Body or Soul?

How is it that we seem to have free will, yet our bodies are physical objects subject to physical law? how do electro-chemical impulses in the brain provide us with our rich perceptual world?   In short, what is our nature – are we robots or agents?   Are we the effect of our genes and upbringing, or can we actually cause events?   If so how?

These questions are important because much of our legal, political and economic systems, as well as our sciences and medicine are predicated on assumed answers (and the answers are not the same across these disciplines). It is therefore important to know at least which philosophy concerning these questions the above disciplines espouse, whether that philosophy is consistently held throughout the discipline and what evidence is available. By understanding the arguments and the available evidence we should be in a better position to judge whether salesmen for one or another philosophy are sincere or not. The consequences of buying the associated concepts should become clearer.

“What adulterates philosophy and fills it with error and false theory is high-level intellectual ability….Philosophers ask philosophy to supply them with reasons for believing things that all mankind have believed without being able to give any reasons for doing so. One might expect that in matters of such importance the proof would be easy; but in fact it is the most difficult thing in the world.” Thomas Reid (1710-1796)

This book is really aimed at the man or woman in the street with a high school education who is interested in the mind and its place in the world, with the aim of giving a balanced philosophical background and a firm grasp on the relevant empirical facts. It is written in what is hopefully plain English. Such a person I imagine is trying to make sense of the blitz of information that is presented to him concerning the ‘scientific’ facts of life that assure him that he is his brain and all his thoughts are genetically determined, or infused in to him from his environment.   A more considered outlook is that these ideas are actually metaphysical rather than scientific.   In order for someone to come to a reasonable conclusion on such questions it is necessary to have a great deal of background knowledge. The aim of this book is to provide that background and the arguments from which you as an independent thinker can come to your own conclusion.

“The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind.   No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner.” John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

If you do not have a Kindle or wish to read the book on your PC you can download a free e-book reader on to your PC at http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/kindle/pc or http://www.amazon.com/gp/kindle/pc. There is a similar one for the MAC. Amazon also provides apps to read books in the Kindle format for the Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone platforms.

This website gives readers of my book “Rethinking the Mind” the opportunity to reply or comment. I am interested in your insights: thinking is allowed!

The book is divided into three volumes which give a historical, scientific and psycho-social perspective on the subject matter. It is best to read in order. To read summaries, reviews and “look inside” click on the icons which will take you to the relevant Amazon page.

Excerpts from reviews:
clear and accessible…well structured and comprehensive.” – KFL
a fascinating read… a tour de force.” – Andonis
extremely well researched… easy to read.” – Alan7794

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3 thoughts on “Body or Soul?

  1. In chapter 1, you clearly succeed in writing for the “high-school” educated; you’re clear and direct and introduce the layman to what should be one’s most important journey… a journey to one’s soul!

    The reader understands at once that it’s not an easy adventure! Already no consensual definition of so important aspects of ours as “mind” or “soul” or even “consciousness”! You let the reader discover (probably, since he’s not a philosopher) through history, different ways of working these questions. And you give your own way of thinking about them, which is fair and important.

    Now the reader can’t have a clear idea of what he could expect since there’s no list of the content of the 3 books (just a few references to some following chapters). It’s missing because the introduction and the first chapter aren’t enough to understand where you’re leading him. You do expose your intentions but it would be nice to have a better idea of how you realize them.

    The first chapter introduces nicely the history of ideas about mind and soul. It’s very useful for the layman that didn’t learn philosophy. I don’t know what comes next, but after this introduction the reader has many tools to begin thinking by himself, which is superb, especially if he didn’t have the opportunity to do so before!

    • Thankyou, Alain, for your interest and kind words.
      I have found that people ask me what is my conclusion before reading anything I have written! They then accept or dismiss the reply and don’t read the book. This was recognised by Francis Bacon in what he called the ‘idols of the cave’: we accept data that agrees with our own ideas and dismiss data that does not.
      I want and expect the reader to make their own mind up after reading not before.
      The point is the journey not the destination!

  2. This is a subject very close to my heart…it was the topic of my undergrad thesis and a very eye-opening experience for me to write about.

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