as the Cartesian project of a disembodied, unsocial mind. Descartes and the private language proponent share the following idea: that language can emerge and be perfectly meaningful in the thinking part of a being that does not have to be embodied and/or embedded in a community. Nevertheless, this being’s mental language can be understood by others if it is put into spoken or written words.
The analysis of a private language, the private language argument, as is known in the related bibliography, is mostly located in paragraphs between 243 and 315 of the PI. 25
In this context occur some of Wittgenstein’s remarks concerning the ‘soul’, as part of a conversation between Wittgenstein himself and an imaginary interlocutor who represents the dualist point of view. It can be argued that the reason for this is the following: Wittgenstein’s aim is to show that the postulation of a ‘pure’ self as an immaterial mental substance essentially requires and entails a private language as described above. He thus sets out to undermine the solipsist position by emphasizing the ways language depends on its being embedded in the life of embodied beings. In paragraph 281, the Cartesian interlocutor charges Wittgenstein with crypto-behaviorism:
… but doesn’t what you say come to this: that there is no pain, for example, without pain-behaviour ?
to which Wittgenstein retorts:
…It comes to this: only of a living human being and what resembles (behaves like) a living human being can one say: it has sensations; it sees; is blind; hears; is deaf; is conscious or unconscious.
In the conclusion of paragraph PI 283 Wittgenstein, talking in a similar vein stresses emphatically:
… Only of what behaves like a human being can one say that it has pains. For one has to say it of a body, or, if you like of a soul which some body has. And how can a body have a soul?
Before this, however, in the middle of PI 283 he had introduced the following imaginary case:
Couldn’t I imagine having frightful pains and turning to stone while they lasted? Well, how do I know, if I shut my eyes, whether I have not turned into a stone? And if that has happened, in what sense will they be ascribable to the stone? And why need the pain have a bearer at all here?! And can one say of the stone that it has a soul and that is what has the pain? What has a soul, or pain, to do with a stone?
In the next paragraph, PI 284 he contrasts a stone with a living being of minimal size, a fly.
Look at a stone and imagine it having sensations………………………………………………
And now look at a wriggling fly and at once these difficulties vanish and pain seems able to get a foothold here, where before, everything was, so to speak, too smooth for it.
In both of the above paragraphs, Wittgenstein highlights the connection between a conscious being’s sensations, such as pain and that being’s embodied nature. In claiming that we can ascribe pain only to a being whose external demeanor resembles that of a human being’s, Wittgenstein is making a conceptual point (or, in the jargon of his later philosophy, a grammatical remark. Such a being, unlike a stone (or indeed a corpse) is in position to exhibit a level of complexity in bodily expression. By contrast, we do not even think that a stone might be in pain. In the case of a fly, on the other hand, such a thought is reasonable. A fly has an animate body and when this tiny body wriggles we can, without stretching imagination, think that the fly is in pain, of is frightened, or is trying to avoid a possible danger. The concepts of pain and fear seem applicable to the fly but not to the stone. On Wittgenstein’s view, this shows that mental concepts like ‘pain’ are initially formed on the basis of spontaneous responses to pain observable in a bodily being, and possibly of sympathy towards what is perceived to be another being’s agony.
For the Cartesian interlocutor of PI 281, all this amounts to behaviorism. His view is that in one’s case there can be direct access to the sensation of one’s pain, and more generally to one’s mental life. Direct access is gained introspectively and constitutes the ideal of certainty which cannot be found when we attempt to access the pain of other beings, whether humans or not. For the interlocutor, who exemplifies the dualist view of mental life, the reality of another’s pain can only assessed indirectly. If this is so, then to acknowledge another being’s pain has to involve a comparison between that being’s responses and one’s own behavior when one is in pain. In other words, my introspective awareness of myself is set as a model for my fallible inference that another being is in pain. It is thus always possible that I may be totally mistaken about whether another is in pain. More generally, it is conceivable that I may always be utterly wrong about the mental life of others. This is again the familiar picture of radical Cartesian doubt, the solipsist predicament.
