Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by Into Darkness, Sep 2, 2013.
I don't think that's what everyone else is talking about.
Keep this in mind.
people toss around the word "energy" as if it means something more than it is. It's new age crap.
Sure, there's energy of some type that makes us who we are. Means nothing. Does a battery have any use once it's charge is done? That's energy too.
Even if you're right, it still wouldn't matter. An afterlife is pointless unless it can be demonstrated that it's you that really exists. Since you are used to your body and your consciousness is an emergent property from your brain, whatever energy might exist after your physical body dies wouldn't be you in any real sense that would actually matter.
^Yeah, I touched on that subject a bit in a previous post. I don't know how a being like I described would act/react to anything. I guess it would be instinctual.
Ergotism, tripping on extracts from plants--the list goes on.
Floating on a trip, seeing perhaps, asteroid falls--all that is probably why we turned form concepts of an Earth Mother to the sky Father--the stature of Zeus by Phidias helping out along the way.
I'm thinking the choke point in Earths population from Toba inspired Genesis. As a hard boiled detective might say..."Whether it was the muck that formed Adams bones, the primodial ooze from four billion years ago--or the other ooze deposited by our fathers, say, in the back seat of a Nash or Cameros, we all descend from slime."
The loss of the fertile crescent from over-farming (Dust Bowl on steroids?) was how we were cast out of Eden, as it were.
Back on Topic.
So what about the future of an afterlife?
As a riverworld fan, I find that it would be really nice to--if possible--travel back in time with nano-whatsits and at least try to infect and download Mozart's personality. It might not even take that much
Now I seem to remember an earlier edition of this article where it said that only part of the brain was needed so as to keep one's personality.
Now if that pattern could be encoded into a space time crystal, you could outlive the universe:
And there's your soul
Now since you would go mad without company, you would have to have everyone all linked together--and then you get the concept of the Nexus from Generations.
Go home, you're drunk.
thestrangequark, real life intervened, and I was unable to compose a reply of the length and care that seemed to be required, until now.
I imagine that you simply misunderstood exactly which claim it is of yours that I say you have a burden to prove.
I tried to get you to ask narrow questions about what I wrote, but since you didn't, I'm still just shooting in the dark, not knowing exactly where it is that I'm being unclear. I'll try to clarify one more time. However, if this doesn't clear it up, then I really just don't know what else to say.
As I said explicitly several times, your burden is not to prove that souls in the classical sense exist; I have no Earthly clue why you would think I believed that, or what in the world I wrote that would lead you to think that I thought anything like that.
Your burden is, rather, to support your claim that, and I quote:
Evidently, you don't see your need to prove this claim of yours, so I'll elaborate on why your claim here is not self-evident.
First, let's recap the definitions #1 and #2.
The main problem is that psyche and consciousness don't fully capture the essence of what is regarded as the classical soul. The brain may be the seat of consciousness, but it is not the seat of life.
Fused or conflated in the classical concept of the soul, along with psyche and consciousness, are notions of essence and vitality, and the supposed very "breath of life". It was assumed classically that the psyche was what animated matter, so, naturally, when preoccupied with the question of what the essence of life was, consciousness sprang to mind, as something essential. Ergo, when classical philosophers were considering what we call the soul, you have to ask yourself whether their concern was primarily with respect to the mind, or whether it was primarily with respect to the essence of life, or a combination.
To cite an important example contrary to your assumptions, Aristotle was concerned with the essence of life; in his view, even plants, as a form of life, had a kind of soul. His notion of soul, hardly an unimportant one in the history of philosophy, does not really resemble your interpretation of the soul, as something primarily pertaining to what we consider consciousness.
The conflation of consciousness and animation in classical philosophy is what makes your claim, that what people thought was going on according to #2 was really going on according to #1, problematic. In contemporary terms, we might recognize this as a conflation of cognition and metabolism.
My point is that at least some classical philosophers were really thinking about what we call metabolism when they were talking about the soul, while others might have been thinking of what we call either cognition or consciousness. Establishing how many went which way and what the important trends were is precisely the sort of research that would need to be performed, in order to settle the question of exactly how the classical philosophers got off track. Establishing what people were primarily concerned with is not simple, especially when there was this sort of conflation between what we now recognize as quite distinct processes.
All this is even beside the fact that more than a few people consider immortality and incorporeality to be essential aspects of what they call souls.
I hope this sheds some light on what I was trying to say.
Wow. Lots of talk here.
We're all going to get an answer to this question in the end. Why not relax and save the discourse for questions that living humans can answer?
