Belief without Warrant

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The Existence of a Soul
« on: March 15, 2013, 02:50:00 am »
This is coming out of my reading of Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil."  Not all of Nietzsche's reasoning seems particularly good to me, but I am finding his treatment of the self slightly confounding.  This treatment is part of his wider criticisms of metaphysics.  He rejects everything which is eternal and unconditioned because these things do not belong to part of the world of flux which is what we have immediate experience of.  Descartes thought that we could infer the existence of the self because of our experience of thinking, or doubting.  So the inference, which I have heard Dr. Craig use in debate before, "I think therefore I am."  The reason Descartes makes this inference is that "I think" presupposes the "I" which thinks.  Therefore the experience of thinking implies the existence of the self.

This is where Nietzsche's critique kicks in however.  He calls this inference a mere faith in grammar.  He thinks that the fact that we always attribute actions to subjects in our language is no reason to suppose that there is a subject which performs the action of thinking in reality.  The convention of using "I" as the doer of an action in language may not reflect reality, and so there is no reason to think that the phrase "I think" implies the existence of an "I."  If it is not by virtue of the grammar of sentences that Descartes makes the inference from "I think" to "I am" then Nietzsche shows that Descartes can only thus conclude by begging the question.  He merely assumes that the experience of thinking must be accompanied by a unified something which has the thoughts.  Moreover, as later philosophers such as Immanuel Kant had already pointed out concerning Descartes' self, it is not itself an object of experience.  You cannot know things about the self by reflecting on your thinking because it is supposed to be the thing which does the thinking.  It is not an object of experience, but rather the subject of experience - the "haver" of thoughts, not a thought which "is had."  When we reflect on our mental experience, we conceive of thoughts but no self having the thoughts.  According to Nietzsche, the only object of our direct experience is our thoughts, and these seem to arise on their own, not because "I" cause them to arise.

Those Christians who have some experience in philosophy, what do you think?  It seems to me that this is a good critique of Descartes.  I don't know about his assessment of mental experience.  It seems true that if the self is the "haver of thoughts" then it will not be a direct object of experience.  However, it still seems to me that, while some of my thoughts just arise "on their own," I seem to be the cause of some of them.  But for Nietzsche this feeling of being the cause of something, namely willing something, is just to have a feeling of identity (whatever that is I guess) with those inclinations in your experience which win out over your other inclinations.  Do you see a way around Nietzsche's critique, and what do you think would be a reason to believe in a self which is unified and persists over time?
« Last Edit: March 20, 2013, 03:13:28 am by Mennophilosophystudent »



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Re: The Existence of a Soul
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2013, 09:50:31 pm »
Can there be conscious states without enduring selves to embody them? What would it mean for a thought to exist without a thinker? Can the feeling of pain exist without something to feel it. This kind of reasoning by Nietzsche seems to imply platonic states of consciousness which just seems absurd. The connection between consciousness and the self is like the connection between something being red and something being colored. It is a necessary connection. Consciousness always belongs to a subject, therefore; yes, if there is thought, their is a self.
The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts- C. S. Lewis

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it-


Lothars Sohn

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Re: The Existence of a Soul
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2013, 03:59:31 pm »
Hello Mennophilosophystudent, I hope it is not too late, I have tried developing an argument for the existence of the soul in between:

Maybe that helps  :)

Lovely greetings from Germany.
Liebe Grüsse aus Deutschland.

Lothars Sohn - Lothar's son
"The whole modernist worldview stems from the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are explanations of the phenomena of nature."
Ludwig Wittgenstein.




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Re: The Existence of a Soul
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2019, 03:38:24 pm »
It is time to make the biblical notion that man is made in God’s image practical. The statement is understood as pointing to the Incarnation, which as Jesus related is the only gateway by which men can approach the Invisible God. The idea is to look at the Incarnation first, and then notice the creatures have certain similarities, though not the virtue, divine properties, etc. as Christians have been presuming. Perhaps the souls have the capacity to become divine, but the majority of men are not a reflection of the Creator.

I hesitate going forward because this is one of the keys of the universe, that has been purposefully denied to man before now for this very reason, that men think too much of themselves. It amounts to one of the proofs that the soul exists, but in corrupt souls there isn’t much to see but devilry within. What you are supposed to notice is this, the worldview is not consciously built, nor are sentences constructed piece by piece. I’ve begun saying there is a perceived seat to the soul on the surface of perceptions, but since this seat is not accomplishing much it is pretty obvious there’s a hidden spiritual engine.

This is what the Lord is like too, but His engine is external, in God, while the souls have internal engines. The perceived seat delivers sentences, but it does not construct them. Otherwise no quarrels would every get started, as each party soon tires of waiting for the other to find all the right verbs and nouns and decide upon their order. “What noun do I need now? Where is my subject, what is the predicate?” It’d take several minutes to construct even one sentence. Instead all this happens naturally and powerfully, and the Hindus gave a name to this function of the soul, which is ahankara, the I-maker or as I say worldview-builder. The perceiver presses on the gas, but the engine does the work.

It has been given to man to speak, but not to understand the source of his speech proves a spiritual origin, that he is a created soul. The insight to gaze directly at the mind itself has not yet come to even this world’s most advanced gurus, all wielding the inner machinery but none looking at it. In a way this is a necessity for all in bodies, including the animals. You can’t sit around thinking meticulously; the concepts must be connected and in the human case associated (often badly) with words. The lion doesn’t think, “Maybe if I move my paw a little faster next time the prey will not evade me,” or he would starve.

The trouble of salvation is that the ahankara is the “real person,” generating the worldview, but you can only contact the surface person, who in the case of humans has little control or mastery of the thinking process. The ahankara can also be called “the devil within” in the case of corrupted souls, who even if they pray earnestly to God to purify them, find themselves stuck in the same selfish ruts, leaving them and everyone around them unhappy. The surface mind has some ability to wield opinions, which is why the religions are all about a seeming choice; but this choice does not affect the ahankara.

Nietzsche and Descartes are both philosophers of the surface mind, having no insight into the deeper functioning of the soul. Finding the mind is the first step, that no one has yet attained on Earth. To see the soul itself is a much greater step, but one that those who are truly “born again” are able to do, as Jesus averred. To analyze Nietzsche or Descartes is to try to understand what the surface is feeling and how this is interacting with the ahankara who is the real inner controller. That can be an interesting topic, but probably not one in which these men would take any interest since it is beyond their experience. In general when Descartes says, “I think,” he only has a perception that he is the thinker. He has a small influence in the mind, perhaps the opinion-former, but all within strict limits.

There is an “I,” a perceiver, but this “I” is not the doer or thinker in the usual sense drawn from physical analogies. The driver of a car is a useful analogy, though angry, greedy, and lustful states are examples of the car driving itself, the accelerator pressing down while the brake becomes useless. It takes a lot of work and power, before there can be a perceiver. The Lord’s embodiments and human embodiments have this as a similarity. The ahankara is also part of the real person, though the Lord’s worldview descends from above. There are advanced states where all this can be perceived and verified, about which there have been hints in religion. Descartes and Nietzsche were nowhere near this.