Properties of the soul?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Dinosaur, Jul 23, 2017.

  1. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

    That appears to me to be the little bloke sitting in the brain pulling the strings so to speak, the soul ya? And when you die it's this little fellow that packs up your life time of memories, hikes off to heaven or hell to catch up with any relatives and / or mates there

    As I understand concessness it is the persistence of memory as it is a PROCESS occuring within the brain
    As such there is no physicality to it. The brain remembers "I have been here before"

    I'm at this moment struggling to find a way to further explain a fuller meaning. The best I can come up with is something like CD player where the CD is the memory and the player the brain.
    Playing the CD is akin to the tracks on the CD (memory) telling the laser beam " you have been here before"
    The CD player then saying " the last time I was here I sent such and such a signal to the TV"
    Which the player then proceeds to do
    Which then ends the the action as far as the player is concerned
    But for the sloppy porridge coloured brain there is a feedback loop which reinforces the memory

    That's as far as I will take it for the moment as it is 3am and I need a few (well more than a few) hours beauty sleep.
    I'll let Huey Dewey and Louie mull it over and see what eventuates

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    Ted Grant II likes this.
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    I'm afraid I don't know how this statement follows, or its reason for being introduced: "What's wrong with thinking that the contents of the universe are at least potentially discriminable and classifiable, when and if they are discovered and observed by beings like us?"

    On one hand, you seem to acknowledge that the universe's existence doesn't consist of or depend upon its being shown / manifested (as in consciousness). Yet you seem to be reacting to it lacking that kind of evidence for itself (along with any evidence that reason or inference contributes) when there aren't conscious systems or intelligent observers, as if that absence of experiential and intellectual evidence provided by them equates to the universe not existing. As if along the very line of Berkeley's very "To exist is to be perceived." And also to be thought about.

    IOW, answering "what conflict" seems to rest in me in turn getting some clarification of where you're coming from. Or why you introduced such a statement, which may also be behind why you ask "What conflict?".

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  5. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    It's helpful if we can keep from making a category mistake that G.E. Moore suggested we do when thinking of the soul/mind. We shouldn't project on it properties exclusive to material objects. It doesn't float around. It isn't inside our brain. It doesn't exist in 3D spacetime at all. Here's a line of thinking that may help us...

    "We are not primarily biological, with mind emerging as a kind of iridescence, a kind of epiphenomenon at the higher levels of organization of biology. We are hyperspatial objects of some sort that cast a shadow onto matter. The shadow in matter is our physical organism.

    At death, the thing that casts the shadow withdraws, and metabolism ceases. Material form breaks down; it ceases to be a dissipative structure in a very localized area, sustained against entropy by cycling material in, extracting energy, and expelling waste. But the form that ordered it is not affected. These declarative statements are made from the point of view of the shamanic tradition, which touches all higher religions. Both the psychedelic dream state and the waking psychedelic state acquire great import because they reveal to life a task: to become familiar with this dimension that is causing being, in order to be familiar with it at the moment of passing from life.

    The metaphor of a vehicle—an after-death vehicle, an astral body—is used by several traditions. Shamanism and certain yogas, including Taoist yoga, claim very clearly that the purpose of life is to familiarize oneself with this after-death body so that the act of dying will not create confusion in the psyche."---Terrence McKenna, The Archaic Revival, 1991.
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I can maybe agree the soul-as-person idea, as long as we don't think of the soul-as-person as a unique ontological substance. We might (and often do) use it to refer to our personal identities, to our sense of self (whatever that is). There's lots of stuff mixed up in our personhood: our physical bodies, their temporal continuity, our memories, the stream of causal connections down through time, and probably more. But I don't think that most of that survives our deaths.

    The soul as pure consciousness idea is kind of fascinating to me. It's a much more radical idea that became widespread in India and in some of the later Platonic currents in Western antiquity. (They may have gotten the idea from India, it seems to have been most widespread in Roman-period Egypt, which had ancient trade ties to India. It's survived in the so-called Western Occult Tradition from then to now.) Soul in this case would be people as subject as opposed to object, as knower as opposed to known. This is very different from soul-as-person since pretty much everything I mentioned above that forms our personal identity is found on the object side. The self-as-knower seemingly can't itself be known, without reducing it to an object and falsifying it. Some of the Indians (and Neoplatonists) decided that our personal identities are kind of illusory and what really truly exists is our fundamental subjectivity, which they often associated somehow with the divine. So in effect we are little fragments of divinity kind of confused into thinking that we are human beings here on Earth. The idea of the true-self surviving the death of the body flows naturally from this scheme. Our religious goal was to realize our essential divinity, to reascend to to the Godhead from which we'd fallen, or something like that.

