The Evolution of the Soul
Swinburne (Richard)
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Amazon Book Description

  1. Men have evolved from animals, and animals from inanimate matter, but what has evolved is qualitatively different from the inanimate matter from which it began. Both men and the higher animals have a mental life of sensation, thought, purpose, desire, and belief. Although these mental states in part cause, and are caused by, brain states, they are distinct from them. Richard Swinburne argues that we can only make sense of this interaction by supposing that mental states are states of a soul, a mental substance in interaction with the body. Although both have a rich mental life, human souls, unlike animal souls, are capable of logical thought, have moral beliefs, have free will, and have an internal structure (so that their beliefs and desires are formed largely by other beliefs and desires inherent in the soul). Professor Swinburne concludes that there is no full scientific explanation available for the evolution of the soul, and almost certainly there never will be.
  2. For this revised edition Professor Swinburne has taken the opportunity to strengthen or expand the argument in various places, to take account of certain developments in philosophy and cognitive science in the intervening years, and to add new discussion of important matters relating to the themes of the book, including connectionism and quantum theory1.
  3. Richard Swinburne is Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Oriel College, since 1985. He was previously Professor of Philosophy at the University of Keele. He is the author of many notable books on the philosophy of religion in general and of the philosophy of Christianity in particular. Most recently, he offered general readers a powerful and lucid defence of religious belief in the modern world, in Is There a God? (Oxford University Press, 1996).


Clarendon Press, Oxford; Revised edition, 1997. Nice paperback copy.

"Swinburne (Richard) - Evolution of the Soul: Prolegomenon to the Revised Edition"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, pp. i-360(361).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Part 1 (Chs. 2–7) argues that mental events (consisting in the instantiation of mental properties – sensations, thoughts, purposes, desires, and beliefs) are distinct from physical events (such as brain events), although in causal interaction with them.
  2. Part 2 argues that these mental events consist in the instantiations of properties in immaterial substances, souls. A human being (and any higher animal) consists of two parts, the essential part – his soul, and a contingent part – his body. It is extremely unlikely that there could be a scientific explanation of the creation of souls.
  3. Humans are distinguished from the higher animals by an ability to reason logically, and by having moral awareness, free will, and an integrated system of beliefs and desires. Neither direct empirical evidence nor pure a priori philosophical argument can show what will happen to the soul after death. This could only be shown by some very general metaphysical system.

"Swinburne (Richard) - The Evolution of the Soul: Introduction"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 1, pp. 1-17(17).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Technical terms to be used in this book are introduced –
    • Substance,
    • Property,
    • Event,
    • Material object,
    • Mental property,
    • Physical property.
  2. Three views on the mind/body problem are distinguished –
    • Hard materialism,
    • Soft materialism (or property dualism), and
    • Dubstance dualism.
  3. Inductive principles to be used in the book are introduced – the principles
    • Of credulity,
    • Of testimony, and
    • Of simplicity (entailing the principle
    • Of charity).

"Swinburne (Richard) - Sensations"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 2, pp. 21-45(25).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Mental events consist in the instantiation of mental properties.
  2. Part 1 of this book (Chs. 2–7) analyses the different kinds of mental event that occur in humans and animals.
  3. This chapter analyses sensations, to which we have privileged, but not infallible, access and which are, together with beliefs, components of perceptions.

"Swinburne (Richard) - Sensations and Brain-Events"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 3, pp. 45-62(18).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. If we are to give a full history of the world, we need to count two properties as distinct, if possession of one does not entail possession of the other.
  2. Hence, mental properties are distinct from physical properties, and so mental events including sensations are distinct from physical events.
  3. So functionalism is rejected.
  4. And (New Appendix A shows) mental events do not supervene1 on, are not constituted by, or realized in, physical events.

COMMENT: See "Smart (J.C.C.) - Sensations and Brain Processes" for a contrasting view.

