Chapter 2 do you know your real self introduction

Chapter 2

Consciousness in the light of the views of some other philosophers 

Earlier, we have had a brief overview of some systems of Indian Philosophy such as The Sãmkhya, The Nyãya, The Vaisheshika, etc. We made very quick and short references to only some of the systems and even those also were of a very limited area of these systems. In such a condensed and concise treatment of this subject, our effort to make a few references to other systems of philosophy or to certain philosophers may not be of much merit. However, with the hope that even a very brief reference to some other philosophers would make some contri­bution to supplement the view expressed earlier, we will add here, selectively, the views of some philosophers in regard to the na­ture of the Self or Consciousness. 

The Greek philosopher, Pythagoras considered the souls as incorporeal essence. He believed in the survival and re-incar­nation also of souls. He also thought that the souls were rewarded or punished according to their deeds. 

Xenophanes identified Mind with Perception, Thought and Powers of Will and acting. He also asserted that Mind or Thought or God is of divine essence. He said: “Only one God exists, the greatest of gods and humans. Neither in mind nor in body does He resemble us mortals. He is wholly the Eye and the Ear and wholly Thoughts, Power of Will and acting.” 

Anaxagorus said that Nous, i.e., Mind, is the most rarified or subtle thing and it has the knowledge with respect to every­thing and has the greatest power. 

Democritus opined that the soul was atomic and was en­ergy like (yellow-red) fire. 

Socrates has very clearly spoken of the soul as different from the body. He explained that the body is mortal and the soul is immortal and is subject to some moral laws. As reported in Phaedo (the dialogue in which Plato describes Socrate’s last hours in prison before his death), Socrates said that Mind or Thought or Reason always pursued an aim, purpose or end. He said that man should try to live for what was best. Socrates had so strong a belief in the self as a moral entity that he preferred to take a cup of poison and die rather than run away from Athens. It is clear that he believed that soul or consciousness survived physical death and that it had a moral dimension. 

Plato recognised Mind or Soul as an active principal, work­ing to control the body. He thought that the soul had two stages of development — the irrational stage (seated in the heart or the lower body) and the rational stage (seated in the head). 

According to Plato, human behaviour flowed from three main sources (1) desire, (2) emotion and (3) knowledge. He char­acterised soul by three signs — (1) Movement (2) Sensation and (3) Incorporeality. He said that the Mind has three parts (1) Reason (2) Activity, Energy or Liveliness (Thymod) and (3) the lower appetities. He said that there is a struggle between the lower and the higher ones. 

Aristotle thought that there are two parts of a soul — lower (irrational) and higher (rational) and that the higher soul sur­vives physical death. Like Socrates, he also thought that moral action be done for its own sake because Virtue is its own reward. 

Thus, the early Greek Philosophy seems to suggest that most of the famous philosophers believed that the Self is different from the body. Though there is not much of clarity and homogenity, yet at least this much is clear that Pythagoras and Socrates be­lieved in the existence of an immortal soul that continued to exist even after the body and reincarnated also. 

Among other philosophers, special mention may be made of Thomas Acquinas (A.D. 1225),  Descarte (A.D.1596) and Leibniz (1646-1716). 

Thomas Acquinas discussed philosophically many aspects of the metaphysical self and of God. From his writings, it seems that he believed in the survival of the soul after the death of the body. He also said that Emotions and Will are subordinate to intellect. 

Descarte’s statements “Cogito ergo sum” — I think, there­fore I am and “Dubita ergo sum”, i.e., even if you doubt in your existence, your doubting proves your existence. He explained that the pineal gland was the seat of the soul and , from there, the soul worked with the body as one works with a machine. He suggested inter-actionism as the solution to the body-mind con­tact problem. His mechanical and reductionist approach was criti­cised by many others later and is critised to this day. Some even alleged that he talks of “ghost in the machine”. Descarte’s ‘atomic analysis’ of the psychic structure, no doubt, neglects the fluid continuity of experience. His idea that the soul dwells at the pin­eal gland may also not be correct but this does not means that his body-mind dualism is wrong. He has argued very logically that the soul is separate from the body. 

Leibniz said the soul is like a Monad or an atom. He em­phasised that it is infinitesimal. He advocated the plurality of souls. 

Kant teaches, by contrast, that the things in themselves are unknowable. Yet he makes strong suggestion that, as moral char­acters, we are ourselves things-in-themselves. He also said that, even if soul, world and God do not exist as separate entities, it is better to think on if these do exist because this approach enables to discuss and solve many problems about cosmos and the nature of Reality. His emphasis on moral aspects of soul or Conscious­ness promoted values in life. 

Thus, we find that most of the above philosophers also believed that the soul is an entity different from the body.

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