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Can one logically or scientifically prove that the soul exists?

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No
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Offline rakovsky

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Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« on: January 22, 2018, 12:31:15 PM »
I have a sense, based on my own experience, that I am or have a soul that looks out at the world through my brain and physical body. I sense a distinction between myself and my body, and thus the soul is my being that is distinct from my body. However, skeptics reply that this sense of being distinguishable from my own body is only an illusion created by the brain, and that all that is really occurring is my brain observing the world and itself.

The Bible and centuries of religious traditions do believe in the existence of the soul, and there have been many stories of ghosts through the centuries. Is there a way to prove as a matter of logic or modern science that my soul exists?

First, let's define the soul. Pao Chang says:
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Most people agree that the human soul is non-physical and is the entity that animates the physical body. In other words, the soul is an energy entity that allows us to experience life in the material world. ... Metaphorically speaking, the soul is like the human body and the spirit is like the heart.
http://energyfanatics.com/2014/07/15/what-is-soul-evidence-existence/

Some question that science can prove or disprove the existence of the soul. In the Guardian, Andrew Brown writes that "the idea that science has nothing at all to tell us about souls seems to me clearly wrong... For one thing it seems clear that souls are not things on which arithmetic can be performed. Science can tell us that the soul can't be found by scientific inquiry. It can't by definition say that only what can be found by scientific enquiry actually exists." (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/03/science-soul-philosophy)

Another person wrote:
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Modern science doesn't demonstrate the soul doesn't exist, it ASSUMES the soul doesn't exist. The scientific method doesn't really have room for attributing observations to supernatural or unexplainable forces. Science wouldn't work if someone asking what causes fire just got a response, "Well, God makes fire burn". Knowledge wouldn't progress if we allowed anything to just remain unexplainable, so we assume that everything is explainable and that we just haven't figured out the explanation yet. That doesn't mean that it is true that everything is explainable.

So yes, while we have explained a couple of emotional effects and have a better understanding the workings of the brain, we still don't understand a lot about how consciousness works. There is still plenty of room for the unexplainable. But the scientific process needs to start with the assumption that things are explainable.
(https://www.reddit.com/r/changemyview/comments/61poks/cmv_there_is_no_such_thing_as_a_soul)

Andrew Brown also suggests the possibility that the soul exists in wave form:
Quote
Science tends to strengthen the argument of Aristotle that the soul is the form of a living thing – this is also the position of Thomas Aquinas, and so of classical Christian theology. I don't think [the sicentist Iain] McGilchrist is a Christian – he calls himself a panentheist – but it is certainly his position, too. He compared the soul to a wave – something that is composed of water, but at the same time distinguishable from it. In that sense, he was talking about souls as time-bound entities. Waves end. Perhaps there are several kinds of soul we can talk about.

The following idea that the soul is really the force of energy is problematic to me for the same reason.

Another theory is that consciousness is created by the electromagnetic field of the brain:
Quote
If we still wish to maintain a belief in the spirit/brain connection, we might suppose that the brain and spirit are interdependent, and brain is simply responding to spiritual input, perhaps uploading and downloading information to this invisible spirit source. But how exactly does that work?

According to Dr. Pim van Lommel, quantum physics can be applied to biological systems which results in electromagnetic fields forming a consciousness that broadcasts to our brains which act like receivers. This explanation is what some physicists call  “quantum flapdoodle,” as quantum physics is used to try and justify everything from time travel to quantum jumping.
...
I’m open to the idea of the spirit, but if the spirit exists, I have to wonder why proof remains so elusive. Either God has some kind of weird spiritual protocol that limits how much proof can exist for the spirit, or proof is elusive because there’s nothing to prove.


https://500questions.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/19-what-evidence-is-there-that-humans-have-a-spirit-part-1-the-science-of-the-soul/
But that would still make consciousness and the soul physical and temporary, since an electromagnetic field is physical and temporary.

The "500 Questions" article above raises one of the arguments made against the soul's existence is that if we haven't proven it already, then it must not exist: But one response is that this counterargument is a Fallacy, making an "Argument From Ignorance." According to the response, the "absence of proof is not proof of absence."
(https://www.reddit.com/r/changemyview/comments/61poks/cmv_there_is_no_such_thing_as_a_soul/)

For me, one of the best proofs of the soul is my own experience and sensation of being distinct from the body in my first person subjective state.

Quote
Proving that the soul exists is similar to proving the existence of gravity. You can’t actually see gravity but you know it exists due to the fact that you can feel its effects. To understand if the human soul exists, you need to study the effects of the soul instead of only looking for physical proof.
... Conventional science usually has a hard time accepting the soul as a real entity, because it doesn’t know how to observe and prove its existence.
http://energyfanatics.com/2014/07/15/what-is-soul-evidence-existence/

One can feel the effects of the soul with free will, creativity, and the sense of one's own distinct existence.
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Nuclear physicist and molecular biologist Jeremy Hayward of Cambridge University makes no secret of his convictions either: “Many scientists who are still part of the scientific mainstream are no longer afraid to openly state that consciousness / awareness could, in addition to space, time, matter and energy, be a fundamental element of the world – perhaps even more fundamental than space and time. It may be a mistake to ban the spirit from nature.“
http://yournewswire.com/scientists-say-they-have-found-proof-of-the-human-soul/
I can feel my own subjective existence in my current body, time, and location, and this feels like a special state, vastly different from matter lacking it. And while I can understand the idea of a brain detecting itself physically, my own experience feels drastically different from some objective physical phenomena in physical matteror in electrochemical reactions, computers, lightning, etc. that lack my consciousness. And this creates the question of whether consciousness, this feeling that I have, has a reality beyond the physical world.

