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  1. #1
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    What is the soul?

    Quite a few times, the idea of the soul has come up in debates here, but it, to my knowledge, has never been properly defined. So in this thread, I would like to see not only if and why a person believes or does not believe in the soul, but in what they think they are believing or not believing.

    I am one who tends to see the human mind as contained within the brain, so I suppose that I do not believe in the soul by most standards.
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  2. #2
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    Re: What is the soul?

    The Soul, to me at least, is the just a little more than the conscious mind. It's that part of you that thinks when you're passed out, or dreams when you sleep, or wills you to push forward. Why do I believe it? Because I can't bring myself to assume that everything about me is guided by chemicals and nuerological stimuli.
    But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
    1 Peter 3:15-16

  3. #3
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    Re: What is the soul?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Hyde
    Because I can't bring myself to assume that everything about me is guided by chemicals and nuerological stimuli.
    "Assume" doesn't really have all that much to do with it. "Accept" or "reject" is more the case. All indicators suggest that all of the things you've described are exactly what you won't "assume" them to be, even the white lights and tunnels that are claimed in near-death experiences.

  4. #4
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    Re: What is the soul?

    Quote Originally Posted by Neverending
    Quite a few times, the idea of the soul has come up in debates here, but it, to my knowledge, has never been properly defined. So in this thread, I would like to see not only if and why a person believes or does not believe in the soul, but in what they think they are believing or not believing.
    I believe it is one's soul that defines a person. A soul to me is an entity within a person, to have it's own existence whether it be in a physical body or not. I believe it counts for one's personality, and knowledge and how easily they adapt to different phases of their lives because they've been "here" before.

    I often say someone is either an "old" soul or a "young" soul. I see the old souls as those who seem much more mature than those of their own age. I believe that their souls have lived many lives perhaps.

    I believe I, myself, am a "young" soul. Don't ask me why, I just feel that way.


    Quote Originally Posted by Never
    I am one who tends to see the human mind as contained within the brain, so I suppose that I do not believe in the soul by most standards.
    I think most people see the human mind contained within the brain. What does that have anything to do with the soul? Can you elaborate on why you dont believe in a the soul?
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  5. #5
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    Re: What is the soul?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hyde
    Why do I believe it? Because I can't bring myself to assume that everything about me is guided by chemicals and nuerological stimuli.
    Actually, strangely enough, this is one of the things that gives me interest in the field of chemistry: the unbelievable possibilities generated by the interactions of matter, especially at the chemical level. Now, I am not absolutely sure that thought is all chemistry and physics, but it seems to be the best explanation that I have seen.
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  6. #6
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    Re: What is the soul?

    I cannot recall ever having been given any real answer when asking this question.

    The times I have bothered to ask, I was always told something along the lines of 'an intangible being which holds within you all that you are'.

    Well...doesn't that just wrap things up nicely?

    I also do not believe in a soul. I am one of those who likes to know allll the details: the 'who, what, when, where, why, and how' of anything. The concept of the sould defies all these things in my mind. But, I am looking forward to reading all the replies on this thread; if nothing else, I'm sure I'll learn something.
    Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers.--Voltaire

  7. #7
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    Re: What is the soul?

    Quote Originally Posted by sylje64
    I think most people see the human mind contained within the brain. What does that have anything to do with the soul? Can you elaborate on why you dont believe in a the soul?
    While I have not seen a direct explanation of the soul, it has always seemed that most people saw it as a supernatural entity that is connected to who we are but has no physical manifestation. While I will readily accept your definition, it does not necessarily match with those that I have seen in the past.
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    Re: What is the soul?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus
    "Assume" doesn't really have all that much to do with it. "Accept" or "reject" is more the case. All indicators suggest that all of the things you've described are exactly what you won't "assume" them to be, even the white lights and tunnels that are claimed in near-death experiences.
    Hmm, well then it's a good thing very few of my thoughts are concrete.
    But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
    1 Peter 3:15-16

  9. #9
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    Re: What is the soul?

