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Nature of the soul and memory

#1EastsideslingerPosted 9/19/2013 7:42:03 AM
Currently I'm in the process of reading this book called "A cynic's view of life" by Ambrose Bierce. Essentially it's a collection of op-eds by Bierce featuring his rants about various subjects from his time ranging from women in the workplace, to the prison system and religion.

One of the chapters talks about man's desire for immortality and the nature and existence of the soul and it got me to thinking of a hypothetical situation.

Imagine if you were a victim in some accident that caused you to have brain damage of sorts. You survive and most of your faculties are still intact but all recollection of your past life and identity are completely gone. Even though you are shown all of these pictures of the person you were known as and people tell you of the things you did it's more like you are being told about this person that looks like you rather than feeling the things that you used to.

With that said, did the old you die? What happened to the soul of the person that was you? Did your body spontaneously manifest a new one seeing as the engines that allow you to physically live still worked? If you were fully disconnected from your physical form should the ethereal aspect of yourself be able to recall your life from the first person perspective?
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#2JonWood007Posted 9/19/2013 8:05:50 AM
Well you see, this is a major problem I have with dualism, it makes no sense under these possibilities.

As for whether you're still you...that depends on the model of being you accept. if your definition of self is based on memories, no, you're a totally new person. The old one did "die" in a way.

If you accept body theory, you're still you, you just don't remember.

While I actually use a combo of both such theories personally (leaning toward body), I still think you're you, but your old life is gone and you kinda start anew.

To put things in PC terms, say you erase your hard drive...are you still using the same computer?
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#3Eastsideslinger(Topic Creator)Posted 9/19/2013 8:26:29 AM
JonWood007 posted...
To put things in PC terms, say you erase your hard drive...are you still using the same computer?


The hardware would be the same but all that data internally is gone. Sure you could make a back up and re-install that data but there are bits of data that don't don't get saved and transfer over to the clear Hard-drive.

Then again, you could take the hard-drive as is and swap it over into a new chassie. Can't do with with the 'soul' or mind of a human. Does that imply that the soul and memories are uniquely tied to the physical platform of the body?
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"That's Mushy Snugglebites' badonkadonk. She's my main squeeze. Lady's got a gut fulla' dynamite and a booty like POOOW!" - Tiny Tina
#4kozlo100Posted 9/19/2013 8:28:32 AM
Were that to happen with no hope of recovering those memories, I would say that I died. Not just the old me, but me, full stop.

I don't know exactly what it is that 'I' am, but it's not the simple physical components of my body. My memories and maybe stream of consciousness are a critical part of me, without them I do not exist. I don't believe in metaphysical souls, but the word isn't terrible for describing the essence of self in the lack of a more precise description.

Given that understanding, yea, the body just starts building a new soul, a new person in these circumstances.
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Time flies like the wind,
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#5Moorish_IdolPosted 9/19/2013 11:10:20 AM
Eastsideslinger posted...
With that said, did the old you die? What happened to the soul of the person that was you? Did your body spontaneously manifest a new one seeing as the engines that allow you to physically live still worked? If you were fully disconnected from your physical form should the ethereal aspect of yourself be able to recall your life from the first person perspective?

That depends on how much control you believe your soul has over your self.

I am a dualist but I don't believe the spirit has anything to do with personality or (most) memories. We are spacial, temporal entities, so we describe ourselves in that way -- what you describe as "you" is actually your brain. If your brain changed in such a way that you became a new you, then yes, your old you technically no longer exists.

This doesn't mean that you received a new spirit. And unless, as I said before, you believe the soul is the sole source of "you", then this isn't much of an issue for dualism in general. Certain types of it, sure.

Interesting question though. I'd like to see a Christian's perspective since they tend to believe you are your soul.
#6kozlo100Posted 9/19/2013 11:15:51 AM
Moorish_Idol posted...
I am a dualist but I don't believe the spirit has anything to do with personality or (most) memories. We are spacial, temporal entities, so we describe ourselves in that way -- what you describe as "you" is actually your brain. If your brain changed in such a way that you became a new you, then yes, your old you technically no longer exists.


