Man a machine

by Julien Offray de La Mettrie is one those books I recommend you read during your December break. He writes somewhere

I do not mean to call in question the existence of a supreme being; on the contrary it seems to me that the greatest degree of probability is in favor of this belief. But since the existence of this being goes no further than that of any other toward proving the need of worship, it is a theoretic truth with very little practical value. Therefore, since we may say, after such long experience, that religion does not imply exact honesty, we are authorized by the same reasons to think that atheism does not exclude it.


Let us not lose ourselves in the infinite, for we are not made to have the least idea thereof, and are absolutely unable to get back to the origin of things. Besides it does not matter for our peace of mind, whether matter be eternal or have been created, whether there be or be not a God. How foolish to torment ourselves so much about things which we can not know, and which would not make us any happier even were we to gain knowledge about them!


[..]It follows that the study of nature can make only unbelievers; and the way of thinking of all its more successful investigators proves this.”

and to end this post, he says about the soul

The soul is therefore but an empty word, of which no one has any idea, and which an enlightened man should use only to signify the part in us that thinks. Given the least principle of motion, animated bodies will have all that is necessary for moving, feeling, thinking, repenting, or in a word for conducting themselves in the physical realm, and in the moral realm which depends upon it.

Of the soul

Here, Cicero makes a very interesting argument. He writes

…..and if the soul be the only thing in the whole world which has the power of self motion, then certainly it never had a beginning, and therefore it is eternal.

What the soul is, however, as I wrote yesterday, remains incoherent and unknown.

on suicide and immortality of the soul

Friends who are regulars of this site know the host has no problem with anyone who decides to quit this life on their own terms. I will go so far as to say that when a person who attempts suicide fails and is arrested, we are punishing them not for trying to kill themselves but for being clumsy while at it. I see no other justification for punishment in such a case other than the one already stated.

Readers are also aware that I have no belief in the immortality in the soul.

It is with this background that I share this article on suicide and immortality of the soul.

On suicide and immortality of the soul

what is the soul and where is its seat?

Again we shall go to the ancients, as reported by Montaigne, for ideas.

He tells us first what the soul was said to be

We start by denialists; Crates and Dicearchus were of opinion that there was no soul at all.

Plato that it was a substance moving of itself

Thales a nature without repose

Aedepiades an exercising of the senses

Hesiod and Anaximander a thing composed of earth and water

Parmenides of earth and fire

Empedocles of blood

Posidonius, Cleanthes and Galen that it was heat or a hot complexion

Hippocrates a spirit diffused all over the body

Varro that it was an air received at the mouth, heated in the lungs, moistened in the heart and diffused throughout the whole body

Zeno the quintessence of the four elements

Heraclides Ponticus that it was the light

Zenocrates and the Egyptians a mobile number

The Chaldeans a virtue without any determinate form

Aristotle that which causes the body to move

and now where it’s seat is

Hippocrates and Hierophilus place it in the ventricle of the brain

Democritus and Aristotle throughout the whole body

Epicurus in the stomach

The Stoics about and within the heart

Erasistratus adjoining the membrane of the epicranium

Empedocles in the blood

Galen thought every part of the body had its soul

Strato has placed it betwixt the eyebrows

Chrysippus about the heart

And yours truly asks, who among these ancients is telling us the true idea of the soul and its seat? How do you know?