PHL471: Quinton on the Soul and Personal Idenity
Quinton on the Soul and Personal Idenity
Quinton: "The Soul"
Quinton undertakes the task of describing how we can allow for a
soul that is not dependent upon any particular piece of matter, but
which can be consistent with physicalist theories, and
which can provide an account of personal identity.
- The Soul And Spiritual Substance
- Quinton points out two traditional notions of soul, one Aristotleannotion of the animating principle, the other as consciousness.
- Quinton's main focus in this section is to indicate three problems
with the idea that we can explain with personal identity with a theory
that the soul is a different substance. (1) We have no way to identify
the parts of an immaterial soul without reference to the person, so
it cannot explain personal identity; (2) we don't have any third person
criteria to identify the features of any immaterial soul (and these
features can change and the person remains); (3) a spiritual
substance is only first-person observable, and we each cannot
contrast it with any other spiritual substance, and so cannot see what
is unique to it.
- We talk of experiences always having a subject, but this does
not establish that there is a thing, the subject, above and beyond
- His goal is to construct a notion of soul that is not materialistic
in a simplistic way, and which does not require a theory of the subject.
- The Empirical Concept of the Soul
- His criterion cannot be the body, since that would not allow
his goal of a soul that is not simply materialistic.
- "The soul must... be a series of mental states that is identified
through time in virtue of the properties and relations of these
mental states themselves."
- He accepts a memory theory, and adds to it the notion of
character, and requires only that each temporal section of the
soul is continuous with the prior section. Here continuity is given
by one phase recalling some of the former.
- Soul is "a series of mental states connected by continuity
of character and memory.
- This is not a material soul, as Quinton uses these terms,
becuase it could exist in different pieces of matter, if physicalism
were true. (Thus, if functionalism were true, Quinton would be
calling the functional network of a mind the "soul".)
- Mental and Bodily Criteria of Identity
- His task here is to attack the idea that personal identity
is body identity (where body means something like the matter
of the whole body).
- Q tells a ghost story. His point here is that it seems
we easily make sense of the notion of a person without his
body. If that is so, then our understanding of person does
not require a body.
- Q tells of two men who have very different memories and
characters. Then one day they seem to switch characters and
memories. He denies that we would say that the same two persons
existed, only they switched characters and memories. He says we
should say that the two persons instead switched bodies. Thus, the
bodies are not the criterion we seem to be using in our notion of
- Other uses of our notion of a person bear this out. For example,
what our affection follows when we like a person.
- Memory and Bodily Identity
- Response to Shoemaker's attack on the memory theory.
Shoemaker claims to identify and evaluate memory claims,
we first must identify a body that has existed over time (e.g.,
- But all that I need to evaluate a person's use of memory
claims is that they are stable in a body long enough for me to
see that they use those claims as I would.
- Memory claims are doubtful, but it is not necessary that
I establish that a body was in the right place and time for me
to consider them warranted.
- The Problem of Disembodiment
- But: must the soul be "linked to" (today, people might
say "instantiated in") a body?
- Quinton is unsure. He claims that we have no
problem conceiving of other kinds of things being persons
(trees), but that the causal requirements of memory and
character may require a body.