Wednesday, June 05, 2013
At Phaedo 79b Plato says, αλλο τι ήμων αυτων το μεν σωμα εστι, το δε ψυυχη; “Are we other than on the one side body, on the other soul?” These few words illustrate how insight and error are kneaded together in all human thought. The idea of the soul as our inner reality, as what constitutes our distinctive human character, as that in which all our dignity and all our worth reside, this idea is Socrates’ greatest gift to human culture and is the profoundest insight in the whole history of philosophical thinking. Yet in Plato’s words lurks a grave error that has betrayed philosophers into interminable mazes of confusion and error. Once the soul and the body are seen as two things on the same plane of being, as two opposed entities, rather than as two aspects of the same thing, philosophers erroneously think that they have to deny the one and affirm the other, or they try to derive the one from the other, and laboriously try to prove this or that position, but in vain. Soul and body are not two things because I am not two things. True, I am a myriad things; I am an indeterminate and indeterminable hotchpotch of cells and tissues and what not; I am a legion of drives and desires and dreams and illusions and aspirations; but in all of that I am also one. I am this ‘I’ that cannot be defined, cannot be objectified, cannot be seen or touched or measured or weighed because it is not a thing but is the reality of all things. This, my inner reality, is all the reality I know, the only reality I know, all else is passing shadow.