The “Soul”

There’s a lot of (mostly very obscure) talk about “the soul” here and elsewhere. (Is it supposed to be different from you, your “mind,” your “ego” etc.? Is it some combo of [some of] them, or what?)  A friend recently passed along the following quote from psychologist James Hillman that I thought was nice–and maybe demystifying–at least a little bit.

By soul I mean, first of all, a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint toward things rather than a thing itself. This perspective is reflective; it mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens. Between us and events, between the doer and the deed, there is a reflective moment — and soul-making means differentiating this middle ground.

It is as if consciousness rests upon a self-sustaining and imagining substrate — an inner place or deeper person or ongoing presence — that is simply there even when all our subjectivity, ego, and consciousness go into eclipse. Soul appears as a factor independent of the events in which we are immersed. Though I cannot identify soul with anything else, I also can never grasp it apart from other things, perhaps because it is like a reflection in a flowing mirror, or like the moon which mediates only borrowed light. But just this peculiar and paradoxical intervening variable gives one the sense of having or being soul. However intangible and indefinable it is, soul carries highest importance in hierarchies of human values, frequently being identified with the principle of life and even of divinity.

In another attempt upon the idea of soul I suggest that the word refers to that unknown component which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern. These four qualifications I had already put forth some years ago. I had begun to use the term freely, usually interchangeably with psyche (from Greek) and anima (from Latin). Now I am adding three necessary modifications. First, soul refers to the deepening of events into  experiences; second, the significance soul makes possible, whether in love or in religious concern, derives from its special relation with death. And third, by soul I mean the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image, fantasy — that mode which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical.”

James Hillman — Re-Visioning Psychology

776 thoughts on “The “Soul”

  1. walto: No.You seem to have an obsession with the “supernatural.”

    Perhaps. My reason for asking is Jesus and Buddha both have imaginary or supernatural baggage. Sorry for jumping to that conclusion. What, then, links Wittgenstein to Buddha and Jesus?

  2. GlenDavidson: there really is nothing that could ever “prove identity” anyway,

    Yes, exactly.

    GlenDavidson: , it’s what happens to work in science. I’ll take the chance that it will continue to work in science, since that is productive while philosophical vacuities like “identity” (something that hasn’t truly been shown to be meaningful in the first place, other than as a useful possible fiction for humans) can lead us nowhere.

    I don’t think the science requires identity at all. That’s a philosophical position that goes beyond the data. That’s been my point.

    In sum, we have correlations that are getting better and better. Identity could be disproved by doubters, but has not been. It can’t be proved by believers. It’s an article of faith. The science is indifferent.

  3. Alan Fox: What, then, links Wittgenstein to Buddha and Jesus?

    I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re asking for here.

    Oh, never mind. I see. Goldberg just thought they were all extra-special, I guess. The best that humankind has to offer or something.

  4. GlenDavidson: It doesn’t look like we’re in disagreement.

    Yeah, I think we’re in agreement. Can’t seem to pull in Patrick or Alan though. Those two insist that physicalism has some additional evidence available to it that deniers of identity lack. The evidence is indifferent to the two positions (as long as they’re put sensibly), I believe. Physicalism may get a boost from parsimony, but, as KN (and Witt.) says, it has it’s own problems to deal with.

    Fortunately science doesn’t give a shit about metaphysical perplexities. It’s like Ole Man River.

  5. walto: Inertia. We generally stick with things when we’re not confronted with anything noticeably better. Why wouldn’t we?

    No reason to impute that on everybody. Some people happen to actually care for knowledge and truth. But thanks for admitting that you don’t. It explains your position.

  6. newton: Could you provide a source for this, there does seem to be a difference in brainstates when imagining an object and when visually seeing that object.

    You’re the empirical guy, so you provide the source. And I’m sure we are talking about different situations anyway.

  7. Erik: No reason to impute that on everybody. Some people happen to actually care for knowledge and truth. But thanks for admitting that you don’t. It explains your position.

    Haha. Nice misrepresentation!

  8. Erik: You’re the empirical guy, so you provide the source. And I’m sure we are talking about different situations anyway.

    Ok, I can find no source.Your statement is unsupported. Some people actually care about knowledge and truth. It seems you don’t.

  9. walto: Yes, exactly.

    I don’t think the science requires identity at all.That’s a philosophical position that goes beyond the data.That’s been my point.

    In sum, we have correlations that are getting better and better.Identity could be disproved by doubters, but has not been.It can’t be proved by believers.It’s an article of faith.The science is indifferent.

