It’s difficult to give a brief overview of ideas concerning the soul. We may call it the personality or immaterial essence of a human being. The Greek word for the soul, anima, can be interpreted as the “breath” or “life” without which human activity would be meaningless or rather, be downgraded to animal activity. For many proving the existence of a soul means that there is an afterlife for the human species, that we are not necessarily finite/mortal beings.
One interesting problem concerning the soul is proving its “existence” as either a separate entity or an integral part of the human makeup. It is not something identifiable with DNA or psychological makeup. Poor Descartes spouted elaborate and well-thought out theories on the rational mind (soul, consciousness, etc) as the highest sense, but when he faced the problem of what bound the mind to the body, by however miniscule a link, in order to reconcile the abyss between soul and body, he fell short and posited a false theory that a gland between your eyes was the source of the connection. This was later proved false, as no such gland existed when medical exploration of the human theory was conducted later in the Enlightenment era.
I’ve always fancied the idea of humans as “embodied souls”, as first introduced to us by my Grade 12 philosophy class so many years ago. It’s not so much the idea that we are trapped in a life on a material earth, but more so the concept that we must have a way to lead our spiritual lives by tangible actions that amount to some sort of good, as inherent in the soul, though flawed as I had discussed before. The soul is what animates our modularity (or moral senses), perhaps even being the source of our rationality and creativity.
I think I would like to explore the “afterlife” aspect of the soul in a second part to this post.