On Losing The Soul Essays In The Social Psychology Of Religion

Donald Eric Capps
Born(1939-01-30)January 30, 1939
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
DiedAugust 26, 2015(2015-08-26) (aged 76)
Trenton, New Jersey, U.S.
OccupationProfessor-emeritus of Pastoral Theology
LanguageEnglish
SpouseKaren Virginia Docken
ChildrenJohn Michael Capps

Donald Eric Capps (January 30, 1939 – August 26, 2015) was an American theologian and William Harte Felmeth Professor of Pastoral Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Biography[edit]

Donald Eric Capps was born in Omaha, Nebraska. After studying at Lewis & Clark College (B.A. 1960) and Yale Divinity School (B.D. 1963, S.T.M. 1965) and University of Chicago (M.A. 1966), he earned his Ph.D. also at the University of Chicago in 1970. His dissertation explored a psycho-historical analysis of the personality of the English theologian John Henry Cardinal Newman, and particularly his vocational struggles.[citation needed]

Capps' academic career started as Instructor at the Department of Religious Studies at the Oregon State University during the Spring/Summer of 1969. He then became Instructor and Assistant Professor at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago between 1969 and 1974. Later, he was appointed Associate Professor at the Department of Religious Studies of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina where he lectured between 1974 and 1976. Between 1976 and 1981 he was Associate Professor and then Professor at the Graduate Seminary of Phillips University.[citation needed]

In 1981 he joined the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, where he was appointed the William Harte Felmeth Professor of Pastoral Theology. In May 2009 he retired with the status of Professor emeritus[1] but remained lecturing as adjunct until his death.[2] In 1989 Uppsala University, Sweden awarded him a degree of Doctor honoris causa in Theology for his contributions to the field of Psychology of Religion.[3]

Other honors include the William F. Bier Award for contribution to Psychology of Religion, granted in 1995 by the Division 36 of the American Psychological Association; the Helen Flanders Dunbar Centennial Award, granted in 2002 by the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York; and the Joseph A. Sittler Award for Theological Leadership, granted in 2003 by Trinity Lutheran Seminary.[citation needed]

He was the book review editor for the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion between 1980 and 1983 and editor for the same journal between 1983 and 1988. Furthermore, between 1990 and 1992 he was the president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. He was an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America beginning in 1972.[citation needed]

Capps died on August 26, 2015 in Trenton, New Jersey as a consequence of injuries suffered in a car crash in Princeton.[4]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Capps wrote, co-authored, edited and co-edited dozens of books and journal issues and published more than one hundred chapters, articles, and reviews in books and journals.[5]

Books[edit]

  • 100 Years of Happiness: Insights and Findings from the Experts. with Nathan Carlin. Santa Barbara: Praeger. 2012. ISBN 978-1-4408-0363-5. 
  • Agents of Hope: A Pastoral Psychology. Minneapolis; Eugene: Augsburg Fortress; Wipf & Stock. 2001 [1995]. ISBN 1-57910-811-3. 
  • Biblical Approaches to Pastoral Counseling. Philadelphia; Eugene: Westminster; Wipf & Stock. 2003 [1981]. ISBN 0-664-24388-6. 
    • Penggunaan Alkitab dalam konseling pastoral [The use of the Bible in pastoral counseling] (in Indonesian). Yogyakarta: Penebit Kanisius. 1999. ISBN 979-672-150-3. 
  • The Child's Song: The Religious Abuse of Children. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox. 1995. ISBN 0-664-25554-X. 
  • Deadly Sins and Saving Virtues. Minneapolis; Eugene: Fortress; Wipf & Stock. 2001 [1987]. ISBN 0-8006-1948-X. 
    • [The virtues of sin and salvation for] (in Korean). trans. 김진영 옮김. 서울: 한국장로교출판사. 2008. ISBN 978-89-398-0387-9. 
  • The Decades of Life: A Guide to Human Development. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox. 2008. ISBN 978-0-664-23241-2. 
  • The Depleted Self: Sin in a Narcissistic Age. Minneapolis: Fortress. 1992. ISBN 0-8006-2587-0. 
    • [Depleted of self healing] (in Korean). trans. 김진영 옮김. 서울: 한국장로교출판사. 2001. ISBN 89-398-0375-2. 
  • The Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys. with Robert C. Dykstra, and Allan Hugh Cole Jr. Louisville: Westminster John Knox. 2012. ISBN 978-0-664-23340-2. 
  • Fragile Connections: Memoirs of Mental Illness for Pastoral Care Professionals. St. Louis: Chalice. 2005. ISBN 0-8272-2331-5. 
  • Giving Counsel: A Minister's Guidebook. St. Louis: Chalice. 2001. ISBN 978-0-827212-47-3. 
  • At Home in the World: A Study in Psychoanalysis, Religion, and Art. Eugene: Cascade. 2013. ISBN 978-1-61097-969-6. 
  • Jesus: A Psychological Biography. St. Louis; Eugene: Chalice; Wipf & Stock. 2010 [2000]. ISBN 0-8272-1713-7. 
  • Jesus: The Village Psychiatrist. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox. 2008. ISBN 978-0-664-23240-5. 
  • Laughter Ever After... Ministry of Good Humor. St. Louis: Chalice. 2008. ISBN 978-0-8272-2141-3. 
  • Life Cycle Theory and Pastoral Care. Minneapolis; Eugene: Fortress; Wipf & Stock. 2002 [1983]. ISBN 1-59244-083-5. 
  • Living in Limbo: Life in the Midst of Uncertainty. with Nathan Carlin. Eugene: Wipf & Stock. 2010. ISBN 978-1-60899-522-6. 
  • Living Stories: Pastoral Counseling in Congregational Context. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. 1998. ISBN 0-8006-3073-4. 
    • [Xian story: teach Club Med there Pastor 養 Counseling] (in Chinese). trans. 李金好. 香港 (Hong Kong): 基道出版社. 2005. ISBN 978-962-457-303-9.  New Preface
  • Losers, Loners, and Rebels: The Spiritual Struggles of Boys. with Robert C. Dykstra, and Allan Hugh Cole, Jr. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox. 2007. ISBN 978-0-664-22961-0. 
  • Men, Religion, and Melancholia: James, Otto, Jung, Erikson. New Haven: Yale University. 1997. ISBN 0-300-06971-5. 
  • Men and Their Religion: Honor, Hope, and Humor. Harrisburg: Trinity International. 2002. ISBN 1-56338-383-7. 
  • Pastoral Care: A Thematic Approach. Philadelphia; Eugene: Westminster; Wipf & Stock. 2003 [1979]. ISBN 0-664-24222-7. 
  • Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics. Philadelphia; Eugene: Fortress; Wipf & Stock. 2012 [1984]. ISBN 978-1-62032-353-3. 
  • The Pastoral Care Case: Learning About Care in Congregations. with Gene Fowler. St. Louis; Eugene: Chalice; Wipf & Stock. 2010 [2001]. ISBN 0-8272-2964-X. 
  • Pastoral Counseling and Preaching: A Quest for an Integrated Ministry. Philadelphia; Eugene: Westminster; Wipf & Stock. 2003 [1980]. ISBN 1-59244-297-8. 
  • The Poet's Gift: Toward the Renewal of Pastoral Care. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox. 1993. ISBN 0-664-25403-9. 
  • Reframing: A New Method in Pastoral Care. Minneapolis: Fortress. 1990. ISBN 0-8006-2413-0. 
    • [Yi 構: Mu 養 Guan 顧 new method] (in Chinese). trans. 譚偉光. 香港 (Hong Kong): 基道出版社. 2005. ISBN 978-962-457-296-4.  New Preface
  • Social Phobia: Alleviating Anxiety in an Age of Self-promotion. St. Louis; Eugene: Chalice; Wipf & Stock. 2010 [1999]. ISBN 0-8272-3440-6. 
  • Striking Out: The Religious Journey of Teenage Boys. Eugene: Cascade. 2011. ISBN 978-1-61097-300-7. 
  • A Time to Laugh: The Religion of Humor. New York: Continuum. 2005. ISBN 0-8264-1641-1. 
  • Understanding Psychosis: Issues and Challenges for Sufferers, Families, and Friends. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. 2010. ISBN 978-1-4422-0592-5. 
  • Young Clergy: A Biographical-Developmental Study. New York: Haworth. 2005. ISBN 0-7890-2670-8. 
  • You've Got to Be Kidding!: How Jokes Can Help You Think. with John M. Capps. Hoboken: John Wiley-Blackwell. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4051-9664-2. 