At this juncture, Wittgenstein’s analysis attempts a re-evaluation of the ‘direct-indirect’ antithesis: within the dualist framework of assumptions, the pair ‘direct-indirect’ runs in tandem with that of ‘inner-outer’. Our pain (subjective experience/mental life) is viewed as an inner reality which we may or may not disclose to others, but about which doubt does not make sense. Others’ pain (or mental life) is external to us: we can merely observe it as opposed to introspect into it; our relation to it is indirect because it passes through ourselves, and the comparison with our own case. And if we can use terms denoting mental concepts correctly this is to the extent that we transfer to others what we are familiar with from our own case. In order to argue against this position, Wittgenstein offers the imaginary case of PI 283.
He assumes that he-an embodied living human- undergoes petrifaction from time to time. He then imagines a situation in which he is suffering from terrible pains and is turned into a stone while these pains last. This situation involves that he, the subject of pain, is a conscious being capable of sensation but that he has temporarily turned into a stone. He would thus be incapable of any bodily manifestation of pain, and it would be impossible for others to know whether he feels pain or not. It is not because they are not perceptive enough, or because he may lie: it is because there is no way to penetrate the reality of a stone. (They may have to rely on his reports after he returns to his normal condition, but this is also problematic in ways that cannot be taken up issue with here. 26
Thee point that only the human body and behavior can undermine skepticism is emphatically made towards the end of PI 288:
… but if we cut down human behaviour, which is the expression of sensation, it looks as if I might legitimately begin to doubt afresh.
[without the expression of a sensation] … , I need a criterion of identity for the sensation; and then the possibility of error also exists.
The way in which the aforementioned philosophical picture is relevant to the concept of the soul is this: ascriptions of pain, or feelings, and generally of mental concepts, often involve substance dualism. Thus a willingness to ascribe pain and conscious states to human beings, and up to a certain extent to animals, can take the form of an acknowledgement that they have a soul. Wittgenstein has already been quoted as saying (PI 283):
… Only of what behaves like a human being can one say that it has pains.
For one has to say it of a body, or, if you like of a soul which some body has. And how can a body have a soul?
In this remark, Wittgenstein makes the intelligibility of talk about the soul conditional upon talk about embodied human beings (or beings that sufficiently resemble human beings). An advocate of the dualist picture of the soul –like Wittgenstein’s interlocutor- presupposes that it makes sense to talk of the soul as something logically independent of the body. Characteristically, he or she uses linguistic formulas of the kind ‘a soul which some body has’ in order to make sense of the soul-body relation. For Wittgenstein, on the other hand, this way of putting the matter marks a dangerous slip in the direction of construing the soul as something separate but somehow attached to the body. His ironical question at the end of PI 283
…And how can a body have a soul?
is meant to show that expressions such as ‘a body has a soul’ or ‘a body has pains’ are far from helpful since they suggest a picture according to which a body possesses a soul in a way similar to that in which one possesses an object. When one says, for example, ‘I have a desk’ the meaning of the word ‘desk’ is independent of whether it has an owner or not. Its being related to an owner does not define the essential character of a desk. Precisely because it is an object separate from us we can own it. Now the proposition ‘he has a soul (in his body)’ has the same superficial structure as the proposition ‘he has a desk (in his office).’ This may tempt one to ‘read’ the body-soul relation as one of possession and ownership. Then the soul is seen as a kind of immaterial mental object, which-just as in the desk example above-can be understood independently of the way it relates to a human being’s life. Consequently, it is considered to be a separate entity which the human body can receive and possess. Wittgenstein’s question, however, is this: if we can conceive of a soul independent of a human being, a soul as disembodied entity, then why not also imagine that this soul may choose to ‘inhabit’ a stone rather than human flesh? If one grants that the soul is a being in its own right, then what (if any) is it that marks the crucial difference between the way such a being might relate to a stone and the way it relates to man? Three paragraphs later, in PI 286 Wittgenstein introduces a new parameter related to this:
But isn’t it absurd to say of a body that it has pain? – And why does one feel an absurdity in that? In what sense is it true that my hand does not feel pain, but I in my hand?
What sort of issue is: Is it the body that feels pain? –How is it to be decided? What makes it plausible to say that it is not the body? –well, something like this: if someone has a pain in his hand, then the hand does not say so (unless it writes it) and one does not comfort the hand, but the sufferer: one looks into his face.
