Volume 9, Issue 1, 2012
A Journal of Analytic Scholasticism
Paul Richard Blum
The Epistemology of Immortality
Searle, Pomponazzi, and Ficino
The relationship between body and mind was traditionally discussed in terms of immortality of the intellect, because immateriality was one necessary condition for the mind to be immortal. This appeared to be an issue of metaphysics and religion. But to the medieval and Renaissance thinkers, the essence of mind is thinking activity and hence an epistemological feature. Starting with John Searle’s worries about the existence of consciousness, I try to show some parallels with the Aristotelian Pietro Pomponazzi (1462–1525), and eventually show the Neoplatonic approach in Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499). The guiding question is: how can one philosophically address the problem of cognition in terms of corporeality and incorporeality? Searle maintains there is mind, although essentially related to a biological basis, and he is comparable to the Renaissance thinkers for his taking the interaction of the mental and the corporeal seriously.