Scott Staples

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The theory of Dualism raises interesting questions about the existence of the Soul

I'm talking about the main/matter distinction. Matter can obviously be measured in terms of the physical but consciousness and self-awareness for example, where does this come from? The brain is the source of intelligence, this is able to be scientifically measured and it was René Descartes to propose the distiction between that intelligence, which could be attributed to a physical being, and other mental phenomona, for which were inexplicably unable to be physically measured.

A type of dualism called substance dualism proposes that the mental does not have an extension in space, that is to say, our thoughts cannot be measured physically, and the material cannot think. This is an interesting proposal considering the brain, the source of all our thoughts, is entirely material.

I don't consider myself religious but I do have an open mind. Consider for example that the 'soul' was the source of intelligence and self-awareness, it makes sense that the soul would be 'weightless'. If consciousness does not arise from matter, which is widely accepted, where does it come from?

This is not supposed to raise arguements about the existence of God but rather, the existence of the soul.

  • Apr 21 2011: @Chabel (this is in response to your post starting with "My assumptions?...")

    The Dalai Lama, Ghandi, and similar humanitarians are sufficient evidence to prove we are all not possessed by demons.

    I don't find it necessary to answer the rest of your questions. I think I actually agree with you, except in one regard. Which is that I have faith that a soul is a distinct possibility, while you do not. But I do think that there is physical evidence, yet, that proves the soul exists.
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    Apr 16 2011: however, you didn't present their ideas, nor any sort of evidence on behalf of them. simply stating that mind and matter are two different things is not enough. we either know that, or know the opposite, or we don't know. as of now, we don't know. but some evidence is starting to build up on the contrary. there are many links that connect brain areas to behavior and knowledge. so either you classify behavior and knowledge as matter, and not part of mind, or we found close correspondence between matter and mind.

    interestingly, the former is not nonsense. buddhism pretty much claims that. in (one version of?) buddhism, the soul is ethernal. but everything that changes, must have a beginning and must have an end. that means things that changes are not part of the soul. knowledge, memories and behavior are parts of the samsara, the buddhist version of the material world.

    on the other hand, this link we found is a weak one. it does not allow us to model even human behavior, with any accuracy. that's why ludwig von mises proposed "methodological dualism", leaving the question theoretically open, but practically choosing dualism as a method of dealing with our affairs.
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    May 13 2011: well lets say you, from a pysical and biolgical standpoint, completely cloned a person. i meen, completely. would the clone think the same? have the same opnions as the orrginal? if not, why? what else was left to clone? maybe something beyond matter?
    • May 13 2011: Wow, that would definately help resolve some of the questions. Good point!
  • May 13 2011: 2 Scott
    You asked "… Do you think it is possible to experience level of consciousness above that of a human?"
    Yes, if you accept Maslow’s theories, most will not reach self-actualization, safe to say if most cannot become self-actualized coming face to face with the soul is still out of reach. Most of the things imagined a hundred or more years ago are now reality. I am confident the same will be said (if we are not foolish) of many of the things imagined today. Some pass so fast they almost don't exists, Compact Disc's for example, originally toted as the new thing, are now obsolete for flash drives that have no moving parts. Yes big business holds on to it, holding technology back to suit their needs, not because the CD’s time hasn’t already come and gone.
    As for a soul, proven or unproven, neither. Life with a soul and without, might be a better way to try to quantify this discussion, no? Life with a soul would mean we exist beyond the physical form, therefore living still in a shroud of ignorance. Life without a soul would mean we have come to an understanding beyond our existence and therefore have reached the end, not of gaining knowledge or of understandings, just that existence happens and then doesn’t for no apparent reason. Having said that, I feel we already exist beyond through dreams. Even if just electric impulses in our brains, the detail created there, rivals the physical reality we understand now.
    Currently many refuse to accept or even contemplate if something unseen, unknown, unproven exists. Everything requires quantifying and categorizing, which is fine when something is within ones capabilities; otherwise, one is left with mock and ridicule for looking beyond. As example, there was no way to prove the world was round at one point and therefore it was flat, when we gained the ability to prove it either way, the world became round. As a side note, science is just as guilty of holding back progress as religion is.
  • Apr 19 2011: @Chabel

    For some reason my browser won't let me reply to the thread

    But to respond to your latest post...

