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Loneliness Kindle Edition

Dr. Mijuskovic’s second edition of Loneliness is now available on Kindle at an amazing price of only $3.99. This is a must have for students of philosophy of mind, consciousness studies, 20th century literature and psychology.

See the review by Kerrin A. Jacobs Review of Loneliness on Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review, and Benedetta Romano’s Review of Feeling Lonesome for more information about this work that masterfully weaves a tapestry of philosophical, psychological and literary aspects of the fundamental human condition.

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(It is an honor to post a piece by Dr. Ben Mijuskovic in response to the first chapter of Lennon and Stainton’s work.  Any comments or remarks will be directed to his attention for response.)

The Achilles of Rationalist Psychology (hereafter ARP) distinguishes two forms of the Achilles argument, a Narrow version, which addresses the issue of the unity of consciousness; and a Broad form, which concentrates on the immortality of the soul.

The first article in the study, authored by Professor Karen Margrethe Nielsen, titled “Did Plato Articulate the Achilles Argument?” asks “whether the Achilles can be found in Plato’s Phaedo, or anywhere else in the Platonic corpus” [ARP, 22]. As I understand Professor Nielsen’s position, she believes that Plotinus is the original source and in confirmation she refers to Moses Mendelssohn’s dialogue of the same name in support pointing out that if indeed Plato was the first source, then surely Mendelssohn would have cited Plato instead of drawing heavily on Plotinus and his arguments.

In my own study, The Achilles of Rationalist Arguments (ARA), I indicate that its origin could be traced back to the Phaedo. In support of this assertion, I discuss at some length the views of A. E. Taylor, who “warns against what he considers to be the anachronistic consequences in inferring that Plato’s argument proves the soul to be a ‘simple substance.’” Nevertheless, Taylor goes on to state that Plato’s reasoning in the Phaedo:

lies at the bottom of all the familiar arguments of later metaphysicians who deduce the immortality of the soul from its alleged character as a ‘simple’ substance,’ the ‘paralogism’ attacked by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason . . . Socrates point is not that the soul is a ‘simple substance,’—he had not so much the language in which to say such a thing—but that it is, as the Orphic religion had taught, something divine. Its ‘deiformity,’ not its indivisibility is what he is anxious to establish; the indivisibility is a mere consequence. [ARA, p. 6]

Taylor himself remarks that Kant’s knowledge of the proof derives from Christian Wolff and Moses Mendelssohn [ARA, p. 6]. Perhaps. The first edition second paralogism treats the unity of consciousness but the second edition paralogism primarily deals with immortality.

By contrast, I also state that F. M. Cornford contends that Plato proves the soul to be simple because: “As immortal and imperishable, the soul is most like the divine, immortal, intelligible, simple, and indissoluble (because incomposite); whereas the body is most like the mortal, multiform, unintelligible, dissoluble (because composite) and perpetually changing” [ARA, pp. 6-7]. So I do consider the controversy over the attribution to Plato of the Broad Achilles. To suggest otherwise is somewhat misleading. Thus, I would say that it is a bit strong to say that, “Ben Mijuskovic nevertheless identifies Plato’s Phaedo as its first locus” [ARP, pp. 23 and 24]. In fact, my opening statement reads: “The argument seems to be first suggested as a proof for immortality in Plato’s Phaedo” [ARA p. 6].

At bottom, her conclusion is that “there is little evidence to suggest that Plato expressed either the Narrow or Broad Achilles.” [pp.25-26]

Professor Nielsen’s champion for a first source is Plotinus, via Mendelssohn no less, intimating that since Mendelssohn cites Plotinus rather than Plato it must be the former who is the authentic originator. [ARP, p.23] But she neglects to mention that I discuss Plotinus at greater length than I do Plato and that I explicitly attribute to the great Neoplatonist not only credit for both the Narrow and the Broad Achilles’ (unity and immortality) but, in addition, I also even credit Plotinus for the Broadest Achilles, which consists of an argument for continuous personal identity based on the simplicity of the soul [ARA pp. 8-10].

