Scott Douglas Jacobsen: The term soul seems ill-defined. Its original term, psyche, appears more precise. The complete makeup of a human being. Let's talk about the naturalistic soul, the psyche, what do we know and not know at present if you had recent conversations with or readings by relevant experts in a variety of relevant fields? If not, I'll take personal opinions too.
Dr. Herb Silverman: I’m uncomfortable using the word “soul” for the same reason I’m uncomfortable praising the Confederate flag. That flag to me is a symbol of white supremacy and slavery. But to many of my fellow South Carolinians the Confederate flag represents heritage, not hate. I think it represents both heritage and hate. And some heritage is hateful or worse, including what the Confederate flag and swastika represent to most of the world. I usually hear the word “soul” when people distinguish between our material mortal body and what they call our immaterial immortal soul. Some who fear death and want to escape its inevitability invent things like a heaven and a soul. These humans try to distinguish themselves from other animals and living things, saying that we are the only ones with souls. There are some real uses of the word “soul” that I like, including soul music, which arose from the black experience in America. I don’t like soul food like chitterlings and ham hocks. Soul food is a genre created by southern black Americans, and I know many people find it tasty. Soul (nephesh) was originally a Hebrew concept and a synonym for a living breathing creature. In this case, when the creature stops breathing, the soul is dead. In the Hebrew Bible, a person does not have a soul, but is a soul. This concept is closer to a naturalistic soul, or psyche. I prefer to use the word “mind” instead of soul or psyche, but I am comfortable with the word psyche. Our minds try to make sense of the natural world in which we live. There is no purpose in nature, but our minds come up with purposes in our own lives. Science has shown that all life is interconnected by small particles and phenomena playing off one another in subtle ways. I think natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behavior of our natural universe, and our continuously changing universe is a product of these laws. To quote Carl Sagan, “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.”