    I like these ideas. I guess that I'd say that I don't totally reject them even though I weight them fairly low in likelihood terms.

    I've been thinking about comparative cognition, about the philosophical/psychological problem of other minds. Especially non-human minds, minds of beings that don't use language and can't communicate with us in words. Dogs, octopuses, hypothetical space-aliens.

    There's also a tie-in with and potentially a solution the so-called "hard problem of consciousness" here.

    Yes, I've observed people before and after strokes, and observed the dramatic changes in their personalities, awareness and cognition. If wasn't like their deep fundamental selves were still unchanged but just having trouble communicating through a damaged physical vehicle. Formerly brilliant and intellectual adults became childlike in their thinking.

    And I have to say that I've experimented extensively on myself back in the day, dosing myself with beer, marijuana and LSD. The subjective changes were dramatic. (In a way that was what I wanted.)

    I'm inclined to think that if my subjectivity is dependent on my brain states when I use psychoactive drugs, if cognition, alertness and so on seem dependent on brain states when brain injuries occur, that the same thing is true in life and death.

    Dreaming is still kind of mysterious. I seem to have two very distinct kind of dreams. One are experiential dreams where I imagine that I'm someplace doing something. Often the plot doesn't make any sense when I wake up and seems compounded out of scraps of memories of things I'd recently been doing and places I'd been. There's often little continuity, in one dream there was this door and when I stepped through it I was in Germany. The other kind of dreams are problem-solving dreams, where I'm struggling with an intellectual problem in my sleep. These often don't make much sense either when I wake up.

    So once again, the evidence seems to suggest confabulation out of memories more than visits to another plane of reality.

    Pure consciousness would seem to me to be awareness without any object. Apparently this is supposed to be one of the higher attainments in Yogic meditation. So it would be awareness completely divorced from the realm of 'brains' and 'bodies' and even of 'me'.

    As to where it would be...

    In this scheme consciousness is ontologically prior to physical reality, so the 'Where is consciousness physically located?' question wouldn't arise. The question that they would be more interested in is 'What consciousness generates the idea of locations in physical space?'

    (One is reminded of Immanuel Kant.)

    That kind of presupposes Cartesian-style dualism with its two fundamentally different kinds of substance. I think that one could perhaps avoid that problem while retaining the transcendental self (soul) by adopting an idealistic monism. In this one, consciousness would be primary and fundamental, and the physical reality would just be the contents of awareness. So if the physical world is something that's being dreamed, the dreamer's power to influence the dream wouldn't seem to be a problem. The question then would be why is the dreamer so rule-bound in shaping the content of the dream? (In Kantian terms, why must reality conform to the pure categories of the understanding?)

    The idea that mind is somehow identical with reality's ultimate principle. Survival of death. The possibility of some kind of salvation.

    Or maybe whatever is responsible for pure subjectivity, awareness distinguished from its objects, is divine. Maybe we are all manifestations of God without realizing it. That would be an exceedingly important thing to realize if it was true.

    They might argue that experiential confirmation of their teachings are readily available through the spiritual practices that they teach. That might take years of arduous meditation practice, but that's not really any different than spending years in a science PhD program and then a research career. In both cases, the truth of the teachings isn't always readily apparent to laypeople and requires a great deal of faith on their part. (To them, science can be just a much a matter of faith as religion.)

  8. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Damage your computer and you can quite clearly damage the presentation of the Internet. Kill your computer and there is no detectable Internet any more. But in fact you haven't affected the Internet at all. It's still going on "out there" without your computer.
  9. birch Valued Senior Member

    Yes, this is true but I see consciousness existing already and the arrangement of matter to correlate, not the other way around. so if the vehicle becomes damaged, it doesn't mean the higher consciousness doesn't or can't exist, it just means it can't express through that vehicle or anymore. in fact, even the most highly intelligent humans who have deciphered some mysteries of the universe as well as the brain structure able to mirror or understand some of it's functions can't mirror the highest consciousness or in it's entirety (possibly fragments). the brain/body/vehicle is just not capable.
  10. birch Valued Senior Member

  11. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Damage an aircraft while in the air and you can quite clearly damage its presentation of flight.
    Destroy the aircraft and there is no detectable flight any more.
    But in fact you haven't affected flight at all.
    It's still going on "out there" without your aircraft.
    After all, any plane with aerodynamic wings travelling in the air could have "flight".
    Thus "flight" is some non-material thing, right?