Another argument is that for free will to be "free" and real, it must be free of prior causes, and thus it cannot be an issue where pre-set, hard matter determines its results:
Quote
free will the foundational piece of evidence that supports the existence of the soul (the immaterial basis of oneself). Recall that free will involves the freedom to make choices that are not determined by prior causes. Therefore, free will is itself a cause and not an effect in its interactions with corporeality. So if free will is to exist, its basis must be incorporeal (once the corporeal is excluded, the incorporeal is the only remaining logical possibility). Since it is the self that causes the actions (i.e. is the basis of the free will), and if the basis of free will is necessarily incorporeal, then the basis of the self is incorporeal. Since the incorporeal essence of the self is called the soul, then if free will exists the soul must exist also. Free will obviously exists, therefore the soul does also.

Confused? Okay, let’s take it one step at a time:

1.    Free will exists (follows from direct perceptions).
2.    The soul is the incorporeal essence of oneself (by definition).
3.    Free will is about voluntary choice, being able to choose one’s own actions; the freedom to make choices that are not determined by prior causes. (By definition.)
4.    Therefore, free will is itself a cause and not an effect in its interactions with corporeality (follows from 3, see also further justification below).
5.    So if free will exists, its basis must be incorporeal. (Follows from 4. If free will exists it has to have some kind of existence; and from 4 free will is not an effect in its interactions with corporeality, the basis of free will cannot be corporeal, the only alternative left is the incorporeal; see also further justification below.)
6.    The self chooses one’s own actions (part of the definition of free will, i.e. from line 3), and is thus the basis of free will.
7.    The basis of the self must be incorporeal if free will exists, since the basis of free will must be incorporeal, and the basis of free will is the self (from 2, 5 and 6).
http://www.angelfire.com/mn2/tisthammerw/rlgnphil/soul.html
One attempted counterargument could be that "free will" is only an illusion, whereby the brain mistakenly misses that its decisions have been preconditioned, and thus not truly free.
Another counterargument could be that a person has the free choice to make decisions. And a person's choices are in fact determined by their life experiences and preferences. If a person wishes to make a random choice, then the person's decision to make a random choice was determined by their preferences as well. Thus, it is not true that people's "free" will has "the freedom to make choices that are not determined by prior causes." A person's physical brain has preferences (like an ice cream flavor) that determine their decisions (like which flavor to buy), and when they act on these preferences, they have the sense that their decision is "free", when in fact the decision is still determined by a physical brain.
Quote
Here’s the problem in a nutshell: in a purely physical world, our actions are solely the product of forces completely beyond our control, and thus we would not have free will. ... Because of cause-and-effect ... this corporeal chain of causation would extend back well before we were born. Yet conditions before our birth are clearly outside of our control, so the chain of causation would look something like this:

Natural Processes Outside Our Control
|
CAUSE
|
Inner Brain States
|
CAUSE
|
Mental and Physical Actions
But if this is accurate, we would not be originating the cause of anything. We would be just like the tree that fell on Bob's car, being a conduit of natural forces outside our control. In this case, our actions would be determined by prior causes. We would not have free will. This is why free will by definition cannot be an effect in corporeality (hence line 4). To have free will we must exist outside this corporeal tapestry (hence line 5). If free will exists and its basis cannot be corporeal, the only logical alternative is the incorporeal realm. Since its basis must be incorporeal, we must logically have souls if we possess free will.
http://www.angelfire.com/mn2/tisthammerw/rlgnphil/soul.html

If you are only your, physical brain, and it is a lump of electrolyzed matter, then how would its/your decisions come about? They could come about by the preferences and trends implanted and impressed in its physical cells (like a brain's preference for chocolate over plain milk), in which case the decisions are not really "free", but pre-set into the brain. Or the decisions could just be random spurts of emissions of neurons, like reflexes - "Chocolate" "Vanilla" "Chocolate", in which case the distinct choices themselves were not really under the control of the brain's "will", but only random directions. Thus it does seem like "free will" is an illusion in a materialist scheme, and only a set of choices that are either preconditioned, pre-set into a brain's physical neurons, or else random uncontrolled selections.

