• 0 thru 9
    828
    Thanks for all the comments so far. The time and effort is appreciated.

    In starting this discussion, I wanted to explore the apparently vast if nebulous topic of the spiritual aspect of humans. I was asking for various definitions, opinions, thoughts before giving my own input, such as it is. I will state that I myself have no “definite definition” (so to speak) of spirit. I have in mind descriptions and personal internal dialogue, but have yet to formulate anything concrete. Apologies for any vagueness in my OP or posts. I realize that the topic sentence and OP focus on the word “spirit”. Let us explore some possible synonyms in a historical and philosophical sense. Also, it may be merely symbolic, but I moved this discussion into the “metaphysics and epistemology” category. I feel this is perhaps more accurate for this topic as I envision it. Or maybe at least more helpful if it dispenses with any suspicions of religion per se, justified or not. (Probably justified, at least some skepticism LOL).

    But to attempt to expand the discussion a bit in hopes of collectively creating a description of spirit, here is a part of Wikipedia’s entry on Pneuma, the Greek word for both the physical breath and the metaphysical spirit or soul or psyche. It seems relevant to give some context, I think. Thanks for your participation and thoughts... From Wikipedia:

    Pneuma (πνεῦμα) is an ancient Greek word for "breath", and in a religious context for "spirit" or "soul". It has various technical meanings for medical writers and philosophers of classical antiquity, particularly in regard to physiology, and is also used in Greek translations of ruach רוח in the Hebrew Bible, and in the Greek New Testament. In classical philosophy, it is distinguishable from psyche (ψυχή), which originally meant "breath of life", but is regularly translated as "spirit" or most often "soul".
    Presocratics
    Pneuma, "air in motion, breath, wind," is equivalent in the material monism of Anaximenes to aer (ἀήρ, "air") as the element from which all else originated. This usage is the earliest extant occurrence of the term in philosophy.[4] A quotation from Anaximenes observes that "just as our soul (psyche), being air (aer), holds us together, so do breath (pneuma) and air (aer) encompass the whole world." In this early usage, aer and pneuma are synonymous.[5]

    Ancient Greek medical theory
    In ancient Greek medicine, pneuma is the form of circulating air necessary for the systemic functioning of vital organs. It is the material that sustains consciousness in a body. According to Diocles and Praxagoras, the psychic pneuma mediates between the heart, regarded as the seat of Mind in some physiological theories of ancient medicine, and the brain.[6]

    The disciples of Hippocrates explained the maintenance of vital heat to be the function of the breath within the organism. Around 300 BC, Praxagoras discovered the distinction between the arteries and the veins. In the corpse arteries are empty; hence, in the light of these preconceptions they were declared to be vessels for conveying pneuma to the different parts of the body. A generation afterwards, Erasistratus made this the basis of a new theory of diseases and their treatment. The pneuma, inhaled from the outside air, rushes through the arteries till it reaches the various centres, especially the brain and the heart, and there causes thought and organic movement.[7]

    Aristotle
    The "connate pneuma" of Aristotle is the warm mobile "air" that in the sperm transmits the capacity for locomotion and certain sensations to the offspring. These movements derive from the soul of the parent and are embodied by the pneuma as a material substance in semen. Pneuma is necessary for life, and as in medical theory is involved with the "vital heat," but the Aristotelian pneuma is less precisely and thoroughly defined than that of the Stoics.[3]

    Stoic pneuma
    In Stoic philosophy, pneuma is the concept of the "breath of life," a mixture of the elements air (in motion) and fire (as warmth).[8] For the Stoics, pneuma is the active, generative principle that organizes both the individual and the cosmos.[9] In its highest form, pneuma constitutes the human soul (psychê), which is a fragment of the pneuma that is the soul of God (Zeus). As a force that structures matter, it exists even in inanimate objects.[10] In his Introduction to the 1964 book Meditations, the Anglican priest Maxwell Staniforth wrote:

    Cleanthes, wishing to give more explicit meaning to Zeno's 'creative fire', had been the first to hit upon the term pneuma, or 'spirit', to describe it. Like fire, this intelligent 'spirit' was imagined as a tenuous substance akin to a current of air or breath, but essentially possessing the quality of warmth; it was immanent in the universe as God, and in man as the soul and life-giving principle.
  • S
    11.8k
    Its astonishing! The resistance you get for asking simple qualifying questions. I guess I get it, answering pesky questions like “what are you talking about” interfere with the feel good mental masterbation and whats a circle jerk without masterbation...DingoJones

    Haha. Have you been following the "Morality" discussion lately?

