Looking for writings about the soul in liminal/edge situations
June 23, 2019 8:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for pieces about the soul (not arguing against its existence, but either presuming its existence or arguing for its existence) on the topics of evolution (specifically pre human ancestors) and neuroscience (focusing on things like Alzheimer's, dementia, hydrocephaly and other conditions that effect the consciousness).

I'd like to believe in a soul. Or at least the possibility of one. However, given my layman's understanding of how personality and memory are constructed, coupled with my understanding of human evolution (the soul seeming to be, in the words of the intelligent design folks "irreducibly complex"), I have a dead set, concrete belief that there is no such thing as a soul and can never be. I'd like to change this, but to do so, I need to find stuff written about the soul that addresses the above concerns.

(Mention of God is ok, but I'm not looking for anything that argues for good while ignoring the soul issue. The way I see it, the existence of God(s) is a moot question without a soul for him/her/them (both plural and singular) to contend with.)

A similar question was asked a while ago, but that was about confronting existential dread, which I'm okish at. I'd just rather have at least a vague suspicion about an afterlife.
posted by Hactar to Religion & Philosophy (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You could start by reading recent research and articles about consciousness and death - specifically, that we have no idea when someone is actually dead. We have proxy representation - breath, pulse, brain activity, but we truly do not know when the mind has left the body. I’ll try to look for the specific article I read that got a lot of press a few years ago but so far I could not find it. This might allow you to consider that consciousness is more than a mere biological phenomenon.

Next consider the Buddhist thought experiment: where does consciousness come from? Easy - The preceding moment of consciousness. So Where did THAT preceding moment of consciousness come from? Yet another preceding moment. And the consciousness from last week is linked to today by successive preceding moments. So consciousness is clearly a continuum. Now where was consciousness of the baby before it was born? Easy - in the baby in the womb. So, when a woman is 8 months pregnant the baby has consciousness... 7 months... 6 months... 4 months... 3 months... 1 month... ok so the moment before that sperm met that egg, where was consciousness? Really think about it. You come down to two answers: either A) the preceding moment of consciousness yet again (aka the soul, or in Buddhism a consciousness that is not based in a body) or B) there was no preceding moment, something comes from nothing, the law of conservation of energy is violated in this case, a mind just came out of nowhere.

Note: Buddhists do no actually believe in a soul in the Christian sense and neither do I; the above explanation I put the word soul there just for you. In Buddhism there is a consciousness but it is not a particular “essence” of a person; hard to explain in a sound bite and not introductory Buddhism philosophy in the slightest.

Note: I don’t mean to argue another particular topic here and given the above explanation, personally I am still pro choice.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:49 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Pan-psychism is the belief that all matter has a rudimentary form of consciousness. Despite the name, a lot of serious philosophers and neurologists think the idea has some merit. It's not much of a leap to imagine the universe itself as kind of consciousness.

Where do I stand on this? I have no idea, but I do believe that the universe, its sheer existence, is ultimately utterly mysterious.
posted by xammerboy at 12:10 AM on June 24


You may or may not find this interesting: Quantum Consciousness and its Nature in Microtubules [SLYT] by Dr. Stuart Hameroff.

The term “Quantum Consciousness” immediately makes me think of New Age Healing Crystals &c, but that’s not what this is. In short, he makes the case that consciousness arises from quantum mechanical operations in the brain. Which implies that uploading of consciousness ala Hans Moravec is probably impossible (or at least way way more complicated than previously thought). It appears that many people think this is pseudo-science, and maybe it is, but I’m unaware of *any* current hard science in the field of Human Consciousness.
posted by doctor tough love at 8:11 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Can you clarify what you mean when you use the word "soul"? I ask because I'm not understanding why the issues you mention would be edge cases which suggests to me I'm using a different definition than you.
posted by Cozybee at 2:07 AM on June 25


Cozybee- I'm talking about something that is self aware and conscious and still, to at least some extent, the same individual, after death. Anything that stays after death that isn't just the body. Honestly, a good definition of a soul would be a nice start, given that there still is no really good definition of consciousness.
posted by Hactar at 6:22 AM on June 25


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