Another theory that I find persuasive is that since dualism exists in physics, it can be applied to dualism with the body - just as particles have both matter and wave forms, the human body can correspond with a soul form as well:
Quote
Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Dürr, former head of the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich, represents the opinion that the dualism of the smallest particles is not limited to the subatomic world, but instead is omnipresent. In other words: the dualism between the body and the soul is just as real to him as “wave-particle dualism” of the smallest particles. According to his view, a universal quantum code exists that applies for all living and dead matter. This quantum code supposedly spans the entire cosmos. Consequently, Dürr believes – again based on purely physical considerations – in an existence after death. He explains this as follows in an interview he gave:

“What we consider the here and now, this world, it is actually just the material level that is comprehensible. The beyond is an infinite reality that is much bigger. Which this world is rooted in. In this way, our lives in this plane of existence are encompassed, surrounded, by the afterworld already. When planning I imagine that I have written my existence in this world on a sort of hard drive on the tangible (the brain), that I have also transferred this data onto the spiritual quantum field, then I could say that when I die, I do not lose this information, this consciousness. The body dies but the spiritual quantum field continues. In this way, I am immortal.”
http://yournewswire.com/scientists-say-they-have-found-proof-of-the-human-soul/

I don't really understand how the theory that "consciousness" must have a molecular binding component works as an argument:
Quote
Professor Robert Jahn of Princeton University in New Jersey. He concludes that if effects and information can be exchanged in both directions between the human consciousness and the physical environment, then one must also assume a resonance or “molecular binding potential” for the consciousness as well.

In summary: according to this theory, one would have to award the consciousness the known quantum properties as well. In his opinion it makes no sense, to assign terms such as information or resonance to either the physical world or the spiritual consciousness or to separate physical effects from spiritual effects.
If as skeptics say, consciousness is just the phenomenon or process of the physical brain detecting itself, and doesn't have a physical existence other than the mind, then I don't know why it would need "molecular binding" in any scientifically observable way.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 12:32:09 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2018, 02:28:40 PM »
I clicked "unsure."

Personally I tend towards Aristotle's Hylomorphic (literally "formed from matter") view of the soul. The soul is not an independently existing thing so much as a term for the state that obtains when the body is harmonized to its full potential (NickMyra or someone will have to correct me if I'm misrepresenting the Big A). Which in turn would seem to match up pretty well with the modern philosophy of mind school called "Epiphenomenalism" in which consciousness is something the brain does or is when it's working- much like how hydrogen and oxygen are only "wet" when they've come together to form water (not that this means unconscious or comatose people have no souls, if nothing else God is still there to sustain them).

I guess I differ from Aristotle though, in that I think that God causes us to have a certain faculty beyond just the "sum of our neurons" such that we can have spiritual communion with Him (and if we truly have free will, then this is where that freedom lies). I'm not sure that any form of Christianity demands a "ghost in the machine" view of the soul, but of course I could be dead wrong.

So I would say that "proof of the soul" is likely just going to be whatever proves the existence of God to you. And if one is an atheist, then they really don't have much of a reason to believe we have one. So I don't really expect the soul to show up on brain scans or whatever, but I'm not opposed to the possibility either.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 02:33:37 PM by Volnutt »
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Offline RaphaCam

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2018, 04:33:11 PM »
It can be proven ad absurdum by imagining what a soulless body would be like in any reasonable definition of "soul". Sure, a materialist might accept this point while seeing the soul as a mere abstraction that only encompasses potencies with material substrates, instead of a substance, but this is a whole other deal.
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2018, 04:57:28 PM »
It can be proven ad absurdum by imagining what a soulless body would be like in any reasonable definition of "soul". Sure, a materialist might accept this point while seeing the soul as a mere abstraction that only encompasses potencies with material substrates, instead of a substance, but this is a whole other deal.

It may be a whole other deal, but why isn't it sufficient to render various philosophical zombies not quite absurd?
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 04:58:54 PM by Volnutt »
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Offline RaphaCam

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2018, 05:40:35 PM »
It can be proven ad absurdum by imagining what a soulless body would be like in any reasonable definition of "soul". Sure, a materialist might accept this point while seeing the soul as a mere abstraction that only encompasses potencies with material substrates, instead of a substance, but this is a whole other deal.

It may be a whole other deal, but why isn't it sufficient to render various philosophical zombies not quite absurd?
How so?
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2018, 05:47:51 PM »
It can be proven ad absurdum by imagining what a soulless body would be like in any reasonable definition of "soul". Sure, a materialist might accept this point while seeing the soul as a mere abstraction that only encompasses potencies with material substrates, instead of a substance, but this is a whole other deal.

It may be a whole other deal, but why isn't it sufficient to render various philosophical zombies not quite absurd?
How so?

Doesn't the very fact that some philosophers can and do argue that the activities and subjective interior states of humans can exist without a body-separate mind behind them, at the very least, take it out of obvious reductio ad absurdum territory?