    [Technical-sounding philosophy gobbledygook]

    Can you translate that?

    No.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    Well to be honest Im not really behind either side of that debate. Ive been following along, I just don’t think of morality in either terms. That having been said, the mental gymnastics and emotional attachments to “objective” morality you guys are dealing with is pretty painful. You guys are not even able to get a proper understanding of your positions through that stubborn wall, let alone actually debate the sides.
  • S
    11.8k
    Well to be honest Im not really behind either side of that debate. Ive been following along, I just don’t think of morality in either terms. That having been said, the mental gymnastics and emotional attachments to “objective” morality you guys are dealing with is pretty painful. You guys are not even able to get a proper understanding of your positions through that stubborn wall, let alone actually debate the sides.DingoJones

    Yeah, it's a shame. You don't have to take sides to see the problems in that discussion. And I don't think that the responsibility for these problems is evenly distributed or tips the scales against those of us in the discussion such as myself, Isaac, and Terrapin. The responsibility very much falls on a handful of people on the other side of the debate. The problem indicated in my last reply to you falls on a single participant, and he is encouraged to continue undeterred by a few others, which just exacerbates the problem. They have isolated themselves from the main discussion at times and refused to engage criticism in a productive manner. Then, of course, there are the countless ingrained misunderstandings which have been corrected a million-and-one times to little avail. And then there's the repetitive crackpottery, dogmatic proclamations, and red herrings - again, mostly down to a single participant, though a different one this time - which really ought to be frowned upon and ideally stamped out, given that this is supposed to be a reputable philosophy forum.
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    Ya, I agree. Dogmatic folks tend to defend other dogmatic folks so it reinforces their own dogmatism. Everyones beliefs get equal merit so none of them have to really justify their own.
    Not that your and Terras sass helps the problem, but Ill be damned if I can blame you lol
  • S
    11.8k
    I have sass running through my veins. :lol:
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    Lol. Well at a certain point it becomes impossible not to mock the person. I try to wait until Im pretty much past discussing before going off on someone, but I mostly just observe anyway. You and Terra have much more patience than I do.
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    The point of such 'laws of thought' is that our thinking is dependent on them, as without them, we couldn't use abstract logic or language. And I say that such intelligible objects of a different order to the domain of phenomenal existents (things that exist). So when we assert the identity of particulars, or say that 'this is that' or 'this means that', this depends on the capacity to abstract and compare using just this inherent faculty of reasoned inference.

    This general approach is broadly speaking Platonist. Plato realised that abstract principles (numbers and geometrical forms) possess a kind of reality that is of a different order to the sensory or empirical. One point about such ideas is that they are immediately perceptible to the mind (nous) in a way that is not possible for material objects; when we know a rational truth, then that kind of knowing is of a different order to the knowledge of sensible particulars as we know it immediately, not mediated by sense.

    Now, in the grand tradition of Western philosophy, what philosophers mean by 'spirit' is real in the sense that such intelligible and rational truths are real. Whereas in current culture, we tend to think in terms of 'what exists', in terms of the phenomenal domain. So if you assert the reality of 'spirit', the question will arise, 'where could such a being exist ? What kind of phenomena is it?' To which traditionalist philosophy might answer, well it doesn't exist, but it's nevertheless real; that it transcends the empirical domain, in a way analogous to how mathematical order transcends the domain of symbolic forms.
    Wayfarer
    Thank you very much for contributions, which add some needed context for this subject. And it helps to address the question of whether spirit can be even said “to exist” or have some dimension of reality.