    I have previously stated that I am unsure of what the "glue" is. I would like to reinforce the fact that I am merely suggesting the feasibility of something beyond physical material, not necessarily that it 100% does indeed exist.

    Here is some evidence and experimental data that support my argument.

    There are plenty of recorded accounts of out-of-body, near death experiences where people are exposed to information or situations that should have been impossible for them to experience, because they were allegedly dead at the time. Of course, the primary counterargument to this is that they could be lying or being partially dishonest. But, I highly doubt dishonesty is universally the case.


    The "Germination Intention Experiments" have shown that plants that are given healing intention by "healers" grow faster and have overall better health, than the control group. This is not an isolated study either, it has been redone several times in numerous locations.
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      Apr 20 2011: Hey Austin! Cheers for the links.

      I do not see how this proves or gives any merit to a soul, some metaphysical thing. Energy interacts in marvellous ways; you are electrical at your core. Surely, when you are overcome by fear or love this can impact things in your surroundings which are also electrical. We emanate energy; we are energy. Touch is also very important; I believe their have been studies where newborn babies are deprived of touch and how this is detrimental to them. Additionally, think of the intimacy and beneficial results music have on the body! Music is vibrations in the ear of the tiny follicles and then translated by the brain. It is very intimate and can be negative and beneficial; it is, however, not an example of a non-physical entity or force. Touch is very much physical, words are physical and intimate.

      Energy is physical. Massage is great as it relieves pressure in the body, but is so sensual, so physical. For me you just showed how the closely knit connections between energy and how intimate it is. I have no qualms with the idea energy my have some form of memory or is malleable by other energy, but it is all a physical system. The interaction was physical in my opinion and the 'results' were physical. Some call massage and music spiritual because of the sheer intimacy of the experience, but I call that heightened physicality. Many other variables in those studies need accounting. Simple things such as sun exposure.

      Out-of-body experiences can be induced in healthy people: It is a sensory illusion.

      And if someone is 'allegedly dead', they were not dead. They probably had an oxygen deprived brain and some very weird misfiring in the brain. Are hallucinations an example of a soul? What about hallucinations of a paranoid schizophrenic? How do explain them?

      I would call your explanation as feasible as the tea pot behind Mars controlling the universe.
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          Apr 20 2011: I thought the tea pot was god ;)
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      • Apr 20 2011: @Chabel
        You're making your assumptions sound like scientific fact again. How does your response indubitably contradict my evidence regarding the Germination Experiments?

        As far as near death experiences are concerned, I see your point. Though, I do have a question. How do you explain the things they see that should have otherwise been impossible see/learn?

        [insert rude metaphor here]
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          Apr 21 2011: My assumptions? We are made of energy and we are effectively all interconnected. This is fact. Prove me wrong. There is always doubt in any scientific thesis; you have no idea about the falsification principle in science it would seem. If you can prove to me an immaterial existence, I will believe in it. Prove to me a soul exists. Now, may I just add, you have not presented any such evidence. Your evidence is equivalent to say music is non-physical. You are talking about touch. Additionally, other variables are not accounted for in the study such as sun exposure from my reading. I do not see how this is evidence of a metaphysical existence, just an extension of what is already known about physical systems: nothing in that study was immaterial. Answer my questions. You have yet to do so. I have responded to all of yours. If you keep on this track, I will not waste my time with you.

          What does that even mean "impossible"? The fact it occurred shows the brain can formulate hallucinations of all different diversity. Please, show me an example of an 'impossible' hallucination. Gremlins can be imagined, just like a 'soul'. They are equally as substantiated by facts.