Better to argue positively that the things we see, think, and do need some sort of qualia or whatever behind them than to just assume that they do.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 05:48:55 PM by Volnutt »
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Offline RaphaCam

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2018, 06:14:08 PM »
Well, yeah, but I was giving "soul" a wider definition to place it inside obvious reductio ad absurdum territory. The debate shouldn't be whether a soul exists, but rather if it's an immaterial entity of its own (e.g. Descartes), an abstraction for a collection of things and phenomena reduceable to material substrates (e.g. Hume) or something in between. Of course, even such a definition of soul could find opposition (e.g. Buddhism), but I believe it would need much of our common sense philosophy to be toppled down. Buddhism is barely arguably absurd altogether the way I see it. Maybe I'm very wrong and Iconodule might reproach me for that.  :P
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2018, 06:21:43 PM »
But if you define soul that broadly, even an atheist (or an agnostic like Hume) could believe in it. By "soul," I'm guessing the OP means something not reduceable to material substrates.


Admittedly, my own definition probably skirts that line a little, too. But then I don't really care about trying to prove the soul without reference to God. I'm content to say that the immaterial exists in Him and that therefore we can somehow relate to it even if we're not immaterial ourselves.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2018, 06:28:00 PM »
But if you define soul that broadly, even an atheist (or an agnostic like Hume) could believe in it. By "soul," I'm guessing the OP means something not reduceable to material substrates.


Volnutt, thanks for your input.
I think of the soul as being distinct from the physical body.

One could guess that the soul is made not of matter, but waves, energy and electromagnetism, but that could make the soul finite and I am skeptical of such an explanation.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 06:31:38 PM by rakovsky »
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2018, 07:04:03 PM »
But if you define soul that broadly, even an atheist (or an agnostic like Hume) could believe in it. By "soul," I'm guessing the OP means something not reduceable to material substrates.


Volnutt, thanks for your input.
I think of the soul as being distinct from the physical body.

One could guess that the soul is made not of matter, but waves, energy and electromagnetism, but that could make the soul finite and I am skeptical of such an explanation.

Waves, energy, and electromagnetism are all forms of matter (at least in a philosophical sense). Immateriality needs to mean "not located anywhere," though this is not strictly the same as being infinite.

In fact, it can be argued that even God is not immaterial in the modern strict sense of the word since He's located everywhere.

To reiterate, I tend to think that the mind/soul is like what's called an emergent property. "Wetness" is not a property of either hydrogen or oxygen by themselves, they are only "wet" when we talk about them combined into water. That's where wetness "emerges" from the molecules.

Likewise, we need a body (or at least a brain-in-a-vat) that God is sustaining and acting on in order to have a soul (at least to start out with, questions about the intermediate state between death and resurrection are of a different order). So, I guess my answer to "Is the soul of the body or not of the body?" is "Why not split the difference?"
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 07:05:29 PM by Volnutt »
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2018, 07:13:29 PM »
Our very own existence is not logical. Sometimes it freaks me out, but then i smell the Epiphany holy water from 2016 that does not spoil, so i know God exists, and i avoid panic attack that way.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2018, 08:03:51 PM »
Another believer in Pasadi's theory of holy water.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2018, 08:15:56 PM »
Another believer in Pasadi's theory of holy water.

Church tradition generally accepts the belief that Epiphany water doesn’t spoil because it’s borne out by the experience of the faithful.  This is a different matter entirely from interfaith holy water duels. 
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2018, 08:18:01 PM »
Okay, sorry.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2018, 08:41:19 PM »
Another believer in Pasadi's theory of holy water.

Church tradition generally accepts the belief that Epiphany water doesn’t spoil because it’s borne out by the experience of the faithful.  This is a different matter entirely from interfaith holy water duels.

I don't think water in a glass bottle will usually spoil anyway (and even if tastes a little bad from petroleum leakage or fridge odor or something, it's still potable). But that was admittedly just from a quick Googling.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2018, 09:26:33 PM »
Our very own existence is not logical.
It is logical, because it dwells in the Logos, but it's incomprehensible.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 09:27:06 PM by RaphaCam »
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Offline NicholasMyra

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2018, 09:34:12 PM »
my own experience and sensation of being distinct from the body in my first person subjective state.
I doubt you had that experience.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #17 on: January 22, 2018, 09:48:42 PM »
my own experience and sensation of being distinct from the body in my first person subjective state.
I doubt you had that experience.
I don't mean an out of body experience. I mean that I have a sense that I am different from my purely physical body alone.
My eyes feel like Windows for my soul to look at the world.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #18 on: January 22, 2018, 10:12:12 PM »
my own experience and sensation of being distinct from the body in my first person subjective state.
I doubt you had that experience.
I don't mean an out of body experience. I mean that I have a sense that I am different from my purely physical body alone.
My eyes feel like Windows for my soul to look at the world.

How could you tell the difference if they weren't? At the very least, the fact that windows don't move should make you doubt. For my part, I have a very distinct sense of the shape of my eyeballs. I can feel their boundaries when I roll or dart my eyes around, other things you can't do with a passive window.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #19 on: January 22, 2018, 10:57:15 PM »
my own experience and sensation of being distinct from the body in my first person subjective state.
I doubt you had that experience.
I don't mean an out of body experience. I mean that I have a sense that I am different from my purely physical body alone.
My eyes feel like Windows for my soul to look at the world.

