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Въпросът за душата и тялото в съвременната и модерна европейска философия

Фарах Садихова

Докторант на Института по философия и социология към Азербайджанската национална академия на науките


 The issue of soul and body in the Contemporary and Modern European philosophy

Farah Sadykhova

Doctoral student of the Institute "Philosophy and Sociology" at Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences



During the Renaissance, F. Patrici and C. Bruno returned to the idea of the world spirit in their teachings. However, some were in contradiction of them taking into consideration that this idea was against to Christianity. N. Bessarion mentioned that Plato's opinion about the pre-existence of souls, the existence of the spirits of the sky and celestial bodies contradicted to Christianity. Nicholas of Cusa, denying the existence of a world soul, mentioned: " There is no intermediary or middle ground between the Absolute (God) and the finite world. Those who believe that the world possesses a soul exist after God but before the finiteness of the world are mistaken. God alone is the soul and mind of the world.” ("On Learned Ignorance", II 9).

 In the modern philosophy, the terms of sense-natural and conscious bodies of the Middle Ages were replaced by the concepts of natural and artificial bodies, and the question of the substantiality of bodies, that is, their independent existence without dependence on consciousness, was raised (Hobbs) [11, 134]. New Age philosophy, which mainly focused on the study of material objects, likened the human body to a machine mechanism.

The conflict between soul and body is renewed again by René Descartes, a representative of the rationalism. Descartes thinks that the soul is an immaterial substance. "I" as a problem of individual self-understanding was first posed in modern philosophy and most clearly expressed by him. The division of reality into object and subject was a new position which is not found in ancient and medieval philosophy. The philosopher, alongside Plato from ancient times and Avicenna from the Medieval era, is one of the three figures who significantly impacted the history of this perspective. His concept of the soul has since led to new debates in modern Western thought. In his examination of the subject and object of knowledge, Descartes endeavors to ascertain the legitimacy of knowledge through the self-awareness of the subject. Descartes contended that doubting the reliability of sensory perception regarding external objects and one's own body is admissible, yet questioning the existence of consciousness and the "I" tied to it is not permissible. Thus, the assertion "cogito ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am) holds true within the realm of human understanding.. The "I" is a pre-given thing that exists independently of the existence of other "I"s and external objects, despite the fact that in ordinary experience the subject's activity is directed primarily at extra personal objects. According to Descartes' proof, reminiscent of Avicenna , man cannot think that he does not exist, even if he assumes that he does not have a body. So, the "I" of a person is a substance related to thinking. This substance doesn't require a physical location or dependence on any material entity for its existence. The "I" within a person, namely the soul, is entirely distinct from the body, persisting independently even if detached from the physical form. [13, 99].

Descartes placed at the center of his ontology the existence of two different substances, which he called the space-occupying substance (res extensa: body) and the thinking substance (res cogitans: soul). While all animal and human organisms were imagined as an automaton in the concept of the body subject to completely mechanical rules of operation, the soul was thought to be the substance that separated human from animals. While the main quality of the body is to be three-dimensional and occupy space, the main quality of the soul is to think. The result was that material beings do not have the ability to think, and the soul is an immaterial substance devoid of spatial existence. Furthermore, it was argued that a rational being with a deliberate will, as opposed to purely mechanical activity, could not emerge from inanimate matter.

Descartes acknowledges that our soul is more familiar to us than our physical body. He identifies the soul’s primary property as consciousness, which encompasses the faculties of mind and will. On the other hand, the main property of the body is its extension in space. According to Descartes' dualistic approach, there is an expanding body (res extensa), which resembles a clockwork mechanism, and a thinking body (res cogitans), which has consciousness. He recognizes that the body and the soul are two independent substances, each of which has its own characteristics. In his teaching of dualism, soul is equal to consciousness. A characteristic of a human being different from an animal is the ability to think rationally. Humans are spiritual, animals are soulless beings without the ability to think and control themselves. Soul and body are connected by the concept of "passion", which is a product of both body and soul [12, 345, 484]

Spinoza wanted to go beyond the concept of dual substance called Cartesian dualism in his monistic ontology, which he systematized in the identity of the terms God, nature and substance. According to Spinoza, body and soul are one. The body is "a mode that expresses the essence of God in a known and definite way." [23, II, 1].