Edited books and journal issues[edit]

  • The Biographical Process: Essays in the History and Psychology of Religion. with Frank E. Reynolds. The Hague: Mouton. 1977. ISBN 90-279-7522-1. 
  • Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling. with R. J. Wicks, R. D. Parsons. Mahweh: Paulist Press. 1985. ISBN 0-8091-2687-7. 
  • Encounter with Erikson: Historical Interpretation and Religious Biography. Formative Contemporary Thinkers. 2. with Walter H. Capps, M. Gerald Bradford. Missoula: Scholars Press. 1977. 
  • The Endangered Self (Monograph). 2. with Richard K. Fenn. Princeton: Princeton Theological Seminary. 1992. ISBN 1-882380-01-0. 
  • Freud and Freudians on Religion: A Reader. New Haven: Yale University. 2001. ISBN 0-300-08201-0. 
  • The Hunger of the Heart: Reflections on the Confessions of Augustine (Monograph). 8. with James E. Dittes. West Lafayette: Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (Purdue University). 1990. ISBN 0-932566-07-3. 
  • Individualism Reconsidered: Readings Bearing on the Endangered Self in Modern Society (Monograph). 1. with Richard K. Fenn. Princeton: Princeton Theological Seminary. 1992. ISBN 1-882380-00-2. 
  • James and Dewey on Belief and Experience. with John M. Capps. Chicago: University of Illinois. 2005. ISBN 0-252-07206-5. 
  • On Losing the Soul: Essays in the Social Psychology of Religion. with Richard K. Fenn. Albany: SUNY. 1995. ISBN 0-7914-2494-4. 
  • Psychology of Religion: A Guide to Information Sources. with Lewis Rambo, Paul Ransohoff. Detroit: Gale Research. 1976. ISBN 0-8103-1356-1. 
  • Re-calling Ministry. by James E. Dittes. St. Louis: Chalice. 1999. ISBN 0-8272-3217-9. 
  • Religion, Society, and Psychoanalysis: Readings in Contemporary Theory. with Janet Liebman Jacobs. Boulder: Westview. 1997. ISBN 0-8133-2648-6. 
  • The Religious Personality. with Walter H. Capps. Belmont: Wadsworth. 1970. 
  • "Special Issue: Papers presented at the first annual conference of the Group for New Directions in Pastoral Theology". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 59 (6): 657–842. 2010. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 18 September 2011.  With Robert C. Dykstra
  • "Special Issue: Papers presented at the second annual conference of the Group for New Directions in Pastoral Theology". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 60 (3): 309–489. 2011. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 18 September 2011.  With Robert C. Dykstra
  • "Special Issue: Tribute to James E. Dittes". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 52 (1-2): 3–189. 2003. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 18 September 2011.  With Robert C. Dykstra
  • The Struggle for Life: A Companion to William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience (Monograph). 9. with Janet L. Jacobs. West Lafayette: The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (Purdue University). 1995. ISBN 1-882380-02-9. 

