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That's a soul?

  1. Apr 2, 2010 #1
    Just curious on your opinions.
    Do you think humans actually have souls, separate from their mind and body, or is it just part of a chemical process within our minds?
    I personally believe that people have souls, but it's kinda confusing, because they can seem to be altered by drugs and perspectives, which would indicate that we don't really have souls, but complex brain functions.
    Soooo...what do you think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2010 #2
    It all depends what you mean by "soul." There are certain things we know from science. There are things we don't know from science that are debated as philosophy of mind. The typical conception of a soul, as a separate substance from physical substance that has some control over a physical body, has pretty much been discredited. It all depends on your definitions and assumptions though.

    See http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/, especially substance dualism and interactionism.
  4. Apr 2, 2010 #3
    Isn't that a little strong for an issue that is scientifically untestable?
  5. Apr 2, 2010 #4
    Your assumption that the existence of a soul can't be tested implies that souls do not influence the physical realm, which already excludes the possibility of interactionist substance dualism.

    Substance dualism is testable. All the evidence we have says it doesn't exist.

    There are other types of dualism and conceptions of souls, which is why I mentioned how important the definitions and assumptions are.
  6. Apr 2, 2010 #5


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  7. Apr 2, 2010 #6
  8. Apr 3, 2010 #7
    What??? That doesn't make any sense.
    Implications of untestable issues are commonly known as speculations.
  9. Apr 3, 2010 #8
    Gingers do have souls!
  10. Apr 3, 2010 #9
    We can test things that directly influence physics. Interactionist substance dualism posits a soul that directly influences physics. It is a testable hypothesis.

    By the way, 1+1=2 isn't testable either. There are other ways to get knowledge besides scientific tests.
  11. Apr 3, 2010 #10


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    I'll state my general philosophical position first: I'm a materialist. I don't believe in a dualistic sort of soul.

    I believe the sensations we attribute to the soul are generally those of self-identity. But I also think we generally consider the soul a core part of ourselves that doesn't change easily. In this regard, I think genetics and early developmental neural wiring play a large part in this role, as well as traumatic events (assuming they aggressively rewire core brain circuitry). I also think our emotional memory plays a significant role.

  12. Apr 3, 2010 #11


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    The issue is science cannot quantify or qualify the properties of a 'soul'. I do not find that surprising. It is neither proof or disproof that 'souls' exist.
  13. Apr 3, 2010 #12
    This statement itself reveals a lot about souls though. Historically souls have been thought to control the body. Descartes thought that the soul interacted with the body through the pineal gland (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pineal-gland/).

    If it is true that science can't quantify or qualify the properties of a soul, then the conception of a soul as acting on a body through some organ or some other physical method must be false. This is a statement about the nature of souls, and it disqualifies the possibility of the interactionist dualism that historically was the popular view. Your assertion that science can't quantify souls is a claim of the nonexistence of certain types of souls - the type that science would be able to test.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2010
  14. Apr 3, 2010 #13


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    I disagree. Of course, you can't be fixated on any particular religion's definition of soul (I assume you're utilizing the Christian definition). What we're interested in is what gives rise to the people's sensation of having a soul or identity that is unique to themselves.

    Francis Crick (an atheist, molecular biologist, and neuroscientist most famous for his contributions to discovering the structure of DNA) alludes to this in his book's title:
    The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search For The Soul

    Crick passed away in 2004, but his work is being carried on by Christof Koch.

    Here's a paper by Koch: http://www.klab.caltech.edu/Papers/438.pdf [Broken]
    Here, he makes the point that subjective experience can be objectively measured and explained.

    Prior to reading any Crick or Koch, I'd always referred to my "secular soul" as being the more steady states in brain circuitry that provide a persistent self-identity.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  15. Apr 3, 2010 #14
    I think that people's "souls" are really just their mind. The brain's really complex, so I'm sure it is capable of producing all of the things we think to be a "soul".
    I blame chemical reactions, personality, and reasoning.
  16. Apr 4, 2010 #15
    I hope there is a "soul"; Otherwise I'm SOL in not too many years.
  17. Apr 4, 2010 #16
    We kinda all are, eventually.
  18. Apr 4, 2010 #17


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    No, other way around.

    If there's a soul; you may find it's going to be stuck on a spit and toasted.

    Better that there's no soul. No soul, no consequences.

  19. Apr 4, 2010 #18


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    I agree.
  20. Apr 4, 2010 #19
    There was a very good online, open, course in philosophy specifically on the soul. I thought it was extremely well done but I forget which university it was hosted at... I'll try to dig it up.
  21. Apr 4, 2010 #20
    http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/death/content/class-sessions [Broken]

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