proof for a soul

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proof for a soul

Postby dmc514 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 5:02 am

My cousin argued that a soul exists like this: If someone made an exact copy of you. And I mean all the way down to the most minute detail. Would you still be you?

I was inclined to say yes to which he quickly responded: Then you have a soul. (I have a feeling that even if I said no he would have said the same thing)

I then tried to say that both me and my copy would be "me" in response to which he chuckled arrogantly and changed the subject. I think that not only is this a manipulation of the english language but that this conclusion is a non-sequitur. If anything thinking that I would still be me only proves that I have a self-identity schema into which a copy of me wouldn't fit.

Any thoughts?
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Postby Cephus » Tue Dec 01, 2009 3:52 pm

You're right. If someone made an exact duplicate down to the last detail, then both of them would be you and assuming neither of you knew which one was the duplicate and which one was the original, you'd both be convinced that you were the original and you couldn't prove otherwise. This is really the basis of the transporter argument that was kicked around here a while back.

Although I doubt your cousin would care, you'd have to point out that a perfect copy of you would, in fact, include a perfect copy of your "soul" as well and therefore... the argument itself is moot.
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Postby GodBeLess » Tue Dec 01, 2009 9:42 pm

I have to agree with your suspicions that either answer would of lead him to respond with the same answer, I also have to agree that "Yes" is the correct answer. His assertion that "Yes" somehow means that you have a soul (or two, in the case of the copy) is non-nonsensical,
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Re: proof for a soul

Postby tlhedglin » Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:04 am

Your cousin is few bricks shy of a shithouse, if the soul does not exist and what made you "you" is some physiological component of the brain, then an "exact" copy would also copy that component.

His argument fails.
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Re: proof for a soul

Postby Mythman » Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:17 am

tlhedglin wrote:Your cousin is few bricks shy of a shithouse


I've never heard that one, and I'm stealing it. Thank you.
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Postby eimerian » Sun Dec 13, 2009 11:04 pm

This can easily be reduced to the absurd.
If someone could make an exact copy of my car, my car would still be my car. Does that imply that my car has a supernatural component? I dont think so.

Leaving aside the possibility that this was a trick question and he would have argued for the existance of a soul no matter what there is also a false dichotomy in the way your cousin argues.

He basically says this:
1 An exact material copy of you would not be you.
2 Therefore you dont only consist of material components.
3 Therefore you have a supernatural component which is your soul.

The problem here is the false dichotomy of saying things are either material or supernatural.

For example:
My car surely has immaterial components like the fact that I own it or its insurance coverage. These attributes would not become attributes of the copy.
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Postby Watoosh » Wed Dec 16, 2009 12:38 am

Eimerian, I think you're missing the point here. The idea of this thought experiment is to steer the focus to the subjective experience of being you. Cars, of course, are inanimate objects and incapable of cognitive processes and thus don't really qualify as a comparison here, but even that's somewhat irrelevant. If I were to observe John Doe being cloned* and the aftermath of him arguing with his clone about who is the true John Doe, I would be none the wiser, because I'm neither of those people. But if I were cloned and had a subsequent(and doubtless very awkward) conversation with my clone, I would naturally still claim to be the only "me". Even though the other guy would have the same level of intelligence, sense of humor, great personality and rugged good looks as I, I couldn't experience what he's experiencing because we would be two different people.

The pickle here, of course, is that the clone would be equally adamant about being the true me, as he'd have the same memories, feelings, physical qualities as I and a subjective viewpoint through which to process all of this. If there were some objective evidence about who is who, for example a video tape of the cloning process, we could inform the clone of his real nature and he himself might even accept the reality, but one can imagine this disillusion bringing him also dissatisfaction and perhaps even paranoia. But I digress.

This consciousness, subjective viewpoint or "qualia" is the only thing I could on some level accept as some sort of a soul, though I categorically reject all supernatural implications that one may draw from it. However, one must accept that, as far as we currently know, this small frame of consciousness that we have could not exist without a lot of gray matter and electric impulses, so it too needs a bottom-up explanation. I understand the op's cousin's viewpoint, but this thought experiment in no way suggests some sort of separate domain where consciousness lies or (worse yet) God's existence, because all attempts to formulate a theory on these concepts are riddled with inconsistencies and logical impossibilities. The concept of God as a "maker of souls" would of course be destroyed, because we would have to concede that clones necessarily have "souls" as well.

I've watched some videos by Dan Dennett and David Chalmers(who hold somewhat opposing viewpoints on the philosophy of mind) about this fascinating issue and I plan to read Douglas Hofstadter's book "I am a Strange Loop" which deals with consciousness as well, but I don't feel qualified enough to have an opinion about whether you could seriously postulate some sort of a soul or if self-consciousness is simply a very complicated illusion.