The attribute of extension of substance is body, and the attribute of thought is soul. According to Spinoza, who put forward the idea of monism, nature is the only one, eternal and infinite substance identified with God. A person who is a part of it forms a two-dimensional unity with thinking (soul) and extension (body). The soul is an idea that is an integral part of, depends on, and serves the body. The connection of ideas is the connection of things, it reflects the order of things. The content of the soul depends on the influences experienced by the body. In the course of life, the body repeatedly experiences these effects, the soul remembers these effects and creates a connection between them [23, III, 2].

According to Leibniz, who opposed Descartes, the body consists of many monads and a pre-established harmony between them. The spirit in the animal is the dominant entelechy in the living body [17, 44].

John Locke, considered the founder of the theory of associations that describes the human mind, rejected Descartes' idea of ​​innate ideas and argued that all human knowledge comes from experience. According to Locke, a child is born as a blank slate ("tabula rasa"), on which anything can be written, and which later becomes one's own knowledge. Thus, the leading role of environmental conditions, experience in the development of mental abilities of the child is confirmed. Locke defined the body as a dense, extended substance with a certain form. Locke believed that it is impossible to prove the immortality of the soul. Therefore, the soul is devoid of any innate principles, and it derives all its ideas and parts from experience. He opposes Descartes, who put forward the idea that the essence of the soul consists of reason and will, and states that the soul is devoid of essence. Because now we only have knowledge about special qualities and perceptions that are the only bonds of our consciousness [18, 556].

Opposing Locke, Berkeley argued that only thinking substances exist. There is no substance but the subjective soul, which expresses will and consciousness. He believed that the soul is not in the body, but the body is in the soul above nature. According to Berkeley, "neither single sensible bodies, nor anything similar to them, can exist outside the soul," "it is only by the movement of the soul that the various bodies forming the visible world are formed" [4, 192], and the body is "a combination of sensible qualities or ideas." [4, 214].

According to D.Yum, the body is nothing but a unity of ideas of several separate sensory qualities formed by our mind. A person with a soul is like a very complex machine. The soul in him depends entirely on his temperament and the state of the body [27, 331].

For German romantics, representatives of classical German philosophy, the body is a symbolic expression of the soul and psycho-spiritual processes (K. G. Karus, Novalis, Schelling, G. Steffens). The views of philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, and Schelling are noteworthy in this matter.

In Kant's philosophy, the body is connected not as a thing in itself, but with certain cognitive abilities, that is, with a priori forms of feeling and thinking. According to Kant, the immortality of the soul is a theoretically unproven field of practical reason, because the existence of the soul after death goes beyond the scope of possible experience. According to Kant, the realization of the highest good is the necessary object of the will determined by the moral law, and the highest condition is the complete compliance of the goals set by this will with the moral law. The conformity in question is the same as moral competence, and it is impossible for a rational creature living in the world of senses to attain this competence. Considering that the finite time and conditions of earthly existence are not enough to reach the ultimate good, it is necessary to acknowledge the existence of eternal life in which the soul continues forever. With Kant's approach, the question of the soul fundamentally moves from the field of ontology and epistemology to the field of morality and develops in empirical psychology, which tries to integrate with anthropology, biology and physiology rather than philosophy [15, 333].

