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Do We Have Souls Essay Research Paper

Do We Have Souls? Essay, Research Paper Do We Have Souls? On the question of ‘Do we have souls’ and ‘Can they survive after death’, this writer will attempt a reasoned explanation and defense of my views to this

Do We Have Souls? Essay, Research Paper

Do We Have Souls?

On the question of ‘Do we have souls’ and ‘Can they survive after death’,

this writer will attempt a reasoned explanation and defense of my views to this

philosophical question. After careful explanation of my own views , thoughts,

and careful examination of the selected materials for this paper; I have come to

this conclusion: unlike the problem of free will, the question of human beings

having souls and their survival after the physical body is deceased, is not an

easily argued topic. The problem of free will [as an example] can be more

rationally discussed and analyzed through tangible means such as patterned and

learned behavior and its like, but in dealing with the question of souls and in

accepting their existence, it is an intangible thing which cannot be proved or

disproved [at least as long as the physical body is existing]. This writer

believe that a discussion , no matter how seemingly rational or even irrational

is purely speculation and can have no real physical proof of that existence. Of

the read philosophers on this topic, all are speculatory in their attempt to

prove, disprove, or even clarify their position of the topic in question. This

writer will first contribute his own speculation and proceed to explore the

selected philosophers material on this subject. Though it first must be said

that most of the read material is or seems to be question-begging and therefore

leads only to more questions from myself.

The question of having souls and their existence after the physical body is

deceased has always been on men’s minds. From the first beginnings of written

history from the Ancient Near Eastern civilizations [Egyptians, Mesopotamian] ,

men [people] have always regarded the afterlife and the question of souls. It

was not given much philosophical thought until the ancient Greek sophists, in

the decline of their city-states that this topic was explored, but not only

explored but started to gather acceptance among the people. Again, only when

‘physical’ life was becoming less cherished due to the decline and unhappiness

with their earthly surroundings. Though the Hebrew people spoke and thought of

an afterlife for their spirit, it was really not until widespread Christianity

came about, and again this was at the time of decline of the Roman Empire. My

initial point being that the idea of souls and their existence seemed to grow

stronger at times of great depression or strife [much like when people pray to

God when they only need something]. It was then that faith and hope for a better

life after this one was at its greatest. Thus the emergence of the powerful

religions such as Christianity and Islam, who base their teachings of faith on

the fact [or non-fact] that there is a better life after this one, but to get

there “you must join us and participate within our rules and propagate our faith

that we give you”. This is called conditional immortality [A.E. Taylor, p.601].

The ability to believe one has a soul and its existence after the physical

body dies is not only for the participants in organized religion. I believe that

the human body and mind work together over a lifetime to develop what I will

myself call a soul or spirit, and with the advent of this soul – a place for it

to exist without the physical body. I feel that the real close-minded thinking

comes from the thought that life [in any sense] is over at the time of physical

death, just as it may be close-minded to think that we are existing alone in the

vast cosmos. I will concede that with our earthly rational thought that it is

difficult to rationalize an existence after this one, so I am able to understand

why some people believe that when the physical life is over, it truly is over.

To give an analogy on how I believe the soul is developed: the development

of the soul is like the programming of a computer it is fed all the various

information and it is that information when it is in the computer that it

defines itself by using the definitive information it has been given for the

greater purpose of its ultimate use. The soul [I believe] is the culmination of

learned information that is developed through the course of the physical

existence, using its resources together [mind and body] to define itself for a

greater purpose, which may very well be the afterlife of a soul. It is those

defining characteristics that we develop throughout our lifetime that make us

who we are – one might be able to call it personality.

