Thomas Hobbes

Hobbes on – what Nicolas Humphries calls – “natural psychology”

[Given] the simulitude of the thoughts and passions of one man to the thoughts and passions of another, whosoever looketh into himself and considereth what he doth, when he does think, opine, reason, hope, fear &c., and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know, what are the thoughts and passions of all other men upon the like occasions.

Leviathan, Oxford 1946. Cited on p. 6,  Conciousness Regained.

John Stuart Mill: The existence of ‘other’ minds.

“By what evidence do I know, or by what considerations am I led to believe, that there exist other sentient creatures; that the walking and speaking figures, which I see and hear, have sensations and thoughts, or in other words, possess Minds?  . . .

first, they have bodies like me, which I know to be the antecedent condition of feelings …

secondly, they exhibit the acts and other outward signs, which in my own case I know by experience to be caused by feelings.

I am conscious in myself of a series of facts connected by a uniform sequence, of which the beginning is modifications of my body, the middle is feelings, the end is outward demeanor.   In the case of other human beings I have the evidence of my senses for the first and last links of the series, but not for the intermediate link.

I find, however, that the sequence between the first and last is as regular and constant in those other cases as it is in mine.   In my own case I know that the first link produces the last through the intermediate link, and could not produce it without.

Experience, therefore, obliges me to conclude that there must be an intermediate link; which must either be the same in others as in myself, or a different one: I must either believe them to be alive or to be automatons: and by believing them to be alive, that is, by supposing the link to be of the same nature as in the case of which I have experience, and which is in all other respects similar, I bring other human beings, as phenomena, under the same generalizations, which I know by experience to be the true theory of my own existence.”

John Stuart Mill, An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy, 1865.  Cited from the Introductory Quotes to the first chapter of Nicholas Humphrey, Consciousness Regained: Chapters in the Development of Mind, Oxford, 1983.


The Soul Thing

I used to ask my IB TOK students to do an imaginary interviewing stint at a mall. No matter which one. Just ask people whether they have souls.

Now tell me in advance what % of the happy interviewees will say “Yes”?

Now I imagine that you, like them, will agree with me that some very high % will say “Yes”.

But why? Why do they say this?  I think that you are thinking that these putative victims of your interviewing – will be be a little at a loss and maybe a lot annoyed. Maybe people think they have souls because they learned it in church (or other variations of “because the Bible tells me so”)  or because they have had ‘spiritual’ experiences, the soul and the spirit being the same. (Are they?)

Or maybe at some point in their lives, they have thought their way through a self deconstruction…if I lose my arm, if I become blind, or paralyzed etc. … there will be still be me. That’s it … there’s a kernel ‘me’, an at-the-core-something which will always be there.. How can it be that all my thoughts and experiences, all my memories , all my family and friends and lovers…etc. should all my “me-ness” should vanish at death?

It’s impossible to believe that this or that relative or loved one is simply gone… even Faithful Fido must still exist somewhere, somehow…?

Do we carry with us a bias in favor of the soul that we carry with us, maybe like the self-preservation thing? Or are we infatuated with ourselves, fascinating things that we are?   I could go on. BUT… the take-away, the take-away I want here, is for you to carry this unanswerable question around with you silently watching, listening, reading, waiting for other people to say or do things that suggest to you their views, or lack of them, on the matter. You to become a soul sleuth. AND, I want you to ask questions to yourself – we don’t want you thought weird by your family and friends – about the question.

Questions like sort of thing a soul is, and what makes it special, and what ‘spirit’ is, and whether it is different from ‘soul’.  Don’t seek answers …gather evidence; no right answer here, just something to ask yourself in line at the Kroger store, or with the car radio off and your phone in the back seat. More later…

And By the Way:
“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you, – and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you!”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre