FacebookTwitter
Hatrack River Forum Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » material or nonmaterial soul

   
Author Topic: material or nonmaterial soul
camus
Member
Member # 8052

 - posted      Profile for camus   Email camus         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I was reading Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are by Joseph LeDoux, and I came across this idea about the soul. While LeDoux wasn’t trying to make any particular statement about the soul itself, I found this excerpt to be interesting.
quote:
A few months after starting this book, I attended a conference on the relation between the brain and the soul, sponsored by (fittingly enough) the Vatican. The specific topic was “Neuroscience and Divine Action,” and the theologians who organized this meeting were trying to reconceptualize Church teachings in a way that would make sense in light of current scientific understanding of how the world works. In particular, they were attempting to determine how it is possible for God to influence people’s lives without violating the laws of physics. I can’t present the full range of views expressed, but one that stood out was the notion that God interacts but doesn’t intervene.

Our concern here is not with the theological arguments for and against a noninterventionist view of God but rather with the possibility (or impossibility) of a scientific view of interaction…. If you believe in the existence of a nonmaterial soul, then all you need to assume is that when God was creating the universe, he worked out some way of interacting with the soul. Since both God and the soul are nonmaterial, that interaction would also be nonmaterial, and the laws of physics would therefore be unviolated when interactions occur.

Much to my surprise, however, many of the theologians attending this meeting didn’t believe in a classic nonmaterial soul (this would probably be an even bigger surprise to the faithful they represent). Instead, they seemed to accept the principle that the mind is inexorably tied to the brain, and they consequently believed in a soul that is pretty much one and the same as the neurally mediated mind, a part of the physical world that must by its nature obey the laws of physics.

This surprised me. I had assumed that most religions’ belief in a soul was based on the belief of a nonmaterial soul. So, are there mainstream religions, or people here, that believe in a nonmaterial soul, or is LeDoux’s assumptions and interpretations incorrect? Because if the soul is material instead of metaphysical, that has some pretty far reaching implications. It would put the concept of the soul and possibly even communication with God back into the realm of science as something that could theoretically be studied. It would raise questions about the immortality of the soul, concept of self and personhood, and even the idea of free will and Divine intervention.

So what are you thoughts regarding the concept of the soul?

Posts: 1256 | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
kmbboots
Member
Member # 8576

 - posted      Profile for kmbboots   Email kmbboots         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just of the top of my head:

Not particularly surprised. I imagine that the Holy Spirit figures into the equation. And the material condition of the soul is dependant on incarnation. When we are not incarnate, the rules change.

Posts: 11187 | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jim-Me
Member
Member # 6426

 - posted      Profile for Jim-Me   Email Jim-Me         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hmm... maybe they are envisioning the soul as a non-material affect of material things?

I'm a little surprised at this, but not entirely... the teaching has always been that man is a combination of material and nonmaterial-- a hybrid of sorts-- and that the two are inextricably intertwined. That the soul is nonmaterial doesn't require that it not be dependent on or arise out of material things.

I don't know if this makes sense... just jotting down thoughts.

Posts: 3846 | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Stephan
Member
Member # 7549

 - posted      Profile for Stephan   Email Stephan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think the nature of a belief in heaven and hell requires a material soul. If the soul is nonmaterial how can it be punished or rewarded for the actions of a seperate mind? Nonmaterial souls in my opinion make more sense with reincarnation beliefs.
Posts: 3134 | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Tresopax
Member
Member # 1063

 - posted      Profile for Tresopax           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I don't think a material soul is inconsistent with Christianity, at least. I'm not aware of the Bible ever going into any sort of detail on what the substance of the soul is. And I suspect it would strike a true chord among those branches that believe people are physically still present in heaven after they die.

However, my personal belief is that the soul is nonmaterial. I don't believe this for religious reasons though - rather I just think it is the only possibility that logically fits the evidence available to me. (In short, I have nonphysical conscious experience so I believe I must have a nonphysical component.)

