The Soul

The Soul by Adrian Kuzminski is a thoughtful examination of a perennial topic which is handled, as the author says, by a “stipulative” approach, rather than historically. He says that this style is the approach used by Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Berkeley, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein. The author seems most influenced by Berkeley, about whom he wrote a PhD dissertation, and Wittgenstein, whose style of frank statement and cultivated obscurity the author emulates. He starts off the book with the Tractatus-esque statement “Reality is whatever exists; any reality, anything that exists, is a fact.” This is a one-line counter to the famous first line of the Tractatus “The world is all that is the case.”

Kuzminski says that the stipulative style is “laying down assumptions and drawing out consequences . . . with relatively little discussion ‘of the literature.'” While there are few references to other writers in the text, a bibliography is attached with a long list of influences (including Aristotle, Ayer, Berkeley, Bergson, Norman O Brown, Carlos Casteneda, Daniel Dennett, Meister Eckhart, Paul Feyerabend, Freud, Julian Jaynes, Hegel, Heidegger, Kant, Kuhn, Diogenes Laertius, Levi-Straus, Luria, Karl Mannheim, Herbert Marcuse, Marx, Merleau-Ponty, G E Moore, Nietzche, Plotinus, Rorty, Ryle, Searle, Sextus Empiricus, Snell, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Vico, and, of course, Wittgenstein.) Some important names are missing from this list, including E.R.Dodds and Erwin Rohde. The work was published in 1994, so recent work on this topic by writers such as Richard Sorabji (Self) or Jonardon Ganeri (The Concealed Art of the Soul) is also absent.

Probably the most interesting of the book’s seven chapters is Chapter Four, Solipsism and Behaviorism. These are the two false theories which the author hopes to avoid / expose. He defines these as follows: “I call someone who confuses sensations with thoughts (bodies with minds) a solipsist. A solipsist holds that sensations are thoughts; that sensations are actually mental images. And I call someone who makes the opposite error, who confuses thoughts with sensations (minds with bodies), a behaviorist.”

Earlier chapters have maintained that 1) Perceptions represent or contrast with one another. 2)Sensation-perceptions come to us through our bodies,”thoughts are concrete images, actual perceptions; and what I call ‘mind’ is in fact what is meant by memory and imagination,and not at all the traditional concept notion of mind.” In his chapter on solipsism and behaviorism he gives a reasonable argument that each of these views is an error, but it is when he says “It is in our thoughts that we are disembodied beings” and “Consciousness has often been identified with the mind rather than the body, but it should be identified with the soul” that the author leaves Planet Earth and ventures to Planet Berkeley.

About Randal Samstag

Randal has an undergraduate degree in political philosophy, but has a graduate degree in engineering and has earned his bread for 30 years working on municipal and community water supply and wastewater collection and treatment systems in the US, Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia.
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