C.I. Lewis is one of the most significant philosophers of the early twentieth century, his biggest contributions being in epistemology. Lewis investigated how it is that humans gain knowledge. As a man who falls under the category of an analytic philosopher, he concluded in his philosophy that we gain knowledge empirically, or through experience. Lewis names his phenomena the given, which is reminiscent of Kant’s theory of Given. For the sake of clarity in this essay I will capitalize Kant’s Given, and use lowercase for Lewis’. Another parallel to be drawn between Kant and C.I. Lewis is their similarities in ethics. Kant’s deontology emphasizes the inherent good in actions. Seemingly evolved from that, Lewis’ moral philosophy is concerned about the potentiality of goodness in actions, not goodness of objects or consequences as other non-deontological moral theories hold. C.I. Lewis’ epistemology and ethical theories should be viewed as an evolution of Kant’s ideas; Lewis can be seen as Kant plus Pragmatism.

The analytic tradition of philosophy in the twentieth century came about in order to focus philosophy on practical subjects. It began because speaking about metaphysical matters seemed pointless, as no metaphysical facts could be proved or disproved. Analytic philosophers turned their focus on much smaller problems that could possibly be solved by the help of philosophy. The analytic philosophers adopted an empiricist and scientific approach to philosophy, breaking away from rationalists before them. Many of the analytics focused on language, however C.I. Lewis took a much more Kantian approach in a lot of is work by tackling epistemology and how we interpret the given.

To understand how Lewis evolved from Kant’s epistemology, we will first examine Kant. One of Kant’s most notable contributions to philosophy, and why he often marks the end of “Modern Philosophy” is due to his attempt at bridging the gap of empiricism and rationalism. This is the first sense in which we can see an evolution forming that may lead into the analytic tradition. By not only relying on rationalism to base his epistemology, Kant is adopting an empiricist justification. Kant’s views the world as divided into two main categories: the noumenal world and the phenomenal world. The noumenal world is the existence of an object in itself, and this world is not accessible to humans. The noumenal world is less important here, as it refers to a metaphysical idea of objects, which is not of great significance to analytic philosophers such as C.I. Lewis. In fact, this world would be completely irrelevant to analytic philosophers because anything that cannot be empirically justified is of no consequence. To make claims about that which we cannot see is useless.

On the other hand, and more importantly, Kant identifies the second world as the phenomenal. This is the world of the Given. The phenomenal is the world as we perceive it.

The phenomena of human experience depend on both the sensory data that we receive passively through sensibility and the way our mind actively processes this data according to its own a priori rules. These rules supply the general framework in which the sensible world and all the objects (or phenomena) in it appear to us. So the sensible world and its phenomena are not entirely independent of the human mind, which contributes its basic structure. (Kant SEP)

Kant’s Given is the sensory data that we receive from the world involuntarily. This is a passive process that our mind then responds to according to certain limitations in which we understand the world: persons and objects causally interacting in space and time. In this way, Kant believes that each human perceives only appearances of the world, but also that humans understand the world through these innate mechanisms (persons and objects causally interacting in space and time) in the same way. Two people that perceive the same exact phenomena are going to process said phenomena in the same way because of these innate mechanisms.

C.I. Lewis holds a similar view to Kant in respect of only perceiving phenomena. Lewis viewed the world as having one important aspect: the phenomenal. It cannot be said that Lewis did not believe in any metaphysical beings such as God or even Kant’s noumenal world, but he certainly did not see any importance in studying or writing about it. Lewis did, however, see the phenomenal world as a world of appearances that humans receive involuntarily. Lewis asserts “the two elements to be distinguished in knowledge are the concept, which is the product of the activity of thought, and the sensuously given, which is independent of such activity” (Lewis 186). Here we see the first way in which Lewis evolves from Kant’s epistemology. Where Kant does not distinguish between the involuntary perception of phenomena and the interpretation, Lewis does. He understands the given (as opposed to Kant’s Given) as the passive perception of phenomena, but the way in which we understand that given depends on the human being.

This may need clarification, as it is a fine line to draw between the two. Surely Kant believes that different persons can have different opinions on phenomena they receive, that is something most people will agree on. This is different from the point I am making, however. Kant does not, however, allow for different worldviews to be the innate mechanisms of the mind, whereas Lewis does. Kant sees everyone as having the same mechanisms that process the Given, but Lewis holds that different conceptual frameworks (such as physics or biology, which I will speak more of) can act as these mechanisms of the mind. This is where Lewis’ addition of pragmatism to Kant’s epistemology surfaces. Pragmatism is “marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief” (Pragmatism, M.W. Dictionary). This means that although the phenomena of the Lewis’ given may be the same for everyone, the conceptual framework that our mind conforms the given to may be different for different people.

A contemporary physicist will have a much different set of innate mechanisms that interpret the given than a commonsense realist. The physicist is going to interpret the given in terms of strings and branes, and how these objects will affect future findings in contemporary physics. To reiterate, the given is the same for both the physicist and the commonsense realist, but the mechanisms by which their mind understands the given is a different story. Arguably, I believe Kant is correct in saying that basic innate mechanisms are persons and objects and how they causally relate in space and time, however I do not believe these are the only innate mechanisms which is how Lewis evolves from Kant. The physicist is in a conceptual framework completely different from the commonsense realist, and thus his mind has a different way of processing the given. As Lewis notes about processing the given:

When we conceptually interpret the given, we form hypothetical expectations and make predictions in the light of past experience, usually automatically and without conscious reflection, concerning what other experiences we would have were we to engage in specific actions, and so, in applying concepts, as Kant suggests, we relate our experiences to each other. (C.I. Lewis, SEP)

The way personal conceptual frameworks affect the way in which we understand the given is an important evolution from Kant’s Given. Rather than every person understanding given phenomena in the same way, this allows for justification though past and future experience.

This difference in interpretation of specific given phenomena can be seen more simply with the example of a pen, “my designation of this thing as ‘pen’ reflects my purpose to write; as ‘cylinder’ my desire to explain a problem in geometry or mechanics” (188). A person experiencing the pen may not interpret it as such if they are a mathematician determining the spatial dimensions of the object. Just as a person using the pen will interpret it as a tool to write with. The interpretation of the given is according to ones own conceptual framework that dictates the innate mechanisms, and the knowledge that can be derived from an experience is justified pragmatically. This means justification of truth and falsity relies on other experiences and interpretations.

Lewis maintained a conceptual pragmatist view of knowledge because, as is inherent with empiricism, knowledge only exists in the possibility of error, “Thus, he modified the traditional view of sensory experience, which regards it as a guarantee of true knowledge and certainty about reality because an individual cannot possibly be mistaken about the sheer impressions given by the senses. According to Lewis, epistemological problems are instead a matter of the subjective interpretations that individuals make about their sensory experiences” (Lewis, E. Britannica). Lewis takes Kant’s attempt at bridging the gap between empiricism and rationalism into the realm of analytic philosophy by getting rid of the noumenal world and basing his adapted epistemology on empirical phenomena and pragmatic justification.

Similar to Lewis’ evolution of Kant’s epistemology, his ethical theory can be thought of in the same way. Kant’s ethics, deontology is one of the most famous in philosophy. Kant believed that the only thing that is inherently good is a good will. He bases his moral philosophy on the idea of human autonomy, he says that our own understanding “provides laws that constitute the a priori framework of our experience” (Kant SEP). Kant believes that through governing ones own actions, we can chose what to will ourselves to do, which is why he values a good will over everything. Where as some moral philosophies maintain that certain objects are good, or the consequences of certain actions are good, Kant holds that what is good is a good will; the action of choosing the right thing is good.

Kant holds that there is a basic law of morality, which he calls the categorical imperative. “He saw the moral law as a categorical imperative—i.e., an unconditional command—and believed that its content could be established by human reason alone. Reason begins with the principle ‘Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law’” (Deontological Ethics, E. Britannica). Kant’s ethics are highly involved with the individual’s duty to conform to maxims, or laws, while still having the autonomy to chose not to. Similar to his epistemological view that every person interprets the Given in the same way, Kant believes that all people necessarily come to the same laws, “Kant holds that we give the moral law to ourselves, just as we also give the general laws of nature to ourselves, though in a different sense. Moreover, we each necessarily give the same moral law to ourselves, just as we each construct our experience in accordance with the same categories” (Kant, SEP). Just like his epistemology, Kant’s ethics are about constructing a world, but in a theoretical manner.

Lewis’ ethical theory is much more hedonistic than Kant’s, but it can be seen as an evolution of his deontology. While Kant saw a good will as the highest good in the world, Lewis saw the potentiality of good as the value of objects and actions,

The value of an object consists in its potentiality for conducing to intrinsically valuable experiences, and is thus a real connection between objects, persons, and the character of experience, which we can be empirically warranted in accepting on the basis of the empirical evidence and the probability on the evidence of such objects yielding such intrinsically valuable experiences. (Lewis, SEP)

While Lewis does place a lot of importance on the pleasure he gets from certain experiences, he is still using his still under a Kantian framework because he holds there are universal imperatives that individuals must follow. He also follows Kant’s maxim that one should ‘Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law’, by saying that “’No rule of action is right except one which is right in all instances, and therefore right for everyone” (Mothersill, 85). The main difference between the two moral philosophies is that Lewis’ says the highest good is personal satisfaction.

