We have had a lot of discussion about the objective and subjective realities in the witchcraft thread and discussion of the “soul” (which I don’t really believe is a Biblical concept) in the What is the soul? thread. In this thread I would like to focus on the physical and spiritual aspects of human existence and the relationship between them. This is particularly inspired by what I think is an excellent portrayal in the tv drama “Saving Hope.”
So first to clarify a possible misunderstanding of the thread title… Naming the physical and spiritual aspects of our existence, body and spirit, I do not intend to suggest that the human mind is any more spiritual than the body. I do not believe that. Nor do I believe that the mind is same as or simply a function of the brain. Instead I believe that the mind is a physical living organism in its own right – its own organization, needs, desires, and inheritance passed on to the next generation. I believe the spirit is the creation of all living thing by the choices they make and thus because of this we have both a spiritual body and a spiritual mind created by our physical body and physical mind.
With this sort of setup you basically have the same answer to the mind-body problem given by physicalism and the duality between the mind and body is an effective duality only with no connection whatsoever to the duality between the physical and the spiritual. The naturalist is not likely to believe in the latter duality at all and may choose to reinterpret references to the spiritual as some emergent qualities of our physical existence. Some may even take my association of the objective with the physical and the subjective with the spiritual as pointing in that direction. But that is not my thinking or intention at all. Instead I think these are logical characteristics of these two equally real aspects of existence. The physical is objective simply because it operates entirely according to mathematical space-time equations and the spiritual is subjective because it is responsive to our beliefs and desires.
If we move from the mind-body problem to the corresponding philosophical question regarding the physical and spiritual, then the answer I have suggested is an epiphenomenal relationship, where almost all the causality is going one way from the physical to the spiritual. This is exactly what we see being enacted in the drama “Saving Hope” because this, frankly, is the only way the existence of a spirit is consistent with what we observe. The brain stores memories. We are not entirely sure how it does that but the evidence that it does so is rather clear. Therefore if we spend any time as a disembodied spirit, it would be very difficult to explain how any memories of that experience could be recalled by the conscious person later. Which is not to say exceptions are impossible but only that a general rule against this would make perfect sense.