01/05/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
A Brief History Of The Soul by Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro. pub: Wiley-Blackwell. 228 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4051-9632-1.
check out website: www.wiley.com/wiley-blackwell
Considering the number of Science Fiction stories that have had their characters died and resurrected, let alone had their personalities transferred into other bodies, I can’t recall any discussion as to whether there’s a soul involved. From the scientific point of view and my perspective, the personality is created from memories and saved in the brain. When the body dies, then so does the personality. Whether there is a soul is something I have no idea. Even in my closest experience to death when I went into a diabetic coma, there was no white tunnel light. More akin to being turned off and waking in an ambulance and being asked if I knew what day it was. Complete death is likely to be the same sort of thing. Well, without the waking and knowing what day of the week bit anyway.
This book, ‘A Brief History Of The Soul’, explores what various people over the centuries have thought about the soul and whether it exists or not. The eight chapters cover this from the religious perspective to the philosophical and scientific. The opening chapters cover the Greek and Christian perspectives about the soul but not where it goes to after death. It would have been interesting to have seen the Zen perspective where the belief that the soul goes on to another body. Philosophers like Descartes believed the body and soul are two different substances and that seems to have carried on over the years into the human psyche. From my perspective, I think humans need to think that there has to be more to life and that something else happens after death.
Although you get a lot of information from a lot of people as to whether there is a soul or not, let alone can it be measured or weighed, the overall conclusion is no one really knows. Considering that you can’t see or weigh the soul, it’s more a metaphysical question simply because there is no proof.
This book is actually very easy to read but disappointing that the writers don’t comment on what they’ve discovered which I would have felt would have made a more satisfying conclusion. Mind you, if the best philosophers can’t come up with an answer as to whether there is more to the brain and its soul possession, what chances can anyone else have?
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