Posts: 8120 | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
camus
Member
Member # 8052

 - posted      Profile for camus   Email camus         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
And the material condition of the soul is dependant on incarnation.
I'm not sure if I quite understand this (that is, incarnation). Is that like the soul possessing the material body or self without actually altering or changing the material structure, and this would possibly happen in different ways for each individual?
Posts: 1256 | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
kmbboots
Member
Member # 8576

 - posted      Profile for kmbboots   Email kmbboots         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm not sure "possessing" is the right word. Integrating, maybe?
Posts: 11187 | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Occasional
Member
Member # 5860

 - posted      Profile for Occasional   Email Occasional         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Wow, that is something Joseph Smith was really big on, and Mormon theology insists. To paraphrase, there is no such thing as non-material as everything is material. Spirits are simply more pure and refind matter.
Posts: 2207 | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Strider
Member
Member # 1807

 - posted      Profile for Strider   Email Strider         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
what the heck is more refined matter?
Posts: 8741 | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Occasional
Member
Member # 5860

 - posted      Profile for Occasional   Email Occasional         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
He, and Mormon theology, never got into specifics. Your guess is as good as mine, but I believe it means without physical impurities; perhpas closer to energy mass.
Posts: 2207 | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
David Bowles
Member
Member # 1021

 - posted      Profile for David Bowles   Email David Bowles         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think souls are like rainbows... not material, but not "immaterial" in the spirit sense either... they arise from the looping, self-referential structure of our brains and last as long as our brains functions, after which they (sadly) are lost forever (save for bits of them simulated in the brains of those we love).
Posts: 5663 | Registered: Jun 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It's all quantum [Big Grin]
Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
camus
Member
Member # 8052

 - posted      Profile for camus   Email camus         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So is the material soul still connected to a nonmaterial part, or is this unknown?

quote:
To paraphrase, there is no such thing as non-material as everything is material. Spirits are simply more pure and refind matter.
So this might eventually be detectable?
Posts: 1256 | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Marlozhan
Member
Member # 2422

 - posted      Profile for Marlozhan   Email Marlozhan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Joseph Smith did say that spirits are matter, but a more refined matter. As mentioned, he did not go into scientific details. We probably have no scientific theories to explain or understand it.

However, it does not contradict science, it is only unsupported by science. For scientists to assume that they have discovered all matter and understand all types of matter is rather arrogant, especially when they barely understand what dark matter is, and barely even know how to identify it. This being the case, what is there preventing scientists from one day discovering another type of matter, or learning more about dark matter, that changes our current understanding of matter?

I am not trying to prove my own LDS beliefs, since science has no proof of a material soul, but I always get irked when scientists assume that things CANNOT be different than they understand it, given the fact that they are constantly changing their theories throughout history due to increased knowledge and research. I believe all of God's powers and laws can be explained scientifically, but that our current understanding of the laws of the universe are still very inadequate to fully explain everything.

So, I see no problem with a material soul inhabiting a material body, and that God does intervene frequently, through scientific means. I don't see a separation between spirituality and true science. The only separation is between God's absolute understanding of science, and our very limited, and sometimes incorrect, grasp of science.

Posts: 683 | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
camus
Member
Member # 8052

 - posted      Profile for camus   Email camus         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
they arise from the looping, self-referential structure of our brains and last as long as our brains functions, after which they (sadly) are lost forever
So once we die, the soul ceases to exist as well?
Posts: 1256 | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jim-Me
Member
Member # 6426

 - posted      Profile for Jim-Me   Email Jim-Me         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by David Bowles:
I think souls are like rainbows... not material, but not "immaterial" in the spirit sense either... they arise from the looping, self-referential structure of our brains and last as long as our brains functions, after which they (sadly) are lost forever (save for bits of them simulated in the brains of those we love).

I wonder, sometimes, about this whole concept.

