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  • Writer's picture Peter Kupisz

Evidence for the Soul Based on Consciousness and Intentionality

Unbeknownst to many who believe in physicalism (i.e. only physical things exist), philosophers generally agree that there is no good physical explanation for human consciousness. One of the reasons for this is that our thoughts have intentionality; that is, they refer to things outside of the mind. For example, someone can have a thought about baseball or about Japan or about the sun. Physical things don’t do this, they simply exist. If our thoughts are just physical (e.g. neurons in the brain), how then can they refer to something else when intentionality is not a property of physical things? This is just one of the numerous problems behind attempts to avoid the human soul.

Many philosophers desperately want to account for consciousness but they do not want to abandon their commitment to physicalism. This has driven them to all sorts of strange, bizarre, and clearly false ideas. This is not just the view of fundamentalist Christian zealots but the view of eminent philosophers such as John Searle, professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Searle does not believe the soul exists, yet he regards so much of the work that has been done as so clearly false.

Seen from the perspective of the last fifty years, the philosophy of mind, as well as cognitive science and certain branches of psychology, present a very curious spectacle. The most striking feature is how much of mainstream philosophy of mind of the past fifty years seems obviously false.

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John R. Searle, The Rediscovery of the Mind (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1992), 3.



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