SoulUntil relatively recently, most people believed that human beings are constituted of both body and soul.  With the rise of materialism, Darwinism, and neuroscience, however, this notion is under scrutiny and dismissed by most secular thinkers as ridiculous.  The notion that humans have souls is tantamount to a “ghost in the machine,” as British philosopher Gilbert Ryle put it.

The existence of the soul is important to Christianity for a variety of reasons.  First, the Scriptures teach that humans have souls.  If we don’t, then Scripture is wrong.  Second, if humans lack souls, then there is no life beyond the grave (at least prior to the resurrection).  But apart from the Bible or human tradition, why should we think the soul exists?  That is the subject of J.P. Moreland’s newest book, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters.

This is not the first book Moreland has written on the subject, but it is the first book that is easily accessible to a lay audience. In less than 200 pages, Moreland lays out the case for the existence of the soul, the nature of the soul/consciousness, and the afterlife. He manages to examine the Biblical teaching on the topic as well.

While the modern tendency is to reduce the mind to the brain (appealing to neuroscience for empirical evidence), Moreland argues that this is manifestly false because mental properties are not identical to brain properties.  If mental properties cannot be reduced to physical properties, then the mind is not a physical thing, but an immaterial substance.

As for neuroscience, Moreland makes it clear that neuroscience cannot prove the mind is reducible to the brain since, at best, it can only demonstrate that there is a correlation between the mind and brain – something that is obvious to even substance dualists. While neuroscience can help us better understand the correlation between these two entities, it cannot tell us anything about the existence or nature of the soul.

If you are looking for a short primer on the soul that is substantive and yet readable, I would highly recommend this book.

Here are the notes I took from the book:

Intro

  • Most people today and throughout history have been anthropological dualists, meaning they have understood man to be composed of both physical and non-physical substances. Today, however, that view is being challenged due to materialistic philosophy in the form of science, due to a misunderstanding by Christians of what “dualist” means (confusing it with Platonic dualism), a rejection of Greek philosophy, or an overestimation of the influence of Greek philosophy on Biblical interpretation.—9-10,40-1,67
  • “A human person is a functioning unity of two distinct entities, body and soul.”—10
  • Why is this topic important?
    1. The Bible seems to teach that man has an immaterial soul
    2. It’s important to ethical questions about how we treat humans (grounding value)
    3. Belief in life-after-death is tied to one’s view of the soul
    4. Important to understanding the essence of spiritual growth—12-17
  • When Paul says “know with certainty” (Eph 5:5) he implies knowledge is possible without certainty.—14