    Damage a person's legs and you can quite clearly damage their presentation of running.
    Destroy their legs and their is no detectable running any more.
    But in fact you haven't affected running at all.
    It's still going on "out there" without their legs.
    After all, anyone who has legs and moves them in a certain manner has it.
    Thus "running" is some non-material substance, right?

    Don't worry, I do get what you're alluding to.
    The difference with your analogy to the mind/body issue is that the process by which the Internet can be received on the computer is identifiable, evidenced, open to scrutiny and testing, and can be shown to exist.
    Now, if you can show that the mind is indeed going on "out there" and that all the brain does is tap into it through some wi-if correlate, then by all means do.

    But if the mind really is just a certain activity that goes on in the brain, all you are doing with your analogy is saying how running, or flight, or any action is in effect a non-material substance that the material taps into but otherwise still goes on "out there".

    Do you think a rock falling through space really is just an inert rock that has somehow tapped into the non-material realm and is embed with the essence of "falling", and that "falling" is worthy of a similar dualistic approach?
  12. birch Valued Senior Member

    lol. a better analogy would be there is a distance between you and the supermarket on the other side of town which you will never frequent but the distance from point a to b still exists whether you travel it or not. we know this because other people are aware of the existence and location. einstein and newton are dead, so does this mean what their consciousness detected is null and void because others didn't? there had to be a relationship or correlation for this consciousness to develop into existence in the first place.
  13. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    But the mind is more than just activity in the brain, as we know from direct experience. The mind directly affects and changes the activity of the brain at any given moment. A scientist can tell you to to think of eating something, and observe on an MRI the changes in the brain. He can tell you to recite a nursery rhyme, and observe those changes as well. If the mind were just an abstract verb of something, like running or flying or falling, it wouldn't have this causal independence from the brain to be able to cause its activity to change. And besides all that, as we already addressed, activities of objects are not conscious processes. Which is why monist physicalists like you have to further enlist a whole slew of other magical ingredients like complexity and emergence to account for the mind. Because being a mere function just doesn't quite do it does it?

    It's also worth mentioning in this regard numerous documented instances in which a person is witnessed coming back with full lucidity right before death, even though they were suffering major brain damage from dementia and Alzheimer's and tumors and strokes and even schizophrenia. It's called terminal lucidity and is a well known event in the hospice care world. Somehow for a few hours the person returns with all their faculities as if to say goodbye to loved ones, which defies the thesis that the mind or person are just a function of their brain. Their brains are too far gone to enable this. And yet it happens!
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
  14. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    I have to wonder ... as the body begins to shut down, and autonomous functions the brain normally maintains are "given up" so to speak... does the brain redirect the "processing power" that was being used to keep the ailing body alive back into the consciousness and cognitive functions (or, more accurately, is that processing power no longer occupied keeping a failing body afloat, and thus is free to return a person to lucidity).

    After all, as powerful as the brain is... there are limits to what it can simultaneously accomplish.
  15. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Existence itself (as an archetype or provenance for the content of human awareness) is prior in rank to either its representations or what it causes in consciousness (which includes both the manifested appearances and what falls out of our reflective thoughts and other endeavors). Religious and spiritual beliefs should usually concern themselves with that domain rather than intruding upon the world of experience, reasoning, and experiment (natural realm). Science in the context of the latter pursues explanations that enable us to manipulate that version of the world or its system of hanging together. Whereas the former is a target of speculation for human tribal traditions and whatever they consider applicable before they're born and after they're dead (occasionally holding that they're still cognizant in another way and abiding in something other than oblivion or nothingness).

    This dichotomy for allowing the two sides to get along with each other -- of the level of appearances being for science to investigate and the supposed level it is hierarchically nested in is for the adventures in spiritual metaphysics to romp in -- goes back at least to Leibniz. (Probably earlier -- whenever natural philosophy started doing more than just cataloguing and indexing the living and non-living residents of nature).

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  16. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    No we don't.
    And how exactly is this evidence for the mind directly affecting changes in brain activity?
    Could it not be a case of the brain receiving, interpreting and responding to external stimuli with the mind simply part of that process that makes it seem to the individual that the mind is the agency?
    You are assuming a causal independence but have not demonstrated it, either empirically or logically.
    Already addressed?
    You may have asserted as much previously but you have done nothing else.
    While it is granted that simply being an activity of an object does not bestow upon the object the property of being conscious, it is also true that the falling action of an object does not bestow upon an object the property of rolling.
    My point: if consciousness is an activity, your argument is nothing other than you saying that a process that does not bestow consciousness upon the object is not a process that bestows consciousness.
    Do you have an argument to show that it is not possible for a process to bestow the object with consciousness?

