This conversation is closed.

What is a soul?

What exactly is a soul, and what function does it serve?

Let me stop the Cartesian Dualists before we begin. Mind and consciousness are strictly physiological phenomenon, we can observe this in brain damaged patients, we can observe it in mental disorder.

So what is a soul? what does it look like or behave like? and what exactly is it's function?

  • thumb
    Apr 19 2011: The soul is what people thought made humans human before they knew any better.
    • Apr 19 2011: so animals not have soul?
      what makes humans human is wisdom. not soul or DNA.
      among all animals, human is the only animal with wisdom.
      • thumb
        Apr 19 2011: That's interesting Ahmadi. Most people I've met that believe in souls, think that only humans have them (I never understood why humans, but not animals).

        So you believe that animals have souls also? How do you define a soul?
        • Apr 19 2011: Dear Tim Colgan,
          yes sure,
          animals and plants have soul.
          soul is the agent of move. and soul make dead body alive.
          soul enter into dead body of human fetus at age of 4 month and make it alive. and a new human is created inside its mother.
          material by itself can not move at all. even one millimeter.
          what make humans human is wisdom. not soul, not DNA.
          wisdom is the most valuable property of human which no animal have it.
        • thumb
          May 7 2011: God provided animals for food for mankind. Their role was never to dominate the earth or rule in any form or fashion. They were food...that is all. The soul was given to man as an eternal gift. The downside is that we can embrace that gift or throw it away.

          As for trees and animals...Sorry Avatar Movie...but only mankind gets it.
        • May 8 2011: Dear Shawn Hart,
          soul is the difference of a dead and an alive body. animals have soul like humans. soul does not make any advantage between human and animal.
          the most valuable eternal gift given to human is "Wisdom" and animals do not have it.
          how you can prove human has soul and animals have not it?
          when a human is dead the soul leaves body ad the same for animals.
  • Apr 19 2011: when you are sleep and your eyes of head are closed, who see dreams is your soul.
    soul is not material. so can not be seen or detected by eye of head. our eye of head just see light reflecting from materials. also soul can not be detected by any material sensor (ear, hand, or any other material sensor)
    each human has 4 soul for 4 function. soul has eye and can see.
    material is limited in time and place. our body is material. but soul is not material and is not limited in time and place and can go through time and place. so in sleep you are in far places or you see future some times in sleep. soul is like wind and can go every where easy.
    we can not understand what is soul. just a little we can understand about soul. there is no way to understand much about soul. you just can go some where if there exist at least a way. when there is no way you can not go there. soul of human is from soul of God. the main function of soul is will and deciding and controlling body. soul is mixed into body and at death soul leave body starting from foot and step by step soul leave parts of body and finally soul leaves body from throat and at last moments of life foot and hand can not be moved by eye can see and finally soul leave body from throat soul order to brain and brain order to body. I am not sure but I think water is what soul can connect to brain using it. soul is not in this universe. soul belong to other universe parallel to this universe of material. and I think the only common thing between these two universe is water. I mean I think water is the only thing both soul and body see it. because soul is not material it need to connect to body that is material and I think this connection between these two universe is by water.(water is my idea and I am not sure about it)
    • Apr 19 2011: When you sleep your body is resting to enter it's repair mode. Think of it like performing diagnostics. What actually happens when you sleep is that your brain starts "checking" all of its neural connections and "lighting them up" randomly. This is why our dreams are sometimes strange, and why they seem to have a particular relevance to our daily lives. The more we think about certain
      things, the more our brain insulates certain pathways. When you sleep your brain "checks" those pathways.

      Also if the soul doesn't exist in space-time it cannot have any influence or force on space-time, this idea is fundamental.
      Will and controlling the body are clearly physical processes. The moving body part is indeed very obvious but maybe I would present this idea. When a neurosurgeon does work on a persons brain he shocks certain areas of the brain and observes the patient's reaction so as to find the area he is looking for, or to be sure not to impair function. He might ask the person to recite the ABC's, and when he shocks a certain area they cannot do it, or instead maybe they start twiddling their fingers. I don't think there is better evidence against the idea of true free will in particular, but also I do not think their is better evidence for human thought as a physical process.
      • Apr 19 2011: yes, when sleeping body and brain rest and check. but this can not explain dream. specially when you see future in dream. at sleeping soul is traveling while body and brain are resting.

        most scientists can NOT say "I do not know" so they try to say a reply to any problem. and themselves are not sure for this reply.