But, beyond that and more importantly. Professor Nielsen indicates that my infatuation with A. O. Lovejoy’s commitment to unit-ideas, exemplified in his classic The Great Chain of Being, leads me to operate with a rather “eccentric and confused conception” of the Achilles. I think that’s a fair criticism to which I would like to respond in the following manner. The unit-idea is not the Achilles argument as a whole. The unit-idea is the premise. The assumption is that the soul, along with its predicates, accidents, attributes, or properties are all simple, immaterial, unextended (just like Kant’s verse and its constituent words). (Although, by the way, Henry More, believed the soul to be both immaterial and extended.) As I have tried to correct – and argue – in subsequent publications, the simplicity premise has been used for no less than seven different conclusions: immortality; unity; personal identity; epistemological and metaphysical idealism; immanent time-consciousness; the freedom of self-consciousness; and the immaterial nature of meanings and relations. The Achilles of Rationalist Arguments was published in 1974. Since then there have been some twenty or so articles and reprints dedicated to “my” Achilles, the last one appearing in 2009, and I have tried to correct the confusion between the Achilles as a premise and as an argument. Actually, soon after the publication of my book, I rechristened the study calling it the Simplicity Argument.

Possibly, ARP appears to commit a similar “eccentricity and confusion” by assuming “Premise 2: Only a simple, unified substance can unify representations”; therefore the soul is (1) immortal (Broad Achilles) and (2) a unity (Narrow Achilles).

Let me also say this. Whether or not even the Broad Achilles can be attributed to Plato, it’s clearly the case that the second argument in the Phaedo is not considered by Plato as the strongest proof. Rather, Plato thinks that the strongest demonstration for an afterlife relies on the eternal synthetic a priori relation between the Forms of Life and Soul, which is modeled on an analogous connection established in the Meno between color and extension/shape [see Mijuskovic, “The Synthetic A Priori in Plato,” Dialogue, May, 1970]. But, of course, Plato invokes various arguments for immortality in different dialogues.

Also, I might suggest that in my mind there is a strong connection between Plato’s definition of the activity of thought, described as the soul’s internal dialogue with itself, and the ubiquitous reflexive, self-conscious paradigm of awareness that fuels the unity of consciousness claim, a model that is shared by Plato, Aristotle—see especially Aristotle’s characterization of the Unmoved Mover in the Metaphysics–Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, and many, many others. It isn’t only that consciousness is a unity; it’s that it is first and foremost a mental activity.

Finally, I think it’s a bit of a stretch for Professor Nielsen to usher in a discussion of the Wooden Horse metaphor from the Theaetetus, which deals with the five bodily senses as opposed to the obviously more relevant immaterial or simple concepts and their resultant unification in judgments. Certainly, this has little or no resemblance to Kant’s Second Paralogism argument. And I’m not sure what insight it provides in furthering the discussion. And, in fact, on ARA page 7, I state the following: “In the Republic and Phaedrus, of course, Plato refers to the tri-partite nature of the soul and this at once brings up the problem of reconciling the simplicity of the soul with its compositeness.”

The reason I dismissed pursuing the topic any further is because at least two of the parts of the soul are physical. And I conclude by saying: “But at least this much is certain; according to Plato, in order for the soul to be able to grasp the essence of the immaterial forms, in knowledge, it must itself share in the attribute of immateriality. However, whether from this Plato also believed that the soul’s simplicity followed is not clear” [ARA, p. 7].

Genesis of the Simplicity Argument

The Achilles of Rationalist Arguments is the first installment of the history of an argument pioneered by Ben Mijuskovic – most commonly designated the “Simplicity Argument.” This 1974 expanded publication of his doctoral dissertation provides the groundwork for this history and the inspiration for this website. The title is inspired by Immanuel Kant’s description of one particular philosophical defense which he challenges in The Critique of Pure Reason A351-352. His lofty consideration of a this defense used by rationalists illustrates its nearly “impenetrable” nature akin to the mythic hero Achilles.

Mijuskovic chronicles the history of this argument from Plato through Kant in this unique study.  His contribution to the history of the simplicity argument is one of a systematizer.  The argument has been utilized by the likes of Plato, Plotinus, Descartes, Leibniz, and the Cambridge Platonists.  Mijuskovic specifically discusses the benefits of its use in three particular debates: personal immortality, the unity of consciousness, and personal identity.

