Response to Essays on Are We Bodies or Souls?

Keywords: Descartes, essence, personal identity, physical event, mental event, soul


This paper consists of my responses to the comments by nine commentators on my book Are we Bodies or Souls? It makes twelve separate points, each one relevant to the comments of one or more of the commentators, as follows: (1) I defend my understanding of “knowing the essence” of an object as knowing a set of logically necessary and sufficient conditions for an object to be that object; (2) I claim that there cannot be thoughts without a thinker; (3) I argue that my distinction of “mental” from “physical” events in terms of whether anyone has privileged access to whether or not they occur, is a clear one; (4) and (5) I defend my account of metaphysical modality and its role in defending my account of personal identity; (6) I defend my view that Descartes’s argument in favor of the view that humans are essentially souls fails, but that my amended version of that argument succeeds; (7) I claim that my theory acknowledges the closeness of the connection in an earthly life between a human soul and its body; (8) I argue that my Cartesian theory of the soul-body relation is preferable to Aquinas’s theory of that; (9) I argue that a material thing cannot have mental properties; (10) I argue that any set of logically necessary conditions for an object to be the object it is, which together form a logically sufficient condition for this, mutually entails any other such set; (11) I deny that a dualist needs to provide an explanation of how the soul has the capacities that it has; and finally (12) I defend my view that souls have thisness, and claim that that is not a difficulty for the view that God determines which persons will exist.


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Fine, Kit. “Essence and Modality.” Philosophical Perspectives 8 (1994): 1–16.

Parfit, Derek. Reasons and Persons. Oxford: OUP, 1984.

Swinburne, Richard. The existence of God. 2nd ed. Oxford: OUP, 2004.

Swinburne, Richard. Mind, Brain, and Free Will. Oxford: OUP, 2013.