Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I don’t believe that human beings have a non-physical soul.

There’s no immortality, eternal life, nor reincarnation. When we die, we die and all that remains of us is our bodies, the work and things we leave behind, and the memories of us in those whose lives we touched.

Consciousness is a miracle to be sure, but it’s a naturally-occurring one. I believe it arises out of biological processes and came into being historically because it conferred some adaptive advantage upon creatures who developed it.

It exists, certainly, in the most robust sense, but only as a result of interactions among physical things. The image I have is of something like a projected film. It’s appropriate to say that a movie we are watching is real, that it exists, but it’s only there because the projector is casting light through a moving strip of plastic. As a consequence of those material interactions, a non-material artifact comes into being. But when you shut off the projector, it’s gone.

I know it’s terribly presumptuous of me to make such a claim; long traditions involving vast numbers of people way smarter, more educated, and hard-working than me make phenomenally well-rendered arguments that human beings are eternally-existing non-material souls embodied in ephemeral flesh; who am I to disagree with Plato, Descartes, or the fucking Dalai Lama for fuck’s sake?

Belief figures into it, no doubt; epistemological positions render metaphysical conditions. If I lived in Tibet and everyone around me was certain that reincarnation was a fact, it would be for me, too. Heck, if I lived in Kirkland and went to an evangelical church, souls might exist, as well.

And maybe my lack of belief in the soul means that I don’t have one; perhaps belief is a precondition of its existence; or maybe it’s the other way around: I don’t believe simply because I’m not possessed of one.

Too bad I won’t be around when I die to find out.


Anonymous lm said...

What is your conception of self if you don't believe in the soul?

Would you consider it to be your consciousness...and if so, who is watching said "projected film" of experience? Is the audience your selve[s]? If that is, what do you consider to be yourself, and who is watching their projection and their's...(ad infinitum)?

And if you are the culmination of interactions between things /your memories then, who is it that is doing the remembering?...

If you were your memories, per se, then suppose you're transporting...and "your" atoms become dismantled in the process...yet "your" atomic structure is reconfigured identically (memories in tact but with different atoms) at the corresponding portal, Are you still "you"?

...please forgive the (likely) incoherent inquiries...

1:22 AM  

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