13 March 2005

Nothing But Net

Lancaster was hit yesterday with its worst storm of the winter, as a full 24" of snow was dumped on us. But, alas, I had commitments (shucks!) and could not get away this weekend, even for snowshoing (although I did sneak into Boston Friday night to hear the St. John Passion at Jordan Hall).

So today I have nothing special to do but post on the internet-- a net gain, I suppose.

Here's something that has been bothering me. I know almost nothing about this, but perhaps my readers will know. It has to do with how we divide ourselves up.

You recall the Chesterton witticism: people can be divided into two classes--those who divide others into two classes, and those who do not. Well, people may similarly be divided into those who divide themselves into two classes, and those who do not.

What do I mean by this? You know, some divide a human being into:

  • soul vs. body
  • thinking substance vs. extended substance
  • thought vs. perception
  • rational vs. animal
  • spirit vs. flesh
As you may remember from my inaugural post, I've been reading Augustine's De Trinitate. Book 12 begins by drawing what seems a very different distinction, between 'inner man' and 'outer man':
Well now! Let us see where the boundary line, as it were, between the outer and the inner man is to be placed. For it is commonly said, that whatever we have in our soul, in common with the beasts, pertains to the outer man, since by the outer man we mean not the body alone, but also its own peculiar kind of life, whence the structure of the body and all the senses derive their vigor, and by which they are equipped to perceive external things.
And at the beginning of book 11 he had said:
No one doubts that, as the inner man is endowed with understanding, so the outer man is endowed with the sense of the body.
So that's my question, or my two (divided) questions:
  1. Is this distinction between inner and outer man in some interesting way different from the more familiar ones mentioned above? (Does it bear, for instance, on the question of what sort of scepticism can be entertained?)
  2. What is the source of that distinction? I know it is in St. Paul, but is it original with the New Testament?
My inner man wants very much to know the answer to these questions, even as my outer man (yawn) insists on going to sleep.