Why should we believe we have a soul?

I had a question about the soul, which I am having difficulty understanding. Perhaps you could clear it up.

I am not sure, aside from Biblical verses, how one can prove the existence of the soul and its relation to the mind.

If the soul is one’s personality, why can the personality of a person be changed by, say, a stroke? If the soul is the memory of a person, why can parts of that memory be lost in various circumstances where the brain is damaged? Unless I’m mistaken, it seems that modern neurology is making (or at least attempting to make) the idea of the soul obsolete.

If it is true that there is no soul, would that not pose significant challenges to Christian doctrines (inerrancy and Heaven, for example)? I would be grateful for any clarity you could bring to this issue.

So you seem to have two questions.  The first is why should we think that the soul exists?  I will understand this to mean, “Why should we think that we have an immaterial mind?”

Your second question relates to how we can maintain belief in the soul in the face of certain objections (the impairment of the mind by virtue of damage to the body).

First, let’s look at a positive argument for the existence of the soul.

1) If we do not have a soul, then we do not have free will.
2) We do have free will.
3) Therefore, we do have a soul.

Now why should we think that #1 is true?  If we do not have a soul, then our mind and thoughts are fully determined by our brain chemistry.  Our brain chemistry, however, does not involve free will choices but would simply follow the laws of physics and chemistry.  If our minds are nothing but our brains then none of our thoughts or choices can be free.  Since we have a firsthand experience of having free will thoughts and choices, however, we have good reason for believing premise 2.  It just follows, therefore, that we do have a soul.

What are we to make, then, of situations where damage to our brain seems to entail damage to our soul?  Remember that the argument above is not that we are nothing but our soul.  It merely stipulates that we do have a soul.   We obviously also have a body and a brain.  One might say that we use our brain to think, and thus any damage to the brain will involve damage to our ability to think.  Consider a man driving a car with heavily tinted windows.  Let the man symbolize our soul and the car our body.  If you were to damage the vehicle (say you disconnected the brake lines) then the man will not be able to brake properly.  This, however, is no evidence that there is no driver!  In the same way, damage to our body or brain does not imply that there is no soul “driving” that body.

Matt Bilyeu