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 earned 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 elected 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 he 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 hy 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 reater 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 hysical 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 enseless, 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, he 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 “… he 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 ound 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 s 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 alled 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 ifetime 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.