Opposing Descartes' "cogito ergo sum" thesis, Kant states that "I", as a thinking being, is the object of the inner sense called the soul, and the body is the object of the external sense. All methods of self-awareness in consciousness do not provide knowledge of "I" as an object, just as they do not allow us to think about an object. Therefore, the statement "I am" cannot be considered a result of the statement "I think". Otherwise, this premise should have been preceded by a grand premise of "thinking is all." "I think" and "I am" are the same propositions. "I exist" expresses a vague empirical thought, because the basis of judgment is a sense already belonging to the sensibility, but prior to experience, which must identify the object of perception by means of a category in relation to time. Therefore, "existence" does not appear as a category here. Since it has a purely intellectual character, it cannot be called a phenomenon or a noumenon [15, 311-312].

Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who transformed the "Thinking I" into the "pure I" and the "empirical (individual) I", (unlike Kant) does not recognize the existence of an absolute "I" independent of the individual "I" and interprets his teaching on three principles:

- "I=I" - the "I in Itself", which reveals itself and acts as an unconditional factor for the process of self-creation, is the true beginning and source of activity of everything.

- "I-is not-I" - "I" distinguishes itself as an active beginning, against non-I, which is inactive and a component of "I".

- Conflict of "Limited I and Non-I" - Limitation creates conditions for the formation of a separable "I" and "Non-I". The meaning of the synthesis lies in the difference between the absolute and the individual "I", where the "Absolute I" opposes nature. The relationship between the individual Self and the absolute Self is regulated by the dialectical development of consciousness [24, 284-288, 290-297].

Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling puts forward the idea of ​​the original identity of the "I" and the "Non-I", acting as the "reconciliation of opposites" of the Absolute. Hence the identity between subject and object, conscious and super conscious, spirit and nature. Everything exists in the Absolute Sameness, which is a single whole, and no object outside of it exists by itself. Spirit and nature are also based on this sameness. Because nature is the product of the subconscious mind acting from within and manifesting itself as a goal in the process of development, it is "mind frozen in being." Theoretical activity is based on feeling, thinking, judgment and reason as the highest level of activity, where the theoretical "I" realizes itself as an independent and active beginning and becomes a practical "I" guided by the will. The highest stage of the development of the will is moral activity as an end in itself [7, 380-382].

Seeing that Kant's critique of mere reason will not result in a whole idea of ​​being, Hegel generally introduced the concepts of the spirit of the universe and the spirit of time, which are explanatory principles of the development of history through dialectical processes, and in his philosophy, human history became a living being. He denied materialism, which reduces all existence to the substance of matter, explains all phenomena with material forces and processes, and also denied the idea that spiritual and mental states or processes have an ontological feature.

According to Friedrich Hegel, the idea takes its existence in the body of an individual being ("the soul embodies itself in the body"), which condemns it to dependence on the external forces of nature and social conditions. The soul, being embodied in the body, gives it certainty and creates an opportunity to rise to concrete certainty [8, 176]. According to Hegel, the spirit that expresses itself in appearance and determination is consciousness. A distinctive feature of consciousness is the contrast between subject and object. The essence of self-awareness is revealed through the mind, which is fully aware of itself as the soul. It culminates in the absolute knowledge reflected in religion. These are the stages of the phenomenological path of the soul, which coincide with the stages of the path of the individual. The source of this phenomenological dialectic lies in the gradual elimination of such inequality at different levels of consciousness of the "I" and the object. The culmination of this process is the moment when the soul becomes its object [9, 151-154, 310-316, 342-345].

In the subject-object dichotomy, German classical philosophy prefers the active subject, whose activity is mainly spiritual, i.e. self-development of consciousness. Knowledge about the external world is a form of activity of the soul (consciousness). Reality belongs to the realm of the soul. Human consciousness is a ready-made thing given by nature or God. In scientific and philosophical approaches from the middle of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century, the symbolic representation of the body "I" and inner-psychic processes (G. Teixmüller, F. Beneke, E. Kassirer), as the embodiment of entelechy (G. Lasson, G. Drish), or was regarded as an instrument of movement, a system of mechanical habits and dispositions of movement. The content of experience determined by the natural connection between the body, the tangible and the conceivable (E. Cassirer, G. Cohen, P. Natorp), the content of possible and actual perceptions (Clifford, O. Weiniger), the spatial order of energy (V. Ostwald's energy theory), it was valued as a mental symbol of a complex of neutral elements that appear as both a body and a feeling, or a complex of feelings (Petzold, E. Mach, R. Avenarius).