There are things that are unquestionably real (say, for example, the speed of light in a vacuum) that are also unquestionably concepts... "ideas" in a very near, if not actual, Platonic sense. So then what about other concepts divined by the human mind (love, justice, mercy, etc.)?

Like Richard Dreyfus in "Close Encounters"... I get this far and then am left staring at my mashed potatoes muttering "this means something."

[ March 27, 2007, 01:30 PM: Message edited by: Jim-Me ]

Posts: 3846 | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
SenojRetep
Member
Member # 8614

 - posted      Profile for SenojRetep   Email SenojRetep         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A direct quote and reference for the LDS teaching on material souls is:
quote:
7 There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;
8 We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.

Doctrine & Covenants 131:7-8

As in the "matter can neither be created nor destroyed" discussion from a few months ago (when KoM took issue with the statement), I don't believe that JS was using the term "matter" in a way that is perfectly congruent with the modern scientific definition.

I don't know that asserting that all spirit is matter means that it can be scientifically analyzed. I doubt it's in God's plan to allow that type of analysis to occur, for the same reasons I believe the angle <edit>angel</edit> took the Golden Plates with him after the translation. Submitting religious assertions to scientific methods would remove the uncertainty necessary for our spiritual growth.

[ March 27, 2007, 02:13 PM: Message edited by: SenojRetep ]

Posts: 2923 | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Marlozhan
Member
Member # 2422

 - posted      Profile for Marlozhan   Email Marlozhan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I still believe it can be analyzed scientifically, but I didn't say it would ever happen. I, too, believe that God limits our ability to discover things. If he doesn't want certain discoveries to be made by science, then it won't happen, precisely because he expects us to act on faith.

And I am not saying that spirit matter fits our definition of matter. But as I said before, our definition of matter will probably change in decades to come, just as Newtonian physics, previously thought to be able to describe all physics in the universe, has been shown to be inadequate for things at the atomic level.

I don't expect that mankind will ever learn even a quarter of the laws of the universe, but that doesn't mean they are not laws. If I get to heaven, I plan on learning everything about how the universe works, and I believe God will have an explanation for how everything works, in "scientific" terms. But as said before, His science is so fundamentally higher and complete to make our science look like the science of the stone age.

As He said in Isaiah 55:9: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

I suppose this all depends on how you define science. I don't mean science as we currently understand it (because it is flawed), but science as it really is.

Posts: 683 | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
KarlEd
Member
Member # 571

 - posted      Profile for KarlEd   Email KarlEd         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Tresopax wrote:
quote:
(In short, I have nonphysical conscious experience so I believe I must have a nonphysical component.)
What experiences do you have that you know are non-physical? I mean how can you know there isn't an underlying physical component. Are you speaking of experiences beyond emotions and thought? Because I think there is enormous evidence that both of those types of experiences are dependant on the physical even if you are not conciously aware of it.
Posts: 6392 | Registered: Dec 1999  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
camus
Member
Member # 8052

 - posted      Profile for camus   Email camus         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I appreciate the responses. I wasn't really looking for a "proof" of any specific belief, just the various beliefs themselves.

I find the concept of a soul interesting because the basic idea itself does not require the existence of a God, and it doesn't need the endorsement of a specific religion to be true. In fact, I often times wonder if this is the case, that religions can tell us more about our own existence than it can about any real or imagined God.

My personal view of the soul is not based on any real proof or belief system; it would probably best be described as wishful thinking. Perhaps some would describe it as the difference between hope and faith. I don't need to believe in a soul, but it does fit in nicely with other ideas, including the concept of free will.

Regarding science, I think it would be useful to try to scientifically learn about it, though I can accept it being outside the realm of science as well. How can you create a detector for something when you don't know what it is you're trying to detect? I suspect that if the soul can be discovered, it will be by accident rather than by calculation or prediction.

At the same time, that wouldn't preclude the possibility of a few fortunate individuals throughout all of human history who somehow had an innate ability to understand more about the universe than it would seem possible.

