"The body soul distinction is a myth derrived from philosophers such as Plato" - Discuss.

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January 9th, 2003

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Questions that have plagued mankind for, it seems, almost as long as our existence are ones that cannot be answered in this life. “ Will I survive death?” “What am I?” “Am I a unity of the spiritual and the material?” -Traditional church doctrine - “Or am I a mind/soul in a body?” -Typically Plato. There are several different views on the existence of the mind and body, exploring the existence of the mind alone, the body and mind in harmony, the body and mind separate but not linked and so on. Here the following paragraphs describe the main theories behind the body/soul distinction.

In order to successfully debate this statement, one must define myth. Aetiological Myth is what is used to try to explain certain events in story form, the Tower of Babylon for example. Normal English usage is a distinction between true and false with myth representing a story, which is made up, e.g. a fairytale. There is no technical usage for the word myth in philosophy, each field of study has its own meaning of the word. The modern usage of the word does not have an inherent link between myth and falsehood, its merely a way of thinking about phenomenon which supersedes modern logical scientific thought, it exceeds the boundaries of time and

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space this is Para historical myth. There is also Creation myth, “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis chapter 2,verse 1, God speaking the world into existence.  Levi Straus said that myth should be referred to reality but as they relate to each other. Rudolf Bultman (1884-1976, a new testament scholar) attempted to salvage any faith, which had been endangered by modern science, leading to the “death of god”. A typical myth, the world being threefold (earth, heaven, and hell).

“Myth is that manner of representation in which the unworldly and divine appears as worldly and human”. I.e. comparing Gods actions to human actions, as we have no other comparison. People are more easily able to relate to stories in myth form, as they are easier to understand.

The body soul distinction argument originated from Plato (428-347BC).  He was possibly the first philosopher to analyse dualism so rigorously and categorise the notion of things, light and dark, life and death, these are both examples of the cycle of opposites where Plato argued that every quality comes from the opposite of itself and that it cannot exist without it.. This he did to such a great extent that it would impression for millennia to come. The term dualist describes someone that believes the body and soul are to be separate, the mind/soul determines personality where as the body is just an outer shell.

Plato was a Greek philosopher. He had many views on life and existence. Plato’s views on the mind body distinction have been the target of many criticisms since his time. In the republic, he formulated ideas on the allegory of the cave and the theory of the forms. He believed that our existence on earth was merely a shadow of a higher spiritual plane, our bodies just a vessel, or even looked upon as a cage trapping the soul and restricting it from this higher plain. Plato was a dualist and so believed that when the material body dies the soul lives on. Plato’s views, are best described in his analogy of the cave in which it depicts a “prisoner” that escapes the cave -metaphorical for this life- and goes on to discover everything he once believed in was only a fraction of the truth: -

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Plato’s main philosophy stemmed from the cave and was about knowing the theory of the forms. Here, he thought that the soul is a substance and is immortal, however the body- being physical- could be doubted as it was part of the empirical world.. Because Ideas aren’t physical things, they must belong to another realm, the higher spiritual realm. This realm is where the soul should arise to after death- described by Plato using the metaphor of a bird in a cage. Similarly to rising to heaven after death in Christian scriptures- Plato was a polytheistic ...

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