Abhiram Lohit

This conversation is closed.

What is your belief regarding the concept of the soul?

Some threads to help you along:
1) What is the scope of the concept, ie, individual, universal, etc
2) Is this related to the concept of consciousness, and if so, how?

Closing Statement from Abhiram Lohit

Thanks to all the people who responded.

I saw the range of responses to what 'soul' means to different people. I guess I was looking for answers to the cause or origin of life. When can an organism be said to be alive. In the light of advancements in contructing artificial limbs and moreover to the extent of building entire bodies, and having the technology to simulate live behavior, what defines life.

Physicists have tried to study consciousness and incorporate it into the grand scheme of things. I was pondering upon that and ideas about "soul" was what struck me as very apt for this theory.

Most people here gave answers that implied that they thought of the behavior or individual personality as the soul. However my idea for the soul were very different as seen in the discussions. I hope that science can tell us more about this area of knowledge.

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    Jun 17 2011: The soul is a useful concept for understanding the Rights of the individual.
    You own your own soul, you have individual Rights.
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    Jun 18 2011: I believe your soul isn't something tangible. It's the genetics given to you by your ancestors, and you shape it throughout your life. If you have children, a part of you is passed on. Your "soul" is simply the definition of what makes you, you.
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      Jun 19 2011: Qt: Your "soul" is simply the definition of what makes you, you.

      I partially agree, but the "you" defined by job, family, location, etc can keep changing. I feel the "soul" is what makes you, really you. That is, pure, bare, naked "blob" of conscious energy. When this "you" is present in such-and-such a body, then the "you" gets associated with the job, family, location, etc., otherwise, not.
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    Jun 16 2011: Abhiram, there are possible scientific explanations like Sistla noted and to dwelve more in this aspect you can look also at the quantum mind theory (http://bit.ly/QuantumMIndTheory) or the well researched NDE phenomenon (iands.org)

    What I think is important is the practical definition of a soul in relation to transforming ourselves and our world. The soul to me is our intellect and our will - the basis of our humanism, happiness, our fundamental power to love, hope and trust. (http://Bit.Ly/KeyPower). Whatever we believe about soul in this life or to the next is not usually important in discussions in a diverse group such as TED. (http://bit.ly/PowerCommon)
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    Jun 16 2011: You have to remember that in order to see, hear and think, you have to interact with your physical environment. People tend to forget that the reason we see is because light-sensitive receptors on or our eyes absorb photons of light creating impulses that travel to our brain to be interpreted. Now if souls existed, you would be able to detect the absence of absorbed photons or at the very least you could tell that a beam of light was being affected by a soul's presence. You could have similar experiments for sound waves. All these phenomena are interpreted by the brain, which would be notoriously absent in a soul.

    Another question you could ask is what would be the evolutionary advantage of a soul be.
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      Jun 16 2011: I agree that explanation of physical phenomena does not warrant the introduction of a soul concept. But what about the subject "I" which is the basis of all explanations and the undercurrent to all experiences? The absolute and unconditional awareness that "I am" or "I exist" cannot be explained based on the interaction of matter and energy.
      • Jun 16 2011: Sorry to but in; I agree that personal identity and how we attempt to define personhood and the like is the driving force behind these kinds of debate. And normally I try to stay clear of definitive responses because our reason for some reason is, to me it seems, unable to give us a reason for our existence. However, on the point of why we are able to say "I exist" or "I am", in other words have a developed self awareness, I believe could be explained in a biologically / evolutionary manner. After all self awareness is a belief, and beliefs are clearly present in all animals and this belief / thought clearly had some evolutionary benefit as if we are aware of our existence it follows that we are aware of what will end our existence. What I'm trying to say is that self awareness is a valuable survival trait, and personally I think this has been misinterpreted as a soul. Gilbert Ryle makes a point along similar lines; I think he says the soul is a "category mistake" or something like that as people have come to think it is something that actually exists, like an organ, rather than a expression of the human condition and our nature.
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          Jun 17 2011: You're right about the misinterpretation of the soul as an organ. It's not an organ. But I have reservations about saying that soul is related to our survival and evolution.

          There should be something at the bottom that does not change, or does not evolve, so that it is the recording ground of all other changing phenomena. Memory of past events is possible only because the "I" did not change. The body grew, became bigger, it went through high school, college, etc. It changed. If all that the body contained was biology, which changed, then we would not have any memories.

          Also, I really don't think it's a belief. You don't have to believe that you exist for you to exist. I guess this is related to 2 questions:
          1) What is the difference between a humanoid and a human, or a "dogoid" and a dog. Science can construct every minute detail of a human body into a humanoid, then program it intricately to exhibit the PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS of human emotions, etc, etc. Then, will there be a difference at all.
          2) What does it mean to be alive. Is a humanoid considered to be alive because, or in spite of, exhibiting ALL the characteristics of a human?
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        Jun 17 2011: "The absolute and unconditional awareness that "I am" or "I exist" cannot be explained based on the interaction of matter and energy."