I appreciate your thorough response, and I get what you are trying to say, but I think you've misunderstood my position. All I have attempted to argue is that any supernatural phenomena is really people misunderstanding natural phenomena, and so I feel I can stand by my claims.
You said I hijacked the term soul, and while you are correct that I gave it a limited definition, I never attempted to argue against anything other than that definition. I've never attempted to argue what exactly classical philosophers were referring to when they talked about the soul, and I would never presume to, I'm not nearly educated enough in classical philosophy to make that argument. When I said, "I absolutely contend that what people believed was going on in definition #2 was all along caused by definition #1." I was talking about 2 very specific definitions of soul.
So my first questions to you would be, going by those 2 specific definitions of soul, is my statement false? Is the burden of proof upon me to disprove definition 2?
Now, onto where the real confusion sprang up: what do we mean by soul?
I get that there are various meanings, and you've provided two possibilities as far as I can see regarding the classical soul, and I have attempted to incorporate them into my earlier hypotheses to improve those hypotheses and to make my position more clear:
1. What people have called the soul is in reality some natural function of the body, like metabolism or cognition; or some combination of functions, such as metabolism and cognition and breath, etc.; or all bodily functions that result in life, and terminates completely upon death.
2. The soul is some supernatural entity either of the body, or temporarily associated with the body, that may be considered the life force, the self, the spirit, or a combination of these things. It may or may not persist after death.
How do you find these definitions?
Definitely falls under definition 2, as supernatural, the burden of proof would be upon the individual making this claim, not on the sceptic doubting it.
Scares the crap out of me thinking that when we die, that's it, nada, kaput. I do believe there is something else after death, that it isn't the end in the traditional sense, but have no idea what it might be. As someone else said, we'll will eventually know, one way or another.
^ But if we wind up not knowing, we won't know that we don't know, so that's ok.
^Pretty much how I feel about it.
tsq, if your definition sketch #1 had originally looked like your revised version, then I would have had far fewer objections. However, I really don't believe that one can relate modern science to the works of classical philosophers unless one actually is well versed in both science and classical philosophy.
I also brought up a third sense of the word soul, that of essence. Even if there were something to this notion, casting it in contemporary scientific terms seems much harder than dealing with either psyche/mind or animation/metabolism.
To me, the notion of a person's essence seems concerned with characteristic behaviors and reactions singularly indicative of that individual. It seems to transcend particular biometric data, such as fingerprints and DNA, and to encompass much more broadly the totality of psychological and physical reactions and motivations. When you recognize that voice on the other end of the phone as that of the cousin you haven't spoken to in 20 years, you may have perceived the essence of the person, in that manner of speaking.
The assumption that each person has one or more singularly indicative and essential qualities may be a misguided notion. On the other hand, perhaps some paradigm with DNA [of living cells] at the foundation would be capable of validating that assumption quite neatly. However, on the gripping hand, it seems clearly established that both nature and nurture play their parts in establishing personality. Of course, any essential qualities that derive from physical aspects or behaviors would be just as temporal as the physical components involved, and just as corporeal.
In any case, it is the third sense, of essence, that really rounds out the term. Indeed, to most, I think, a person's soul being unique to the person is an essential aspect of the definition of the term. It doesn't really nail it, if the difference between, say, my soul and your soul is only that mine's mine and yours is yours. Each person's soul is supposed to be quite distinctive.
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.
My self 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!
I think the idea of the supernatural interacting with the natural world is a contradiction in terms. If something can interact with the natural world, then it is, by my definition, natural. There is only the natural world, but it is clouded with mystery. We know only glimpses of it. When it comes to universal truths, instead of the power to prove, contemporary science provides only the powers to support and to disprove. If there is anything like the supernatural capable of affecting the natural world, then it is simply a part of the natural world still as yet unscouted by science. A supernatural world incapable of interacting with the natural world, by any practical definition, does not, and indeed cannot, exist.
tsq, I had considered posting something remarkably similar to this, but held back, because I didn't want to get bogged down in a scientific discussion of cause and effect.
In considering that, I was reminded of a very unusual science fiction book I read recently, called The Big Time by Fritz Leiber. This novel is by no means for everybody; I need to read at least one more time to get a better idea of what's going on. But what's intriguing about it on topic is that it seems that some of the main characters can remain conscious outside the confines of their spatiotemporal existence. It's depicted as very weird and disorienting, and it sorta plays like a bad acid trip.
I do think your notion, of the lasting effects that a person has being a part of their essence, is definitely on the right track.
