What Is a Soul?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM

Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

What Is a Soul?

Since many people believe that human are superior to nonhumans because only humans have a souls, I think it is worthwhile to consider several questions: What is a soul? Is having a soul relevant to oneís moral standing? Does the Bible offer any insight on the nature of souls and their moral relevance?
 
Many people regard the soul as related to the sense of unique identity that each of us has. We have a stable sense of personhood throughout our lives, even as our bodies change dramatically over time. Some relate subjective experiences Ė including sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch Ė as well as consciousness to the soul. An important question is whether the soul can or should be considered as an entity distinct from the body.
 
Consciousness and subjective experience certainly relate to the body. Head injury can impair consciousness, and the neurological system is a prerequisite for subjective experience. Materialists hold that consciousness and subjective experience are simply manifestations of matter organized in certain ways. However, I have never come across a satisfactory explanation for how atoms and molecules, which have no consciousness or subjective experience, might somehow generate consciousness and subjectivity.
 
I havenít offered much insight into todayís question: What is a soul? If we canít define what a soul is, it isnít a very helpful concept. As I wade into the murky waters of the nature and relevance of the soul, next essay I will consider whether having or not having a soul is morally relevant. 
 
I welcome feedback on these or any other essays. I have put many comments in this weekly CVA e-newsletter, with the writerís permission, of course.


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