Sunday, February 3, 2008

An argument for the existence of 'the soul'

By "soul", I mean something beyond the body that is nevertheless an essential part of "me".

I will use the method Reductio ad absurdum (Latin: "reduction to the absurd"), where I assume the opposite of what I am trying to prove, hoping to derive an absurd outcome, and then conclude that the original assumption must have been false.
  1. Assumption: I am merely an organised collection of material "stuff" (atoms, molecules, cells, ...).
  2. Therefore, what I call "my thoughts" must be merely sequences of electrochemical changes in my brain.
  3. All beliefs are thoughts.
  4. Therefore, a belief is a sequence of electrochemical changes in the brain.
  5. These electrochemical changes are caused by external events in the past (plus a certain amount of quantum randomness).
  6. Therefore, my beliefs (including my original assumption) are no more connected to the actual truth about the universe than the fizzing of an antacid tablet in a glass of water!
  7. This is absurd. [As CS Lewis wrote: 'You cannot have a proof that no proofs matter.' (Meditations in a toolshed)]
  8. Therefore, there is something more to "me" than my physical body, which we may identify as "the soul".

Why would God demand repentance?

Question: Why would God demand that we repent to get into heaven?

Answer: God doesn't demand repentance. Repentance is the name for the changing of one's direction, from rebelling against (or ignoring) God to honouring, loving and wanting to be with God. Heaven is the state of being with God.

Thoughts and questions from some old notebooks: Faith

To believe something requires more than evidence and the weighing up of evidence; it requires a leap of faith. As St Augustine wrote: "Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand." (On the gospel of St John XXIX)

Existence (i.e. that I exist, or anything at all exists) is a mystery. In fact, each of us personally is a mystery, as complex as the night sky.

The things that really matter are all one thing, and that "thing" is, by definition, elusive and unnameable, yet is the source of all joy (and the object of all longing). This is the "scent of heaven".

There are at least two kind of desire: desire for the nameable and desire for the unnameable. Desire for the nameable, while it may be fulfilled in this life, leads ultimately to dissatisfaction and despair.
Desire for the unnameable, while it cannot be fulfilled in this life (by definition), leads to joy.
As Thomas Moore wrote: "Earthly pleasures are an invitation to eternal delights." (Care of the Soul)

Mythical truth is truer than literal fact.

God is not impersonal, but superpersonal. God is not asexual, but supersexual; our maleness and femaleness are hints of God's character.

If the past can be reconstructed in principle from the present then everything is completely determined - even the thoughts of those who assert that the past can be reconstructed from the present. This is the fatal flaw of absolute determinism.

Despite what people say they believe, everyone acts as though they believe in free will (at least for themselves).

Thoughts and questions from some old notebooks: Art

I was going through some old notebooks of mine and came across some jottings that I thought might sit well on this blog:

Firstly, some thoughts on art:

Where does our enjoyment or appreciation of art come from? Perhaps from a sense that experience is shared to some extent. As though we think to ourselves, "I am not alone; I have see/felt/thought this too." It reminds us that we are alive.

What makes a work of art "good", or satisfying? Perhaps its "ring of truth", its emotional resonance with us.

Perhaps all art is expressive. In descriptive art, the emotion is usually delight (in observation). In analytical art, the emotion is curiosity or playfulness. In decorative art, the emotion is sensual pleasure.

It's not a matter of bringing everyday life into the realm of "art" (or vice versa). Rather it's about moving the boundaries - very blurry in most cases - between "art" and "non-art".