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PHILOSOPHICAL AND RELIGIOUS ORIGINS OF THE PRIVATE INNER SELF

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Abstract. 

The modern concept of the inner self containing a private inner world has ancient philosophical and religious roots. These begin with Plato's intelligible world of ideas. In Plotinus, the intelligible world becomes the inner world of the divine Mind and its ideas, which the soul sees by turning “into the inside.” Augustine made the inner world into something merely human, not a world of divine ideas, so that the soul seeking for God must turn in, then up: entering into itself and then looking above itself at the intelligible light of God. In modernity, “ideas” become the immediate object of every act of mental perception, the essential inner objects of the mind's eye. Locke makes the inner space inescapably private, excluding the divine inner light. Postmodern attempts to reconceive the relation of mind and world, rejecting the modern conception of a private inner self, will need to deal with lingering Platonist intuitions about the immediacy of the mind's vision.
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Keywords: Augustine; Locke; Plato; Plotinus; external world; ideas; inner; inner self; inner world; intelligible world; self; soul

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Phillip Cary is Scholar-in-Residence, Templeton Honors College, and Professor of Philosophy, Eastern University, 1300 Eagle Rd., St. Davids, PA 19087-3696, USA;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2011-03-01

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