Mind, body and soul: Different philosophical views

  • Created by: alex_bmth
  • Created on: 22-05-18 14:47


The view that mind & body are separate substances. Substance - a subject which has various properties, e.g. the rug on the floor (substance) properties are being red and soft. Properties cannot exist on their own. Plato was a dualist - he believed the soul and body are two different substances that interact, real identity of the person lies within the soul.

  • The soul is part of the realm of ideas, the body resides in the realm of things. The soul is immutable, non-temporal, eternal and created by the demiurge from the original perfect forms.
  • The body is prison for the soul which it must break free from. Soul is liberated at death.
  • The soul animates the person by giving them life, the soul is a life-giving essence. It would be contradictory for a soul to die.

"The body is the source of endless trouble... is liable also to diseases... in fact as men say, takes away from us all power of thinking at all."

  • Charioteer analogy: Charioteer in charge of two horses, one good, the other is bad. Reason must always be in control.
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Descartes: Rationalist, supports Plato. Believed sense experience could be mistaken. Material world and body are an illusion.

"I think therefore I am."

  • Mind is a seperate substance from the body. Mind can be separated from the body. Body has parts, mind doesn't.
  • Descartes saw the mind and body existing in two different realms - the mental and the physical.
  • Mind is conscious and non-spatial - private and non-observable.
  • The body is spatial, located in time and space and is therefore material, not conscious and publicly observable.

Believed that the mind influenced the body and that it controls movements through the penial gland (back of neck). When we die, the body is left behind while the soul continues on with God.

Descartes has shown that the mind is a substance. Just because Descartes can think of his mind existing without his body doesn't mean his mind really can exist without his body. Can't infer real possibility from what we imagine. Medical science disproved the penial gland theory.

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Gilbert Ryle is a substance materialist, dismissed dualism - 'a ghost in a machine' theory. There is no hidden entity called the mind inside the body.

An individual is a living body and no more, when the body dies that is it. The whole person is dead.

Category Mistake: Not creating an alternative theory, he is creating clarity. Descartes described the mind as the pilot of the body and soul. Views the body as a mechanism - which is a category error.

Ryle believes Descartes assumed things we experienced are either physical or mental. Actually they are both. Feelings are physical and mental e.g. PTSD.

It is improper to separate the body and soul.

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Dawkins is a biological materialist. Doesn't believe in the soul. Life is made up of DNA. He does believe in consciousness. Once the DNA has developed the brain, it can think for itself as an individual and consider the consequences of its actions.

  • Dawkins is a materialist who believed humans are bytes of digital information. No soul - we are the sum total of our genes. Humans are merely carriers of info & DNA.
  • Rejects the notion of soul in the religious or Platonic sense but does suggest that there may be a place for talking about soul in a metaphorical or symbolic way.

"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world."

  • Human self-awareness is not due to the soul - self-awareness developed due to evolutionary advances.
  • Beliefs in the immortality of the soul have no sound basis - they are based on wish fulfilment for those who lack courage or fear death.

Consciousness is no more than electro-chemical events within the brain - no person is capable of surviving brain death = physical death is the end.

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Aristotle: Influenced by monistic thought, believed the mind ceased to exist when the body died, however they are separate. He was Plato's student, believed all knowledge must be acquired through sense experience (empiricist).

We are made up of two things: body (matter), and a soul or 'psyche' (the form) and the soul is an integral part of the body. Can't have one without the other. The soul animates the body.

"Nothing exists in the mind that has not first been experienced by the senses." - Aristotle. "There is no such thing as a separate world of ideas."

Three different souls: Plant (nutrition), animal (basic sensations) and human (reason).

Every object has potentiality - can move to actuality. The soul is the formal cause of the body.

Aristotle used the analogy of the wax and seal to explain the soul. He used a variety of analogies: if the body were an axe, the soul would be its ability to chop.

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