F. Nietzsche's philosophy of nihilism dealt a great blow to the classical European philosophy, which considers God as an indispensable part of the world. By proclaiming the death of God, he raised the question of a radical and reexamination of the human problem. In his approach, all ideal, spiritual and moral concepts were philosophically rejected. F. Nietzsche, considering the body as an important tool that leads to a higher person, writes: "I do not follow your path, you who despise the body! For me, you are not a bridge to superman. [21, 31]

Nietzsche's consideration of the body as a means to a higher goal laid the foundation for new approaches to the body in philosophy. A. Schopenhauer considered the human body to be an expression of will [26, 20]. J.-P. Sartre believed that the body "is an obstacle that must be overcome in order to be in the world, that is, an obstacle that I am for myself." [22, 217] It is possible to become a person by eliminating the body's inherent weaknesses. For E. Husserl, the body is not only a way of being in the world, but also a form of the experiential attitude of consciousness that allows a person to understand his place in the space-time continuum of nature. A person's perception of his body is the starting point for viewing the world. According to Merleau-Ponty, "The body is an object that does not leave me... If an object is a certain unchanging structure, it is so not despite the change of perspectives, but in or through this change itself... I observe external objects with the help of the body. I myself do not observe my body... The body constantly comes to life in the spectacle we see and animates it from the inside, forming a single system with the world. [20, 106].

Psychometry, psychophysics, detailed study and classification of feelings (V.Wundt, A.Behn, E.Goering, W.James) lead to the displacement of the ontological concept of the human soul in various fields of psychology, and the concept of the soul is more like "psyche", "mental life" replace concepts.

The representatives of modern postmodernism, which emerged from the middle of the 20th century, exclude the body-spirit connection from the discourse and turn to the affective aspects of human existence, primarily sexuality and negative affectives (sado-masochism, cruelty, etc.), because in postmodernism there is no question of identity anymore, and consciousness is valued as a physical substance. According to them, social experiences form certain bodily practices and the corresponding understanding (M. Foucault). Modern postmodernism discusses ideas about the social body and the disembodied body, as well as occult concepts that are very reminiscent of the ethereal bodies and rich in sexual-biopsychic metaphors.

The postmodern interpretation of personality corresponds to the definition given by Deleuze and Guattari: "We have no reason to believe that there is a need for transcendental values ​​that allow us to compare, choose, and determine which of them is "better" than the other. Rather, the criteria are only immanent. This or that possibility of life is evaluated in itself by the actions it traces, by the intensities it creates on the plane of immanence, that which attracts nothing, which creates nothing, is discarded. A mode of existence is good or bad, noble or vulgar, whole or empty, independent of any transcendent value, good or evil. There is always only one criterion - existential possibility, the intensification of life." [14, 97].

Postmodern philosophy, which continues Nietzsche's idea of ​​the death of God, also declares that the death of the subject, the person, has come, and the era of post humanism has become relevant. Michel Foucault believes that since the human subject is a product of cultural adaptation, there is no such thing as an absolute subject. The individual is an ideological construct and a reality fabricated by a certain technology of power - disciplinary practices. What the classics call the human "I" is considered by postmodernism as a pure possibility that becomes actualized in various forms. Among the multitude of all "self-forming" structures, an important place belongs to informational structures. Foucault proves that people have changed their subjectivity throughout history, formed themselves with the help of different subjectivities that are not related to any ultimate "essence" of man. Turning a person into a class, a production unit, a carrier of world values, a representative of an abstract species turns a person into a scheme [25, 69-70].

C. Lacan also claims that individual independent consciousness is impossible. The individual is constantly and largely unconsciously conditioned in his thought process by the linguistic structures that define his mental structures. A language with its own structure appears before entering a concrete subject. The subject is a slave of language from the moment of birth. Because the language that speaks through me and from me is not in me, but outside. The subject does not have a center at all, it "becomes" in all possible directions, but there is no main direction of this transformation [16, 55].