        our body including brain is material and material itself can not start movement. controlling body is physical and function of brain. but what controls brain? when you decide to move your hand what order to brain? brain is anyway material and material can not start movement itself. the first will is from soul and then this will affect brain and brain order to hand.
        soul has connection to body by brain and this connection is by water. brain is a terminal for connecting soul and body. water is an amazing material with connection to universe of soul.
        please look at amazing researches of professor emoto about water:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masaru_Emoto
        http://www.masaru-emoto.net/english/e_ome_home.html
        water is the most amazing material in world.

        yes when shocking a point in brain there is a reflect in body. please note this is when a neurosurgeon do this shock and neurosurgeon has the role of will. but when there is no neurosurgeon and human decide to move his hand while there is no neurosurgeon, who do the role of neurosurgeon? it is soul. soul order to brain (like shock of neurosurgeon) and then brain do its work and send order to body.
        anyway brain is materiel (not important how much complex is brain) and material itself can not start movement and material just can transfer movement (Momentum)
        please read some about Momentum law in physics:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momentum
        when v1=0 so v2 is 0 anyway. so material itself can not start movement.
        material has no will.
        for example consider a robot. how robot start first movement? it has a program and program order to robot. but does a program can start with not pressing a start button? (will
    • thumb
      May 2 2011: Hi Ahmadi

      "soul enter into dead body of human fetus at age of 4 month and make it alive"

      Why at 4 months?

      I understand it attaches at 21 days.
  • Apr 18 2011: I believe the soul consists of two elements: intellect and emotion. I think desire, reasoning, and our decisions, in general, can all be derived from those two components.

    I stray from Plato's view that desire is an independent aspect of the soul because I feel that desire is dependent on reasoning, and reasoning is ultimately a product of intellect.
  • thumb
    May 9 2011: I don't know, I don't have one.
  • May 9 2011: please extend the time of this topic
  • thumb
    May 7 2011: Can the time limit on this conversation be extended indefinitely?
  • thumb

    E G

    • 0
    May 4 2011: The soul in my opinion is made up from everything what we have abstract in us , everything what is abstract about our existence is the soul in my opinion , it is made up more exatcly from all our affective , volitional and thinking processes that we are capable of (I talk about the 'human' soul).
    "what does it look like or behave like?" I don't think that this question should be put because doing it we create a mystical idea about the so ( is a kind of absurd to think about the soul so..........for many reasons).
  • thumb
    May 2 2011: The soul (same as spirit) is a body in the fine-matter world and is attached to this physical body for an appointed time.

    This physical body exist in a course-matter world and the link (for lack of better word) between this to the fine-matter world is consciousness. Consciousness does not exist in the brain. The brain is a translation and recording device constantly transmitting to the soul while receiving through the sensors. When measuring or observing the brain's waves, one is actually witnessing the process of translation and transmission. In other words the soul only has a relationship with the mortal device and not found in it. The connection is transparent as a wireless device's connection. Therefore one cannot see the soul from a reality designed to translate the many other consciousness to improve our consciousness or awareness if you like.

    The purpose for the soul is to glean realities, through experiences and interaction with other, to raise and share its consciousness or awareness if you like. The soul exist in an inter-related universe improving itself from one dimension to another. This experience, this physical experience, is an outward expression of an inward event.
    • thumb
      May 3 2011: How do you know the thing you call soul exists?

      Does it consist of matter or energy? Does it occupy space or time? Can it be detected with any instrument?
      • thumb
        May 4 2011: I would say that everything in the known universes exist in physicality, except in different levels of it. There are dimensions of physicality separated by timelines.

        Timelines function in its space/area and its frequency is directly linked to its sun. Timelines are frequencies. Each sun has its own frequency and bandwidth of color spectrum. The Sun's frequency sets the parameters for the multiple levels of energy that solidifies in matter seen and unseen in its space. We in this matter cannot see the other because time, not space, separates us.

        The soul journeys through frequencies experiencing structural forms to become conscious of its self. If one were to design a machine capable of self reflection, communication and some form of sensation, it would need multiple sense organs to achieve the capacity for recognition. The human body is that machine that the soul occupies via a connection. The soul its self is not the body but attaches to a materialized machine to assist its purpose.