How could you tell the difference if they weren't? At the very least, the fact that windows don't move should make you doubt. For my part, I have a very distinct sense of the shape of my eyeballs. I can feel their boundaries when I roll or dart my eyes around, other things you can't do with a passive window.
I am trying to use metaphors for my sense of my experience of a soul observing the world. The eyes are tools for viewing and perceiving the world. If they were not tools for my observing the world, I would be blind.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #20 on: January 22, 2018, 11:40:24 PM »
my own experience and sensation of being distinct from the body in my first person subjective state.
I doubt you had that experience.
I don't mean an out of body experience. I mean that I have a sense that I am different from my purely physical body alone.
My eyes feel like Windows for my soul to look at the world.

How could you tell the difference if they weren't? At the very least, the fact that windows don't move should make you doubt. For my part, I have a very distinct sense of the shape of my eyeballs. I can feel their boundaries when I roll or dart my eyes around, other things you can't do with a passive window.
I am trying to use metaphors for my sense of my experience of a soul observing the world. The eyes are tools for viewing and perceiving the world. If they were not tools for my observing the world, I would be blind.

Tools, yes. But what makes you think that you have some homunculus behind the tools that is somehow "you" in a way that they are not? Can he take out your eyes and examine them?
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2018, 01:22:51 AM »

Tools, yes. But what makes you think that you have some homunculus behind the tools that is somehow "you" in a way that they are not? Can he take out your eyes and examine them?
This is one of the questions I am raising for the thread. I have a sense that I am or have a soul distinct from my physical brain, eyes, and body alone. I have a feeling that I am such an entity looking out at the world, observing my eyes, brain and body. But I am not sure how I could prove this.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 01:23:16 AM by rakovsky »
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2018, 03:24:01 AM »

Tools, yes. But what makes you think that you have some homunculus behind the tools that is somehow "you" in a way that they are not? Can he take out your eyes and examine them?
This is one of the questions I am raising for the thread. I have a sense that I am or have a soul distinct from my physical brain, eyes, and body alone. I have a feeling that I am such an entity looking out at the world, observing my eyes, brain and body. But I am not sure how I could prove this.

But if there's a homunculus watching your vision, how does the homunculus itself see? Does it also have a homunculus viewer behind its "eyes?"

And if you didn't have feelings like that, you probably couldn't function. Near as we can tell, it's a necessary side effect of having a brain that can successfully coordinate sensory information as well as produce second order thought. So even if there is a homunculus, we don't really have any way to empirically prove that it's there.

And why do you care so much about trying to prove it? If there's a God who's anything like the Christian God, then something like the soul probably exists, too. But if there isn't a God, or he's completely alien, then what does it matter whether we have souls or not? In all likelihood we wouldn't.

Better to focus on your issues with theism first.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 03:28:03 AM by Volnutt »
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #23 on: January 23, 2018, 04:05:56 AM »
If the soul is anything like described by many ancient Christian theologians, I don't see how one can logically prove it. Though, while according to many of those theologians the soul is composed of a "subtle substance" more similar to that of angels than human bodies, nonetheless humans have the ability to perceive (not just visually) angels given certain conditions, so it is perhaps possible (if such Christians were correct) that the soul could be perceived. This is all speculation though, and as the thread has shown depends a ton on what underlying beliefs you already hold to.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #24 on: January 23, 2018, 04:16:51 AM »
If the soul is anything like described by many ancient Christian theologians, I don't see how one can logically prove it. Though, while according to many of those theologians the soul is composed of a "subtle substance" more similar to that of angels than human bodies, nonetheless humans have the ability to perceive (not just visually) angels given certain conditions, so it is perhaps possible (if such Christians were correct) that the soul could be perceived. This is all speculation though, and as the thread has shown depends a ton on what underlying beliefs you already hold to.

Yeah, but even if such a "subtle body" could be detected (for some reason I can only think of the PKE meter from Ghostbusters lol), I don't think it could ever be presented objectively as "proof" that others would accept.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 04:17:09 AM by Volnutt »
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #25 on: January 23, 2018, 03:39:08 PM »
It can be proven ad absurdum by imagining what a soulless body would be like in any reasonable definition of "soul". Sure, a materialist might accept this point while seeing the soul as a mere abstraction that only encompasses potencies with material substrates, instead of a substance, but this is a whole other deal.
I can see how the concept of a soul can be explained this way, but I don't know how it can be proven this way as a distinct entity or object with a real existence.

One could say that a soulless body would have no free will or creativity, but only automatically respond to stimuli or make a mix of random and pre-set decisions. The skeptics seem to reply to me that an electrolyzed lump, the brain, has its own free will and can make its own decisions. But to me this seems like an incorrect response. I think that either a decision is random, or it is physically pre-conditioned, or else it is based on a will of a non-physical mind. How can a mind make nonrandom unconditioned choices unless the brain has some real non-preset non-physical existence and qualities?
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #26 on: January 23, 2018, 03:43:31 PM »
If there's a God who's anything like the Christian God, then something like the soul probably exists, too. But if there isn't a God, or he's completely alien, then what does it matter whether we have souls or not? In all likelihood we wouldn't.