Let us suppose that one has burnt his hand and suffers. We do not feel sympathy for the hand independently of the person whose hand it is! We try to make the pain tolerable to the person, not to the hand that has been burnt and aches. In trying to comfort the one who burnt his /her hand, and not the hand itself, attention shifts away from the limb and is directed towards the whole human being. This is a commonsensical picture, experienced by all of us. However, dualism carries the focus of attention beyond the man or woman in pain, associating sensation with something ontologically distinct from the body and concealed behind it: an inner seat of consciousness or a pure subject. Thus the intuitive appeal of the inner/outer dichotomy is enhanced. People who -in Wittgenstein’s words- feel an absurdity in saying that a body has pains, assume that they are left with no alternative but to talk of the soul as the bearer of pain.
At this point Wittgenstein introduces a different dimension to this issue. A very important thing to ask is how we acknowledge the pain of others, and how we come to feel sympathy for them. In PI 287 Wittgenstein asks:
How am I filled with pity for this man? How does it come out what the object of my pity is? (Pity, one may say, is a form of conviction that someone else is in pain)
When we see another in agony, writhing or crying, this may provoke a spontaneous response of sympathy on our part. We try to help him or her. Is such a case, it may be said that we try to help the person’s body: appropriate medical treatment is offered to an aching limb, medical records of its physical condition are kept, and so on. Would we, though, try to help the leg if the person were not still alive after a car-crash? Would we not perform aesthetic surgery which may add little to the health of a bodily part but which is important for the way the person feels about himself or herself? Furthermore, if an injured person had to have a leg cut off then we would not spoil the chances of the person’s recovery by sparing the leg.
Let us compare this situation with another one, in which our computer or robot has just undergone serious damage that has permanently rendered it out of order. In this case we do try to save parts that can still be used and be integrated within a new mechanism. In so doing we face neither legal and ethical questions that are involved in (human) organ transplant nor questions about personal continuity that have always been in vogue within philosophy of mind. What explains this difference? Why do we get excited and sympathetic, fill ourselves with pity when confronted with the suffering or humans (or animals) but remain cool and detached in the case of computers and robots that may have served us quite well for quite long? Is it because we believe that the human body (or the body of let us say, our pet dog) has a soul, whereas the body of a computer or robot does not? If so, how does such a belief arise? On the basis of analogy between other humans and ourselves and dissimilarity between us and machines? But then, another critical question is looming: what constitutes a criterion of similarity in such case? Physical resemblance? On what grounds can we justify such a fundamental discrepancy in our respective attitudes?
Questions like the ones above appear as a reminder of how odd it is to construe the body as a material possessor-container of a soul. (cf. PI 283: ‘… And how can a body have a soul?) Doubt as to whether a body has a soul is structurally similar to doubts as to whether another being (can) feel(s) pain. Wittgenstein explores this point further in PI, ii, p.178. In this paragraph the central claim is this: solipsism is made possible by a quest for theoretical foundations of the body-soul dichotomy and for a related justification of our ways towards other beings. He writes:
Suppose I say of a friend: ‘He isn’t an automaton’. –What information is conveyed by this, and to whom would it be information? To a human being who meets him in ordinary circumstances? What information could it give him? (At the very most that this man always behaves like a human being, and not occasionally like a machine.)
“I believe that he is not an automaton”, just like that, so far makes no sense.
My attitude to him is an attitude towards a soul. I am not of the opinion that he has a soul.
In this well known paragraph, Wittgenstein treats the phrase ‘he is not an automaton’ as roughly equivalent to the phrase ‘he has a soul’. Given this association, certainty and doubt about a being’s soul go hand in hand with questions about whether this being is a living, conscious, self moving being, as opposed to a manipulated mechanical system.
Now Wittgenstein maintains that, in ordinary circumstances doubt as to whether somebody who looks and behaves like a human being, is really one, is not meaningful. The force of the proviso ‘in ordinary circumstances’ will hopefully become clear in a while. Before coming to that, let us focus on Wittgenstein’s presumed doubt concerning whether a friend is an automaton. A friend is by definition a being we are familiar with, related and attached to in various ways. Can I entertain a philosophical doubt as to whether my friend is indeed a conscious human being with sensations, thoughts, and emotions?
