Greek Models of Mind and Self by A. A. Long

By A. A. Long

This full of life booklet bargains a wide-ranging learn of Greek notions of brain and human selfhood from Homer via Plotinus. A. A. lengthy anchors his dialogue in questions of recurrent and common curiosity. What occurs to us once we die? How is the brain or soul regarding the physique? Are we answerable for our personal happiness? will we in attaining autonomy? lengthy asks whilst and the way those questions emerged in historic Greece, and indicates that Greek thinkers modeling of the brain gave us metaphors that we nonetheless dwell through, similar to the rule of thumb of cause or enslavement to ardour. He additionally interrogates the fewer ordinary Greek idea of the mind s divinity, and asks what that may suggest for us.

Because Plato s dialogues articulate those issues extra sharply and influentially than works through the other Greek philosopher, Plato gets the main sustained therapy during this account. yet even as, lengthy asks no matter if Plato s rationalization of the brain and human habit is extra convincing for contemporary readers than that inside the older Homeric poems. Turning to later historical philosophy, particularly Stoicism, lengthy concludes with an exploration of Epictetus s injunction to reside lifestyles by means of making right use of 1 s psychological impressions.

An authoritative remedy of Greek modes of self-understanding, Greek types of brain and Self "demonstrates how historical thinkers grappled with what's closest to us and but nonetheless such a lot mysterious our personal essence as singular human selves and the way the research of Greek concept can magnify and increase our experience."

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But all Greek philosophers recognized Homer’s richness for anyone’s inquiry into the foundations of human identity. Around the time of Plotinus, an author (incorrectly identified as Plutarch) wrote a work on Homer in which he attempted to show, through a series of quotations, that Homer was the source of many specific doctrines of the Greek philosophers, especially Plato and Pythagoras, Aristotelians, and Stoics. 4 But his points are sometimes quite appropriate: he correctly notes that Stoic philosophers followed Homer in their account of the way life, breath, and heart are connected, and he shows that Homer could distinguish between fate and human responsibility for actions performed deliberately.

Just as people differ in physical size or weight or strength, so, by analogy, post-Homeric people were regularly taken to differ in the size, quality, or strength of their psyche. 8 Just why the term psyche became the preferred term for the soul is an intriguing question that I will try to answer in Chapter 2. The crucial point for now is to recognize that its absence from Homer’s psychological terminology does not imply that he has no concept of a soul. 28 P S YC H O S O M AT I C I D E N T I T Y Homer’s practice of using soma and psyche in contexts where a life is lost rather than lived has provoked enormous discussion.

Homer, too, could have expressed himself thus. Here, instead, he gives us a marvelously detailed and realistic anatomy of the feeling necessary for effective hand-to-hand combat—an injection of “strength,” the response of “the spirit in the chest,” and sensations in feet and in hands. In this description both body and mind (or soul) are present, but, rather than being distinct parts of each of the two brothers, they are conjoined, as expressed by saying “the spirit in my chest,” just as spirit and chest are conjoined in real life.

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