Better to focus on your issues with theism first.
Buddhism seems to teach the existence of the soul, but originally Buddhism seems to have been Atheist based on some of the earlier Buddhist writings. At least, some major strains of it are Atheist. Yet they propose that the soul undergoes reincarnations.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #27 on: January 23, 2018, 03:47:57 PM »
If the soul is anything like described by many ancient Christian theologians, I don't see how one can logically prove it. Though, while according to many of those theologians the soul is composed of a "subtle substance" more similar to that of angels than human bodies, nonetheless humans have the ability to perceive (not just visually) angels given certain conditions, so it is perhaps possible (if such Christians were correct) that the soul could be perceived.
If the saints have been seen after their deaths, then would they be seen in their "spirit bodies"? Would that mean that they have a soul, spirit, and body after their death where their earthly body lies in the ground?
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #28 on: January 23, 2018, 09:02:43 PM »
If there's a God who's anything like the Christian God, then something like the soul probably exists, too. But if there isn't a God, or he's completely alien, then what does it matter whether we have souls or not? In all likelihood we wouldn't.

Better to focus on your issues with theism first.
Buddhism seems to teach the existence of the soul, but originally Buddhism seems to have been Atheist based on some of the earlier Buddhist writings. At least, some major strains of it are Atheist. Yet they propose that the soul undergoes reincarnations.

Modern Western college Buddhism is usually atheistic. Buddhism as practiced through most of history and in most of Asia even now is more "gods are various shades of irrelevant." They still believe(d) in a spiritual reality ("atman," to use the Hindu term) that included reincarnation and that would not be acceptable to a modern secular atheist.

I tend to agree with Dawkins on this, only Darwin made it really possible to be an intellectual atheist.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #29 on: January 23, 2018, 09:05:07 PM »
It can be proven ad absurdum by imagining what a soulless body would be like in any reasonable definition of "soul". Sure, a materialist might accept this point while seeing the soul as a mere abstraction that only encompasses potencies with material substrates, instead of a substance, but this is a whole other deal.
I can see how the concept of a soul can be explained this way, but I don't know how it can be proven this way as a distinct entity or object with a real existence.

One could say that a soulless body would have no free will or creativity, but only automatically respond to stimuli or make a mix of random and pre-set decisions. The skeptics seem to reply to me that an electrolyzed lump, the brain, has its own free will and can make its own decisions. But to me this seems like an incorrect response. I think that either a decision is random, or it is physically pre-conditioned, or else it is based on a will of a non-physical mind. How can a mind make nonrandom unconditioned choices unless the brain has some real non-preset non-physical existence and qualities?

What makes you think a non-physical mind gets an automatic exemption from the "random or pre-conditioned" dichotomy (especially since even a non-physical mind would still have to at least interact with, and most likely be influenced by, our brains)?
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #30 on: January 23, 2018, 09:08:33 PM »
If the soul is anything like described by many ancient Christian theologians, I don't see how one can logically prove it. Though, while according to many of those theologians the soul is composed of a "subtle substance" more similar to that of angels than human bodies, nonetheless humans have the ability to perceive (not just visually) angels given certain conditions, so it is perhaps possible (if such Christians were correct) that the soul could be perceived.
If the saints have been seen after their deaths, then would they be seen in their "spirit bodies"? Would that mean that they have a soul, spirit, and body after their death where their earthly body lies in the ground?

Other possible explanations:

Divinely induced vision/hallucination
Some form of miraculous time travel/dimensional hopping from their post-echaton abode
Multiplication of their flesh like Christ multiplied the loaves and fish (which might also be an explanation for Saints that bilocated)
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #31 on: January 23, 2018, 11:04:40 PM »
Modern Western college Buddhism is usually atheistic. Buddhism as practiced through most of history and in most of Asia even now is more "gods are various shades of irrelevant." They still believe(d) in a spiritual reality ("atman," to use the Hindu term) that included reincarnation and that would not be acceptable to a modern secular atheist.

I tend to agree with Dawkins on this, only Darwin made it really possible to be an intellectual atheist.
Here are examples of what I meant about Buddhism having atheism in early writings:

Buddha: "Others think that God is free creator of all things; clinging to these foolish notions, there is no awakening." [Lankavatara Sutra]

Buddha : "All such notions [of a] ...personal soul, Supreme Spirit, Sovereign God, Creator, are all figments of the imagination and manifestations of mind." [Lankavatara Sutra]

One could, as with these Buddhist ideologies, conceive of a world where people each have an atman (soul), and yet there is no supreme "deity" (atheism).
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #32 on: January 23, 2018, 11:06:51 PM »
What makes you think a non-physical mind gets an automatic exemption from the "random or pre-conditioned" dichotomy (especially since even a non-physical mind would still have to at least interact with, and most likely be influenced by, our brains)?
Maybe the page that I cited from does a better job explaining his argument than I could:
http://www.angelfire.com/mn2/tisthammerw/rlgnphil/soul.html

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #33 on: January 23, 2018, 11:50:28 PM »

My eyes feel like Windows for my soul to look at the world.
Feelings are often re-construed.