    The 'soul/spirit', to my own way of understanding things, comes as part and parcel with the special nature and potential of the human mind which takes us to a greater/higher level of consciousness than all other creatures on the earth. It links us with our Creator and 'likens' us to the eternal nature of our Creator.

    According to Genesis 1:26-27, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

    These verses indicate that there is something distinct about Mankind from all the other creations. Man was intended to have a relationship with God, and as such, God created Man with both material and immaterial aspects. The material aspects are obviously those that are tangible: the physical body, organs, etc. and are considered to only exist as long as the person is alive (or decompose shortly after death).

    The immaterial aspects are those which are intangible: soul, spirit, intellect, will, conscience, etc. These characteristics are considered to exist beyond the physical lifespan of the individual. As it is the belief that all in Heaven is perfect in nature, our will, conscience and intellect must undergo a 'perfecting' process in order to be made 'fit'. In traditions such as Buddhism this is achieved by reincarnation and a process of self-searching or 'enlightenment' until the individual soul/spirit is made 'fit'. In Christian tradition human action can only in part allow the soul to reach that needed 'perfection/enlightenment', that it is the special 'grace' and spirit of 'forgiveness/love/understanding' of our Creator expressed in Jesus' sacrifice, that gives completeness to that 'fitness' of the soul/spirit for eternity in Heaven.

    (Having studied Neuro and Bio Psychology at 'degree' level I am aware of the influence of electro-chemical activity on a living human brain, but at the level of human cognition there appears to be some 'unique' activity going on that is difficult to explain in terms that are purely 'natural', this activity includes altruism.)
    "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." - Anais Nin.
    Emitte lucem et veritatem - Send out light and truth.
    'Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt' - Julius Caesar (rough translation, 'Men will think what they want to think')
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  10. #10
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    Re: What is the soul?

    The soul is not separate from our being. It is the totality of our being. It encompasses our mind, body, and emotions and it connects us to that which is greater than the self.

    I think it is a misconception that the brain is the control center of our being.The brain a part of the body, and therefore it is intricately connected to it. The body stores just as many thoughts and memories as the brain does, if not more.
    Souls of the animal kingdom: eagle, fox, bottle-nose dolphin, octopus, house cat. Okay, let's jump this jump. -- Rod Kimble

  11. #11
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    Re: What is the soul?

    An interesting concept, HL, but having studied the autonomic system I have to say that apart from some reflex activity, all neuronal pathways seem to lead to the basal ganglia and higher parts of the brain. Cut off my head, and I can guarantee that my heart will not have memory to function on, though it can be fooled into beating by artificial stimulation for some time. There is no thought in reflex activity. Sentience resides in the living brain/mind interface. It is the conscious mind that may determine right from wrong. It is the conscious mind that may access what to theists is referred to as spirituality and the activity of that higher level of our existence called 'the soul'.
    "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." - Anais Nin.
    Emitte lucem et veritatem - Send out light and truth.
    'Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt' - Julius Caesar (rough translation, 'Men will think what they want to think')
    Kill my boss? Do I dare live out the American dream? - Homer Simpson.

  12. #12
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    Re: What is the soul?

    Let's assume that I've lost my mind for a moment and we accept that there is such thing as a soul (which there's not).

    What use is it? From what I have ascertained from readings, the soul appears independently of the mind. Well, I AM my mind and my body. I am the sum of my memories, emotions & instincts. What does a soul offer me?

    If I go on to some ultimate reward, my mind won't be around to appreciate it.

    If I am punished, what will it matter? I need my mind to KNOW things and my mind dies with my brain & body.

    Why should I worry or even care?

  13. #13
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    Re: What is the soul?

    This is what a soul might look like:

    Casper could be thinking his soul is in me - so I guess it's all relative. I do love soul music and some soul food - does that count for anything?
    Last edited by Snoop; November 29th, 2005 at 01:09 PM.
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  14. #14
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    Re: What is the soul?

