Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I only believe in "soul" as an adjective.

"How much of my brain is willfully my own? How much is not a rubber stamp of what I have read and heard and lived? Sure, I make a sort of synthesis of what I come across, but that is all that differentiates me from another person?"

--Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
Choosing Pancakes and I, along with some of our other friends, were having a conversation last week sometime which briefly touched upon the concept of the self as body v. the self as something like a soul. She seemed quite surprised by the fact that I don't believe in somethings-like-souls. And I think that very little of that disbelief is due to the fact that I associate the term "soul" with religious indoctrination, or religiosity at the very least. 
I just don't see where something-like-a-soul comes in. To the best of my knowledge, everything that I am and have been and will be results from combinations of nature and nurture--that's genetics and the biological aspects of my body and mind that I don't necessarily understand on one hand and ecological processes, the spaces and places and sociocultural situations I've found myself in throughout my lifetime on the other. I have nothing to convince me that some other person with the same biology and who has been through the exact same set of everyday lived experiences as I have been through wouldn't come out to be me (though I suppose I have nothing to convince me that this hypothetical person would be me either). 

What am I, really, essentially? I am thoughts in a brain in a body in a particular social location in a world. I am memories. I am hopes and dreams and decisions and emotions. I am a mind. If a critical difference lies between the term "mind" and the term "brain," then perhaps there-in lies the "soul," but I don't know that I buy that. I could fathom calling something the "soul" that is actually the sum of one's lived experiences that have come to shape who and what they are, because that's the only thing I can say is essentially me, but I feel like that's not what my friends were talking about. The better terms for what I'm talking about, I suppose, are the "self" in the social-psychological sense, or the "self-concept" or "identity" in a sociological sense. I am me by a series of happy and unhappy accidents. I could have been anyone. Anyone could have been me. That negates the idea of a soul, in my mind.  

No comments:

Post a Comment