In the Cartesian point of view this is a meaningful possibility given the problem of other minds. What underpins such a possibility of doubt is the Cartesian assumption that the ‘outer’ hides the ‘inner’ or in any case prevents it from becoming transparent to others. Given this, the Cartesian picture assumes that it is possible for all people to hide their ‘inner part’ all the time, preferring not to disclose the contents of their mental life, or even deliberately pretending about them. But then, each and every one of us would be in a position very similar to being hostage to Descartes’ evil demon. The bodily behavior and expression of other beings would not offer even the minimal clue as to what kind of being they are; it would not at all help us to decide whether they are really anything more than the automata clad in cloaks and hats that Descartes describes in the Second Meditation. In other words, solipsism would prevail.
As has been argued earlier in this paper, when in the situation of radical doubt, Descartes still helps himself to the words and concepts of a language which is established within a community of fully embodied people. This however, fails to take account of the fact that language emerges in the midst of human interaction; -interaction is by definition not possible in a solipsistic world. Unless the solipsist gives an account of why s/he excludes language and concepts from doubt, s/he is not entitled to any thoughts, or beliefs. He or she cannot even entertain meaningful doubts, and so cannot even introduce the suspicion that a friend may be an automaton after all.
Solipsism is no ordinary circumstances. Among its formative assumptions one can also find the idea that what may be the case some times, from time to time, can be the case all the time. An example: there is hardly anyone who would deny that we may be wrong about what other people, even our friends, think or feel. Other people may prefer to keep certain things private, they may have a malicious intent to deceive, or they may simply fail to put themselves across in a successful way. This is an irredeemable part of human life, we tend to think ordinarily. Is then a move generalising from some cases to all cases legitimate? Solipsism assumes that because we may occasionaly be mistaken about the mental life of others (even about whether they are mental beings or not) we can always be mistaken. That the logical/conceptual presuppositions that make occasional and partial error or doubt possible make constant and universal doubt possible as well.
Now this move on the part of the solipsist is an attempt to doubt something the opposite of which cannot be affirmed, either. For example, solipsism is an open invitation to doubt that my friend is a human being as opposed to an automaton, at the time it cannot meaningfully articulate what would have to be the case for her not to be a human being. If it is conceivable that any human being may prove to be an automaton, it is not meaningful to doubt whether a particular one may or may not be an automaton. In other words: a basic certainty must be presupposed if meaningful doubt in particular cases is to arise. Solipsism cannot fulfill this basic presupposition.
This view is echoed in Wittgenstein’s paragraph quoted above. To say of a friend that he is not an automaton offers no information: this is because there is (so far) in human life no framework within which a meaningful doubt about this could arise. That is to say: if I am to doubt about this, there is nothing I could keep exempt from doubt. But then I would for once more slip into a solipsist dead end. So, to say without any context ‘My friend Bill is not an automaton, you know’ is not to reinforce a belief that one’s friend is not a piece of metalic machinery behind his human flesh. This statement could have been a piece of information if we lived in a very different world, where we co-existed with large minorities of perfectly human-looking mechanical artifacts, a world like that described in the film Blade Runner. For in such a situation, there would be a meaningful and clear contrast between human beings and mechanical automata that look human. Such a context may conceivably become a reality one day, but until that day comes about, a statement of the sort ‘He isn’t an automaton!’ amounts to something like: ‘Stop being so harsh on him! He also has feelings you know!’
All things been said, one is still left with the question as to where an all important basic certainty to be found. Wittgenstein’s antithetical pair ‘attitude-opinion’ is an effort to move forward in this direction. In claiming that his is not an opinion that his friend is not an automaton, but an attitude towards him radically different from the one he has towards automata, Wittgenstein implicitly suggests that the certainty we are after is not and cannot be a theoretical one. What is involved here is this: to demand theoretical justification of our opinion that others are not automata is to accept that a total doubt as to whether they are so or not, can be meanigfully formulated. But as we have seen already this path is closed. Our certainty about others is not theoretically grounded, is not in other words, inferential. For Wittgenstein, it is rather based on a primordial attitude of treating other humans as beings with a soul.