In any case, I think it is any idea that should be pursued both scientifically and religiously.

Posts: 1256 | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Tresopax
Member
Member # 1063

 - posted      Profile for Tresopax           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
What experiences do you have that you know are non-physical? I mean how can you know there isn't an underlying physical component. Are you speaking of experiences beyond emotions and thought? Because I think there is enormous evidence that both of those types of experiences are dependant on the physical even if you are not conciously aware of it.
There is an important difference between being dependant on the physical, and actually being physical.

The experience of smelling chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven might be one good example. That is a very distinct, very memorable experience that I happen to like a lot. But I could not construct it out of atoms and hand it to you. Nor could I ever express in any physical way the quality of that experience to someone who has never smelled chocolate chip cookies baking before. Instead it is something entirely in my mind that I can only communicate to you by having you smell the cookies baking and hoping that you happen to experience the same thing I did. That suggests to me that it must not be physical. I am fairly certain the experience is triggered by physical neurons firing in my brain. But as I suggested above, being caused by something physical is not the same thing as being something physical.

This all to me seems more consistent with the idea of a nonphysical soul, rather than a physical one.

Posts: 8120 | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mucus
Member
Member # 9735

 - posted      Profile for Mucus           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by camus:
... I suspect that if the soul can be discovered, it will be by accident rather than by calculation or prediction...

There's an interesting novel called The Terminal Experiment based on this very premise, the accidental discovery of way to detect souls, and the repercussions thereof.
Or at least *I* found it interesting [Smile]

Posts: 7593 | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
David Bowles
Member
Member # 1021

 - posted      Profile for David Bowles   Email David Bowles         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
This all to me seems more consistent with the idea of a nonphysical soul, rather than a physical one.
I would agree with you... we do indeed possess a nonphysical soul. However, your next step would be to assert that it is "made up of" some other essence, I dunno, ectoplasm or quantum flubber. To me, however, the soul is nonphysical like a rainbow is... there is the light, the water, the angle, the air... but that's it. No actual arch or quantum flubbery arch.
Posts: 5663 | Registered: Jun 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Euripides
Member
Member # 9315

 - posted      Profile for Euripides   Email Euripides         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
There is no soul. I'm a materialist when it comes to the mind-body split.

I'm not sure if I should see these theologians' attempt to alter their beliefs to conform with modern science as an honest and noble effort to discover a more accurate truth which is flawed because they haven't used that science to examine the basic premises of their beliefs, or an insidious attempt to give their ideology more public credibility by creating as far as is possible the appearance of consensus between religion and science.

An example of the latter might be the last pope's letter to Dawkins, endorsing Darwinism and pretending that evolution was consistent with the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Posts: 1762 | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Occasional
Member
Member # 5860

 - posted      Profile for Occasional   Email Occasional         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I found this quote of interest to this subject:

"Rabbinic anthropology differs . . . from Hellenistic and later Christian anthropology. The distinction between spirit and matter is not known in rabbinic literature. . . . Metaphysically soul and body form a whole, rather than a polarity. Crudely put, the soul is like the battery that operates an electronic gadget. It may be different and originally external to the gadget, but the difference is not one of essence. . . . More significantly, the gadget and its power source ultimately belong together, rather than apart. Thus, the soul is the vitalizing agent, whose proper place is in the body, not out of it."(1)

1. Alon Goshen Gottstein, "The Body as Image of God in Rabbinic Literature," Harvard Theological Review 87 (1994): 176–77.

The quote comes from Divine Embodiment: The Earliest Christain Understanding of God, Early Christians in Disarray: Contemporary LDS Perspectives on the Christian Apostasy, pp. 239–293. This is a very LDS specific reading just so you know.

Posts: 2207 | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
rivka
Member
Member # 4859

 - posted      Profile for rivka   Email rivka         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
The distinction between spirit and matter is not known in rabbinic literature
Incorrect.
Posts: 32919 | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2