    Magical ingredients?
    Do you think calculating 1+1 is as complex as resolving the harmonic frequency of a bridge containing a large number of interdependent parts?
    If you don't, if you think one is more complex than the other then you acknowledge that complexity is a proprety.
    If you think that an individual H2O molecule is wet then okay, you don't accept the notion of emergence.
    But otherwise you do accept it.
    So why are these seen as "magical ingredients"?
    Are you really using there currently being no scientific explanation as evidence for it being a non-scientific matter?
    Until we know what is actually happening within the brain how can we possibly use that as evidence for the soul being some external phenomenon?
  17. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    All of the examples of 'mind' that we know of are associated with biological organisms. (Apart from some ghost stories of doubtful plausibility I guess. And even the ghosts supposedly manifest in particular places.) If 'mind' is understood functionally, and if those functions are reducible to and emergent from the behavior of physical reality (and that's my own hypothesis), then locating mind spatio-temporally is what we would expect. It would be wherever the functions are occurring. Contra-Moore (one of my favorite philosophers) I don't think that it's necessarily a category mistake at all.

    But... if we follow the rather Vedantic (and Kantian) 'transcendental self' line that I outlined in my reply to JamesR (I suspect Moore was thinking in terms of Kant and the late 19th century British Idealists that Moore and Russell were reacting against) then I fully agree with you and Moore. If mind is what creates the categories of space and time Kantian-style as conditions of any possible perception, then it would be space and time being dependent on mind, not mind located somewhere in pre-existing space and time.

    I don't think that everyone is thinking about the same thing when they talk blithely about 'the soul'. Small differences in definition make huge differences down the line in how the thing is conceived. That's why the original question in this thread is so good.
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  18. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    You do know that there is a direct physical link between what Einstein worked out, and our understanding of it?
    It's called chalk, blackboard, pen, paper, ink, books, letters, tape recorders etc.
    Information is passed on this way, via physical medium, or often simply through oral means.
    So I'm not sure what your point really is?
    Please can you clarify?
  19. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    That's an interesting perspective I haven't considered. Worth pondering..
  20. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

    Aye - it makes sense in a tangential sort of way; like anything else with a set amount of work it can accomplish, when there is more "vital" work to do, there is less overhead for "less important" tasks (much like a Graphics Card attempting to render a multi-layer photoshop project, render the screen for a high definition video game, and record, encode, transcode, and transmit live-streaming video of said game, all at the same time). Take away a bit of the load (such as rendering the photoshop project) and the other activities proceed better.

    Now, granted, we don't know just how capable the human mind is when it comes to simultaneous tasking, especially between the autonomous and the somatic systems - it has always irritated me that we try so very hard to define things (such as chronic depression) and proceed to treating them while there is still so much we don't know about our own brains. I get that we have to do something for treatment... but as an example, the finding that Ritalin would exacerbate adult ADD due to its effects on the brain are the kinds of things that worry me. What "classic" treatments will we find are actually causing harm down the road?

    Anyway... I'm way off tangent now... >_>
  21. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Yes we do. Our own experience shows us our mind's own ability to act, to intend, to plan, and to cause events to happen. It is a direct and self-evident datum of experience.

    lol! Because the mind IS changing brain activity in what it chooses and thinks and intends and imagines and remembers. And no, that causal agency of the mind is not an illusion. I intend to raise my hand, and my hand raises. My mind actually caused this, not some secret purpose lying inside the brain.

    It's demonstrated everyday in everything we do. The words we think about and say. The actions we choose to perform. What we focus our attention on. etc etc. A functioning brain has no capacity to do this, unless you are saying it is a conscious entity in itself now. It isn't. It is just a big ball of self-shocking blood-sucking meat.

    What? The falling action doesn't bestow rolling activity on the object? What are you talking about? Where does the rolling come from then?

    Much as you claim that a process that does bestow consciousness upon an object is a process that bestows consciousness.You would have us accept uncritically that even though all known activities of objects are not themselves conscious, in the case of brain activity it IS conscious just because that is the function of the brain.

    It's not my burden to disprove your claim. You need to provide an argument for why a process by virtue being a mere process, activity, or function, bestows consciousness on an object. Just asserting it is so is not argument.

