Author Topic: Soul, spirit and psyche  (Read 168 times)

Dave

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Soul, spirit and psyche
« on: September 09, 2018, 06:44:04 AM »
Atheists, mostly deny the existence of the 'soul', at least in the sense that rrligionistas use it - an eternal 'essence' of a dead person destined to eternal hell, eternal joy or 77 virgins (or silver raisins) in a mythical afterlife.

Mostly 'spirit' is reserved for some dodgy voice from 'the astral pkane'in a sèance or something equally unlikely.

But, though it is still a function of the brain's electrochemical nature I still think a label for that 'transcendent' feeling in the presence of great art, nature or some other 'moving' experience is useful. I have used 'psyche' a couple of times and wondered about it seeming to 'fit' the concept I wanted.

Psyche has two linked but distinct meanings, the basic online definition:

Quote
the human soul, mind, or spirit.

has two of those unfavoured concepts in it and, in my mind, is severely lacking. The "human mind" is a university-worth of factual and philisophical debate on its own.

The objective view of psychology perhaps goes too far in the other direction:

Quote
In psychology, the psyche /ˈsaɪki/ is the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious. Psychology is the scientific or objective study of the psyche. The word has a long history of use in psychology and philosophy, dating back to ancient times, and represents one of the fundamental concepts for understanding human nature from a scientific point of view. The English word soul is sometimes used synonymously, especially in older texts.
(Wiki)

I ignore the probable implications of influence of old fashioned religiosity implied in the final sentence. Though I do like tge use of 'totality' in tge first sentence, "It satisfies me at every level".

Philosophically the 'psyche' seems a study in its own right, a mishmash of concepts that would take time to unravel.

I often return, mentally, to the idea that there is a level of human mental experience that lies between the 'concious' and 'unconcious' that deals with those less testable, measurable or definable functions of the mind, such as love and affection, plus that feeling of inner 'satisfaction' where those rwo would not seem wholly appropriate. The brainists might argue, or even deny, this because its measurable effects are, perhaps, indistinguishable from those of love.

Or is it that 'love' has a wider range than that usually applied to it and that 'spiritually satisfied' feeling is simply a point on that range.  I do not 'love' those people who, say, invent ingenious things or write or paint or compose pieces of art that satisfy the inner person but that feeling is very close to it in some ways.

'Psyche' has historical links with 'soul' in its use it seems but can perhaps be seperate enough to break with the concept of the supernatural. Not sure if we will ever celebrate 'psyche music' or 'psyche food'  or claim to have found our 'psyche mate' though!

Perhaps it is a combination thing, as implied by "satisfaction at every level", something that simultaneously appeals equally to the intellect as it does to the emotions, uniting those sometimes opposing functions - the 'head and the heart'.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2018, 07:15:38 AM by Dave »
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Bluenose

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Re: Soul, spirit and psyche
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2018, 08:07:36 AM »
Well, when I visited the Elgin Marbles a couple of years ago (and I'm not going to get into an argument about whether or not hey should be returned to the Parthenon) I sat there for quite a long time just taking them all in.  Meanwhile scores of people wondered in, had a quick look around, like they were ticking something off a list and exited the room in less than two minutes.  I distinctly remember thinking "Do these people not have a soul?  Don't they realise what they are looking at?"  Of course, I don't mean soul in the way that the religious types do, I am an atheist in good standing after all.  But what I am talking about is a sense of the numinous, that sense of wonder you get looking at the Milky Way on a clear outback night, or a beautiful sunrise over a river or a scintillion other things.  I pity those who want to put such a small limit on this thing by tying it to an imaginary magic man in the sky.  The world and universe are so much more than that.
“The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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Dave

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Re: Soul, spirit and psyche
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2018, 09:06:11 AM »
Well, when I visited the Elgin Marbles a couple of years ago (and I'm not going to get into an argument about whether or not hey should be returned to the Parthenon) I sat there for quite a long time just taking them all in.  Meanwhile scores of people wondered in, had a quick look around, like they were ticking something off a list and exited the room in less than two minutes.  I distinctly remember thinking "Do these people not have a soul?  Don't they realise what they are looking at?"  Of course, I don't mean soul in the way that the religious types do, I am an atheist in good standing after all.  But what I am talking about is a sense of the numinous, that sense of wonder you get looking at the Milky Way on a clear outback night, or a beautiful sunrise over a river or a scintillion other things.  I pity those who want to put such a small limit on this thing by tying it to an imaginary magic man in the sky.  The world and universe are so much more than that.

