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by on December 9, 2012

(so, i tried to post this in week 3 when we were talking descartes and his views of the soul…instead i managed to post it to my blog instead (i also discovered i have a blog?) so i shall post it again now on here, but i apologise as it now seems substantially less relevant):

Personally I find this idea of division within ourselves interesting. For me we are simply entire beings. We are made of composite organs, bones, blood etc but this is all contributing to a whole. The mind body divide suggests the notion of duality. Two selves occupying one body.

I find it interesting the way in which these notions differ. Descartes suggested that the mind could exist without the body if God willed it. For him the mind here seems intrinsically linked to the idea of a soul. It divides the body (which is mortal, prone to disease, injury and death) from the soul (which is eternal, will transcend death). 

This idea I feel stems for a  basic fear of death. That something must transcend death. The death of the body cannot be an absolute death, something must live on. 

But this thinking existed prior to Descartes. In the Republic, Plato puts across his idea for the human composition as follows…

We have a chariot representing the human body. we have a charioteer representing intellectual reason that is trying to guide the way to “truth”. And this chariot is being pulled by two winged horses. Horse 1) represents rational and moral impulses. Horse 2) represents the souls irrationals passions.

Which is all well and good plato but you stole this idea in turn from the hindu’s who hardly care for bodily existence at all. Hindu’s are trapped within a cycle called the Samsara. They believe that we all have an Atman (soul) which exists within us. And as we go through life our actions collect us either good or bad Karma. When we die reincarnate in another body with the same Atman and our fortune in this life is determined by the Karma we have accumulated. Only by living enough pure lives will the Atman be refined enough to reach Moksha (the end of the cycle) and return to Brahman. 

Enough looking back. what does this mean for robots? i don’t know. Its interesting that in all these other lines of thought they take account for the fact that the body is limited and will die. Where as robots do not strictly speaking ever face death. Further more what is a mind that has been programmed to think. Certainly we would never assume a robots mind and body to be separately wired.  And then idea of the soul becomes slightly frayed. Can a robot have a soul? Probably not unless you count a memory stick…

I guess I’m mostly thinking of how religion would deal with robots if they became advanced enough to freely function. Or even how robots would deal with religion.

Or maybe I’m thinking too much and these problems will never leave the realm of science fiction. 

So there you go. The soul body divide through the ages.



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