    In researching for this thread, I looked into Hegal’s The Phenomenology of Spirit. I’m not sure it’s helping make the philosophical view of spirit much clearer. (Probably the opposite. :sweat:) Perhaps it is because I hadn’t read it before. Interesting that the word in the title geist in German also can be translated “mind”.

    One can view Eastern systems such as Buddhism, Taoism, Vedanta, etc. as philosophical and psychological writings at least as much (if not more) than religious dogma. Do any such relevant ideas from the Eastern traditions concerning spirit come to mind?
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    @S @DingoJones
    I personally find this side discussion fascinating. But if we could please veer back somewhere in the vicinity of the general topic, it might keep the moderators from getting an itchy delete button finger. Gracias. :blush:
  • DingoJones
    1.4k


    Lol, that thought had occured to me. I think we are done anyway.
  • Wayfarer
    9k
    In researching for this thread, I looked into Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit0 thru 9

    That is reputed to be an exceedingly difficult book. But you might find Hegel's God, Robert M. Wallace, interesting.

    God is commonly described as a being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and so forth. Hegel says this is already a mistake. If God is to be truly infinite, truly unlimited, then God cannot be ‘a being’, because ‘a being’, that is, one being (however powerful) among others, is already limited by its relations to the others. It’s limited by not being X, not being Y, and so forth. But then it’s clearly not unlimited, not infinite! To think of God as ‘a being’ is to render God finite.

    Also have a look at God does not Exist, Bishop Pierre Whalon. This essay also recognises the equation of the phenomenal with what exists.

    Interesting that the word in the title geist in German also can be translated “mind”.0 thru 9

    Again, reminiscent of the Greek 'nous'. One heuristic definition of the rational mind is 'that which sees meaning'. The word 'intelligence' is derived from inter-legere, to 'read between'.

    Do any such relevant ideas from the Eastern traditions concerning spirit come to mind?0 thru 9

    Only that Alan Watts actually wrote some really good stuff on these ideas, notably The Supreme Identity, Beyond Theology and Behold the Spirit.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    noun
    ▸ your attitude to life or to other people
    ▸ the attitude of people in a group
    ▸ your mood, or your attitude
    ▸ an enthusiastic or determined attitude
    ▸ the general or real meaning of something
    ▸ the part of a person that many people believe continues to exist after death
    ▸ a dead person who comes back into the world
    ▸ an imaginary creature with special powers
    ▸ a strong alcoholic drink such as whiskey or brandy
    ▸ alcohol used as a fuel or used by doctors for making things very clean
    ▸ a fundamental emotional and activating principle determining one's character
    ▸ any incorporeal supernatural being that can become visible (or audible) to human beings
    ▸ the vital principle or animating force within living things
    ▸ the general atmosphere of a place or situation and the effect that it has on people
    ▸ an inclination or tendency of a certain kind
    ▸ the state of a person's emotions (especially with regard to pleasure or dejection) ("He was in good spirits")
    ▸ animation and energy in action or expression
    ▸ the intended meaning of a communication

    verb
    ▸to take someone or something away suddenly but without being noticed
    ▸infuse with spirit ("The company spirited him up")
    — Various online dictionaries

    Dictionaries (as we have agreed, they're only a starting point) seem to support the varied meanings that spirit carries. There is clearly some overlap with "soul", but that's not the only thing we use spirit to represent, apparently. If we allow that all of the above meanings are carried by a single word, is there any benefit in considering the commonalities between them? Or the differences? Or are they just the ways in which a particular word has been/is used?
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    "Spirit" can also be an integral basic foundational element of a larger worldview. The notion, idea, and/or conception referred to by using the term "spirit" can be an operative and quite influential interconnected set of different thought/belief. That which is real has an affect/effect. The notion of(one's thought/belief involving and/or about) "spirit" exists as numerous different conceptions thereof. Those conceptions can be operative influences regarding deliberately chosen behaviour. Thus it is very real.creativesoul
    Interesting. I associate (perhaps vaguely) one’s spirit with behavior, choices, and will. Am hesitant to dive too much into the concept of “evil” here. However, one can theorize that a central and non-physical part of one’s being (let’s call it spirit) can be somewhere on the spectrum between weak or strong, constructive or destructive, wise or foolish, etc. Is this generally what you were referring to by “operative influences” perhaps?
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    Likewise, I think a given experience could be interpreted as an interaction between the spiritual and the material, as evidence of a world beyond the material, or as a coincidence, or as a delusion, or as a phenomenon that might eventually be explained within the material world. Then people interpret it in whatever way makes them most comfortable.leo
    Good point, thanks. The mind itself is invisible and non-material. The brain is matter. The mind is... ? Energy? Plasma? A function? An experience? None of the above? I’m not completely sure or comfortable with any those answers. The mind can be a name we give to certain phenomena. Perhaps, the same goes for the concept of spirit.

