The Structure of the Soul
Swinburne (Richard)
Source: Peacocke & Gillett - Persons and Personality: A Contemporary Inquiry, 1987, Chapter 3
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Persons are beings capable of sophisticated thought and action. But the only ones known to all of us on Earth are human beings or men.
  2. I wish to argue that man on Earth is body plus soul, two components (combined undoubtedly in an intimate unity).
  3. The soul is an immaterial thing; and the conscious life of thought, sensation, and purpose which belongs to a man belongs to him because it belongs to his soul. The functioning of the soul consists in its having conscious life. The soul is the essential part of me, and it is its continuing in existence which makes for the continuing of me.
  4. My soul may not be able to function on its own; but it is the principle of identity which, when linked to a body, either this present one or some new one, makes that body my body, and the reconstituted man, who thinks, feels and acts, me.
  5. And it is to the soul, I shall argue, that character also belongs.

Editors’ Abstract1
  1. Richard Swinburne takes the Cartesian position, arguing that man is a dual creature comprising body and soul as two distinct components. He regards the soul as that inner, conscious entity which both constitutes us as the thinking, morally significant beings that we are, and allows for the possibility of life after death2. Because mental predicates are in principle distinct from physical events, they cannot be grounded in the attribution of certain physical properties, even those of the brain.
  2. He argues that, because I can conceive of myself as a continuing conscious being without a body, the conscious mental entity that is me cannot in any way just consist in, or be reduced to, some facts about my physical existence. Armed with this dualist basis on which to construct a philosophical anthropology and psychology, Swinburne goes on to suggest that the interaction between the soul and the body/world must be effective in both directions. For there must be a certain autonomy in the mental realm whereby belief is sensitive not merely to causal influences, but also to rational considerations and can thereby be justified. It is, he says, indubitable that the conscious intentions, desires, and projects of rational beings act upon the world.
  3. Given the logical distinction between the soul and the body, we thus arrive at a view of the mental attributes of a human being as categorical states of a mental entity which is in interaction with the physical world. This entity, or 'soul', has a structure such that conscious beliefs and desires and unconscious mental propensities interact to explain or determine the behaviour of the thinking being.
  4. Swinburne leaves us with the picture of a structured soul in intimate contact with a (structured) brain such that, in principle, it could be taken from its particular embodiment and given another embodiment, should some omnipotent being wish to effect such a transfer.


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Taken from "Peacocke (Arthur) & Gillett (Grant) - Persons and Personality: Introduction".

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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