KARL JASPERS FORUM
Response 12 (to Sharma, C14)
MIND AND SOUL
by Herbert FJ Müller
1 May 2009, posted 9 May 2009
In the following I respond briefly to some of the points which S Sharma has raised, and hope this can serve to stimulate a discussion (please let me know if you want to discuss further aspects). The responses are incomplete, since I am not familiar with the Indian religious and philosophical literature.
is physical death
After you die you don’t think, you have no mind, because for that you need a working brain. However, people may have difficulties accepting that, for various reasons, thus they invent means to get around it.
of physical criteria
Concerning mind, the difficulty is not a cessation of physical criteria, but rather the inadequacy (i.e., in-applicability) of physical criteria. For instance the mind cannot be or become an object, because objects are formed within the mind, and the mind cannot become an object within itself.
boundaries of self-structure
This is a part of not being an object. The mind has no boundaries because it is encompassing (it is an envelope for all structures) and thus cannot be defined.
The atomic aspect is, I believe, an aspect of Indian epistemology, and I cannot comment on that. In case that is meant to be an antidote to materialism, I suspect it will not serve that purpose, because small matter is in principle not different from large matter. Soul is a religious concept, and serves to counteract the dying of the mind, among other things. The soul may for instance be seen as being on loan from God, and to manifest a special relation to the deity.
Another purpose of ‘soul’ is guidance and motivation for reward : if you behave well, you are reincarnated into something better, if not, into something undesirable. This seems like the carrot-and-stick of heaven and hell in Christianity.
The lack of limits of mind means that all of experience (including fantasy) is open to it. It may also suggest an adequacy of wishes for power, and this can lead to an extrapolation (and delegation) from human activities into a religious realm of desired power and perfection (and then it can also serve as guidance). Most powerful are gods, as anthropomorphic superpowers, but there are also lesser degrees, like saints. And furthermore non-religious forms like super-man. One can still nowadays make a lot of money by creating books and films in this field, like on Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Astérix, or Harry Potter. That fact shows that this desire continues to be very strong.
Realism if a form of metaphysics. Metaphysics-ontology is an error in principle, because it means belief in postulated unknowable mind-independent entities. In my opinion it needs to be replaced by a concept like reality-design (or working-reality), which is an activity of the subject(s), with well-known structures inside the subject(s)’ mind(s). On the other hand realism is practical as a tool, and can serve as a sort of shorthand (but it is valid only as a shorthand, as-if it were true, and needs to be translated into reality-design).
Herbert FJ Müller
e-mail <herbert.muller (at) mcgill.ca>