For lack of a better way of wording the question: What do you think the function of the spirit is, if it is unrelated to self?

Also, say it were possible to transfer the contents, structure, and functions of the brain to some other device. What do you think would happen in terms of spirit and self if we were to do it?
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Time flies like the wind,
and fruit flies like a banana.
#7GuideToTheDarkPosted 9/19/2013 11:50:52 AM
I don't know exactly what it is that 'I' am, but it's not the simple physical components of my body. My memories and maybe stream of consciousness are a critical part of me, without them I do not exist.

When you think of them as chemical etchings in your brain cells, memories seem like physical components to me.
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#8Moorish_IdolPosted 9/19/2013 11:56:31 AM
kozlo100 posted...
For lack of a better way of wording the question: What do you think the function of the spirit is, if it is unrelated to self?

It's not unrelated to self, but rather not the sole source of self nor what we generally refer to when speaking about the self. Also this may be a bit of a long reply:

I believe the mind (or spirit, I use them interchangeably) is what grants us consciousness mainly, as well as higher forms of reason (e.g. the ability to postulate the metaphysical). It's essentially the source of life, allowing us to have a self without directly providing it. Things like personality and most memories seem to be solely brain-based.

I say most memories because I believe the mind has the ability to be aware of everything when alone but, without the ability to sense, it lacks the type of memory we generally refer to. While a bit controversial, I find OBE's to be the best example of this -- the spirit's awareness of everything without sense, which the brain later reinterprets, giving the allusion that the spirit has some form of memory. I generally refer to this as just awareness.

(Also I will add that I have experienced OBE's, so I may admittedly have an emotional attachment to dualism.)

All that said, I'm still undecided on whether the spirit is individual or collective. I've been leaning towards the latter for a good while now, though. I've acually recently been knocking around the idea that the collective spirit is god, but that's another topic.

Also, say it were possible to transfer the contents, structure, and functions of the brain to some other device. What do you think would happen in terms of spirit and self if we were to do it?

I think the mind require a link with a brain to be of any discernible use. A device able to interpret the brain's content would just be simulating consciousness -- I don't think it would have much ability to function beyond the data it has, as our mind now can. In other words, it would be limited to the content that was transferred -- it wouldn't be able to create new content.

I wouldn't call a simulated brain a true "self", much to the disappointment of the Bicentennial Man.
#9kozlo100Posted 9/19/2013 11:59:36 AM
GuideToTheDark posted...
When you think of them as chemical etchings in your brain cells, memories seem like physical components to me.


I don't disagree that memories are physically encoded in the brain, but my thinking is that the ink on the page isn't the word itself. Likewise the chemical etching isn't the memory itself.

I'm not asserting anything metaphysical, more just that it's a function of perception and experience rather than structure.
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Time flies like the wind,
and fruit flies like a banana.
#10kozlo100Posted 9/19/2013 12:10:48 PM(edited)
Moorish_Idol posted...
I think the mind require a link with a brain to be of any discernible use. A device able to interpret the brain's content would just be simulating consciousness -- I don't think it would have much ability to function beyond the data it has, as our mind now can. In other words, it would be limited to the content that was transferred -- it wouldn't be able to create new content.

I wouldn't call a simulated brain a true "self", much to the disappointment of the Bicentennial Man.


I think I get where you're coming from on the first part, thanks for the answer. I'm always curious about that stuff.

On this second part, what is it that you think is special about the brain that it the only thing a mind can link to? Or to put it a little more technically, what is it you think a synapse can do that a transistor can't?

This in particular is a subject I'm most interested in, so I like hearing other opinions and views whenever I can.
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Time flies like the wind,
and fruit flies like a banana.