God and the Soul (Analytical ToC)
Geach (Peter)
Source: Geach (Peter) - God and the Soul, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1969, pp. vii - xx
Paper - Abstract

Paper StatisticsBooks / Papers Citing this PaperNotes Citing this PaperColour-ConventionsDisclaimer

Analytical Table of Contents (Full Text)

  1. Reincarnation1
    • Reincarnation2 as here discussed consists in one and the same human mind's successively animating two different human bodies. I shall not consider supposed cases where a mind animates now a human, now a non-human body; and I confine myself to Western conceptions. pp. 1-2
    • Given some human body or other, there is the same person just so long as there is the same mind. pp. 2-3
    • Locke's doctrine of personal identity is indefensible; and his view of responsibility is morally repugnant. pp. 3-4
    • Do we understand propositions like ‘I lived in pre-Christian Rome' apart from memory? This could be maintained if we accepted such views of the meaning of ‘I' as McTaggart and Descartes argued for. But we must remember that there can be a spurious impression of having understood an incoherent supposition. pp. 4-5
    • The arguments of McTaggart and Descartes were designed to show that each one of us can arrive at indubitable empirical propositions about the individual that he signifies by 'I', in a certain soliloquistic use of this word. pp. 6-7
    • These propositions are to be indubitable answers to questions like ‘Who is now in pain?'. ‘Who is now puzzled?' But since the ordinary answers to these ‘Who' questions are by stipulation excluded, the questions have been deprived of sense. p. 7
    • Descartes fell into the Masked Man fallacy. p. 8
    • In many soliloquistic uses, ‘I' does not refer to an individual. Though ‘I' in soliloquy can refer to the person speaking, such cases are no help to Descartes. pp. 8-9
    • Could ‘I' refer, not to some personality, in the ‘multiple personality' sense? The criterion of identity for personalities is obscure; and we are hardly likely to make intelligible the transference of a personality from one body to another. pp. 9-10
    • But suppose a man's ‘memories' of his life as Julius Caesar were borne out by historical facts they led us to discover? pp. 10—11
    • We need to grasp certain truths about memory:
      (1) There are false memories. p. 11
      (2) There is no inner self-authenticating sign by which to tell memory-knowledge from possibly false memory-belief; this does not justify scepticism. pp. 11-12
      (3) There are episodic memory judgments. pp. 12-13
      (4) A judgment does not count as a memory judgment if it has an unacceptable provenance, e.g. other people's information or post-hypnotic suggestion. pp. 13-14
    • If a surgeon could stuff someone else's brain with ‘memories' of my life, these would not be memories; nor would a person thus claiming to be Peter Geach actually be Peter Geach. pp. 14-15
    • 'Memories' of what Julius Caesar did would raise an irremovable doubt as to whether their claim to be memories is not vitiated by their provenance. p. 15
    • The argument about what ‘only Julius Caesar can have known' is grossly inconsistent if applied to such ‘memories'. p. 15
    • So the notion of reincarnation3 we have been examining has no clear sense. p. 16
  2. Immortality
    • I shall be discussing survival of bodily death, rather than endless survival. p. 17
    • There is no evidence for survival of a ‘subtle body'. pp. 17-18
    • The Platonic view ascribes all experience to the mind or soul; this opens up the logical possibility of a mind's persisting with similar experiences when the body perishes. pp. 18-19
    • But words like ‘pain' or ‘seeing' do not get their meaning either from the very experience so named, or from a private uncheckable performance of conferring their meaning. And we do not know how to apply such concepts to immaterial spirits. pp. 19-20
    • A concept like seeing or feeling collapses if we break its threads of connexion with other concepts relating to the physical properties of perceived bodies and to human bodily behaviour. pp. 12-22
    • A disembodied4 spirit without sensuous experiences would not be a surviving human person; ‘my soul is not I'. p. 22
    • And even though a spirit might persist as a remnant of a person, its very individuality would depend on a permanent capacity for such reunion with a body as would reconstitute the dead human being. pp. 22-24
    • Could this capacity be realized by reincarnation5? It is hard to give a clear sense to this. pp. 24-25
    • Nor could the mental phenomena of mediumship be evidence of survival. pp. 25-26
    • In this life a one-one relation of material continuity of body is a necessary condition of personal identity, though no actual bit of matter need persist in the body. A similar one-one relation between the old body and the new would be needed in order that we might justifiably speak of the same human being's living again. pp. 26-27
    • Continuity of memory would not be sufficient. pp. 27-28
    • So there is no reasonable hope of surviving death unless we hold the Jewish and Christian hope of the resurrection of the body. pp. 28-29