Ch 1 – Toolbox for the Soul

  • Great graph of the major positions on page 21.
  • Defines substances, properties, and events.
    • Substances are:
      • Particular, individual things (localized)
      • Continuants – things that remain the same through change (by gaining and losing properties)
      • Basic – not in or had by other things
      • Unities of parts, properties, and capacities
      • Have causal powers—22-3
    • Properties are:
      • Universals – Can be had by or in more than one thing simultaneously
      • Immutable
      • Are in or possessed by things more basic than themselves (i.e. “red” doesn’t exist by itself). “Substances have properties; properties are had by substances.” —23-4
    • “Events are temporal states that occur in the world. … An event is the coming or going of a property in a substance at a particular time, or the continued possession of a property by a substance throughout time.”—24
  • Explains physicalism and dualism.
    • Physicalism holds that man is just a material entity, and thus the mind is either reducible to the physical or an emergent property of the physical.—25
      • Physical properties are always publically accessible and spatially located/extended.—26
      • Consciousness is not required of any physical description. Descriptions of physical things can be done in the third person.  You won’t find consciousness included in a physics book to describe matter.—27
    • Dualists hold that mental properties/events are immaterial.
      • A mental property is one that involves a first-person privileged access. It can only be known by introspection, and is not available to anyone else.—28
      • Different kind of mental properties:
        • Sensations – they have a “felt quality” about them(experience of colors, sounds, tastes, textures, pains, itches)
        • Propositional attitude (hopes, desires, dread, wish, think, believe)
        • Acts of free will/purposings. “Purposing is the ‘trying to bring about’….”—29-30
      • Mere property dualists hold that everything just has physical properties, except the brain which has both physical and mental properties (the mental supervenes on the physical like wetness supervenes on H2O.—30
      • “The soul and brain can interact with each other, but they are different entities with different properties. While in the body, the soul’s functioning may depend on the proper working of the brain or other organs (e.g., the eyes).”—31
    • The nature of identity.
      • Joseph Butler said everything is itself and not something else.
      • Leibniz’s Law of the Indiscernibility of Identicals holds that “for any entities x and y, if x and y are identical (they are really the same thing, there is only one thing you are talking about, not two), then any truth that applies to x will apply to y as well. This suggests a test for identity: If you could find one thing true of x not true of y, or vice versa, then x cannot be identical to (be the same thing as) y.”—31-2
      • If physicalism is true, then everything true of the mind should be true of the brain. If even one thing is true of the mind that is not true of the brain, then they cannot be identical and dualism is established.—33
      • The relation of identity trumps the relations of correlation and causation. Logically, just because A causes B or is constantly correlated to B does not mean that A is identical to B.  For example, being trilateral is constantly correlated with triangularity, but trilaterality and triangularity are not identical. “Therefore…strict physicalism cannot be established by showing that mental states and brain states are interdependent on, causally related, or constantly conjoined with each other in an embodied person.  Physicalism needs identity to make its case, and if something is true, or possible true of a mental substance, property, or event that is not true or possibly true of a physical substance, property, or event, then strict physicalism is false. … Correlation, dependence, and causal relations are not identity.—34-5

Ch 2 – The Biblical evidence for dualism