          Rude metaphor? I hardly think so. Your evidence is basically, "You cannot conclusively prove me wrong." No, I can't. I never said I could. What I said is that it is the equivalent of me going, "There is a teapot behind Mars. Prove me wrong." "Well Austin, there is no evidence to suggest such and your proof actually never demonstrates anything metaphysical or pertaining to being supernatural."

          Tell me Austin. I believe we are all possessed by demons. Prove me 'indubitably' wrong.
  • Apr 17 2011: Kathy !
    Here's a little poem for you Kathy. It's called "The Tone" I wrote it myself... hope you like it ;-)

    The tone is not the flute itself indeed
    nor is it the air vibrating over the reed
    The tone is more than the sum of the two
    The tone can also be quiet ... it can choose
    It knows that music is also in the spaces between the notes
    But the tone... "created" by the musician
    who holds the flute.. blows into it....gently ... hears carefully ...
    where the tone is
    not too high .. not too low...
    the volume too must be just so...
    and then the audience they too are part of the show
    will they dance ??
    or will they go ??
    .. and what bird
    would not be heard
    should his voice
    be but one word
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      Apr 16 2011: bold statement. Care to provide back-up for this idea?
      • Apr 17 2011: Matthieu,
        Look... I don't know Kathy.. but can be Kathy's back up ! ;-)
        What do you think about that ??!!
        It's one thing to always have "back up".... but it's also possible to think yourself !
        If you say "I'm hungry !" can I then say "back it up!"

        Simply ask yourself how your physical brain can recall the color green.
        or ...can you recall the first time you rode a bicycle..?
        Can you recall the taste of that ice cream you had the other day?
        How many thousands or millions or trillions of sense impressions are bouncing around in the neurons of your brain? Do you really think that all that you have experienced in life is in some little "storage room" in the grey matter of your folds of your physical brain, where little cells / neurons go back behind a little curtain and fish out the information the you remember (consciously and unconsciously remember) and they come out again and present it to you on a little silver plate. You know... sometimes I wonder who is really more superstitious.... the down to the bone materialists or the people sitting in the church rows. It has to be some kind of strange prejudice that people live with that deny all possibility of the spiritual / soul world and rather "believe" in tiny little messengers that run around in the dark areas of the brain and collect and store our memories. As for explaining things like consciousness.... imagination.... intuition ... thinking.. well as any and all emotions... will.. or even "free will" all these things are totally out of the range of understanding without some concepts of soul and spirit. If you let your prejudices control you then you will surely never fully reach an understanding of the human being. You will spend the rest of your life grouping around in the dark corners of your mind looking for some kind of answers to this great mystery that we live in.. the mystery of who we are. The material aspects of our being are only a small part of it.... on this you must agree..
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          Apr 17 2011: Well you certainly have an interesting way of characterizing what I accept to be true, but yes, that is what I really believe. Of course, I'm sure there are a lot of subtleties about the brain that still evade us completely, but I wouldn't fall back on a spiritual concept to fill in those gaps in knowledge (unless of course there are some empirical reasons to do so). Are there any particularly good reasons to which you could provide?