  3. What do we think with?
    • Materialists hold that we think with the brain; immaterialists, that we think with an immaterial part, the mind or soul. Both may be wrong. p. 30
    • ‘Thinking', unlike ‘meaning' and ‘understanding', is a word for an activity. pp. 31-32
    • Some activities are more basic than others; doing a less basic action always consists in doing a more basic action, within a certain assumed context. pp. 32-33
    • A less basic action need not be describable as performed with an instrument N, and may still less be ascribable to N, merely because the corresponding more basic action is so. p. 33
    • So, if thinking were not basic, it might be wrong to ascribe it to the brain even though an activity that was more basic in relation to thinking were rightly ascribable to the brain. But so far as I can see thinking is basic. pp. 33-34
    • There is no ‘stream of thought'; thoughts form a discrete series with no gradual transitions. pp. 34-35
    • Individual occurrent thoughts occur neither legato nor staccato; thoughts occupy neither single instants, nor yet (like sensory processes) divisible stretches, of physical time. p. 36
    • Non-basic actions, e.g. murders, are similarly not clock-able (except by arbitrary legal decision); but we ought not to assimilate thought to this sort of action—thought is basic. p. 37
    • Since no physiological process has the same time-relations as a thought, thought cannot be the activity of a bodily part and materialism is false. p. 37
    • But the immaterialistic idea that man has an immaterial part to think with is incoherent. p. 38
    • Could thought occur apart from a living organism? Thought is more than contingently related to language; and language could be produced in such circumstances as supplied strong evidence that thoughts were being originated and not originated by any living organism. p. 39
    • Persistence of such thoughts could constitute the survival of a ‘separated soul'. pp. 39-40
    • Machines manifestly do not think, for they are not even alive. pp. 40-41
  4. Form and existence
    • I am discussing what Aquinas meant by his term ‘act of existing', or ‘that by which so-and-so exists'; so first I discuss ‘that by which' and ‘exists'. p. 42
      Section I
    • With a predicate ‘F' other than ‘exists', ‘that by which x is F' is in Aquinas's language a variant expression for ‘the Fness of x'. These expressions serve to designate forms. p. 42
    • The real distinction between a form and the self-subsistent individual (suppositum) whose form it is corresponds, for Aquinas, to the logical distinction between subject and predicate. This view is incompatible with the two-name theory of prediction. pp. 42-43
    • There is something a predicate stands for. It is to what a predicate stands for, and to that alone, that we can significantly ascribe oneness or manyness. This account is true both of Aquinas's forms and of Frege's Begriffe. pp. 44-45
    • A common nature is not named by an abstract singular term, and all such terms are removable by paraphrase. pp. 46-47
    • Frege was wrong in holding that a phrase like ‘the concept man' in subject position stands for an object that ‘represents' a Begriff. An abstract noun or noun-phrase referring to a form cannot be the whole of a logical subject; we must also use a phrase like ‘of Socrates' to mention the individual whose form it is. pp. 47-48
    • ‘The wisdom of Socrates' is not analysable as ‘wisdom which Socrates possesses', but splits up into ‘the wisdom of ... ' and ‘Socrates'. This is like the way that ‘SQRT(25)' splits up into a functional sign (for the square root) and a numeral. pp, 48-50
    • We may clarify Aquinas's terminology if for the designata of phrases like ‘the wisdom of Socrates' we use the distinctive term ‘individualized forms'. pp. 50-51
    • Although ‘the wisdom of ... ' and ‘the power of ... ' stand for different forms, ‘God' and ‘the wisdom of God' and ‘the power of God' will all, on Aquinas's view, be designations of the same thing; just as the number 1 is the same number as the square of 1 and as the cube of 1. pp. 51-52
    • On the other hand, if something is red and square, what makes it red is a different individualized form from what makes it square. A wave is a familiar example of an individualized form. pp. 52-53
      Section II
    • Is ‘exists' properly predicable of individuals? The thesis that ‘exist' is not a predicate is meant to explain how we can significantly and truly deny existence. But there may be other explanations of this puzzle. pp. 53-54
    • There are in fact three logically different kinds of existential proposition; negative examples are most easily distinguished. (A) A proposition like 'Cerberus does not exist' relates to (and does not exemplify) a certain use of a proper name, and serves to deny that in this use the name does name anything. pp. 55-56
    • (B) A proposition like ‘dragons do not exist' or 'intraMercurian planets do not exist' is logically the negative predication of the general term that is the grammatical subject. p. 56
