Ghosts in the machines.

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Ghosts in the machines.

Post  Claude Delacroix on Wed Jan 27, 2010 12:39 pm

A simple question:

Are we souls that have bodies, or simply bodies that think we have "souls?"


Personally, I think we're souls with bodies.
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Re: Ghosts in the machines.

Post  Jessamine Blake on Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:00 pm

I'm no metaphysicist, but I'd tend to think a person's answer to this question would depend greatly on whether they believe the soul lives on after death. If they do, the next question would be which is the anchoring force? Does the body continue to function because of the presence of the soul, or is the soul anchored to the body until the body no longer functions?
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Re: Ghosts in the machines.

Post  Mr. Pearse on Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:35 pm

I've often thought that the consciousness persists indefinitely, perhaps poised at that final brink of "death." As the body fails, the mind slices its conception of time into steadily smaller increments. Even after the last breath has been expelled and the final wave of brain activity registered, the consciousness does not "stop." Instead, it rides this final flicker of activity ad infinitum, diminishing steadily - but never being entirely extinguished.

Maybe an easier parallel is the literature that has been written concerning what exactly happens to you when you enter a black hole. The common conclusion is that - since a black hole warps both time and space - your own personal measure of time is squeezed into ever tinier degrees, even as the rest of the universe proceeds at its original tempo. The big takeaway here is that time is relative, and that black holes stink.

Anyway, my two cents.
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Re: Ghosts in the machines.

Post  Jessamine Blake on Sun Apr 25, 2010 8:17 pm

Thinking about this more, I think it would depend even more on two factors:

1. The source of consciousness
2. How dependent consciousness is on the body's functioning

For instance, if human consciousness is simply a function of the physical brain, it stands to reason that when the brain dies, that will cease along with all the brain's other functions. However, if the consciousness is not purely physical, is it still tied to the brain's functioning?

I'm sure this sounds crazy, but what of the question of when consciousness comes to the human body? Personhood is commonly assigned by others at birth--although there are those who insist it starts beforehand. However, if we are conscious beings at the moment of birth or even before we are born, why do our memories only begin around the age of three or four, usually no earlier? Are the events of the first two years simply relegated to our subconscious? If so, why is this? It seems strange to me that the mind would file away this earliest part of life away almost universally among a population. Is it likely, therefore, that consciousness only comes later? And of course, then the question becomes, why is this? Is it because the brain has not developed the necessary connections yet, or is there another reason?

It is a tangled question you ask, Claude.

As to Mr. Pearse's thoughts, I would wonder how the beginning of consciousness happens if the end is this incremental, eternal elongation of perception of time. In answering the question "where do we go," I feel you have neglected the question "from whence did we come?" Is it possible for the one to be answered without considering the other, or are they concomitant?

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Re: Ghosts in the machines.

Post  Ethan Ramey on Fri Jul 16, 2010 4:49 pm

This question starts with too many assumptions.

First, you start by asking "Are we..." This assumes immediately that "We are." So, to allude to something I know one member of this site will get, you basically just discounted the notion that we're all mushrooms, sitting on a hill somewhere and dreaming of being human. You also discounted similar ideas, determining that existence exists. I agree with you, but you've already closed the question off to those that don't.

Second, the meat of your query carries an answer to a secondary and unspoken question, which is: "Is there a difference between the body and the soul?" So we could be bodies that only imagine we have souls, or we could be souls that inhabit physical forms. More interesting, though, is that we are both body and soul; that, in fact, body is soul. But then I'm led to ask, "What is your definition of a soul?" This is very important, and I feel your question can't be engaged until it is answered.

After all, maybe we die and we're dead, maybe we die and we float away, maybe we take our bodies with us when we leave, or maybe we don't die. Maybe the soul and the body are inseparable, and so we're not inhabiting anything. Maybe our sense of morality is tied to biological functions. Science did in fact just create the first Frankenstein monster. Sure, it was the size of bacteria, but they officially made life from nothing. All that required was information, coded and entered in the right fashion. If our soul is information (DNA, to be exact), and said information determines both moral quandaries and physical features, then can you possibly distinguish between the two? Between the soul and the body?

The initial question was binary, but there are too many known and unknown factors to be able to answer it in a binary form. Also, you leave out one more important part, which is: "Why should we care?"

Maybe it's not such a simple question.
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Re: Ghosts in the machines.

Post  Jessamine Blake on Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:47 pm

Okay. So assuming that we exist, and not as mushrooms on a hill somewhere, dreaming of being human. Assuming we are, in fact, the human beings that we perceive ourselves to be, is there a difference between the body and the soul?

It seems to me that there cannot be an afterlife if our bodies and souls are one and the same. For if they are in fact two different words for the same tangible thing, and not one intangible entity housed inside a tangible one, and there IS an afterlife, it makes sense to me that this afterlife would also have to be tangible. However, if this is the case, why do the bodies of the dead continue to be visible and tangible where ever they are left? If the body was taken into the afterlife, wouldn't it cease to be in this life--making exhumations (or sudden discoveries of people buried in the back yard of some nice neighbor) rather difficult? But since exhumations do happen, and since bodies to not vanish to some unknown location, Obi-Wan style, upon death, I would have to assume that either there is no afterlife, or the body and the soul are not the same entity.

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Re: Ghosts in the machines.

Post  Ethan Ramey on Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:18 pm

Some religions (such as some common variations of Christianity) believe that the body is called up to a physical heaven at some point in the future.
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Re: Ghosts in the machines.

Post  Jessamine Blake on Mon Jul 19, 2010 11:34 pm

Well that just brings up a whole host of other questions. What about in the mean time? Is the body restored to its original glory, and if so, how is this possible? Why is it necessary to wait in the first place? I could go on, but it would be more contentious than productive to the discussion.

Okay, assume we exist. Assume there IS an afterlife, and that the body and soul are separate entities insofar as they do not directly or consistently affect one another; that is, a deformed or malfunctioning body does not necessarily cause similar malformation of the soul, and vice versa. Now, it seems to me that the root of the question is really which is more important, more essential to who we are...the body, or the soul? Of course, making that many assumptions it becomes kind of an obvious question, for if the soul is what makes us who we are, and the body is simply what that soul is housed in, and the soul continues its existence long after the body has expired, then the question becomes pretty pointless. Obviously, the one that is the essence of who we are and lasts after death is more consequential than the one that is merely a covering.

But then one might be led to ask: why bother with bodies at all, if that's all they're good for, and if the soul can have an existence after they cease to be?

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