The simplicity argument has a fundamental premise of the immateriality of thought. Thought being immaterial implies that the mind is a simple substance. Three conclusions can be made about the human mind from this initial observation of its simplicity (1) what is simple is indestructible, (2) what is simple is unified, (3) what is simple is an identity.  These three prongs are fleshed out in subsequent chapters within The Achilles of Rationalist Arguments.  This basic argument has been analyzed since Plato. Mijuskovic’s genius is in observing how it has been used throughout history.  The Achilles of Rationalist Arguments primarily focuses upon the Cambridge Platonists, but it establishes a method for future consideration of others who have benefited from its use.

This heroic contribution emerged in a somewhat hostile environment of academic materialism.  Fortunately, there seems to be a swelling interest in the 21st century regarding the simplicity of the soul and arguments pertaining to dualism in philosophy of mind.  For this stance, Mijuskovic deserves much commendation.

Precursors

In an article published in 1971 entitled “Hume and Shaftesbury on the Self,” Mijuskovic briefly states the simplicity argument’s fundamental thesis, which he develops in his doctoral dissertation one year later. In the article’s seventh footnote, Mijuskovic delivers one of the early formulations of the simplicity argument’s first four uses:

This is the argument that Kant has justly made famous in his second paralogism where he refers to it as ‘the Achilles of all dialectical inferences in the pure doctrine of the soul’ [. . .] Since Plato’s Phaedo and Plotinus’s Enneads it has been used essentially for four purposes in the history of ideas: (a) to prove the immortality of the soul; (b) to argue that the possibility of consciousness presupposes an immaterial unity; (c) as an argument against the Epicurean-Hobbesian thesis that ‘senseless matter can think;’ and finally, by the ‘rationalists,’ in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, (d) as a basis for the establishment of personal identity.

This is one of the earliest published examples of what becomes a staple in Mijuskovic’s treatment of the simplicity argument.  These four points constitute chapters 2 through 5 in The Achilles of Rationalist Arguments.

This footnote occurs in a passage treating Hume’s and Shaftesbury’s mutual disapproval of the rationalist conception of the simplicity and identity of the self. Hume’s bundle theory of the self would not allow for such a singular self, but his contention with the rationalists is interestingly not related to the premise of the immateriality of thought. Shaftesbury’s role in this debate comes through is influence upon Hume. Mijuskovic astutely observes, “in the entire section on personal identity Shaftesbury alone is mentioned, in a positive light, as the philosophical precursor to Hume’s own naturalistic account of the self.”[[1]] The philosophical contention seen between Hume/Shaftesbury and the rationalist/dogmatists is a fundamental dynamic in the simplicity argument’s history. In each era, the simplicity argument divides based upon its initial conclusion of the simplicity.

Mijuskovic’s next contribution comes two years later in “The Premise of the Transcendental Analytic” where he examines the logical bases for the Transcendental Deduction. Mijuskovic agrees with Norman Kemp Smith’s Commentary against Robert Paul Wolff’s Kant’s Theory of Mental Activity pertaining to the primacy of the consciousness of time over the unity of consciousness. Pertinent to the development of the simplicity argument is his explanation of the reworking of the Transcendental Deduction and Paralogisms between the first and second editions of The Critique of Pure Reason. Mijuskovic also develops the three purposes or uses of the simplicity argument that Kant addresses: a defense of the immortality, a defense of the unity of consciousness, and a ground for personal identity.

“Hume and Shaftesbury on the Self” and “The Premise of the Transcendental Analytic” provide early indications of the argument more completely discussed in The Achilles of Rationalist Arguments. As precursors, they illustrate the commitment Mijuskovic demonstrates in analyzing the original sources and grounding the simplicity argument in a thorough exploration of these well-noted detractors. Despite the criticisms of Shaftesbury, Hume and Kant, the simplicity argument emerges as a defense of idealism, illustrating its perennial and amoebic nature. In other words it will prove to be a pesky concept which is difficult to dismiss entirely as evidenced by its use in Hegelian idealism and Husserlian phenomenology.