However, I do not think that science is in a position yet to comment reliably on whether there are any other aspects of the human experience that surpass bodily existence, as we currently understand bodily existence to be, although there is presently no scientific reason to suppose that any such aspects exist. One reason I think that is because I am not remotely satisfied that science can account for consciousness, which is perhaps the preeminent aspect of each person's personal experience. Even though I have acknowledged the brain as the probable seat of consciousness, and I believe that all mental activity has a physical counterpart, the exact nature of the conscious I has not yet been scientifically explained. In other words, the jury on the exact nature of consciousness is still out, and I think it likely will be for all our lifetimes. Supposing something to be an "emergent property" while lacking many of the crucial specifics is really an awfully big handwave (although I agree it is at least a plausible hypothesis), and it raises the question of whether the whole is in fact greater than the sum of its parts. Especially when it comes to psychology, there are pertinent natural aspects of our common experience that science is completely in the dark about. It would be a dull world, if that weren't so. Still, I have every reason to believe that, in time, progress will be made towards settling these issues scientifically.
Does such uncertainty in the meantime mean that one should resort to myth, conjecture, or superstitious mumbo jumbo to fill the gap? Not at all, the exception of there being some pressing need to produce an answer, when none is indicated by science, notwithstanding. As I indicated already, mystery as to the nature of the universe is simply the rule.
As to whether I think that there is anything for me to experience, beyond my corporeal existence? I honestly don't know. If there were, I wouldn't expect it to be anything like what my normal experience is now. It might be all weird and different.
^I kinda covered that previously, but describing it as cause and effect would have summed it up better though.
I exist, there for I have existed.
I guess at this point we're just going to have to agree to disagree. I think you don't give science enough credit. You are absolutely right that it is only within the capabilities of science to disprove, however, just because the discipline is humble enough to know we can never claim something with 100% certainty, doesn't mean we can therefore dismiss those things we know with 99.99% certainty. There is vastly more to this universe that is yet to be discovered compared to the little we currently understand, but that does not change the fact that we do know a lot.
I just don't see any reason to believe that the human experience surpasses bodily existence, as you put it. There is absolutely no evidence to even suggest this be the case, and there is no natural need for it. Here we return to Occam's razor: you'd have to significantly over complicate nature to fit this in, and it's completely unnecessary.
You are right that we don't yet fully understand the nature of consciousness, but why does this spur you on to think that it might be something beyond biology?
As just a single example, Sir Roger Penrose, noted collaborator of Professor Stephen Hawking, has proposed a very radical hypothesis in his book The Emperor's New Mind. In that book, he argues that consciousness derives in part from a fundamental process in quantum mechanics known popularly as the collapse of the wave function, and he further argues that theoretical physics, as it presently stands, is inadequate to explain consciousness. A summary in Wikipedia can be found here.
While I do not agree with a lot of what Sir Roger has to say on the matter, I do agree that the explanation of consciousness may well require new physical theories. If new physical theories are required, then we simply have to wait for the dust to settle, in order to hear what science has to say on what exactly consciousness is. We therefore have to wait at least that long to hear all it has to say about human nature. That's all I'm saying, and I've certainly never said that I believe in life after death.
How you get from that, to me not giving science enough credit, I haven't a clue.
^I've read that book, it's one of my favorites. (Except the three pages written in binary, that was kind of a pain in the ass...enjoyable, but a pain in the ass.)
Where I got the impression that you didn't give science enough credit was your statement "I do not think that science is in a position yet to comment reliably on whether there are any other aspects of the human experience that surpass bodily existence, as we currently understand bodily existence to be, although there is presently no scientific reason to suppose that any such aspects exist." I feel the latter half of that sentence invalidates the first half; we know enough to know that there is no reason to suppose such aspects exist.
^ The problem is that our definition of consciousness, as it stands, is only provisional. Under our provisional definition, sure, we have no reason to believe that it extends after bodily death.
If we had a harder definition of consciousness, with both broad explanatory and predictive power, then yeah, in that case, I would have to agree that, without any evidence to the contrary, that in itself could provide good and concrete reason to conclude the improbability of the extension of consciousness after bodily death, and would if the definition were successful enough.
I should have amended this important qualification, perhaps something like this:
However, I do not think that science is in a position yet to comment reliably on whether there are any other aspects of the human experience that surpass bodily existence, as we currently understand bodily existence to be. Although there is presently no scientific reason to suppose that any such aspects exist under our current and still often provisional conceptions of what constitutes the human experience, where they are only provisionally defined in science this limits the reliability of the conclusions that can be drawn from them. In addition, there is what I consider to be the real possibility that current physical theories may be inadequate to account for what is perhaps the preeminent aspect of the human experience: consciousness. Revising physical theories to fit all the facts would also have implications that cannot currently be foreseen.
Separate names with a comma.