  • Humans are an ontological duality but a functional unity.—68
  • Old Testament evidence
    • Nephesh
      • Occurs 754 times. Used of animals (Gen 1:20; 9:10; 24:30), body parts (throat – Is 5:14; neck – Ps 105:18; corpses – Num 5:2; 6:11) as well as God (Judg 10:16; Is 1:14).  Is used to refer to the vital principle (Lev 17:11; Ps 30:3; 86:13; Prov 3:22) and emotions/volition/longing (Mic 7:1; Prov 21:10; Is 26:9; Dt 6:5; 21:14). It can’t refer to physical breath for God, but to God’s immaterial self/consciousness.  It is used to refer to the immaterial, conscious, personal identity of man that survives death as well (Gen 35:18; Ps 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13; 139:8; 1 Kings 17:21-22; Lam 1:1) —45-6
      • Even if nephesh is being used to refer to the whole person (a synecdoche), that does not negate the reality of the soul. When one says “all hands on deck,” “hands” is a synecdoche for the whole person, but that does not negate the reality of the person’s hands.—46-7
      • Nephesh can’t just refer to breath (lev 16:29; 23:27).—48
    • Prohibitions against contacting the dead presuppose dualism (Dt 18:9-14; 1 Sam 28:7-25; Is 8:19; Lev 19:31; 20:6; Dt 18:11).—46,51
    • Ruach
      • Occurs 361 times.
      • Term is the preferred choice for God (rather than nephesh). Also used of animals (Eccl 3:19; Gen 7:22).
      • Ruach emphasizes the notion of power. Wind is called ruach because of its invisible power. “The term also signifies breath (Job 19:17) or, more frequently, a vital power that infuses something, animates it, and gives it life and consciousness.”—49
      • The human ruach is formed by God (Zech 12:1) and returns to God (Job 34:14).
      • The ruach is what animated the dry bones in Ezek 37.—50
      • Refers to non-physical beings like angels (2 Kings 19:7; 22:21-23).—50
      • Refers to states of consciousness including volition (Dt 2:30; Jer 51:11; Ps 51:10-12), cognition (Is 29:24), emotion (Jud 8:3; 1 Kings 21:4), and moral/spiritual disposition (Eccl 7:8; Prov 18:14).—50
    • Life after death
      • Sheol is best understood as a place of diminished, conscious, disembodied existence (Job 3:13; Eccl 9:10; Is 38:18; Ps 88:10-12; 115:17-18), but also described as with family (Is 14:9-10).—51
      • Resurrection (Job 19:25-27; Ps 73:26; Dan 12:2; is 26:14,19).—51
    • New Testament
      • Mt 22:23-33 and Acts 23:6-9 make it clear that Jesus and Paul sided with the Pharisees’ view of the afterlife, which included dualism. In the latter, Paul was also affirming the intermediate state, which is why the Pharisees said “perhaps a spirit or angel has spoken to him.”  Paul was trying to convince them that he had heard from someone after death.—55-8
      • 1 Pet 3:18-20 – shows that Jesus continued to exist between His death and resurrection when he preached to the spirits in prison.—58-9
      • Heb 12:23 uses “spirits of the righteous made perfect” to refer to dead believers in the intermediate state.—60
      • Death is described as “giving up the spirit” (Mt 27:50; Jn 19:30; Lk 23:46; 24:37-39; Acts 5:5,10; 12:23). Doesn’t just refer to cessation of breathing. That wouldn’t make any sense of Jesus’ words (he was committing himself to God, not His breath), it goes against the way the phrase was used in intertestamental times, and Luke 24:37-39 clearly uses it to refer to a disincarnate person.—60-1
      • Rev 6:9-11 refers to dead saints awaiting the resurrection as “souls.” They were conscious and alive, but without bodies.—61
      • Mt 10:28 Fear Him that can kill both body and soul in hell.—61
      • Mt 17:1-13 The transfiguration. Moses had already died, so it was his spirit that was talking with Jesus. He survived death. He was not recreated for this event.—63
      • Lk 23:42-43 Today you will be with me in Paradise. –63
      • 1 Thes 4:13-18 and 5:10—64
      • 1 Cor 15—65
      • 2 Cor 5:1-20—65
      • Phil 1:21-24—65
      • 2 Cor 12:1-4 Whether Paul was actually disembodied or not doesn’t matter. The mere fact that he thought it was possible shows he believed in dualism.—66

