Greek Models of Mind and Self

Greek Models of Mind and Self

A. A. Long
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x0gzt
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  • Book Info
    Greek Models of Mind and Self
    Book Description:

    A. A. Long’s study of Greek notions of mind and human selfhood is anchored in questions of universal interest. What happens to us when we die? How is the mind or soul related to the body? Are we responsible for our own happiness? Can we achieve autonomy? Long shows that Greek thinkers’ modeling of the mind gave us metaphors that we still live by.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-73591-0
    Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. TRANSLATIONS AND CITATIONS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-14)

    The first premise of this book is that understanding our selves—our natures, capacities, and possibilities—is the hardest thing in the world and yet endlessly fascinating because it cannot be finally settled by empirical research. There are no facts to decide, once and for all, whether the mind is part of the body, or whether it is a spiritual substance, or an epiphenomenon of the brain. We still do not know, in a scientific sense, what consciousness is. My second premise is that we can continue to discover aspects of our human possibilities or aspirations by means of the...

  6. 1 PSYCHOSOMATIC IDENTITY
    (pp. 15-50)

    What is the nature of human beings? According to Plotinus, who asked this question, we humans live our lives simultaneously at two quite distinct levels.¹ One of these levels is obvious to everyone and not in doubt, no matter how we explain the details of human life. This obvious life is our everyday embodied experience, with our immediate desires, hopes, fears, thoughts, memories, expectations, and hourly activities. This is a life or beingin timethat everybody knows directly. The other level of life, according to Plotinus, is unobvious because it is everlasting and not accessible to normal consciousness. This...

  7. 2 INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY
    (pp. 51-87)

    The focus of Chapter 1 was the psychosomatic model of human identity that we find in the epic poetry of Homer. According to this model, living human beings areessentiallyembodied. All that remains of persons once they have breathed their last is a ghostly replica of the previously embodied person, a mere phantom or lifeless shade. Homer has no conception of an immortal soul such as we find in Plato and the Platonic tradition. In contrast with the immortal gods(athanatoi),Homer’s human beings arebrotoi.This Greek word is etymologically related to the English wordmortal.While the...

  8. 3 BODIES, SOULS, AND THE PERILS OF PERSUASION
    (pp. 88-124)

    Two Greek words became the basis for the philosophers’ ways of talking about human nature, the words that we translate into En glish as body (soma) and soul (psyche). All ancient philosophers from Plato onward assume that theories about human nature should distinguish between the anatomical structure we call the body, and the mental, emotional, and ethical features that we call the mind or soul. This distinction was well established in Greek culture during Plato’s lifetime. That is clear from the following remark by one of his contemporaries, the orator Isocrates:¹

    It is generally agreed that our nature consists of...

  9. 4 THE POLITICIZED SOUL AND THE RULE OF REASON
    (pp. 125-161)

    In Chapter 3 we saw how Plato uses the distinction between body and soul to develop such antitheses as mortal/ immortal, physical health/moral health, opinion/knowledge, appearance/reality, disorder/harmony, change/stability. Such dualism is evident throughout his philosophy, but we should not conclude from this fact that Plato was committed to a single model of the mind/body relation and the structure of human identity. While his thinking about these things regularly draws on these antitheses, the details of his psychology and physiology are always shaped by the dialogical context. In the case of theGorgias,that context is rhetoric, while in thePhaedo...

  10. 5 RATIONALITY, DIVINITY, HAPPINESS, AUTONOMY
    (pp. 162-197)

    Plato calls the intellectual and calculative part of the soul divine. Aristotle accords the human intellect (nous) a similarly exalted status. What does this ascription of divinity mean? To put the question another way, what has god, according to Greek philosophical notions of the divine, to do with reason, the government of the self, and the attainment of happiness? As modern persons, with or without religious convictions or affiliations, we are bound to be puzzled by this recourse to divinity in contexts of moral psychology. How could any notion of divinity help us control our passions and cultivate the life...

  11. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 198-200)

    In this book I have discussed a range of models of self in Greek literature and thought, starting with Homer and moving forward in time to Stoicism. Over the course of these centuries, we have seen many different ideas and questions unfold about human identity. Are human beings essentially mortal, as the Homeric epics emphatically assume, or do we have the possibility of achieving immortality, as Plato frequently maintains? When and why do explicit ideas about the differences between body and soul start to emerge? Does the mind have a complex structure? What gave rise to the notion that the...

  12. ANCIENT AUTHORS AND THINKERS
    (pp. 203-206)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 207-218)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 219-228)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-231)