*In case someone was unsure, this cloning refers to a completely speculative and implausible copying of the original person, not the plausible scientific process of letting the clone-zygote develop in utero. For the sake of some extra confusion, we could shuffle the clone and the original person so that no one else knows who is who. This thought experiment can be made really complicated with extra adjustments(for example, whether the subjects are awake and aware during the cloning process or alternatively whether there could a way to copy the original person's "train of thought" even during the cloning process etc.), but that's for another topic.
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Postby cdo » Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:02 am

I don't think eimerian missed the point, he just included an extra bit you see as not relevant to the argument.

The original question is simply flawed. It does nothing to prove a soul at all.

If someone made an exact copy of me of course I would still be me, at least to myself.
The copy would also believe itself to be me. It would also only have a single view. It would believe itself to be me AS MUCH as I do. And that I think is the key...not would I still think I was me, but would a replica think it was me.

If there was a god handing out souls like ssn's then the duplicate should not think it was me because a god would be supplying it with its own identity.
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Postby Watoosh » Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:08 pm

Shit. Now I'm really confused, because you're actually right. I was trying to make the point that if you need a definition of a "soul" that is at least somewhat useful and novel, in my view it would be the individual viewpoint, self-consciousness or ego. And even if this were true, I don't think it would prove the existence of God or afterlife. I would definitely agree with you that this thought experiment does nothing to further the theists' case or, alternatively, any new age spiritual woo.

However, the more I think about it, the more I realize the fact that I have my own personal ego(or illusion thereof) is no more mysterious than the fact that my body is still the original copy. In the same way that I can't control the limbs of my clone, I can't experience what he's experiencing. What's more perplexing is that deep down the way my body and even my thoughts move is not really controlled by my conscious efforts, but the neurons in my brains. When you break it down, there is very little of "me" left in me, if any. So this thought experiment doesn't really touch the issue at all.

Self-identity is a tricky thing. Some eastern philosophies have tried to explain the phenomenon with a mythical model of the universe, which is that there is only one identity(that of God) and we are all Him in disguise, avatars of the divine reality or something. This is of course a myth and "God" refers to the natural forces and the motion of the cosmos, but I nevertheless like to think about it this way sometimes.
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Postby cdo » Fri Dec 18, 2009 7:08 pm

watoosh you made me lol.

and then you hit the exact nail that brought me around full force to the atheist view oh so many years ago.

the western idea of the soul as some ghostly image of yourself that retains your thoughts and memories...well the more you think about it the more absurd it becomes. The eastern view, and now new age-y view, of the soul as being a piece of a greater whole, like a drop from a great body of water holds up a little better but again ultimately fails. (actually i prefer to see this more as an electric current. the current is the same in everyone, but the brain/appliances run different functions. so my personality is a toaster and yours might be a phone)

In the eastern view, everything that makes you YOU dies when you die. So good and evil and judgments in the afterlife have no place. If that is the case, then we are not talking about a god, we are talking about a force like any other universal force... like gravity.

I'm not saying I believe the latter explanation, I'm simply following that line of thinking to its conclusion. But when you mentioned it, I had a kind of flashback to my much younger self putting that together for the first time. Thanks for that little time-travel moment!
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Postby Skept » Thu Dec 08, 2011 3:35 am

In what way would the copy be made?
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Postby Fyrebrand » Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:57 am

I'm not convinced there's any such thing as a self, let alone a soul.

What I might refer to as "me" is an aggregate collection of tenuously connected or related thoughts, actions, preferences, points of view, perspectives, physical traits, memories, knowledge, and opinions. That collection is constantly changing, with bits being added and subtracted from it every second. The person I am today has had different experiences than the person I was a week ago, and depending on what's happened during that week, I may have very different opinions, knowledge, or beliefs about certain key issues. The person I was just ten years ago may not even resemble the person I am today, in terms of personality, education, or point of view.

However, despite the idea that there can never be a persistent state of being that we can pin down as being a given person's "self," our understanding of living creatures and of the mind absolutely depends on pretending like there really is one. At best, we can say that while any part can be taken from or added to the whole, it's the "arrangement" that constitutes the "self." To me, this is horribly vague, and brings up more questions than answers.

The claim of a "soul" is a way to smear over this whole problem. It posits that there is this magical thing which really is you in some way, without ever really demonstrating how that is. To me, someone who says that the "self" is contained in the soul is someone who doesn't understand the issues at hand.

But, back to the original topic: yeah, claiming that some kind of teleportation or reproduction experiment proves the existence of a soul is a non-sequitur if ever there was one.
I'm not sure where I stand on where "you" are, though. It would depend on the circumstances. If you really could perfectly (and I mean, perfectly) replicate an entire person and make a copy that has all the same memories, thoughts, and experiences as the original -- then there might be some infinitesimal instant in which the difference between them could be negligible, or non-existent. But, even that is doubtful, since those two beings would have to inhabit the same space. And, as soon as the two begin having experiences separate from each other, they are different people from each other. The observation that the two are extremely similar, and the fact that both share the same memories, is a red herring. In reality, only one of them actually existed before the replication.
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