Ch 3 – The Nature and Reality of Consciousness

  • If naturalists admit that consciousness (mental properties) is real, they can only say it is an epiphenomenon. This is something that is caused to exist by something else but has no ability to cause anything in return.  That means your conscious states are caused by arrangements of matter, but can exert no causal influence on matter in return. The buck stops at awareness.—75
  • “Start with matter and tweak it physically and all you will get is tweaked matter. There is no need or room for mind and consciousness to enter the picture.  However, if you begin with God, the Mind is the fundamental reality (not matter) and its appearance in cosmic history is not the ontological problem it is for the scientific naturalist.”—76
  • The nature of consciousness
    • Definition: Consciousness is what you are aware of when you engage in introspection.—77
    • Unlike purely physical objects, consciousness cannot be described from a third-person perspective. It requires a first-person perspective.—77
    • Five kinds of conscious states
      • Sensation (state of awareness; itches, pains, emotions, colors)—77
      • Thoughts (“mental content that can be expressed in a sentence”)—77
      • Beliefs (a view about how things really are)—78
      • Desires (“a certain felt inclination to do, have, or experience certain things or to avoid them”)—78
      • Acts of will (an exercise of power or endeavoring to act for a purpose)—78
    • Mental states cannot be physical because they possess five features that physical states do not possess:
      • Qualia – The qualitative feel of something. What it is like to XXX. Your radio does not know what it is like to hear beautiful music.  Sensations can be vague, pleasurable, painful, or familiar but physical states cannot.  —78,81
      • Intentionality – of-ness or about-ness of something. No physical state is about something.—79,86-90
        • For physical things, relations must involve two real things. But for intentionality, the direct object of the mind could be something that is not real (Zeus, fairies, etc). –88
        • Chinese room experiment shows that consciousness is not the same thing as input-output (functionality). Minds think; computers imitate thinking.—88-9
      • Inner, private, and immediate to the subject—79
      • Mental states are owned by the subjects who possess them. They are mine, not yours.—79
      • They lack physical properties such as spatial extension, location, parts.—79
    • Brain events have location and extension, but not the thoughts associated with them.—82
    • The Knowledge Argument demonstrates that consciousness is not physical. A blind scientist could know everything there is to know about the physical nature of color, but it is an additional piece of knowledge to know what it is like to see red.  Since that knowledge is not part of the physical make-up, it is not physical.—82-6
    • Minds involve meaning, but no physical object has meaning.—90
    • Two philosophical objections to dualism:
      • Mind-Body Problem (Problem of Causal Interaction)
        • How could a physical and non-physical thing interact? How can something lacking all physical properties cause something to happen in the physical world, and vice-versa?
        • False assumes that if we don’t know how A causes B, that it’s not reasonable to think A causes B. If we have good reason to believe A and B exist, and that there is a causal relationship between the two, that is enough. We don’t deny B because we don’t know how it could interact with A.
        • There are things we know causally interact, even though we don’t know how (magnetic fields, gravity moving objects from a distance).—90-1
        • It may be that the question is misconceived, because when we ask how A interacts with B we are looking for an intervening mechanism. It could be that the relationship between body and soul is direct and immediate.—92
      • Other minds
        • If minds are first-person accessible-only, then we cannot know if there are other minds besides our own since we have no access to any minds other than our own. Dualism leads to skepticism about other minds (both their existence, as well as whether they are like our minds).—92
        • This “problem” is over exaggerated. For one, this just is the way things are whether you are a dualist or not.  –93
        • Does not lead to skepticism. We can use abductive reasoning to know that others have minds and similar mental states. We observe their behavior and compare it to ours.—93
      • Two scientific objections to dualism:
        • Evolution
          • If humans are the result of a physical process working on wholly physical materials, then humans are completely physical. Something can’t come from nothing, so you can’t get the immaterial from the material.—94
          • If the argument for dualism is good, then this should call into question the Darwinian view of evolution.—95
        • Science makes dualism implausible
          • Dualism can’t be proven false (because the dualist can always appeal to correlations rather than causation), but biology, neuroscience, and cognitive science can explain phenomena once attributed to the soul, making the soul superfluous.—96
          • This is barking up the wrong tree because science can’t tell you what mental states are. They can only tell you about factors in the brain that affect mental states. What mental states are can only be answered philosophically.
          • It is not scientific advancements that bring the soul into question, but the naturalistic interpretation of the data.—97
          • Dualism and physicalism are empirically equivalent.—97
        • Critiquing alternatives to dualism
          • Types of reductionism
            • Individual ontological reduction
            • Property ontological reduction
            • Linguistic reduction
            • Causal reduction
            • Theoretical or explanatory reduction—98-109
          • Alternative views—98-113
            • Type-Identity Physicalism = mental properties are identical to physical properties.
              • It’s obvious from experience that they are not the same. The feeling of pain is different than the physical state of pain. Also, different organisms with different physical states can all be in pain, so pain cannot just be a particular physical state.
            • Functionalism = Mental properties are reducible to bodily inputs and behavioral outputs.
              • There is an intrinsic “feel” to experience that functionalism misses. It also fails to account for our first-person knowledge of our mental states via introspection.
            • Token physicalism = Every token mental event is identical to a physical event.
              • Same criticisms as functionalism.
            • Eliminative materialism = Mental terms are based in folk psychology and will be replaced by neuro-physiological theory.
              • Has to claim that no one has actually had a sensation or belief, which is clearly false. Self-refuting as well because it believes there are no beliefs.
            • “Physicalist approaches to explaining mental properties ultimately fall short because mental properties possess unique characteristics that cannot be reduced to physical states, events, and properties.”—109