Just like Kant believes there is inherent good in the will, Lewis takes it a step further by specifying, “the summum bonum as the maximization of personal satisfaction for the whole of life and […] the ‘ethical imperative’ is one which concerns the rights of other people” (Mothersill, 87). Lewis takes Kant’s categorical imperative and sets it apart, instead seeing it as a different from a personal set of morals. Lewis sees the imperative as concerning other people and the “summum bonum” as concerning personal satisfaction, which is why Lewis can be seen as a Hedonist deontologist.

Lewis’ contribution to analytic philosophy in epistemology and ethics is very prominent. His epistemology is a great stride for empiricists of the twentieth century by ridding the problem of verification and replacing it with pragmatic justification by way of given phenomena. This can be seen as an evolution of Kant’s epistemology of the phenomenal world and the way humans process the Given though innate mechanisms of the mind. Lewis’ ethics can also be seen as a development of Kant’s deontology as he still advocates for the categorical imperative by which everyone should live. However, Lewis adds his own hedonist take on ethics by valuing personal satisfaction as the greatest good. Lewis took Kant, one of the most noted and acclaimed philosophers of the modern era, and advanced his ideals to fit the prevailing ideas of twentieth century analytic philosophy.


Works Cited

“C.I. Lewis”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/338117/CI-Lewis&gt;.

“Deontological Ethics”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/158162/deontological-ethics&gt;.

Hales, Steven D. “The Given Element (C.I. Lewis).” Analytic Philosophy: Classic Readings. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2002. N.
pag. Web.

Hunter, Bruce, “Clarence Irving Lewis”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/lewis-ci/&gt;.

Mary Mothersill. Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, Vol. 5, No. 6 (Dec., 1954), pp. 81-88

“Pragmatism.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pragmatism&gt;.

      There is a reason why Kant marks the end of the modern era of philosophy. He trademarked many new concepts, but most significantly Kant endeavored to bridge the ever-present gap between rationalism and empiricism. While Kant may not have solved all the problems that create the gap in the first place, he made tremendous strides in maintaining a progression of philosophy. But this does not come with out issue. What Kant gained in development of many areas of philosophy such as the philosophy of religion, ethics, and metaphysics, he lacked in philosophy of the self. This is not to say that he neglected the topic of the mind, for he made an enormous impact on theories of knowledge and how the mind connects to the world, but rather this means that he created a monumental problem in relation to the self. The existentialists attempt to solve this problem, not by using metaphysics, but by explaining how we must live to connect with ourselves on the most intimate and intentional level. Heidegger, a since-labeled existentialist, took Kant’s problem of personal identity as a great devastation and throughout his philosophy provides solutions to achieve this connection to the transcendental ego.

            In his work, Kant asserts that there are things in themselves and secondarily things as we experience them. In the interest of this investigation mainly pertaining to Heidegger, I will try to keep Kant’s view short. As I discussed in my previous paper “We Can Know Ourselves: Refutation of Kant’s Self”, which I will reference throughout this paper, Kant divides the world in two. He proposes that there are the noumenal and the phenomenal worlds. The noumenal world consists of objects in themselves, and this world is outside of the scope of human understanding. The phenomenal world, on the other hand, is the world as it appears to us; the world that we construct through the wiring in our brains. This all seems to make sense, and it does in a certain sense. The way I perceive the world is most likely through my mind (using mind and brain interchangeably here), and the programs therein shape the way we understand the sensory data we receive.

            Rather than receiving a copy of the world that we live in, as many philosophers before Kant believed, we have certain restrictions on what we can understand. Namely, we comprehend the world outside of us in terms of material objects and persons that causally interact with each other in space and time. I would not be able to think of a 3-Dimensional form in a 2-Dimensional way. While this may seem like a silly thought experiment, it certainly displays the confines of our comprehension, as we do not have any evidence that the way we perceive the world is the way it exists apart from us. Thus, everything in the world has two existences: the noumenal and phenomenal. This is where the problem comes in.

            A person is an object just as any other extended substance is. It is understandable that we may not know what it is like to be a pillow, for example, noumenally, but how can Kant say that I cannot know what it is like to be myself? He states:

Now in order to know ourselves, there is required in addition to the act of thought, which brings the manifold of every possible intuition to the unity of apperception, a determinate mode of intuition, whereby this manifold is given; it therefore follows that although my existence is not indeed appearance, the determination of my existence can take place only in conformity with the form of inner sense, according to the special mode in which the manifold, which I combine, is given in inner intuition. Accordingly I have no knowledge of myself as I am but merely as I appear to myself. (CoPR, B 157-158)

Kant asserts that we only know ourselves as we appear to ourselves, not noumenally. As I stated in “We Can Know Ourselves: Refutation of Kant’s Self”, “It seems that Kant is attempting to definitively divide the noumenal and phenomenal world by insisting that we cannot know our own nature. While the distinction of the phenomenal and noumenal certainly makes sense when we reflect how we understand he world outside of our body, it does not hold the same weight when we reflect on ourselves.” (p. 5). Surely we reflect on ourselves, but in a much different way than how we reflect on objects separate from ourselves. To not belabor the point: Kant asserts that the noumenal self (the transcendental ego) is unknown to the individual, thus creating a major crisis of personal identity and the original existential crisis.

            Heidegger comes in swinging on this topic, as the concept and problem of Being (in all senses of the word) is at the crux of his writing. Instead of seeing the definition of the nature of the world as a goal in his philosophy, Heidegger sees the real problem in how our Being is defined. He wrote an entire book title Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, in which he explains how we interact with ourselves, the being. Speaking now of the problem of being that Kant presents:

With the question of being as such we are poised on the brink of complete obscurity. Yet we should not turn away prematurely but should seek to bring this comprehension of Being in all its singularity closer to us. For despite the seemingly impenetrable obscurity which envelops Being and its signification, it remains incontestable that at all times and wherever the essent appears to us, we have at our disposal a certain comprehension of Being. (Heidegger 233)

Heidegger is not refuting the noumenal self here, we are always conscious of our own act of Being, not only that but we are aware of other acts of being, just not as intimately as our own. What Kant believed there to be no knowledge of, Heidegger believes there to be the most important knowledge.

            Being is the most meaningful thing we can do in life, as that is essentially all we do. While we may be dependent on the “essent”, or facticity that we find ourselves in throughout our lives, we can accept the limits we are confined to and do our best to understand our Being:

Existence implies being dependent on the essent as such so that man as essent is given over to the essent on which he is thus dependent. As a mode of Being, existence is in itself finitude and, as such, is only possible on the basis of the comprehension of Being. There is and must be such as Being only where finitude has become existent. The comprehension of Being which dominates human existence, although man is unaware of its breadth, constancy, and indeterminateness, is thus manifest as the innermost ground of human finitude. The comprehension of Being does not have the harmless generality which it would have were it just another human property (Heidegger 160)

Heidegger argues that the fact that humans can assess their own Being is what makes us different from other material objects. He sees the connection of knowing the self, as Kant would see it, in a noumenal way as the most obvious aspect of human existence. If you observe another human being it is so readily apparent that you do not have the same connection to their body as you do to your own that it seems absurd to suggest we do not know ourselves noumenally.

            Heidegger sees that there is a problem in laying the groundwork for metaphysics, especially concerning the self and our connection and knowledge therein. However, he believes that we can do it, and we perhaps have just been thinking too deeply about it. The fact that we are at all able to be concerned about being (while being), as opposed to only be (in the sense that we do not merely live according to subsistence needs) provides us with a defining characteristic, “Kant, in whose philosophizing the problem of the possibility of metaphysics was awake to a degree found in none before or after him, must have understood all too little of his innermost intention if this connection did not appear to him” (Heidegger 161). Kant did not see what was right in front of him: humans are intimately connected to their own selves, if not noumenally, it is the closet understanding of the noumenal that we have.

            While Heidegger does believe that we have this intimate connection to the Da-Sein, he believes that “Being” is not a strict definition. The being that we are so connected to is in constant flux, “The essence of this being lies in its to be. The whatness (essentia) of this being must be understood in terms of its being (existentia) insofar as one can speak of it at all” (Solomon/Heidegger, 119). Kant may not have agreed that the noumenal properties of anything could be something that is not clear-cut, however Heidegger is clear in his belief that the Da-Sein is not defined until its finish at death. Not only that, but his main concern is not the being of anyone else, but rather the fact that we are only in control of our own,

The being which this being is concerned about in its being is always my own. […] Da-sein is my own, to be always in this or that way. It has somehow always already decided in which way Da-sein is always my own. The being which is concerned in its being about its being is related to its being as its truest possibility. Da-sein is always its possibility. (Solomon/Heidegger 120)

Heidegger so aggressively disagrees with Kant here in that he believes the Da-sein is that which we are most connected to. The world is but an absurd and unreliable place in which we are thrown. We have no control over the society and situation we are born into, but what we can control is how we concern ourselves with being, our being: Da-sein.

            Heidegger states that there are two different modes of being, authenticity and inauthenticity. The Da-sein is always the result being-mine, in which living authentically is living as closely to your own choices as possible. It is to not fall prey to the they, “In inauthenticity, Da-sein falls back to the ‘they’, identifies itself with its facticity and ignores the possibility of its own death. In inauthenticity or fallenness, the search for authentic understanding becomes mere curiosity; philosophical discourse, mere idle talk; thinking, mere calculation” (Solomon 117). Heidegger believes there to be three stages of Da-sein as a result of being a being-in-the-world. First and foremost there is existence. Existence is the exactly what it sounds like: the fact that we are indeed a thing, and we are in the world. The next state Da-sein reaches is thrownness. Thrownness is this apparent facticity of being, the fact that as soon as we are in existence, that existence is limited by the world, as it exists.

