Spirit Toward The Present Time

This article covers the thought of philosophers on spirit toward the present time.

Ancient philosophies have been re-evaluated and criticized in recent centuries. Free thinking has gained ascendancy. Even Divinely revealed religious texts have received their share of criticism. Love of truth and zeal for knowledge and research has broadened the horizon of perception. New methods of thought have been developed and scholastic thought has been replaced with new considerations. Despite all these developments, the spirit has continued to attract the attention of circles of philosophy and thought.

During and following the Renaissance, many scientists and thinkers from almost all trends of thought discussed the matter of the spirit. Some of these were: Gherardo da Cremona (1114–1187), Roger Bacon (1220–1292), Francis Bacon (1561–1626), Tommaso Campanella (1568–1639), Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), René Descartes (1596–1650), Jacob Moleschott (1822–-1893), Nicolas Malebranche (1638–1715), J. Stuart Mill (1806–1873), Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716), David Hume (1711–1776), Thomas Reid (1710–1796), Hamilton, Voltaire (1694–1778), Auguste Comte (1798–1857), Luis Büchner (1824–1899), Hegel (1770–1831), and Henri Bergson (1859–1941). In their discussion of the spirit, some denied the existence of the spirit and claimed that what we call the spirit was the name we gave to the activities of some bodily organs, while others asserted that existence essentially consisted of the spirit and all that we sensed was its manifestations; others regarded the spirit as something like matter, and still others maintained that it was a substance separate from the body. Except for a few materialists, they accepted the existence of the spirit and expressed their views about its nature and functions. Thus, numerous volumes consisting of ideas about the spirit took their places in libraries.

Spiral Universe Space Creation Faith Development


Materialists see existence as consisting of matter, and thus regard the human being as a body formed of bones, flesh, a nervous system, and a brain, attributing all human intellectual activities, feelings, and emotions to the brain. Tutil claimed that we have risen through the brain to the rank of animate beings from inanimate ones; Carl Foht compared the relationship between the brain and thought to that between liver and bile, as reflected in the famous formula of Moleschott: “The brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile.” Büchner asserted that human intellectual activities were impressions of events and movements in nature on the human nervous system. He attributed everything to matter and the human organism, and denied the existence and functions of the spirit.

Materialists based their claims on theories and concepts such as transformism, Darwinism, evolution, mutation, coincidence, and necessity, and so on. Within the scope of this book, I will discuss neither their claims nor these theories and concepts.

The way adopted by the idealists from the beginning is contrary to that of the materialists. While matter is the sole source of existence for materialists, idealists base all their theories on ideas. Descartes’ famous adage, “I think, therefore I am,” can be considered to be the summary and basis of this trend of thought.

The basic assertions of idealism have also not been found to be sound. George Berkeley (1685–1753) summarizes one of these assertions as follows: “There is nothing substantial other than the thinking soul. Things exist because souls think that they exist; we do not know the existence of things in a dark room. Without thinking or ideas in our minds, we cannot assert the existence of things. This can be described as things and events being identical with the mental concepts of them.”

Another approach of ideals can be summarized as follows: The things we assert that we see and feel are nothing more than mental images. If there is a world around us, it is a mental world. Materialists, who reduce everything to matter and physical activities of the brain, and idealists, who see existence as consisting of mental objects, are agreed about the non-existence of the spirit or the “speaking soul.”

By M. Fethullah Gulen

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