        Can we see it, is a difficult question. It is unobservable by instruments except we, the human body, is the instrument. The soul itself is discovering its self therefore enters various frequencies to solidify its experience to improve more knowingly. Is the soul matter? No, but it enters the various levels of matter (light solidified). The soul is light and is capable of aligning its frequency into any frequency.
        • thumb
          May 5 2011: I kind of lean toward's Wittgenstein's reasoning:

          "It is not a something, but not a nothing either! The conclusion was only that a nothing would serve just as well as a something about which nothing could be said."

          If you are unable to establish a direct link via phenomena (i.e. - an observable occurrences) then you're entering religion/mysticism. The authorities (persons or writings) in that domain are not ones that it makes sense to follow.
    • thumb
      May 4 2011: not so fast there divineinterlletc..I am not so sure that soul and spirit are the same. I am not sure what either is after years as a contemplative..I have only gotten as far as thinking they rae probably not the same..ceratinly I see the two distibguished in many of the ancient mystical and wisdom traditions.
  • thumb
    Apr 30 2011: I need to explain some things in order to bring the idea of the soul into view.

    Reality would have no value except that there are those kinds of beings who have cares and concerns. When these beings have cares and concerns, those cares and concerns identify purposes or "ends". Those purposes or ends have value as the purposes of beings who have cares and concerns.

    Anything that serves those purposes have another kind of value. Things that are obstacles to the purposes and ends have a negative form of value.

    I use the word "spirit" to refer to the class of beings that have cares and concerns. Spirit is consciousness that has cares and concerns.

    If there were no spirits, nothing would matter. Spirit is thus the basis of all value. It can have such an effect only if spirit possesses its own non-derivative value. Let us call this non-derivative value, "inherent original value".

    Spirit loves spirit that it experiences directly or that it concretely imagines experiencing directly. Human spirits generally do not experience spirits from other bodies directly, unless they manage to experience the other spirit's cares and concerns imaginitively. Since we frequently operate without that level of empathy, we are generally characterised by a kind of selfishness. Since that selfishness is based on a lack of direct experience of the other, that selfishness is based in a kind of ignorance.

    Consequently, human spirit is characterized by a permanent intial impulse that loves spirit, but that love is then twisted by ignorance into selfishness. Accordingly,human spirit is divided into two parts that contradict eah other: The permanent initial impulse to love spirit as spirit, on the one hand, and selfishishess on the other.

    We make good use of the word "soul" if we use it to refer to that part of the spirit that is the permanent initial impulse to love spirit. The soul is the part of the spirit that permanently recognizes the inherent original value of spirit.
    • thumb
      May 3 2011: Where do you guys come up with this stuff? Every time I think I've heard it all some new pseudo-poster, with a pseudo-name promoting pseudo-science shows up.

      Is there some secret clubhouse where you all dress up in velvet robes and make blood sacrifices on the altar of the great unknown and discuss this tripe?
      • thumb
        May 4 2011: Wow! Pretty Harsh (as my daughter would say)

        I use the name I use on philosophy websites all over the web and it is normal on mostsuch wensites to do so. There are those of us who think it is not always wise to subject ourselves to the prejudices of the far right by handing our idenities out over the internet. Some of us have professional lives beyond the internet.

        As to psuedo-science, people do not normally confuse philosophy with science. In making a distinction between Philosophy and Science, I start with the notion that ehtics precedes science. There would be no scientific method except that scientific method is rationally justified. I am very much concerned with reflecting on the structure of that rational justification as it fits within the larger theory of morality.

        My notions of spirit and soul grew out of those reflections beginning while I wa a graduate student in Philosophy at the University of Chicago. I wrote a paper about the theory of value that is inherent in the Philosophy of Sartre. The paper was very well received by my professor who was a highly regarded philosopher himself.

        Someone posted a question about what the soul is, so I thought I could share some notions I have developed in the course of my philosophical studies.

        I was attracted to TED after reading Karen Armstrong's books and learning that she had been given an award by Ted and used that award for establishing the Charter for Compassion. I see my own views as somewhere not so far away as hers.

        Do you mean to suggest that philosophical reflection is off limits here?

        Do you deny the existence of either consciousness or cares and concerns? My definition of spirit is just consciousness that has cares and concerns.
        • thumb
          May 4 2011: Sorry for being overly harsh. Perhaps your pseudonym was causing me to act selfishly and lack empathy for the other. Ignorance of a real name can do that.

          Your use of the word care and the definition of beings that have cares (Dasein?) reminds me of Heidegger. It has struck me that Sartre's most known book "Being and Nothingness" had a title so similar to Heidegger's "Being and Time". I'm reading "Being and Time" right now, but haven't yet read Sartre. Does he carry on with the same concept of care or was that your amalgamation? The whole relationship between Heidegger and Sartre is an intriguing one. The first being the philosophical guru who got sucked into Naziism, and the latter the philosopher's conscience.

