So what is the soul?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
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Vijaydevani
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So what is the soul?

Post by Vijaydevani » May 18th, 2014, 8:02 am

I was reading through the thread, "Arguments for the persistence of the human soul." As I was going through the various posts, I saw people either convinced that the soul existed and was eternal, and at the other end of the spectrum, those that were convinced that there is no soul. What I did not see, however, was a clear picture of what people think the soul is. So my question is, "what do you think is the soul?". I am just hoping to hear from people who believe in the soul, what they believe the soul is. I will not put up any argument or challenge the opinions given here. I just would like to know what each person thinks the soul is.

Let me clarify that when I did believe in the Soul, I thought of it as a representation of the all pervading Consciousness which inhabited my body and then left after my death to re-incarnate. I, however, do not believe in the concept of the soul anymore.

So this question is just out of curiosity. I hope you understand that at least from my stand point, there is no right or wrong answer.
A little knowledge is a religious thing.

Ruskin
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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Ruskin » May 18th, 2014, 10:06 am

It's the same thing as consciousness and apparently it survives physical death in some form (see NDEs). If there's a physical resurrection at the end of the universe that soul would be reunited with a new immortal body but I'm open minded on that one myself. Reincarnation of soul into a new mortal body may be on the cards as well see past life regression particularly in very young children.

Atheists tend to say the soul doesn't survive death but what is this assumption based on? There is no evidence that it can't and doesn't but there is evidence shaky though it is that it can and does.

Vijaydevani
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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Vijaydevani » May 18th, 2014, 10:32 am

Ruskin wrote:It's the same thing as consciousness and apparently it survives physical death in some form (see NDEs). If there's a physical resurrection at the end of the universe that soul would be reunited with a new immortal body but I'm open minded on that one myself. Reincarnation of soul into a new mortal body may be on the cards as well see past life regression particularly in very young children.

Atheists tend to say the soul doesn't survive death but what is this assumption based on? There is no evidence that it can't and doesn't but there is evidence shaky though it is that it can and does.
Ruskin, shall we call a truce for this particular post? I would request you not to challenge. I think that way we might end up with a more constructive description of the soul. Let people contribute, knowing there will be no challenge. We might just end up learning something new.
A little knowledge is a religious thing.

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Consul
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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Consul » May 18th, 2014, 10:34 am

Ruskin wrote:It's the same thing as consciousness…
No, the soul is the thing which has consciousness, is conscious.
Ruskin wrote:Atheists tend to say the soul doesn't survive death but what is this assumption based on? There is no evidence that it can't and doesn't but there is evidence shaky though it is that it can and does.
The spiritualistic concept of a soul is nonsensical.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

Ruskin
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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Ruskin » May 18th, 2014, 10:41 am

Consul wrote:
No, the soul is the thing which has consciousness, is conscious.
That would be the wrong way around we exist as consciousness first and this consciousness has a way to manifest itself in our case that's the physical body, so the soul would have a body and not the body a soul. When we die there will be some other medium into which consciousness will manifest perhaps or some other kind of body be that physical or non-material.


The spiritualistic concept of a soul is nonsensical.
That's just an opinion without any reasoning or evidence of any kind to support it. The alternative does have reasoning and some evidence if you look. It isn't proven as fact of course no-one would claim that it is.

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Consul
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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Consul » May 18th, 2014, 11:31 am

Ruskin wrote:That would be the wrong way around we exist as consciousness first and this consciousness has a way to manifest itself in our case that's the physical body, so the soul would have a body and not the body a soul. When we die there will be some other medium into which consciousness will manifest perhaps or some other kind of body be that physical or non-material.
I beg your pardon, but that is a typical example of spiritualistic gibberish. For instance, the very concept of an immaterial body is self-contradictory, and to say that "we exist as consciousness" just doesn't make any sense. We exist as conscious beings but not as consciousness.
Ruskin wrote:
Consul wrote:The spiritualistic concept of a soul is nonsensical.
That's just an opinion without any reasoning or evidence of any kind to support it. The alternative does have reasoning and some evidence if you look. It isn't proven as fact of course no-one would claim that it is.
If you think I'm wrong, please describe and explain the concept of an immaterial soul in a rationally comprehensible and logically coherent way! Good luck!
Last edited by Consul on May 18th, 2014, 11:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Vijaydevani
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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Vijaydevani » May 18th, 2014, 11:31 am