Selected book chapters and journal articles[edit]

  • "Augustine's Confessions: Self-reproach and the Melancholy Self". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 55 (5): 571–591. 2007. doi:10.1007/s11089-007-0075-0. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  • "Augustine's Confessions: The Story of a Divided Self and the Process of Its Unification". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 55 (5): 551–569. 2007. doi:10.1007/s11089-007-0074-1. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  • "Dödssynder och narcissistiska jag: ett nytt perspektiv på omvändelsens psykologi" [Deadly Sins and the Narcissistic Self: A New Perspective in the Psychology of Conversion]. Religion och Samhalle (in Swedish). Stockholm: Religionssociologiska Institutet. 5 (43). 1989. ISSN 0283-0663.  Translation of the doctoral (University of Uppsala) inaugural lecture.
  • "Erik H. Erikson, Norman Rockwell, and the Therapeutic Functions of a Questionable Painting"(PDF). American Imago. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 65 (2): 191–228. 2008. doi:10.1353/aim.0.0016. ISSN 0065-860X. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  • "The Homosexual Tendencies of King James: Should this Matter to Bible Readers Today?". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 55 (6): 551–569. 2007. doi:10.1007/s11089-007-0077-y. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 28 September 2011.  With Nathan Steven Carlin
  • "Identity with Jesus Christ: The Case of Leon Gabor". Journal of Religion and Health. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 49 (4): 560–580. 2010. doi:10.1007/s10943-009-9317-z. ISSN 0022-4197. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  • "John Henry Newman: A Study of Vocational Identity". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Oxford: Blackwell. 9 (1): 33–51. 1970. doi:10.2307/1385152. ISSN 0021-8294. JSTOR 1385152. 
  • "John Nash, Game Theory, and the Schizophrenic Brain". Journal of Religion and Health. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 50 (1): 145–162. 2011. doi:10.1007/s10943-009-9291-5. ISSN 0022-4197. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  • "The Lessons of Art Theory for Pastoral Theology". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 47 (5): 321–346. 1999. doi:10.1023/A:1021306218981. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 21 August 2010. 
  • "The Lessons of Artistic Creativity for Pastoral Theologians". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 59 (3): 249–264. 2010. doi:10.1007/s11089-009-0198-6. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  • Belzen, Jacob A.; Corveleyn, Jozef, eds. (1999). "Melancholy and Motherhate: The Parabolic Fault-line in Erikson's 'Young Man Luther'". Crossing Boundaries in the Psychology of Religion. Åbo (Turku): Åbo Akademi. pp. 27–43. ISBN 952-12-0362-5. 
  • "Mental Illness, Religion, and the Rational Mind: The Case of Clifford W. Beers". Mental Health, Religion & Culture. New York: Routledge. 12 (2): 157–174. 2009. doi:10.1080/13674670802398543. ISSN 1367-4676. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  • "The Mysterium Tremendum: Its Childhood Origins"(PDF). Psychology of Religion Newsletter. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association Division 36. 20 (2): 6–15. 1995. Retrieved 21 September 2011.  The 1994 William F. Bier Award Address of Division 36 of the American Psychological Association.
  • Brown, Sally A.; Miller, Patrick D., eds. (2005). "Nervous Laughter: Lament, Death Anxiety, and Humor". Lament: Reclaiming Practices in Pulpit, Pew, and Public Square. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox. pp. 70–79. ISBN 0-664-22750-3. 
  • "Norman Vincent Peale, Smiley Blanton, and the Hidden Energies of the Mind". Journal of Religion and Health. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 48 (4): 507–527. 2009. doi:10.1007/s10943-009-9258-6. ISSN 0022-4197. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  • "The Parabolic Event in Religious Autobiography". Princeton Seminary Bulletin. Princeton: Princeton Theological Seminary. 4 (new) (1): 26–38. 1983. ISSN 0032-8413. Retrieved 21 September 2011.  Inaugural address at Princeton Theological Seminary.
  • "Pastoral Care and Psychology of Religion: Toward a New Alliance". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 26 (3): 187–200. 1978. doi:10.1007/bf01759741. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  • "Relaxed Bodies, Emancipated Minds, and Dominant Calm". Journal of Religion and Health. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 48 (3): 368–380. 2009. doi:10.1007/s10943-009-9263-9. ISSN 0022-4197. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  • Belzen, Jacob A.; Wikström, Owe, eds. (1997). "Shame, Melancholy, and the Introspective Method in Psychology of Religion". Taking a Step Back: Assessments of the Psychology of Religion. Psychologia et Sociologia Religionum. 13. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. pp. 37–54. ISBN 91-554-4018-5. 
  • Childs, Brian H.; Waanders, David W., eds. (1994). "The Soul as the "Coreness" of the Self". The Treasure of Earthen Vessels: Explorations in Theological Anthropology. In Honor of James N. Lapsley. Louisville: Westminster John Knox. pp. 82–104. ISBN 0-664-25493-4. 
  • "Was William James a Patient at McLean Hospital for the Mentally Ill?". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 56 (3): 295–320. 2008. doi:10.1007/s11089-007-0115-9. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 

Secondary resources[edit]