          Several other conversations that I've been involved in on TED have touched on the concept of spirit and soul. Initially I was open to the use of the terms as a kind of filler word or placeholder for those aspects of being which we don't yet and are perhaps incapable of understanding. But it just seemed that people who are in the habit of using those labels are inclined to be drawn into mystical interpretations.

          I apologise for believing you were that type.
        • thumb
          May 4 2011: I read Being and Time about a year ago and I found it very dense but very worthwhile. I do not have any answers to this question though.
      • thumb
        May 4 2011: tim made me laugh right out loud..( not a comment on what you wre replying to just a recation to what you said and how you said it).. sometimes weneed to call for a big course correction in plain simple terms..struck me as very very funny
      • thumb
        May 5 2011: Hi Tim,

        I do not know Heidegger that well. Sartre does not talk about care like Heidegger does.

        Sartre starts with the notion that we are radically free in the sense that we are free to choose our own fundamental life projects. That choice then populates the world with values. Once I have made my fundamental choice, this thing over here is useful for my project. That one is an obstacle. This other one is a symbol for my goal. Thus, rather than our perceptions of value determining our choices, it is our choices that cause us to perceive value in things. To the extent that our choices appear to be guided by the values we perceive, those choices are actually being determined by our more fundamental choice of our fundamental life project. Those values will be replaced with other values if we choose a different fundamental project.

        A complexity Satre adds to the theory is that not only does one's own fundamental choices populate our world with value, so do the fundamental choices of others.

        I was never as persuaded that we have absolute free will in the sense of an ability to rise above being determined by our nature. I do think we make some pretty fundamental choices about how to live our lives, but we do so in the context of cares and concerns that are affected not only by choice, but also by our nature. I think choice is just a particular kind of care and that the process by which we make choices is a natural process rather than something that departs from nature.

        I adopted something like the Sartrean notion that value emerges from choice and altered it sligthly. I suggest that value emerges from cares and concerns. Futhermore, it emerges not only from our own cares and concerns, but also from the cares and concerns of others.

        I do not get how the website works here. How do I get my response to follow your post if you already have three arrows? The red reply word does not appear on your post.
        • thumb
          May 5 2011: Thanks for that introduction to Sartre. I knew he was concerned with ethics. Perhaps as a response to WWII/holocaust? Perhaps as a response to Heidegger? And knew that individual choice was one of his major themes. But was not aware of his concept of our chosen life projects being the foundation of our value system. Very interesting. And I like your extension.

          Regarding responding to postings on the third level - you did the best that can be done. Since you were the poster at the second level you could only respond on the second level.

          What are your thoughts on the appropriation of the soul/spirit concept by religious/mystical thinkers? I realize that historically that is where those terms arose. And I think they can be given a more meaningful philosophical significance. However, it seems that whenever you go down that path you get sucked into a rather archaic mindset. There were a couple of other conversations we had that illustrate what I mean:

          http://www.ted.com/conversations/339/has_religion_outlived_it_s_use.html
          http://www.ted.com/conversations/670/what_is_the_nature_of_consciou.html
      • thumb
        May 7 2011: Hi Tim,

        You ask, "What are your thoughts on the appropriation of the soul/spirit concept by religious/mystical thinkers?"

        I do not like it when it involves obfuscation and some kind of "faith" which tries to end the discussion.

        On the other hand, there is some point to mysticism. Our language is inherently defective. Experience is not captured in the marks on paper or computer screens or sound waves that we call words. Those material words are given meaning by us, but we are not omniscient. So our words always fall short of truth. We need to remember that and always take our words with a grain of salt. We need to remember that there is always an infinite beyond which is beyond our words.

        But I don't think that should silence us. Words eat into that infinite beyond. There are words now that clarify things that were not clarified 4000 years ago, and hopefully, there will be more words in 4000 years that clarify more. Words can even clarify those beings which we posit as being infinite like God if we posit them in a way that gives us principles for talking about them.

        So for example, I define God as the ideal rational spirit agent. So, God is spirit. God is the perfect rational agent. Having started there, I can now begin to explore the implications of that definition. Perfection as a rational agent entails omnibenevolence, omniscience, and omnipotence with omnibenvolence being the controlling virtue such that (1) omniscience means all knowledge needed and useful for omnibenevolence and (2) omnipotence means all power that is useful and necessary for omnibenevolence and omniscience. Gods powers do not extend to a power to become less omnibenevolent or less omniscient.

