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How much of you is you?

  1. Feb 20, 2006 #1
    I was wondering... If you believe humans have a part of us that makes us. (I suppose the easiest thing to call it would be a soul...although you might have a better word).

    If my soul was born in your body....would I have experienced your life exactly as you have? (meaning every thought, emotion, movement would have played out exactly as yours has). Why or why not?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 25, 2006 #2
    What makes you ? Did you not start as a fertilized egg, as a genome plus an environment within a single cell ?
  4. Feb 27, 2006 #3
    I have a physical body which supports a physical thinking mechanism; my brain. The brain provides me with a mind that enables me to think and thereby support the function of my body. My body and brain together do much of what I need to sustain my life automatically but in addition I am required to understand to some extent how it all works and give some directions on how to accomplish some of the tasks required that are not provided automatically. Some of these directions I learned from my parents and some from my teachers in school.

    There is another part of me which is uniquely my own. I call this my self. I consider myself as being created by me with the first choice I made in the face of an alternative. As I continue to face alternatives and make choices I take upon myself ownership of my self. I receive entitlement to this ownership by acknowledgement of and taking responsibility for my own life and the consequences of my actions. Being a responsible individual is what defines me as an adult human being and what brings meaning to my existence and purpose to my actions.

    I have struggled very hard to reach this level in my development but I cannot ignore the need I feel to show appreciation for all that the many people have done to help me to become what I am; many of whom died long before I was born. This leaves me to feel a kinship with their souls and if others feel such a kinship with my soul after I have lived my life that would be fine with me. But no less important to me is the mutual respect I experience with others who acknowledge and respect their humanity and exchanging the values we have obtained by doing so.

    I hope you found this dissertation relevant to your question.
  5. Feb 27, 2006 #4
    I'm sure I came to be exactly as you describe.

    Not really. :smile: Only because you didn't answer the question. I do appreciate you taking the time to respond though. I enjoy reading your posts and agree that we should all be greatful for those that came before us. If I read into what you are saying, is that you don't need to believe in some mystical "soul." I'm not here to agree or disagree, just trying to learn why people believe one way or the other.
  6. Mar 11, 2006 #5
    The inclusion of a "soul" just makes things very fuzzy for me. I am not just how i can find a better word as a substitude.
  7. Mar 14, 2006 #6
    If indeed a soul is applied to the problem, and a soul is the seat of consciouness then I would have to say that your soul in my body is a different person.

    I would be inclined to say that you are your mind, not your body. If you amputate an arm you are no less of a person. Whatever constitutes your mind is what you are, so if your mind was born into my body then you wouldn't be me, you would be you. It is dependent on who is thinking the thoughts, and even if the thoughts are the same it is a different consciousness thinking them.
  8. Mar 14, 2006 #7
    First, thank you for taking the time to respond. I see your logic there, I am just having trouble creating a response that would not give the impression that I was looking to disagree with you. So I will only proceed with your permission.
  9. Mar 15, 2006 #8
    Thank's for the respect, I appreciate it. I haven't given the subject a great deal of thought over time, so please proceed. I would love to see someone else's thoughts about it.
  10. Mar 15, 2006 #9
    Well, the thing is, if I change "Mind" to "Brain" in your first post, it makes just as much sense. for example:

    Now, applying what Dmstifik8ion was alluding to, imo, about your "self" being created by the first choice you make in the face of an alternative. It would follow that I wouldn't be me (as I am now) anymore. This would be because given different upbringings/surroundings/information, my brain/mind would have developed much differently than it has now. It also follows that you wouldn't be you either, (as you are now), for the same reasons. Wouldn't that automatically imply that our consciousness' (plural) would be different as well?