          As an imperfect analogy I'd point out that it'd be hard to imagine a hardrive containing the kind of elaborate information and interactions it does if we weren't used to it and only half understood it.
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      Apr 17 2011: Stand still while I perform a full-frontal lobotomy on you. Lets see what you have to say then! Okay, the jesting aside - how do you prove this? Yes, it is true other parts of the anatomy have nervous systems (I believe out intestinal region does and there is also suggestion of one in the heart; if I am wrong, could someone correct me?), and it is also true our spine can make decisions or spinal reflexes by the way of interneurons. But, the brain is what is proven to be central to your personality, analytical skills, language, imagination.. and all the things you tell me are not attributable to the brain. You are running with superstition like an esoteric mystic. You are effectively arguing that there is no communication from brain to nerves. This is just simply false. How do you move your appendages?
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      Apr 17 2011: Kathy at what evolutionary level would consciousness come into play? sheep? or a frog? Do you think the kind of consciousness you're talking about is restricted to humans?
      • Apr 17 2011: Scott,
        Not at all... animals too have consciousness but its not "incarnated" consciousness. They have a shared or what is called a "group consciousness" as I mentioned earlier as you see in a flock of birds.... sheep or whatever. Their consciousness is much more outside their physical body. You can also see this phenomenon in more sensitive animals that are what we call "spooky" they can be .... horses
        or deer... The group soul you could say "operates" in the individual as is reflected in the animals behavior. The more united the animals appear the more the group consciousness reveals itself. A bear is much more of an individual than a bird. In the sea you can see exactly the same pattern of behavior in sharks when they hunt or whales when they operate as a group moving in on their prey. The wolf has evolved this tactic of hunting too. They seem to know exactly what the other one is doing in circling in on their prey. While the owl for example is very individualized. The fact that mankind has grown out of this flock behavior shows that we are becoming more and more individuals in the world. Older and more primitive cultures still live strongly in this tribal instinct of the group soul. Their relationship to their dead relatives may also be something that is absolutely a real experience. The fact that tribes in Africa claim that they can still communicate with the souls of their dead ancestors. This is a common practice in many places in Africa, Asia, Australia and other places in the world where tribes havn't been so exposed to the modern way of living.
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          Apr 18 2011: Hi Kathy...........I really like your posts. As I said before, every living thing has an energizing principle............Soul.........but the Eden myth is an attempt to explain the level of consciouness between animals and humans. Animals are not self aware and humans are. Animals have no concept of good and evil. I believe in the eternal life of a soul. I am thinking ...what is a thought ? Can anyone assure me that a thought is "nothing but" a chemical reaction.?
        • Apr 18 2011: Hi Helen, and welcome to the discussion.... we've only just begun !
          Just a quick comment. A thought is not and never will be just a chemical reaction. A chemical reaction can be seen, measured, weighed as the neural firing can be. But a thought is totally immaterial. Of this I can assure you.
          As for the "energy" principle ... this is called the "etheric" principle not to be confused with the soul body which has more to do with all of your feelings and emotions. The etheric or life body is what we share with the plant world as well as the animal world. It is a body of light. This is where all of your memories are stored. ...NOT in your physical brain as most of the scientific world claims today. I agree with Kathy that the simple physical matter of the brain can do nothing by itself. The three higher elements of our being are united in the brain to perform all the complicated functions that have each their locality in the physical brain. So when someone says to you (Chabel in the case here) that a lobotomy proves that such and such a function is coming from that or that part of the brain.... well this is the materialists illusion. The real activity is going on in the interplay between the spiritual elements of our being. Your " I " (your self-consciousness and your thinking ) penetrates into your "soul" (or feeling body.. all your senses, pleasure, pain, love, hate etc.) which again penetrate and rest on the water element which is the barer of the life energy body.... a real body of light of energy that is released from the physical body after you die....
          I know all this sounds pretty esoteric... and it is... but in see the nature of our being in this way... a whole new world of understanding our being opens up to us... sleep... death.... reincarnation.. clairvoyance... phantom limbs ..... and many more "unexplainable things suddenly take on a whole new perspective.. but one has to give up a lot of the traditional way of seeing things.... but its worth it!
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          Apr 19 2011: okay thanks Kathy and Daniel,

          So from what I've read of your's, humans have been able to transcend the level of consciousness that an animal experiences. Do you think it is possible to experience level of consciousness above that of a human?