  • Dreyer, Yolanda (2005). "Reflections on Donald Capps' Hermeneutical Model of Pastoral Care". Hervormde teologiese studies. Pretoria: NHW-Pers. 61 (Part 1/2): 109–130. doi:10.4102/hts.v61i1/2.450. ISSN 0259-9422. 
  • Dykstra, Robert; Cole Jr., Allan Hugh, eds. (2009). "Special Issue: Tribute to Donald Capps". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Springer. 58 (5, 6): 443–693. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 19 August 2010. 
  • Ellens, J. Harold, ed. (2002). "Special Issue: Jesus: A Psychological Biography". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/Human Sciences. 50 (6): 387–480. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 19 August 2010. 
  • Linhares, Bruno J. (2010). "Dr. Donald E. Capps: Uma breve introdução à sua teologia pastoral. Parte 1 de 2" [Dr. Donald E. Capps: A Brief Introduction to His Pastoral Theology. Part 1 of 2]. Reflexus (in Portuguese). Vitória: Faculdade Unida de Vitória. 4 (IV): 37–64. ISSN 1982-0828. 
  • Linhares, Bruno J. (2011). "Dr. Donald E. Capps: Uma breve introdução à sua teologia pastoral. Parte 2 de 2" [Dr. Donald E. Capps: A Brief Introduction to His Pastoral Theology. Part 2 of 2]. Reflexus (in Portuguese). Vitória: Faculdade Unida de Vitória. 5 (V): 27–63. ISSN 1982-0828. 
  • Nørager, Troels, ed. (1990). Forandrigens mulighed: Essays om sjælesorg og praktisk teologi [Change is a Possibility: Essays on Pastoral and Practical Theology] (in Danish). Frederiksberg: ANIS. ISBN 87-7457-102-8.  Selection, introduction and translation of previously published book chapters and articles by the editor. Afterword by Donald Capps.

References[edit]

  1. ^"Professors Emeriti". Princeton Theological Seminary. Archived from the original on May 16, 2010. Retrieved June 14, 2010. 
  2. ^"Adjunct Faculty". Princeton Theological Seminary. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved June 14, 2010. 
  3. ^"Teologie hedersdoktorer" (in Swedish). Uppsala Universitet. Retrieved September 28, 2011. 
  4. ^"Princeton Theologian Donald Capps Dead at Age 76". Planet Princeton. August 27, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015. 
  5. ^Dykstra, Robert; Cole Jr., Robert, eds. (2009). "Books and Articles by Donald Capps". Pastoral Psychology. New York: Springer. 58 (5, 6): 681–693. doi:10.1007/s11089-009-0247-1. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved August 19, 2010. 

Essay 37. On the Soul



For some reason I am still interested in the words that for millennia had been as common and clear-cut terms of everyday speech as horse, bread, and fire, before they retired to theology and philosophy. If we use them, they mean something.

As if the subject of fate was not enough (Essay 36, On Fatalism), I am picking up another phantom from the same Addams family. The soul is so vague a concept, spread over so many meanings, that it seems just a figure of speech, even in religious context.

Hard science has neither interest in the soul nor a place for it. Only in popular discourses on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and in related journalism the word is sometimes used as a shortcut to the property of being recognized by other humans as human. Traditionally, the soul was the term for what distinguished the human from the plant, animal, machine, and thing. The so-called strong AI extends the privilege to advanced machines, which could be built in the future.

The over fifty year old debate around the question whether machines can have mind and soul is still smoldering. The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennet (New York: Bantam Books, 1981) was a landmark anthology of science and fiction views on the subject. Can we distinguish between a real thing and its exact simulation, or, as Douglas Hofstadter commented on a sci-fi story, "what is the difference between a simulated song and a real song?" We can substitute soul for song in this question.

Can an artificial person be created? Could we treat it is equal? Will it have a soul?

The discussion on the ultimate possibilities of artificial intelligence in reproducing human nature is over half a century old. In the enormous literature, a few sources have the word soul in the title, others in the text. The sci-fi movies, like the film AI by Steven Spielberg, carry the banner on.    

The witty shortcut sci-phi (J.D.Casnig; now at http://knowgramming.com   and http://www.sciphijournal.com/) is very appropriate for the whole area of modern philosophy of science where AI is only part of the discussion on the subjects not verifiable by experiment at the present time. Mental constructs, however, can be tested by logic. The arguments are about axioms and terms. The volcanic activity in sci-phi testifies that our understanding of such old words as life and mind changes: larger categories take shape.

History stores the record of our changing attitude toward "the savages," first hunted like animals and brought as zoo exhibits to Europe, later hunted for domestication as slaves, but then moved to freedom through the Underground Railroad and later elected to US Congress. Each time I see a movie about "primitive cultures," and especially about the first contacts with remote tribes, I cannot notice anything that would suggest any inborn divide between them and us. It was religion that first recognized the human soul in them, paradoxically, judging by the appearance and Natural Intelligence and not by culture. Similarly, our attitude toward our electronic creations of a very different appearance may change with time, as it has been changing regarding the whales and elephants that have a civilizing influence on us.

I am circumventing the discussions around Artificial Intelligence here not only because the debating sides do not give a definition of the soul. As a chemist, I pay little attention to the distinction between the Natural and the Artificial. Of course, there is no difference between two objects meeting the same criteria, as there is no difference between the natural and synthetic versions of vitamin C.

A pureindividual chemical compound does not carry a tag certifying its origin. This is one of little appreciated laws of chemistry: the law of constant composition, first formulated by Joseph Louis Proust in 1794. It says that the composition of a pure compound does not depend on its origin (i.e., natural or artificial or made by a particular person at a particular place), which implies that neither do its properties. The question is: what is the pure and individual subject of our discussion? Curiously, the same question arises in logic: are we talking about the same subject or do we change it along the way?

Soul—chemistry—logic: could there be a stranger trio? An exciting choice for Essays à la Montaigne; let us keep the two no-nonsense outsiders in mind.


I want to understand what it means to have a soul.


Meaning evolves as anything else. The words may walk on the surface of the earth but then decide to crawl into deep caves or even sink to the ocean floor. The meaning and the connotations of the word horse have changed, and so has the usage of the words honor, virtue, and nobility, which are now stored in the social memory of the advanced industrial state side by side with quill, crinoline, typewriter, and telephone switchboard.

In our world of man-made Things, humans are turning into enzymes in complex metabolic webs where the turnover of money, more important than the alternation of day, night, and seasons, brings the crop of products for sale from the social soil tilled by social machines under the artificial sun of burning mineral fuel.