    Quote Originally Posted by FruitandNut
    An interesting concept, HL, but having studied the autonomic system I have to say that apart from some reflex activity
    You may be right. But many times, people who suffer from having repressed memories or repressed emotions, they are not usually housed in the "brain". They are housed in the "body". This can be uncovered when bodywork or energywork is done on them.

    The brain is just a physical thing. Thoughts are not physical things. Thoughts can be anywhere.
    Souls of the animal kingdom: eagle, fox, bottle-nose dolphin, octopus, house cat. Okay, let's jump this jump. -- Rod Kimble

  15. #15
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    Re: What is the soul?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric
    What use is it? From what I have ascertained from readings, the soul appears independently of the mind. Well, I AM my mind and my body. I am the sum of my memories, emotions & instincts. What does a soul offer me?
    Keep in mind that you are suspending your typical belief for the moment and are pretending that a soul exists.

    It is not that you are your mind and body. It is that mind and body are a part of your soul. The "YOU" you refer to is a part of your soul. "YOU" are not the center of "yourself". The soul is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric
    If I go on to some ultimate reward, my mind won't be around to appreciate it.
    Yes it will. Your consciousness and your brain are two different things. Your brain won't be around to appreciate it. But all of the thoughts, feeling, etc...that you accumulated in this lifetime, that feed into your soul, will still be there and be cognizant and aware.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric
    If I am punished, what will it matter? I need my mind to KNOW things and my mind dies with my brain & body.
    If thoughts are not "things", then how could they possible "die"? Feelings are not "things". How can they "die"? They are not bound by the same physical laws as our body.

    Anyway, as long as you are playing along, why not change your fantasy here just a little to not include "punishment" and "reward", because they are ultimately concepts created by humans, not by the soul.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric
    Why should I worry or even care?
    You shouldn't worry. And whether you care is entirely up to you. In my belief, I believe that all souls are connected to something bigger than the self. If my light is shining nice and bright and yours is shining dimly, then I am ultimately affected because I am a part of the same bigger thing that you are a part of. If we both have bright lights, we make the thing that we are a part of even stronger. So, I care, because I want the thing I feel connected to to be as bright and strong as possible. So I want to help as many lights as I can, including my own, to shine as brightly as they possibly can.
    Souls of the animal kingdom: eagle, fox, bottle-nose dolphin, octopus, house cat. Okay, let's jump this jump. -- Rod Kimble

  16. #16
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    Re: What is the soul?

    Quote Originally Posted by HappyLady
    You may be right. But many times, people who suffer from having repressed memories or repressed emotions, they are not usually housed in the "brain". They are housed in the "body". This can be uncovered when bodywork or energywork is done on them.
    But isn't it equally likely that this means that these repressed thoughts have been associated with specific actions or conditions that when experienced bring the thoughts back to light?
    Quote Originally Posted by HappyLady
    The brain is just a physical thing. Thoughts are not physical things. Thoughts can be anywhere.
    That doesn't mean that they are not all in the brain. The information displayed by your computer screen is not actually physically found within the computer, but is instead caused by a set of interactions within the computer. Isn't it entirely plausible that thoughts are caused by interactions within the brain?
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  17. #17
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    Re: What is the soul?

    I see the soul as being the essence of a person not subject to the physical world but rather subject to itself.

    In other words, if our minds, our conscious (not to be confused with our physical brains) are indeed nothing more than physical constructs, subject to all the influences of this physical world, then by my definiton the soul does not exist.

    If rather there exists a part of us that is not subject to these influences, but rather is subject only to its own will, then this essence fits my definition of the soul and so exists.

    I believe in the existence of the soul because I do not accept or see any definite reason to believe that our thoughts and actions are solely determined by nature. This leads me to believe that there is a part of us that is subject only to ourselves. A part that has free will. This part of us can only be the soul.

    Quote Originally Posted by zhavric
    What use is it? From what I have ascertained from readings, the soul appears independently of the mind. Well, I AM my mind and my body. I am the sum of my memories, emotions & instincts. What does a soul offer me?
    Under my definition it is not necessarily seperate from your mind, rather it is that part of your mind that is free from the control of the natural world. I would think that this freedom to be of immense value.

