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Anscombe and Geach on Mind and the Soul

Anscombe and Geach on Mind and the Soul,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 90, 2016.

Anscombe and Geach were among the most interesting philosophers to have come out of Oxford in the twentieth century. Even before they encountered Wittgenstein, they had begun to distinguish themselves from their contemporaries, and in the course of their work they moved between highly abstract and often technical issues, and themes familiar to non-academics, the latter aptly illustrated by the title of Geach’s first collection of essays, God and the Soul, and by that of Anscombe’s analysis of human sexual acts, “Contraception and Chastity.”1 I consider their early work together and illustrate its influence on later writings by each. I then examine the ideas and arguments advanced in those writings in so far as they bear upon the issue of materialism and the question of the existence and nature of the soul. Finally, I respond to their somewhat skeptical arguments, though I conclude that there is also reason to acknowledge the propriety of what I will term “spiritual agnosticism.”

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