Perichoresis 15.2

Perichoresis 15.2 (2017)


The Soul and Personal Identity. Derek Parfit’s Arguments in the Substance Dualist Perspective

Dmytro Sepetyi


This paper re-evaluates Derek Parfit’s attack on the commonly held view that personal identity is necessarily determinate and that it is what matters. In the first part we first argue against the Humean view of personal identity; secondly, we classify the remaining alternatives into three kinds: the body theory and the brain theory, the quasi-Humean theory, and the soul theory, and thirdly we deploy Parfit’s arguments and related considerations to the point that none of the materialistic alternatives is consistent with the commonly held view. This leaves us with the alternative: either we accept the radical and highly implausible materialistic view Parfit calls ‘Reductionism’, or we accept the view that we are nonphysical indivisible entities—Cartesian egos, or souls. The second part of the paper discusses Parfit’s objections against the Cartesian view: that there is no reason to believe in the existence of such nonphysical entities; that if such entities exist, there is no evidence that they are enduring (to span a human life); that even if they exist and are enduring, they are irrelevant for the psychological profile and temporal continuity of a person; that experiments with ‘brain-splitted’ patients provide strong evidence against the Cartesian view. We argue that these objections are in part mistaken, and that the remaining (sound) part is not strong enough to make the Cartesian view less plausible than Reductionism. PDF


Jacques Derrida’s (Art)Work of Mourning

Eva Antal


Derrida’s highly personal mourning texts are collected and published in a unique book under the title The Work of Mourning edited by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, two outstanding translators of Derrida’s works. The English collection is published in 2001, while the French edition came out later in 2003 titled Chaque fois unique, la fin du monde (Each Time Unique, the End of the World). In his deconstructed eulogies, Derrida, being in accordance with ‘the mission impossible’ of deconstruction, namely, ‘to allow the coming of the entirely other’ in its otherness, seems to find his own voice. In my paper, I will focus on this special segment of Derrida’s death-work (cf. life-work); namely, on his mourning texts written for his dead friends, paying special attention to the rhetoric ‘circling around’ fidelity, friendship, and the other in his textual mourning. PDF

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, and the Battle for the Soul

Annette Aronowicz


A widespread view among contemporary philosophers and scientists is that the soul is a mystification. For Marilynne Robinson, American essayist and novelist, the crux of the matter is not the existence of the soul in itself, since this cannot be settled by debate. Rather, she challenges the sort of evidence that her opponents—mostly basing themselves on the work of neuroscientists, and evolutionary biologists—deem to be decisive in determining the question. The soul, she claims, does not appear at the level of our genes and neurons. Rather it is encountered in the many works of art and reflection that human beings have produced from the earliest times. This paper will focus on one such document, Robinson’s novel Gilead (2004), in which she proposes a vision of the soul closely allied to the notion of blessing. Blessing, in turn, is inseparable from metaphor, pointing us to mystery, an elusive reality whose presence we experience only intermittently, although it is always there. Although Robinson’s several collections of essays provide needed context for the view of the soul displayed in the novel, it is our claim that it is the novel that truly turns the tables in the debate, inviting the reader to affirm or deny the soul’s reality not on the basis of the pronouncement of experts but on the basis of the way a given language aligns with experience. The internalization that such a process requires reveals the soul in action. This paper is thus a reading of Robinson’s writings on the soul. PDF

Soul Death and the Legacy of Total War

David T. Lohrey


Following the lead of Hannah Arendt and others, I want to argue that the imperial mystique seen in the British Empire found its way into Germany’s expansionist ambitions. I am concerned with the emotional costs of oppression, or what I call soul death. I focus on three key writers of the 20th century: Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer, and J. M. Coetzee, placing their writings in the context of war trauma and the barbarities associated with 20th century totalitarianism. My argument seeks to elucidate the relationship between postcoloniality and the wars that shaped that century. These narratives of distress will be juxtaposed with novels by Imre Kertész and Arnošt Lustig whose writings of the Holocaust and the war atmosphere on the Eastern Front illuminate scenes of trauma and personal anguish. Here my study draws on the work of recent psychologists whose term soul murder is made much of. These writers’ works can be more fully understood to reveal patterns of personal destruction that are part of living under imperialism. They bring to the forefront behaviours that expose the debasement and hardening witnessed in the early decades of the century. PDF

Christian Materialism and the Quest for Human Personhood

Mikael Leidenhag


This paper offers a critical exploration of philosopher Kevin Corcoran’s proposed Christian Materialism. Corcoran’s constitution view claims that we human persons are constituted by our bodies without being identical with the bodies that constitute us. I will critically evaluate this view and argue that Corcoran has not successfully managed to ground a first-person perspective and intentional states in materialism. Moreover, Corcoran’s property dualism about mental states and the idea of the causally efficacy of such states seem incompatible with materialism. Corcoran’s view of imago Dei is also explored and evaluated. Towards the end of the paper I put forward a brief defense of dualism in light of Corcoran’s critique. PDF

Exploring Soul, Nature, and God. A Triad in Bhagavad gita

Yadav Sumati


Humans have always been and still are fascinated by the elusive phenomenon of soul and have devised various approaches to interpret it and attribute different names to it; depending on which part, which religion, which tribe and which sect of the world they belong to. Theologians to philosophers to spiritual thinkers to literary authors and critics to scientists—all seem to be researching and explaining its nature and place in the universal scheme of things. Interestingly, there is a unanimity among all, regarding the eternity and indestructibility of soul. The ancient Hindu scripture, Bhagavad Gita establishes soul (Jivatma) as a triad of Self, Nature (Prakriti: material reality) and God (Parmeshvara). The inner self is Soul which bears reflections of both, the physical nature and God. Malleable in ignorance, it identifies with the sense-perception dominated body but once realising its true nature, it is capable of governing the body and its actions. With the support mechanisms and persistence, it traverses across individual body consciousness to universal consciousness. This article strives to make a hermeneutic study of this metaphysical text; inquiring how awareness of the duality of nature; transient and permanent, triggers a gradual process of evolution, leading to a complete transformation when a soul resides within a body as a unifying factor; not for exploiting it or others or vice versa but for bringing about universal harmony. PDF