Philosophy of the 'Self' (1) - Do we have a soul?

Philosophy of the 'Self' (1) - Do we have a soul?

The idea of this blog series is to look at different topical discussions that have fascinated philosophers since Ancient Greece.

Ancient Philosopher, Socrates, killed himself back in 399 BC because he did not want to give into the law by keeping his philosophical thoughts to himself, and I will use him as an example of philosophy.

Recap on Socrates

Socrates was an ancient Greek Philosopher, very eccentric and not very polished but quite the influencer for his time. He never wrote anything down but was quite vocal, and articulate. It was down to his fellow students to note and write about his thoughts and experiences, including the likes of Plato and Aristotle.

I chose Socrates as an example of philosophy because he was a mouthpiece and famous for his' free speech' as it were. So much so that he not only accepted his death penalty for impiety, but he accepted the poison given by the authorities and put himself to death by his own hands ... simply because he did not want to keep quiet, and wanted to make the point that it was his choice to say what he wanted and make his own decisions.

I hope you enjoy this first topic and please remember we are here for philosophical debate, so if you would like to join in, please be prepared to argue for and against any theories you may have, without any over opinionated behaviour. We are here to discuss and inform.

What do we mean by self?

So when we look at self there are many different theories of what the self actually is, and how it is made up. It's is important to the question of 'Do we have a soul?' because if we do not know what we are, can we distinguish what a soul is?

So when we talk about Self in this instance, it is up to debate because if the theory of self is conflicted then this may effects the theory of the soul as you will see below.

Ideas of 'self' and the soul

David Hume, an impressive 18th-century empiricist philosopher, believed that there is no such thing as self because we are made up of impressions and ideas (our primary and secondary experiences) The bundle theory, as it is known, is just this. The idea of self does not exist because we are a whole heap of experiences- an illusion. He would argue there is a no soul because their is no self to attach it too.

Sigmund Freud argued that there are dual personalities that make up self, a concept that came from Rene Descartes, who also argued that a non-material soul is needed to explain what physical science could not ( Cottingham 1996) In naming this the ‘thinking self’ as Descartes did, it is plausible to see how a psychological thread of hidden memory could make this continuous self that Hume could not find. This is now linked to what we would view as our psychology. So, in this sense, you could argue that a soul is our inner self.

Now onto the subject of God, it would be appropriate to discuss John Locke and his theory of an unchanging soul that makes up self. Locke uses the idea of a body being a vessel, a forensic resource that can be numerically rebuilt into a different person, whereas a soul, once inhabiting the body, can carry on living as a non-material substance. (Warburton 2011) This is the stuff that the religious and spiritual person does believe. An entity that is not apart of self, but uses the body as a vessel to act as a way of connecting to the physical self. From a faith point of view, that seems plausible as 'God' speaks through us with our thoughts and actions.

Now ... if we look over the three different theories of self, you may see that there is different evidence for this. Without going into a much deeper discussion of certainty, we can briefly see what your belief systems are based on:

  • Hume - No material evidence

  • Freud/Descartes - Patterns of previous behaviour and experience

  • Locke - Faith

Now we have three subjects to discuss, this gives the matter further thought for consideration.


You can see my first post- Why study philosophy below

About me - I'm Sarah, I am self-published author, copywriter and colour therapist. I am also in my final studies of a creative writing & philosophy BA

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