    • The question whether there is a so-and-so (an est?) is answered with a B proposition. This answer does not relate to what Aquinas calls esse. ‘God exists' is a B proposition, because ‘God' is a descriptive term and not a proper name. pp. 57-58
    • (C) ‘Joseph is not and Simeon is not' (Genesis 42: 36) is a sort of proposition using ‘is' or ‘exists' as when one speaks of an individual's still existing, coming to exist, etc. ‘Is' or ‘exists' is here a genuine predicate. A name does not cease to have reference because its bearer perishes. pp. 58-60
    • Existence in sense C always means the persistence of some form in an individual. This is Aquinas's esse. p. 60
      Section III
    • Is an individualized form really distinct from that by which the individualized form is? e.g. the redness of Socrates's nose, from that by which this redness is? p. 60
    • Aquinas's first argument: things that share Fness resemble each other in respect of being F but differ in respect of esse. The point of this difference in respect of esse is that e.g. one Fness can cease to be independently of another. p. 61
    • Aquinas's second argument: being more or less intense is not a qualitative change, but is a matter of the degree to which a given individualized form exists. pp. 61-62
    • Aquinas's third argument: to explain the likeness and the difference between a thought of an X and a real X, he says that there is in both cases an individualized Xness, but the manner of esse of Xness is different in the thinking mind and the thing thought of. pp. 62-64
    • His sort of ‘hairsplitting' may well be the only way to attain the truth. p. 64
  5. What actually exists
    • Provisionally we may say: X actually exists if and only if X either acts, or undergoes change, or both. Actual existence is quite different from the existence expressed in ‘There is a so-and-so'. p. 65
    • Vernacular expressions like ‘any A', ‘each A', ‘the same A', another A', prima facie commit their user to recognizing As as a kind of object. p. 66
    • By asserting existential propositions in arithmetic and geometry, prima facie we are recognizing certain kinds of non-actual objects as existing. There appear to be no definitely statable difficulties about this. p. 67
    • No demythologizing of arithmetic and geometry is even plausible. p. 68
    • But the paradoxes of general set theory are a good reason for scepticism about its ontology (which must be an ontology of non-actual objects); and we ought to be still more sceptical about abstract objects that have no clear criterion of identity. p. 68
    • Do expressions like ‘the squareness of the table' and ‘the cat's being on the mat' designate actual entities? Scholastics would give one criterion for the identity of such individuals; Cambridge philosophers of our time, another criterion; the dispute appears silly. p. 69
    • Again, the phrases that purport to designate such entities are often nominalizations of sentences, and it seems that they can easily be removed by paraphrase. pp. 69-70
    • But some accidental individuals, e.g. surfaces and holes, appear less easily dispensable. p. 70
    • There is no reason to try to explain away people and things in terms of events; and the criteria of identity for events are very obscure. But on the other hand some events, e.g. sounds, appear to be directly identifiable individuals. pp. 70--71
    • Moreover, unless we recognize events as actual individuals, we cannot explain the difference we surely have to recognize between ‘real' changes and mere ‘Cambridge' changes pp. 71-72
    • Further, mental acts like thoughts are surely actualities. p. 72
    • Occurrent actualities, e.g. sounds and ‘real' changes, would take time to be actual; and so, presumably, do substances, which cannot be actual for less time than they take to perform their characteristic activities. pp. 72-73
    • Conceivably, a being could have thoughts and plans, and initiate changes, without undergoing ‘real' changes of any sort. p. 73
    • Such a life would be eternal, not just temporally uniform. pp. 73-74
    • Those who reject such an idea of God may really wish to worship a non-actual God. p. 74
  6. Causality6 and Creation
    • Is a deductive causal demonstration of God's existence possible? p. 75
    • Hume is supposed to have proved it possible. But neither Hume nor his admirers specify the logical form of casual propositions. So this assertion is completely idle. pp. 75-76
    • The sense of ‘cause' in a casual proof must be derived from familiar examples of causality7, not from a metaphysical vision of dependence. pp. 76-77
    • Aquinas, I think, meant at least the first three ‘ways' to be logical demonstrations. Whether they are will depend on the formal logic of causal propositions. p. 77
    • The general objections to the utility of deductions are all either trivial or fallacious. pp. 78-79
    • A syllogistic causal argument for God's existence would indeed be impossible; but a proof involving the logic of relations cannot be ruled out in advance. pp. 79-81