    I guess my confusion lies on whether or not we are actually reaching the same conclusion: that conciousness/soul is physical aspect of our brain. (note. I'm not actually sure whether or not I expressed the last part well enough due to spur of the moment typing, I could be wrong)
  11. Mar 16, 2006 #10
    If the consciousness is different then it doesn't matter if the thoughts it think and the actions it does are the same, it is still a different mind. However, this hypothesis is impossible to prove or disprove.
  12. Mar 16, 2006 #11
    I agree with your first sentence, and would state that your actions would not be the same, using the same logic as I used in the quoted exerpt. But if conciousness is physical, than it should be able to be provable.
  13. Mar 16, 2006 #12
    It all depends if consciousness is something other then our brain. If it is, then it is still a different person even if, as franzbear said, the thoughts and actions are the same. Conversly, if the brain generates counciousness then your body is indicitive of your being. The question as of yet cannot be answered due to our lack of information.
  14. Mar 16, 2006 #13
    I have always viewed the body and the mind (brain) as two inanimate objects. The soul, or consciousness, is what makes you aware of your existance. It is what makes the incredible functions of the brain, body, and the interconnectedness of the two work. Without this internal catalyst, your brain and body has the function and ability of a dead corpse. Given what I have stated as my opinion, what gets me about the soul, the catalyst of life, gets down to what it is. Is it itself an inanimate object, or form of energy. Is this energy trapped inside of us until it is able to escape during death inorder to inhabit other inanimate matter in order to make that matter self aware. Is it eternal, bound to what we do in our lives, or does our self awarness not care what it inhabits, from a bug to a human, just as long as it is in something.
  15. Mar 16, 2006 #14
    I'm not sure if you saw my reply to franzbear before you posted this so I will wait for your confirmation before responding.
  16. Mar 16, 2006 #15

    Are these questions? They seem to be. I don't have the answers. I'd gladly discuss this with you, but it would be helpful if you applied your opinion to the OP, please.:smile:
  17. Mar 18, 2006 #16
    Indeed, but the hard part would be to prove it. I suppose we would have to trust the neurologists and scientists for that, becuase if concisouness is physical then I'm completely clueless as to what it is.
  18. Mar 19, 2006 #17
    The hard part is, indeed, to prove it. Whether or not it is even possible to prove it, I don't have a clue either. I think the best we can hope for is that the cumulative findings of all the scientific disciplines point to the same conclusions. But the question remains, to the individual, at what point are we satisfied that it is proved? Is just, "more likely than not" an acceptable answer? A question each of us has to answer, individually. As much as we might want a different conclusion to be reached, there has to be a reasonable consensus out there, free of perceptual bias.

    I had some interesting ideas (to me anyway) of how I interpret scientific research in some of the various fields, and how I related them to my belief system. However, as many of my wandering thoughts, they are lost to my memory. I often jot these down in a word document I save on my computer, for future reference. Unfortunately, when I spent some time thinking on this the other day, I failed to do this and have since lost my train of thought. Perhaps a continued discussion will help jog my memory. Not that I think this will solve the riddle, I'm much to insignificant to think that, but at least I can add my introspection to the knowledge pool.
  19. Mar 19, 2006 #18
    What makes you think we have souls in the first place? What happens if you suffer from a debilitating accident which damages your brain and thus your memory and personality? Or how about Alzheimers, would this affect your soul?

    I think we are the sum total of our genetics, experiences and the choices that we make. Would I have been "me" if I were born deprived and impovrished? Probably not.

    Were you "you" when you were four years old? You did not have this concept of yourself when you were an infant. Identity is learned.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2006
  20. Mar 20, 2006 #19
    In point of fact, no. By its very nature the soul is seperate from the physical body, and so cannot be changed by anything that happens to the body.

    It would still have been the same consciousness thinking the thoughts, and after all, isn't that what comprises your being.

    If this is true then indenity is always changing. I would not be the same me as I was yesterday, becuase I have new experiences and new knowledge. I find this philosophy to be a simple mind game that has no purpose in reality. It does not reflect what I experience, becuase I have memories from when I was four, I had the same consciousness then as I do now.
  21. Mar 20, 2006 #20
    See, here we go again. How do you say "by its very nature the soul..."anything? I assume your talking about conciousness here, or are you talking about something different? (I'm led to thinking your talking about conciousness=soul because of your next statement):

    That is an interesting perspective...and I imagine why this notion of a metaphysical soul has stuck around over the ages. I would agree that the root of my "self" has been around since I can remember, but how do you justify that it isn't different? You certainly change with every experience, you learn. Right?

    So what do you think it is? What purpose does it serve? Why does it have to exist at all? (it doesn't even have to be a soul, which is just what I use as a blanket definition)
  22. Mar 20, 2006 #21
    Well, without claiming that a soul exists I can only speculate on its possible existence. If it does as exist in the classical sense then it comprises our entire being. However, if we look at it in more of an isolated, abstract view then it simply becomes something that defines our being, i.e. the root of concsiousness. We can choose between either of these defenitions, but I am inclined to use the latter. With either defenition the soul is nonphysical, becuase if it were part of our body then it would be organic and biological. If it was, then I would cease to label it a soul due to the fact that the soul is a metaphysical concept.
    The nature of a soul can comprise an entirely seperate topic and I do not wish to digress too far here, but like any other part of metaphysics it can be logicaly deduced as to its nature. While there are more then one possibilites on its being, we can at least find some things in common with all of them. Therefore the "by its very nature..."