            The next step Heidegger sees as a threat to Da-sein is fallenness. This is the tendency of Da-sein to gravitate toward the they. He does not necessarily see fallenness as a bad thing, but rather as a fact. We are first and foremost part of the world, and the inclination to fall into the normalcy of that world is natural. He does, however, believe that falleness leads to an inauthentic mode of Da-sein, of which he also asserts is not a bad thing. He sees what I have mentioned above as idle talk, mere calculation, etc, as a kind of tranquilization,

This tranquilization in inauthentic being, however, does not seduce into stagnation and inactivity, but drives one to uninhibited ‘busyness’. Being entangled in the ‘world’ does not somehow come to rest. […] Entangled being-in-the-world is not only tempting and tranquilizing, it is at the same time alienating. (Solomon/Heidegger, 129).

This falling-prey to the they leads at first to tranquilization and ‘busying’ oneself with meaningless tasks in the world. However, as we see here, it also leads to alienation, which Heidegger sees as leading to assessing the authenticity in the Da-sein.

            Falling prey to the world is rather a fact of life than thing to avoid, but also shows us by alienation that we are beings at the forefront, most concerned with our own Da-sein. We are not concerned with other beings, and the reason behind that is because of the private connection we share with ourselves, the Da-sein.

Falling prey to the world is then reinterpreted onto-logically as objective presence in the manner of innerwordly beings. […] In falling prey, nothing other than our potentiality for being-in-the-world is the issue, even if in the mode of inauthenticity. Da-sein ca fall prey only because it is concerned with understanding, attuned being-in-the-world. On the other hand, authentic existence is nothing which hovers over entangled everydayness, but is existentially only a modified grasp of everydayness. (Solomon/Heidegger 131)

Our tendency to plunge into the they is not strictly due to the act of being inauthentically, but rather the due to the main concern of Da-sein, which is to comprehend. Which brings us to the true point of Heidegger, and how Da-sein, Kant’s transcendental ego in this sense, is defined.

            Heidegger argues that the true definition of Da-sein is only discovered in death. Thus we are beings-toward-death. “Da-sein can be authentic insofar as it breaks way from the ‘they’ to seek its own possibilities, of which the most necessary is death” (Solomon 117). We must accept the fact that Da-sein is a finite thing, we are going to die, and that is the potentiality contained in Da-sein. We can only be a being-toward-death by not fleeing from this reality. With this feeling of being toward death comes angst, namely the dread and anxiety of the realization,

The attunement which is able to hold open the constance and absolute threat to itself arising from the ownmost individualiszed being of Da-sein is Angst. In Angst, Da-sein finds itself faced with the nothingness of the possible impossibility of its existence (Solomon/Heidegger 146).

Realizing your own death is the most apparent catalyst we have for living in the mode of authenticity. Kant may not agree that this Da-sein that Heidegger identifies with so closely matches the transcendental ego, but it follows that we should understand ourselves in a far superior way than any other being in the world.

            Heidegger understands Da-sein possess its own truth, “From this it has already become clear that the Metaphysics of Dasein, as he laying of the round for metaphysics, has its own truth which so far is essentially still much too veiled” (Heidegger 166). While Heidegger maintains throughout his writing that Da-sein will not be truly defined until death, thus “much too veiled”, he believes this to be the true and only self that we have for our own selves. It is impossible to conceive of being without being the personal subject therein, thus connecting us without possibility of disconnect. This is what Kant has overlooked: we are so obviously connected with Da-sein, or the transcendental ego, that it is impossible to disconnect from that. We are so deeply entangled in Da-sein it is inconceivable to not know it or think of something without reference to it. As Heidegger says, Da-sein “does not express its what, as in the case of table, house, tree, but being” (Solomon/Heidegger 119).

Rene Descartes has earned the title of the Father of Modern Philosophy. He calls into doubt everything that we take for granted as human beings. Though he does come to the conclusion that we can know the world, and most people agree with this, the arguments by which he draws new axioms and deduces this conclusion are not sound.  While many of Descartes’ axioms are irrefutable, there are a couple key maxims that can be denied, which then ruin his conclusions from then on. Axiomatic arguments certainly have the most impact in philosophical writing, but at the same time because Descartes has crucial claims that are deniable, this yields his entire following argument unreliable.

            Descartes’ argument in Meditation III: Concerning God, That He Exists, as well as all of his arguments in Meditation on First Philosophy, is axiomatic. Descartes wishes to call into doubt everything he knows, and then find axioms from which he can make a new foundation of knowledge. While this is a promising way to form an argument, Descartes fails to provide a sound argument of God’s existence. He makes his first argument for God with the following axioms (numbered for the sake of clarity):

(1) “Hence it follows that something cannot come into being out of nothing”

(2) “What is more perfect cannot come into being from what is less perfect”

(3) “Now it is indeed evident by the natural light that the total cause of something must contain at least as much reality as does the effect.”

(4) “It is indeed an idea that is utterly clear and distinct; […] the idea that I have of God is the most true, the most clear and distinct.”

(5)”I understand by the name ‘God’ a certain substance that is infinite, independent, supremely intelligent and supremely powerful, and that created me along with everything else that exists. […] Although the idea of substance is in me by virtue of the fact that I am a substance, that fact is not sufficient to explain my having the idea of an infinite substance, since I am finite.”

(6) “If the objective reality of any of my ideas is found to be so great that I am certain that the same reality was not in me, either formally or eminently, and that therefore I myself cannot be the cause of the idea, then it necessarily follows that I am not alone in the world, but that something else, which is the cause of this idea, also exists.”

(7) “Nothing more perfect than God, or even as perfect as God, can be thought of imagined.”

(8) “The whole force of my argument rests on the fact that I recognize that it would be impossible for me to exist, being of such a nature as I am (namely, having in me the idea of God), unless God did in fact exist. God, I say, that same being the idea of whom is in me: a being having all those perfections that I cannot comprehend, but can somehow touch with my thought, and a being subject to no defects whatever. From these considerations it is quite obvious that he cannot be a deceiver, for it is manifest by the light of nature that al fraud and deception depend on some defect.”

(9) “I must conclude that necessarily God exists”

(Meditation III: Concerning God, that He Exists)

This argument is well known, and, by definition, logical. However, there are some major problems in the premises.  If even one premise is found to be false, the entire argument is invalid. While this first argument for God he provides is valid (in that if the premises are true then the conclusion must follow) the premises are not all true. 

            The first problem comes in what I have marked as premise (2), that what is more perfect cannot come out of something that is less perfect. Merely exploring the idea of evolution, which also becomes a problem when we consider his argument in Meditation V, can negate this premise. Evolution, the process of gradual development over time, contains the very idea of the more perfect coming out of something lesser. While Descartes was before the times of evolution, it seems that he could have seen this himself. Perhaps by observing a very successful offspring of two less successful parents would have brought him to such a conclusion. To this objection Descartes may respond with his definition of perfect, which is most likely the definition of God (free of any flaw/defect, that which cannot be lesser than anything).  However, his definition is not a sufficient rebuttal, as premise (2) of his argument contains with in it that there are varying degrees of perfection. While he would agree that humans are not perfect, he must necessarily agree that humans vary in gradation of excellence. This is not his weakest claim, but rather the initial mistake.

             Premise (4), in which Descartes asserts that the idea of God within him is the most clear and distinct (self-evident) idea that he knows. This “truth”, as Descartes perceives it, is an assumption. Assumptions are not necessarily true. The idea of a God is one that many people and cultures have, but that by no means proves that everyone has it clearly and distinctly. There is no evidence that proves every person will have a self-evident idea of God within him or her if they were cut off from the teaching of it. This is not only a problem of inference, in that there is no way Descartes could possibly know that everyone has this overt idea of God within them, but also of the very idea of clear and distinct ideas.  Even if we are to take a vague perception of a deity into consideration, there are many cultures that had more than one God, and a flawed God at that (ex. Zeus cheated on his wife, selfish, etc.).

            Thus, we see that the definition of a clear and distinct idea is imperfect in and of itself. In his Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes does not give us a very helpful definition of clear and distinct ideas, but he claims “I now seem able to point as a general rule that everything I very clearly and distinctly perceive is true” (MIII 35). I can follow that logic only as far as perceiving my own thought. That is the only clear and distinct perception that I know to be true, and Descartes is very observant to point out this fact. However, it seems this is as far as universal clear and distinct ideas reach. By expounding upon this rationalist assertion of self-evident claims, Descartes allows refutable claims into his axiomatic schematic. Simply based on the fact that one person has the apparent idea of God in his or her mind, it does not follow that everyone does.

            Descartes even admits to this difference in his Discourse on Methods, “I at length resolved to make myself an object of study, and to employ all the powers of my mind in choosing the paths I ought to follow, an undertaking which was accompanied with greater success than it would have been had I never quitted my country or my books” (Discourse on Methods, I). He knew that there were great differences between distinct societies, and yet still proceeded to claim that every person has a clear and distinct idea of God. Not only is it problematic to lay so much faith in the so-called clear and distinct idea of God, but also very circular.