          Daniel I thought what you wrote about the animal "group consciousness" was interesting. I feel it is fairly evident that the humn race has a collective mind, how do you think this relates to the "group consciousness" experienced by some animals?
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    Apr 16 2011: Conflation of constituents, specialised cells called neurons, into more complicated systems created consciousness. Evolution testifies to this. If you or I damage your brain, your supposedly transcendental 'mind' suffers the physical imposition. I think it is obvious that dualism is a misunderstanding that conflation and emergence creates new functionality different to its singular reductionistic units: it requires complicated interplay.
    • Apr 16 2011: The "evolutionist" sees no other possibilities than the "consciousness from material" explanation. This is a blind alley. Consciousness hasn't much chance of arising out of matter, but consciousness can penetrate matter. Is it conceivable that consciousness could perhaps supersede the material and "fasten itself" over time. The child self-consciousness develops over time..(usually about 3 years old) The word " I " develops in the vocabulary of the child as does his experience of himself gradually becoming an "individual" The consciousness settles in up through the growing child's life and even continues into adulthood. Although the first awakening comes at three years, the individual "wakes up" throughout his / her life in general.... although some people I swear are walking around fast asleep.....
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          Apr 17 2011: If you could read my reply to Daniel, I think you would find I explain this to some degree. Argue with it if you want, I will gladly defend it.
        • Apr 17 2011: Hello again Kathy ! Nice to read your words again. You are really out on the front lines here on TED defending the soul and spirit elements of man / woman with your bare and bloody hands. There are some hard nuts to crack though. But it is a difficult thought to try to grasp though. To try to understand how consciousness itself could be free from the physical body. I don't feel the obligation to follow up this conversation so closely this time. I haven't written here on TED since the last conversation (The nature of consciousness, Is consciousness merely a by-product of the physical brain) It was good to take a break for a few weeks and let it sink in a bit. There were almost 650 comments and I felt like I was writing all the time. ...... excuse me ...... I think I have some tea on the boil behind Mars..
          By the way ... on Mars.... I love that picture you have there.... the cosmic eye !!.
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        Apr 17 2011: Daniel, this proposition makes little sense to me. I am not sure what you are basing this on or if it just your pontificating like some mystical shaman: I am more prone to think it is without evidence and just some pontiwaffle. I think you can work out the portmanteau.

        Now, I want evidence of this transcendental matter or are you going to base your unsubstantiated claims on the idea, "It is metaphysical and cannot be quantified." That is the equivalent of me going, "There is a tea pot behind Mars and you can never see it - but, it definitely exists!" You have fallen prey to superstition in order to give a "cohesive" universal picture, which is bunk when we look at the evidence.

        The brain is made up of many different specialised structures; some cortices in one hemisphere are predominantly dedicated to language (see Wernicke's and Brocca's areas) etcetera and so forth. If we have damage to this area, our 'mind' is affected. Why should we assume that there is any more to it than physical complexity emerging with a new function? Evolution testifies to this: the gradual increase in the size of the neo-cortex and how this correlates strongly with increased cognitive ability. How do you explain this? Did consciousness, floating or existing however you believe, suddenly just endow itself upon us? If it was a god, when does god decide to give us consciousness?

        The way you are talking, god enlightens us now and then and it has nothing to do with brain plasticity, activation of genes, neurotransmitters or the natural maturation of a human. "I" is simple a construct used to organise and uniform a biological entity with complicated consciousness; this is to prevent it from feeling disassociated and that it can function as a whole unit instead of millions and millions of constituents. Identity and separation is an evolutionary illusion, if you will. If you know anything about the 'Gandhi neuron' you will understand how we separate ourselves but are very connected to others
        • Apr 17 2011: Hi Chabel,

          I would like to pose a few questions.

          When you state, "If we have damage to this area, our 'mind' is affected." How can we be sure that our mind and consciousness is truly being affected? Couldn't it merely be affecting our immaterial mind's ability to fully interact with our physical brain?

