Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do souls exist?

A friend of mine named peter_mary had this to say when someone asked if we thought souls exist. Below is what he said and then how I responded.

peter_mary:

I tend to think I don't have a soul (this comes as HUGE suprise to everyone I've offended on my way to Outer Darkness...)

But then, I suppose it's how you define "soul." If we define "soul" as that sense of "self" that allows us to diferentiate ourselves from our surroundings, and that makes us truly unique in the spectrum of human beings, and that retains that sense of unique "selfness" (selfiness?) throughout the course of our lives, then yeah--I have a soul.

But in no way do I consider that soul to be differentiated from ME. In other words, there is no distinction between my body (the fleshy stuff) and my soul (the "selfy stuff). I believe that my sense of self resides in my brain, and that were my brain to be damaged (contrary to popular belief, it has NOT been damaged to date....that I know of) my sense of self could change radially and unalterably.

Furthermore, when I exhale my last breath, and the electrochemical processes in my body shut down, I believe that sense of self will simply cease. I see it as an emergent phenomenon of the manner in which the brain functions, serving us well (as evidenced by the ridiculous degree to which humans have moved into virtually every niche known to mother nature.) Subsequently, when the brain ceases to produce the electrochemical impulses, so, too, do all the associated emergent phenomenon cease.

Strangely, that doesn't bother me in the least.

By the way, I think "selfiness" is a most excellent made-up word.

Ditto! I could not have expressed my opinion on this subject better than peter mary just did for me. Thank you!

I believed in a soul before I delved into graduate studies in psychology. Every "function" we imagine a soul to do is done by the biological brain, from personality, to intelligence, to sense of self, to memory, to processing sensatory input, to whatever. The most convincing evidence of that is the loss ofspecific mental functions due tolocalized brain damage. If we do have a soul, it seems incapable of compensating for the loss of function from brain damage.

I researched Near-death experiences and have become convinced that there is no evidence there of a soul. And I dismiss outright reincarnation stories.

1 comment:

Allan said...

I guess it depends on definitions. I'm inclined to think that everyone leaves their mark. I think it is sort of beautiful to consider that your eternal soul, your essence, is that mark that you leave on the world. That may be progeny, people you've influenced, accomplishments, etc. However, I'm with you that it isn't some incorporeal self-aware youness that continues to exist after your body ceases to function.