    What does that have to do with anything?

    But is such a property that leads logically to consciousness? That has yet to be established.

    But is consciousness such an emergent property that just spontaneously appears in non-conscious brain cells? You assume it is. But you have no way of proving it.

    Because you are investing these properties with the power to produce consciousness and a mind out of brain tissue without showing how they can.

    Yes..I'm using there being no scientific explanation for a phenomenon as a reason to posit a non-scientific explanation that works.

    We do largely know what is happening in brains. Neurologists are making huge headway in this field. But it hasn't added one clue as to how consciousness and the mind exist.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
  22. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    All we have is our own subjective view of our mind's ability as agent.
    This is not the same as our mind actually being the agent.
    Increasingly there is evidence that our conscious mind is only aware of things after the brain has already decided, yet the mind takes credit for it.
    The mind, as function, has created this illusion of agency by the mind itself, rather than the mind simply being part of the brain.
    How do you know that it is the mind that determines this and influences the brain, rather than the brain determining it, influencing itself, with the mind simply that part of the processing that is self-aware and taking credit for it?
    Now please excuse me if I don't take your simplistic scientific study too seriously, given that you are using the "mind" to determine what the mind is responsible for.
    Unfortunately scientific research is suggesting that the mind is somewhat late to the party:
    This is somewhat old, and research has progressed, but it gives you a good start.
    Also look at the issue of neuroscience related to freewill.
    And how does any of what you offer s evidence suggest that the mind cannot be simply part and parcel of the brain's activity?
    If the mind is an emergent property of the activity of a normally functioning brain then the mind would appear to determine such things while still being simply the activity of the brain.
    So what you demonstrate is that what we call a mind exists, but not what it actually is, and certainly not that it is distinct from the brain.
    Rolling, according to your argument, would come from the non-material thing called "rolling" that would apply itself to the object.
    No, I am saying that it has not been shown to be impossible for a process to bestow consciousness.
    You have simply asserted that processes can not do so.
    I am offering the possibility that, due to the complexity of the activity in the brain, consciousness emerges from that activity, just as wetness emerges from a collection of H2O molecules that individual molecules do not have.
    Individual processes can be limited, but when those processes interact you can get something that neither is individually capable of: just think of your computer... Is each electronic process capable of translating language?
    Yet combine some processes and you get a machine that can translate, roughly, what you type into many languages.
    Are the individual processes within the computer, within the software, even, capable of that?
    It takes the interaction of many simple interactions to create the more complex process capable of doing so.
    Please stop misrepresenting my position.
    I have told you before that I am not asserting that simply by virtue of being a mere process it bestows consciousness.
    I am saying that it has not shown to be impossible that a process, through complexity of the right consituent parts, can become conscious.
    As such there is no need, until that has been show no on be impossible, to invoke anything additional such as a non-material "soul", or anything as distinctly dualistic.
    You referred to complexity as a magical ingredient.
    I am saying that it is simply an ingredient.
    Nothing magical about it.
    But until it has been ruled out, why invoke a dualistic approach involving the non-material?
    I don't assume it is.
    I currently accept that it is as a conclusion rather than up front assumption, because I feel it satisfies Occam's razor compared to the notion of a non-material "soul".
    As and when it is shown that a process, or activity, can not possibly become conscious, then other options would be more rational to accept.
    And you can show how the non-material soul brings forth consciousness?
    You can show how this soul interacts with the material realm?
    One does not need to show how it happens before accepting it as the more rational alternative compared to the theory that there is a non-material "soul" that has no chance of ever being evidenced or adequately explained.
    If it is possible that it can do so, and there is as yet no reason to yet conclude that it is not possible, then that is sufficient to be considered (by me at least) more rational than any theory involving something unscientific such as the non-material.
    How does it work?
    Simply saying "it is the non-material soul" is no explanation at all.
    How does it interact with the material realm, to start with?
    Making up stories and fanciful notions to answer that which can't yet be answered with actual evidence... I find to be odd.
    At worst one should simply conclude "I don't know".
    Sheesh, and this is an excuse to jump onto explanations that are outside of science?
    Why do you expect science to have the answers yet?
    We are talking about the most complex thing that we are aware of, and rather than conclude "we don't yet know" you are jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions that can never be proven.
    If that gives you comfort, fair enough.
    Personally I'll go with "I don't know" and accept a theory that is at least falsifiable as being the more rational position to take for now.
  23. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Fair enough then. Tks for the engaging discussion..
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2017

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