Does the Soul Exist?

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Is there a soul?

Humans have souls, but animals and other living things do not
1
6%
Both animals and humans have souls
6
38%
The soul does not exist
6
38%
Other
3
19%
 
Total votes: 16

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Summerlander
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Re: Does the Soul Exist?

Postby Summerlander » 18 Nov 2014 20:04

I'm 300 pages into Daniel Dennet's "Consciousness Explained." It is a great theory of human consciousness that highlights observations made from results in cognitive science, neurology, and brain evolution. It also comes laced with computing analogies, perceptual illusions and philosophy of mind. The brain does compute but it is not a computer. It contains pandemonium mechanisms, haphazard structures, and multiple spendthrift nodes. It is has been blindly generated by Darwinian evolution but it has stumbled upon the fluke of "drunk" parallel programs supporting one another. Eventually, it developed language as a necessity and this went a long way in developing and reinforcing the epiphenomenon of consciousness in Homo Sapiens.

All evidence points to the scenario that we are nothing but biological machines, funny robots that became self-aware using sensory organs. No soul or Cartesian Theatre is found in the brain. We are just physical matter, nothing more. Consciousness is an illusion - meaning it exists but it isn't what we think or feel it is. There is no self just as there is no real centre of gravity at the core of our planet (and never was before Earth even formed). It took atoms and molecules to gravitate towards one another in space.

The user illusion is like the wetness of water: none of the atoms or molecules (H2O, R99, if you are paying attention) are wet. Wet is an illusion...

Even if a soul were found, we still wouldn't have an explanation for consciousness as scientists and philosophers alike would be obliged to ask: How is the soul conscious?

The soul is an unnecessary hypothesis and as improbable as the fairy. It does not have explanatory power either and unjustly robs the physical universe of its own "magical" powers. Anyone who claims to know that consciousness can't possibly arise from physical matter in this universe talks out of their ass and indirectly assumes to know all there is to know about the way reality works to be able to make such a claim.

Evidently, physical matter can become conscious otherwise we would not be having this discussion. Evidently, nothing of a metaphysical or supernatural nature is observed in the brain or to be interacting with this one. Scientists do not have all the answers but they are certainly trying to find out how cerebral activity comes to produce conscious states.

What are all the soul fantasists doing for us?

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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deschainXIX
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Re: Does the Soul Exist?

Postby deschainXIX » 18 Nov 2014 20:31

@HAGART

You're not stupid for thinking that. Anyone with a halfway-serviceable brain doesn't see the sense in the soul theory.
Building on what you said about souls inhabiting minds: even then it doesn't make sense, because not all minds are individualistic. As I pointed out in my initial post, there is such a thing as a hive-mind.

@Summerlander

I have got to read that book. The question of consciousness has always plagued me, as it has for so many others.

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Well said.

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Summerlander
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Re: Does the Soul Exist?

Postby Summerlander » 18 Nov 2014 21:27

It is indeed a good book. I've also read Susan Blackmore's thesis on consciousness and she recommends Dennett's work, too. As a neuroscientist, lucid dreamer, and meditator, Sam Harris pretty much agrees with them in that the self is an illusion, and not, as some imagine, a homunculus residing in the brain. Given all the evidence, it is common sense to view the concept of a soul as a needless distraction and a ridiculous one at that. The notion of a supernatural elan vital is pretty much obsolete given how far we've come.

The problem with consciousness is that it is poorly defined. Looking for it is a bit of a conundrum for we don't even know what we are looking for. Sure, certain areas of the brain light up, 40 Hz of pulsation seems to play a role too, but, all these things are mere indications (plus reportability by the conscious individual, of course). We are trying to understand a puzzle that is billions of years old. It became fantastically and progressively complex during that time scale. The puzzle is, of course, the human brain. Reverse-engineering it would definitely provide more clues as to how consciousness came about. How is it done? But don't despair. Just as we developed the radar and sonar long after nature stumbled upon echolocation in bats, so will we, one day, devise conscious machines by learning from the brain. I hope we suss it out one day anyway...