Ch 4 – The Reality of the Soul

  • In the last chapter he argued that consciousness is not physical. The purpose of this chapter is to argue that the owner of consciousness (the soul, self) is immaterial. This view is called substance dualism.—117
  • A mere property dualist is one that holds that consciousness is immaterial, but the owner is the body/brain.—117
  • Three forms of substance dualism:
    • Cartesian dualism = “The mind is a substance with the ultimate capacities for consciousness, and it is connected to its body by way of a causal relation.”—117-8
    • Thomistic substance dualism = The soul is broader than the mind because it contains not only the capacities for consciousness, but also the capacities that ground biological life and functioning. The body is an ensouled physical structure rather than a mere physical structure, such that when the soul is removed it ceases to be a human —118
    • Emergent dualism = “A substantial, spatially extended, immaterial self emerges from the functioning of the brain and nervous system, but once it emerges, it exercises its own causal powers and continues to be sustained by God after death.”—118
  • Five arguments for substance dualism:
    • Basic awareness of the self
      • This argues that physical things are divisible, complex entities, but our self is an indivisible, simple entity, so it cannot be physical.—119-20
      • We are not identical to our conscious states, but have conscious states.—119-20
      • We are the owner of our experiences, and we are enduring selves. When we perceive a chair, it is the same person who is perceiving each stage of chairness, and it is the same person that unifies those disparate experiences into a single stream of consciousness.—120
      • I am aware of being an unextended center of consciousness. I am aware of being fully present throughout my body, but not identical to any one part of it such that if part of my body were cut off, I would remain a full person.—120-1
    • Unity and the first person perspective
      • Physical things can be fully described from a third-person perspective. My mental life, however, can only be fully described from a first-person perspective.  Therefore, my mental life is not physical.  I am a soul.
      • We know ourselves directly and immediately through an acts of self-awareness, not through a third-person report about us. We express that unique perspective through indexicals such as “I.”—121
    • Modal argument
      • I could possibly be disembodied (we can conceive of the possibility of existing beyond death outside of our body). My brain could not possibly be disembodied.  Therefore I am not identical to my brain. –124
      • This argument looks at metaphysical possibilities.
      • Near death experiences give us reason for thinking we can exist in a disembodied state.—127
    • Free will, morality, responsibility , and punishment
      • Physical objects do not have free will. I have free will. Therefore I am not a physical object.  I am a soul.—128
      • We are the ultimate originators of our acts. No circumstances determine what we choose.  Reasons for acting do not cause us to act. We simply decide to act. “[R]easons are the teleological goals or purposes for the sake of which I act.”—128
      • If physicalism is true, free will is false because physical systems behave in determined ways based on the laws of chemistry and physics.—129
      • If there is no free will, there can be no moral obligations and moral responsibility. We wouldn’t tell someone they are obligated to jump to the top of a 50 story building to save a baby or stop the Civil War because that’s not possible. Likewise, it’s not possible to live up to moral obligations if you have no free will.  You will do whatever physics and chemistry determines for you.—129
      • Even epiphenomenalists reject free will because on their view, the mind is just a byproduct of the brain that cannot cause anything.—130
    • Sameness of the self over time
      • The identity of physical objects is based on the sum of their parts. When the parts change, so does the object’s identity. My brain is composed of physical parts that change over time, and thus the brain’s identity changes over time. My identity, however, does not change over time. I survive over time as the same object, therefore I am not my brain.  I am a soul.—132-3
      • “Besides the parts and the relationships among them, there is nothing in the body or brain to ground tis ability to remain the same through parts replacement.”—135
      • When you sing a song, you are aware of being the person who is singing the song throughout the song. And yet, if we are not a unified self that endures change, it was not one person singing the song, but a large number of person-stages.  What would unify all of those stages?—136-7
      • The fear of future pain or punishment only makes sense if it is the same person experiencing both.—136
    • The Human Soul
      • Five states of the soul
        • Sensations, thoughts, beliefs, desires, acts of will.—138-9
      • Faculties of the soul
        • The soul has capacities, not all of which are actualized at the same time. They come in hierarchies (first order, second order, etc)—139
        • There are thousands of capacities in the soul, but they can be grouped into groups called faculties. “In general, a faculty is a ‘compartment’ of the soul that contains a natural family of related capacities.”—140
        • If my eyes are defective, the soul’s faculty of sight will be impaired in the same way that a man can’t get to work if his spark plugs are bad. But if my soul is being inattentive (daydreaming), I will fail to “see” what is before me as well.—140
        • The sensory faculty contains the capacities for smell, touch, taste, sight, and hearing. The will is the faculty that contains our ability to make choices.  The emotional faculty contains our abilities to experience emotions like love and fear.—140
        • The mind is the faculty that contains thoughts and beliefs (and all that is necessary to have them).—140-1
        • The spirit is the faculty by which we relate to God (Ps 51:10; Rom 8:16; Eph 4:23). Most of these capacities are inoperative prior to regeneration.  We need to nourish these capacities once they are made alive again so that they grow stronger.—141
      • Animal souls
        • The Bible says animals have souls (Gen 1:30; Rev 8:9) and spirits (Eccl 3:21).
        • This is common sense since animals are sentient creatures. They have sensations, emotions, desires (and some have thoughts/beliefs).  These are functions of the soul.—141
        • What kind of souls do they have?
          • All organic life has a soul, but the kind of soul differs from animal to animal. We can’t inspect them internally, so we are forced to observe the animal’s behavior and attribute to the animal the soulish faculties that would be required to account for it, based on the analogy of our own direct awareness of our soul.—141-2
          • Animals seem to lack libertarian free will, moral awareness (they don’t grasp key notions such as notions of virtue, duties, intrinsic rights/value, universalizing moral judgments; they can’t distinguish between what they desire and what is desirable intrinsically; while animals can experience a conflict between desires, they do not experience a conflict between desire and duty), lack abstract thought (about math, love, matter, the concept of truth), cannot distinguish between universals and statistical generalizations, and language (they understand signs, but not symbols, meaning they associate a banana with the shape of the letters, but they don’t understand “banana” to refer to or mean the object).—143-4
          • Animals can’t transcend their own states and reflect on themselves and their states. Animals have desires, but not desires about their desires.  They cannot desire not to desire food.  They have beliefs, but not beliefs about their beliefs.  They have thoughts, but not thoughts about their thoughts.  They are aware, but they are not aware of their awareness.—144-5
        • Neuroscience
          • Neuroscientific research is great for establishing causal interactions between the brain and mind, but not for telling us about the nature of consciousness or the soul. It cannot establish an identity relation between brain and mind.—145
          • It’s obvious that if your eyes get poked out you can’t see, but the ancients – who believed in dualism – never took this to mean that the eyes see. It only shows that there is a causal dependency of the mind on the body.—146