I know what you mean, Bluenose. I have never been to the British Museum - a terrible thing for a Londoner with my leanings to admit, though I have been to the Science Museum several times. But it does not matter ultimately, whether looking at the 'marbles' (I think the 'Elgin' tag has been officialy replaced by 'Parthenon' now) or at, say, Faraday's original experimental equipment the result is, for me, the same - a deep, sometimes almost overwhelming, appreciation of all the human qualities and endeavours that the object represents.

The scale, intent and eventual outcome may be different but the achievement is still human and worthy of celebration.
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Bluenose

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Re: Soul, spirit and psyche
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2018, 10:48:15 AM »
I quite agree Dave.  One of the other things I visited when I was over there was the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton.  Standing in front of the actual Sea Vampire that Eric "Winkle" Brown made the first ever recovery and launch of a jet aircraft on an aircraft carrier, I was overcome with much the same sort of feeling.  As I have said many times since, I could just feel the history oozing out of every square inch of that tiny little aeroplane.  It was wonderful, in the truest sense of the word.
“The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

+++ Divide by cucumber error: please reinstall universe and reboot.  +++

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Dave

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Re: Soul, spirit and psyche
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2018, 12:27:46 PM »
I quite agree Dave.  One of the other things I visited when I was over there was the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton.  Standing in front of the actual Sea Vampire that Eric "Winkle" Brown made the first ever recovery and launch of a jet aircraft on an aircraft carrier, I was overcome with much the same sort of feeling.  As I have said many times since, I could just feel the history oozing out of every square inch of that tiny little aeroplane.  It was wonderful, in the truest sense of the word.

I have 'Winkle's' autobiography, he was the first to do many aeronautical things, flew more test prototypes than any other person! Being at thst end of the hierarchy I also think of the designers, craftsmen and support crew who worked on such feats.

I am coming to think that the words 'vicarious' and 'empathetic' could also apply in some cases, the emotional sharing of the, probably imaginary, experiences associated with these kind of feats. If one cannot share in the actual event, discovery, invention process etc one can imagine something of it if one has any sense of creativity and empathy. And appreciate the outcome.

The box tickers lose so much.
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xSilverPhinx

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Re: Soul, spirit and psyche
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2018, 02:10:09 PM »
Perhaps it is a combination thing, as implied by "satisfaction at every level", something that simultaneously appeals equally to the intellect as it does to the emotions, uniting those sometimes opposing functions - the 'head and the heart'.

Our most meaningful aesthetic feelings and feelings of wonder come from both -- the 'head and the heart' -- precisely because we as a species are capable of having some understanding and attributing subjective value to things, even if many times that value does not include a price tag. For instance, when I saw the Willamette Meteorite while visiting the American Museum of Natural History in NYC a few years back, I was overcome with feelings of awe. I wasn't just looking at just a huge piece of iron, it was a remnant of a time before the planets of our solar system were formed, billions of years ago. Life on Earth wasn't even a project yet, but time would eventually lead to the appearance of animals who could study and grasp some of the significance of that natural treasure, and be deeply moved by it. 

I had to reach out and touch it, and as I did, the thoughts racing through my mind left me wide-eyed and teary. It wasn't just a huge piece of iron I was feeling.


In my view, box tickers are much like people who go to a concert and instead of fully immersing themselves in the experience, whip out their cellphones to film the stage. It just doesn't make sense. Sure people record so that they can revisit the memory, but that memory will be different from the one they would have formed had they just experienced it more fully first hand.  :scratch: 
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Bluenose

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Re: Soul, spirit and psyche
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2018, 02:27:21 PM »
The box tickers lose so much.

Sure do.  When we visited Kangaroo Island we spent three of four hours at a place called Admiral's Arch.  The whole place was wonderfully scenic, rugged rocky outcrops with a long boardwalk over the delicate flora and around the end of the headland down to the actual rock arch. We got real close to both Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals, not to mention the odd echidna in the low vegetation by the side of the boardwalk and heaps of bird life.  Anyway, while we were taking our time, stopping at each vantage point and really soaking the atmosphere in, a group of three young women rushed past, with their phones and tablets up all the time, quickly taking photos, but not actually stopping to have a look.  I suspect they might have spent about half an hour total at the site, most of which was spent darting from one spot to the next.   They'd have to go home an look at their photos to know what they had seen. Astonishing.  But, as you say, these people miss so much.

