What's wrong with having a Soul? (Quite a bit!)

Read any good books lately?
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Frank Hoffman
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What's wrong with having a Soul? (Quite a bit!)

Postby Frank Hoffman » Thu Feb 05, 2015 7:38 pm

The Soul Fallacy by Julien Musolino

"Far from being the positive idea that it is often portrayed to be, the notion of the soul is actually what stands in the way of progress and a more just society."

The author was a child when he "let go of his soul" as being unnecessary; that, for him, "being good just seemed like the right thing to do". For me it has taken an additional 45 years or so, but I'm there now.

I am going to go back to the parts that I skipped in my usual "I already know this" reading style (maybe that's why I never heard of Robert Ingersoll before), but I already know this will be an important book in my education. One thing I really like about his writing is his reference and adherence to astronomer Phil Plait's 2010 T.A.M. presentation "Don't Be A Dick", and Spinoza's motto "I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule human actions, but to understand them"; that even the best ideas are useless unless they are communicated. This book is an answer to what he calls the "New Dualists" (D'Souza, Chopra, Baker, Goetz, and Alexander) who have stated that science supports the notion of an immortal soul.

Mr. Musolino, using good scholarship and engaging presentation, traces the soul myth in history and culture, investigates how it has developed, and how it became so important to our idea of self. He states that current science indicates clearly that there is no Soul - and he defends that position convincingly. He puts forth what he sees as "the three gifts" in rejecting the idea of a soul: 1. A valid concept of death, 2. Meaning, beauty and value in a finite life, 3. Intellectual freedom. He demonstrates that the "ominous association of unbelief and unhappiness is nothing more than vulgar fear-mongering", and that there is "a grandeur in the naturalistic view of life".

An unexpected and very interesting chapter has to do with how detrimental our intuitive soul beliefs are to properly understanding and approaching social issues like incarceration, capital punishment, abortion, and assisted suicide. He referenced Joshua Greene's book "Moral Tribes" on a number of occasions, so that one is going on my Amazon wish list.

I am finding The Soul Fallacy by Julien Musolino to be a very useful book.
Last edited by Frank Hoffman on Fri Feb 06, 2015 4:04 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: What's wrong with having a Soul? (Quite a bit!)

Postby Monster » Thu Feb 05, 2015 7:48 pm

Frank Hoffman wrote:"Far from being the positive idea that it is often portrayed to be, the notion of the soul is actually what stands in the way of progress and a more just society."

Can you tell us what about the notion of a soul that causes it to interfere with progress and justice?
Listening twice as much as you speak is a sign of wisdom.

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Re: What's wrong with having a Soul? (Quite a bit!)

Postby Frank Hoffman » Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:39 pm

Monster wrote:Can you tell us what about the notion of a soul that causes it to interfere with progress and justice?

I will compose a more cogent response once I have gone back and read some parts I missed, but for the most part, it has to do with "mind" not being separate from "brain" and that all of a persons impulses and actions are biologically based. Also that punishment being both preventative and retribution... the thing being punished in retribution being the core of the person, that is, his evil soul. Also the concept that one's soul will pay in the next life for not following the churches' rules (no matter how unjust) in this one. Also that injustice and harm in this life (God's will) might best be simply borne, not resisted, and that's OK, because justice will be achieved on Judgement Day, and your soul will be there to see it. That last one might be called the Dostoyevsky defense… that no matter how bad you have it here, the next life will be so great you will forget all about it. (Dostoyevsky said that sucked)

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Re: What's wrong with having a Soul? (Quite a bit!)

Postby clarsct » Fri Feb 06, 2015 6:21 am

My thought was that if you go about preparing yourself for the next life, you'll miss living this one. And what a waste!
"No Eternal Reward can forgive us now for wasting the Dawn."
Morrison, drug addled as he was, had it right. No heaven will bring back your youth, nor one second of your existence here, if said heaven even exists, which is dubious. If you go around thinking that everything here is..just a test, then you're going to miss how important it is to be present in every opportunity in your life.

Don't worry about seeing your loved ones in heaven, stop by and have a ham sandwich with them now..(Or roast beef, if you're one of those who don't eat ham)

By setting your sights so far away, you miss the joy at your feet. I don't mean to say one shouldn't prudently plan for the future, insomuch as able, but don't let an opportunity slip away to be there for the people you care about. What we do here matters, and is more than 'just a test'.
When Religion becomes State, and breaking the Law becomes a Sin, then Dissenters will become Heretics.

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Re: What's wrong with having a Soul? (Quite a bit!)

Postby Frank Hoffman » Fri Feb 06, 2015 5:07 pm

I am going back through the book, but with the amount of snow we have had, right now I am less concerned with whether there's a soul than whether there's a roof. :)

The book has reintroduced me to Roger Shepard's tabletops, the "Clever Hans" effect, and Bertrand Russell's celestial teapot.

I like that the author tells me directly that he is making use of the Availability Heuristic in giving me information in preparation for the following chapter.

Some quotes from the book:

"The very act of making a factual claim saddles you with the burden of proof."

"Just because we feel very deeply that we are coherent, integrated selves, or souls, that appear to be distinct from the operation of our brains doesn't mean it is so."

"Our intuitions about how the world works are not reliable, that is why we need science."

"When an obvious explanation for our feelings and behavior is present, we accept it. But when no such explanation is available, we simply make one up."

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Update:

Now that I have given the book a proper reading, my view has not altered; he presents a convincing argument for the idea of soul being a myth.

Reviews on Amazon make the comment that the author is often redundant, and I concur. He takes the teaching method of "tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them" and writes that way. It detracts from the reading experience, but it was not a big detriment for me.

The concepts are interesting and, as I have said, convincing… but they have not changed which side of the road I drive on or which side of the gate-arm I choose to stop on when I drive up to a railway crossing. Soul or no soul, life goes on.

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Re: What's wrong with having a Soul? (Quite a bit!)

Postby Frank Hoffman » Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:41 am

clarsct wrote:"No Eternal Reward can forgive us now for wasting the Dawn."
Morrison


Well, not Morrison here, but...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1LRD3DtFAo


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