Postmodern philosophers have emphasized the emergence of body-centrism ethics in modern times and expressed their critical views on it. The postmodernist philosopher Roland Barthes, who revealed the problem of corporeality through the myth of fashion in the work "The Fashion System", believes that the body itself is actually an external image without any original. With the advent of fashion, clothing replaced this image, filled the human body with meaning with the help of silhouette, shape, color, changed the human condition as an image like a mask, hid his experiences, failures and defects [3, 270].

According to J. Baudrillard, the motif of the body spreads everywhere (in advertising, fashion and popular culture) and many body cults (hygienic, dietary, therapeutic) are formed related to the implementation of methods of realization of life standards (youth, elegance, masculinity or femininity) so that which leads to the valuation of the body both as capital requiring investment and as a fetish requiring profit (or the activities of photo models and mannequins as an object of consumption and commercials promoting it), the search for the ideal body comes to the fore. According to the philosopher, these things turn a person into an aggressive, nervous, closed, lonely creature who runs after his instinct, not reason, morality, or law [6, 167-168].

In fact, the tendency to deify the body, or the ethos of body centrism, was widespread in the art and worldview of antiquity and earlier periods. The cult of personality, holy personalities, and ideas about tyrants also originate from here. Idols, statues, like a work of art, inspire worship of the ideal body. Human psychology, at the subconscious level, tends to be worshiped as a god with his ideal body and glory. This tradition of narcissism or the tendency of idealization (deification) of the body (matter) developed in the European renaissance period with humanism and has developed to our modern times [19, 183].

Today, the answers to the question of what is the subject of consciousness or mental states appear to correspond to three theories. If the first two of them are the dualist and materialist views whose main ideas were discussed above, the third one is the theory of the person who defends that these phenomena are neither purely material nor immaterial. Because the materialistic behaviorist view denies the existence of the soul, it materializes all mental phenomena. This approach, which claims that thoughts, feelings, desires, and other mental states can only be resolved based on observable behavior, argues that they can only be meaningful and testable if they can be expressed in tangible terms. A more radical form of this view is personality theory, which equates the psyche with bodily states and processes. This theory is proposed by Peter F. Strawson, who rejects Cartesian dualism as well as Hobbesian materialism. Therefore, as proposed in epiphenomenalism, mental states cannot be attributed to the body. However, this idea does not mean that they should be attributed to an entity separate from the "I" called soul or mind. In this theory, the conscious subject called the person is identified neither with the body nor with the mind. Mental states are not epiphenomena of the body, properties of the soul or mind. What is signified as "I" is neither body alone nor soul alone. It is a person as a subject of consciousness. Therefore, the concept of a person is such a type of being that the predicates attributed to the individual being, both states of consciousness, physical qualities, and physical condition are equally applied to him [2, 104].

John R. Searle, a well-known biological naturalist, defines consciousness as "a high-level biological quality of the brain, a neurophysiological system," and rejects both materialist reductionist approaches and Cartesian dualism as a requirement of this definition. Against the errors of materialism and Cartesian dualism, in order to explain the structure of human nature consisting of the unity of soul and body, he suggests the necessity of returning to Aristotle's concept of the soul [1, 39-41].


Conclusion: In connection with the success of natural sciences during the Renaissance and in the future, the body begins to be studied as a natural object within the framework of science. In the New Age, however, the body begins to be studied as an apparatus of production, and philosophical discussions about the soul gradually decline. In modern times, consumer culture and body-centrism morality lead to valuing the soul as an element of the body. Body-centrism morality led to the formation of consumer society as a product of post-industrial society, which could not but be reflected in philosophy as a socio-cultural phenomenon. Postmodernist philosophy also approached body-spirit relations from this aspect and laid the foundation of posthumanism views.



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