Body and Spirit

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.

That certainly matches 1 Corinthians 15:46, where Paul writes:

But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual.

Which Paul goes on to explain refers to Adam’s origin - of the dust of the earth in contrast to Christ’s origin in heaven. He also compares it with the sewn grain (earthly physicality) which must die in order to produce its spiritual harvest.

While I am well aware of the concordist dangers of trying to enlist this or that passage as an anachronistic embodiment of some modern scientific thought, the parallel is nonetheless so close that I’m very tempted to muse on whether Paul had something very similar in mind to what you may be suggesting.

Thanks for the morning Christmas thoughts! And Merry Christmas to you and yours.

I have never thought to take that passage quite that way. I certainly do see it as opposition to the Gnostic/Plato idea of the transmigration of souls and even the idea commonly found in Christianity of souls being inserted into bodies – as well as support for my own belief that the spirit is the creation of the choices made by physical living organisms. Perhaps it is from the roots of my thinking from existentialism, but I would consider it essential that our most core self is a product of our own choices and not something decided for us. This is not to say that things given to us is not a significant part of our life, but I must consider them to be a matter of circumstance only and what is really important is what we do with whatever it is we have been given. I have even connected Paul’s words here in 1 Cor 15:46 with the existentialist maxim, existence (physical) before essence (spiritual).

Merry Christmas to you to, and Happy Holidays to everyone.

Giving an answer to the mond-body problem or to “What is the soul?” or “Which aspects are immaterial?” seems to be, although incredibly hard, more easy than to answer “What is identitiy?”
The latter question is also why substance dualism does not necessarily by itself provide any kind of afterlife, anything more than in a materialist world where strictly speaking the matter making up our body would still be there.
Without further drawing out the coherence or what that would mean for free will, do I assume right that the identity, the “me” which distinguishes us, is to be located within the epiphenomenal spiritual?

In some sense yes. Our identity is in the choices we make and not in the circumstances we find ourselves in. But to be more accurate, the spirit is the permanent self. In another sense you can say that the active self shifts from the physical to the spiritual when we die. This is required by that epiphenomenal relationship, where spirit just doesn’t have the capacity to affect the physical in any consistent and routine way. Thus to place the identity entirely in spirit alone would effectively disconnect us from ourselves while we are alive.

What we pay attention to is a continuous moral choice that we make. Our identity is more to be found in our affections, and they determine our choices (and what we pay attention to).

Not if these affections and attentions are imposed by something like chemistry or environment rather than our own choices. In that case they are nothing but circumstances.

Circumstances may determine priorities, but that’s all. Once basic needs are met… unless you’re a determinist.

Right. Circumstances do not determine our choices.

The point is that who we are is found not in the circumstances and what has been given us but in what we do with these things.

And what we do with them, all else being equal, is determined by our affections.

No. They are not. We choose. We can ignore our affections and choose reason instead. And we can ignore reason and choose our affections. Or we ignore both and choose something else. And by our choices we become what we are. THAT is the meaning of our free will.

You never do anything you don’t want to do. It may not be the most pleasant option, but your choice is what you want to do.

Sure I do. People do things they don’t want to do all the time. There are a variety of reasons for this and one reason is that what we want isn’t always our highest priority.

Besides, I may not actually want to do anything until I actually do it. This is another thing that people do. Do things for no reason at all and then rationalize after the fact – decide that because have done something that this must be something they want.

Sometimes people simply decide what it is that they want. Then your rhetoric makes no sense at all. They can only choose what they want because that is they want. Huh? This just goes to show the distortions and confusion that this wrong way of thinking leads to.

There are some people who cannot stand the idea that some people actually do things for others and so they will claim that people are always selfish and only do things for themselves. Often this is because they have known people who pretend to be selfless when they are the most selfish people around. And so with a jaded and loveless view of the world, they insist there is no such thing. But however rare selfless actions may be, I know that they do happen sometimes. I have seen it. And I have seen those who stubbornly deny this that bend so far over backwards in justifying their denial that they reduce their claim to empty definitions. I see it in both nonbelievers and Christians alike, where their attempts to justify their own selfishness is completely transparent.

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Why did Jesus suffer the cross? For the joy set before him. Out of affection for us. Enlightened self-interest. That’s really not so much rhetoric.

Saying it was enlightened self interest is certainly rhetoric. Saying that He did so, not because He chose to do so, but because want made Him do it, is likewise nonsensical rhetoric. Do you imagine that we were so lovable that He couldn’t help Himself? LOL That is absurd. He chose to love us that much and it was completely selfless.

For the joy set before him. You’re getting rhetoric confused with straight thinking. He sees us for what we will be and are becoming, not for what we were or are.

Oh thank you. You have given me tremendous insight into the kind of entitled Christianity which I hate more than anything else in this world.

Yeah, I’m so entitled. :roll_eyes:

Sure… deserving of salvation not because of what you have done but because God can see what you will become. It is the most remarkable twist of the gospel I have ever heard. I think it is evil. I think much the same of reincarnation. Not evil just to believe it. But very very wrong.

But like I said, I am grateful because you have opened my eyes to understand what I never could. I couldn’t comprehend why people thought that way and now I see it.