Mind and Soul II
The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.
Two teenagers sitting in a tree in a big public park
Tammy: You doing okay?
Violet: I’m fine. Why?
Tammy: You looked a little shaky for a second there.
Violet: Are you saying I’m unbalanced?
Tammy: I wouldn’t say you’re unbalanced — flat out bat-shit crazy from time to time, sure, but not unbalanced.
Violet: Oh, thanks. I’m the crazy one, but you’re the one who doesn’t even think she exists.
Violet: Remember what you were talking about yesterday? About free will being an illusion of natural blah blah or something so the self doesn’t even exist?
Tammy: Oh, right. You know that’s not what I meant.
Violet: All I know is “I think therefore I am.” That proves the soul right there and there’s no getting around it.
Tammy: I don’t know about that. What about schizophrenics?
Violet: Multiple personalities?
Tammy: No, that’s not really schizophrenia. I mean people who hear voices or think inanimate objects are talking to them. If you had a thought in your head that you didn’t believe was yours, what would that prove?
Violet: How could that happen?
Tammy: It can happen to a schizophrenic. They could be looking at a flower and think “That’s pretty” but believe that the thought wasn’t their own. Rather, they think that the thought was something that someone else put in their head.
Violet: All that proves is that they’re crazy. It doesn’t mean they have two souls or two minds or something.
Tammy: But if “I think therefore I am” proves you exist, doesn’t “someone else thinks the flower is pretty” prove that someone else exists?
Violet: No, because there really isn’t anyone else. That other person is an illusion. All you can prove is that the “I” in “I think I have an alien thought” exists.
Tammy: You think there can be a thought about the flower without someone thinking it?
Violet: No, I think that the crazy person thinks incorrectly that he’s not thinking the flower’s pretty.
Tammy: Then the flower thought would be an illusion. No separate entity is thinking it.
Violet: Kind of.
Tammy: Then what if the schizophrenic thinks that someone else put the thought “I am hungry” in his head?
Violet: How is that different?
Tammy: Because there’s a different “I” there. That “I” thinks, therefore it is.
Violet: But it doesn’t really think. The schizophrenic’s brain is wired in a way that it files that thought under “someone else thought this,” but there is no someone else.
Tammy: Then why couldn’t a sane person’s brain be wired to file all of its thoughts under “I thought this” when there really isn’t any “I”?
Violet: But there has to be an “I” having the thought.
Tammy: It doesn’t have to be a soul or an individual that is something more than the product of a flesh-and-blood mind. It could just be a meat machine that has been programmed to file some of its processes in such a way that it incorrectly concludes it has free will and freedom of thought.
Violet: This may be the craziest thing you’ve ever thought of. Are you sure you didn’t fall out of that tree while I wasn’t looking? Because you’re sure talking like someone who’s taken a serious blow to the head.
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