            By claiming that we have a clear and distinct idea of God innately, and proceeding to claim that we can know things are true by remembering the fact that God is real and would never deceive us, is extremely circular. If God exists, then our idea of him is clear and distinct; if our idea of God is clear and distinct, then he exists.  Descartes argument relies heavily on the fact that God would never deceive us, what I have marked as premise (8). He states that deception at any level is a form of imperfection, and because God is a perfect being, it is impossible for him to deceive. Through Descartes definition of God we come to the conclusion that God must be true because he put the clear and distinct innate idea in our mind of him.

            Descartes does not provide sufficient reason for God’s lack of deception, however. Even in the religion of Christianity we have seen acts of deceit by God, take for example Job. In sum, the story of Job is that he is a well-off, righteous man. When Satan sees this he challenges God that Job only follows him because of God’s protection. God takes away his protection in order to prove Job’s faith to Satan. While this story may not be read as deception, but rather as a “test of faith”, it seems that it is a clear stratagem against Job. Descartes would presumably deny this of being an act of fraud on God’s part, but I maintain that it is. Descartes does not want it to be possible for there to be a deceptive God, but understands that it is possible: “Some people would deny the existence of such a powerful God rather than believe that everything else is uncertain. Let us grant them – for purposes of argument – that there is no God, and theology is fiction. On their view, then, I am a product of fate or chance or a long chain of causes and effects. But the less powerful they make my original cause, the more likely it is that I am so imperfect as to be deceived all the time – because deception and error seem to be imperfections. “ (Med I). God is not necessarily incapable of deceit, but it is convenient for Descartes to deem it so. In this quote, taken from Meditation One: Concerning Those Things That Can Be Called into Doubt, Descartes allows a world without God for a moment. He believes that this would yield the “original cause” (which points to the fact Descartes does not permit infinite regress, which I will touch upon) of us to be less “powerful”, and thus cede an imperfect world capable of deceiving us at all times. However unappealing this may seem, he fails to provide an argument that deems it impossible for such a world to exist. It seems that the only reason this cannot exist for Descartes is the mere attitude of disliking the outcome. He does not want to believe that the world could be so imperfect that we are always being deceived by our perceptions. For his faith in the outside world to be restored after fully doubting it, Descartes needs God to be incapable of deception, however unnecessary his argument actually deduces that to be so.

            In spite of this flimsy reasoning for the world needing to be perfect, Descartes comes to the conclusion that God must be unable to cheat his creation, other wise we would not be able to trust our self-evident ideas; also meaning we would not be able to trust our clear and distinct idea of God. This circular argument that relies on the definition of God and self-evident ideas, which has already proven problematic in premise (4), continues to produce problems when we explore premise (5). In his fifth premise, Descartes states that it is impossible for our human mind to have the idea of an infinite substance because we are finite beings. He allows for our knowledge of substance because we are a substance, but allows for our idea of infinite substance in light of the innate idea of God within all of us, and that he is an infinite substance himself. Descartes does not believe that we could have the idea of an infinite substance within us unless God were the source of it.

            If we consider Descartes other famous field, mathematics, we can see a refutation of premise (5) in his own work. A line on a Cartesian Plane that does not have designated end points must necessarily infinitely continue in both directions. This is a clear and distinct idea that I have of an infinite substance. Substance for Descartes is “extension for matter and thought for the mind” (SEP).  This idea of a line continuing into infinity is not one that comes from God, but rather one that comes from mathematics. Even though we may not be able to completely comprehend the fact that the line will continue eternally, the fact that we have an experience of duration means that we can conceive of durations longer and shorter than our own that we have experienced already. God does not need to have implanted our minds with the idea of the infinite by way of his eternal existence, but rather it is possible for our own human minds to conceive of an eternal substance just by thinking of our own existence and imagining further.

            This problem goes back to premises (1) and (3) in which Descartes asserts that a “total cause of something must contain at least as much reality as does the effect”, which essentially means that something cannot come from nothing. This idea is known as the “Causal Adequacy Principle” (Skirry). This is another essential problem in Descartes logic in his ontological argument for God. In premise (2) he uses this causal definition in order to claim that a greater idea could not come from a lesser one, and we have seen that rebutted already. In Premise (3), Descartes is insisting that a human, who has less objective and formal reality than God does could never be the cause of such an idea. However, we have seen through my argument of evolution that something that is greater can, in fact, come from that which is lesser.

            The biggest problem with Descartes is his complete affliction with the idea of infinite regress. He in no way wants to admit even the slightest possibility for there being an eternal existence with no first cause. “And although one idea can perhaps issue from another, nevertheless no infinite regress is permitted here; eventually some first idea must be reached whose cause is a sort of archetype that contains formally all the reality that is in the idea merely objectively. Thus it is clear to me by the light of nature that the ideas that in me are like the images that can easily fail to match the perfection of thing things which they have been drawn, but which can contain nothing greater or more perfect” (MIII 117) He completely denies the possibility of there being an infinite regress of reality in the world that he wishes to be capable of knowing clearly and distinctly. While it is understandable why infinite regress seemed utterly impossible in Descartes time during the seventeenth century, this argument against a first cause does not cause such a predicament as it once did.

            Although Descartes’ ontological argument for God in his Third Meditation: Concerning God and That He Exists is extremely flimsy from the beginning, that is not to say that it is a useless argument. The fact that Descartes attempted to prove God’s existence through an axiomatic proof paved the way for many essential modern philosophers. Descartes’ biggest problem in this proof of God’s existence is that his entire theory of knowledge depends on God’s existence. Without the reality of God, Descartes cannot know anything, and thus cannot begin to build the foundation of what he knows. Descartes argument is not the only way to prove the existence of God, however it would be the only way to universally prove it. While one person may have the idea of God, that does not mean that everyone has it, let alone the same exact one. God’s existence is a question of faith and revelation, not an ontological argument. There would be no need for a dispute on the existence of God if Descartes had not made any logical errors in his work, however this serves to further prove that that there has yet to be a universal way to admit there is a God.

 

 

Works Cited

Boucher, John G. Discourse on Methods. Washington, D.C.: Educational Resources Information Center, 1966. Print.

Descartes, René, and Roger Ariew. “Meditations on First Philosophy.” Philosophical Essays and Correspondence. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2000. N. pag. Print.

Robinson, Howard, “Substance”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2013/entries/substance/&gt;.

Skirry, Justin. “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Descartes, Rene: Overview. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 13 Sept. 2008. Web. 14 Dec. 2013. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/descarte/&gt;.

In the Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes discusses how a ruler and his or her subjects should enter into a covenant in order to form the ideal Commonwealth. Hobbes believes that people desire to enter a Commonwealth in order to procure certain safety in preserving his or her life. In II.xxviii.16-17 of Leviathan, Hobbes addresses corporal and capital punishment unto subjects. The infliction of any corporal and/or capital punishment is in direct conflict with the grounds on which a Hobbesian Commonwealth arises.

            In the selected excerpt of Hobbes’ Leviathan, (II.xxvii.16-17), Hobbes addresses the way in which specific (corporal and capital) punishments are to be exacted in the ideal Commonwealth. To be clear, a Leviathan, whom is an autocratic monarch, would rule this Commonwealth. Part 16 states that “corporal punishment is that which is inflicted on the body directly, and according to the intention of him that inflicteth it, such as are stripes, or wounds, or deprivation of such pleasures of the body as were before lawfully enjoyed” (206, Hobbes). This is the widely accepted definition of corporal punishment, meaning any sort of infliction of pain or deprivation of bodily necessities.  

            Capital punishment is also the typically accepted definition of the term, “the infliction of death, and that either simply or with torment” (206, Hobbes). Not only is Hobbes allowing for humane punishment by death inflicted on a subject, but also inhumane.  I use humane in a very loose sense, only meaning without any unnecessary pain.

            The issue of corporal and capital punishment is a problem that any political entity will encounter when establishing its laws. In Hobbes’ Commonwealth, however, the proposal of these types of punishment is contradictory to its essential foundation.  Hobbes defines punishment as “an evil inflicted by public authority on him that hath done or omitted that which is judged by the same authority to be a transgression of the law, to the end that the will of men may thereby be disposed to obedience” (203, Hobbes). In short, punishment serves the purpose to set an example for other subjects of the Leviathan, not to serve as a justice system for those who committed the crime.

            This definition Hobbes gives us comes with certain implications. In order to adhere to this meaning of punishment, an absurd amount of effort needs to be put into crime and punishment in the ideal Commonwealth. By Hobbes’ logic, every single punishment for a crime would need to be broadcasted to every single citizen. When a subject is put to death, every single subject of the Leviathan must view the death, as well as knowing why he or she is receiving such punishment. That is the only way punishment as described would succeed. Thus, a man who is sentenced to death, but the subjects of the Commonwealth do not know of this conviction and death, that death is completely pointless. The point of any punishment in the Commonwealth is to set an example. If no one sees the example, it serves no purpose.