    I justify it using practical reason, as opposed to a priori reason, and my own experiences. Our being might change, but it does not become new. A simple example wouuld be silly putty, always changing in existence but always the same in essence.

    The purpose "it" serves, it being our concsiousness, is that it is part of our being. Without it we would not be the same in essence, so it can be considered an integral part of our existence, exactly the same as physical experiences. The problem is that "it" cannot be examined independently of the body. This is the problem that was encountered when trying use a dualistic aproach to human existence. The two, body and mind, experience and essence, if viewed as serperate, are impossible to reconcile. However, if you take both and apply them to our being, i.e. our essence, we can have a clearer look at what we are. For a further, more in-depth study of this, I would recommend Jean-Paul Sartre's book Being and Nothingness.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2006
  23. Mar 20, 2006 #22
    No purpose in reality? Isn't that a simpler explanation than attributing your personality to a spiritual entity which you cannot prove exists? We are ourselves as our brain perceives us which is largely dependant on our genetic make-up. I can't speak for your experiences but I certainly can't remember being "me" when I was 1 or 2, I don't even remember having (or at least identifying myself with) a name prior to 3 or 4 years old.

    Yes, depending upon your experiences you should be different from the person you were from yesterday, no matter how slight it may be. Our very nature is transitory but no one really notices these slight changes.

    You also claim that you had the same "consciousness" as you did when you were young. Well, how do you know you remember the experiences accurately? You base your knowledge of your consciousness on your memory of it. How do you know your recollections are accurate?

    It's a basis of trials these days that so-called "eye-witness" testimony is generally unreliable. Let several people watch the same events unfold and they can give inconsistent accounts of what happened, even down to mutually exclusive interpretations. People also tend to distort their memories to what they'd want to have happened instead.
  24. Mar 20, 2006 #23
    I never placed my being in the hands of a soul, all I did was use that term as a possibilty. And yes, I find it pointless to speculate if I was a different person thirty years ago then I am now. I existed thirty years ago and I exist now, that is all the information I need. I remember my existence, and I could not remeber it without it being there. As for someone who is little and young, if they are not conscious then are they human? Isn't humanity indicitive of consiousness? Any child pyscologist will tell you that they are concsious, but if the change in their state neccesitates a change in their being, then dosen't it stand to reason that after a significant change anybody will cease to be themselves? Doesn't this theory state that we are always changing and are never the same person?

    It doesn't matter if their experiences change or if their memory of past experiences change, the essence of them remains the same. To suggest that our being today differs from our being thirty years ago is simply, in my opinion, irrational. As I used before, the example of silly putty is a good demonstration. Always able to change in experience, but never changing in essence.

    This is not indicitive of a new being, only a change in the state of the original being.

    By being is not created because I know about it. It is not there because I remember it. It simply is. Therefore whether I remember it or not, accuratly or not, is irrelevant to its existence.
  25. Mar 20, 2006 #24
    Nice answer:smile:

    BTW, these were "just in case questions". Just in case you didn't intend for conciousness=soul.

    I'm familiar with Sartre, but no, I haven't read it. Are you referring to his chapter on "bad Faith?" specifically? Or perhaps "belief"? Because, I have to say this now, I tend to lean more towards Freud, in this regard. Anyways, that is more a debate about conciousness. I think, although we might disagree on which line of thinking fits our world view, we don't seem to disagree that both theories stem from conciousness being produced by the brain, or something like that. (Sartre was an atheist)

    To tell you the truth (pun intended for comedic effect), I'm more interested (at least in this discussion) in the view you alluded to above, "the classical sense". (although I don't think you personally hold this as valid).
  26. Mar 25, 2006 #25

    I think the first thing we would need to establish is whether there is an existence of an ethereal soul. Personally, I do not believe in an immaterial soul or spirit responsible for governing our body or mind (ghost in the machine, I believe). Therefore, it would be physically impossible that any of your behavioral traits or characteristics could permeate my body or mind... unless you were my identical twin, but that would be due entirely to genetics.

    But, for the sake of the discussion, let's say it is possible that the soul may exist and that it's also possible that your soul or spirit has entered my body. Would you have experienced my life exactly as I have? Well, not if there is even the slightest inherent difference between my soul and your own.
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