If Incorporeal, Is It Insignificant?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

  • Deuteronomy 6:5

Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem.  This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the Lord.  Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

  • 2 Kings 23:24-25

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.

  • Matthew 22:37-38

“Hobbes also had to contend with the very different thinking about mind and body that Descartes argues for the ‘Real Distinction’ between mind and body – the notion that they are utterly distinct sorts of substance.  In objections to Descartes’ ideas that he expressed at the time, Hobbes makes no comment on this distinction.  However, 14 years later, he addressed the problem again in a passage in his book De Corpore, presenting and criticizing what seems to be a muddled form of part of Descartes’ argument.  Here he rejects the conclusion Descartes came to – that mind and body are two distinct substances – on the basis that Descartes’ use of the phrase ‘incorporeal substance’ is an example of insignificant or empty language.  Hobbes takes it to mean ‘a body without a body’, which appears to be nonsense.  However, this definition must be based upon his own view that all substances are bodies; so what Hobbes appears to present as an argument for his position that there can be no incorporeal minds, in fact depends upon his inaccurate assumption that the only form of substance is body, and that there is no possibility of incorporeal things existing at all.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

First, a definition of corporeal: “relating to a person’s body, especially as opposed to their spirit” (Oxford Languages).  Thus, incorporeal would be something not related to the body.  And since Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) based his Physicalism philosophy upon the tangible, corporeal as being the only thing that existed, he could not abide his contemporary, Descartes (1596-1650), trying to claim that something, the mind, existed but had no real body.

I thought about skipping Thomas Hobbes, since I had written about his philosophy of hopelessness some time ago, in Flat Earther or Simply Hobbes.  The title was based on Hobbes’ assertion that he had squared the circle and cubed the sphere.  I could not resist.  And if you read last week’s installment regarding Descartes, you might anticipate this next notion.

Last week, we learned that using Rene Descartes’ Rationalism philosophy, Descartes could rationally prove that he existed, because if he could think, he existed, but he had a problem rationally thinking his way toward having a body.  In his rational mind, Descartes lost his body.  But this week, we see Thomas Hobbes on the opposite end of the spectrum.  As a precursor to the Empiricists who must sense everything for them to exist, Hobbes can sense his body, but cannot account for any incorporeal substance, like the mind.

Thus, while Descartes lost his body, Hobbes … lost his mind.

This little bit of writing was worth it, just for that line.

In these two philosophies, we see a problem with definitions.  Our world is having massive problems resolving what one word or one phrase means, and as soon as someone who is not a straight white male states that they are offended, it no longer matters what the word or phrase meant.  Offensive things, are cancelled.

The author of the quoted book clearly states that Hobbes made some erroneous assumptions based on his incorrect definitions of how things are.  Then you box yourself into such a corner that there is no way out.

Is reality somewhere between the philosophy of everything that thinks, exists, and everything that has substance, exists?  Can we find middle ground?  Or better yet, can we adjust the definitions so that there is no contradiction or absolute toward either extreme?  Then we can combine the concepts, and we can produce a philosophy that can both think and have substance, or not have one or the other.  Now, not having thought, nor substance, but still existing?  That is fantasy.

You can do an Internet search on the soul having mass.  A doctor weighed patients before and after the patient died and determined in all cases that the patient weighed less afterward and consistently about the same mass.  The headlines shouted that we had scientific proof that when the soul leaves the body, the body weighs less.  We now knew the mass of the soul.  But the experiment has never been repeated, and there are probably many explanations for the difference in weight.  And also note that the media once had a friendly attitude toward the Christian view of us each having a soul that will never die.  But in reporting these findings as the soul having mass, it kind of gives you the idea that the soul may indeed be corporeal.

But let us look at the Scripture briefly.  The first Scripture is what Jesus quotes when asked what the greatest commandment is.  The second Scripture uses the same three “substances” (for lack of a better word – my apologies to Thomas Hobbes): Heart, Soul, and Strength.  While Jesus, in the third Scripture, used Heart, Mind, and Soul.  Let’s look at Heart, Mind, and Strength.  We have already mentioned the soul.

The “Heart” is not meant to be our blood pumping muscle, but as Mark Lowry says in his routine on seeing a television show about open-heart surgery, our heart is the center of our emotions.  If our desires go one way or another, our heart will follow.

Then, we have the “Mind.”  The mind is our center of thought, and when totally void of the emotions, it is the center for rational and logical thought.  In Jungian psychology and the Myers-Briggs Temperament Index (MBTI), there is a measured factor of whether our value system is based upon emotions (Feelings) or logic (Thinking).  To take Jung’s concept, it would seem these are opposites, but God commands us to love with all our heart and mind.  They cannot be entirely opposite.  Indeed, the most feeling person has the capacity to logically think a problem through – to some extent.  They simply prefer to ignore that.  And even the most stoic person can make one tiny decision made by the heart.  They will never let you know that they did so.  Yet, God wants all our heart and all our mind.  He wants our preferred response and that response that we would love to hide but it comes in handy when boxed into a corner.  God wants it all.

And “Strength” is just a word to express that this is all done within our body while our heart is still pumping, and that body does things with those various thoughts and feelings.  And our thoughts and feelings, within our body (our strength), should be focused on loving and desiring God.

Descartes may have thought himself out onto the end of a long limb, and Hobbes may have had a hopeless philosophy that was trapped inside poor definitions, but in combination, we get closer to God’s greatest commandment, to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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