The Rise and Fall of Soul and Self: An Intellectual History of Personal Identity
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This book traces the development of theories of the self and personal identity from the ancient Greeks to the present day. From Plato and Aristotle to Freud and Foucault, Raymond Martin and John Barresi explore the works of a wide range of thinkers and reveal the larger intellectual trends, controversies, and ideas that have revolutionized the way we think about ourselves.
The authors open with ancient Greece, where the ideas of Plato, Aristotle, and the materialistic atomists laid the groundwork for future theories. They then discuss the ideas of the church fathers and medieval and Renaissance philosophers, including St. Paul, Philo, Augustine, Aquinas, and Montaigne. In their coverage of the emergence of a new mechanistic conception of nature in the seventeenth century, Martin and Barresi note a shift away from religious and purely philosophical notions of self and personal identity to more scientific and social conceptions, a trend that has continued to the present day. They explore modern philosophy and psychology, including the origins of different traditions within each discipline, and explain both the theoretical relevance of feminism and gender and ethnic studies and also the ways that Derrida and other recent thinkers have challenged the very idea that a unified self or personal identity even exists.
Martin and Barresi cover a number of issues broached by philosophers and psychologists, such as the existence of a fixed and unchanging self and whether the concept of the soul has a use outside of religious contexts. They address the question of whether notions of the soul and the self are still viable in today's world. Together, they reveal the fascinating ways in which great thinkers have grappled with these and other questions and the astounding impact their ideas have had on the development of self-understanding in the west.
century, Coleridge desperately tried to maintain his belief in an immortal soul while also keeping up with advances in science, including the science of human nature. In struggling with the question of how the self, which is free, could possibly fit into a mechanically determined natural world, he remarked that in the mechanistic view of Hartley and Priestley, his words “may be as truly said to be written by” the universe as by himself, for “the whole universe co-operates to produce the minutest
from within.”41 In his view, beginning in this way meant that one does not begin, as Hume did, with “sensations, as the simplest mental facts, and proceed synthetically, constructing each higher stage from those below it.” Rather, consciousness presents itself as a much more complex phenomenon: “what we call simple sensations are results of discriminative attention, pushed often to a very high degree.” When psychologists begin, as they should, with “the fact of thinking itself” and then analyze
has to do with whether the bodies people have on earth will be the same as the ones they acquire in the afterlife. Apparently, Paul’s answer was that they would not be the same: “There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another”; “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable”; “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body”; and, “I
the right kind. Early in the century, Locke’s critics failed to see that even the memory view that they attributed to him was riding the crest of a wave of naturalization that was about to engulf them. Later in the century their vision improved. Thus, Clarke’s bravado toward the beginning of the century contrasts nicely with the subsequent defensiveness of George Berkeley and Joseph Butler a few decades later and with the reluctance of most soul theorists, after David Hume, even to do battle on
have put it, neither has to exist except as a “formal property” of the thought. A puzzle about Kant’s view is that unifying is a causal process. So, to say, as we just have, that the self causes the unification of thoughts suggests that the self is something distinct from the thoughts. On the other hand, if Kant denies that it is distinct, his only alternative would seem to be to claim that the self consists merely in the fact that the thoughts are unified. But if the self were to consist merely