The Mind, the Soul, and Death.
Southern New Hampshire University
Dr. Tina Gibson
February 21, 2015
The existence of a soul has dogged mankind for as long as we have existed. Each individual has felt a stirring within at times of joy, sorrow, or a moment of apprehension. This stirring is unique to each as an individual experience as well as the larger shared human experience. Is this experience linked the mind, somehow? Are the mind and the soul two separate entities within, or are they the same, and does it exist beyond mortal death? These larger questions of the soul and the mind and their existence beyond human death has been debated and explored throughout time. Yet, we lack hard evidence to support the idea of the existence of the soul and its continued ‘life’ beyond the death of the body. Individuals have not returned from the grave to transmit this knowledge in any manner that can be tested, studied, and deemed true. What a soul is and why we have it is unique to the human experience. The Abrahamic traditions defines the soul as the “I” that lives within our body and acts through it. The soul is what makes each individual unique according to theologian Thomas Aquinas. Noted philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, all argued that the psyche or, the soul, was the “crown of the logical facilities”. Yet the mind is responsible for processing our human experiences and storing them as learned experiences that shape and mold our continued existence. These experiences dictate who we are and what actions that we take. In this brief paper, I will explore the idea that the soul is a frame of reference that does not exist outside of our own individual experience, completely different from the mind and that it does not survive physical death. Plato considered the soul ‘to be the immortal essence of the person’ and to house three individual parts- Reason, Emotion, and Desire (Jowett, 2007). While the soul may be the “immortal essence of the person’, the mind behaves in a similar manner. It understands how things work and how we can use them. It processes communication, understanding, and logic. The mind processes information critically. Yet, the mind can also process the finer details of human existence. It understands subtlety; it can interpret emotions, the metaphysical transcendent experiences of life, and the areas that others may assign to the soul. John Locke wrote that our minds upon birth are blank slates. They are filled with ideas and experiences as we develop and learn from others (Lowe, 2013). Everything that we are is gained from experience and how we relate it to our lives, our world. This is the only reference that we have to gain understanding from. The soul is often understood as something that is greater than our physical selves, an immortal part of our being. One can argue that this is simply due to our own consciousness. As a living being, our consciousness seems endless, that it will exist infinitely, because this is all that we know. We cannot understand our experience the end of our existence in the same manner that we can experience the death of a loved one. Our human culture tells us that there is something greater, something more and a part of each of us will live on past this mortal realm. Rene Descartes famously stated, “I think, therefore I exist”, within the singular act of creating this concept, Descartes provides a proof of human existence. Through his thoughts he can determine that there is an “I” that have created this idea, yet, he cannot prove anything further, nor can we (Gaukroger, 1998). The concept of a soul, is not innate knowledge. If this knowledge was innate, it would be something that all human culture could agree upon, yet there are cultures that do not share this belief. There are those who disagree and state that the soul does not exist and that beyond death, there is nothing. Yet, there...
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