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PhilosophyGround >> The self is biochemistry


2/16/05 1:16 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 16-Feb-05
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Who am i? I am a biochemical organism, the "identity" of which seems to have a locus generally in my brain. There is no soul nor am i a cartesian mind/body entity, and i am not my entire body. If my arm is cut off, i am still me, but if my brain stops functioning, i cease to be me. It seems as though, if my brain were successfully transplanted, I (i suppose by me, at this juncture, i will define as the consciousness that that is aware of itself and is now typing this message) would be located in a different body. Additionally, there may be two "selves" located within my one head. -doug-
2/16/05 2:42 PM
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DonnaTroy
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Edited: 16-Feb-05
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When you die you will find out that your identity don´t need the flesh to be alive. ;-)
2/17/05 1:46 AM
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Dory
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Edited: 17-Feb-05
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Youre delusional. There is flesh and spirit.
2/17/05 11:47 AM
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vermonter
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Edited: 17-Feb-05
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DT, Perhaps you are right. How do you think one goes about discovering the truth of this? Or is this where faith comes in? I just need to beleive? -doug-
2/17/05 11:49 AM
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vermonter
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Edited: 17-Feb-05
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Dory, So if my brain were successfully transplanted into another body, would *I* also move, or would i stay in the same body? Just wondering where my soul is attached to, and how it interacts with my body, since clearly it is not destroyed or moved by the cutting off of my arm. -doug-
2/17/05 3:03 PM
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DonnaTroy
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Edited: 17-Feb-05
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"How do you think one goes about discovering the truth of this? Or is this where faith comes in? I just need to beleive?"

There are several evidences, but not (yet) scientific proof of the survival of the personality beyond the grave.

The following book has the latest researchs done on the subject of past lifes by Dr Ian Stevenson:

OLD SOULS : Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0684851938/qid=1108670031/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-6600298-8945667?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

It is an easy book to read, with a good coverage of the several aspects of this issue, done by Tom Shroder, editor of the Washington Post.

Sometime ago I started a thread about it, you can read it here:

http://www.mma.tv/TUF/index.cfm?ac=ListMessages&PID=1&TID=413944&FID=71

Fact is, the sixth sense, necessary to perceive other realities, is not common yet among humans. So all a person has is the word of other ones, and in the meanwhile, there are several misunderstandings of what those people actualy perceive, depending on the level of lucidity they have.