          Also, when you stated, " "I" is simple a construct used [...] millions and millions of constituents." Please enlighten me on how you know this for certain. Considering you accused Daniel of making "unsubstantiated claims" I think that it's only fair for me to ask you to substantiate yours.
        • Apr 17 2011: Austin,
          Chabel only makes this "assumption" of course. Those who "propose" to keep on the scientific mat are very often wandering around in a world of assumptions that they don't see or realize themselves..... although they don't like it at all when you point it out to them ! Chabel thinks that if he can only get a strong enough microscope then he will one day be able to observe tiny little thoughts streaming out of neuron cells..... and then point to them saying "here! here! I have found the thought itself!" ... and perhaps even try to prove to us that even the thought itself is also only... "material" ... but we know this is foolishness!
          He tries to say that the " I " is also an illusion.... also foolishness ! He wants to call it a construct !
          Let me ask you this Chabel ... Who is then calling the " I " a construct ?? Think about what your saying.... " I " ... am calling my own " I " a construct...?? This is quite self contradictory what your saying here Chabel...Who has then constructed the construct...?? How can you make this statement then...?? (or is it not you making the statement .... but only your "construct"...?? )
          It is obviously you that is living in your own illusion ! Try to get your construct to respond to this question Chabel......
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          Apr 18 2011: @ Austin: Why would I add an unnecessary paradigm when the fact I can alter/damage a physical component and what we abstractly called "mind" or "consciousness" is affected? You are saying consciousness is entangled with the physical, but not the physical. Tell me, how do you get the "consciousness" and "brain" to glue together, so to speak, so that they function simultaneously? We should also add a second unnecessary paradigm to this!

          Now, show me an immaterial mind. No point working off of that premise if it is false. Prove the existence of a soul, a "ghost in the machine", gremlins in my noggin' et cetera. And, while you are at it, explain how these two essences, or as I referred to them before as 'paradigms', function together. Where is the 'glue"?

          It is quite easy to prove we use the construct "I" to describe our whole physical constituency (or if you want to add a superfluous paradigm). Do you use the word "I" to talk about your arm or your foot? I think you use it in a holistic manner. This construct is an abstract manifestation of consciousness which I believe to be wholly physical; it emerged as we became complicated, self-aware and articulate beings to direct our multi-cellular bodies: identity. I think identity is an evolutionary illusion, an efficient one.

          And Daniel has completely ignored my view: I said it the 'mind' (a description or symbolic, abstract construct) emerged from constituents; I am saying it is a complicated neuronal electrochemical physical interaction and not that our thoughts reside in some smaller part of, say, a neuron. Our thoughts exist on the plane of current neuronal complexity. I do think research in neuroscience/neurobiology will further demystify the brain.

          And the "thing" calling myself "I" is the physical entity; it is called metacognition. May I ask what thing calls your "soul" a soul and what thing calls your soul's soul a soul... We could keep going with this. I, my physicality, believes abstract thought = brain.
        • Apr 18 2011: Kathy,
          Thanks for the note (email)..... "the note" (as in music ... as in the poem)... its a pretty good analogy isn't it ?

          Consciousness's wind blows gently over the reeds of the mind. Our flute .. our physical being is played upon by the consciousness.. the music which come forth is our "being" or better said our "being-ness" Our spirit then... must be the conductor of the whole symphony as it moves in all its measures in time... our soul seems to be the music itself... our danse..
          must be the showing of our love and emotion.. If we refuse to hear the music... we can never learn to dance.
          You Kathy have learned to dance ! While others are still crawling on all fours.... Their destiny is somehow their teacher.... whatever it may be.
          Sometimes I experience that these discussions on TED can be discouraging. Although there is a strong fascination that pulls me towards it. I sometimes ask myself what is really the point. Who is it that I am trying to convince... It was good to take a few weeks off and not think about it at all.
          I will be off line for about 5 days now. Tomorrow I am riding my motorcycle over to the west side of Norway for Easter and there is no internet there.
          If you want to read some more poems you can check out the last few comments on my discussion that I mentioned earlier about "The nature of consciousness, Is consciousness merely a by-product of the physical brain". It's pretty interesting how poetry can open up a whole new dimension in as discussion. It would be fun to have a discussion with just poetry the whole way through !
          Take care for now.
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        • Apr 19 2011: @Chabel

          I asked two questions. I never stated my position, you assumed (again...) and started attacking what you assumed I believe.