This now means: in our interction with others –the emergence of a Blade Runner environment pending- we do not doubt that they are conscious beings with a mental life quite similar to our own. This is because we do not normally draw a total wedge between one’s mind or soul and one’s outward demeanor. If the wedge was total, as it is in solipsism, then other people’s ‘inner’, would remain elusive for ever.
My attitude to other people is not simply the result of a cold verdict concerning their mental capacities and functions. It is part of my interaction with them in which skeptical worries are present but resolvable; in which I acknowledge them as beings who think , feel, and, most importantly, suffer. And moreover, it is an attitude that involves sympathy, pity, solidarity towards them, or, of course, the opposite (antipathy, indifference, callousness).
In such interaction I do not merely treat others as conscious beings with a degree of rationality. I also develop perspectives on them and dispositions towards them which offer the ground upon which ethical notions can be built and moral obligation be established. Reacting with sympathy to a cry of their pain, for example, is a mark of my certaintly that they suffer, a certainty that ultimately does not depend on inference. And my sense that this exerts a moral claim on me further enhances this certainty. The notion of sympathy and moral obligation towards others are building blocks of such certainty – rather than springing from it. The logical/conceptual primacy of such ethically significant terms is reflected in Wittgenstein’s choice of word here: attitude towards a soul, not simply towards a well functioning brain or a rational mind.
In the light of all the above, it makes sense to say that Wittgenstein not only rejects skepticism about the reality of other humans as mental beings, but that he also does this in a way which leaves the ‘soul’ immune to ontological reductionism. The soul is not an immaterial substance in the ‘inner’ of a person, contingently and sympomatically connected to the ‘outer’, that is to the bodily and social part of ourselves. Neither, is it reducible to a physical reality, such as biochemical processes in the brain and the central nervous system. The term ‘soul’ is not redundant because none of the ethical connotations that play an important role in its formation can be preserved were it to be replaced by the term ‘mind’ or brain. Eliminativist thinkers 27 have suggested that all mental terms will eventually become redundant as neuroscience develops enough to give us an exhaustive account of brain functions. According to this the term ‘mind’ will eventaully appear for what it ultimately is: a piece of folk psychology to become redundant, in a way similar to how the term ‘phlogiston’ became redundant after advances in modern chemistry. The soul is, to be sure, even worse off, since it does not even take an eliminativist to consider it a piece of redundant metaphor.
Wittgenstein’s ‘attitude towards a soul’ rejects precisely the very presuppositions of this way of thinking. In rejecting the possibility of theoretical justification for thinking that people are beings with souls, he makes scientific progress irrelevant to the issue. The soul is not reducible to something else.
In the beginning of this presentation there was reference to people who feel that if the concept and the term ‘soul’ became extinct, something of importance and value would be missing. When presented with the perspecive described above, it is likely that some of them may still want to ask: ‘So what is the soul?’ To this question the following response can be offered: This question, does not clarify anything for us. For in the way it is posed it pushes us to look for a reality detachable from us and conceptually separate from the particular individual we are, in our embeddedenss in time and space. This will –as it has already repeatedly done- take us to either aethereal entities or biochemical processes.
Still, people may feel that if they cannot ask what the soul is, they cannot ask whether it exists either. An answer then may be that the soul is a fundamental reality of human life, in the sense that it epitomizes the inalienable dignity of human beings, renders them unconditional objects of moral concern and sustains an eschatological perspective which is of paramount importance for many of them.
————–, The Self, the Soul and the Psychology of Good and Evil, Routledge, London and New York, 2005. See chapter 1: ‘Body and Soul’.
2 David.Cockburn, Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind. Palgrave, 2001. pp. 94-98. See also chapters, 4, 5,6.
3 Hilary Putnam, ‘Philosophy and Our Mental Life’ in Mind, Language and Reality, Philosophical Papers, Vol.2, Cambridge, Mass.,Cambridge University Press, 1975, p. 92
4 Hilary Putnam, Ibid and ‘The Nature of Mental States’, in Mind, Language and Reality, Philosophical Papers, Vol.2, Cambridge, Mass.Cambridge University Press, 1975, p.76.