            Not only are these forms of punishment (corporal and capital) rendered pointless by the Hobbes’ reasoning if they are not used as example, but they also directly contradict the very foundation of the Commonwealth. The way in which a Commonwealth and Leviathan arise is from the Leviathan naturally rising and seizing power. After a Leviathan comes to power, he or she must form a social contract with the subjects. That is not to say that the Leviathan itself is giving anything up, but the subjects are. In this contract each subject gives up his or her right to everything (as Hobbes believe is the true state of nature) except for anything contradicting the Law of Nature. For Hobbes, that Law of Nature is that no person can do anything that is destructive to him or her, or what takes away from preserving themselves. (79, Hobbes)

            By entering into a contract with the Leviathan, the citizens of the Commonwealth are giving up their right to everything, meaning the right to take whatever they desire and do whatever they desire also. Once subjects have entered into the contract with the Leviathan, however, they give up that right in exchange for peace of mind rather than a constant state of war (“war” meaning any time of fear for ones own self-preservation). This is the true reason for the foundation of a Leviathan and Commonwealth. Humans, according to Hobbes, are mechanical beings who work from logistical calculations. We work from appetites and aversions.  An appetite being that which we desire, and an aversion is that which we avoid. Human’s greatest aversion is death.

            This eminent aversion to death is what necessitates a Leviathan. In Hobbes view, people will voluntarily surrender their ultimate freedom to the world in order to live free from the fear of death. Thus, the Leviathan and his or her subjects enter into a contract in which the only freedom that is not claimed is that of self-preservation.

            If this contract is as clear and comprehensible as it should be, the subjects of the Leviathan should then know what they are agreeing to. In this contract, whether it is written or verbal, the idea of punishment should be of the utmost importance, as it is one of the only aspects that could possibly compromise their only freedom under the Leviathan. For the point of this paper, let us say that a hypothetical written contract reads just as the Leviathan reads, namely the definition of punishment, as well as the allowance of corporal and capital punishment. The subjects should immediately be averse to agreeing to such a thing. It is contradictory to agree to a contract that has a clause built into it that goes against the only reason you are agreeing to it in the first place.

            The only way it seems that a subject would, or should, agree to such a contract is if punishment were serving a purpose for the criminal. For example, if a subject were to kill their neighbor, and that subject was then sentenced to death for the crime, one would hope that the sentiments behind such a punishment is to honor the victim of the crime as well as teach the criminal that what he or she did was wrong. If that were the definition of punishment, then corporal and capital punishment would not raise so many problems for the social contract Hobbes proposes. If subjects of the Leviathan were agreeing to the sort of punishment just explained, then giving up a degree of their right to self-preservation might be justified.

            That is not the definition of punishment Hobbes gives us, however. The punishment the Leviathan would be exacting is to set an example, not to show that his authority and power is just. Not only does this form of punishment greatly contradict the grounds on which the Commonwealth is built, but it also creates an immense problem with the figure of the Leviathan itself. The purpose of entering into a contract under a Leviathan is to serve as a safeguard against harm that could come from an utterly free world.  The fundamental reason behind the Commonwealth is in order to protect the most sacred thing humans possess: their lives. By inflicting pain or death upon someone, that is stripping them of their only right, and violating the very reason they entered the social contract to begin with.

            It seems that there is a simple solution to this problem. If Hobbes, therefore the Leviathan, would merely change the purpose of punishment in the Commonwealth, this concern of self-preservation could perhaps be dissolved. Not only does the possibility of being used to set an example awaken a fear in the Leviathan’s subjects, but also suspicions of an unjust ruler. One would begin to wonder if the Leviathan were wrongly using people to set an example, which would cause people to question if the Leviathan were doing what is truly best for the Commonwealth and its subjects.

            The idea of a punishment system in a monarchy will always encounter problems. However, many problems with the punishment system necessarily follow the elementary definition on which punishment is built off of in the Leviathan. The justification of punishment in the Commonwealth that is supposedly protecting self-preservation, the only freedom the subjects have, very much falls short. The use of corporal and capital punishment directly contradicts the grounds on which the contract of the Commonwealth arises.

 

Works Cited

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan: With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668. Ed. E. M. Curley. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 1994. Print.

Saint Augustine and Aquinas are both famously known for their philosophical and theological explorations, with Augustine writing in the late fourth to early fifth century and Aquinas in the thirteenth. While they are both known for attempting to reconcile ancient philosophy with Christianity, they went about this task in different ways. Augustine is known for taking a Platonic route, whereas Aquinas was much more Aristotelian.  The two both explored the faith and reason dichotomy, the nature of the soul, and knowledge.

 

Section I: Faith and Reason           

            With the Middle Ages came the rebirth of the idea that religious belief did not only stem from faith, but also from reason. This idea was no stranger to ancient thinkers, but it reappeared with Augustine. To be clear on what the two are; faith is seen by the two philosophers as a trust in scripture and one’s own personal belief that God exists. Reason would be a more rational approach to the proof of God, with appeal to evidence and logic. St. Augustine believed that faith and reason had an interdependent relationship in understanding God, but also that faith would always be the truest way to God. Additionally, both faith and reason were only accessible due to divine grace of God. As stated before, Augustine was very much a Neo-Platonist. He believed because the Platonists studied the eternal and unchanging that these ideas were beneficial to understanding and clarifying the Christian faith.

            While Augustine believed that using reason (which for him included logic, history, and natural sciences) was beneficial to illuminating the Christian faith, he also believed that using these avenues in order to do so was only necessary if one was not a Christian. He believed that a Christian did not have to take such recourse to philosophy (reason) because he felt faith was superior to reason in terms of belief in God. He believed an intellectual investigation of faith should be understood as fides quaerens intellectum, or faith seeking understanding. Augustine held that faith was to come first, especially if reason should contradict scripture. In such a case, he regarded the Church, rather than the individual believer, as having the final authority to say what “reason” could be used in one’s personal inquiry into their faith.

            Saint Thomas Aquinas took a fairly different stance on the faith and reason dichotomy. He did not make as clear a distinction between faith and reason, as Augustine did, but did believe that all creation and truth is emanated from God. Aquinas did not believe that reason and faith conflicted, though there are truths that reason cannot attain that faith can. Aquinas called this idea a “two fold truth”. He held that something can be true of faith, false or inconclusive in philosophy, but never the other way around. This idea supports the idea that while reason can lead one to a greater understanding of the world, it cannot lead to attainment of the higher truths that faith can.

            Aquinas believed that faith and reason, are essential and not contradictory, in fact, knowledge is essential in the act of faith. He asserts that faith is the intellectual act, and its object is truth. Thus, any truth will necessarily lead to faith. Aquinas claimed that while people cannot comprehend God as an object, the intellect can grasp his existence indirectly, and this grasp comes through reason.

            Aquinas somewhat agrees with Augustine on the question of contradiction between reason and scripture. Aquinas maintained that while there may be no evidence of something from sensational experience, which he took to be how we perceive the world, we must trust in “articles of faith” which he defines as divine testimony, or scripture. For example, though there is no sensational evidence for the world not being eternal, Aquinas believed that the “article of faith” (and through his logical argument) that we must accept this as true.

 

Section II: The Soul

            Over the course of his writings, Augustine made changes to his views on the soul. In his earlier writings he took on a very Platonic definition in that the human soul is a substance that is capable of reason and is made to rule the human body. This soul is separate from the body and is merely using it. This view changed a bit later in his writings, when he places more importance on the unity of the body and soul. While Augustine believes that a human being certainly is a rational soul that controls the human body, he also says that the “soul which has a body does not make two persons, but one human being” (Johannis evangelium tractatus). However, he does remain true to his Platonic ideals by placing the soul in the Plato’s real of understanding or forms, where abstract ideas reside.  Augustine believed the soul was a “rider” of the body, which made the clear distinction of material and immaterial substances; body and soul.

            Christianity teaches there is life after death. Augustine was committed to this view as he took scripture to be the direct word of God. He believed that “after the Fall [original sin] this [the afterlife] was not available to us. In redeeming us from our original sin by his death and resurrection from death, Jesus redeemed us from original sin, restored our relationship with God, and made it possible for us once again to live eternally with God in the life hereafter.” (Wall) Augustine believed that the soul went on to live in kingdom of heaven, and entrance to the kingdom was “available to all who love God and their neighbor.” (Wall)

            Augustine has two arguments, derived from Platonic reasoning, as to why the soul is immortal. His first argument pertains to science. Augustine argues that if science exists anywhere, it exists in the living. Also, since science is eternal, that in which it lives must be eternal too. He further argues that humans are the only living beings who possess a rational soul, and cannot reason without science. Therefore, science must exist in human soul; thereby concluding the human soul is immortal. Augustine’s second argument for the immortality of the soul is that the “mind is life, and thus it cannot lack itself.” He explains this further by asserting that when a living thing dies, we do not think of the physical matter as being dead, but as it being abandoned by life. Augustine believed the mind (soul) to be source of life for a body, and something cannot lack itself; the soul cannot lack itself, thus it cannot die.  (De Immortalitate Animae)

            Thomas Aquinas had similar views in that there is indeed life after death, and that the soul is separable from the body, but went about supporting these claims in a different way than Augustine. First, we will explore Aquinas’ view of the nature of the soul. Aquinas took a very Aristotelian viewpoint this topic in sticking with his idea of “causes”.  Aristotle asserted that there were “four causes”, material, formal, efficient, and final. Aquinas agreed with Aristotle in believing that the soul was the “formal” cause of the body. This made Aquinas’ view on the soul compatible with Aristotle’s because it set up his argument to suggest that the soul could be separated by abstraction from the body, which will be explained further in this section.

            One of Aquinas’ weaker arguments for life after death is that of desire. This argument states that no desire goes in vain under God. By this statement, Aquinas infers that the desire to live after death of the body would not go in vain either. A stronger argument for the possibility of the immortal soul is concept formation. Aquinas asserted that because people are capable of thinking of abstract ideas apart from material substances, for example, thinking of a triangle without seeing one, that this is evidence of the soul being able to exist without attachment to material substances also.

