Stuck with the soul
Seems arrogant to say there’s no such thing as a soul when we have a hard time even defining consciousness.
Wow. This might be one of the most poorly written essays I've ever come across in a supposedly serious medium.
Holding the soul as a process rather than a thing makes it possibly for me to integrate both beliefs (there is a soul and there is also not a soul).
The idea of a soul is probably the reason we believe in human rights, animal rights and so on. We should be careful not to abandon it, even if we are not sure what it really means but just know intuitively. With the recent AI advances I see a lot of chat dance around the subject of the soul without mentioning the word.
This article is really just trying to outline the hard problem of consciousness. That it is a fundamental aspect of the universe such as space and time or that it is a physical process of the brain.
I don’t think we have to reject the idea of a soul (mostly related with religion or spirituality) for “empirical evidence”. If we had said evidence, it would be a solved problem. It’s a problem that science cannot explain. Some things require other ways of knowing.
Considering how little we understand about the classical, let alone quantum, mechanics of the brain, it doesn't seem correct to dismiss the idea that something resembling, at least vaguely, a soul may exist.
What we call a "soul" today, may have a material, logical, explanation. Two of the greatest theoretical physicists, Wolfgang Pauli and David Bohm, seemed to think so.
Near death experiences seem to offer enough evidence to suggest there's more to it than just the brain and body.
> Few ideas are as unsupported, ridiculous and even downright harmful as that of the ‘human soul’.
Immediately stopped reading. I used to think Aeon was top quality, but this is hubris dressed up as radical materialism.
the soul may well be a cultural construction.
nonetheless, human culture has always had the quality of somewhat existing separate from humans themselves. a big chunk of our culture now is written down.
all this written culture is now more independent than humans than ever before. but I digress. the point is that the soul may well be a cultural concept that literally means that the culture (or the humans) or their gods made themselves out of the proverbial thin air.
now there are machines than can write on their own. in a way all classical computing does is exactly that: rewrite things around according to tables (functions as mappings).
so a soul is something we chose to have, our culture has by this point accumulated possibly hundreds of different 'ways' to develop one but we're fundamentally free such that it's possible to chose not to have one i suppose.
I used to have much the same view as the author. My view changed after reading what Christian theologians and philosophers actually wrote on the topic, as opposed to what I had just kind of figured they must have written.
When I read Aquinas on the soul, I realized:
- Aquinas means something quite different by "soul" than I had assumed.
- According to Aquinas's definition, I already believed in souls. (If you think that there's an important ontological difference between a turtle and turtle puree in a blender, you believe in Aquinas's souls.)
- Aquinas claims that rational souls are immortal because they can know and participate in a realm of eternal truths, so there must be some part of the soul that is already there, and hence eternal.
- Take that argument or leave it, but it is no more or less wacky than any other mainstream position in the philosophy of mathematics, where there are many problems for which there are simply no non-wacky possible solutions.
Correct or not, I found Aquinas's position surprisingly down-to-earth and was disappointed not to see it discussed.