"Swinburne (Richard) - The Structure of the Soul"

Source: Peacocke & Gillett - Persons and Personality: A Contemporary Inquiry, 1987, Chapter 3

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 ("Swinburne (Richard) - The Structure of the Soul")

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

"Swinburne (Richard) - Thoughts"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 4, pp. 62-85(24).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Thoughts are understood as passive conscious events consisting in entertaining propositions. They may be accompanied by sensory images of written or spoken sentences; but such sentences never contain the whole content of the thought.
  2. New Appendix B discusses Fodor's ‘language of thought’ hypothesis.

"Swinburne (Richard) - Purposes"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 5, pp. 85-103(19).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Intentional actions consist in agents purposing, that is ‘trying’, to bring about effects (where ‘trying’ carries no implication of difficulty or failure) or allowing some effect to occur.
  2. Purposing is an active state of exerting causal influence, and cannot be analysed in terms of passive states such as desires.
  3. We have infallible beliefs about our own purposes, but only fallible beliefs about the purposes of others.
  4. Purposes have effects, and so epiphenomenalism is false.

"Swinburne (Richard) - Desires"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 6, pp. 103-122(20).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Desires are natural inclinations, hard to change, to do certain actions or allow certain events to occur.
  2. Enjoyment consists in the believed satisfaction of present desire.
  3. We always act on our strongest desires, unless we have good reason for not doing so and then we have to choose between reason and desire.
  4. Weakness of will consists in yielding to desire when reason suggests that we should not do so.
  5. Modification of desire is distinguished from forming an intention for the future, which in turn is distinguished from having an intention in one's present actions.

"Swinburne (Richard) - Beliefs"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 7, pp. 122-143(22).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Beliefs are people's maps of the world.
  2. They are passive and involuntary; agents have infallible beliefs about their own beliefs, but only fallible beliefs about the beliefs of others.
  3. All other mental events, such as memories and emotions, can be analysed in terms of the five components of the mental life –
    • Sensations, thoughts, and purposes (which are all conscious events in that we are aware of them while we have them) and
    • Beliefs and desires (which are both mental states that continue when we are unaware of them).

"Swinburne (Richard) - Body and Soul"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 8, pp. 145-161(17).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. I defend soft dualism. This holds that humans on Earth consist of two separate substances -- body and soul -- in interaction; but the soul has no necessary immortality, and it depends for its present functioning on the body. It would not be logically possible for a person to continue to exist after the destruction of his body (as it clearly1 is) unless he currently has a soul.
  2. Personal identity cannot be analysed either in terms of a continuity of mental life, or in terms of continuity of bodily matter. Continuing personal identity in the short term is a datum of experience, not merely known by inference from other experiences. To express this fact within an integrated system of thought, we must think of human persons as substances that consist of two parts – soul (the essential part) and body (non-essential). Part 2 of this book (Chs. 8–10) develops this view more fully.
  3. The argument of this chapter is put in precise logical form in New Appendix C.
  4. New Appendix D claims that souls have thisness2; that is, the indiscernibility of identicals3 does not apply to souls.

In-Page Footnotes ("Swinburne (Richard) - Body and Soul")

Footnote 1:
  • This is presumably only “clearly” visible to the eye of faith, though what is claimed is the logical possibility of post-mortem survival, not its actuality.
  • However, there seems something dubious about making a metaphysical claim – the present existence of souls – being based on a logical one.

"Swinburne (Richard) - The Evidence of Personal Identity"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 9, pp. 161-174(14).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Apparent personal memory (of who one was) is fallible evidence of personal identity – in virtue of the principle of credulity.
  2. Because it is found empirically that memory of who one was normally goes with having the same brain matter as that person, brain continuity constitutes indirect evidence of personal identity – and so, even less directly and more fallibly, do similarity of appearance and fingerprints.

