27 May 2012

For Sylvia Jane III

Yet if free will in the sense under discussion  is bound up with the notion of the autonomous individual soul we ought to consider the argument of Averroes (Ibn Rushd).

The Moors of the 12th century had access to the writings of Aristotle -- the Christian world didn't rediscover Aristotle until they started winning back large parts of Spain, and ended up in the possession of some of the (formerly Moorish) libraries.

Anyway, Averroes wrote a learned commentary on the works of Aristotle, and the part of his commentary that most concerns us right now involves the idea of the human soul. Simplifying the matter considerably, one may say that Averroes --
invoking Aristotle's authority -- believed that there is only one true immortal human intellect, or soul. Our individual selves, our personalities, come about
because this one common soul is mixed with a lot of different individual bodies.
Perhaps our bodies are so many stained-glass windows in a Church. The underlying mind, the “active intellect,” is the same –the light of the sun outside the Church. But the streams of light are differentiated as the various “passive intellects” once they have passed through the material of the windows.
If anything like this is so, where will we locate our notions of freedom? In the passive or in the active intellect? Or perhaps in the stained glass itself?

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.