        You don't have the intellectual authority to say that. Why couldn't your self-awareness be the product of your brain's super-sophistication?
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          Jun 17 2011: OK, Matthieu, let's look at the 3 states of consciousness a normal, healthy human experiences. 1) Awake: you use your senses and mind to collect data, process the data, and output/store that data. In this state, you do things that contribute to your identity as, say, "Matthieu Miossec, student, living in such-and-such city, having such-and-such family and friends, etc"
          2) Dream: You have dreams in which your identity might be altered. You may be a medieval knight, fighting in the crusades, or you might be a scientist in the future, inventing some new technology, etc. Good things might happen to you, bad things might happen to you. You might even do actions in bed as if you were awake, like talk, etc. Now, you sometimes remember your dreams, and sometimes you don't, which means memory fails sometimes. But when you woke up, you could come back to being "Matthieu Miossec" again. Between your waking state and your dream state, your brain's activity has changed, but "YOU" did not.
          3) Deep sleep: You're not using your senses, you're not even thinking. No "Matthieu Miossec", no medieval knight, no future scientist. It's as if you're dead. Nothing happening that might make you aware that you have a brain or even a body. After a really deep sleep, you might even find it hard to walk the first few steps like you never walked before. But after you come out of sleep, you feel satisfied, contented, and nothing else.

          There is that single thread running through these 3 states that is not dependent on how well the brain functions. If you ask "well, what about people in a coma?", see the following link:

          http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1230092/Rom-Houben-Patient-trapped-23-year-coma-conscious-along.html

          This guy was "conscious", but couldn't use his brain to perform its intended function. Maybe brain-dead people also are "conscious". Maybe the center of consciousness is not the brain alone, but the entire body. So that upon death, consciousness goes.
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        Jun 18 2011: That guy was paralyzed. He's conscious but he can't use his muscles anymore. That's called being paraplegic, he was never in a coma and he could use his brain fine for many tasks.

        Since we're now playing the game of quoting extraordinary individuals, what do you think about split-brain patient who develop two separate personalities? Did they go from one sould to two?
        http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=EM89_U2gddkC&oi=fnd&pg=PA160&dq=split+brain+two+minds&ots=-4fFYMyx58&sig=-H1stzV6tGOTWyqS2Mn9emB-gR8#v=onepage&q=split%20brain%20two%20minds&f=false

        And the famous case of Phineas Gage's dramatic change in personality after losing much of his left frontal lobe.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_Gage

        Where lies the consistency that you claim the soul gives to the individual?
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          Jun 19 2011: Now I understand what you mean by "soul". According to you, the soul has the personality of the individual.

          However, what I mean by "soul" is the bare, naked "consciousness" that is the foundation on which the physical organ brain functions. The split personalities or the change in personality are all rooted in the functioning of the brain. This is similar to going from your wake state to your dream state, where you might have a different identity or personality.

          I guess I could rephrase my ideas about the soul as: "the entity that energizes the brain and other organs, making what we call life possible in the body". The personalities and other behavior of the individual is determined by the physical structure of the organs, the DNA, etc. But even the most perfectly built body is not "alive" until that "naked consciousness" or "life" is present. I think the closest experience of that "naked consciousness" is during deep sleep.

          This is one of the reasons they say that a person in a vegetative state is still alive. His brain is totally useless, so he cannot "express" his personality, but his heart is still pumping.

          In other cases, the heart can be kept beating on a ventilator, but the person is "dead". Medical definitions of death based on physiological symptoms have been problematic, and newer ones are related to end of consciousness. See:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death
          section "Problems of Definition".

          I'm not saying there is "my soul" and "your soul" and "his soul" and "her soul". I'm saying, there's just "soul". Like physical energy, this soul is some sort of energy that is the cause of life. It does not have a personality, so I'm not calling it "God".
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    Jun 16 2011: there a scientific explanation that i have developed for this...
    let us consider the foremost law of physics the mass energy continuum. So neither energy nor mass can be destroyed mass can transform into various form of energy as Einsteins proved but it cannot be destroyed. Accepting this let us now try and define human form or any life form, it is both energy and mass. Now the famous Dr. Duncan MacDougall experiments showed the loss of 21 gms of weight during the time of death although the experiment came with many speculations and limitations, one must wonder if we are all a form of energy & mass when life seizes there has to be some form of transformation of energy since it cant be destroyed. beyond that i dare not to think :)
    As for conscious, it is developed from emotions and emotions are developed from extremely complex thoughts. thoughts are created in the brain which is the powerhouse (energy) of our body. so i guess the energy of the body lies in the thoughts. beyond this i never dared to think :)
    i hope this helped :)
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      Jun 16 2011: Thanks for your reply. But I have to strongly disagree about the "21 grams" theory. Also, the results are not consistent. He did not find any evidence of weight loss in dogs and other animals.

      If we are looking for something that left the body and due to which the body is now "dead" matter, then all bodies that were alive should show the same(or proportionate to body weight) loss.

      I suspect that the weight loss is due to the reduction in blood pressure or some such activity in the cells that was exerting force before death.