Friday, May 27, 2011

Swinburne on the Soul

Having read several of Richard Swinburne's philosophical works over the years and having just this winter reread his book The Existence of God, I was eager to listen to an interview he did recently on the soul. Swinburne is a highly prominent philosopher of religion at Oxford, a Christian, and a substance dualist who conflates soul and mind.

By that I mean he assumes soul and mind are essentially two words for the same thing. This is not the only view of the soul a dualist(one who believes that there are at least two disparate substances comprising reality - mind and matter)could hold, but it's probably the dominant view.

Swinburne's argument against physicalism (the belief that there is no non-physical substance) is that if the self just is the material body then if my body exists then I must exist. However, there is a possible world in which a body just like mine exists, but in which I don't exist. If so, then it's possible to have a body like mine but not have me, or, in other words, my body and I are not identical.

In the course of the 17 minute discussion he touches upon the problem of personal identity, the problem of mind/brain interactionism (i.e. the problem of believing that two disparate substances can somehow interact), and makes an interesting distinction between how he came to believe in God as opposed to why he continues to believe. His reply toward the end to the interviewer's suggestion that he only believes what he does about the mind/soul because of his theological commitments is excellent.

The interview can be listened to at The Microphilosopher.

Thanks to First Thoughts for the link.


Here's an amusing send-up of atheists Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens. The guy who does the composite "Ditchkins" sounds almost exactly like Dawkins:
Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the link.