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Chryssi Sidiropoulou
A Soul in Space and Time: What Kind of Unique Self?


This paper starts with the observation that the ‘soul’ has almost disappeared from contemporary philosophy. It suggests that the cause of this development is to be traced in the dominance of a scientific culture with a very sharp materialist edge. There are people who think that something valuable and important will be lost if the concept of the soul becomes extinct. Such individuals feel that they have no other option but to endorse traditional body-soul dualism.

The paper examines the way dualism was shaped through Augustine’s introspective turn and notion of the ‘interior man’ and also by Descartes’ Cogito as a response to solipsism. It shows how dualism generates the problem of other minds as well as the argument from analogy as a potential solution. However, it argues that the argument from analogy cannot bridge the gap between our mind and the mental life of other beings; moreover, that language and concepts are formed in the context of human interaction and so that they cannot be presupposed in the life of a solitary disembodied entity like the Cartesian mind/soul.

It is then argued that dualism fails to achieve its own purposes concerning the soul, for it paradoxically blocks the way to any certainty that other people are beings with a soul. At this point, the paper turns to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations and explores some of his remarks concerning the soul. Using such remarks it attempts to put forward an alternative way of looking at the concept of the soul. This approach rehabilitates the human body as something different from mere physical stuff, as both dualism and materialism ultimately presuppose. Thus the inner-outer dichotomy is interpreted in a very different light: in it the body and the ‘outward’ human expression are not considered to be contingent symptoms of the soul, but criteria of what mental life we can meaningfully ascribe to others. The strongest point is presented towards the end of the paper: there, it is claimed that the notion of the soul does not arise in a theoretical way but through our communication with other beings. Such communication nurtures moral concern as well. It is claimed that in this way both solipsism is disarmed and reductionist attacks on the ‘soul’ are blocked.

Chryssi Sidiropoulou is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Boğaziçi University.

Chryssi Sidiropoulou studied Philosophy and Psychology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.  After getting her BA, she enrolled in and attended classes at the Department of Theology of the same university.  In 1991, she started graduate studies in philosophy at the University of Wales, U.K.  She worked under the supervision of professors David Cockburn and D.Z. Phillips and completed her PhD thesis entitled ‘Wittgenstein, the Self and Religious Life’ in 1996.  In it she discussed questions in both philosophy of mind and philosophy of religion as aspects of a single investigation.  Her main claim was that, contrary to what is commonly accepted, substance dualism is not in a position to offer a defense of human individuality and uniqueness.  She also claimed that dualistic frameworks of assumptions about the self misrepresent religious claims and so, that they offer negative services to religion and theology.

Since 1997, Chryssi Sidiropoulou has been a member of the Philosophy Department of Bogaziçi (Bosphorus) University in Istanbul, Turkey.  She has taught courses in ancient and medieval philosophy, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, and Wittgenstein.  Personhood and the self, as well as questions concerning the mutual influences between them and religious ideas, are the main focus of her academic interests.


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