Mind, soul, spirit

“The official doctrine, which hails chiefly from Descartes, is something like this. […] Some would prefer to say that every human being is both a body and a mind. His body and his mind are ordinarily harnessed together, but after the death of the body his mind may continue to exist and function.” (Ryle, The Concept of Mind, 13. Underline mine.)

Often, the mind (your thoughts or your ability to think, feel, and imagine things) is equated to the soul (the part of a person that is not physical, and that contains their character, thoughts, and feelings. Many people believe that a person’s soul continues to exist after they have died) and spirit (the part of someone that you cannot see, that consists of the qualities that make up their character, which many people believe continues to live after the person has died).

Today, we know the mind resides in the brain. The mental state is created there. Unlike the soul or spirit, the mind can be affected and influenced by diet, sensory input, and thoughts. The soul or spirit is some “thing” that is fixed, unchanging, immortal (in Western culture, at least). The soul seems to have character, thoughts, and feelings. The spirit contains character but not thoughts and feelings. Both soul or spirit are defined by its continuation after death, the expiration of the body’s animation.

So, slowly we are moving away from the notion that the mind equals a soul or spirit.

Today, we are unafraid to ask, does the soul or spirit exist. Religions will try to keep you saying yes. Science tries to convince you to say no.

The better question is to ask does the soul or spirit interact and affect the physical in way after the death. In that sense, equating the soul or spirit with the mind is better since it would suggest that mind, soul or spirit really only interacts and functions with this world when it is animated within the body. After death it has no influence other than through those who have interacted with that mind as a body. Anything beyond that interaction is a conceptualisation.

Is there such a thing as antihumanism?

Lately I have been hearing ‘antihumanism’ as a term being brandished around a lot more to refer to postmodernism (pomo). While it is true pomo is in some ways antihuman in its outlook it is by no means its main tenet.

I was hard-pressed to find anything in specialist dictionaries and general encyclopaedias with the entry ‘antihumanism’. A search of books came up with more. Most books with the word title were written in the turn of the century and were invariably contrasted against ‘humanism’. My point being this is a term that does not stand on its own, that it is always determined against humanism as disparate arguments.

Antihumanism is not a tradition but a group of thinkers and philosophies which have criticisms against humanism but is not a full blown -ism in itself. Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Heidegger are not “antihumanists”. Positivism and science, structuralism, poststructuralism, and postmodernism are not antihuman philosophies. The label is one of convenience, not one of coherence.

Basho on being one with the object

Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one — when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there. However well phrased your poetry may be, if your feeling is not natural — if the object and yourself are separate — then your poetry is not true poetry but merely your subjective counterfeit.

I wonder if Husserl had read Basho or know of this quote. I wonder would he have agreed with it, would he have thought that what Basho is describing is that of the phenomenological project.

This being one with the object of perception had fascinated me in my early days. But as I grow older I have accepted that we will be forever separate from the object in question.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. That we can imagine to be one with the object is an important aspect of being human. But to remain in the illusion of oneness would be a counterfeit of sorts as well.

In my opinion, it is important to return to reality after insight, if you choose to call it that.

One of the great monologues ever – Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

It is one of the greatest death scenes in motion picture history.

Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty saves Rick Deckard, in an act of human-like compassion, from falling to his death from the dark rooftops of a bleak rainy wet cityscape. In the rain, did Roy cry human tears? We shall never know.

There are great actors out there we shall simply never see or hear of because of this one barrier – language. Hauer was not known to the English-speaking world until Blade Runner. One of the great villain actors but limited to these roles, he brought intensity to the films he acted in.

RIP, Roy, Rutger. You have made your “mark on existence”.

Philosophical realism

An object exists independent of our perception or conception of it. Michael Dummett is against this stance and calls it “colourless reductionism”.

Interestingly it is, in my opinion, precisely that reality is “colourless” that our minds colour it. It is the necessary part of our being conscious of our reality. And again, it is precisely because we erroneously supplement to the reality with minds that perhaps we need to reduce (remove) what was added to it.

The soul

On the soul. – today, the soul has lost its presence. Even if we are to accept it in some form it is as a metaphor or as a construct to further give us a purpose or meaning. We are undoubtedly purpose-seeking, meaning-making entities. And that is our characteristic. Our imagination is our greatest gift and our ultimate curse.

The mind

On the mind. – There is no metaphysics, that is, there is no mind. It “exists” insofar as a concept and as a process. It has no physical existence that can be found other than physical procedural evidence.