When I was over in the UK a couple of years ago, there were plenty of things I would have liked to see, but rather than rush around I spent time to have a good look at those things I could see.  I caught up with family and friends and they often took me to see things I didn't even know I wanted to see.  (I'll never forget that elephant armour, eh Tank?)  The old adage to stop and smell the roses is good advice.  there are so many wonderful "roses" to stop and smell!
“The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

+++ Divide by cucumber error: please reinstall universe and reboot.  +++

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Dave

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Re: Soul, spirit and psyche
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2018, 03:45:02 PM »
I can understand your feelings for that meteorite and its history, Silver, and that tactile sensation adds another dimension.

Not quite as old as your tactile object . . . Whilst on the dig at the Crickley Hill fort I unearthed a small flint scraper. Later that evening, whilst in my cups, I said something about the sensation of, possibly, being the first human to touch that piece of flint for 4000 years, how it made me wonder about the knapper and his, or her, life.

One of the students said that was stupid, that archaeology should be viewed as a science. My retort was that if he could not put himself in the position of the ancients, as far as we 'know' of their lives, it he would never be more than a technician. And that though archaeology might use science it was not a science in its own right.

I fear that the 'millennials' may suffer even more from a lack of this quality, this perception. That is one of the reasons that I am passing stuff - magnets, magnifying lenses etc - to a neighbour's grandson. Hoping I can instill a little old fashioned wonder in him before he gets his first smartphone or tablet. He loves the magnets, along with the clear plastic box and test tube of filings from my metalwork (I knew using a magnet to 'hoover' those up would pay off one day!)
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Re: Soul, spirit and psyche
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2018, 10:40:35 PM »
Well, when I visited the Elgin Marbles a couple of years ago (and I'm not going to get into an argument about whether or not hey should be returned to the Parthenon) I sat there for quite a long time just taking them all in.  Meanwhile scores of people wondered in, had a quick look around, like they were ticking something off a list and exited the room in less than two minutes.  I distinctly remember thinking "Do these people not have a soul?  Don't they realise what they are looking at?"  Of course, I don't mean soul in the way that the religious types do, I am an atheist in good standing after all.  But what I am talking about is a sense of the numinous, that sense of wonder you get looking at the Milky Way on a clear outback night, or a beautiful sunrise over a river or a scintillion other things.  I pity those who want to put such a small limit on this thing by tying it to an imaginary magic man in the sky.  The world and universe are so much more than that.

Do you remember, a few years back, HAF had a similar discussion on atheists and spiritual experiences, including whether an atheist could truly have one?  I remember we discussed feelings of awe at the beauty and weirdness of the world qualifying as a spiritual experience.  For me, the sea does it every time; it's why I've never liked living far from it (threat of tsunamis to one side).

As for the whole idea of a soul, while I definitely don't think it's something that exists separately from the body, and much less forever, I can't dismiss the idea of the soul as a function of the mind, of each being's uniqueness (however limited), entirely.  Tho I'll admit that's probably because the concept of soul is so squishy it can be stuffed into just about any box you want to fit it into.
Sandy

  
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xSilverPhinx

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Re: Soul, spirit and psyche
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2018, 12:37:07 AM »
Could the 'soul' be whatever is trying to extract meaning from the world?

Quote
...this isn’t something that just applies to the scientifically minded. When examining a healthy sample of human minds using techniques such as brain imaging and EEG, the brain’s relentless obsession with extracting meaning from everything has been found in all kinds of people regardless of status, education, or location.

Life’s Purpose Rests in Brain’s Drive to Extract Meaning From the World.
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Dave

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Re: Soul, spirit and psyche
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2018, 08:27:50 AM »
Could the 'soul' be whatever is trying to extract meaning from the world?

Quote
...this isn’t something that just applies to the scientifically minded. When examining a healthy sample of human minds using techniques such as brain imaging and EEG, the brain’s relentless obsession with extracting meaning from everything has been found in all kinds of people regardless of status, education, or location.

Life’s Purpose Rests in Brain’s Drive to Extract Meaning From the World.

Very i teresting concept and article, Silver! Have to do more than scan it to decide whether the idea of, call it 'analisis', is the sole function for being. Though I do subscribe to the rather Decartian idea that the rest of the body is just a collection of ancillary support 'mechanisms' for the brain - and the main function of a brain is to collect and process existing data, creating valid views plus new concepts and knowledge as a final product. But, somehow, it evolved beyond being just an essential survival tool. Maybe into a self-destructive one.

So I am  probably going to have to agree with it! (Big of me, eh?  ;) )
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