Consul wrote:
Ruskin wrote:It's the same thing as consciousness…
No, the soul is the thing which has consciousness, is conscious.
Ruskin wrote:Atheists tend to say the soul doesn't survive death but what is this assumption based on? There is no evidence that it can't and doesn't but there is evidence shaky though it is that it can and does.
The spiritualistic concept of a soul is nonsensical.
Consul, could I make the same request to you that I made to Ruskin? I can understand that you find the concept of the soul nonsensical. But I would appreciate people just expressing their views on the soul and see what kinds of opinions we get here. MY request is do not challenge what you read. Just see the different views people have.
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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Ruskin » May 18th, 2014, 12:31 pm

Consul wrote:
I beg your pardon, but that is a typical example of spiritualistic gibberish.

Pffft the same goes to you then, we will call it materialistic gibberish. One of us will be right in our view and the other will be wrong, I feel the odds are stacked more in my favour than your own but we will have to see. The good thing is if I'm right you'll find out you're wrong but it won't work in principal the other way.


For instance, the very concept of an immaterial body is self-contradictory

Not really, for instance they had "immaterial bodies" in the Matrix those were computer simulations of bodies and of course we have bodies in dreams which aren't technically physical they exist within your mind rather than the objective universe. So you can have a "non-material body" in some other plane or mode of existence just fine there's nothing to stop this that we know of anyway.

and to say that "we exist as consciousness" just doesn't make any sense. We exist as conscious beings but not as consciousness.
If we didn't exist consciously as a mind then we wouldn't exist period. We don't exist as a pile of atoms as an atom is the same as any other atom. There is nothing in any of the atoms of the universe that is identifiable as ourselves. If you want to take your physical body it is not made of the same atoms it was made from say 10 years ago it is not the same body, but it is the same consciousness there is a continuity there beyond the physical.


If you think I'm wrong, please describe and explain the concept of an immaterial soul in a rationally comprehensible and logically coherent way! Good luck!
Perhaps there is one all pervasive non-material consciousness immanent throughout all of the universe/existence (God) and we're shards of this super consciousness brought into physical manifestation on the material plane or something along those lines. I don't really see the problem with the idea myself but feel free to point out what would prevent this from being the reality.

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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Jklint » May 18th, 2014, 1:27 pm

The soul is a metaphor for a measure of our Being in being greater than the sum of its parts. It denotes our empathy with the cosmos. Its what moves inside when you hear music and what creates it. It's an inference which derives from the mystery of consciousness and how the inorganic can flow into and create a spiritual being. It is in a sense the flashpoint of consciousness able to coerce what is deemed sacred from the well of creation and recreate it in ourselves. The soul is everything which expands our Being beyond what physically confines it.

...but this is all old hat; there's not anything new here.

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Consul
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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Consul » May 18th, 2014, 3:14 pm

Ruskin wrote:
Consul wrote:For instance, the very concept of an immaterial body is self-contradictory


Not really, for instance they had "immaterial bodies" in the Matrix those were computer simulations of bodies and of course we have bodies in dreams which aren't technically physical they exist within your mind rather than the objective universe. So you can have a "non-material body" in some other plane or mode of existence just fine there's nothing to stop this that we know of anyway.
No, you're confusing real bodies with computer-simulated or dream-generated images of bodies. A body is different from a body-image. (This is not to say that bodies are material and body-images immaterial.) When I dream, I do not have an immaterial body but I imagine myself having a material body. Nor does Lara Croft have an immaterial body, because she's just a fictional person who doesn't exist at all.
Ruskin wrote:
Consul wrote:…and to say that "we exist as consciousness" just doesn't make any sense. We exist as conscious beings but not as consciousness.


If we didn't exist consciously as a mind then we wouldn't exist period.


Even if we were mental substances rather than physical ones, there'd still be an ontological distinction between us and our mental attributes such as consciousness.

"Besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them; and exercises divers operations, as willing, imagining, remembering about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call mind, spirit, soul or myself. By which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, wherein they exist, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived; for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived."

(Berkeley, George. Principles of Human Knowledge. 1710. Part 1, §2)

(Philonus:) "How often must I repeat, that I know or am conscious of my own being; and that I myself am not my ideas, but somewhat else, a thinking active principle that perceives, knows, wills, and operates about ideas. I know that I, one and the same self, perceive both colours and sounds: that a colour cannot perceive a sound, nor a sound a colour: That I am therefore one individual principle, distinct from colour and sound; and, for the same reason, from all other sensible things and inert ideas."