5 Marya Schechtman, The Brain/Body Problem in ‘Philosophical Psychology’, vol. 10, June 1997, p. 156
6There is, however, a further complication deriving from ‘dual aspect’ theorists such as Thomas Nagel. ‘Dual aspect’ attempts to safequard the ultimate irreducibility of mental states and processes, while at the same time denying the reality of a distinct mental substance along with the material one. Whether ‘dual aspect’ theory offers a viable alternative or not, goes beyond the scope of the present discussion.
8 Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: the Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989, See especially pp. 127-142 on Augustine. See
9 İlham Dilman, Philosophy and the Philosophic Life. A Study in Plato’s Phaedo. Macmillan, 1992. See especially chapter 2.
10 ‘Do not go outwards; return to yourself. Truth dwells in the inner man!’ Quoted in Taylor, op.cit., p. 129.
11 See Augustine’s De Magistro, xi, 38, xii, 39-40, xiv, 46, in Augustine: Earlier Writings, Vol. VI, The Library of Christian Classics, Philadelpheia, The Westminster Press, MCMLIII, pp. 95-97 and 101-102.
15 Augustine, De Trinitate. See especially Book 9,11.16-12.18 and Book 10, 11.17-12.19. In Augustine, On the Trinity. Books 8-15. Gareth B. Matthews (editor), Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 37-40 and pp.57-59.
16 Gilson, op.cit., p. 22.
… In [the] philosophy of St. Augustine one would not know how to distinguish betwen the problem of the existence of God and the problem of knowledge; it is one and the same question to know how we conceive the truth and to know the existence of the truth in such a way that the proof in its entirety is accomplished in the inner [realm] of thought, without the sensible order necessarily having to intervene. (Ch.Sidiropoulou’s translation).
17 Gilson, Ibid.
… we have just seen that the way which goes from bodies to the divine truth passes through thought; even though it departs from the external world, the route of an Augustinian proof is indeed from the world to the soul and from the soul to God.’ (Ch.Sidiropoulou’s translation).
19 Gilson, op.cit., p. 13.
… No part of the Augustinian philosophy escapes the Credo ut intelligam, not even the proof of God’s existence itself. (Ch.Sidiropoulou’s translation).
20 R. Descartes, Discourse on Method and the Meditations (transl. F.E.Sutcliffe, London, Penguin, 1968), p.104
23 For a detailed discussion of Descartes and the argument from analogy see the collection of essays by N. Malcolm, Knowledge and Certainty. Prentice Hall, 1963.
‘Cartesian Privacy’ is an interesting essay on the Cartesian notion of privacy as well as on Wittgenstein’s view of it. See Cartesian Privacy in Anthony Kenny, The Anatomy of the Soul. Historical Essays in the Philosophy of Mind. Blackwell, 1973.
24 Wittgenstein himself was aware of this misconception. In PI 307, he imagines the following exchange between himself and the Cartesian interlocutor:
“Are you not really a behaviourist in disguise? Aren’t you at bottom really sying that everything except human behaviour is a fiction?”- If I do speak of a fiction, then it is of a grammatical fiction.
A recent example of the protracted misconception that Wittgenstein is a behaviorist who ‘destroys the subject’ is to be seen in Richard Sorabji’s book
Self: Ancient and Modern Insights about Individuality, Life and Death, Oxford University Press, 2006.
On pp. 18-19 he lists Wittgenstein among those who espouse Hume’s no self position, together with E. Anscombe, N.Malcolm, A. Kenny and D. Dennet. There is no discussion of this view apart from a very brief reference to Wittgenstein’s criticism of William James in PI 413. Again, in the Selected Bibliography of Secondary Literature on p. 347 Wittgenstein is listed under the heading ‘Opponents of the Self’.
25 For an introduction to the issues involved in the private language argument see
P.M.S. Hacker, Wittgenstein: Meaning and Mind, Part II Exegesis, paras 243-427. Oxford, Blackwell, 1993.
27 See Neurophilosopy, the classical book of the eliminativist school of thought by Patricia Churchland:
Patricia Smith Curchland, Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain. Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press, 1986.
*All quotations from Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations are taken from:
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations. Translated by G.E.M.Anscombe. Oxford, Blackwell, 1953