I do feel that the Turing Test will not be enough to identify man-made consciousness though. If AIrs stumble upon it, how will they know it's not a mere robotic simulation? We'd have to replicate the human brain to be sure. Have you seen "Bicentennial Man"?

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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deschainXIX
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Re: Does the Soul Exist?

Postby deschainXIX » 19 Nov 2014 01:13

Everyone seems to have their own subjective definition of consciousness. I was very disappointed by my psychology textbook's explanation: "the state of being aware." This and nothing more. No expounding of any kind. With as soft a science as psychology is already, they still have so little to say on the subject. "Consciousness" is only a small sliver of the course material.

There are also so many questions and theories as to why consciousness arose in the universe. None of them really satisfy me; I tend to think that we don't really need a reason--at least no more than we need a reason for why the universe itself exists. Even if we could eventually discover the explanation, could our minds, at their current natural state, comprehend it? I am, however, partial to the idea that the universe vomited up this idea of consciousness as a way of affirming its own existence--to sort of have a way to view and observe itself. Though this idea is still extremely unsatisfactory, in my opinion. It doesn't really answer anything, at least not for me. I still adhere to the idea that perhaps consciousness is not so spectacular and remarkable a thing that we even need a reason to explain its existence.

I haven't seen "Bicentennial Man," but I love all movies that ponder artificial intelligence. There's a film coming out soon called "Chappie" by Neil Blomkamp, my favorite science fiction filmmaker. I get the impression it will be a more speculative, contemplative movie about artificial intelligence and the melding of androids with the rest of humanity--far more tame and mature compared to Blomkamp's other films, which were mostly filled with the most entertaining sci-fi action I've ever seen with less-than-subtle social allegory as a backdrop. The two movies sound similar.
Well said.

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Summerlander
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Re: Does the Soul Exist?

Postby Summerlander » 19 Nov 2014 14:32

deschainXIX wrote:Everyone seems to have their own subjective definition of consciousness. I was very disappointed by my psychology textbook's explanation: "the state of being aware." This and nothing more. No expounding of any kind. With as soft a science as psychology is already, they still have so little to say on the subject. "Consciousness" is only a small sliver of the course material.


You will like the book then because it mentions many others who are focused on the subject and take it seriously - as they should! :geek:

deschainXIX wrote:Even if we could eventually discover the explanation, could our minds, at their current natural state, comprehend it?


Others pose the same question and the book certainly has something to say about this. You might find that the book will mention things that you already know but it will definitely expand your mind in other areas. Dualism is dead but there seems to be a popular Cartesian materialism that still lingers out there there and tends to be quite popular. There is no Cartesian Theatre in the brain. It seems that there is but this way of looking at the problem will get you nowhere and such notion is false.

deschainXIX wrote:I am, however, partial to the idea that the universe vomited up this idea of consciousness as a way of affirming its own existence--to sort of have a way to view and observe itself. Though this idea is still extremely unsatisfactory, in my opinion. It doesn't really answer anything, at least not for me. I still adhere to the idea that perhaps consciousness is not so spectacular and remarkable a thing that we even need a reason to explain its existence.


There is no purpose behind consciousness. For the universe to formulate consciousness for a specific goal, it would need to be aware of such a goal, to have that goal in mind...

We know that things do not work like that. We know evolution certainly doesn't. It is almost like saying that we were born because we needed to affirm our existence. We did not pick life and neither did the universe as a conscious agent. Life arose by chance because the universe stumbled upon the right conditions in this particular spot in the Milky Way. One can say that consciousness is an amazing illusion which deeply befuddles beings such as ourselves - mammals that thirst for knowledge and explanations. Some would argue that we shouldn't find it surprising that we developed consciousness in our evolution. It was bound to happen given language, self-awareness, instincts, propensities, intentionalities, higher-order intentionalities and so forth... We are biological robots that have been perennially upgraded by natural selection since time immemorial.

deschainXIX wrote:I haven't seen "Bicentennial Man," but I love all movies that ponder artificial intelligence. There's a film coming out soon called "Chappie" by Neil Blomkamp, my favorite science fiction filmmaker. I get the impression it will be a more speculative, contemplative movie about artificial intelligence and the melding of androids with the rest of humanity--far more tame and mature compared to Blomkamp's other films, which were mostly filled with the most entertaining sci-fi action I've ever seen with less-than-subtle social allegory as a backdrop. The two movies sound similar.


