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Making the Case for the Soul in an Age of Neuroscience

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2014

Alan Mittleman*
Affiliation:
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America

Extract

Modern philosophy has been inhospitable to the soul. In the English-speaking world, the dominant tendency, since Hobbes and Locke, has been to subordinate the mental to the physical. Even where mental phenomena are granted real existence, they are construed as effects of underlying physical processes. To explain them is to identify their physical causes. Physicalist approaches to the mind cannot but see the soul as, in Gilbert Ryle's derisive phrase, a “ghost in the machine.” It is an unwanted leftover from a religious age with a bygone philosophical psychology. To the extent that mental entities do any explanatory work, modern philosophy favors “mind” over “soul.”

Type
Review Essay*
Copyright
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 2014 

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Footnotes

*

Lenn E. Goodman and D. Gregory Caramenico, Coming to Mind: The Soul and Its Body. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014).

References

1 Aristotle conceptually distinguishes soul (psuchē) from mind (nous). Mind may survive bodily demise. The active capacity of mind, its ability to achieve a knowledge identical with that which knows, is “separable, impassible, unmixed” (De an. 430a). This becomes the Active Intellect of medieval philosophy. How precisely it relates to the soul cannot be taken up here.

2 Bennett, Maxwell, Dennett, Daniel, Hacker, Peter, and Searle, John, Neuroscience and Philosophy: Brain, Mind, and Language (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007) 131Google Scholar.

3 Dupré, John, Human Nature and the Limits of Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) 7273CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Angela Matthies, Andrew Stephenson, and Nick Tasker, The Concept of Emergence in Systems Biology: A Project Report, accessed October 21, 2014, http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/3906/Concept_of_Emergence.pdf [emphasis added].

5 Gazzaniga, Michael S., Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain (New York: Harper Collins, 2011) 186Google Scholar.

6 Smith, Christian, What Is a Person?: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 2589CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Emergence might be a matter of genuinely new properties, behaviors, or entities developing in the world out of lower-level constituents. New furniture, so to speak, is added to the universe. This is the ontological sense. Or emergence might be a matter of new knowledge: given our knowledge of the lower-level state of the system, we could not predict what will develop once the higher state emerges. This latter, epistemological construal of emergence leaves open the strong ontological or metaphysical claim that new objects as such have emerged. It makes a weaker claim about how new knowledge is gained. See Chalmers, David, “Strong and Weak Emergence,” in The Re-Emergence of Emergence: The Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion (ed. Clayton, Philip and Davies, Paul; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008) 244–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Damasio, Antonio, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain (New York: Pantheon Books, 2010)Google Scholar; cited in Goodman and Caramenico, Coming to Mind, 122.

9 Laughlin, Robert, A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down (New York: Basic Books, 2005) 18Google Scholar.