Saturday, April 18, 2009

Images of the soul

I bet a lot of people when they think about the soul imagine something nebulous—a kind of glow, or gas, or force-field, or the like—permeating the body. Certainly, this is how I imagine it. It's funny that nobody imagines the soul to be like a rock. Yet, aren't both images just as much off? The nebulous something—that fails convey the stability and unity of the soul. And the rock—that fails to convey immateriality.

(I am not about to urge that one not imagine anything when thinking about the soul. When I think about mathematical entities, I do imagine physical objects—for instance, graphs—that represent them. But that only rarely leads me astray—much more often, it helps.)


Bobby Bambino said...

Somewhat related to what you said about mathematics and how we "visualize" the soul, I visualize both the soul and God as being the 19th century idea of the ether that was the fixed entity that light was able to pass through, the sort of object that everything else was relative to.

Anonymous said...

But, of course, although images are necessary for thinking about x, often times x is a mental grasp of the limit for the image and not identical to the image. In this way, images both help and hinder us and some images are better than others. In your evaluations of the images that help us to understand the soul, you made judgments about the images from a mental grasp of the soul through which you judge the images. The mind is so interesting! (;

BTW, love your blog!!!!!!!!!!

Heath White said...

I think I used to visualize the soul a lot more than I do now. Now, if I visualize it at all, it's like a ghost, a pale wispy facsimile of the actual person.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I am very visual, so I visualize things all the time. When I say a word that has a homophone, I sometimes see flashing before my mind a disambiguating spelling. When I think of sets, I am apt to see little curly brackets, even if there is nothing much between them--they're just an icon.

However, when I think of the soul as a hylomorphic form, enforcing the laws of nature for my body's particles, I don't see wispy images. In fact, quite possible, I somehow imagine action without a visible agent--as if the action were the agent (which of course is a very good way of thinking of an entelechy).

Alexander R Pruss said...

I wonder, too, how people imagine magnetic fields.

Sami said...

Dear Mr. Pruss, what is the soul? Lately I have been a bit confused about what it is supposed to be or do. For instance, is it supposed to reason? If so, why do physical injuries or alcohol impair our judgement? Is it supposed to generate emotions? Emotions also are tied to the brain and many neurochemicals. Is it just supposed to feel? If so, how can it be casually involved in anything?
I think these are important questions for anybody positing the existence of a soul