Watch Bicentennial. It is deep. And I'll watch "Chappie." I also liked Steven Spielberg's AI. I love films that contemplate the nature of consciousness, too. 8-)
"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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deschainXIX
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Re: Does the Soul Exist?

Postby deschainXIX » 20 Nov 2014 00:35

Summerlander wrote:You will like the book then because it mentions many others who are focused on the subject and take it seriously - as they should!


I'll get it for Christmas! :D

Summerlander wrote:There is no purpose behind consciousness. For the universe to formulate consciousness for a specific goal, it would need to be aware of such a goal, to have that goal in mind...

We know that things do not work like that. We know evolution certainly doesn't. It is almost like saying that we were born because we needed to affirm our existence. We did not pick life and neither did the universe as a conscious agent. Life arose by chance because the universe stumbled upon the right conditions in this particular spot in the Milky Way. One can say that consciousness is an amazing illusion which deeply befuddles beings such as ourselves - mammals that thirst for knowledge and explanations. Some would argue that we shouldn't find it surprising that we developed consciousness in our evolution. It was bound to happen given language, self-awareness, instincts, propensities, intentionalities, higher-order intentionalities and so forth... We are biological robots that have been perennially upgraded by natural selection since time immemorial.


I entirely agree that there is no purpose to consciousness. Indeed, asking ourselves why consciousness came about makes just as much sense as asking why the universe came about. They are on par with each other, at least. And we may never have an answer to either question. In fact, I would say we probably never will. (However, for you theistic readers, that does not mean we can't rule out hypotheses and speculations that are obviously wrong--IE there is a benevolent, patriarchal God in the clouds who created the universe and loves every one of us with all His heart.)

This is why I think morality is nonexistent. It is a totally ill-founded concept, revolving inevitably around our basic evolutionary nature. There is no inherent goodness or evil to the universe; the universe sees only balance and imbalance, not good and evil. In fact, I think the terms "good" and "evil" are pretty archaic and outdated--they don't really mean anything and make just as much sense as "original sin." The only "rulebook" I have discerned that might be wholesome to consult on moral issues can be found in dogmatically adhering to what our empathetic nature tells us--don't hurt others. But adhering to nature is problematic in and of itself. Nature is wild and insane and, above all, immoral (there is indiscriminate rape and murder everywhere in nature; its a cold horrorshow out there in the dark wild). I have not yet encountered a pragmatic reason to behave morally, none that is satisfactory, at least. When you get down to it, us realists are faced with ideals just as difficult and dangerous as the religious's delusions. Thinking can sometimes be just as dangerous as not thinking. :|

In the end it falls back to "Is it better to be ignorant and sane or lucid and totally crazy?" In this case, neither cases are entirely realistic, because every viewpoint is at least a little flawed and dangerous. Philosophically-speaking, of course.
Well said.

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R99
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Re: Does the Soul Exist?

Postby R99 » 20 Nov 2014 07:54

deschainXIX wrote:This is why I think morality is nonexistent. It is a totally ill-founded concept, revolving inevitably around our basic evolutionary nature. There is no inherent goodness or evil to the universe; the universe sees only balance and imbalance, not good and evil. In fact, I think the terms "good" and "evil" are pretty archaic and outdated--they don't really mean anything and make just as much sense as "original sin." The only "rulebook" I have discerned that might be wholesome to consult on moral issues can be found in dogmatically adhering to what our empathetic nature tells us--don't hurt others. But adhering to nature is problematic in and of itself. Nature is wild and insane and, above all, immoral (there is indiscriminate rape and murder everywhere in nature; its a cold horrorshow out there in the dark wild). I have not yet encountered a pragmatic reason to behave morally, none that is satisfactory, at least. When you get down to it, us realists are faced with ideals just as difficult and dangerous as the religious's delusions. Thinking can sometimes be just as dangerous as not thinking. :|

In the end it falls back to "Is it better to be ignorant and sane or lucid and totally crazy?" In this case, neither cases are entirely realistic, because every viewpoint is at least a little flawed and dangerous. Philosophically-speaking, of course.


piece of art indeed :shock: some people r unbelievable
I see the Truth now.