        If we are going to talk about soul, we need a definition which controls the methods used to understand it. The methods control what is an aceptable statement about soul. The appropriateness of the methods is determined morally. Morality is controlled by the Golden Rule.
        • thumb
          May 9 2011: Yes, words are limited. Our mind is limited. We use words and other symbols to create a mental model of reality. But all models are inherently limited.

          Is your God a pantheistic God? If not what is within the realm of God and what is without? If there is anything outside of God, then can he/she/it be truly omnipotent?

          I'm more a fan of the Silver Rule rather than the Golden Rule
      • thumb
        May 9 2011: What does the metaphore of "inside" or "outside" of God mean?

        We only know things as they appear in phenomena. If there is a world beyond the phenomena with its own nature, we have no clue as to what it is. For us, the significant reality is the reality that appears in the phenomena. If God is omniscient he knows that reality of our "world in the phenomena" perfectly. If God created that world, why would God first create that world and then create the phenomena of that world to mirror it? Why not just create the phenomenal world by creating the phenomena (both conscious phenomena and phenomenan that conscious phenomena are conscious of). And how would God do that? Simply by thinking the phenomena.

        So it seems to me that if God exists, it is most likely that idealism is true. Our world (and infinitely many others) exists in the mind of God. It would be pointless for God to go around creating duplicates of everything God has already thought into being ib God's mind.

        But suppose God does go around creating these duplicates. What would the "nature" of the duplicate be? Since God is omnipotent, it would always be controlled by God's choices or desires as to what it would be. Thus, the Nature of all things would always be subject to the micromanagement of God's mind. But if it is so managed, is there any real sense to this "inside"/"outside" metaphore. I think not. So again, I think a reasonable person has to conclude that if God exists, idealism is probably true.

        But the character usually ascribed to God, "necessarily existing being", is non-sense. The least likely being to just happen to exist is absolutely perfect being. If God exists, then it is because God has evolved from less perfect being. Thus, I think there is being outside of God. It is the being that precedes God. I think the only reasonable position is agnosticism on the question of whether we are beings inside God, or beings that precede God.
        • thumb
          May 9 2011: Your thought process concerning the phenomenological nature of being and it's extension to the God concept is great. Never thought of that one before.

          But why not a pantheist God? Or put in reverse - might God (at least the monotheistic variety) merely be a mental construct used to represent the totality?
    • thumb
      May 4 2011: Hey in the garden beyond the cave.. this isTED Conversations not a conremplative group or a spiritual retreat... a conversation about soul is just as valid here at TED Conversation as Nicholas' ongoing conversation about evil. But I think you invited Tim's reaction ( forgive me it did make just roll over with laughter) by speaking from such an ingrown place and not recognizing that most of your audience here doesnt think speak or talk like that. Do you think you could try to say whatever you said more impl in very plain english and addressed to an audience you'd truly like to hear you?
      • thumb
        May 6 2011: Hi Lindsay,

        Thank you for pointing out that I had become obtuse. That is the last thing I want to be.

        I do not think of spirit as something that leaves our bodies. I do not believe our minds leave our bodies either. When I talk about spirit or mind, I am talking about something that is familiar to us in ordinary experience.

        If you cannot look at your own experience and recognize what I am talking about when I talk about spirit, then either I have failed to adequately express myself, or spirit is not as universal as I think it is.

        We are sometimes aware of things. We are sometimes aware of each other. We are sometimes aware of ourselves of some part of ourselves. We group all of our awarenesses together and call them "consciousness" or "mind".

        It is logically posible to conceive of a consciousness that is merely consciousness and has no cares and concerns. So I think we can make a distinction between consciousnesses that have cares and concerns, on the one hand, and consciousnesses that do not have cares and concerns.

        I argue that this is a very important distinction because consciousnesses that have cares and concerns are the most important thing that exists. Since I think they are that important, I think we should have a name for this kind of entity. It seemed to me that the word "spirit" comes closer than any other word in English to referring to this most important kind of thing.

        Consequently, I suggest that we should define spirit as consciousness that has cares and concerns.