    If I go on to some ultimate reward, my mind won't be around to appreciate it.

    If I am punished, what will it matter? I need my mind to KNOW things and my mind dies with my brain & body.

    Why should I worry or even care?
    I would agree, as if the soul is merely this unthinking essence then it doesnt matter. That is why I believe the mind and soul to be intertwined....if not one and the same.

    However I should point out that the way I view things there is a part of you mind that is physical and a part that is more abstract and seperated from the physical. One affects the other, but one does not necessarily control the other.

    In exxperiments and brain study scientists have been able to control physical movement and such. While patients have claimed to be metally resisting the physical movements or even deny moving. To me this suggests that there exists a part that normally controls the physical body, but is not necessarily a part of it or controled by it.
    I typically cite original research papers and reviews that are available only to a personal or institutional subscriptional. If you wish a PDF copy of the papers I cite, send me a request.

  18. #18
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    Re: What is the soul?



    When I was a Christian...
    I was told that a soul was "what makes you you". So, the way I reconciled this definition with what I was told about souls, was to think of the soul as my consciousness. If my soul left my body, I'd be in the equivalent of a coma. My soul retains all my memories, all my thoughts, emotions, etc. It was, pretty much, my mind.


    It seems to me...
    That the concept of a 'soul' is simply a work-around for the problem that most people have with the idea that their mind, their consciousness even, can be directly effected by physical things. Especially in this modern world, we get mind-altering drugs, things which can change your personality. People are drawn to the idea that, no matter what happens to their brain, they have this intangible part of them which is inviolate.

    Furthermore, it is a way of mentally divorcing physical death from mental death (a ridiculous concept). Reason would tell you that if a person dies, he's dead. In order for people to think that they aren't dead, despite the obviously dead body they leave behind, they have to convince themselves that there is some sort of invisible thing which is still alive and is floating around. The 'soul' concept is necessary for the life-after-death concept to work; that is why people believe it.


    To me, the closest way of reconciling the idea of a "soul" with the real world would be to define it as a psychological construct, by defining it the same as your mind, or your consciousness. I know it stinks to think of your mind as being physical, and stuck in the physical world, but to make up some magical thing which resides inside of you is just ridiculous.
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  19. #19
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    Re: What is the soul?

    Happylady: Beyond "wishfull thinking", do you have any evidence that there is anything more to the mind than the brain? There are an abundance of drugs that cause observable behavioral reactions in human beings. If the brain were just a conduit for the soul to get to the body, then why would certain drugs affect our thoughts?

    We have mountains of evidence that suggest impairments to the brain are impairments to the mind. When the brain dies, so does the mind. This suggests the mind is simply a function of the brain.

    Why should the brain have all the fun? Why can't my muscles be a conduit for "devine kineticism"? After all, the muscle is just the flesh... it's really my SOUL moving my body, right? The intestines are simply how the soul nourishes itself... Ultimately we can super-impose any number of nonsensical concepts, magics, or mysticisms to every aspect of our body. Imagining them does not make them so nor are we under any obligation to "disprove" any flight of fancy. Claims require proof.

  20. #20
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    Re: What is the soul?

    The soul, in Christian belief, is the animating and eternal essence of a person, independent of the physical person but a real part of the physical person. It cannot be tested for, seen, or physically observed in any way. Its existence requires faith, much as every religious belief does.

    However, to a Christian this is redundant, since to a Christian, the fact that one exists is equivalent to the fact that one's soul exists. Animals have consciousness, or a God-given spirit of life (life itself is seen as the work and creation of God by Christians), but they do not have the highly advanced reason, emotion, spirituality, and dignity that comes from being God's foremost creation; animals do not have the eternal and singular quality of being made in the image of God which we call the soul.

    I have a feeling this definition might not satisfy you, but is one that must be arrived at by intuition and revelation rather than science, and is thus difficult to explain linguistically.

 

 
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