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.
  1. 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 the experiences.
    • 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.
  2. 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".)
  3. 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 a person.
    • Other uses of our notion of a person bear this out. For example, what our affection follows when we like a person.
  4. 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., the speaker).
    • 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.
  5. 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.