    Clearly we are not just inert matter, we have feelings we have desires we have sometimes spiritual experiences, if all we are is matter then that matter has the amazing property to give rise to such experiences, and it's quite possible that the matter we see with our eyes, the body, is a tiny part of what we are. It's possible that all our experiences cannot be reduced to electrons moving through the brain. That a lot goes on in the spiritual world and the eyes can see nothing of it. But it's also possible that this spiritual world is a delusion, something we want to believe to feel better, and that once comes the time to leave our material body we will just die with it. Some say that after we die our spirit keeps on living in the people we loved, but some will interpret it as these people having a memory of us and reacting in a way similar to how we reacted through behavioral imitation. How could we know for sure?leo
    Yes. It seems that we, that life, has some type of organizing process and principle. Some group of tropisms that give some orientation and structure, like a plant growing up towards light and down towards water. I think that there is some actual phenomena present which call be called the life force or psyche or essence or spirit. But, as you mentioned, delusions are definitely possible, as in probably any area one can imagine. Delusions, errors, assumptions, assertions, etc. All part of some experiencing and learning process maybe. But I would propose (as you might agree) that simply because one can have delusions about the spiritual aspect doesn’t necessarily mean that spirit itself is a delusion. Thoughts?
  • S
    11.8k
    I think that spirit is a sense of belonging. It is that wondrous and inspiring sense of there being a connection to energy and consciousness, to something outside of yourself, yet paradoxically and profoundly deep within. It is what makes you, you. It is like a flower under the sun, ever growing upwards, reaching out. It fills you with awe and appreciation, and I'm making this up as I go along, and only talking such poetic drivel to prove a point.
  • Isaac
    1.7k
    I think that spirit is a sense of belonging. It is that wondrous and inspiring sense of there being a connection to energy and consciousness, to something outside of yourself, yet paradoxically and profoundly deep within. It is what makes you, you. It is like a flower under the sun, ever growing upwards, reaching out. It fills you with awe and appreciationS

    Beautiful, beautiful. It brought a tear to my eye... Can't say anymore right now.... Too emotional...
  • S
    11.8k
    Beautiful, beautiful. It brought a tear to my eye... Can't say anymore right now.... Too emotional...Isaac

    I'm both crying, yet at the same time jerking off. Let's all join in and form a circle.
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    I understand that you want to avoid straying from the specific notion of "spirit", but it's important to consider that it falls into a category with numerous other fantasies and delusions in that all of it is unknown, based on emotions such as fear and anxiety, assigned characteristics cherry-picked from natural occurrences, based on concepts and principles subscribed to by primitive humans who thought that the brain was in the chest where we now know the heart is.

    There's never been any reason, outside of heightened emotion, to assert that anything invisible or intangible can be described with elaborate detail.

    There's nothing wrong with assertion, and I don't see a problem with the assertion that something has never been demonstrated. If you want to argue the existence of something, it might be best to begin with some evidence of a replicable qualitative occurrence of it in reality. Otherwise we're talking about nothing as though it's something.

