(urth) Souls

Chris P rasputin_ at hotmail.com
Thu Mar 19 13:29:51 PDT 2009

> David Stackhoff sez:
> >I have to comment that this schema easily allows for the copying of
> >persona/whatever by machines in the first place. I don't believe that
> >machines could copy souls. Machines are the opposite of souls and
> >could never capture them, I'd think. And there would be the theological
> >implications. (Again, haven't heard from the Pope on this but I
> >imagine he'd be pretty ticked off.)
> >Electromagnetic brainwave patterns, however, present no difficulty
> >whatsoever. Scan'em in, scan'em out, put'em on a floppy. In fact,
> >you'd have to work harder to convince me that any Wolfean
> >characters actually have souls at all than that their psyches
> >could not be replicated and merged.

This is basically why I made the comment I did about Pas. Though James is extremely to the point in bringing up Rose-in-Marble, who I think foreshadows this problem at least in part. (There is foreshadowing in other ways as well, from LS to SS; consider that we've said very little about the inhuma but they are an integral part of the story. And the passage in LS about imitation - be it a demon imitating god, an inhuma imitating a human, or... someone imitating Silk or Horn, is relevant). Your position on this is going to at least in part depend on what you think of the Rose-in-Marble situation, which makes for a nice thought problem in itself.

Rose says she's a person (and, indeed, the *same* person - again, an issue of identity: what makes for "sameness"?) but we have no unequivocal way to parse this out. The fact that she makes the statement doesn't necessarily mean anything, because a well-trained Eliza-bot could give you the same utterance. The problem is that while Rose-in-Marble may have the "psyche" or "pattern" of Rose, there was clearly no transfer of immortal "soul" (again, thinking of soul as a *substance* in the technical/logical sense of the word). My own interpretation of this episode is that Silk puts aside the presence or non-presence of the immortal soul as irrelevant to the situation, deciding that she was worthy of the same respect and consideration regardless of whether she truly was the "same person".
> John Watkins sez:
> That's basically all an Aristotelian or Thomistic soul is, though--a 
> pattern.
> In Thomistic philosophy, humans have souls, but they are the unity of the
> soul and the body.  Think of the soul as the sum total of all of your 
> memories
> up to the present + your will, and that's basically a Thomistic soul.
> In theory, this could be copied--the copy would have an independent will
> and independent consciousness, but it would have, for a infintesimal
> moment, the same soul that you do.
> I can't say that this is Catholic orthodoxy, but it isn't heterodox either.
> It's a permitted philosophical viewpoint that merely requires a few other
> theological assumptions to salvage its orthodoxy, which someone like
> St. Thomas happily would grant (i.e., the soul is miraculously sustained
> after death for the particular judgment.)
> Dan'l Danehy-Oakes sez:
> >I think you're on the right track. However, I don't suppose Wolfe is
> >proposing any specific answer to the question of what a soul is,
> >let alone whether it can be copied or not. Rather, I suggest that
> >he's asking questions: "What if _this_ were possible; then where
> >would the soul be?" and some of his novels are, among
> other things, attempts to explore those questions, though not necessarily to
> _answer_ them as such.

Well, this is part of the problem with using the word "soul"; there is an ambiguity in these ways of looking at how the word is used, which tends to lead to metaphysical questions like "Well ok, what is the 'soul' *really*?" The introduction of the two different words was to make a bit more explicit the possibility that we can be talking about two different things; this pushes the dispute a bit away from that metaphysical ground towards a question of "OK, well, which of these (possibly distinct) things is what determines personal identity; which is 'really *me*'?"

Now, if you take the position that the two words (soul/psyche) don't actually refer to anything distinct but to a single underlying notion of "soul", then the question is immediately pushed back to "What is the soul really like?" and you seem forced to say that one of the two ways of looking at it must be wrong, after all. This is part of what gives me trouble with James's composite view... Because we can vacillate case by case in which notion seems to best fit our intuitive understanding of identity. But if we take a single case and attempt to claim that identity consists in both of them at the same time, then you once again seem to point back to that metaphysical question, and you have to reject soul-as-substance, psyche, or possibly both.

Windows Live™ Contacts: Organize your contact list. 
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.urth.net/pipermail/urth-urth.net/attachments/20090319/e36b6c8c/attachment-0003.htm>

More information about the Urth mailing list