    • There are at least two important classes of causal propositions. (A) Some often come in the form ‘—is the cause of—', where the blanks are filled with abstract-noun phrases. This is a misleading form; the form ‘p because q', where ‘because' joins two clauses, is logically preferable as a paradigm for this class. pp. 81-82
    • (B) There are propositions saying of some agent that he brought something about; these will obviously be needed in talking about God's activity. pp. 82-83
    • The logical difference between God's creating an A and God's making an already existing thing to be A is closely analogous to the difference between a man's ‘just' looking for ‘a' detective story and his looking for ‘a particular' detective story; the difference may be shown in both cases by the shift of a quantifier. pp. 83-85
    • There is much hard logical work to be done on causal propositions. We need not fear that on these frontiers of theology it is irreverent to apply logic. p. 85
  7. Praying for things to happen
    • Whatever some people may think, Christians do pray for things to happen. I am here concerned only with prayers for ordinary observable happenings, not for grace or for miracles. p. 86
    • Christians believe, moreover, that God gives us some things not only as we wish but because we wish. This does not make prayer magically compulsive. p. 87
    • But it does imply that what happens because of prayer is not something that would have been given by God anyhow. Since the prayer might not have been offered, the thing prayed for might have never come about; but it also could come about, since it did so; therefore, before it happened it had two-way contingency. pp. 88-89
    • What is past at the time of a prayer cannot then have two-way contingency. So we cannot rationally pray for something to have happened; for in using the imperative of prayer we represent a situation as still to be brought about, which is incompatible with representing it as past, as a fait accompli. pp. 89-91
    • ’Time does not exist from God's point of view' is a muddled way of saying that time is a delusion. But time cannot consistently be treated as a delusion; and so to treat it would be ruinous to the Judaeo-Christian doctrine of creation. pp. 91-93
    • God is unchangeable; but because of changes in creatures we have to use different propositions at different times to say what God knows or can do; and God sees the world as changing, because it does change. p. 93
    • It is rational to pray only concerning future contingent issues. Are there any such issues? Or are all events already determined in their causes? The applications of probability theory go to show that what we should commonly count as chance events (e.g. the fall of dice) really are contingent in relation to created causes: though they fall under the order of the Divine Reason, and this accounts for our ability to find a pattern even in chance events. pp. 93-95
    • Contingency in the natural world is necessary in order that human choices may have scope to affect the natural world. It is in this realm of contingency that we may hope for prayers to be granted. pp. 95-97
    • Can we say that after a prayer God brings about what he was not going to bring about before the prayer? It is not clear that saying so would involve a ‘real' change in God's will. pp. 97 99
    • But the notion of ‘real' change, even as applied to creatures, is obscure. p. 99
  8. On worshipping the right God
    • The view that all bona fide worshippers worship the same God is emphatically contradicted by Scripture and Christian tradition. pp. 100-101
    • What is divine worship, latria? Honour that is paid to a symbol recognized as such is not divine worship. The difference between latria and lesser worship (dulia) is in part conventional (it is a matter of what acts are taken to mean); but sacrifice, and prayers for pardon and grace and glory, are of their nature acts of latria. pp. 101-102
    • Praying to the saints, whether justifiable or not, is not latria. p. 102
    • By ‘idolatry' I mean divine worship paid to a human artefact. This may be like a child's half-belief in the personality of her dolls. But there may be explicit belief that a God is specially present in the image. Though some people imagine that this belief is never actually held, it has in fact been common in high cultures. pp. 103-104
    • Astral worship is a similar misbelief. p. 104
    • We cannot feel complacently superior: idolatry may creep into worship of the true God, and the consultation of ‘thinking' machines as oracles might become an idolatry. pp. 104—105
    • Idolatry is folly, even for natural reason if uncorrupted by tradition. It is not arguable that in these matters natural reason is incompetent; and natural reason can discern, and historically has discerned, that the Source of cosmic motion is itself unlike all the moving bodies of the cosmos. pp. 105—106
    • God is specially present in some creatures; but those in which God is specially present are creatures that know and love him, not inanimate bodies like idols or planets. p. 106
    • The Incarnation doctrine is not open to the same objections as idolatry. The dead body of Christ remained united to the Godhead, but this is quite a different case from an idol. Nor is the Eucharist idolatrous. pp. 107-108
