The existence (or non-existence) of the Soul Matters. Think about it.
If man is entirely, completely, totally and only physical material then when we die, that’s it. There is nothing to live on; all that we are would be in the grave decomposing. There would be no afterlife.
Contrast that with the belief that there is a part of who we are (metaphysically) that is immaterial and non-physical, but somehow deeply connected to our physical bodies. This is generally how most people describe the Soul. This framework certainly allows for the Soul to survive the body’s mortality and live on in some type of afterlife.
Most find comfort in the belief that there is more than just the standard 78.7 years here on Earth. The problem is a comfort (or hope for an afterlife) is not a defendable reason to believe in the Soul. But in order for there to be a possibility of an afterlife; some type of immaterial & non-physical self must exist. If this is true, then we must consider the possibilities of what happens after our bodies past away and if there are consequences for our choices here on Earth. We should think carefully about this to get it right.
Or we can look at this question from a different angle: If there is no afterlife, then there certainly is no judgment for our actions during our time here on Earth. This obviously needs to be developed and defended more thoroughly, but I think if there is no afterlife we are under no obligation to adhere any moral standards, since they would all be ontologically subjective.
Even if the belief in the soul would make us all feel better, or release us from obeying moral standards; these are not arguments, only hopes or preferences. That is why I want to defend the existence of the Soul and refute Physicalism.
You see, whether or not the soul exists does Matter. Are humans made up of only one component (matter) or are we made up of two components (matter and an immaterial self)? This is what philosophers describe as the mind-body problem. Below is my brief defense of the Soul:
Does the Soul exist? Am I only a physical body? These are age-old questions that all people certainly have considered. It is safe to say that throughout human history, most people have believed in an immaterial self, namely a Soul, which is separate but somehow united to the physical body. For this reason, these same people believed their immaterial soul could survive their physical body in some kind of afterlife. Yet, only recently has this view been challenged. Largely due to the widespread acceptance of Darwinian evolutionary theory, many people (including some Christians) have abandoned the belief in the human Soul and found themselves deeply embedded in physicalism. My goal today is to explore physicalism to discover if it is a sound view of the mind-body problem.
The mind-body problem is best examined by exploring the following question: are human beings made up of only one component, namely matter; or are humans made up of two components, matter and soul (Moreland & Craig, 229)? If the former is true, then physicalism, the belief that human beings, along with all of their features are completely and entirely physical, must be true. Consequently on this view, the mind (or Soul) and all of its events would be identical to the brain.
Therefore, physicalism raises the question: is the mind identical to the brain? In order for physicalism to be true, mental entities must be identical to physical entities. For two entities X and Y to be identical, whatever is true of X will be true of Y and vice versa (Moreland & Craig, 232). Since physicalism claims that all entities are purely physical entities, to defeat it, we must only show that some the entities of human beings are not physical; thus making them non-identical.
Mental entities can be defined as something which only a subject has private, first-person access (Moreland & Craig, 231). Examples of mental entities are sensations or awarenesses like the experience of colors, sounds, smells, tastes, pain, etc. Acts of will or purposing are also considered mental entities. Purposing is like the story of a girl named Judy who fell asleep sitting in a chair. While asleep, her was arm is tied down without her knowing. As she awoke she tries to raise her arm while yawning. The act of will or purposing is the trying to bring about the event of raising her arm, even though physical act was unsuccessful. The act of will is an intentional action that was done by a conscious self, yet it is not a physical action (Moreland & Craig, 232).
If physicalism is true, then either these mental entities described above do not actually exist or they are identical to physical entities. It does not seem reasonable that these mental entities do not exist, as we have demonstrated above a list of real examples. Thus, the question remains; are these metal entities identical to physical entities? In other words, are all things true of mental entities also true of physical entities and vice versa.
One thing needs to be said about the relationship between mental and physical entities. There is no controversy that mental and physical entities could be in relationship with each other. Take for example when a neurosurgeon touches a part of one’s brain. When he does this, it likely will cause some type of mental entity to occur. What we must keep in mind is this example only proves that the mental entities are connected or have relationship with the brain, not that they are identical. Remember, for the two entities to be identical, all things true of one must be true of the other and vice versa.
Therefore, to show that mental and physical entities are non-identical, we need to look at their properties. A property is a characteristic or an attribute of something (DeWeese & Moreland, 30). For example, the Dallas Cowboys logo has the property of being blue. There are also things called self-presenting properties. These properties are mental properties like feeling joyful, the experience of the color pink, or the thought that the number seven is a prime number. Self-presenting properties present themselves directly to the subject, that is, the subject has awareness of them immediately, in her conscious state (Moreland & Craig, 234).
The following argument is used to show that mental and physical entities are not identical using properties. The argument goes like this: 1) No physical properties are self-presenting. 2) At least some mental properties are self-presenting. 3) Therefore, at least some mental properties are not physical properties (Moreland & Craig, 234). If this argument is sound, it proves that mental and physical properties are not identical. Let us explore the premises to see if the argument is sound.
The argument claims that there are no physical properties that are self-presenting. To illustrate, take Sally, who is in a position to know her own mental events in a way that is not available to anyone else. However, this is not true of physical properties. Think of a doctor, who studies a Sally’s brain. He can certainly know more about Sally’s brain then she can herself. The problem is that the doctor cannot know what Sally’s thoughts are, unless he is told by Sally. This is because physical properties of the brain are not self-presenting while the mental properties of the brain are. This example shows how the first two premises are sound and the conclusion that some mental properties are not physical properties necessarily follows (Moreland & Craig, 234-235).
A second way to find out if mental and physical entities are identical is by a thought experiment given by Dr. JP Moreland. Dr. Moreland asks one to picture a pink elephant in your mind. When you focus on the pink elephant you will have an awareness of the color pink inside of your mind of which you are incorrigibly aware. Obviously, there is no actual pink elephant or the awareness of the color pink inside of your physical brain. As such, if a neurosurgeon could cut open your head and dig around inside of your brain, he will never find the pink entity or your awareness of such an entity during the pink elephant experience. In fact, the neurosurgeon might see some neurons firing, but the only way he would know what your thoughts were, is by asking you for them. This is because the pink entity or awareness is a self-presenting property and not a physical one. Therefore, the mental entity of the experience of the color pink is not the same thing as the physical event associated with it in the brain. The mental entity is not stored inside of the brain nor does it have physical properties. It would not make sense to ask how much the experience of the color pink weighs nor to ask what it smells like. These questions are nonsense as mental entities are not physical and cannot be measured in such a way (Moreland, Recorded Lecture).
As a result, if some metal properties are not physical properties, then they are not identical. Remember, for two entities X and Y to be identical, all things true of X must be true of Y and vice versa. Given that physicalism requires mental and physical entities to be identical and we have seen this is not true; physicalism must be false.
If our mental properties and our physical properties are not identical, then they are two separate substances. One substance would be our physical body and the other would be an immaterial and non-physical self, which is normally thought of as the Soul. Keep in mind, these two may interact, but they are not identical or the exact same substance. Although space does not allow for a full explanation, this view is called substance dualism. Substance dualism seems to best correspond with reality and be the best explanation for the mind-body problem.
So, if you ask me, the Soul certainly exists; and in the end, that Matters.
DeWeese, Garrett and JP Moreland. Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005. Print.
Moreland, JP. In Defense Of The Soul. Biola University. La Mirada, CA. n.d. Recorded Lecture. MP3 file.
Moreland, JP and William Lane Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003. Print.