        Any questions so far?
  • Apr 29 2011: soul is agent of "Intend".
    Intend is agent of starting move.
    material can not start move, just can transfer move.
    please consider a robot or a computer. can it start moving without Intend of human? (pushing start button). can a robot Initially Intend and decide to start moving its own alone? without any Intend of human starting it?
  • thumb
    Apr 27 2011: I am a Christian, so the idea of the soul is very significant for me. But with that said, it has also been a concept that I am still a little perplexed by its full understanding. However, allow me to share my opinion just the same. Some may also refer to it is as your spirit, chi, etc. It is the core of who we are. Not our earthly fleshly being, but rather our true nature. It is that inner voice that constantly reminds me who I am. It is the "reality" of the situation as it were. For example...I can call myself a Christian all I want, but if inside all I really do is hate, lust, and anger...well, I am faced with a harsh reality.

    I always liked the concept of the little angel on one shoulder and the little devil on the other constantly fighting for control. Our soul is constantly fighting for Identity. We want to know who we are and what we stand for. But the fact that the soul is not flesh and blood, it means that it is not limited to the earthly realm of death. As a Christian, I believe that this earthly vessel I am walking around in is only temporary, but the soul is eternal. It longs to share in the riches and blessings of Heaven when I am a rewarded for a living a life worthy of the calling. But if eternal Heaven is possible, then eternal Hell is as well. So therefore...the soul is trainable and teachable. It can be molded to become the men or women we wish for them to be. It absorbs our true desires from the worlds and either tames them or releases them to be free in teh world.

    It is not our bodies that leave this world, but our souls. They are the eternal gift from God. It is the soul we are to be worried about keeping faithful and pure. This body will wither, die, and decay, but my soul will go on to something better than what is now.
    • Apr 27 2011: "It longs to share in the riches and blessings of Heaven [...] But if eternal Heaven is possible, then eternal Hell is as well."

      But how could heaven and hell exist if we designate them as places? Pain is a purely physical phenomenon. I tend to believe that they are states of being. Because if we transcend beyond the material universe, then how are places (terms associated with space-time) still even possible? I think our souls literally enter a heavenly state, not an actual "heaven". I am an agnostic Christian, so I don't necessarily disagree with your premise about the eternal soul, I am just curious as to why you think heaven and hell as places can possibly exist.
      • thumb
        May 7 2011: Biblically speaking, we are told that our mortal bodies can not pass into the heavenly realm, and yet that earthly spirit still keeps us connected to a Heavenly God. So I view thinks in an not tangible realm on both the heaven and the hell aspect of things. Judgment renders where are souls will spend eternity, not our earthly shells.The physical body will deteriorate whereas souls are eternal.

        When God breathed in life to our us, He was giving us our true soul...the life in us that will not die.
  • Apr 20 2011: Paraphrasing of Gilbert Ryle:
    "A foreigner goes to a cricket match with his friend. He knows what constitutes the game of cricket and he sees the players, the umpires, the wicket, the stumps, the boundary markings etc. Then he turns to his friend and asks where is the 'spirit' of the game? His friend replies, "well, it's there you just can't see it!!""
  • Apr 18 2011: So far I see giving the soul credit for brain function. To Colby's statement I would point out first that I obviously don't believe in afterlife. But if I allow that point another question arises.

    If a person has down syndrome, or Alzheimer's, or any mental disorder is that then carried on to their afterlife? Does the "soul" incur the same physical damage as the person's brain in a car accident for example. If we make the claim that the soul's function is exactly as the brain's function, then why do we call it soul, and for what purpose do we retain the idea at all. If we can find physical and observable causes for all these specific brain functions why make up some intangible unobservable entity just to overlap such functions that we can attribute to the brain?
    • Apr 18 2011: Mental disabilities could simply be a physical limitation that doesn't let the soul fully interact with the brain. I like to think of the brain as the soul's puppet. A mental disability is like a broken string on the puppet.
      • Apr 19 2011: Austin let me just first point out that I can tell from your communication style and your ideas that you are a very intelligent person. I myself have read that book which you point out, and of course like many others found it intriguing. I tried but could not find the original publications, which I am certain would shed some light on the subject, and would most likely show the findings to be less cut and dry than presented in the blurb.
        I suppose if you found the original publications they would be scientific explanations of themselves, but I must point out that this is not a case for a soul, and I think if you take that sort of viewpoint it is actually a case against it.
        This experiment shows how intention can act on matter, but if we presume that it is the work of the soul, we have to presume that the soul can leave the body to perform the actions on the material, especially in the cases pointed out where they are talking about intention over large distances.
        So if the soul can leave the body without our recognition, and there is no difference or loss of function from a conscious standpoint than we are in fact making the statement that the mind functions the same whether or not we invoke the soul, and therefore the soul once again becomes a useless idea.
        Write me back if you're not following this argument. As for my opinion on the subject I would have to look into certain things, namely biofeedback, bophysics, the magnetic field created by thought, how that field may induce chemical reactions in the plants etc.
        But I might also say humbly that my personal opinion should take no weight, it is fact that we are after here.
        • Apr 20 2011: "Austin let me just first [...] intelligent person."
          Thank you. Likewise about you.