2/17/05 9:58 PM
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Dory
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Edited: 17-Feb-05
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It your brain were sucessfully transplanted, your soul may well move with your brain. I have no way of knowing this as to my knowledge there have been no successful brain transplants. I will say however that I do not believe the soul to be directly tied to the brain or its functionings. The soul can exist within different bodies. From a theistic point of view, we will one day have a new body for the same soul. What proof do you have that the self is biochemistry or more precisely, why do you assume so?
2/17/05 10:17 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 17-Feb-05
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Dory, Thanks for the nicer post. It seems as though, if the soul existed within, or assigned to, or whatever, a particular body it would need to be located somewhere in particular. Certain people have postulated an organ (can't remember its name) that is only a single cell that contains the soul. Seems sort of rediculous, especially considering what a soul is, but i digress. If an arm can be cut off, and yet the soul preserved in my body, what does it take (what part of the body needs to be removed) to also move the soul, i guess is what i'm asking. All we might be able to do is intuit what it takes to be a "self" and see if there are any counterexamples. For example, during a disconnection of the corpus colosum (no idea on the spelling of that) there is evidence of two minds inhabiting one body (two independently thoughtful entities that can seperately answer questions). Does this mean there are two souls on your view, or still one? I can not deny the following sort of example in which one undergoes a hemisphereectomy (removal of half of the brain) in which case who that person is is radically altered. This of course means that their personality and ability has changed (particularly if it was the dominant hemisphere that was affected) but the main point i am trying to make is that how one acts, and who one is seems, at least intuitively, to depend solely on the goings on of the brain. I am compelled, then, to wonder why anything more is necessary for the existence of a self. I certainly have little proof of the self not being located in a soul, but i'm just not sure what it would add to the self that biochemistry does not. I feel as though everything that i can reasonably call my "self" can be accounted for in the cells and chemistry of my brain. Of course, other views are welcome and i look forward to your thoughtful response. I am not commited to any "answer." This is why i'm such a good philosopher ;) -doug-
2/17/05 11:22 PM
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Dory
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Edited: 17-Feb-05
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I'm going to begin my response by addressing your last statement, because it is here that we have a fundamentally different view. 'I am not commited to any "answer." This is why i'm such a good philosopher.' In not being fundamentally committed to any answer you start off with a presupposition of a universal negative and a presupposition that all has to be proved. This is in itself a contradictory position. If you assume all to be false, you have no way to judge evidence, nor even to relate evidence. In judging and relating evidence one naturally assumes something other than a negative, the position of a theistic universe. Assuming a universal negative, that all things have to be proved, and then attempting to prove things based on other presuppostions (logical relations for example) is inherently contradictory. _________________________________________________ Now to the less peripheral arguments. Why does it seem that a soul must have a physical seat? To me, this sounds like a phsyicalist or a materialist assumption, and if a materialist cant even prove there are chairs, he certainly cant prove their is a soul. A soul can also leave the body for no apparent reason. While coroners typically assign a cause of death, sometimes men just die, with no apparent physical cause. Moreover, the physical cause that kills some men, doesnt kill others. As to your question, what does it take to remove a soul from the body, their is a strong correlation between physical maladies and death, but their is no guaranteed cause of death. Death comes on God's timetable. And even after physical death, the soul does not cease to exist, it is merely absent from the body. "Does this mean there are two souls on your view, or still one?"---It depends. Certainly I think more than one spirit can inhabit a body. From a Christian perspective, the Bible testifies to numerous demoniacs. From a biological perspective, a malfunctioning brain could lead to conflicting personalities. The latter could still have one sould in a malfunctioning body. I dont intuit the same as you about ones personality being solely determined by the brain. Perhaps the functioning of the brain is affected by the soul that inhabits the body. Certainly some people heal much more quickly from brain damage than others. This could be attributed to physical differences in regeneration. It could also be attributed to a more deterimined spirit working to rebuild the brain. 'I certainly have little proof of the self not being located in a soul, but i'm just not sure what it would add to the self that biochemistry does not.'-----Well, for starters, the self being contained in a sould would add a transcendant nature to man's being that biochemistry does not.
2/18/05 2:02 PM
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rnaviaux
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Edited: 18-Feb-05
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A common assumption is to consider that one "has" a soul instead of the idea that the basic personality is the soul. Whne you talk about the person you are talking about the spirit, soul, essence - what have you. The "soul" has a body. Not the other way around. rna
2/18/05 2:14 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 18-Feb-05
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"In not being fundamentally committed to any answer you start off with a presupposition of a universal negative and a presupposition that all has to be proved. This is in itself a contradictory position. " I think you mistook me. First, i was being cute (open to interpretation, obviously). Second, i didnt say that i dont believe that there are answer, just that i don't know what they all are, so im definitely open to other opinions. "and if a materialist cant even prove there are chairs, he certainly cant prove their is a soul. " I don't need to, with souls or chairs, but the burden of proof is on you. This is where the normal argument begins to fade, because not only can't you prove it, your argument will probably degrade to: it is God's design that it is not discoverable. Well that's all well and good, and in that event we have no arguement for one another and will agree to disagree. You yourself weren't sure about the relocation of the soul during some form of physical alteration. If the self were indeed to move with the brain, wouldnt that indicate one of two things: 1. The self is biochemical. or 2. The soul is located within the brain. Wouldnt it have to? You next argument is as follows: P1. Death sometimes has no known cause. P2. Some ailments kill certain people and not others. C. The soul is either a fickle or otherwise mysterious thing, at least sometimes beyond our control. Not only is this not a valid argument (i can assume the premises true and in still imagine the conclusion false), but it's poorly structured as well. Just because i don't personally know how fast light travels doesnt mean that their is not an actual fact. And just because, EG people used to die from the influenza but don't anymore is far from proof about the mysteries of my soul, if such a thing there be. And the conclusion does not follow from the premises, and to use your own argument, it is based on the previous assumption that a soul exists to begin with. How dare you commit the same wrong-doing that you accuse me of? "their is a strong correlation between physical maladies and death" Thank you. Since, for example a particular drug might render me unconscious or even dead (change my mental states or render my soul from my body, in your terms) seems to me to be a big indicator of either a biochemical self or a soul that is inextricably bound to the physical body, and subject to what happens to it. I choose the more plausible of the two. "From a biological perspective, a malfunctioning brain could lead to conflicting personalities." I don't mean just MPD, im saying that severing the connections between the two hemispheres (a procedure sometimes performed on epileptics) seems to lead to a division of minds. It's wild stuff. In your second to last paragraph, i think everything you say is just fine. The differences between the two could be biochemical or they could be abstract and non-physical, but the biological factors that cause the differences in recovery time for brain damage are testable, and are also presumably SUFFICIENT to explain the entire question. So as to the interaction of a soul, it just seems implausible and unnecessary to me. "Well, for starters, the self being contained in a sould would add a transcendant nature to man's being that biochemistry does not." This is all well and good, but what need have i for a transcendant nature? From my perspective it seems like the creation of one false abstract entity just leads to another false abstract state of being. These two things can not explain one another. Not trying to be discouraging, i'm glad you are putting your point of view out there. I really do appreciate it, but my intuitions are just soo very different from yours! -doug-
