Silvio Spiri: "The Soul-Body Problem in Rosmini's Psychology"

Antonio Rosmini is the greatest Italian philosopher and theologian of XIX century (1797-1855). He dialogues with European culture of his time and develops a new systematic synthesis between tradition and modernity, philosophy and sciences (medicine, mathematic, etc.), reason and faith. He has a global conception of being and person and refuses each reductionism, just as idealism and materialism. He recognizes one essence and three forms of being: objective or ideal, real and moral. I would like to explain the essence of soul like substantial feeling, to propose a metaphysical view in the mind-body problem, and to develop the question of immortality of the soul. The source of this reflection is constituted by real human experience, not by mental abstraction. Rosmini wants to build a new encyclopedia of sciences that is the mirror of complexity and unity of man. The analysis and synthesis, the universality and the totality are the principal characters of this systematic philosophy. This philosophical purpose and consequent critique to materialism is clearly declared in his Psychology which contains also experimental research on the neuro-physiological system. Rosmini extends the ambit of traditional psychology, limited to the human mind (intellect), to include also the animality of human being, i.e. body and feeling. Rosmini linked medicine with psychology, thus seeking to establish a unity. The person is “corpus et anima unus”: this is a holistic interpretation of human experience. In the anthropological synthesis, there is a subjective and intellectual act of intuition which is opened to objective being and there is the fundamental feeling of the body. The fundamental feeling and the being are two constitutive elements of Self. The person according to Rosmini is a substantial individual inasmuch as he contains an active principle, supreme and incommunicable. Every person is essentially a unity, an irreducible and unrepeatable singularity. The human soul is a substantial feeling which expresses itself through the word myself. To have a pure notion of the soul, it is necessary to proceed from self-consciousness to substantial feeling or soul. There is a fundamental feeling of the soul which is originally unconscious. Animal fundamental feeling of subjective body is a radical sensitivity upon which the secondary feelings (particular sensations, emotions) depend. In Rosmini’s Psychology, the unity of man is clarified with a natural and continuous perception of the animal-fundamental feeling. Finally, the unity of person involves immortality of rational soul, which never loses its individuality, and resurrection of the body.

2008 July 16

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