          "if we presume that it is the work of the soul"

          I do not presume it is the work of the soul, I merely believe this lends support to the possibility that the soul exists.

          You bring up an excellent point regarding the soul leaving the body without our recognition. Though, why can't one's soul extend itself into multiple locations? I have no reason to believe the soul, assuming it exists, must be completely restricted to its host. "Intention" could be an outlet through which people's souls can interact with parts of the physical world other than its host.

          To be clear, I am trying to look at this topic with objectivity and open-mindedness. I don't necessarily whole-heartedly believe everything I am suggesting, I am simply trying to point out all possibilities, to help us make better conclusions.
        • thumb
          May 5 2011: Austin..I like the possibilities you suggest for soul..whatever it is is however it worksI think too it would most likley extend itself beyond this realm and exist apart from the "host" ( intesting word in this discussion) intentions.. When we are talking about the unknown and the unknowable..whether it is soul or quarks..we can only imagine and look for phenomenon which might tell us something. I am sure you have all heard of researcher ( 1920's?) who wanted to scientifically measure whether the body weighed less at the moment of death..he got dying folk to agree to this putting their beds on a flat bed scale ( I guess) and observed across his subjects that after death the body weighed 21 grams less on average. As the account goes ( I think I saw it on science chanel) he concluded that te difference in weight was the sould having left the body. The only other phenomenological evidence we have on soul is the accounts of out of body expeeiences which are beginning to gain traction even in medical circles. ( people observing their operations from above a table or itnessing themselves from above the scene at the site of a horrific accident. This accounts , as I recall, are pretty conssitent in suggesting that coscious ness ( awreness) and soul are one that the "I" was the entity floating above the bed.In fact that is howmost accounts are given ..."I was suddenly above my bed and I could see myself below..".Not an expert..jys recllections from things I've seen
      • Apr 20 2011: Dear Austin Rogers,
        soul can leave body while you are not sleep and can extend to other place.
        but not all souls can do this.
        it depend on level or power of your soul.
        how much your soul is more stronger it has more abilities.
        if you have a strong soul you can decide where you go at sleep. if you weak soul you can not control your soul at sleep.
        if you have a strong soul you can go (your soul) to other city or other country or other planet and see there by your eyes of your soul.
        how much the affiliation of soul and body is more, soul is weaker. if you take care of your body much your soul become weak. your body is like a king ordering you always: I want food, I want water, I want sleep, I want rest, I want not work, I want ....
        if you do quickly orders of your body then your soul is weak.
        but if you make your body under pressure for example eat little and sleep little and not do what your body wants, then your soul become strong and can see new things and can go new places and even can go in time and place and can go out of world of material and see new universes. even can visit angles and soul of messenger and dead people and speak them and even can visit God.
        reaching to such level is not easy and need hard try.
        what happen for all us at death and after death.
        "people are asleep, when they die they awake"
        • thumb
          May 4 2011: I am a lucid dreamer so I actually ahve the expereience you are refrring to..always have since I was a tiny child. and I actually do sor of entrust diffcult and complex inquiries to sleep, There is a wonderful book by Lawrence Kubie..the most life altering book I ever read.that without ever mentioning soul speaks to this process ( Neurotic Distortion of the Creative Process)I think the word "soul" is so charged in so many ways that even using that word to try and have a discussion almost inevtivaly makes it much harder to find anything we ight all actually experience and know in common
    • Apr 18 2011: First of all, Down Sydrome, Azlheimer's or any other mental disorder are material defects of the brain itself, chemical inbalance etc.

