For a while now (perhaps half a year to a year and a half) I had been wondering over an important question regarding my nature. It was on the nature/existence of the soul. May I warn you, this question kept me up many nights and was quite worrying, and if the answer I give to it doesn’t satisfy you, you may well have the same issue. It raises issues over the very existence of meaning and your very self. And much as I‘m using this as build-up, I‘m also dead serious about the warning.
I‘m glad you have decided to read on, because I think you’ll be better off having read it. The point of no return is next.
The question was, how can I know that the part of me that thinks (which I call the thinking machine) and the part of me that experiences (which I call the consciousness) are one? The problem of this question is huge. If the consciousness‘s experienced thoughts and opinions are not its own, why trust them? With this all idea of good and bad, worthy and unworthy, meaningful and meaningless all disappear. And if the thinking machine never experiences its own thoughts, what use are they? It never knows them, and the consciousness cannot want them or appreciate them. What’s more, the you that experiences reading this cannot think about it, so why should it trust the thoughts (not that it could trust if it wanted to), so it makes us doubt logic itself. The two being separate would shatter all morality, meaning and logic and indeed, life.
Thinking machines such as computers are capable of processing data, and there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to believe (or appear externally to believe) that they experience what the data represents. The same with our brain. You hearing your brain‘s voice say it experienced means nothing because it could just be processing data.
It’s a tricky question, because at every thought you get in attempt to answer it, you must try saying, “well that’s just what a thinking machine would say.“ It gets very frustrating.
My answer to the question is meditation (which I‘m using here to mean absorbing form (my word for the material of conscious experience)). Eg. Imagining the colour green (or blue, or happiness or love or hate or anything else that only exists to the consciousness (and is therefore form)) and meditating on it. Because, the thinking machine would receive nothing from such meditation, as it is simple data to it, but a conscious thinker would, as it looks at the form of green, which I know to be deep and untouchable, yet wonderful. If the two were separate, the machine would see nothing from the meditation and have no reason for it, and the consciousness would be given no experiences during. But since I do meditate on green, and do experience it, I must be a single conscious thinking thing, that I would like to call a soul.
And that’s pretty great. Although I suppose you started the post knowing that already.