While our human nature still holds well under the attack of stress, artificial chemicals, and the accumulation of genetic defects (I swear, I am not a social critic, please), we are starting to pay attention to the suspicious changes in our social biochemistry. I remember well how, before the advent of molecular biology, serious people believed that some new and unknown principle could be hidden in the phenomenon of life. Experimental science put an end to all such expectations. What about the soul? Entering this new world—which is of course just the next stage in the evolution of the old world—we might reconsider the meaning of some old words. As we may need a set of new terms to understand and describe the modernity, the pre-modern words could be as good as the derivatives of the classical Greek and Latin. We would do with a prefix: meta-life, meta-mind, meta-soul.

Pushing aside religion, philosophy, social psychology, and AI, I am turning to Aristotle, who not only established criteria of the purity of thinking, still used today, but also left us a relatively short book On the Soul where he attempted to look at the subject, using only the powers of  logic and suppressing belief, emotion, and fantasy. Roughly, the soul is what distinguishes life forms, including animals and plants, from other forms of matter. This is not enough for us, of course.  

Why do we need to read Aristotle who lived twenty-three centuries ago? Because we do not need to. It is a useless and impractical waste of time, a futile indulgence, which is exactly what separates us from the dapper and efficient machines. We cannot learn anything from him that would help us with work, wealth, business, research, love life, health, and beauty. Aristotle's writings are dry and, with the exception of logic, hopelessly obsolete. They serve only as the material for an occasional student of philosophy and history of science to write a thesis and climb the next career step.

Not only Aristotle but also the soul itself is beyond any practical use, utilitarian benefit, and instrumentality. Nevertheless, reading Aristotle does something to the soul of the reader who is aware that our view of the world grew from some pots on Aristotle's windowsill. Aristotle purifies the muddled soul and the mind, but if it too sterile, Aristotle spreads germs of new ideas in it.  New ideas can be misunderstood old ones.

        NOTE
(2016) Aristotle demonstrates how we can understand something by analyzing our                 thinking about it and formulating questions where we did not suspect any. He does it by using             analogies and examples from other areas. If after 9/11 we applied this method to militant Islam,         terrorism would be already subdued. We would look for an analogy and found it in the Cold             War with Russian Communism. We would ask what both had in common and realized that both         were religions with sacred written codes that named their old enemies by names that mean                 today, roughly, the West.

Aristotle was at the initial building and furnishing of some most important compartments of our civilization: logic, science, art, and ethics. Most important, Aristotle, together with his teacher Plato, was the architect of the Western cult of unrestricted questions and answers. Aristotle is a whole planet and his boring and complicated texts look like a landscape of majestic cosmic beauty, which could be an intense pleasure to visit and, refreshed by a diversion, return to the familiar health, love, and money worries.
Of all our faculties, the soul is the least needed to earn a living. We cannot even sell our own soul to the extremely difficult to reach devil who is busy with other things and probably would not give a damn for it. Whether we have souls or not, whether they are immortal or die with us, and whether the heaven or the hell is their final destination is of no relevance for any practical matter in the modern world. And yet long before Aristotle and up to modern times, the fate of the soul (I have caught up the ghostly couple together!) has been a matter of big concern for many people, and, as Max Weber thought, even a motivation for the development of the capitalist way of production. What an irony: the capitalism of the third millennium, allegedly born from the Protestant ethics, is as much about the soul as entomology about whales.

Disinterested in the religious and ethical views of the soul, I am nevertheless fascinated by the questions: What does it mean to have a soul in our times and what does it mean to lose it? Is there any rational interpretation of the soul, one of the most ancient and irrational creations of human mind?


Believers or not, we stick to the soul as a metaphor. Not too often, but one can run into a completely secular question "Are we losing our souls?" (search losing our souls with Google; only 558 hits in July, 2002: remarkably little concern!  30,300 results in 2016; not much) ) on printed (see the book cover on the left) and electronic pages.

 

SOME EXAMPLES:
 

1. Philip E. Agre ,The soul gained and lost; artificial intelligence as a philosophical project .

2. : "Persons in commodified relationships are there to 'serve' or 'perform,'" Jeremy Rifkin writes. In this environment, what happens to empathy? What happens to the individual soul in relation to other souls? (See APPENDIX 11)


Every metaphor is a connection (transfer) between two objects. Is there anything tangible behind the soul or is it just an echo of the word? I am looking for the place of the idea of the soul in the changing system of our civilization. Is the soul a legitimate dimension of the process? If so, the soul is not of the all-or-nothing kind. Are we really losing our souls? If yes, to whom? The machines can have a mind of their own, but can they have soul? Does super-strong AI ("besouled") make sense?

In this Essay I deliberately limit myself to Aristotle as the only literary source. It seems to me that his De Anima (widely represented on the Web) provides an interpretation on his own terms. In the sci-phi forum, Aristotle has as much to say as anybody else.

NOTE. An excellent study of the problem of the soul in Aristotle's De Anima by Marian Hillar is available on the Web. In the world of information, it is the body, the hard copy, which is practically immortal. The weightless electronic information is as mortal as heavy human flesh. Fortunately, Marian Hillar's work is published in Contributors to the Philosophy of Humanism, M. Hillar and F. Prahl, eds, Humanists of Houston, Houston, 1994, pp. 51-82. His personality and works on humanism (for example, on universal ethics) deserve independent attention.

Evidently, the subject of the soul was difficult for Aristotle.

To attain any assured knowledge about the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world

The soul is so much unlike anything else that Aristotle discusses the method of study at a great length and often, short of rigorous logic, uses comparison, parallel, analogy, and metaphor. The reason for this is easy to see: the soul has no larger category to fall into. It is what remains in life if we subtract from it the observable material body. In the end, Aristotle takes the only possible secular way. He simply lists all aspects and species of phenomena comprised by the vague notion of the soul, as if defining the concept of the animal from all particular species of animals. His book is traditionally entitled in Latin De Anima, but if we remember that the soul in Greek is    ψυχή  , psyche (or psuche), the subject of Aristotle looks the same as that of modern psychology, only against a wider biological background. Classification and analysis is where Aristotle feels at home. Analysis, unlike synthesis, never generates chimeras: it dismembers them.

