On Deuteronomy and Platonic Psychology

5You(A) shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

I have always wondered what the writer is referring to when he speaks of these various aspects of the self. Its funny that this one of the greatest commandments, and I do not really know what it means. What does it really mean, for the Deuteronomist, to love God with my soul? Or my heart? How is it different to love God with these varying aspects of the self?

Its funny that I have little or no beef with the Deuteronomists tripartite conception of the self in this passage, yet when I read Plato’s works, I think that his psychology is nonsense. It seems likely that the Deueteronomists’ psychology is something that I understand metaphorically while Plato’s psychology seems to actually posit the existence of the rational, affective, and appetitive.

Is there a relationship between this reluctance to recognize the various aspects of the soul and my inability to live a life that pleases God? I do not think it matters whether or not I actually posit the existence of these various aspects of the self or if I understand these aspects of the self metaphorically, but one thing is clear: I need to take the Deuteronomist (and Jesus) more seriously when these things are being said.

Now that I think about it, I have been bumping up against this idea for some time now. I have even blogged about it here when I discussed to non-cognitive Love that I felt my fellow brothers and sisters. And I have blogged about it here when I discussed the inadequacy of Augustine’s ontological theodicy.

I ask these questions because this morning I woke up again concerned about my graduate school admission status. Even after writing two posts detailing the irrelevance of my graduate school admission status (click here and here), I am still anxious. It seems that I have a cognitive understanding of how I ought to feel about this situation and why I should feel that way, but apparently this is not enough.

How do I bring my feelings in line with my understanding? To state this question in what is, perhaps, the language of the Deuteronomist, how do I love God with my heart in the same way that I love him with may soul? (Can “mind” be substituted for “soul” as it is the ancient writings of Plato? Mark’s gospel adds “mind” in addition to “soul” in his version of the great commandment.)

This is my central existential question. It must always be answered and yet remain unanswered. It is time that I pay more attention to it and the psychological/phenomenological descriptions and prescriptions it makes.

(Concluding complaints: This kind of sucks. I bet whatever metaphysical presuppositions about the self that are being made in these passages were much clearer to those who lived during Jesus’ time. As an individual living in 2011, I feel like the hermeneutical deck is stacked against me, and this is the most important commandment! Or perhaps this commandment was just as unclear to the ancients as it is to me.)

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