(urth) Souls

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Thu Mar 19 14:44:37 PDT 2009

Interestingly, "soul" often has been used the opposite of the way we use "self." That is, as something you possess that is not you, and which you may have stolen from you.

If you consider George MacDonald's "shadows" and Lord Dunsany's shadows and souls, and some fairy tales as well (giant's hearts and so on), they tend to be nameless, faceless things. And this makes sense, because the concept well predates the era of Romanticism. You could consider it a "spark," perhaps.

The "self" is much more to the point here, I think.


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Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2009 20:29:51 +0000
From: Chris P <rasputin_ at hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) Souls
To: <urth at lists.urth.net>
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Well, this is part of the problem with using the word "soul"; there is an ambiguity in these ways of looking at how the word is used, which tends to lead to metaphysical questions like "Well ok, what is the 'soul' *really*?" The introduction of the two different words was to make a bit more explicit the possibility that we can be talking about two different things; this pushes the dispute a bit away from that metaphysical ground towards a question of "OK, well, which of these (possibly distinct) things is what determines personal identity; which is 'really *me*'?"

Now, if you take the position that the two words (soul/psyche) don't actually refer to anything distinct but to a single underlying notion of "soul", then the question is immediately pushed back to "What is the soul really like?" and you seem forced to say that one of the two ways of looking at it must be wrong, after all. This is part of what gives me trouble with James's composite view... Because we can vacillate case by case in which notion seems to best fit our intuitive understanding of identity. But if we take a single case and attempt to claim that identity consists in both of them at the same time, then you once again seem to point back to that metaphysical question, and you have to reject soul-as-substance, psyche, or possibly both.

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