As with most difficult philosophical issues, answers lead to more questions

such as where did the soul come from, what does it consist of [tangible or

intangible material?, or both?] and what really happens to it – what is its

ultimate purpose [excluding Christian thought]? These are questions presumably

that everyone has, but it is when we try and answer these questions with

‘earthly’ or ‘personable’ [Antony G.N. Flew, p.615] descriptions or categorizing

them is where we go wrong. Because we are dealing with something that is derived

from and exists totally on faith, tangible to us at present, and the only way to

prove or disprove beyond speculation – is to end the physical one – and thus

there is no way to solve the problem or question. Clarifying, what I’m saying is

that on an issue or problem such as this you cannot rationalize it with regular

philosophic deduction. In Lamonts ” The Illusion of Immortality” , he has used

science to deduce that there is no life for the mind/personality/soul after

physical death and rationalizing it by saying this is “common sense”. Again we

are dealing with something that is totally reliant on faith [which has really

nothing to do with common sense] , and by that point alone it cannot be proved

by science or earthly reasoning, But as this writer has found in philosophy, it

is easier to disagree or attempt to disprove, rather than prove.

To sum up my own views, I shall borrow from Antony G.N. Flew in his ” Can A

Man Witness His Own Funeral”, : “I can survive my death” [a metaphor for

afterlife or existence of a soul] ” cannot be self contradictory and therefore

senseless, because it refers to a possibility which is not mearly conceivable

but imaginable”.

I would now like to explore more fully the selected philosophers in their

discussion of if we have souls and is there an afterlife for these souls.

Gilbert Ryle in “Descartes’ Myth” gives the “Official Descartes Doctrine”

[on souls] as follows. ” With doubtful exceptions of idiots and infants in arms,

every human being has both a body and a mind”. What he is saying here is quite

obvious, but further interpretation of the whole passage seems to be this: we

all have the ‘tools’ [body and mind] but that they lead two separate existence’s,

the physical body and mind being one of external existence, and the “hidden”

mind being one of internal. Human beings have both the mind and body and both

work together – they both also work separately and that separation being the

‘hidden’ mind. Again, both are said to work together in the physical sense [body

mechanics] but the mind also works independently from the physical body. What

may not be fully clear is if he is meaning the sub conscience [which is referred

to in the passage] or to the soul itself, and are they even separate entities to

him? He talks of the hidden mind and quotes “…the actual transactions between

the episodes of the private and the public history remain mysterious, since by

definition they can belong to either series”. What I interpret him saying is

that the mind records and perceives its own series of perceptions that are not

only hidden from ourselves, but from everybody else. These are kept ’secret’ and

separate from even our own memories, perception and so on that we can usually

see or call to mind. Ryle refutes Descartes theory [as do I] in the fact that he

has put a boundary on defining mind and body. Ryle does not feel the mind is

bound to ‘mechanical laws’ [as Descartes does] like the body, which is what

Descartes theory is all about. Because Descartes theorized that if the body is

bound by mechanical laws and causes , so must the mind be – non mechanical laws-

including the hidden mind. All of his references to the secret and hidden mind

are by my observation, regarding or referring to the soul.

To sum up Ryle, he is saying that the mind and the body are not separate,

but that the mind has two parts – hidden and observed- and that the hidden mind

is not subject to the physical/mechanical laws or non-mechanical forces [which

is unclear to what those are]. They [the hidden/seen mind] exist separately from

each other but both are necessary to the complete mind. Ryle basically feels

that Descartes theory was a ‘category mistake’ and was categorized incorrectly

because he included the whole mind and body together, thus both were subject to

the laws and causes of both. So if the two terms belong to the same category;

it would be proper to construct prepositions embodying them. Descartes and Ryle

both agree though that there is another facet to the mind, possibly what can be

called the soul.

I have chose to write at some extent on Ryles’ article because we share

similar basic views [that are also along the same line as Descartes]. I believe

that there is a separation between the physical mind which controls the body and

harbors memories and its like, and that the soul is really an extension of our

real self and that physical or tangible mind. It is that ‘hidden mind’ that all

of the selected articles have referred to as a ‘personality’ of some sort, and

that this personality [soul] is our real self which is defined throughout our

lifetime by our surroundings and that is developed along with our development as

human beings [along the lines of 'trial and tribulations of life']. I do not

feel that this personality/soul can be proved by any type of conventional

laboratory test or any type of philosophical deduction, and that we are dealing

with something that is an untouchable extension of ourselves which really cannot

be probed by any means except our own belief. Thus it is within ourselves and

may be part of our soul development to justify its existence and whether it goes

on to another existence.

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