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self-mutilating skepticism

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 18, 2007

Stumbled upon in Bertrand Russell's What I Believe, 1925.

A drop of water is not immortal; it can be resolved into oxygen and hydrogen. If, therefore, a drop of water were to maintain that it had a quality of aqueousness which would survive its dissolution we should be inclined to be sceptical.

Oddly reasoned. I'm not sure how a rain-drop would go about projecting and communicating awareness of perduring self-consciousness in the form of a criticizable truth claim. But if it did, I'd be open to considering the claim as true.

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Dec. 29, 2007 9:59 PM ET USA

    JARay, The soul is spiritual not supernatural. It is natural for the body to have a spiritual soul.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 22, 2007 2:49 PM ET USA

    "And believing themselves to be wise they became foolish . . ." This is a good example of how high intelligence (which Russell had), unguided by God's grace, produces risible asininity.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 21, 2007 8:15 PM ET USA

    Oh! So its the oxygen and hydrogen that are immortal. What's a "quality" anyway? Russell has stated here what other philosophers call a "category error".

  • Posted by: - Dec. 20, 2007 12:04 PM ET USA

    I wonder if any of this poor bloke's peers had the kindness to point out the gaping wounds in his wisdom here? The individual gasses do float about for a while and reform under different circumstances back into water. In a strange roundabout way, a drop of water is, in a word, immortal. His argument could be stretched to make a point for a kind of reincarnation. This sort now call themselves "brights". Socrates: He who believes himself to be wise is a fool; he who knows he is a fool is wise.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 19, 2007 1:17 AM ET USA

    I'm not quite sure what is being claimed here. Water is a liquid. Oxygen and Hydrogen are both gasses. Water can be made into the two gasses and the two gasses can also be made into water. So what! Man is body and soul. when the two are separated the matter which is the body, decomposes. The soul which is the body's life force lives on because it is supernatural, unlike an animal's soul which is simply natural and ceases. Where's the parallel between water and its components, and man and his?

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