I used to believe that a human being has a supernatural, spiritual soul and that it is obvious for the reasons stated below. I was very surprised to find out that not only secular philosophy, but even Catholic academic theology seem to reject this view.
As far as I understand (correct me if I'm wrong, I'm having a hard time understanding this and related problems), currently the dominant view, both in secular philosophy and even in Christian theology is as follows:
- All functions and capabilities of a human being are purely natural and emergent of the matter that constitutes the human's body (with the possible exception of immortality if religious beliefs are accepted - but with no exceptions regarding consciousness, free will etc *even if religious beliefs are accepted)
- Soul, if defined, can mean the sum of information that describes the human - this is the sense of the saying that the 'soul is the form of the body'.
Or, in other words: If we compare a human to a book, then the book's 'body' would be paper and ink that stains this paper, while the book's 'soul' would be the contents of the book. Similarly, if we compare a human to a computer, then the computer's body is of metal, semiconductors, etc, while its 'soul' would be the specific way all this matter is arranged (the design of the CPU and other parts) as well as the contents of the computer's hard disk.
The above view is in opposition to intuitive beliefs of many people, which lean towards mind-body dualism (this seems especially common in religious people who are not philosophically or even theologically refined) - nonetheless mind-body dualism is rejected even by academic theology.
I find this view very surprising as it seems to me that it is prone to a reduction ad absurdum, which I will now attempt.
Assume, as everyone seems to believe, that a human being is little or nothing more than a really complex natural mechanism - all of its capabilities are emergent of the complexity of physical & chemical reactions that occur in the body.
Even if we say that there is no free will it is obvious that humans have consciousness and can feel happiness or pain. How does this not frustrate this view?
Increasing complexity does not seem to help here. AFAIK it is not a popular view that a log or a stone possesses consciousness. Now what about a doll that contains an audio player with a few recorded scream sounds and is wired in such a way that if someone hits this doll then will this mean that this doll will be able to feel pain any more, even a really teeny tiny bit more than a stone or a log? It seems that the answer is a no. It seems that the existence of consciousness is a very qualitative change, while complexity is, rather, a quantitative value. It is very much unclear how could increasing complexity give a rise to consciousness.
But assume that it does so indeed. However, all natural processes can be simulated by other natural processes. Therefore let us conduct the following thought experiment. Assume that the workings of a human being have been fully understood by science. It is therefore possible to fully simulate a human being. Or if it is not possible, then it is only difficult for the lack of sufficient computing power, rather than any fundamental prohibitions. But whatever a computer can do so can a human arithmetician with a pen and some paper.
Let us, therefore, simulate a human being in the following way. Let us build an enormous office and hire a vast number of arithmeticians. Let us give them a ridiculously large number of pens and sheets of paper, as well as lots of time. Perhaps one bazillion of arithmeticians will be able to do computations that simulate a second of the life of a single cell within 100 years? All information that reaches a person through their eyes, ears and other senses can, likewise, be prepared and simulated in the same way.
If the view that all functions of a human being are emergent from fully natural processes that happen inside the human's body then it follows that the above office will give a rise to a complete human being? And such a human being will, also, have rights. It also follows that firing all arithmeticians and leaving all of their sheets of paper intact will freeze our simulated human in time, while burning the office down without having salvaged the sheets of paper will be tantamount to murder. And it also follows that somehow these sheets of paper will give a raise to consciousness.
While I don't have a hard proof I must say that this conclusion seems incredibly counterintuitive to me. But if an army of arithmeticians with their sheets of paper cannot give a raise to a human being then neither can other fully natural processes. Therefore it follows that there must be some non-natural 'organ' that is a part of a human being, let's call it the 'soul' - and it is responsible, at least, for consciousness.
Since this view is exceedingly unpopular - may I ask where is my mistake?