            Perhaps the strongest argument Aquinas made for the immortality of the soul is the justification of separation of the body and soul.  As stated before, Aquinas was very influenced by Aristotle, and that is no different when he accounts for the soul. To understand Aquinas’ views on the soul we must first clarify between “subsistent” and “substance”. A subsistent for Aquinas is something that is able to exist on its own, not in another. A substance is something that “is subsistent and complete in nature – a nature being an intrinsic principle of movement and change in the subject.” (SEP) Thus, both the human body and soul are both capable of existing on their own, but they are only substances when joined together in their complete nature. By this Aquinas also is accepting that the soul is the form of the body, which is yet another Aristotelian view he adopted in order to argue for the immortality of the soul.

            Aquinas argues that because the soul is a spiritual entity, it does not depend on matter and can exist separately from the body. Aquinas believes that the human existence in its perfect form is in the dual nature of soul and body, which relates directly to his belief in resurrection in the afterlife. Aquinas appears to have three arguments for the immortality of the soul.

 

Secion III: Knowledge

            Augustine drew much of his theory of knowledge from Plato, especially in his desire for certain knowledge rather than changing or impermanent knowledge. Contrary to Aquinas, Augustine was not an empiricist. Augustine believed “that the truth is found from within, through a process of illumination, and not by observing the world of nature.  It had been Plato’s view that such knowledge arose from a process of remembering the Forms from a past existence, which was made possible by the Good illuminating the mind to remember. Augustine builds upon these Platonic ideas but alters them dramatically” (Wall).  Augustine agreed with Plato in the sense that true knowledge came from within, but Plato believed it came from “remember”, whereas Augustine believed it came from “illumination”.

            Augustine believed that these certainties could not be taught, just as Plato thought, but Augustine thought these ideas came from illumination through Christ, the divine teacher. This is why Augustine believed reason to be divine, “because understanding is made possible by the “light of Christ”, and thus is a gift from God” (Wall).  Augustine believed that in any instance an idea is formed in the rational human soul, synonymous with mind in most cases, it is because Christ “illuminated” us and placed that idea there. Thus, rationality is divine.

            To equate Augustine back to Plato, both philosophers believed that it was impossible to attain knowledge through the perceptible world. This idea stems from Platonic theory of knowledge in that the material world (the first layer of Plato’s Divided Line) is ever changing and unreliable as a source of information. Just as Plato believed it was an impossible source of information about his Good, which we can liken to Augustine’s God, there is no way for Augustine to learn about God through a shifting world when he desires to know about the eternal God. Augustine did not hold the belief that we form abstract concepts from seeing multiples of certain objects, or learning of a concept, but also through illumination, equatable to Plato’s belief that one must “remember” abstract concepts, or Forms.

            Both philosophers place much importance on the faith one must have in God through mystical experience, but treat sensory information very different. Aquinas, contrary to Augustine, was quite the empiricist. As he drew on Aristotle, who was also an empiricist, Aquinas believed the senses are that through which we find the truth. Aquinas, along with Aristotle, believed that abstraction is a process that takes place in the human mind. A person, after seeing multiple material objects, such as a basket ball, will be able to abstract the general form of the object, thus being able to construct the abstract idea of a basketball in their mind, which would be a process done by the “active intellect”.  Aquinas expanded upon Aristotle’s ideas of the intellect and how we understand information. Aquinas argued that the intellect understands “phantasms”, or internal copies of what we perceive, by abstracting. The “passive intellect” is the part of the intellect that knows material objects, that which Aquinas believed is how we know all objects. To understand phantasms, we need the passive intellect to understand what we are seeing. The active intellect is the part of the intellect able to abstract from knowledge of the passive.

            Both Aquinas and Augustine agree upon the fact that God is the object of ultimate knowledge. The philosophers would see eye to eye on the fact that one can know God through reason, while no one can know or understand God fully because man is but God’s creation.

            While both of these theologians and philosophers maintained ideals greatly influenced by Christianity, they both reconciled their beliefs in very different ways. Augustine was very much influenced by Plato, whereas Aquinas was guided very intensely by Aristotle. The ancient philosophers had extreme sway on both Augustine and Aquinas, and it showed in their philosophies of faith and reason, the soul, and knowledge greatly. One concept the two were in agreement on, despite the many differences they had, is that God was the object of human all three of these topics.

Read More

Haven’t posted in a while, I know. But I worked really hard on this and I hope you all enjoy it! It is sectioned off and labeled for easy reading, hopefully you don’t mind that! Citations refer to the works cited at the end! 

 

The mind, with which most people identify their individuality, is a seemingly innocent idea. It makes us who we are, and identifies others in the same way. However, under closer inspection, the mind becomes a very complicated entity. Is it a physical entity or immaterial? Is it an entity at all or can it merely be reduced to the brain? These are all questions that theories of the mind attempt to answer in their study of the mind. From René Descartes to contemporary philosophers, there have been many theories; some have lingered and others have nearly disappeared due to lack of support. Two that will be discussed here are Substance Dualism (SD) and Brain Functionalism (BF). The former being dualism, where as the latter is most often a type of materialism. Both theories have their strengths and weaknesses, as well as explaining the same issues in very different ways, which will be discussed in sections to come.

 

Substance Dualism (Including Strength & Weakness)

            Substance Dualism acquired its name from the separation of substances defined by René Descartes. Descartes defined the mind as a “mental substance” and the body, and other physical objects, as a “material” one. He then went on to further explain the differences of the two substances; material objects are spatial, “they occupy a region of space, excluding other bodies from that region” (H 18). They also have a specific shape, and maintain spatial dimensions. Contrary to material objects, mental objections (which for Descartes includes thoughts, senses, etc.) are non-spatial. It seems that this is a fairly reasonable presumption, as when one thinks of how thirsty they are, that thought does not come with necessary spatial dimensions, but rather is invisible to them, but they know it is there.

            A second difference between these two substances is qualitative, “Qualities of conscious experiences appear to be nothing like qualities of material objects. More significantly, they are apparently altogether unlike the qualities of any conceivable material object” (H 19). From this it seems the obvious conclusion is that mental and material objects are not of the same kind, their qualities are completely different. A third distinction between the two substances is the issue of privacy. Material substances are readily conceivable to anyone, however a mental substance is seemingly private to the owner of the mind. This also seems very reasonable; as two people can see the same movie, but one’s mental activity during that viewing is private due to the nature of the mind.

            In addition to distinguishing between mental and material substances, Descartes explained the relationship between properties and substances. He believed material substances (not in the modern sense of substances, but rather a substance being a tree, table, cup, etc.) had properties, and these two necessitated the others. “You could not peel off an object’s properties and leave a bare unpropertied substance. Nor could properties float free of substances and persist on their own” (H 22). These properties, for Descartes, are “modes of extension”. While material substances can have these modes of extension, Descartes makes the clear averment that mental substances cannot “extend”, thus cannot possess these modes of extension.

            While SD makes a sharp distinction between mental and material substances, it does recognize the clear interaction between the mind and body. The body is lead by the mind’s thoughts and desires, while the mind is also impacted by physical events that the body endures:

Imagine that you sit on a tack planted in your chair by a malicious practical joker. Your sitting on the tack (a material event involving a pair of material substances, the tack, and your body) gives rise to a distinctive sensation of pain (a mental event). This sensation or feeling in turn generates another mental event, a desire to leap upwards, and this desire brings about a leaping. (Heil 23)

This view of mind-body causal interaction is quite compatible with how common sense perceives it, but this is where SD encounter’s its main weakness. If the two substances, mental and physical, are of completely different kinds, how does Descartes suppose they interact? Descartes explained the causal interaction between the two as making contact in the pineal gland in the brain. This does nothing to solve the problem, however, because it poses the same problem of the mental and physical interacting without any sort of transfiguration of either. This is a major weakness of SD because without a formal explanation for how mental and physical substances interact, the entire theory loses much credibility.

        While this problem of causality may seem like it cannot be overlooked, SD does have its strengths. The most prominent strength seems to be that the mind and body do, in fact, seem to be of completely different kinds. While material substances are those that we can sense, and are readily available for others to sense also, mental substances are of a completely different variety. Not only are they of different kinds, but they are also different in privacy. One cannot know another’s thoughts in the same way the owner of those thoughts does, but rather only in a second or third-hand way. Thus, SD seems to be one of the only theories of the mind that can explain why the mind is so apparently different from the body and other material objects.

 

Brain Functionalism (including Strengths & Weaknesses)

            Brain Functionalism (BF) is the theory that holds the mind is the way the brain works, or functions. Functionalism emerged in the mid-1900s, mainly rising in response to the Identity Theory and Behaviorism. Functionalism is the theory of mind that most people hold today, and is generally a materialistic view, though that is not necessarily true. However, in the interest of this paper, BF will be considered a materialist theory. BF holds that mental events (thoughts, sensations, desires, etc.) are not reducible to specific entities or even brain events, but rather they are how we understand how the brain works:

Functionalism in the philosophy of mind is the doctrine that what makes something a mental state of a particular type does not depend on its internal constitution, but rather on the way it functions, or the role it plays, in the system of which it is a part. (Functionalism, SEP)

 

Rather than identifying a specific entity that is the mind as SD does, functionalism explains the mind as the way we understand the brain; the mind is a collection of mental events.