Furthermore, this is how things "seem" to you when you "reflect", but I bet they don't "seem" that way when you're actively engaged in a task.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 11:51:55 PM by NicholasMyra »
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #34 on: January 24, 2018, 09:29:07 AM »
Modern Western college Buddhism is usually atheistic. Buddhism as practiced through most of history and in most of Asia even now is more "gods are various shades of irrelevant." They still believe(d) in a spiritual reality ("atman," to use the Hindu term) that included reincarnation and that would not be acceptable to a modern secular atheist.

I tend to agree with Dawkins on this, only Darwin made it really possible to be an intellectual atheist.
Here are examples of what I meant about Buddhism having atheism in early writings:

Buddha: "Others think that God is free creator of all things; clinging to these foolish notions, there is no awakening." [Lankavatara Sutra]

I think that's more talking about God being in control of everything, not whether or not God exists. It's like in Jainism. The gods are just as in thrall to atman as everybody else, they just have different abilities.

Buddha : "All such notions [of a] ...personal soul, Supreme Spirit, Sovereign God, Creator, are all figments of the imagination and manifestations of mind." [Lankavatara Sutra]

One could, as with these Buddhist ideologies, conceive of a world where people each have an atman (soul), and yet there is no supreme "deity" (atheism).

Sure, you could conceive of it, but atman and samsara is still not modern Western materialistic atheism. Especially when in actual Asian culture Buddhism is constantly being blended with folk magic, other religions, or superstition.

To me the most important question is "Materialism (in the common sense of the word, not Bulgakov's modified definition) or not materialism?" all other questions are more or less secondary and mostly involved with what religion one believes in.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 09:31:29 AM by Volnutt »
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #35 on: January 24, 2018, 09:53:12 AM »
What makes you think a non-physical mind gets an automatic exemption from the "random or pre-conditioned" dichotomy (especially since even a non-physical mind would still have to at least interact with, and most likely be influenced by, our brains)?
Maybe the page that I cited from does a better job explaining his argument than I could:
http://www.angelfire.com/mn2/tisthammerw/rlgnphil/soul.html

Yeah, I know what agency theory is, I'm just not sure that it makes much sense. First of all, how does the soul even generate its choices in the first place? How do we chose whether to order water or lemonade (without just dying of thirst like Buridan's Ass)? Do we always just behave randomly? I sure hope not! We seem to chose on the basis of whatever our strongest inclination at the time was (maybe I decide I don't want the extra calories from the lemonade. Maybe I remember that the water in this place doesn't taste very good, etc).

But if we chose on the basis of whatever our strongest inclination at the time is, then how can we also be the ultimate source of said inclination? It's like Baron Munchhausen pulling himself up by his own hair.

As the first paragraph in your link points out, everything must be caused by something. I can (uneasily) swallow the argument that God doesn't need a cause for His behavior, but why should we be little Gods? And I don't see from the link how taking material out of the equation can actually give us such an "ungenerated" ability, the author just seems to assert that this is so. Why can't the choices of an incorporeal spirit also be caused by something?

Second, I'm not sure agency theory really takes seriously the kind of embodied beings that we actually are. So many of our choices are pretty clearly not free in any meaningful sense. Ask a manic depressive or a schizophrenic or an alcoholic. If the incorporeal soul is supposed to be in ultimate control of the movements and thoughts of our meat, then why can't it also go the other way around?

So, at best I think agency theory just collapses back into simple indeterminism and it's kind of a joke to call that "freedom" (I also agree with the link that it seems to be a pretty egregious violation of ex nihilo nihil fit).
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 10:00:51 AM by Volnutt »
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #36 on: January 24, 2018, 11:13:49 AM »
The question of whether Buddhism is atheistic is kind of complicated but I think it's safer to lean on the "no" side. Obviously Buddhism does not recognize God as we do. It does of course assume the existence of gods; however, these beings are subject to the laws of impermanence like everything else and are not immortal, omnipotent beings. A central principle of Buddhism is anatman/ anatta, usually translated as "non-self" which denies any kind of abiding self/ atman, whether in individual sentient beings or as a supreme reality. The quoted passages from the Lankavatara Sutra  This concept is later expanded, especially in Mahayana, into the principle of sunyata/ emptiness.

Where things get tricky is how this principle of emptiness is itself a universal principle. You can see this in the Lankavatara Sutra itself which talks about mind or consciousness, or Buddha nature, as the only thing that is real. Since this mind is empty, that is, it has no abiding, fixed content, but is constantly giving rise to ever-changing and dissolving formations, it cannot be identified with self (or God). And yet in some Buddhist writings you do see descriptions of this mind/ Buddha nature/ Dharmakaya as the true Self underpinning all things. So it gets hard to really differentiate this concept from a transcendent, apophatic idea of God.