2/18/05 2:52 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 18-Feb-05
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rna, I think that dory's position is a much stronger one then the one you present. If the soul actually is the personality and the soul is not a physical construct, then how can you explain how easy it is to alter one's personality via physical means (eg. via alchohol)? I think for a more consistent route, you need to really seperate the soul from the physical realm, ala Kant. -doug-
2/18/05 7:45 PM
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Dory
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Edited: 18-Feb-05
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God’s design is discoverable. At least parts of it are, though as fallen creatures our understanding is inherently incomplete and crowded. As I see it, the justification for research, study, thought, and science of all kinds is to attempt to understand God’s thoughts and his design. This can only be done by what is revealed to us. This can be done by direct revelation as in God’s dealings with Moses or John, it can be revealed by a direct proxy to speak for God, Elijah as a prophet or Paul to the Romans, by God’s recorded Word in the Bible, by physical investigation into the world around us which reflects the design of its Creator, and by logical thought which follows the rules of the Creator. I never claimed to not have presuppositions on what is and is not true. I certainly do have such presuppositions. You claimed to have no presuppositions and be open for any answer. My claim is that all facts are only facts in that they fitly describe God’s creation. I lay no claim to a neutral argument, though I do lay claim to a correct argument. (Most of the time.) As to the arguments on the soul, I assert that the soul can vacate the body for nonphysical reasons. Someone convinced that there is no spirit world may assert that when a cause of death is unascertainable, it is because of limitations of our knowledge. Whereas, the case may be that there was no physical reason for the departure.
2/18/05 8:00 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 18-Feb-05
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I definitely have beliefs i think to be true. But i am still open to new ones, and even if i end up disagreeing, i still believe other viewpoints to be interesting. I change my mind all the time. "Whereas, the case may be that there was no physical reason for the departure. " Thoughts like this were one of the reasons religion has so long been believed, but among philosophers anyway, such an idea is greatly on the decline. With the success of science, we no longer think the world is round, and we can even tell what stars are made of, or what atoms are made of. We've come a long way since Democritus named the atom several hundred years before Christ. But arguments like yours just don't hold up under a lot of scrutiny. You are such a smart person, you have to see that. Now dont get me wrong, im not saying "religious philosophy is wrong" or "stupid" but there need to be better arguments then "I just dont know right now, and that's enough to beleive." At least for me. -doug-
2/18/05 10:54 PM
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Dory
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Edited: 18-Feb-05
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Doug, I had no doubt that you have opinions that you believe to be true. I also have no doubt that you question your beliefs deeply in order to seek the truth. I admire this, and I think philosophy is a great way through which to pursue it. I do think that you should give careful consideration as to what assumptions you make as the starting point for your personal philosophy. I know that you do consider these, but in the pursuit of neutrality it is possible to make assumptions without recognizing what they are. There is no neutrality and there is no philosophy without underlying assumptions. Ive been reading your posts thoroughly. This is partly because I like to argue and partly because youre erudite and I learn from your posts. I do not have a strong background in philosophy. As seen in other posts, this has caused some difficutly in terminology. I'm also open to new beliefs and to refining my beliefs. I do have certain presuppositions by which I judge my beliefs. I presuppose that their is a God with a plan for the universe as revealed to man through the Bible. Im willing to change lots of beliefs about God's plan, or the workings of God's universe within that framework. In fact, I distinctly recall times in my life where my beliefs changed significantly. And, my beliefs change to some extent continuously as I learn more. Im even willing to question that foundation, but as of now, Im more convinced of that presuppostion than I have ever been. I'll take your word that such philosophy as I stated about the soul is in decline among academic philosophers. I appreciate you commenting that I am a smart person. However, I do not see that my beliefs dont hold up under scrutiny. If I did, I assure you, Id change my beliefs. While I claim to be no expert on science, I do know a bit about the subject. I even have a BS in physics that says so. But, I dont accept alot of the currently accepted theories. In fact, some of the are contradictory. Einstein never accepted the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics. Nor do I. But, then again, Im not convinced of Einsteins general or special relativity either. And youre correct that a response of I dont know right now does seem inadequate. Thats why we search for answers. But the fact is, on some things, I dont know right now and its better to say that than to lie or to fool myself.
2/23/05 6:57 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 23-Feb-05
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Dory, "But the fact is, on some things, I dont know right now and its better to say that than to lie or to fool myself. " I realize that this, couple with your presuppositions, lends itself to accepting that some things can't be known because it is the will of god. Believe me when i say i am a long throw away from my original pressupositions though (which were more like your own then mine are now). If i question even deeper though (eg. if i have no faith) then not knowing something only amounts to not knowing, and not to the chance of never knowing because of an intelligent design. Also, i dont want you to think that i meant that your beliefs don't hold up under scrutiny, only that the logic of "i dont know it, thus it must be god's design, or proof of god" is flawed, and that you must see. In fact, it seems a better approach would be a Kantian one: God exists outside of space and time (a transcendant or noumenal being) and as such his nature is completely beyond our understanding. Additionally, his effects on our world are such that they effect all of time and do not severe causal chains and so his will is forever hidden. And it helps to not think of god as supremely good. God is beyond morality too. At least that's the approach i would take, since a standard one seems to lead to too many contradictions in my mind. EG. if god is omniscient and all good, then how can he know what it's like to be a sadistic torturer? EG. if god is omnipotent then how can we have free will? and so on. A noumenal non-moral being is one that can't be denied. Finally, your obvious love for knowledge will be an incredible asset to you no matter what your beliefs are. I'm glad that our discussion moved the way it did :) -doug-

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