WHAT IS THE SOUL?
WHAT IS THE SOUL?
D. R. Khashaba
Some time ago, borrowing Berkeley’s Hylas and Philonous, I composed a short dialogue between the two on the reality of the mind. Here’s another encounter between Berkeley’s brain ekgonoi.
HYLAS: To the question “What is the soul?” I have the short answer: There is no such thing.
PHILONOUS: I will surprise you my good friend. I entirely agree with you. There can be no such thing as the soul.
H.: I am delighted to see that you have accepted my viewpoint.
Ph.: There I’m afraid I have to disappoint you. You cannot deny that we think, we feel, we love, we joy in beauty and experience wonder. Your positivist philosophy cannot explain these realities.
H.: I do not deny that we have psychic states, mental operations, emotional experiences, but these are all products of physiological and neural motions.
Ph.: As you admit there are psychic and mental states and operations, I in turn readily admit there are physiological and neural motions. It is the word ‘products’ that I object to.
H.: How so?
Ph.: You speak as if we understood or could ever understand how from motions in the brain there could result a psychic state or a thought — something of a completely different nature. We fool ourselves with words, my friend, when we speak of one thing causing another thing or of anything coming out of anything different from itself.
H.: But the physiological operations and the brain motions are all that we can objectively ascertain.
Ph.: You observe these operations and motions, you quantify them, you measure them, you experiment with them, but you never know what in themselves they are. They are all externally given – or in your jargon data – that you have to accept on trust. I on the other hand immediately know the reality of my thoughts, my feelings, my spontaneously willed acts.
H.: But you must have a substratum for your psychic states and mental operations.
Ph.: This is another fiction like the fiction of causation. To me, the activity, not the actor, is the reality.
H.: So we are back to our starting point: there is no such a thing as soul or mind.
Ph.: Only in the sense that the soul or mind is not a thing but is pure activity, pure creative activity. The soul or mind cannot be an objective thing since soul or mind is the subjectivity of the subject. The soul is the transcendent reality of the person, the principle of integrity and the principle of creativity of the person. In other words, the personality of the person, our subjectivity, our inner reality, is the one reality and all the reality we know immediately and indubitably. If we want a model for ultimate Reality I can find no other than our intelligent creativity.
H.: Call me stupid, but what you’re saying means nothing to me.
Ph.: You are not stupid my friend and I do not pretend to be more intelligent than you are. But you’re objectively oriented. Plato in the Sophist expected the battle between the idealists and the materialists to rage to the end of time. Aristotle was not less intelligent than Plato but could not see things as Plato saw them. So let us say you are an Aristotelian and I am a Platonist and let us part as friends.
D. R. Khashaba
October 30, 2016