chapter  2
36 Pages

The soul’s relation to the body: Thomas Aquinas, Siger of Brabant and the Parisian debate on monopsychism M . W. F . STONE

No longer subject to a standard characterisation, the ‘mind-body problem’ is nevertheless recognisable to most contemporary philosophers in one of two quite general formulations.1 The first version takes its point of departure from that thicket of puzzles bequeathed to modern philosophy by Descartes’ suggestive characterisation of a human being as a res cogitans.2 If I am first and foremost a ‘thinking thing,’ an individual whose mind is an immaterial and non-extended substance, then I need to explain those relations which might be said to exist between my mind, so understood, and my body, when that is defined as a material, physical thing.3 In another typical formulation, the ‘mind-body problem’ does not concern the relation between the mental and the physical, since by assumption everything is now deemed to be physical. Rather, the philosophical puzzle concerns how, and by what means, the relation between the mental and the non-mental is to be explained. This version of the ‘problem’ is common to philosophers who have rejected outright the so-called dualism associated with the Cartesian tradition, and have replaced it with one or other versions of materialism.4