            This theory of the mind is much more beneficial to contemporary sciences, as the mind becomes much more inclined to study when we understand it as what it does rather than what it is. It is agreed upon by functionalists that we cannot directly observe mental events, not even the owner of those events.  Because the way we know our thoughts is through words, not by what they are composed of. (BR) While functionalism as a whole is neutral on the matter of materialism and dualism, Brain Functionalist claims that “the brain that produces mental events. It is the brain that thinks and remembers and deliberates, for example. This does not mean that the mind is the brain. The brain functionalist denies that. Instead, the mind is simply the way that the brain functions. It is what the brain does. It is the collection, if you will, of all the software or programs run by all the modules of the brain.” (BR).

            An important distinction, already hinted at, is that BF insists that we do not know the intrinsic nature of mental events, but rather by their causes and effects. The role of mental events is to link environmental inputs with the subsequent behavior. This theory makes great strides in the problem of minds in other forms (animals, machines, silicon, etc) because by not having a strict identity of what the mind truly is, as the Identity Theory does, BF maintains that minds are multiply realizable. This means that because the mind is merely the way the brain functions, that the mind could be “realized”, or function, in similar ways in animals, machines, other elements, etc. This is because the mind can be seen as a software program of the brain, and just as we know Microsoft Office can be opened on an Apple computer as well as a PC, so can a mind hypothetically be “realized” in other forms than the human brain.

            Another fundamental claim of BF is that the mind is modular. By this BF means that because the brain functions in a modular fashion, then the mind does, as the mind is the way the brain functions. This means that the mind is not one entity, but is composed of different modules:

Each mental state is produced by a host of separate functions, each doing its own thing independently of the other functions. The brain is wired less like a digital computer, where steps are carried out in one long sequence, and more like parallel processors, which run smaller programs simultaneously and then weave together their results to produce a finished product. It appears that “the” mind is really lots of separate “minds”, each of which does its own job in isolation from the rest. Then, somehow, the results get pooled with all the others to form a mental event (BR)

 

This theory of the mind poses a few problems for the common sense way of imagining the mind. First, this means that the mind is a collection of complex functions, rather than being one entity, which brings us to the second problem. If the mind is modular, then this means that perhaps we do not have the “self” we are all so quick to assume that we do.  The third problem of the modularity of the mind is that of knowledge and reality. “It is no longer possible to think of our knowledge of the world as a ‘copy’ of the external environment in any sense.  Rather, it appears that Kant was on the right track. As processors of information, our minds now have to be thought of as ‘grinding up’ data received from the environment and transforming it into the sorts of information that ‘fit’ the processors of the brain.” (BR).  These are not the weakest parts of the BF view, however, as they do not pose much of a scientific problem so much as they bother the common sense conception of the mind most people hold.

            The ay BF describes the processing of input from the environment can be seen in an analogy to a computer. Just as one can describe the inner workings of a computer in different ways, so can one describe BF. There are three stances to take when describing the way something works: intentional, design, and physical. The intentional stance is the goal/purpose of the entity. The design stance is the way an entity works, and the physical stance is the material that entity is made of. Thus, we can talk about the mind in its physical sense, which is how neuroscientists would approach the problem. We could also look at it in how it works on the design level in how the mind functions, or the intentional level and study the goals and purposes of the mind.

            The biggest problem of BF is that of “qualia” or consciousness. This problem will be discussed in more depth in a subsequent section, so it will only be touched upon here. BF does not account for how people truly experience things, such as hearing beautiful music or smelling springtime in the air, as surely these are senses with emotion attached to them. This would suggest that a zombie is comparable to a human being, and surely we can all agree that we have qualitative and conscious experience enough to not consider ourselves zombies.

            The most prominent strength of BF is that the theory allows for minds that are multiply realizable, or that they can be realized in a wide array of physical states, rather than merely the human brain. This is a problem BF solved, for Identity Theory especially; in that no matter the physical nature of an entity (whether it is an alien made of silicon, a computer, etc.) a creature can have a mind and experience the same functions a human does. For example, a coffee mug is typically thought of as a cylindrical piece of ceramic that holds coffee. If this were the only “realizable” coffee mug, then what of a metal travel mug? Even hands could “realize” the function of a coffee mug. Brain functionalism gets rid of the type-type identity problem in that a specific entity is no longer the only thing that can carry out a function. With the BF, the ceramic mug and travel mug can both hold coffee because they perform the same function.

 

Intentionality

            The problem of intentionality is the problem that mental events, thoughts, have an “about-ness” to them. When someone thinks of a chocolate bar, the thought is “about” chocolate. It seems that only mental events have this intentionality, for no physical object can have an about-ness to them. In this topic we find a fairly strong argument for Substance Dualism. By separating mental and material substances, the Substance Dualist can more readily explain why there is such a difference between mental events and physical ones. Because of the fact that, for a Substance Dualist, the mind and body are of completely different material, or lack-there-of, this explains why there is no physical parallel counterpart to the fact that there seems to be an “about-ness” to thoughts.

            Brain Functionalism does not do as well when it encounters the problem of intentionality. Brain Functionalism suggests “that intentionality requires an incoming casual component of some kind”, however this does not account for any thought that does not have a “causal component”. Heil explains further:

Although perceptual experience undoubtedly recedes (and has a causal bearing on) subsequent reflective imagistic thought, it is not this causal linkage that accounts for thoughts’ projective character. Projectivity is built into the thought. (Heil 253)

 

BF seems to ignore the fact that thoughts themselves have this “about-ness”, and instead insist that all thoughts that seem to have intentionality in fact just have a causal component that directly caused that. This would mean that thinking of how much you loved a movie seen years ago would necessitate a cause for thinking about that specific movie, since intentionality pertains to the about-ness of thoughts.

 

Consciousness

            Substance Dualism again harkens back to their claim that mental and non-mental entities are of complete different kinds to explain consciousness. SD says that consciousness is possible because states of mind are “ ‘directly available’ only by the person (or creature) to which they belong” (H 20). Descartes argument for consciousness is that because mental states are only present when we introspect, and all mental states are states of the soul. Therefore, we can conclude from this that we are able to be conscious of the soul, thus ourselves.

            This is a fairly weak argument for consciousness, however. What of the “mental states” that are not apparent to us? If we are not “aware” of enough mental states, would we not be conscious? Substance Dualism suggests that because we do not know, and cannot know, the true nature of the mind, like we do physical entities, then we will never know the true nature of consciousness. The support for consciousness that SD provides has many holes, and relies completely on the separation of immaterial and material entities, which means to accept this theory of consciousness, one must accept the entire theory. Needless to say, this theory of the mind is rarely supported as of late.

            Today most theories of the mind held are materialistic. However, even these theories do not have everything figured out. BF maintains that somehow physical and mental states combine to form consciousness. For the Brain Functionalist, a conscious brain state would go as follows:

You would be in a state brought about by tissue damage, or pressure, or extremes of temperature, and one that itself brings about a range of characteristic ‘pain responses’, behavioral and mental: you cringe, you form the belief that you are in pain, and you acquire a desire to take steps to alleviate the pain. (Heil 164)

 

We conclude from this statement that consciousness is the causal interaction between mental and brain states. This does not quite explain consciousness, however. This is the most significant weakness of Brain Functionalism. BF seems to explain many other problems of the mind very well, but consciousness is the most prominent problem that theories of mind attempt to solve, as this is what all people identify themselves with; it is their individuality. Surely there is more than the mere causal interaction between mental and physical events. And this is why BF does not do well in explaining intentionality, as the two are deeply intertwined.

            If we are to adhere to a f BF view, then by this line of thought, a zombie would be the functionally (and altogether) identical to humans. By definition for BF, the mind is just how the brain works. If there were a zombie, which is an unconscious human, then due to the inability to explain consciousness, BF is essentially stating that we would be identical to a zombie, when we clearly are not.

            Another problem we run into when we BF attempts to explain consciousness is the problem of “emergence”. While it is easy to see that “by putting together molecules in the right way, you get a liquid. But how could you get consciousness from arrangements of nonconscious material particles?” (Heil 172). How can the feeling of very much enjoying a banana split, and subsequently desiring one, be reduced to a physical event in the brain? Brain Functionalism falls short with their explanation of consciousness here.

 

Free Will

            Free Will is an aspect of human life that most people want to know they have. The Substance Dualist believes that humans have free will, but again by relying on the fact that there are immaterial and material substances. SD asserts that because of this duality, the mental substance does not have to abide by natural laws, laws of physics, whereas physical substances do. Because mental substances do not abide by natural laws, the mental substance (mind) is free to do as it pleases, thereby giving people free will. This satisfies the Substance Dualist view, but does not satiate the Brain Functionalist.

            BF does not give a clear-cut answer to the problem of free will. However, with materialism always comes some sort of determinism. Determinism holds that people do not have any free will, but are at the whim It seems that the mercy of the laws of physics. Brain Functionalists would most likely take a compatibilist view. Compatibilism, also known as soft-determinism, argues that while events of the universe are out of our control, there are still opportunities to make decisions:

For my ordering tea to be a free action, it must have been possible that I could have ordered something other than tea. And even though the laws of physics are deterministic or probabilistic, it was possible for me to order something else: There were other options on the menu; I was not at that crazy café where a customer’s order is determined by a toss of a coin; I had enough money with me to order something more expensive than tea; I’m not addicted to tea and so could have chosen something else; and so forth. (Montero 133)

 

Even if the nature of the universe is not in our control and subject to laws of nature, the Brain Functionalist would argue that we do have a certain amount of free will. Because mental events are merely the way the brain works, and not identified in the type-type strict identity fashion, the laws of nature may not effect the way our thoughts, consciousness, thus decisions are formed.