Ch 5 – The Future of the Human Person

  • Jesus’ resurrection and near-death, out-of-body experiences provide evidence that the soul is able to survive the death of the body.—155-8
  • Heaven is a wonderful place—158-60
  • Hell
    • Hell is a place of shame, sorrow, regret, anguish, and torment. God does not produce the pain. It’s the natural consequence of banishment from God.
    • The fire of hell is a metaphor for how horrible hell is and a symbol of divine judgment.—163
    • God respects us by allowing us to choose not to be with Him. He also respects us by choosing to sustain us in existence in hell rather than annihilate us.  The only option, then, is quarantine, which is what hell is.—166-7
    • Justice demands that the evil be punished and the good rewarded (2 Thes 1:6,8).—168
    • What about the universalism texts (Acts 3:21; Rom 5:18; 11:32; 1 Cor 15:22-28; Eph 1:10; 1 Tim 2:4)? Either they express God’s desire without affirming that it will actually happen, or more likely, they affirm the restoration of divine order/rule over all things rather than the personal reconciliation of all people to God.—170-1
    • Annihilationism? Texts talking about the afterlife compare the everlasting nature of both heaven and hell (Dan 12:2; Mt 25:41,46).  The only reason to suppose that God would annihilate people is if one holds to a quality-of-life view of humans rather than a sanctity-of-life view.—173-4
    • What about those who have never heard? If they respond to the revelation God has given them, more revelation will be given that leads them to Christ.—175-88
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