For that reason I would not say Buddhism is really atheistic.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #37 on: January 24, 2018, 05:20:01 PM »
It sounds like most of the respondents tend to think that the soul's existence can't be proven logically.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #38 on: January 24, 2018, 05:50:31 PM »
The question of whether Buddhism is atheistic is kind of complicated but I think it's safer to lean on the "no" side. Obviously Buddhism does not recognize God as we do. It does of course assume the existence of gods; however, these beings are subject to the laws of impermanence like everything else and are not immortal, omnipotent beings. A central principle of Buddhism is anatman/ anatta, usually translated as "non-self" which denies any kind of abiding self/ atman, whether in individual sentient beings or as a supreme reality. The quoted passages from the Lankavatara Sutra  This concept is later expanded, especially in Mahayana, into the principle of sunyata/ emptiness.

Where things get tricky is how this principle of emptiness is itself a universal principle. You can see this in the Lankavatara Sutra itself which talks about mind or consciousness, or Buddha nature, as the only thing that is real. Since this mind is empty, that is, it has no abiding, fixed content, but is constantly giving rise to ever-changing and dissolving formations, it cannot be identified with self (or God). And yet in some Buddhist writings you do see descriptions of this mind/ Buddha nature/ Dharmakaya as the true Self underpinning all things. So it gets hard to really differentiate this concept from a transcendent, apophatic idea of God.

For that reason I would not say Buddhism is really atheistic.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #39 on: January 25, 2018, 01:06:14 AM »
It sounds like most of the respondents tend to think that the soul's existence can't be proven logically.
Regardless, your argument from supposed intuition did not do so.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #40 on: February 03, 2018, 04:51:46 PM »
Do you have a basis to think that you have a soul, other than Christianity and the Bible teaching that you do? Isn't there an intuitive aspect whereby one senses that one has a soul, like how one can sense that one has free will, or how some people say that they know inside that God is real?

It seems that intuition could be an argument that Job uses in Job 19 as his basis for thinking that God lives and that after his death, Job will see God with his own eyes:

Quote
25. For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

26. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

27. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Job does not seem to back up his allegation of his predicted future with any logical arguments or evidence. One could reasonably say that Job believed this based on common theologies of the era about God and about the afterlife, and that these beliefs are also found in the Torah and other places in the Bible. But maybe Job is just asserting that he knows these truths because of his intuition, in the sense of truths that are known inwardly, of the heart and mind?
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 05:05:22 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline RaphaCam

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #41 on: February 03, 2018, 05:19:50 PM »
Plato and Aristotle did very well with it.
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #42 on: February 04, 2018, 06:00:20 AM »
Do you have a basis to think that you have a soul, other than Christianity and the Bible teaching that you do? Isn't there an intuitive aspect whereby one senses that one has a soul, like how one can sense that one has free will, or how some people say that they know inside that God is real?

I know that I have a mind. Whether and to what extent there's something of it that's separate from my brain seems like kind of a pointless academic question. If Christianity requires it, I'll believe it (though I'm not sure to what extent it does).

I don't sense that I have free will, all I sense is that I do things for various reasons. If I'm hungry, I eat. If I decide to stay hungry, it's because I want something more than satisfying my hunger at that moment (like if I want to fast). I'm not sure how I could rationally tell whether or not those reasons were subject to some kind of free faculty in me as opposed to just conditioned by outside forces.

It seems that intuition could be an argument that Job uses in Job 19 as his basis for thinking that God lives and that after his death, Job will see God with his own eyes:

Quote
25. For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

26. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

27. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Job does not seem to back up his allegation of his predicted future with any logical arguments or evidence. One could reasonably say that Job believed this based on common theologies of the era about God and about the afterlife, and that these beliefs are also found in the Torah and other places in the Bible. But maybe Job is just asserting that he knows these truths because of his intuition, in the sense of truths that are known inwardly, of the heart and mind?

The former argument makes more sense. I don't think the ancients were into the same kind of rigorous introspection/navel gazing that a lot of us can get addicted to.
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #43 on: February 04, 2018, 06:05:02 AM »
Plato and Aristotle did very well with it.


What were they arguing against, though? I don't think even Democritus jettisoned the soul.

Its existence was kind of pointless to question in a culture that didn't perceive much if any connection between the mind and the brain. Maybe if someone was alleging that man was just an animal, I don't know.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2018, 06:09:40 AM by Volnutt »
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Re: Can one logically prove that the soul exists?
« Reply #44 on: February 05, 2018, 01:02:29 AM »
What were they arguing against, though? I don't think even Democritus jettisoned the soul.

Its existence was kind of pointless to question in a culture that didn't perceive much if any connection between the mind and the brain. Maybe if someone was alleging that man was just an animal, I don't know.
Democritus's idea of a soul would be completely different from what Plato argues against in Phaedo, for instance.
"May the Lord our God remember in His kingdom all Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, which heralds the Word of Truth and fearlessly offers and distributes the Holy Oblation despite human deficiencies and persecutions moved by the powers of this world, in all time and unto the ages of ages."

May the Blessed Light shine Forth