(Berkeley, George. Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonus, Third Dialogue. 1713.)
Ruskin wrote: We don't exist as a pile of atoms as an atom is the same as any other atom.
Not true. There are many different kinds of chemical elements.
Ruskin wrote:There is nothing in any of the atoms of the universe that is identifiable as ourselves. If you want to take your physical body it is not made of the same atoms it was made from say 10 years ago it is not the same body, but it is the same consciousness there is a continuity there beyond the physical.
No, there isn't. The piecemeal replacement of the atoms in a conscious organism doesn't destroy its physical identity and integrity as a whole, and it doesn't disrupt its psychological identity and continuity. So the following is not a plausible argument for my nonidentity with something material:

"1. Suppose I am identical with this body of mine.
2. In 1995 I existed.
3. In 1995 this body of mine did not exist.
4. Hence, from the first premise, it follows that I did not exist in 1995.
5. But this contradicts the second premise, and the supposition is false.
6. Hence, I am not identical with my body.

In 1995 this body did not exist because all the molecules making up a human body are cycled out every six or seven years. When all the molecular constituents of a body are replaced, we have a new material body. The body that I now have shares no constituents with the body I had in 1995. The person that I am, however, persists through changes of material constituents. So even if I have to have some material body or other, I do not have to have any particular body. That is the argument [for substance dualism].

An initial response to [this] argument could run as follows: When I say I am identical with this body of mine, I do not mean that I am identical with the 'time slice'—that is, a temporal cross-section—of my body at this instant. What I mean is that I am identical with the temporally elongated 'worm' of a three-dimensional biological organism that came into existence at my birth and will cease to exist when my biological death occurs. This four-dimensional object—a three-dimensional object stretched along the temporal dimension—has different material constituents at different times, but it is a clearly delineated system with a substantival unity and integrity. It is this material structure with a history with which I claim I am identical. Another reply, related to the first, might go as follows: My body is not a mere assemblage or structure made up of material particles; rather, it is a biological organism, a human animal. And the persistence condition appropriate to mere material things is not necessarily appropriate for animals. In fact, animals can retain their identities even though the matter constituting them may change over time (this may well be true of nonanimal biological systems, such as trees), just as in the case of persons. The criterion of identity over time for animals (however it is to be spelled out in detail) is the one that should be applied to human bodies."


(Kim, Jaegwon. Philosophy of Mind. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2006. pp. 38-9)
Ruskin wrote:Perhaps there is one all pervasive non-material consciousness immanent throughout all of the universe/existence (God) and we're shards of this super consciousness brought into physical manifestation on the material plane or something along those lines. I don't really see the problem with the idea myself but feel free to point out what would prevent this from being the reality.
Basic mistake #1: All-pervasiveness and immateriality are mutually exclusive, because the former entails spatial extendedness and the latter entails spatial unextendedness. A God pervading all of space like the gravitational field or the (nonexistent) mechanical ether would be a physical being.

And the basic problem with your other idea—us being "materialized shards of a superconsciousness"—is that it makes little to no sense. For instance, how could an immaterial consciousness create anything material? I know, it's all inexplicable and incomprehensible magic…
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Syamsu » May 19th, 2014, 6:40 am

Consul wrote: I beg your pardon, but that is a typical example of spiritualistic gibberish. For instance, the very concept of an immaterial body is self-contradictory, and to say that "we exist as consciousness" just doesn't make any sense. We exist as conscious beings but not as consciousness.
...to understand religion you have to accept the fact that freedom is real, and have some sophistication to explain things in terms of them being chosen. So you have to be able to explain in terms of either x or y could happen, x is chosen, instead of explanations like, x forces y.

Usually in science freedom is referred to as (real) randomness, so that it is factually true that either x or y can be. Acknowledging any freedom whatsoever is still a very big problem in science, so I can know for a certain fact that you haven't studied about it at school or university, because such scientific knowledge doesn't exist.

You can tell freedom is a big problem in science by the popularity of the multiverse idea. The thing about the multiverse idea is that you can sort of draw lines of cause and effect from universe to universe. The multiverse idea thus avoids the idea of freedom, that there are alternative futures available, that either x or y could happen. Instead then there is a universe where x is forced, and there is a universe where y is forced. If science to explain things in terms of freedom was established, then the multiverse idea couldn't have been so popular.