      Animals have brains. Just because they have a brain does not mean that they can reason or experience emotions for that matter.
      • Apr 19 2011: All mammals experience emotions Colby. Also all mammals, and some other animals, display a certain "shade" of reason. For example if I teach my dog not to take food off of the table, he may come along and desire it, but knows that will gt him in trouble.
        You see human intelligence is not so much original but more a matter of degree. The part of the brain that's function is to hear and make sound may cross with the part of the brain that recognizes symbols, thus we have one part of verbal speech. This type of crossing happened a lot after the the plate shift that caused the "Great Rift Valley". The valley segmented the jungle from the Savanna and we came bipedal. Then a period of about 2000 years of climate change occurred where the earth's average climate went back and forth relatively quickly. At that point we had the necessary "parts" in our brain and the necessity to adapt quickly to shape the brain we have today. You see a lot of what we consider human intelligence is merely a byproduct of both our ability and the necessity to adapt. There is nothing in your brain that doesn't exist in the brain's of some other animals, it's merely the crossing, and the
        "amount" or "mass" of certain "parts".
        It's a little complicated but maybe I could recommend either "A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination" by Gerald M. Edelman o Guilio Tononi or "The Ascent Of Mind" by William H Calvin.

        I did make it a point to refute Dualism from the get go because that seems to be the alley a lot of people will take with this argument, but the supposition is nothing less than flagrant.

        I'll leave you with a quote from A Universe Of Consciousness in this next reply...
      • Apr 19 2011: "Descartes argued that there is an absolute distinction between mental and material substance. The defining characteristic of matter he thought, is to be extended, to occupy space, thus be susceptible to physical explanation, whereas the defining characteristic of mind is to be conscious, or in a broad sense of the term to think. In this view the mental substance exists in the form of individual minds. In this way Descartes inaugurated dualism, a position that is unsatisfactory scientifically but appears intuitively simple and appealing until one attempts to explain the connection between the mind and the body."
        -A Universe Of Consioussness:How Matter Becomes Imagination by Gerald M. Edelman(Nobel Laureate) and Guilio Tononi. pg.4 para.3.
        • Apr 19 2011: Deaven, please intrigue me...

          What is your scientific explanation for Germination Intention Experiments? 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.

          http://www.theintentionexperiment.com/the-germination-intention-experiments-2
        • thumb
          May 4 2011: Austin thank you for bringing Lynn McTaggerts work into this..Living in the Field and the Intention Experiment. Exactly what I was pointing to..the word "soul" is so super charged and co mingled with rhetoric and dogma and doctrine and yet there are a set of experiences we all share all recognize all know..if we could have this conversation free of all the spercharged super distorting influence of the word "soul" we would robably find we all know and trust the same thing. Lynne's work is actually closely related to The Lawrence Kubie work I was pointing to..at least in suggesting that the conscious brain.. our ego laden, very confused very limiting conscious brain is almiost never the source of humanity's great scientific discoveries, orf the world's tru;y great art or its most enduing litearture. How it works and what it is I know I will never know so I just try to use what I know is..interact with it engage without needing to name it or understand it or house it in any dogma or doctrine.
  • Apr 18 2011: Maybe it's that thing that sees through your eyes
    • Apr 18 2011: My eyes and brain?
      • Apr 18 2011: Hi Deaven, this is a description I read some time ago. Regrettably, I cannot recall the source. However, it was intended to be not quite as simplistic as eyes and brain. I believe it was intended to have the reader ponder the idea that we are more than a collection of cells which perform various specialized functions, with some level of consciousness. It was also intended to bring the concept of the soul as a somewhat more tangible entity of that which looks through our eyes. Perhaps it works, perhaps it does not. cheers :-)
        • thumb
          May 4 2011: perhaps that was Ken Wilbur ,Julie, trhe experience of the inner observer. One of the recent TED Conversations on trasnformation is a powerful and very moving account from many many people..all repoirting a decuded transformation beyond religion and faith..we cannot ever know wht to call that common universal expereieence but I defintely see in them a strong similarity between what Ken Wilbur calls the inner voice and the inner calling these people all felt. It doesn't matter to me what we call it. My joy and celebration is that we all have it, we all expereience it, we all interact with it all the time..whatever it is.
  • Apr 18 2011: I think the first question you have to ask yourself is: Do I believe in life after death? That is the whole concept of "soul"; a manifestation of you when your body dies.
    • thumb
      May 2 2011: Hi Colby

      "Do I believe in life after death? That is the whole concept of "soul"; a manifestation of you when your body dies."

      Would you say a manifestation of us or would you say this body is a manifestation of the soul?
  • Apr 18 2011: According to Plato a soul is the "essence of a person". It is a description as to how an individual behaves or acts.
    Plato said that the soul has three parts to it:
    1) the logos = intellect or reason
    2) the thymos = emotion
    3) the eros = desire