Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Økland on the soul and the problem of its absence in Paul

In spite of many scholars noting that Paul does not operate with a conception of the soul as it was developed in later theology (or earlier in Greek philosophy), the soul ironically still continues to leave traces in readings of 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 12, because it is so difficult for us to unlearn the soul as explanatory key.  One such trace of the lost soul is the intense quest for continuity before and after death, because what can account for it if there is no soul?
Jorunn Økland, "Genealogies of the Self" in Metamophoses, p105 (you can see it here)
 
Økland goes on to suggest 
If in the ancient world a human was seen less as a separate, independent entity, perhaps it was not necessary to postulate so much of a fixed individual continuity because the continuity was provided by the general or common category, in this case "Christ." 
ibid, p106-7

To explain such concepts to us moderns Økland suggests that "the continuity of the body either through this life or from heaven and 'back' to earth is perhaps in the end a memory thing" and that Christ can be thought of "as a new technology enhancing Paul as an embodied subject and linking him up to a broader network in a very material way . . . it is not about creating a super-individual, it is about creating a connected one." (p106) The establishment of self identity across "discontinuous variations" then does not need to be a function of one stable element, i.e. a soul, which remains unchanged through the reality of change, but is instead a function of memory and network connectivity both of which are themselves subject to change.  The self is not then a stable object but always in the process of becoming.

Let me know what you think :-)

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