 

Personal Identity

            Personal identity, at first glance, does not seem to be a problem. The fact that we are the same person as we were when we were younger seems to be unquestionable, but how do we know? How do we get gain the sense of personal identity? SD’s first, and weaker, argument in the case of personal identity for SD is that of memory. This argument maintains that we can link our personal identity through memory. Even though we may not remember everything that has happened in our life, there is a memory we have of ourselves which is linked to memories we may no longer have.

            The second argument Substance Dualism contends is that a person maintains their personhood through change due to the mind they possess throughout. This, again, requires the acceptance of an immaterial mind that comes with Substance Dualism. This sufficiently argues why, although our body is losing and replacing cells throughout our entire life, our sense of personal identity remains true. SD says we can only know ourselves through introspection, and even then there are still some mental states which we cannot know. Some may say that this is reason to doubt Substance Dualism’s idea of the immaterial personal soul all together, but there are other instances of not knowing entities which we do accept:

We can still reasonably believe that minds exist as theoretical entities. This requires a bit of explanation. There are many sorts of entities that science claims to know,  even though they cannot be experienced directly. Think about the subatomic particles studied by physics, for example. They cannot be observed, because the most powerful instrument for making observations of small objects is an electron microscope. (BR)

 

 

The Substance Dualist would argue that because there are other instances in which we do not directly experience something, but still accept its existence, this is not a valid counterargument against Substance Dualism’s sense of self, and soul in its entirety.

            The Brain Functionalist takes a similar view to the Substance Dualist in saying there is a psychological-continuity. There is a unity we have as individuals in that the mental states and the causal roles thereof all must come from the same being:

What the functionalist view claims is that it is of the essence of a mental state to be cause in certain ways, and to produce, in conjunction with other mental states, certain effects (behavior or other mental states). But of course, it is in conjunction with other mental states of the same person that a mental state produces the effects it does; and its immediate effects, those the having of which is definitive of its being the mental state it is, will be states (or behavior) on the part of the very same person who had the mental state in question. (Olson 683)

 

Each mental state is coming from the same being, and because of this we form a sense of unity amongst our mental events. In order for the Brain Functionalist to make a case for personal identity, all that is needed is the same being producing mental events that combine over time, thus creating a stream of psychological continuity.

            A counterargument for both of this BF argument is the “brain-switch” thought experiment. There is no actual answer to what would happen if there were to be a brain transplant, but suppose your brain were switched with another’s. Would you stay in your own body, or would you now inhabit the body where your brain has gone? Most say that the body in which their brain now resides is where they would be. However, if the mentioned BF argument for personal identity is valid, then the same animal is necessary to have the same being contribute to mental states, as the mind is just how the brain works, and this would mean the body is an imperative part of the self.

 

Other Minds

            The problem of other minds is simply, how do we know others think anything like we do? How do we know other persons’ minds even slightly resemble our own? The Substance Dualist answers this question with an analogy. The analogy is as follows, “I can extrapolate from my own case. I know that certain of my mental states are correlated with certain pieces of behavior, and so I infer that similar behavior in others is also accompanied by similar mental states.” (Dualism, SEP).  This is a fairly weak argument for the proof of other minds, as it is an inductive argument working off of just one observation.

            Brain Functionalism takes a very similar route in explaining other minds, however it is a bit more convincing than concluding an inductive argument from one observation. BF uses an analogy as well, but instead of using behavior, it uses the existence of the brain:

Mental states are conceived of as inner states which are the means by which an organism responds to its surroundings. The different mental states are characterized by their various roles, their typical causes and effects. They are in this way alone distinguished one from another. So a burning pain is that inner state typically caused by being burned and typically leading to wincing and crying out and such like behavior. It follows that all that is required to reach the conclusion that other human beings have such inner states is merely careful observation of how they behave and in what circumstances. (Other Minds, SEP)

 

By having billions examples of people possessing brains and exhibiting similar behavior (thus, functions), we can conclude that others have similarly functioning minds, as it is merely how the brain functions.

 

Life After Death

            In addressing the issue of life after death in terms of Substance Dualism, we are again reliant on the sharp distinction between mental and material substances. Because the two are of completely different kinds, one does not necessarily depend on the other. Because the mental substance (mind) does not depend on the body to survive, SD allows for the possibility of the afterlife. This would adhere with most Substance Dualists’ belief in God, as this was a reason for Descartes himself.

            The Brain Functionalist is almost the exact opposite from the Substance Dualist. Because Brain Functionalism is a materialistic-functional theory of the mind, which means the mind is merely how the brain functions, not a separable entity as in SD, life after death seems impossible for the Brain Functionalist. There would be no “soul” , as a Substance Dualist might suggest, to move onto a life after death of the body. Instead of separating from the body after death, the mind would die with the death of the body, as they are integral to one another. As Olen suggests in the section on personal identity, to be you includes staying in your body, which would contradict the idea of the afterlife.

            The only way the afterlife would be possible in the Brain Functionalist’s point of view is if the mind could be “downloaded” somehow and “realized” in another body after the death of the former. Because BF holds that minds are multiply realizable, this idea would hold in some sense, but again brings us back to the problem of personal identity. There would need to be an extreme amount of reconciliation between personal identity and the means by which a person enters the afterlife for the two ideas to be compatible.

            Substance Dualism and Brain Functionalism are very different theories of the mind. While SD asserts that the mind and body are of complete different kinds, BF holds the opposite, that the mind is truly just the way the brain works. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but the much more widely accepted theory today is Brain Functionalism. While it may seem that Substance Dualism has its explanations better defined, fact that one must accept without doubt that the mind and body are of two completely different substances comes with much difficulty for most people. While Brain Functionalism has its problems, it is most compatible with contemporary sciences and allows for a much more accessible idea of the mind.

Read More

Saint Thomas Aquinas, famous philosopher and theologian of the thirteenth century, is known for adhering to a worldview very dependent upon Aristotle’s philosophy. Though the task of reconciling Aristotle’s philosophy with Aquinas’ proved difficult, he was very thorough and well argued in it. One of the biggest problems Aquinas ran into during this attempt to make his views compatible with Aristotle was that of life after death.  Aquinas made arguments against Aristotle’s idea that the soul is mortal, among which include the idea of concept abstraction and the necessity of unity between body and soul.

            Among Aquinas’ weaker arguments for the immortality of the soul is that of desire. This argument essentially states that because no human desire is in vain, that the desire to live on after death will not either. This argument does not come with great support other than the belief that God does not leave any desire unanswered. A stronger argument comes when Aquinas alludes to concept formation. Aquinas believed that because humans are capable of thinking of ideas apart from material substances, that souls were also able to live apart from the body. For example, we can think of the Pythagorean theory as an abstract concept without seeing it being used to find the length of a hypotenuse. Therefore, the soul can live on without the body because it does not need the body to exist, just like ideas do not need material bodies to be realized.

 

            Aquinas and Aristotle’s views differed greatly on the nature of life after death. Aristotle believed the soul to be the “formal cause” of the human body, that which makes a human namely that. While Aquinas agreed on this account, one thing the two philosophers did not agree on is the permanency of the soul. Aristotle believed the soul was mortal; that it dies with the body. To reconcile this Aristotelian notion of the soul with the Christian doctrine that souls are immortal, Aquinas needed to provide a convincing argument as to why Aristotle was wrong.

            Aquinas asserted that the soul could live on after death, and to understand this claim we must first understand how he differentiates between different substances. Aquinas believed there to be “substances” and “subsistents”.  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains this very well:

            A subsistent is something capable of existing on its own, not in another. But that capacity to exist own its own is not distinctive of a substance. A chair subsists. But on Aquinas’ account, it is not a substance.  […] A substance, on the other hand, is something that is both subsistent and complete in a nature—a nature being an intrinsic principle of movement and change in the subject. A detached human hand, while subsistent, is not a substance because it is not complete in a nature. A human hand is defined functionally as part of a human substance. A detached human hand is the remains of a human hand properly speaking, and is only called human analogously. So it is subsistent but not a substance. (McInerny, SEP)

 

We can conclude from this that a soul is a subsistent. While it can exist on its own, it is not “complete in nature”, as its complete nature is to be the form of the human body. Likewise, Aquinas believed that the human body took on a “subsistent” state after death, and after a time the two would, out of necessity, be joined together again in resurrection of the body into the afterlife. In this light, Aquinas does a fairly good job reconciling Aristotle’s belief that the soul is the form of the body. Aquinas uses this idea to contend that they cannot exist long exclusively, and must be joined together even after death.

            While Aquinas’ first two arguments explored above are not extremely convincing, his third argument proves to be fairly persuasive. Aquinas fails to explain the crux of the matter in exactly how the body and soul are resurrected, but for his time in the thirteenth century made great leaps in order to construct a more compatible bridge between his theological beliefs of life after death and Aristotle’s philosophical convictions of the soul dying with the body. While these views do not hold up well with contemporary philosophers who want explanations of casual interaction, Aquinas’ explanation provided rather convincing evidence of the soul living on after death for his time.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 556 other followers