Today practically all the elements and blocks into which Aristotle decomposed "the soul" belong to established areas of knowledge: biology, physiology, psychology, social psychology and Artificial Intelligence. Having completed the analysis of the soul, Aristotle did not find any mystery. And yet reading De Anima, I had a feeling of the great mind's tension, struggle, and dissatisfaction, and it prompted me to look for something else. The problem for Aristotle was that while everything was clear about different parts of the soul, i.e., observable functions of the living organism and its mind, and the whole did not have any other function but life itself. The soul was just a sum of its parts. The abstract notion of soul was empty and shallow because it was circular:

From all this it follows that soul is an actuality or formulable essence of something that possesses a potentiality of being besouled. (On the Soul, End of Book 2, Part 2)

For Aristotle, the soul was the set of all faculties of life, starting from the lowest and adding up. For example,
 

The soul of animals is characterized by two faculties, (a) the faculty of discrimination which is the work of thought and sense, and (b) the faculty of originating local movement. (Beginning of Book 3, Part 9)


The plants have the nutritive faculty, and so the animals and humans have it, too. The faculties of the soul, therefore, form a pyramid of a kind, with plants at the foundation and humans at the top. I have an impression, however, that Aristotle pondered on the possibility that even inanimate things could form the foundation of the pyramid:

Suppose that what is literally an 'organ', like an ax, were a natural body, its 'essential whatness', would have been its essence, and so its soul; if this disappeared from it, it would have ceased to be an ax, except in name. (Book 2, Part1)

Yes, let's suppose that for a moment: not an ax but a robot..

A possible interpretation of the Aristotelian idea of the soul can be found in his metaphoric explanation:

It follows that the soul is analogous to the hand; for as the hand is a tool of tools, so the mind is the form of forms and sense the form of sensible things.(Book 3, Part 8)

The hand is the tool of tools because it can manipulate and use any tool, including an unfamiliar one. The mind is the form of forms, for example, because it can perceive the meaning of many verbal expressions, images, sounds, etc. The sense, such as vision, is capable of perceiving any visual image, not necessarily understanding it. Hearing perceives all sounds, etc.

It seems to me that in the above quotation Aristotle took some liberties with analogy. He says that the soul is analogous to the hand but further he takes only the parts of the soul, as if speaking about the hand he meant only its fingers. The complete analogy should be: the soul is analogous to the hand; for as the hand is a tool of tools, so the soul is .... is what?

Aristotle refuses to give a general definition of the soul other than in terms of its parts.

It is evident that the way to give the most adequate definition of soul is to seek in the case of each of its forms for the most appropriate definition. (Book 2, Part 3)

Aristotle understood—it is only my guess—that, regarding the soul as a whole, he would end up in a vicious cycle: soul is soul, as life is life. And this is true about modern science, where there is a general and detailed understanding of what life is, but no satisfactory definition of life, and, for that matter, of energy, either.

The closest modern translation of the term soul in Aristotle is bio-life, which comprises all general functions of the body.

It is a fact of observation that plants and certain insects go on living when divided into segments; this means that each of the segments has a soul in it identical in species, though not numerically identical in the different segments, for both of the segments for a time possess the power of sensation and local movement. That this does not last is not surprising, for they no longer possess the organs necessary for self-maintenance. But, all the same, in each of the bodily parts there are present all the parts of soul, and the souls so present are homogeneous with one another and with the whole; this means that the several parts of the soul are indisseverable from one another, although the whole soul is divisible. (Book 1, Part 5)


This remarkable paragraph becomes completely modern if we substitute life for soul and a life function for a part of the soul. Life divides and multiplies, while its functions are indivisible and we cannot have hearing without breathing.  There is no place for the separate faculty of having a soul in the scientific and rational picture of a human being. Taking life apart, we find no such part as the soul per se.

Nevertheless, a consistent version of Aristotle's analogy would look as:

As the hand is a tool of tools, the soul is the X of Xs.

Aristotle's formal logic did not admit self-reference. But we can attempt it:

As the hand is a tool of tools, the soul is the soul of souls.

Aristotle did not say that, and could not, because it violates his formal logic. But he expressed the idea elsewhere in an uncharacteristically informal way.

The thinking part of the soul must therefore be, while impassible, capable of receiving the form of an object; that is, must be potentially identical in character with its object without being the object. (Book 3, Part 4)

That could be generalized by substituting soul for object as:

The "soul proper" part of the overall soul must therefore be, while impassible, capable of receiving the form of another soul; that is, must be potentially identical in character with its object (another soul) without being the object.

This means that the human soul is something that recognizes souls of other beings as identical in character with the soul of the observer. The soul, therefore, could be just another separate human "faculty." To give a far-fetched metaphor, it reminds me the surprising ability of dogs to recognize another dog from afar or even by the sound of its steps.

This does not necessarily mean compassion. We may hate the guts of another person (the guts stands for the soul). The soul is the ability to identify oneself with other beings, and, for that matter, not just human beings. A person can identify himself or herself with other persons, fictional characters, poets, animals, gods, and even forests, atmosphere, and the finite resources of mineral fuel. The soul is the ability to substitute somebody's soul for one's own, albeit for a short moment. This is possible because all souls are interchangeable in the sense the electrons are in molecules. The response may be positive, as well as hostile. A terrorist watches with great satisfaction the terror of another soul even if he is driven by love to something.

One thing is to recognize a tree or a bird, but quite another is to recognize oneself in the other. The reason for that is that while, along Aristotle, we do not really have stones and birds inside, only their forms, we certainly have our selves inside our bodies.

