The soul is a pretty weird thing if you think about it. Then again, if you are like me, you haven’t really thought about it at all. A couple of days ago, however, I came across some articles written by J.P. Moreland on the existence and nature of the soul. So, I decided to write about them; I’ll even throw in some of my own thoughts.
The Method of Definition
The best way to define human consciousness is through an ostensive definition (i.e. defining something by pointing to an example of it). We define consciousness this way because it is very difficult to verbally describe mental states.
The Nature of Consciousness
There are five characteristics of human consciousness that can be easily identified:
1. Sensation: a felt/experienced awareness of something. There are two types of sensations: external and internal. External sensations are like seeing the color blue and internal sensations are like feeling pain.
2. Thought: a meaning that is either true or false and can be expressed in a sentence. This doesn’t mean that a thought must always be verbally spoken; it can also be a sentence formed within your consciousness.
3. Belief: a meaning that I take to be true from 51-100%. Beliefs are not necessarily always thoughts. For example, I have plenty of beliefs on the natural sciences, but this doesn’t always mean that they are in thought form within my mind.
4. Desire: a felt inclination toward or away from something. This isn’t the same thing as a sensation. For example, I have a desire to go to Mars, however, I have never had a sensation of Mars.
5. Volition/ Freely willed action/ choice: I have the choice to move my arm; even if my arm is paralyzed. I still can will to move is even though I won’t get a response.
Some Arguments for the Existence of the Soul
Through the law of Identity ( x are identical y, if quality A of x is the same as quality A of y). For example, George Washington is the same as the first president of the United States. Therefore if I ask who was born on February 22, 1732, it will be applicable to both George Washington and the first president of the United States.
First Argument: Mental States Differ from Physical States
Mental/ conscious states do not have the same features as physical states. Therefore, mental events are not physical. For example, sensations, desires, beliefs, and thoughts do not have any physical features (like weight, mass, and spatial features); they are truly immaterial and non-physical. However, the physical episode that occurs within our brains when we have thoughts, sensations, desires, and beliefs do have physical features.
Second Argument: Mental states are self-presenting; Physical states don’t
When you feel an experience of pain or happiness, this sensation is completely personal to your mental state and you know them incorrigible (i.e. you can never be wrong about you feeling pain). Physical things, like the Statue of Liberty or an apple, are in the physical or public domain.
Third Argument: Intentionality
Intentionality is merely the “ofness” or “aboutness” of objects. A physical object can have many physical relationships to another physical object. It can be larger or smaller, taller or shorter, right of left, etc., but it’s nonsense to say that a physical thing like the relationship between weight and gravity has a purpose or intention to something. Intentionality could only exist if there is something outside the physical realm.
Through the law of identity the logical conclusion is that we are not the same thing as our brains (Our mental states are not the same thing as our physical states, etc. ). We can easily conclude that there is a non-physical, immaterial, and eternal part of us that is closely connected with our physical bodies. Which is basically just another way of saying that the human soul exists.