          You may be right, the concept of "I", our identities, may be nothing more than an evolutionary adaptation. But, there is also a chance that our identities transcend physical restriction. How? I do not know. I just believe that our ability to maintain this "illusion" of constant identity throughout so many years could be due to a transcendant characteristic that goes beyond the material world.
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          Apr 19 2011: @Austin:

          I am sorry if I was too presumptuous, but all my questions are relevant questions to be asked of anyone holding the position in a transcendental essence. And do we really maintain a constancy in our identity? Are you the same person that you were five seconds ago? Would you not have had more experience, aged and even grown closer to death? Their may be some seemingly static features, but they are constant evolving to the environment they are in. This is how we survive.

          Although, if you are going to argue for this possibility (which I would liken to arguing the existence of a teapot on the other side of Mars...), you need to give some solid reasoning, corroboration or a model that internally consistent with our scientific understanding. You have not. I have made copious references to neurological findings.

          Where is your evidence? How do you solve the simultaneous interaction between "mind" and "body" if they are separate paradigms and yet entangled? And if so, by what? What is the metaphorical 'glue'? You have no addressed these questions.

          Please do.
        • Apr 19 2011: I have previously stated that I am unsure of what the "glue" is. I would like to reinforce the fact that I am merely suggesting the feasibility of something beyond physical material, not necessarily that it 100% does indeed exist.

          Here is some evidence and experimental data that support my argument.

          There are plenty of recorded accounts of out-of-body, near death experiences where people are exposed to information or situations that should have been impossible for them to experience, because they were allegedly dead at the time. Of course, the primary counterargument to this is that they could be lying or being partially dishonest. But, I highly doubt dishonesty is universally the case.


          The "Germination Intention Experiments" have shown that plants that are given healing intention by "healers" grow faster and have overall better health, than the control group. This is not an isolated study either, it has been redone several times in numerous locations.

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    Apr 16 2011: "If consciousness does not arise from matter, which is widely accepted, where does it come from?" completely false premise. It isn't widely accepted at all.

    Consciousness can be altered following diverse brain traumas which would tend to void the utility and existence of a soul. There is a known case of a split-brain patient appearing two have two separate conscious experiences, would that mean this person has two souls?
    • Apr 16 2011: It was once widely accepted that the world was flat..... that's not so any longer. Because something is widely accepted doesn't mean that it is correct.
      A person that has had a brain trauma can experience their consciousness as being two just as a psychotic person may feel themselves as two. Often people can talk to themselves as they were two.But it may also mean that the soul can manifest itself in more than one place at a time. I can give you this example...take a flock of birds or a school of fish. They move as one.... and in a soul / spiritual sense they are one. They have a group soul or you might say they share one consciousness. Just as your ten fingers do. If I put my fingers through ten holes in a cardboard box and you are on the other side, you would have the experience that these fingers are ten individuals (with ten individual consciousnesses) If I moved them simultaneously you might say to yourself ... gee, that seems strange... how they can move as one being at exactly the same moment in time...just like a flock of birds. Well this is exactly how consciousness works, although our consciousness, as human beings, is within us... also.."incarnated" While the animals still live in a form of a "group soul" Consciousness may "appear" to be altered but it may be that it is only being hindered in its ability of expression or its manifestation. This is the same with handicapped individuals. They are only hindered in their manifestation of their consciousness ... while their true spirit self is "whole"
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        Apr 17 2011: well I wouldn't be one to make the ad populum falacy, but it's still the case that saying this idea is widely-accepted is factually incorrect.
        I'm not sure your definition of consciousness is one I recognise. Couldn't you similarly argue that since atoms in a solid or (to a certain extent) in a liquid move in tandem, they have one soul? I don't know if cases of synchrony in nature can really be said to be equivalent to some shared consciousness. The example of fingers doesn't really seem to concern one's consciousness but rather an observer's perceived interpretation of consciousness. That a person revises their definition of the finger-consciousness mapping doesn't really affect the actual state of consciouness of the owner of the ten fingers.

