While I choose not to believe in the existence of the soul, I can’t say I haven’t found it an interesting concept to ponder in my free time. Since this is potentially a touchy subject, I will start by saying that similarly to my time travel post, this is just my personal idea that may be right or wrong. I really don’t know. It’s simply what I have rationalized in my own head. I’m throwing out a theory, so if I see something like “You’re a bastard for insulting the beliefs of others”, I’ll be very upset because that’s very much not what I’m doing.
So what’s the plan? First, let me state that I believe that the existence of the soul is impossible to confirm or deny because the very concept of the soul requires that there is no physical evidence of its existence. I believe that the soul is meant to immune to the influences of the physical world, and thus the physical world shouldn’t be able to detect it. It acts as an anchor in a world where memories can be lost, bodies can become comatose, and personalities can change with the passing of time. Essentially, the soul remains constant through all of this. With that said, the rest of the plan is to explain this definition a bit and then I’ll go into the implications of this.
While there are varying interpretations of the word “soul”, I would say that there are a few common aspects. First, it is immortal. When a soul is “created”, it cannot be destroyed and it will never decay. Second, a soul is intangible. As I mentioned before, it would follow that there is no physical evidence of its existence and that no force that we can perceive should be able to manipulate it. And third, the soul acts as a form of identity…as in each person is tied to a single soul. Note that this is saying that we are unique in life, but not necessarily in death (an example being reincarnation).
Those three properties may seem to be exclusive, but I would say that they all stem from the idea of allowing our existence to continue indefinitely. Why do humans have a concept of a soul? I believe that the soul exists as a sense of security or comfort…an assurance that a person’s identity will last forever (hence the immortal bit). Why is a soul intangible? Because while our minds and bodies can be altered by our environments, something intangible cannot (I’ll explain this in a second). This creates the sense that in a world where minds and bodies are subjected the harsh forces of the environment, part of our identity remains constant. A clear way to say “this is who I am.”
Please note that I’m not saying that a soul and an identity are interchangeable. Let’s take the example of numbers. A number, being intangible, can’t be manipulated in any way through tangible means. We can combine them to create new numbers, but within those new numbers, the number remains (if I add 1 and 2, 1 is technically still a piece of 3). We can change the identity of a number, for example calling the number 1 “four” or something like that. Does this make 1 any different than what it was when we called it “one”? No, it doesn’t. That’s basically how a soul works. It is constant, and therefore humans choose to link their identity to it.
What does this all mean? Let’s look at Kokoro Connect and the idea of “soul swapping.” Normally I would try to say something like “they call it soul swapping, but they’re actually swapping _____”, but I really can’t with this show. The only way I can rationalize it is to say that their souls move to the new body, overriding the conscious mind of the new body. They don’t retain the memories of the new body, so they must be suppressed somehow. Also, they do retain some aspects of the subconscious of the new body (demonstrated with Yui’s androphobia), which rules out the possibility of simply switching brains. This does bring up some implications of connecting souls with the conscious mind, but that isn’t really my concern (because I’m trying to stay as general as possible).
Well, in the case of Kokoro Connect where the soul is being shifted around, this kind of soul allows the identity to remain constant. If Taichi and Iori swap, then whichever body contains Taichi’s soul is Taichi and whichever body contains Iori’s soul is Iori. This sort of distinction isn’t quite as clear in science. If we look at Aoki and Yui’s swap, what is the identity of Yui’s body? Aoki is technically the one in control, but it’s demonstrated that Yui’s mind still has some level of influence. There’s no part of Aoki’s brain transmitting androphobia, so it must be some remaining “piece” of Yui’s brain.
With two “half-brains”, which one could we use for identity? Say we copied Aoki’s memories on to Yui’s brain. Would we have then “created” a “new” Aoki that just looks like Yui? You could argue that Aoki’s memories generate identity, but then you could ask if amnesia creates a new person. Can you see how that can be a bit tricky? But I’ll leave the identity stuff up to the philosophers. It isn’t really my point. I’m just saying that this is the reason the soul exists.
So since that may have been confusing, let me make this clear. What you have just read is 1) what I think a soul is, 2) why I think the concept exists, and 3) why I believe it’s pointless to argue for or against its existence.