I do think that it is safe for me to broadly relate modern science to classical philosophy. Science was borne of philosophy and philosophers...for what purpose is philosophy other than trying to understand the universe through thought? Science has the exact same goal, trying to understand the universe, only with an added bit of method to account for the fact that humans, even the most brilliant of us, are not particularly good at understanding reality: our perception is altered and incomplete, our reconstruction of reality is built upon muddled and missing data, and our brains work naturally by making logical fallacies -- leaps of pseudo-logical thinking that get one to the right answer most of the time provided the question isn't too hard, but become noticeably insufficient when one starts to look closely enough at nature.
Like I said, I have only general knowledge when it comes to philosophy, both classic and current, but I do know what it did and what it is, and I have the utmost respect for it for broadening humanity's minds and paving the way for scientific inquiry. I also have respect for its worth in trying to answer those questions that are unanswerable by science, like questions of ethics and morality (I know there are some who think science can explain these, but they are human constructs...evolved in a way that could be understood by science, but they themselves cannot be). But I do think some of philosophy was made obsolete by science, because for many questions, science is the better method for figuring out the truth.
I guess to sum it up, I don't think I need to be an expert on the particulars of classical philosophy to understand that like science, philosophy, in essence, is a tool for learning about the natural world. But much of what cannot be answered by philosophy can be answered by science.
As for the essence thing, it is a beautiful notion. I do not feel clear on your position here (though that could be the Ambien beginning to cloud my brain -- if typos start to appear I may have to abandon this post here and continue in the morning. Do you think the essence you describe is natural or supernatural?
You know I don't believe in any form of the supernatural, but there could be a natural analog for this thing called essence, and it would live on after death: All the ways in which a person impacted the universe around them. Every person will have interactions completely unique to them. On the micro scale, no photon will ever bounce off my skin and head off on a new trajectory the exact same way one is bouncing off your skin right now, there paths forever altered for having come in contact with us. On the macro scale, just the fact that we were born altered the universe and will continue to alter it in its own tiny, meaningless way. And on the humanitarian scale, every one of us alters everyone else. Perhaps that is what someone like me would mean by essence:
I am my mind and my body, my mind is an emergent property of my brain's physiology.
is the product of the quirks, flukes, connections, memories, and the learning experiences, and potential behaviors stored within by biology.
My essence is what I produce interacting with my universe. All the little traces I leave behind by altering the paths of some photons here, and the behaviors of some children there, and leaving myself in the memories of my friends. And that is incorporeal and in its way, eternal. But it is not supernatural.
Perhaps my soul is my self and essence taken together. It is an incorporeal thing that will remain, if diminished, after my death. But it won't be me, and it will be natural.
Sorry, I think the Ambien has hit me too had for this. My mind is a bit wobbly, but some how I feel I've gotten some words down that mean something. Maybe they will make sense to you.
Lastly, I really appreciate that you came back to this thread...things were looking shaky there, and I think we both riled a bit. But all I want to do is learn, and I can't learn if people give up the fight, not about their ideas, or my own.
I have a nagging worry that I'm going to be embarrassed by this post in the morning. Like when you smoke weed and have a really DEEP conversation that turned out to be nothing but observations and cliches you heard on Siskel and Ebert...
That's why you shouldn't BBS under the influence!