Ultimate Reality TV

There was this helicopter crash recently that killed a camera crew, and it got me to thinking: what would a “soul” really be?

In practical terms, you die, your thoughts end. There is no longer a power source for your brain, and on top of that, thinking is a survival function that is kind of obviated by your demise. Safe to say, your soul would not involve any cognitive processes because, well, there is nothing there to cogitate.

Emotions, by comparison, are a combination of biochemistry (hormones and mood-altering substances) overlaid with instinctive and cognitive processes. Again, emotion would be surplussed.

Hence, the “soul” would feel nothing and think nothing because there would be no need and no mechanism. And, of course, no pain or misery (herewith, the defenestration of Hell).

What, then, is this soul thing? What role does it play? What can it remember? And how can its posthumous existence relate in any way to the life it inhabited?


  • Twain, Mark

GIGOBuster, that’s an amazing quote. I myself have had similar thoughts, about how I was perfectly content to not exist for the billions of years that passed before I was born and old enough to form memories, and I will be just as content to not exist for the billions of years that will pass after I die.

Twain, Mark was wise and very pithy, we need a few more of him. Now.

Thanks **drewtwo99 **and For You

What is interesting is that I almost got the Klaxon (think QI :slight_smile: ) by getting the quote wrong, I did remember something similar, and Dawkins got it wrong, he quoted Twain like this:

“I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

What happened is that I remember that by the time Twain died, science had gotten to talk about millions of years for things like the age of the earth and universe (Charles Lyell), but not Billions, that came later.

So, I checked around and found the proper quote.

And yes, we need more guys like Twain nowadays.

i am completely sold to both of your answers…
Yet non of you have really answered the quetion…
this wasnt about weather or not there is conciousness after death
The person who started this thread seems to accept or believe in the exsitence of a soul
That is detached from your physical body when you die…
But where does one begins and the other ends?
paraphrasing Terence Mckenna,
We are not naked when we leave our clothes
Because we are still wearing our ideas, our religious beliefs, our fears and our prejudices.
We are also still wearing our bodies
I believe in the true nakedness that comes from laying down all this
(something i believe we can achieve through death or meditation)
But i have never being able to completely “let go”
Just enough to accept this way of excistence outside of your body as the truth
So lately (at leats to me) it seems like its becoming some kind of cliche
But the answer to your question is “consiousnes”
I can not explain it well enough
As a metter of fact i hardly know English
But if you havent yet, i recomend you to explore these ideas
And also, as chicheed as it may sound
The truth is that you can find the best answer to your question within your self

The soul is something we made up to explain ourselves and to fend off the depression of knowing that all we are is Dust in the Wind, Oh, OH, OOOHHHHHH …

Consciousness is a natural phenomenon related to the survival instinct and basic information processing that is common to all animal life (possibly with some exceptions). It is only present in a living being, so it does not qualify as a “soul” entity.

There’s an important distinction between the abstract idea of a “soul” – a sort of personal god of the gaps of all we feel we are that is not captured by a materialist description of ourselves – and immortality, which is one (albeit frequently) asserted property of the soul.

For that matter, I don’t even think consciousness and self-awareness are fundamental to the idea of “soul.” It may even be the converse: that (or a discernment of that) which is left when you subtract out everything that is individual about you – what Huxley called “the Ground” in The Perennial Philosophy.

Historically I think that the idea of a personal, immortal, self-aware soul is like a personal, immortal, self-aware God – a way people projected familiar things out onto the universe to make it feel less pointless and/or threatening. That doesn’t exclude the possibility that these are cartoon versions of something genuine.

And anyway, if we didn’t want to enrich our world with our own wishes, we wouldn’t enjoy fiction.

BTW, I don’t know whether we’re supposed to do a Hello World for our first post, but, this is mine.

This kind of confused me: I always thought the “soul” was supposed to be the one thing about a person that was unique, so subtracting out everything that is individual about you would seem entirely backwards. Then I noticed you were referencing Huxley.
I was doing time
In the universal mind
I was turning keys
I was setting people free
Then you came along
With a suitcase and a song
Turned my head around
Now I’m so alone
Just looking for a home
I’m the freedom man

[RIGHT]– Jim Morrison[/RIGHT]

Well, welcome to the dope. Enjoy.

In sorry if i cant explain my self better…
But i dont mean “conciousness” as :
the state of being awake or aware…
I agree that ever since we became self aware
We learnd to embrace whatever idea that makes us
Feel less insignificant.
But i personally have learned, after a huge effort,
To tell the difference between what i know
And what i want to believe…
I wish i knew exactly how my brain works
(at a biologycal level), but iknow so little about it.
I wish i could find, or that somebody else could find
A satisfactory cientific definition of what this so called “soul”
Really is… But, althoigh i dont wanna annoy you with vague, mambojambo
i gotta tell you i have, as many others, found what my soul really is
And when i did the only words that could explain my experience
Were these:
“we are all one conciousness experiencing itself subjectively
Theres no such a thing aa death, and we are only the imagination of ourselves”

if you accept the Theory of relativity
And quantum mechanics, you are not too far from
Believing in these ideas

i am new this forum
I still dont know very well how to use it,
so i beg your patience
I hope im not packing your threat with
Things you dont wanna hear…

I’m cool with you so far. Just write everything paragraph style and not like a poem and we’re cool. Don’t go crazy on us.

Well, religions usually posit that the soul is the one thing about a person that matters (because it’s our wifi connection to God). It doesn’t follow that it’s unique.

Say a person is a junk drawer. The drawer itself is the physicality of the person, where physicality has a rather broad meaning – it includes our biochemical and neurological magic. The stuff in the drawer is the “self” – the stuff that feels like it’s “in here” and “me” as opposed to the rest of the world that isn’t “me.” Take all the tangible objects out of the drawer, remove all the me-ness. The question is, is there anything still in the drawer?

Now, obviously, a radical materialist would say the drawer is actually *always *empty, and even the objects you think you are removing are just attributes of the drawer. The drawer seems to “contain” but really it’s just making pictures of containment – it’s a drawing, not a drawer.

I have to disagree with those who find that quote amazingly brilliant. Twain was obviously correct in asserting that for him, in all the eons prior to his birth, there was absence of worry, care, &c… However, he’s equally obviously wrong in asserting that there was presence of peace, serenity, deep content and unbroken satisfaction. Assuming that such things are defined as definite experiences, he presumably didn’t experience them for any length of time prior to birth. As for the notion of having a “grateful desire” to die and get back to oblivion, it’s obviously not what most people experience, since most people will go to almost any lengths to avoid death.

Some sort of magic recording device for the data encoded in the brain that can be used to reconstruct the mind in a new brain/substrate. That’s pretty much the room left for it that modern biological knowledge hasn’t left irrelevant. Souls aren’t necessary for consciousness or thought or emotion, but if you want to postulate immortality after death, there has to be something that stores that data.

The closest synonym I can find for “soul” is “personality”. It’s what makes us the same person when we wake up as we were when we fell asleep. It is also responsible for the fact that many kids act like their parents or siblings. And anyone who owns a pet knows that each individual animal has a unique personality.