    It's important to consider all fairy tales, not just one specifically, because they're all derived from similar heightened emotions and states of mind, such as fear of predators, fear of death itself, or fear of not having lived fully, etc.
    whollyrolling
    Hmmm. Some worthy points there. Thanks for your reply. However, it must be said that I’m not in complete agreement with your post as a whole. I do believe it to be beneficial to have a healthy skepticism about nearly everything. A kind of scientific or philosophical openness to new information and theories. If for no other reason than that things are constantly in motion and changing. And it is important (I think) to remember that alot of this kind of thing is “labeling”. Similar to taking an “educated guess”, there can be a “theoretical/creative labeling”. Or as @Wayfarer put it a “heuristic” approach, ie. experimental or trial-and-error. I am not sure that accuracy is the only metric in play here, as important as it is. Usefulness and cohesiveness of theory might be other ways to measure such ideas.

    Jung proposed the concept of anima and animus, perhaps inspired by mythology. I’d wager that many have lived full, productive, intelligent lives without giving this particular theory much thought. It is not strictly necessary. Maybe what people call spirit is a particular function of the mind. Not imaginary, just specific. Like memories or the unconscious. I am not necessarily or particularly saying anything certain and definite about spirit. This is something that should be made clear. Some have commented that the OP lacked a definition of spirit. That was more or less intentional. Nothing has been completely defined, let alone proven, or is really expected to be so. It is at least (for me at this point) a concept. A concept that may potentially be useful or helpful. If we can collectively come up with a working definition or description, that would be great. If not, that’s fine too.

    Like I mentioned in a previous post, delusions can be piled onto the concept of spirit like they can be piled on any concept or thing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the thing itself is a delusion. As an example, the eyes can deceive one, but the eyes are not a delusion. Labeling a particular spiritual belief as a delusion is a matter of preference or belief or opinion. Labeling the mere possibility of spirit as “fantasies and delusions” seems in my opinion a rather premature and unscientific approach. Or at least a somewhat unphilosophical approach, it would appear. Thoughts?
  • S
    11.8k
    "Spirit" can also be an integral basic foundational element of a larger worldview. The notion, idea, and/or conception referred to by using the term "spirit" can be an operative and quite influential interconnected set of different thought/belief. That which is real has an affect/effect. The notion of(one's thought/belief involving and/or about) "spirit" exists as numerous different conceptions thereof. Those conceptions can be operative influences regarding deliberately chosen behaviour. Thus it is very real.creativesoul

    You could've just said that the concept influences how we think and feel in ways which you judge to be of importance.

    You should learn to speak more plainly.
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    I think that spirit is a sense of belonging. It is that wondrous and inspiring sense of there being a connection to energy and consciousness, to something outside of yourself, yet paradoxically and profoundly deep within. It is what makes you, you. It is like a flower under the sun, ever growing upwards, reaching out. It fills you with awe and appreciation, and I'm making this up as I go along, and only talking such poetic drivel to prove a point.S
    :smirk: Alright... you had me going for a moment. Though I wondered if perhaps you’d bumped your head or saw the Ghost of Christmas Future last night. April Fools continues!

    Seriously though... in response I think my above post to @whollyrolling about covers my thoughts about this general position.
  • S
    11.8k
    :smirk: Alright... you had me going for a moment. Though I wondered if perhaps you’d bumped your head or saw the Ghost of Christmas Future last night. April Fools continues!0 thru 9

    I'm a good writer. Others could take a leaf out of my book.

    Hint, hint, @creativesoul.
  • whollyrolling
    427


    From your "eyes" analogy--what is the analogous physical object in the discussion of "spirit"?
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    From your "eyes" analogy--what is the analogous physical object in the discussion of "spirit"?whollyrolling

    Physical object? Probably not “physical” at all, such as the mind is generally thought of as being non-physical in and of itself. What object of any kind? I’m not entirely sure... possibly an internal process or function. Maybe a better analogy was the one used previously: when someone mistakes a rope for being a snake. It’s something, just not exactly what was initially perceived.
  • whollyrolling
    427


    Again, a rope and a snake are each something. Somewhere in the analogy there needs to be a nothing that is treated as if it was a something.
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    Body (organic mass-energy) has spatiotemporal extension. Mind has temporal, but not spatial, extension. Mind consists of organism events (conditions, actions, and processes) which produce automatic and controlled acts.

