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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: May 2020

Chapter 8 - Cicero on the Soul’s Sensation of Itself: Tusculans 1.49–76

Summary

In the first book of his Tusculans, Cicero gives two arguments that the soul is eternal. Specifically, he concludes that each human soul’s rational part or ‘mind’ (mens) neither came to be nor will perish. I shall argue that in pursuit of this conclusion, Cicero constructs the position that, at least in this life, the human mind does not ‘sense’ itself, but knows about itself only by inference from its ‘sensations’ of other objects. First, the question of the mind’s sensation of itself is comparable to current debates about consciousness, for example to questions relating to the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. To put it crudely, the ‘hard problem’ is that we suppose that our minds are conscious of themselves immediately, and that what we seem to learn from this immediate self-consciousness is that our minds are so different from the natural world we observe through the senses that it is a puzzle to understand how the two could be as intimately related as they appear to be.

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