Lucretius' Soul Theory Essay

Lucretius' Soul Theory Essay

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In his only extant work, the poem De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), Epicurean author Titus Lucretius Carus writes of the soul as being inseparable from the corporeal body. This view, although controversial in its opposition to the traditional concept of a discrete, immortal soul, is nevertheless more than a mere novelty. The argument that Lucretius makes for the soul being an emergent property of interactions between physical particles is in fact more compelling and well-supported now than Lucretius himself would have ever imagined.
Lucretius begins his argument by noting that the mind, far from being separate from the affairs of the body, has been observed to be directly affected by physical forces. He states that “the nature of mind and spirit is bodily; for when it is seen to drive forward the limbs, to arouse the body from sleep, to guide and steer the whole man, and we see that none of these things can be done without touch, and further that there is no touch without body, must we not confess that the mind and spirit have a bodily nature?” (161). This observation is indeed borne out in everyday life – barring the dubious claims of psychics and mystics, the soul and mind have demonstrated no way of interacting with their surroundings or inflicting their will upon the world without some form of corporeal interaction. Even in the “intangible” arts, mouths are required for oration, hands are required for writing poetry, and limbs are required for dance. Even the most basic passive perception requires eyes for seeing, ears for hearing, or skin for feeling. A soul without these faculties would be completely powerless, and the existence of such a soul would therefore be entirely without purpose. Such a soul Lucretius late...


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... This statement has been tested experimentally by surgeons and executioners a million times over, with the same result – a man deprived of his foot may yet live, but a man deprived of his head will inevitably die. “Since even in our body, there is seen to be a fixed rule and ordinance in what place mind and spirit may exist and grow apart, so much the more must we deny that they can endure and be produced wholly outside the body” (784). Indeed we must, as no evidence to the contrary can be found – a mind external to a body has yet to be observed, and the spontaneous infusion of life into that which lies lifeless is a theory of generation that has long been discredited at the hands of Louis Pasteur.


Works Cited
M. Macmillan (2008) "Phineas Gage – Unravelling the myth," The Psychologist (British
Psychological Society), 21(9): 828-831.
Lucretius. "De Rerum Natura".

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