Philosophy of Mind: Contemporary Readings

By Timothy O'Connor; David Robb | Go to book overview

2

Richard Swinburne, "The Soul"

In writing loosely in the last chapter [of Is There a God?] of evolutionary processes causing the existence of animals and humans, I glossed over something all important. Evolutionary processes certainly cause the existence of animal and human bodies in virtue of the laws of nature discovered by the physical sciences (sustained, I claim, by God). But there is more to humans than their bodies. Humans (and the higher animals) are conscious beings. They have thoughts and feelings; atoms do not have thoughts and feelings. But consciousness, I shall be arguing, cannot be the property of a mere body, a material object. It must be a property of something else connected to a body; and to that something else I shall give the traditional name of soul. At some time in evolutionary history bodies of complex animals become connected to souls, and this, I shall be arguing, is something utterly beyond the power of science to explain. But theism can explain this - for God has the power and reason to join souls to bodies. First, however, I need to describe the phenomena, and to bring out that humans (and the higher animals) consist of two parts - a body which is a material substance, and a soul which is an immaterial substance and to which the conscious life of thought and feeling belongs. I shall make my case with respect to humans, and then point out briefly that the same holds for the higher animals.


Human souls

The world consists of substances. Tables and chairs, persons, nerve cells, and bones are all substances. Substances have properties such as being brown or square, and relations to other substances such as being 10 feet away from another desk or coming into existence after it. A particular substance having

Richard Swinburne, "The Soul," Chapter 5 (originally titled "How the Existence of God Explains the Existence of Humans") of Is There a God? (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996), pp. 69-94.

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