Phil 89: General Feedback on Third Brief Writing Exercises

  1. Some of you are still having trouble about when to say “soul” and when to say “person” or “self” or “you” — we can treat these last three as interchangeable, but using them is importantly different from using “soul.” Certain theorists would say that persons are souls, but these words don’t mean the same thing. Other theorists think that persons exist but souls don’t; still others think that one person could have multiple souls. These people aren’t contradicting themselves or speaking nonsense. Try to think carefully about when you should be writing “person” and when you should be writing “soul.” For example, Gretchen doesn’t believe that one’s soul dies with one’s body. She thinks that one’s person (or self) dies then. She doesn’t believe we have souls, though for most of the dialogue she’s willing to pretend we do for the sake of argument. I think she’d say if souls exists, she has no idea what they do when bodies die.

    Related to this is when to use “mind.” It’s unclear whether minds are properly understood as objects. So we can’t take it as given that you are your mind, nor that your mind is your soul. Different philosophers (even philosophers who believe in souls) will talk about minds in different ways, and have different views about what minds are.

  2. What makes someone a “dualist”? This label is applied to philosophers who think we have souls, which are immaterial substances that have our thoughts and feelings. Some dualists will say that you are identical to your soul; these dualists will deny that your body is part of you. Instead it’s just a physical vehicle that you control. Other dualists will say that when you have a body, your body is part of you. Some of them will even say it’s an essential part of you, that is, you are a combination of a body and a soul, and cannot exist without either part. Other dualists can take the Lockean position Gretchen describes in Perry’s First Night. They’ll say you need a soul to have thoughts and feelings, but you can survive having your soul replaced. All of the views described here are things that one can say, while still being a dualist. You shouldn’t offer any of the things that dualists disagree about as being definitions of dualism.

  3. Here are what I see as the main elements of the different passages you were summarizing. An ideal summary would identify each of these, and explain them clearly and in your own voice.

    Passage 1

    1. Sam Miller proposes that selves or persons are identical to souls.
    2. Gretchen Weirob challenges: then for you to know or be justified in believing you’re encountering the same person, you’d have to know or be justified in believing you’re encountering the same soul.
    3. Sam suggests that if he’s seeing the same body, he can know the same soul is connected to it. (Note that he’s not saying that bodies are identical to souls, nor that bodies are identical to persons. He’s only saying that bodies and souls probably/generally will stick together — that if he knows it’s the same body, it’s reasonable to think that it’s the same soul. It needn’t be guaranteed.)
    4. Gretchen gets him to admit also that if it’s a different body, then it will be a different soul. (Again, probably/generally.)
    5. She suggests that point d makes it difficult for Sam to make sense of the same person existing again in heaven, where presumably the same body is no longer available.

    Passage 2

    1. The principle “if same body then same soul” is not part of the meaning of “same body,” but instead an observation-based generalization.
    2. To establish this generalization, you would need some independent way to check/verify whether you had the same soul.
    3. Illustration: you couldn’t establish a correlation between outside swirls on the candy and caramel fillings without ever biting into the candy.
    4. But you don’t have any way to independently check whether someone’s body has the same soul connected to it; so you’re unable to test or get evidence for the generalization from point a.
    5. Hence if persons really were souls, then judgments about “same person” would be “groundless” or unjustified.

    Passage 3

    1. Sam Miller proposes: sameness of body is correlated with similar psychological states, which in turn is correlated with sameness of soul.
    2. Gretchen Weirob asks: Why do similar psychological states require, or even amount to any evidence of, having the same soul?
    3. Illustration: you recognize a river (person) by the state of the water that makes it up at a given moment (psychological states), but this will be different water (different soul) each time you see the river.
    4. For all you know, the soul connected to a body might change from day to day, or more often.
    5. So if personal identity were a matter of having the same soul, you wouldn’t be able to know when you’re encountering the same person.

    Passage 4

    1. Gretchen Weirob asks: How do you know in your own case that you’ve had only one soul connected to your body?
    2. She’s not herself doubting that only a single person has been connected to your body, just whether Sam Miller’s theory of persons can explain how we’d be able to know that.
    3. Judgments about souls are “mysterious,” and you have no adequate evidence for them.
    4. Gretchen compares the “single soul hypothesis” to other hypotheses about how many souls have been connected to your body, each “inheriting all the memories and beliefs” of their predecessor; what makes us more justified in believing the first?
    5. She says it doesn’t seem like we’re justified in inferring “same soul” from sameness (numerical identity) of body, nor from sameness (qualitative similarity) of thoughts and sensations.