"Swinburne (Richard) - The Origin and Life of the Soul"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 10, pp. 174-201(28).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. We have no grounds for supposing that a foetus1 has a soul until it is conscious, and no grounds for supposing that it is conscious until there occur in it brain processes similar to those that accompany consciousness in more developed human brains.
  2. The higher animals have souls.
  3. While scientists may discover vast numbers of correlations between mental events and brain events, it is most improbable that they will be able to explain why there are the correlations that they are, or any correlations at all – that is, why neural systems of a certain complexity give rise to souls.
  4. The very success of science in achieving vast integrations of theories in physics and chemistry was achieved by separating off from the physical world colours, tastes etc; but this cannot be done when we are looking for a theory with psychophysical laws.

"Swinburne (Richard) - Language, Rationality, and Choice"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 11, pp. 203-220(18).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Part 3 (Chs. 11–15) analyses the capacities of human souls, not possessed by animal souls.
  2. Animals do not have a structured language; and hence we have no reason to suppose that they have the concepts of past and future, truth, universality, and logical inference; or the distinction between what one desires and what one thinks most worthwhile.

"Swinburne (Richard) - Moral Awareness"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 12, pp. 220-231(12).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Human souls unlike animal ones have moral beliefs, universalizable beliefs of a certain kind about what is best to do
  2. Hence, they have a conscience that urges them to do some actions and not others.
  3. Moral beliefs are a natural acquisition for thinking humans, though not one that conveys any evolutionary advantage on the possessor.

"Swinburne (Richard) - The Freedom of the Will"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 13, pp. 231-262(32).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. A substantial balance of evidence favours the view that human souls have (limited) libertarian free will, that is the freedom to choose between alternative actions, despite all causal influences acting on them. Free will thus entails soul indeterminism, which entails brain indeterminism.
  2. There is no reason to suppose that the same laws govern the behaviour of the brain as govern any other physical system, since the brain is different from any other physical system in being in causal interaction with a soul. In any case, its indeterminism may be ensured by Quantum indeterminism. The main evidence for soul indeterminism is, however, the fact that human counter-suggestibility would be compatible with determinism only on the assumption of an a priori very unlikely mechanism for the production of beliefs.
  3. New Appendices E, F, and G discuss the relevance to this topic of different interpretations of Quantum Theory1, of Gödel's Theorem and of Libet's experiments.

"Swinburne (Richard) - The Structure of the Soul"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 14, pp. 262-298(37).

Philosophers Index Abstract1
  1. The belief-desire set of every soul is necessarily an integrated one in the sense that each belief and desire requires many other beliefs and desires to give it meaning and justification. Some beliefs and desires are much more central than others, and these include those that form a person's character. There are normal rational processes of change of belief and desire, often ones caused by other beliefs and desires; and abnormal irrational processes of change by means of brainwashing, brain disease, and surgery.
  2. The continuing existence of beliefs and desires when the subject is unaware of them consists in a continuing state of the soul, not merely in a continuing state of the brain linked to the soul. Some beliefs and desires belong to the Unconscious.

In-Page Footnotes ("Swinburne (Richard) - The Structure of the Soul")

Footnote 1: Note: This is not the same as the chapter ("Swinburne (Richard) - The Structure of the Soul") in "Peacocke (Arthur) & Gillett (Grant) - Persons and Personality: A Contemporary Inquiry", though the latter is avowedly based on this book (if not solely on this Chapter).

"Swinburne (Richard) - The Future of the Soul"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Chapter 15, pp. 298-360(63).

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Evidence of ‘near-death’ experiences, parapsychology, and claims of reincarnation1 do not constitute very good evidence that human souls survive the death of their bodies.
  2. Nor are there good philosophical arguments for the natural immortality of souls.
  3. Yet there are no natural laws connecting the existence or functioning of a soul with the existence or functioning of a body.
  4. Only an argument via some very general metaphysical theory could show what happens to a soul after death – e.g. an argument to a God who has revealed what happens.