    • If a worshipper does not vainly worship the inanimate, must he be worshipping the only true God? No, for ‘to worship' is an intentional verb, and one may worship, as one may admire or love, the non-existent. p. 108
    • ‘God' is a descriptive term, not a proper name. pp. 108-109
    • A senile voter may support a Premier whose very identity is a mere senile confusion; he is not then supporting the real Premier. pp. 109-110
    • But on the other hand one may succeed in referring to a person although one's description is a bit wrong, and similarly succeed in worshipping the true God in spite of misconceiving his attributes. p. 110
    • However, a thought that contains a sufficiently deviant set of attributes will simply not relate to a given individual at all. pp. 110-111
    • There may then be worshippers whose thoughts nowise relate to the true God. Such ignorance, even if itself inculpable, may prevent them from turning to God for grace and mercy. pp. 111
    • There is no reason to think that love on man's side can prevail over any amount of intellectual error, or that God's calling and drawing of man is revealed in all sincere worship. pp. 111—112
    • There is no safe, tolerable, level of error about God's attributes. pp. 112—113
    • Natural theology does not deal only with an abstract sort of God, and may lead men to worship the true God. But a natural theologian may err so widely that he does not lay hold of the true God with his heart and mind. pp. 113-114
    • ‘A God exists' ascribes, not existence to a God, but Divine attributes to something-or-other; and someone who truly judges that a God exists may be ascribing Divine attributes to an inferior or merely phantom object. pp. 114—115
    • That we must not be tolerant of errors about the Divinity does not mean that persecution is defensible, but that no labour should be counted too great to win men from the Kingdom of Darkness. pp. 115—116
  9. The moral law and the law of God
    • Moral philosophers have long used an argument to show that God's commandments cannot generate moral obligation. p. 117
    • This argument goes back to Plato's Euthyphro. pp. 118-119
    • Knowledge of God and his commandments is not a prerequisite of all moral knowledge; in particular, our knowledge that lying is bad is independent of any revelation. pp. 119-120
    • But we must know God's law to know that we must not do evil that good may come. p. 120
    • ‘Doing evil' here means ‘doing what is of itself a bad thing to do', not ‘causing somebody or something to suffer evil'. pp. 120-121
    • Adultery is absolutely out of consideration for someone who accepts that we must not do evil that good may come, but only prima facie objectionable for someone who rejects this principle. It is psychologically possible to hold the principle without knowledge of God's law. p. 121
    • The only logically relevant reply to ‘Why shouldn't I?' is an appeal to something that the questioner wants and cannot get if he does the questionable action. The ‘You mustn't' appeal to a so-called Sense of Duty, regardless of the content of the alleged duty, is irrational and immoral. pp. 121-122
    • But, as Mrs. Foot has argued, we need, and cannot rationally choose to do without, habits of virtue that would exclude deliberation whether e.g. to commit adultery. pp. 122—123
    • Still, might one not sacrifice one's integrity of virtue for the good of others? This is where the law of God becomes relevant. p. 123
    • Man's reason can discern that some practices are generally undesirable. Unless this realization is in fact a promulgation to man of a Divine law absolutely forbidding such practices, most men are left by God with no guidance; for men's wits certainly are not adequate to judge in their own cause and make the right exceptions, and particular Divine guidance is certainly not available to most men. p. 124
    • A man who can see the general undesirability of such practices has in fact had God's law promulgated to him, and can come to realize this explicitly. pp. 124–125
    • This is the argument of Hobbes and Berkeley, from ‘theorems' about reasonable conduct to knowledge of God's laws properly so called. p. 126
    • ‘Why should I obey God's law?' is an insane question; by defiance of an Almighty God ‘men may shake off their ease, but not their yoke'. pp. 126-127
    • Worship of the Supreme Power casts out all fear of tyrants' threats. It is reasonable that knowledge of our situation—knowledge that we are absolutely in God's power—should affect our moral code. pp. 127-128
    • God's Providence can assure that no man is inculpably faced with a choice of violating one or other of God's prohibitions. p. 128
    • This fear of God is only the beginning of wisdom; but without it there is only folly. pp. 128–129
    • Sinners cannot count on being able for ever to misuse God's creatures in defiance of his commandments. p. 129

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - June 2020. Please address any comments on this page to theo@theotodman.com. File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page