    That’s how I see it, too.

    Even I wanted to push for something stronger than increasingly fine-grained correlations between phenomenology and neuroscience over time, it certainly wouldn’t be based on empirical considerations per se.

    But I think that part of the issue here is that Patrick and Alan, having not read Kripke or Chalmers, are simply not aware of the worries that analytic philosophers have about the concept of identity. They can be forgiven for that!

  10. Kantian Naturalist: Patrick and Alan, having not read Kripke or Chalmers, are simply not aware of the worries that analytic philosophers have about the concept of identity. They can be forgiven for that!

    You have more xmas spirit than I do. I want to see the ghost of xmas future first, anyhow.

  11. [To Glen]
    walto: Yeah, I think we’re in agreement. Can’t seem to pull in Patrick or Alan though.

    I know my math is weak but if we call Glen’s position “G” and my position “A” (as far as I have one) then A = G. If walto’s position is “W” then you say G = W. Therefore W = A. P will have to speak for himself. 🙂

  12. Kantian Naturalist: But I think that part of the issue here is that Patrick and Alan, having not read Kripke or Chalmers, are simply not aware of the worries that analytic philosophers have about the concept of identity. They can be forgiven for that!

    I’ll confess to not having knowingly read any Kripke. I have made some effort to take Chalmers, his hard problem and philosophical zombies seriously. I failed.

  13. Alan Fox: There’s plenty of biology about pain receptors (google nociception).

    Pains comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, … Thank God there’s a receptor for each of them. LoL

  14. Neil Rickert: There’s a reason for that. Truth, itself, is a human construct.

    You say that like you know it’s true. Do you? I didn’t think so.

    Neil Rickert: of course, we construct it to favor what we want to favor.

    On that we are in perfect agreement.

    Of course that makes this whole discussion about our own individual desires and not about objective reality at all.

    peace

  15. Alan Fox: My reason for asking is Jesus and Buddha both have imaginary or supernatural baggage.

    You’ve apparently never read Wittgenstein.

  16. walto: No. You seem to have an obsession with the “supernatural.”

    You are back to being my favorite again 😉

    peace

  17. Mung: What tools do you have for making observations?

    I know, I know. I’m a deaf person who can’t hear the music. Yet for other indirect observations, we have scientific instruments. For sound, I could record and display the result visually.

    But that’s not the point, really. You can have your dualism, no problem. Just don’t claim it impinges on the real world.

  18. Alan Fox: You can have your dualism, no problem. Just don’t claim it impinges on the real world

    I would say that you can have your naive phyisicalism, Just don’t claim that it’s an expression of how things actually are in the real world.

    peace

  19. Mung: Pains comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, … Thank God there’s a receptor for each of them. LoL

    Miraculous some might say

  20. walto: Which modern philosophy did you have in mind?

    Its just the general impression I get. For example as far I can see Dennett takes as his starting point the physical brain. I’m no expert in philosophy so I’m willing to be convinced that a good deal of modern philosophy does start from thinking. They might start from a different position and feel justified in so doing, but what I said was that I think they are wrong to do so.

    Pretty much everybody gets more things right than Steiner, who bases his claims on things like the shape of lambs’ bladders.

    From The Philosophy of Freedom website

    F. Rittlemeyer asked Rudolf Steiner why he never touched upon occult topics before his fortieth year? Steiner replied, “I first had to attain a certain position in the world. People could say of my present writings (occult) that they are ” mad “. Then, however, there are my earlier works, (philosophy) which cannot be ignored.” Rudolf Steiner, Life and Work Volume 2 (1890-1900) by Peter Selg

    Do you think that Newton’s work on calculus should not be judged on its content but on his alchemy writings?

  21. Alan Fox: You’re not going to get very far on the road to discovery without making assumptions, testing them and discarding those that don’t fit observation.

    Yes but surely you agree that you must start from a position where the least possible assumptions have been made?

  22. Alan Fox: ’ve a theory (well, more of an unsupported assertion, really) that no entity is capable of comprehending systems more complex than itself. But, collectively, with shared knowledge and experience, perhaps it is not insurmountable.

    And you must have arrived at your theory/assertion by first having thought about it.

  23. Alan Fox: You can have your dualism, no problem.

    I know, you can’t keep track of everything everyone says here at TSZ. Why do you think I am a dualist? Anyone not a physicalist must be a dualist?

