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Lost Souls

The Philosophic Origins of a Cultural Dilemma

David Weissman

Publication Year: 2003

Lost Souls examines the origins and consequences of the philosophic idea that mind and body are distinct. The author traces mind-body dualism from Plato, Plotinus, Augustine, and Proclus through Descartes and Kant to Nietzsche, Heidegger, Carnap, and Quine. Mind’s separation from body has dominated philosophic thinking for millennia, yet most mental activities are now explained in physical terms. What are the implications if mind is material and mortal? Considering both philosophic and scientific ideas about mind, David Weissman explores our options. Rejecting the claim that the character and existence of other things are an effect of the ways we think about or perceive them, he reexamines such topics as meaning and truth, human significance, self, and society. He argues that philosophers have the rare opportunity to renew inquiry by invoking the questions that once directed them: What are we? What is our place in the world? What concerns are appropriate to being here?

Published by: State University of New York Press

TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-ix

Illustrations

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pp. xi-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-

I am grateful to my wife, Kathy, for this book’s title and cover art; to Marshall Spector and Elaine Sternberg for critical comments; to Jean Van Altena for editing the manuscript; and to Gary Foreman for preparing the illustrations.

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

Philosophy’s dominant trajectory, fixed long ago, is severely disrupted by evidence that mind is the activity of body. We see this effect in our ambivalent responses to an English local council. A retirement home sought compensation for burying dead residents. The council declined, advising the home ...

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Chapter One Plato’s Divided Line

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pp. 5-14

Plato’s allegory of the cave distinguishes three orders of intelligibility: there are shadows on the cave’s rear wall, cast by statues carried between a fire and the wall, and the things outside the cave imitated by the statues.1 His divided line is a more complex and abstract expression of these differences: ...

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Chapter Two Descartes’ Revisions of the Line

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pp. 15-26

The first Meditation reminds us that opinion is less than knowledge, and that the beliefs surveyed—in everyday life and science—are opinion only: “[R]eason already persuades me that I ought no less carefully to withhold my assent from matters which are not entirely certain and indubitable than from those which appear ...

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Chapter Three Consequences

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pp. 27-54

What are the effects of incorporating the divided line within the cogito? Here are five considerations explicit or implied in Descartes, and still dominant in our time. Each consolidates mind’s role as ground, final cause, or measure of the ideas and impressions qualifying it. ...

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Chapter Four Descartes’ Heirs: Ontological Foundationalism and “The End of Western Metaphysics”

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pp. 55-80

Plato affirmed that Being comprises nous and the Forms. Forms are paradigmatic differences everywhere available for expression in Becoming. The particulars instantiating them stabilize for a while, then dissolve. Plato added that our finite minds are shards of World-soul. We can distinguish among sensible particulars, ...

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Chapter Five The Cogito’s Demise

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pp. 81-96

Descartes established the cogito as the foundation for all Being, but then told us how to subvert it. The means lie directly above the divided line in figure 2.1. Aristotle and medieval physics reconceived Plato’s Forms as myriad qualitative essences (of dog, cat, sheep, and goat, for example). Descartes reduced these ...

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Chapter Six Churning

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pp. 97-144

The dialectic of contending ideas has distinguished philosophy from its beginning. Ideas fall to one side or the other of two or more organizing themes. And sometimes, because one side of the debate is all but undisputed, we concede its truth. The conflation of intelligibility with thought, and being with knowledge, ...

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Chapter Seven Ideas to Reformulate and Save

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pp. 145-170

Descartes’ reading of Plato is vastly influential in culture at large, not only in philosophy. He encouraged mathematical physics when Aristotle’s qualitative science of substantial forms was still dominant. He helped launch the individualism that reshaped political and social life. He explored the self-reflection ...

Afterword

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pp. 171-172

Notes

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pp. 173-198

Index

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pp. 199-210


E-ISBN-13: 9780791486719
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791457559
Print-ISBN-10: 0791457559

Page Count: 210
Illustrations: 8 figures
Publication Year: 2003