The soul as a separate human faculty, in my opinion, means not identification with a group, as in social psychology, but with another soul. A soulless human being is strictly functional, like a machine. It has a purpose and a means to achieve it. Anything not related to the function is ignored or tackled as a distraction. A human being with the soul recognizes itself in another human being. I fear death and so does he or she. I suffer, and so does he or she. He is like myself. For a short moment, both souls—mine and the other's—are in joint possession and exchanged freely. When I look at my dog who looks at me, I feel for both the dog and myself, and so does the dog who expects me to take him for a walk. Can we look the same way into the eyes of a robot? If we can, than the robot has the soul, but only if the robot sees a soul in us and regards us as one of them, robots.

The human soul falls into a larger category, as life does: there is soul, as there is life, not necessarily of biological nature (which is one of the main motives of my Essays: the life of Things).
 

From the pragmatic point of view, this may seem quite irrational. One primary indivisible and singular term—self—is substituted for the other. We see an elephant in ourselves and ourselves in the elephant. The elephant does not see us as elephants. I really do not know about the dogs, but I suspect that my dog would see me as a kind of dog. For any practical functional purpose, it would be a fatal mistake to mix up myself and the other. Actually, acting as machines, we cannot mix up anything, as we cannot mix up letters while typing on the keyboard or keys while playing piano. A machine is not supposed to mix left and right.

I cannot find any scientific way to explain what I mean by the soul. As Aristotle did with the difficult topic of the soul, I would rely on a metaphor. The exchange and fusing of self and the other reminds me of the nature of chemical bond: covalent chemical bond is formed when electrons belonging to two different atoms become indistinguishable. When two atoms contribute one electron each to form a bond, the delocalization of their shared electrons lowers the energy of the combined atoms. Both electrons take the same "molecular orbital" and are indistinguishable. Curiously, such a joint possession leads to either a stable union (bonding orbital) or repulsion (anti-bonding orbital). The following picture is greatly vulgarized, to avoid  technicalities.


 

I cannot escape the problem of the definition of the soul, and here is my definition:

The soul is the ability of a system to recognize the presence of a soul in another system.

This definition reminds of logical paradoxes because of its circularity. How to recognize the soul ("self") in another system? To check if the other system recognizes the presence of the soul in your system.

I believe this is what we mean by having a soul. The soul is not an organ but a relation. It is not the self, because the self is senseless without the other. The soul is a bond, an exchange of souls, as a chemical bond is an exchange of electrons. Whether it is a subject of psychology or social psychology, I cannot say. I would say that the soul manifests in any strong attraction to anything which is not part of an outside program of rational actions. What is programmed and nothing but programmed is soulless.

Naturally, one can have more or less soul. I would even measure the size of the soul as the size of the ethical neighborhood of the self (Essay 24, On Myself).

The soulless being is strictly functional, as all without exception existing creations of AI. It has no ethics. Nevertheless, the corollary is that it may be possible to make a robot with a soul because there must be a neurophysiological mechanism behind the soul, and any mechanism can be duplicated. I would reserve my guess (of a mathematical nature) about the mechanism for a separate Essay. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to call such a robot machine. Strictly speaking, we all are machines, but not all machines have souls.

To lose the soul means to become a machine. We can literally lose our souls to the machines who will appropriate them. Sci-fi or sci-phi?

All the above could be just a starting point. I am taken aback by what I have found. I  display some tentacles of the idea in the APPENDIX.

So much for the soul.

APPENDIX

1. The related problems of identification, empathy, and consciousness have been discussed in two different areas: artificial intelligence (AI) and social psychology. Come to think about it, the two apparently distant areas might fuse one day.

2. The famous article by Thomas Nagel What is it like to be a bat? reverberated in responses entitled What is it like to be a Rock? by Aaron Sloman, where one can find also answers to the questions what is it like to be:

that rock over there?
a sunflower?
a bat?
a (normal) new-born human infant?
in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease?
autistic?
a seer?
a woman?
a robot?

Finally, one can find a discussion on What is it like to be a Human (Instead of a Bat) by Laurence BonJour.

3.  It seems to me that the religious idea of the soul is nothing but the idea of a tiny personal god. Monotheism simply kneads all the pagan gods into a dough and gives everybody a cookie.

4. Dictionary Definition
    Soul (Soul), n.

1. The spiritual, rational, and immortal part in man; that part of man which enables him to think, and which renders him a subject of moral government; -- sometimes, in distinction from the higher nature, or spirit, of man, the so-called animal soul, that is, the seat of life, the sensitive affections and fantasy, exclusive of the voluntary and rational powers; -- sometimes, in distinction from the mind, the moral and emotional part of man's nature, the seat of feeling, in distinction from intellect; -- sometimes, the intellect only; the understanding; the seat of knowledge, as distinguished from feeling. In a more general sense, "an animating, separable, surviving entity, the vehicle of individual personal existence."  Tylor. "The eyes of our souls only then begin to see, when our bodily eyes are closing." Law.

2. The seat of real life or vitality; the source of action; the animating or essential part. "The hidden soul of harmony." Milton. "Thou sun, of this great world both eye and soul." Milton. 3. The leader; the inspirer; the moving spirit; the heart; as, the soul of an enterprise; an able general is the soul of his army. "He is the very soul of bounty!" Shak.

4. Energy; courage; spirit; fervor; affection, or any other noble manifestation of the heart or moral nature; inherent power or goodness. "That he wants algebra he must confess; But not a soul to give our arms success." Young.

5. A human being; a person; -- a familiar appellation, usually with a qualifying epithet; as, poor soul. "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country." Prov. xxv. 25. "God forbid so many simple souls Should perish by the sword!" Shak. "Now mistress Gilpin (careful soul)." Cowper.

