Best-Of Advice

On the concept of a soul

Serious question: what are souls?

It really depends on who you ask. Asking for a person’s soul concept is like asking for their god concept. The definition varies wildly according to a person’s individual belief system, and it’s usually tied to a bunch of metaphysical nonsense bought wholesale from a religion during childhood.

Generally speaking, a person will define their soul as the qualitative variable they need to balance out the equation of their own mortality.

For instance, the average American simpleton might define their soul by saying something like, “my soul is the part of me that will go to heaven when I die.” The average skeptic clinging onto dualism might say something like, “my soul is my spiritual essence separate from my body.” Atheists who practice transcendental meditation might say, “my soul is the part of me left over when my mind is silent.” Materialists flirting with Buddhism might say, “there is no soul, and yet we are reborn from nothing.” Hipsters into existential nihilism might tell you that soul is just Aretha Franklin on vinyl.

You get the point. The soul concept is basically there to cancel out whatever existential dread is built into their personal belief system.


24 thoughts on “On the concept of a soul

  1. Alex says:

    So what do you call it when you don’t think you have a soul and nothing really matters and fuck if your soul lives on or not, assuming it even exists? Not that labels matter I suppose. This is meant in the most positive way possible, not coming from a negative point of view. Just being realistic.

      • Alex says:

        Lol that you think I’m a cunt. I don’t see it but that’s okay, like I said previously, just being realistic. My opinions. Nothing you need to take personal or call me names over, fuckwad.

    • Coquette says:

      Yeah, that’s equal parts agnosticism and existential nihilism. (As far as soul is concerned, I recommend you go with Marvin Gaye albums instead of Aretha Franklin.)

        • CynicalGrey says:

          As a human, I’m sure you realize you’re a pleasure seeker. Astrological signs are just playful ways for us to define ourselves and is less consistent than Myers-Briggs by a mile. Trust me. As an Aquarian, Type 4, ENFP, propbably-pizza-on-that-buzzfeed-quiz-my-niece-sent-me, most of us are seeking pleasure in some form.

          What’s the type that like’s to shit on people’s parades? Probably a gloomy cunt as well.

          • Alex says:

            I don’t think we have souls but astrology is VERY important to me. Dont mock my beliefs, please and thank you.

  2. Eve says:

    “Generally speaking, a person will define their soul as the qualitative variable they need to balance out the equation of their own mortality.”

    I love how you think.

    So CT, how do you define your soul?

    • Coquette says:

      I don’t define my soul.

      The soul concept is merely a useful semiotic tool that helps me communicate with people who have different belief systems.

      In other words, I might refer to “my soul” in a spiritual discussion with another person, but the soul concept I’m attributing to myself is a reflection of their philosophy, not mine.

  3. Dina says:

    Yes, Coquette – I’d like to hear how you define the soul?

    Except knowing you, I don’t think you believe in them.

    I personally like Orson Scott Card’s version – we are a bunch of atoms bound together by particularly strong (and therefore conscious) philotic particle. I don’t believe in the idea of a soul, but I think that’s a particularly beautiful idea of what it would be.

    • Coquette says:

      Philotics is just animism applied to particle physics for the sake of young adult science fiction.

      It’s appealing to readers because it blends natural and supernatural phenomena together into an easily digestible universe that sort of “self-creates” its own archetypal characters that are necessary for a hero’s journey.

      • Dina says:

        Like I said – I don’t actually believe in the idea of a soul. I think anthropocentrism is silly, but then, studying evolutionary biology leaves you with few other options than to think that way. But it’s a cool idea to play with for the sake of fiction and imagination.

  4. RainbowPony says:

    As an athiest, I equate soul and identity. You create your soul over the course of your life, it has both good/bad parts of you, it’s as good as all the work you put into it, and it has a distinctive flavor of who you are. You build it your entire life and it dies with you. I could use the term identity, but sometimes it feels a little dry for what I’m trying to communicate.

    On a side note, our culture is so strange: people are so wound up in God concepts – even when they don’t believe in god – that they think that if something isn’t written in the physical or metaphysical fabric of the universe it isn’t “really” real. Just because I created something in my mind about who I am – my identity – that somehow that isn’t “real”. Of course it is. Ideas are as real as you want them to be.

  5. definitely not batman says:

    Well, I never went to any kind of church and I don’t believe in god, but hearing the word used in different contexts throughout my life I always had this vague idea of it meaning something along the lines of “unity of body and mind (consciousness?) as perceived by an individual.” As in, something that an individual feels of/about/within (English is not my native language) themselves. The idea of one’s self? The relationship one has with themselves? Something like that, but definitely not a “thing” so much as a relationship or perhaps a process. So when I would hear about “lost souls” or whatever I understood it to mean that the people in question suffer from a profound disconnect from/misunderstanding of some part of themselves and that any perceived negative or self-destructive behaviour originates in that gap. “Good soul” being the opposite of that, I suppose.

    I have no idea if what I just wrote makes any sense to anyone, but that won’t keep me from posting it because that’s just the kind of person I am: opinionated and moronic.

  6. L says:

    My thoughts: the soul is one of three parts to human existence. The first is the spirit, or rather, the building blocks. Energy of life. The part of us that allows our hearts to beat with electrochemical pulsations that don’t come from any kind of battery, and in some cases allows for the inexplicable (sometimes faked) anomaly of ESP. Then there’s the mind, which learns and makes decisions, considers our options. The soul is really just a fancy term for our emotional self. People who have no sympathy, who are all cold calculation and no shame are often perceived as being soulless, and it’s possible it’s true. No one knows the real answer, it’s all theory and hypothesis, but it’s an answer I believe most people try to wrap their heads around, and just can’t. They die believing they know the truth, and some of us may be right, or we all may be wrong, but to me, it’s not worth bothering myself with to try to figure it out. Nothing good will come of pondering the essence of whether there is an imaginary aura of purity floating around my body, I am who I am, and the soul exists, then it is what it is.

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