  24. Alan Fox: I’m with walto regarding Rudolph Steiner. Someone passed on a book called “Bees”. It kind of destroys Steiner as a person who might have something sensible to say.

    See the quote I posted from the P of F website.

    I have that “book”. It is not a book Steiner wrote, it is a transcription of a collection of lectures given by him in 1923.

    Steiner only agreed reluctantly to his lectures being transcribed and made generally available. He would have preferred that people became familiar with his written works before reading these transcriptions.

    You are free to criticise Steiner as much as you like but I would prefer that you criticise his philosophy from his written philosophical works.

  25. Alan Fox: I think it is hugely premature to move to “immaterial” explanations for, say, how humans think, before getting to grasps with what goes on in the real world.

    And to get to grasps with anything we must begin by thinking about it.

    I previously listed some examples here

    These are examples of correlations not causal relationships.

  26. Neil Rickert: You seem to be arguing for foundationalism.Experience suggests that it doesn’t work.

    How can there be thinking before there is something to think about?

    Neil Rickert: You seem to be arguing for foundationalism.Experience suggests that it doesn’t work.

    No I’m not. As far as I know foundationalism begins from beliefs. But before there is belief there must be thinking.

    How can there be thinking before there is something to think about?

    I’m a not arguing about how things appeared in the world order. I am arguing about what must come first in gaining knowledge. And it is thinking which comes first.

  27. CharlieM: Then what is it and how do you know this?

    I know about it, because I have been investigating perception.

    It is perception that carves the world up. You wanted to know how we have knowledge of objects. But we don’t even have objects until perception has carved the world up such as to provide us with objects to perceive.

  28. Neil Rickert: I know about it, because I have been investigating perception.

    It is perception that carves the world up.You wanted to know how we have knowledge of objects.But we don’t even have objects until perception has carved the world up such as to provide us withobjects to perceive.

    The only way you could have investigated any of this is by the use of thinking.

  29. CharlieM: Then, however, there are my earlier works, (philosophy) which cannot be

    In my view–and that of subsequent philosophy generally, not only CAN it be ignored, it OUGHT to be.

  30. Neil Rickert: It is perception that carves the world up.

    No it’s cognition that carves the world up. We decide if we are looking at a many water droplets or a single cloud. The mind does this not the senses

    Perception is simply a tool the the mind uses to make the cuts

    peace

  31. walto: In my view–and that of subsequent philosophy generally, not only CAN it be ignored, it OUGHT to be.

    Are you not a philosopher? I would have thought that any philosopher can only take up his or her own stance by studying the philosophies that differ from their own position, not by ignoring them.

    Would that be your advice to any up and coming philosophers, ignore what you do not agree with?

  32. fifthmonarchyman: Apparently not or you would not spend as much time here as you do.

    peace

    You have it backwards, if everyone had the same objective truth there would be no need to listen to others.It is the subjectiveness which gives life variety.

  33. fifthmonarchyman: No it’s cognition that carves the world up. We decide if we are looking at a many water droplets or a single cloud. The mind does this not the senses

    Perception

    Def :a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.

  34. CharlieM: Are you not a philosopher? I would have thought that any philosopher can only take up his or her own stance by studying the philosophies that differ from their own position, not by ignoring them.

    Would that be your advice to any up and coming philosophers, ignore what you do not agree with?

    My advice is to read lots of varying stuff by people who are smart and actually worth reading. If you’d like a list of actually good philosophers, i’d be happy to give you one. But you seem to have gotten stuck in some mire and don’t want to lift yourself out.

  35. newton: Perception

    Def :a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.

    By that definition how can you have perception without thinking?

  36. walto: My advice is to read lots of varying stuff by people who are smart and actually worth reading. If you’d like a list of actually good philosophers, i’d be happy to give you one. But you seem to have gotten stuck in some mire and don’t want to lift yourself out.

    Be honest, have you ever read Steiner’s “The Philosophy of Freedom”?

  37. Fair Witness: Erik stated that we cannot tell the difference between a brain of a person playing tennis versus the brain of a person dreaming about playing tennis.I wouldn’t want him to suffer under the misconception that dream sleep brain states cannot be detected.

    https://lmgtfy.com/?q=detecting+REM+sleep

    It gives irrelevant answers. It comes closest when talking about detecting REM stage by *heart rate* but we were talking about looking at the brain. To detect REM by heart rate presupposes that we already know that the subject is asleep. So, totally irrelevant.

    You don’t really care to follow the discussion, do you?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.