        Also I'm not sure where you derived your ideas about incarnated souls vs. group souls and all that.
        • Apr 18 2011: Mat, can I call you Mat?
          Could be that Scott mixed up what he meant to say there in the intro. But I'm not so sure that it is widely accepted that consciousness does not arise out of matter. But regardless of what the general consensus might be, the question is clear that the one side of the debate says that consciousness arises out of material and the other side says that consciousness can exist itself without any physical basis for its existence. This is a the crutch of the matter (excuse me... the crutch of the consciousness..)
          It's quite OK that you don't recognize my definition but it may get clearer as we move on in the discussion. I also prefer to characterize than to define. It brings the truth more into view than quickly setting a definition upon something... as the plant you observe growing today is not the same plant that you observe tomorrow or the day after. The river... where is the river?... is it the water itself flowing by... the water you saw yesterday has already reached the ocean... is it the river bed ? We have to first agree that certain foundations in our understanding of the world and ourselves must be taken as a fact if we are to get any closer to any form for truth.
          One of these facts is that ... by our agreement on a definition ... the " I " in man / woman exists. To say as Chabel means to say... that the " I " is just a construct is not leading anywhere. Then there is no truth to find. There is no emotion. There are no thoughts... everything is just a construct.... This to me is not even worth discussing. The " I " is something that " I "experience directly... as "I am hungry... I am tired" etc.etc. say "My construct of my I is now hungry" is simply foolishness. Chabel has thought himself around in a big circle... like Pinker might do.
          I think we can agree that the " I " in you and the " I " in me both exist in their full reality... even the " I " in Chabel exists though he might try to deny it.
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          Apr 20 2011: Sorry, I did there too. I should have said 'still debated' instead of 'widely accepted' which it cleary isn't
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        Apr 20 2011: Taking on a genius like Steven Pinker? Now that could prove to be interesting.
  • Apr 16 2011: Hello Scott,
    Thanks for starting this interesting topic. I had a similar discussion here on TED about a month ago which was titled "Is consciousness merely a by-product of the physical brain". It gathered almost 650 comments in the course of a month. This question has haunted mankind throughout history. What I think will be the decisive factor in this question will be the research that springs out of the phenomenon of Near Death Experiences. The fact that modern medicine can retrieve a person back to life after they have been "dead" for a short period of time is something new on this front that is bound to give new and amazing evidence of the mystery of what awaits mankind beyond the threshold of the physical death. There is already surmounting evidence that supports the idea that the soul does in fact live on after the physical body dies. This proposition opens to a lot of attack.... I know ! You can just take a little surf on Youtube and hear some of the testimonies of people that have had NDE. Many will argue that this is not "fact" and in a sense they are right. Facts are something that science can weigh and measure, reproduce causes and effects, etc.etc. .... OK .... but there are many stories that have too many similarities that such a phenomena can be simply disregarded. There are also many books written both from the scientific hold as well as documentaries by people who have had NDE. Medical science is now provoking forth NDE in people and discovering that there is something more than what our physical senses are telling us. There seem to be reports of people who have had "verifiable" experiences while being "dead" or out of the body. That people "see" things from a perspective (f.ex. over the hospital roof) that can later be verified. When enough evidence is gathered on exactly this, the "verifiable evidence". that consciousness can exist while outside of the physical body, then the answer will lie before us. I have a feeling that this will come soon..