"Swinburne (Richard) - Supervenience, Constitution, and Realization"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Appendix A, pp. 313-317(5)

"Swinburne (Richard) - Language of Thought, Connectionism, and Folk Psychology"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Appendix B, pp. 318-321(4)

"Swinburne (Richard) - The Modal Argument for Substance Dualism"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Appendix C, pp. 322-332(11)

"Swinburne (Richard) - The Nature of Souls; Their Thisness"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Appendix D, pp. 333-344(12)

Author’s Introduction
  1. It is a frequent criticism of substance dualism that dualists cannot say what souls are, or what makes the difference between one soul and another soul. My answer to the first concern is the simple one stated on p. 1551.
    • Souls are immaterial subjects of mental properties.
    • They have sensations and thoughts, desires and beliefs and perform intentional actions.
    • Souls are the essential parts of human beings, and
    • humans have sensations etc. and perform intentional actions in virtue of their souls doing so.
  2. But how can we distinguish one soul from another? In practice for embodied humans on Earth that is not too difficult. Your soul is the one uniquely connected to that body; and my soul is the one uniquely connected to this body. The connection, as I say on p. 1462, is a matter of my soul being able to cause this body to move as a basic action, and to be able to produce all other effects in the world only through moving this body; and of goings-on in this body causing its mental states, and other goings-on in the world affecting this soul only via affecting this body. But of course for a dualist these connections are contingent, and do not make the soul the soul it is. So what does? My answer is that the difference between souls is ultimate. They just differ solo numero.
  3. An immediate reaction to this suggestion is that it is irrational. Individuals can't just differ, they have to differ in respect of some property, if they are to be different. The trouble is that any objector has also got to admit solo numero difference — in bits of matter, or places, or times, or something else — or face a somewhat implausible consequence. Some individuals, that is, have thisness3, haecceitas, something which makes them different from other individuals of the same kind otherwise indistinguishable from them. I shall suggest that either material objects have thisness4, in which case there is nothing irrational in supposing that souls do — or they don't, and if souls don't either, an unwelcome consequence follows. In any case there is an independent argument for supposing that events have thisness5, in which case again it becomes not irrational to suppose that souls do too.
  4. I begin by analysing the notion of thisness6. An individual has thisness7 in the sense at which I am aiming if a very weak form of the principle of the identity of indiscernibles8 does not apply to it. The principle states that two individuals are the same if they have all the same properties; but takes different forms according to what is allowed to constitute a property. I distinguish (see p. 59) monadic properties, as those which pertain to individuals however they are related to other individuals, from relational properties. Philosophers may disagree about which properties are monadic, but plausibly the traditional primary qualities are monadic. So too plausibly are causal powers and liabilities. The power to exert such and such a force is a property possessed by an individual, whether or not it ever exerts it or whether there are any other actual individuals on which it can exert it. I understand by a general relational property a property of relation to some individual of a certain kind, i.e. one having certain monadic and general relational properties. General properties include both monadic properties and general relational properties. I understand by a particular relational property one which involves a relation to particular individuals. I understand by a particular individual one which is the individual it is not solely in virtue of its general properties; i.e. one which is not necessarily identical with any individual which has all the same general properties. Being ten foot away from a round steel ball or living in a big city are general relational properties. Living in London or standing to the left of John may be particular relational properties. Whether they are will depend on whether being London or being John is just a matter of being an individual with certain monadic and general relational properties; or whether there is more to it than that.
  5. I distinguish hard from soft properties, along the lines of the distinction between hard and soft facts in New Appendix_C10

In-Page Footnotes ("Swinburne (Richard) - The Nature of Souls; Their Thisness")

Footnote 1: See "Swinburne (Richard) - Body and Soul".

Footnote 2: As above.

Footnote 9: See "Swinburne (Richard) - The Evolution of the Soul: Introduction".

Footnote 10: See "Swinburne (Richard) - The Modal Argument for Substance Dualism".

"Swinburne (Richard) - More on Quantum Theory and the Brain"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Appendix E, pp. 345-350(6)

"Swinburne (Richard) - Godel's Theorem and Free Will"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Appendix F, pp. 351-353(3)

"Swinburne (Richard) - Libet's Experiments"

Source: The Evolution of the Soul, February 1997, Appendix G, pp. 354(1)

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