    As far as I know, the writings of the World's major book religions and systems of moral philosophy are the only source of information about "spirit", or similar concepts.

    From such criteria, evidence in terms of observed behaviour may be sufficient to posit "spirit", or similar concepts. It is a philosophical, not empirical, question. So, questions of fact and nature (including the supernatural) are irrelevant.

    I could (but would not, due to its controversial nature) incorporate a notion of spirit within a model of cognitive psychology as follows:

    1) Like mind, spirit has temporal, but not spatial, extension.
    2) It is a moral condition-action feedback loop.
    3) Body, mind, and spirit have correlative, but not causal, relations.
    4) Soul is mind.
    5) Animals possess a soul, but not a spirit.
    Galuchat
    :ok: Thanks. Can’t disagree with that. Although I would quibble only slightly with the words “only source of information”. A large source certainly, but maybe even that is a secondary source, as useful and thoroughly described as it may be. Because in a way, isn’t that somewhat putting the cart before the horse? Doesn’t the experience come before the writing? Since “spirit” (in its manifold terms and interpretations) seems to be such a widespread experience, belief, or phenomena that it may an archetypal image present our collective unconscious, if you give any credence to Carl Jung’s approach. (Although of course some do not).
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    Again, a rope and a snake are each something. Somewhere in the analogy there needs to be a nothing that is treated as if it was a something.whollyrolling

    Well, that is probably where we differ on this particular point. If I’m reading correctly, in your analogies (and probably your opinion as well) it is an absolute nothing being treated as something. Made up and wholly fantastical. Cut, dried, end of story. If you are convinced of that and happy about it, then I am convinced that you are happy and happy you are convinced. But I am not claiming that there is a literal Santa Claus living on a melting glacier at the North Pole. It is not yet a settled matter one way or another as far as I’m concerned however. Hope that answers this specific question at least somewhat... Thanks for your reply.
  • whollyrolling
    427


    Alright. What is it that we're saying exists, then? Let's define terms. It's obviously not Santa Claus we're discussing. So then, what is it?
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    Dear professor, while my school hours are booked with compare and contrast papers, between Algebra and Crisis management, I am going to take a moment to address your pondering.

    Yes, I absolutely believe that most humans have "spirit" and I don't mean Rah rah rah :party: I mean an essence of the person. It is the part of the person, that together with another's spirit can create a new combined energy or synergy for the ultra fortunate. Animals are no different in that most have spirits as well.

    I use the word "most" as a prequalifier as there are always exceptions to any theory but that does not change my mind about whether or not a spirit exists.

    Is there a difference between a spirit and a soul?
    On first blush I would say they are almost one in the same but I don't feel comfortable making that differential just yet.
    ArguingWAristotleTiff
    Fair enough! Thanks for your reply. :smile:
  • 0 thru 9
    828
    Alright. What is it that we're saying exists, then? Let's define terms. It's obviously not Santa Claus we're discussing. So then, what is it?whollyrolling

    We are starting to go around in circles, it seems... As I wrote above in the post about the Wikipedia entry on pneuma is the general idea. Or the dictionary definition of spirit, if you’d like. Though again, I am not asserting anything specifically. Maybe question someone who has made a definite claim? As I put it before:
    Maybe what people call spirit is a particular function of the mind. Not imaginary, just specific. Like memories or the unconscious. I am not necessarily or particularly saying anything certain and definite about spirit. This is something that should be made clear. Some have commented that the OP lacked a definition of spirit. That was more or less intentional. Nothing has been completely defined, let alone proven, or is really expected to be so. It is at least (for me at this point) a concept. A concept that may potentially be useful or helpful.0 thru 9
  • Galuchat
    703
    Doesn’t the experience come before the writing?0 thru 9

    Experience is an awareness event.
    Perception and cognisance are the complements of awareness.
    In other words: what you know affects what you perceive.

    Gregory, Richard. 1987. "Perception" in Oxford Companion to the Mind (ed. with Zangwill, O.), Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 598–601.
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