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Quora on Soul

Where does the soul reside?

Soul is a legacy term for awareness or consciousness (I would say  sense-motive phenomenology). Awareness doesn’t literally exist in space,  but it figuratively insists “here” and “there” and it literally  produces time, or rather subdivides time from the totality of potential  awareness.

To say that the soul exists in your imagination is not incorrect either.  The nature of subjectivity is such that the more interior and personal  the subject, the deeper, richer, and more meaningful and enduring  qualities it can have. The ‘soul’ would be the subject themselves, and  therefore the most meaning-laden and enduring (life-long or even longer  if you want to speculate on Earthly legacy or celestial brownie points)  subject of all.

The relation of time to space is inversely proportionate, so that the body which does exist literally in space is constantly changing; growing, aging, and dying, but it is the public presentation of ‘what and how’ (matter and energy) realism. The body of the moment is an ephemeral occurrence, but the self who is represented by all of our body shapes throughout our life is single occurrence – an identity. The presentation of the body is real in it’s own right as a complex object seemingly frozen in time, but it also represents the private ‘who and why’ (sense and motive) realism which we experience through direct realism.

In the same way, the qualia we experience, the colors, sounds, stories  of our life indirectly represent complex material configurations in  space, but they are also direct presentations of sense-motive  experiences which are no less real than hydrogen or spheres. They are  real in a different way though – meaning multiplied through time rather  than objects divided across space.

Note – I say that soul is a legacy term because I think it misrepresents awareness subtly by projecting it as a pseudo object. It makes ‘I’ a thing in space rather than letting it be the agency who defines and redefines all ‘things’.

  1. June 3, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I believe that in the modern era [ie the time since the advent of scientific method in human culture] the word “soul’ can equate very precisely to ’empathy’ or ’empathising’. I tend to think that any spread beyond that is founded upon some illusion or other.

    Likewise, I believe the word ‘spirit’ now can be translated as self assertion, or self-assertiveness.
    This latter idea might seem rather weak but if you have read Arthur Koestler’s trilogy: The Sleepwalkers, The Act Of Creation, and The Ghost In The Machine, [or if not all then, either of the last two,] you will understand that self assertiveness is actually an intrinsic property of everything which really does exist. Koestler contrasted self assertiveness with self transcendence which is the tendency of things to also be part of something bigger than themselves.

    In looking at the way humans interact I would say it is almost as if what were called spirit and soul are in fact the self assertive and self transcending properties of human social and cultural existence.

    • June 3, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      I like what you’re saying. I haven’t read Koestler* but from what you say it sounds like he shares a kind of panprotopsychism. The tendency of self assertion I would at first call (in Multisense Realism terms) “Motive” and the property of self transcendence “Sense”. It’s a bit more complicated than that though. Sense is attention to afferent, incoming experience and motive is efferent desire for particular change and control of outgoing effort. It could be said that through motive, we also lose self awareness on one level as we assert the drives arising from the self’s awareness on another. Likewise, self awareness is a fairly passive function of sense. We need only to pay top-level attention to it’s reflection in lower-level attentions and we get the validation underlying ‘Cogito ergo sum’ without having to actually assert it. We need to ‘look’, and that’s motive, but the realism of the self lies in what we ‘see’, or rather, see that we don’t need to see to know.

      As far as equating with spirit and soul, I completely agree with you on one level and it’s a great observation. I think of ‘spirit’ as correlating with more of an active, fiery principle of self that is fearless and immortal, while ‘soul’ seems quieter, more of an ethereal subtle body which is also immortal but somehow fragile and burdened by karma. When people use spirit and soul though, they are often talking about the continuance of the self into the afterlife – like a ghost or a resident of Heaven or Hell. A person without a real body. This implies a thing that is the self which asserts and transcends rather than just the existence of those functions.

      With sense, motive, and significance, I am trying to universalize what you are saying in your last sentence, so that it extends panprotopsychically to every whole being/body in the cosmos (ie not an assembled machine on the level we relate to it as technological system, but the natural molecules that the machine parts are made of.). Motive and sense both have self validating-affirming-asserting properties, sense with its capacity for introspection and motive, with its power for extroversion. They both transcend the self by postponing top level self-awareness; motive through flow states of detached focus, and sense through distraction and identification, as in listening to music, watching a movie, daydreaming, etc. Significance is the weaving of sense and motive into an inertial frame, or accumulated temporal-figurative topology of potential experiential intensities. Personal memories, socially communicated significance, cultural and universal super-signifiers. When we assert the self, it is inertial frame against which we are pushing toward or pulling away from. Either direction could be considered a function of soul or spirit.

      I don’t know if that confuses the issue even more, but I blame those words, soul and spirit, for the trouble. It tries to reify something that can’t be reified as it already is the agent of reification. I’m closer to your definition of assertive-transcending properties of the self in its world relations, only I extend that all the way up and down the cosmos from micro to macro and top to bottom. Where I diverge is in that with sense and motive I am trying to ground it in first person experience. It’s not merely the function that something asserts or transcends itself, it is a principle experienced directly as a who and a why (in the case of people) and a what and a how when experienced indirectly (in the case of matter and energy).

      * Except maybe second hand through Robert Anton Wilson or Alan Watts.

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