Philosophical / Random Thoughts

[Lack of] Souls

What do you think of the concept of “souls?” I ask because I’ve recently been surprised to discover that the concept of “not having a soul” is not the default understanding (or at least is difficult to grasp) by many people, even within the “science-minded.” 

I have three good friends who I can have these deep, philosophical conversations with, but the idea of “souls” only came up with two of them. In both cases, we got to talking about body-mind connections. It led to discussion about what happens after we die. My automatic approach to this question was to evaluate where our “matter” goes when we die. That didn’t satisfy the question, though, since matter can be broken down further to discussions about energy, entropy, and different forces and interactions. 

For those of you who have some biology background, you probably know about the “circular” cycles of mitosis, photosynthesis and cellular respiration, etc., and how fungi are the things that decompose organic matter (wastes) and make them reusable for other organisms. I don’t know much about this process but I’m curious as to whether any of the structure or properties that were unique to that matter are preserved by the end of the decomposition process. I’m assuming that no, they are not (but I honestly have no idea).

This is the thought I had whilst discussing with my two friends (on separate occasions), and so I went with that. I ended up answering the question “what happens after we die?” with “basically, after we die our matter gets decomposed and that probably it.”

To which my friends responded, “yeah, that makes sense. But, what happens to our soul?”

And I’m like, “what do you mean”

This was not a concern to me. I’m easily able to grasp the idea that “I” am just the result of a bunch of physical and chemical reactions and forces. 

My friends were unable to dismiss the idea, though, that something *had* to happen to our souls. But then I thought, well, maybe I’m the one missing something here. Neither of them is religious and they understand and accept (as much as one *can* accept) the ideas of how “we” came to be, and how we aren’t going to (what we presume is imaginary) hell. What I mean here is that they are not closed-minded and are capable of acknowledging the reality of cause-effect relationships and evidence for some ambiguous and sometimes emotionally threatening concepts. 

But am I the one missing something here? Is it not normal to NOT question what happens to our soul, let alone NOT assume that we actually have a soul or part of “us,” that is our “own” but separate from our physical body?

I saw someone’s post about ghosts in here a bit ago which led me to further consideration about this topic. I ended up writing this novel that became too irrelevant to post as a comment on that. Hence, why I created this post.

If what I said earlier about decomposition — that structure and properties that were unique to that matter are NOT preserved — is true, then the only part of “us” that continues after our death is any impact we made to the world during our lifetime that will impact the future, by means of things like our interactions with the physical and biological environment, and of course, any genetic material (essentially the sequence of the A’s, C’s, G’s, and T’s) we passed on (i.e., our offspring).

But aside from that, is it actually possible that any of our remains are preserved in any way? In this decomposition process, I’m assuming that energetic reactions occur, but I do not know the details of these. But, the energy released or absorbed interacts with the environment too, which could potentially be influenced by at least all of the following: quantity of energy (throughout the entire process), rate and rhythm of release or absorption, any forces present in the surroundings, and cardinal coordinates (which may just fall under forces?). This is the only possibility I can imagine that may SOMEHOW contribute to what we may correspond to what we speculate as “souls” or “ghosts,” via the interactions of our matter and its unique structure as it breaks down.

Another concept that keeps crossing my mind as I think about this is entropy. Although, I’m not exactly sure how to tie it in, but here’s my attempt:

I think consciousness is ultimately a byproduct of a series of events that have happened over time as the entropy of the universe has increased (i.e., the probability of something returning to its original state decreased) and the physical properties and forces that emerge in the process. I do not think we have souls and I’m not really too concerned with that, at least not enough to deny it. But I’m unaware if this is how anyone else feels about the topic, since the two people I’ve discussed this with brought up our souls, and since there are no other people (in the non-digital world) I have found who will voluntarily discuss this sort of thing with me.

I also think that the emergence of many of the supernatural ideas (including religious ideas, souls, ghosts, etc.) humans have come up with may be consistent with the “death salience hypothesis.” Our cognitive capabilities have made us aware of the existence of past and future events, able to make recollections and predictions, and able to manipulate information in our minds pertaining to those events. Because of this, we are aware of our own mortality. Along with our mind’s cognitive capabilities, we also develop identities for ourselves, so the awareness of our inevitable death is discomforting and perhaps even impossible to grasp?

Am I the only one who does not by default think that I do not have a soul? I’m looking forward to hearing other perspectives! 😀 

P.S.s

I know “this” (i.e., the quotations) were probably excessive in this. But trust me, I was tempted to use them much more than I did. IMO, everything is arbitrary, but sometimes it makes “sense” to us. Whatever that is… This is the point where I accept the abstraction and its meaninglessness, and just continue to roll with it. I have a theory that for many others, it’s the point where a “higher being” comes in.

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