6. A pure or disembodied spirit. "That to his only Son . . . every soul in  heaven Shall bend the knee." Milton.


5. Today some people, myself including, have a feeling that we live in the mixed society of humans and machines where the former distinctions are being eroded: people become more machine-like and machines more human. The humans with machine-guns are responsible for unthinkable atrocities to each other, the machines directed by humans are saving human lives, and some humans are turned into destructive suicidal machines by other humans. I firmly believe that the relation between humans and machines is the major defining conflict of the near future. Fast evolving machines, with their short—and shrinking—life cycle, dictate the organization and function of  the incomparably more conservative human society where the life cycle is artificially extended, not without the help of the machines.

6. "Losing Our Souls [by Edward Pessen] is the first book to sum up the consequences of the cold war for Americans - the shifting ideals of our approach to international affairs; the building of our nuclear arsenal; the tactics used to combat "communist subversion" throughout the world and within the United States; the transformation of the American economy in response to security demands. Carefully reviewing the evidence, and writing with the authority of a distinguished historian, Mr. Pessen charges that American cold war policy has been disastrous for many of our cherished values and institutions."

7. Social psychology, interested in altruism, empathy, and compassion, deals with important manifestations of being human and "having a soul," without any interest in the soul itself. Thus, empathy and altruistic behavior raise a controversy similar to that of the soul of the machine. That we always act in self-interest and to decrease our stress is one of the old axioms of social psychology. New and controversial theories (C.D.Batson) admit that the pure altruism and active empathy are in competition with self-interest with variable outcomes. This area, however, is too closely connected with religion. I would not be surprised, however, if the ability of identification with another person was given a status of a separate human faculty, rationalizing the soul, at last.

8. In the Russian culture, as I remember it, the exchange of the souls (which the Russians still consider absent from the affluent Western culture) consisted, ideally, of complete and intimate openness to each other and the selfless mutual support. The real soul mate or bosom buddy was supposed to stand for the other as for himself or herself ("to give the last shirt off his back"). Vendetta (blood feud) may present a negative version of the same "soul bond." The one who hates is as much attached to the object of his/her passion as the one who loves. Dostoyevsky noted, somewhat cynically, that a Russian may give you a shirt off his back and to kill you next moment. Isn't that true for any strong attachment?  Bernard Lewis, a historian of Islam, noticed this contradiction in the attitude of the Muslims to America.

At first the Muslim response to Western civilization was one of admiration and emulation -- an immense respect for the achievements of the West, and a desire to imitate and adopt them.
...............................................
In our own time this mood of admiration and emulation has, among many Muslims, given way to one of hostility and rejection. (From The Atlantic Monthly)


V. S. Naipaul  in Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey (New York: Random House, 1981) saw it as an ongoing ambivalence.

9. Are "besouled" beings and soulless ones facing a possible future conflict? The age of machines is coming when more machines become less machine-like and more humans more machine-like. The advent of Things seems inevitable and irreversible: humans are going to serve the metabolism of Things, while Things are already serving the procreation of humans. Can that impose a deep tragic stress on humans, leading to their extinction as we know them? The situation is not quite new. The kingdom of Things is irreversible, but so is death. Humans were born not only with tools but also with the first burial rites. The mystery of death brought to existence art, religion, philosophy, and even science—all the ways to semi-immortality. Humans might adapt to Things as they have adapted to death.

10.Why do we identify ourselves with elephants? To feel better. No, really, why? Because most of us, at least in the West, are insulated from suffering, big family, hard work, hunger, and war. We turn to the elephants.

11. My quotation from Jeremy Rifkin's The Age of Access: The New Culture of Hypercapitalism where all Life is a Paid-For Experience,( New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2000) refers to page 246; on page 245, the following description of empathy can be found:

To empathize, one needs to reach beyond the confines of the self, to take up emotional residence in the being of another, and to feel another's feelings as if they were one's own.

Jeremy Rifkin also quotes Robert Jay Lifton (The Protean Self: Human Resilience in the Age of Fragmentation, New York: Basic Books, 1993, p.214.):

Empathy requires that "one include the other's humanity in one's own imagination."

Is empathy what we understand by the soul? Yes, as a way of speaking. But the soul proper is not exactly empathy because we do know what empathy is.

12. Excerpts from  The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennet (New York: Basic Books, 1981).

The true nature of meat eating, like the true nature of sex and excretion, is only easy to refer to implicitly, hidden in euphemistic synonyms and allusions: “veal cutlets,” “making love,” “going to the bathroom.” Somehow we sense that there is soul-killing going on in slaughterhouses, but our palates don’t want to be reminded of it (p. 114).

When does a body contain a soul? In this very emotional selection, we have seen “soul” emerge as a function not of any clearly defined inner state, but as a function of our own ability to project. This is, oddly enough, the most behavioristic of approaches! We ask nothing about the internal mechanisms—instead we impute it all, given the behavior. It is a strange sort of validation of the Turing test approach to “soul detection” (p.115).

Soul represents the perceptually unbreachable gulf between principles and particles. The levels in between are so many and so murky that we not only see in each person a soul but are unable to unsee it. “Soul” is the name we give to that opaque yet characteristic style of each individual. Put another way, your soul is the “incompressible core” that determines how you are, hence who you are. But is this incompressible core a set of moral principles or personality traits, or is it something that we can speak of in physical terms—in brain language? (p. 385)

It is always both. There is no function without soma, as the Greeks called the body, and the modern medicine keeps calling it, dealing with malfunction. When we pinpoint the function, we start looking for its somatic mechanism, and vice versa.

13.Do dogs have souls? If somebody does a serious research trying to find out if the dogs really identify themselves in any way with some people, we might have an answer.

I remember how our dog Nika, a Saluki, suffering after a painful injection, was whimpering and trying to get into bed with me and my wife. As soon as she had been admitted between us and put her head on the pillow, she immediately got quiet and looked really happy. This does not prove anything. Yet one has some reason to suggest that, as the dog's master makes distinction between the beloved dog and all the other dogs, the dog may make distinction between the master and all the other dogs and people in the world. If soul is bond, love is an evidence of a soul.

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