alert versus aware

Alex Morgan amorgan at
Wed Sep 29 03:37:36 EST 1999

Ray D. Scanlon wrote in message <37ef68ef.0 at>...
> >Alex Morgan writes:
> >>When I (and everyone else but you, in my experience) use the word 'mind', I mean
> >> something utterly different from 'soul'
> >
> >Possibly we can find something to talk about here. Just what quality do you
> >attribute to soul or mind that you do not attribute to the other. There
> >must be something, so lets talk about it. By soul, for instance, I mean the seat
> >of my consciousness, thoughts, volitions, and feelings. By mind, I mean the
> >same.
> >



When I talk about "the seat of my consciousness, thoughts, volitions,
and feelings" I use the word 'mind'.  I don't accept 'soul' as a synonym
for 'mind' in this sense because 'soul'* carries with it the connotation
of extra 'spooky stuff' - in particular, incorporeality and eternal
existence.  'Soul' simply carries too much religious/'folk-theoretical'
baggage to do any useful work in an impartial discussion.  It might be
argued that 'mind' has connotations that make it similarly biased.  I
would disagree.  I think it relatively uncontroversial that the general,
consensually agreed-upon meaning of the word 'mind' is very different
from that of 'soul': 'mind' means something like - to borrow your phrase
- 'the seat of consciousness, thought, volition, and feeling', whereas
'soul' means something like 'an incorporeal, eternal mentality'.  While
these words might mean different things to different people, only the
latter has a metaphysical commitment 'built-in' BY VIRTUE OF IT'S
MEANING.  This difference makes 'soul' - unlike 'mind' - a non-starter
when it comes to physicalistic explanation.  Consider an analogy with
vitalism.  No one (I hope) would want to claim that life isn't amenable
to physicalistic explanation simply because some people thought of life
as being a 'vitalistic essence' imbued by God.  Conversely, no one
should expect a physicalistic explanation of 'vital essence' to be
forthcoming.  'Vital essence' got thrown onto the scrapheap of bad
ideas, whereas 'life' became the subject of physical science, precisely
because of the differing metaphysical commitments of the terms - 'life'
survived by virtue of it's ontological neutrality, despite the fact
that, for some, 'life' and 'vitalism' were co-extensive.  This fact
provided incentive to DISTINGUISH the terms in order for headway to be
made.  My proposal is that we do the same with 'mind' and 'soul'. 

(note that this is a distinct issue from whether or not 'mind' actually
IS, like life, reductively explainable.  My point is that in order to
address that question without begging any questions, we can't equate
'mind' with 'soul' at the outset.)

*I'm not talking about a metaphorical or 'emotive' sense of 'soul'.  I
hope, for the sake of productive discourse, that you aren't either.

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