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deschainXIX
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Re: Does the Soul Exist?

Postby deschainXIX » 20 Nov 2014 11:07

I'd like to revise an age-old colloquialism:
If you don't have anything even moderately intelligent to say, don't say anything at all, R99.

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Well said.

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buildit
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Re: Does the Soul Exist?

Postby buildit » 20 Nov 2014 14:40

deschainXIX wrote:
Summerlander wrote:There is no purpose behind consciousness. For the universe to formulate consciousness for a specific goal, it would need to be aware of such a goal, to have that goal in mind...

We know that things do not work like that. We know evolution certainly doesn't. It is almost like saying that we were born because we needed to affirm our existence. We did not pick life and neither did the universe as a conscious agent. Life arose by chance because the universe stumbled upon the right conditions in this particular spot in the Milky Way. One can say that consciousness is an amazing illusion which deeply befuddles beings such as ourselves - mammals that thirst for knowledge and explanations. Some would argue that we shouldn't find it surprising that we developed consciousness in our evolution. It was bound to happen given language, self-awareness, instincts, propensities, intentionalities, higher-order intentionalities and so forth... We are biological robots that have been perennially upgraded by natural selection since time immemorial.


I entirely agree that there is no purpose to consciousness. Indeed, asking ourselves why consciousness came about makes just as much sense as asking why the universe came about. They are on par with each other, at least. And we may never have an answer to either question. In fact, I would say we probably never will. (However, for you theistic readers, that does not mean we can't rule out hypotheses and speculations that are obviously wrong--IE there is a benevolent, patriarchal God in the clouds who created the universe and loves every one of us with all His heart.)

This is why I think morality is nonexistent.


Beware Summer field make some big assumptions on exactly what we supposedly "know" here. I would like to know how he assumes we know these things? Also I think you mean immortality? As for a purpose for consciousness, shall we also assume there is not purpose for life? And on that slippery slope if life were exterminated by a cataclysmic on Earth then no big deal? I am surprised at the belief that you put in the cosmic coincidences. Universal constant accurate to something like 10 X-11 decimal places (6.673×10−11), Goldilocks planet the right distance from sun which is just big enough not to cook us, where life just "happens" and then becomes sentient! If I was a gambling man those odds make the Power Ball look like a sure win. :roll:


deschainXIX wrote:In the end it falls back to "Is it better to be ignorant and sane or lucid and totally crazy?" In this case, neither cases are entirely realistic, because every viewpoint is at least a little flawed and dangerous. Philosophically-speaking, of course.


This who thread can now end and my work is done here! :D
Last edited by buildit on 20 Nov 2014 14:53, edited 1 time in total.
Is Lucid Dreaming the brains preparation for the next step of human evolution when we can escape the corporeal bond of our bodies?

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deschainXIX
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Re: Does the Soul Exist?

Postby deschainXIX » 20 Nov 2014 14:48

That was perhaps a bit misworded. Our viewpoint is realistic and sound, but I meant to convey that it may or may not be just as dangerous as all the religious and pseudo-scientific nonsense. :D

I'm simply interested in hearing what Summerlander has to say about where he gets his morality. Obviously I'm not going to abandon morality or change my behavior in any way around this revelation--it's simply a truism about an observation I've made. That I cannot find a pragmatically philosophical reason behind morality.

You people aren't making any sound or profound points here. You're only screaming "Aha!" and jumping triumphantly all over the fact that I am reflecting aloud on the implications of realism. The soul does not exist. Nor does any higher meaning to the universe. I'm not ceding anything. Only building on these points.
Well said.


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