A concept like the soul only applies to the idea of freedom in the sense of having alternative futures available. If you can get a handle on the concept of that there are alternative futures available and one becomes the present, then you can begin to understand what the soul means.

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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Consul » May 19th, 2014, 10:09 am

Syamsu wrote:...to understand religion you have to accept the fact that freedom is real…
Libertarian free will in the following sense is a religious myth.

"[E]ach of us, when we act, is a prime mover unmoved. In doing what we do, we cause certain events to happen, and nothing—or no one—causes us to cause those events to happen."

(Chisholm, Roderick M. On Metaphysics. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. p. 12)

The view that we are self-caused causers or self-determined determiners, i.e. that our choices and decisions are absolutely uninfluenced or undetermined by preceding bio-psycho-social factors that we cannot influence or determine is scientifically indefensible.
Syamsu wrote:Usually in science freedom is referred to as (real) randomness…
Randomly determined choices or decisions are certainly not an expression of free will.

By the way, even if we were immaterial souls, this still wouldn't entail that we have libertarian free will, because our choices and decisions might be influenced or determined by unconscious mental processes that we cannot control.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

Syamsu
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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Syamsu » May 19th, 2014, 10:49 am

Consul wrote:
Syamsu wrote:...to understand religion you have to accept the fact that freedom is real…
Libertarian free will in the following sense is a religious myth.

"[E]ach of us, when we act, is a prime mover unmoved. In doing what we do, we cause certain events to happen, and nothing—or no one—causes us to cause those events to happen."

(Chisholm, Roderick M. On Metaphysics. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. p. 12)

The view that we are self-caused causers or self-determined determiners, i.e. that our choices and decisions are absolutely uninfluenced or undetermined by preceding bio-psycho-social factors that we cannot influence or determine is scientifically indefensible.
Syamsu wrote:Usually in science freedom is referred to as (real) randomness…
Randomly determined choices or decisions are certainly not an expression of free will.

By the way, even if we were immaterial souls, this still wouldn't entail that we have libertarian free will, because our choices and decisions might be influenced or determined by unconscious mental processes that we cannot control.
Regardless if you accept freedom is a reality, you must be able to handle the rules of it, to understand the concept of the soul. And the concept of free will relevant to the concept of the soul is that there are alternative FUTURES.

So simply put it means that, you measure the mass of some object in the usual way. Then free will states that in principle you can also measure some future values for this object. So you measure 100 for mass now, and you measure alternatives 1 and 0 in the future for the mass. And then it will be decided, and the mass turns out 101 or 100. Something like that. Put in very simplified terms, 1 because I don't understand the complex and correct terms, 2 because there is no need to understand much of it for the argument.

It is very obvious that once we use such rules that then we get a category of "what chooses" which contains all the things which do the job of making a decision turn out the way it does. The mass can become 101 or 100, it turns out 101, what did this job of making the decision turn out the way it did?

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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Theophane » May 19th, 2014, 11:01 am

You could say that the soul is an aggregate of the emotions, intellect, and will. I think it can be further divided into soul and spirit, but I'm not exactly sure how. Your spirit, your soul, neither of these will the medical examiner find when dissecting a cadaver in the morgue.

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Consul
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Re: So what is the soul?

Post by Consul » May 19th, 2014, 11:15 am

Theophane wrote:You could say that the soul is an aggregate of the emotions, intellect, and will.
You can conceive of the soul either as a mental/spiritual substance or as a "system of floating ideas without any substance to support them" (Berkeley), i.e. as a substratumless dynamic complex of mental/spiritual events or processes (= experiences: sensations, emotions, imaginations, cogitations). However, the latter view is ontologically incoherent and thus inacceptable, because where there is experience, there must be an ontically distinct subject of experience. Experiences aren't independent entities. No experience can be an experiencer; no experience can experience another experience or itself.
Theophane wrote:I think it can be further divided into soul and spirit, but I'm not exactly sure how.
I don't think any such distinction makes sense.
Theophane wrote:Your spirit, your soul, neither of these will the medical examiner find when dissecting a cadaver in the morgue.
Of course, if souls/spirits exist, they are imperceptible.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

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