April 22, 2024

In today’s podcast, Kurt discusses “What is the Soul?” with Dr. Khaldoun Sweis.

KURT: Well a good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth, on faith, politics, and society. We’ve got a great episode up for you here today, we’re talking about the soul, what it is and how we can know that the soul exists. But before we get into that, I just have a few announcements for you, if you’re one of our longtime listeners I’m sure you’ve heard some of this before, but on September 8th and 9th in Kalamazoo Michigan, I’ll be at the Deeper Roots conference which is an event- a future annual event. This is the inaugural conference in partnership with the Library of Historical Apologetics. Defenders Media will be there and I’ll be a hosting- emceeing I guess is the term.

The Deeper Roots Conference & VH Fundraiser

We’ve got some great speakers, Jay Warner Wallace, Tim McGrew, Lydia McGrew, and a host of others I know, Rob Bowman and Tom Gilson and it should be a lot of fun. I hope that you can join us. If you want to learn more you can go to defendersmedia.com and click on that Deeper Roots image and then also last week Veracity Hill started its annual fundraiser and we’re looking to raise $800 of recurring support each month. And so I’m pleased to report that we have our first pledger of $50 a month so now we’re only looking for $750 a month and we’re going to be making that push you’ll likely be hearing from me, either through a phone call or a Facebook message and email perhaps looking to get your support. If everyone just chips in a little bit we’ll make it there, no problem. And let me just briefly talk about the breakdown of the fundraising.

So where the money will go toward, because that’s what some people they want to know where it’s going. So from that money, first we want to start having a relatively small advertising budget for Veracity Hill so that way we can promote our shows on Facebook so people that either follow us or especially those that don’t follow us can see what we’re doing and listen in to the things that we’re talking about.

Secondly, our tech guy Chris has been a volunteer for over a year now and we want to be able to show him the… how much we appreciate him and the value that he has to our team here and so some of the money will go towards that. Finally, the third category is money towards me the host of the show. I know that I’ve already raised a little bit when we first got started I’m looking at having a little bit more. And the reason for that is because I’ll be taking a little bit less in terms of my work with Defender’s Media. The reason for that is because we have two new hires; so first we’ve hired a director of marketing and I will announce who he is in probably a couple weeks here. And we’ve also just recently hired an event planner. This event planner she’s actually going to help to coordinate the annual Defender’s Media conference. So if you’ve been asking I know some of you have been asking hey when’s the next Defender’s Media conference. We will do one this year in 2017 and so I’m looking very much forward to that.

The theme will be on the Reformation. This is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and so we’re going to be discussing not just the history of the Reformation for those that are unfamiliar with it but also the ideas there, were they good ideas? Were they bad? What are some of the downsides and of course what are some of the good sides as well so I’m a Protestant, proud Protestant and so we’ll be talking about that so stay tuned for more details about where it’s going to be and the date. So just those are just two couple brief announcements for that and now I want to explain so for those that are following live here on Facebook or listening in on the website we got started a little bit late today because we’re trying something new. So we’re actually going to video stream in our guest which is the first time. This is the first time that Veracity Hill has done such a thing and so hopefully the extra time will you know we made sure that all… We had all our bases covered so that way there won’t be any technical glitches.

Interview with Khaldoun Sweis on the Soul

So without further ado I would like to welcome Dr. Khaldoun Sweis onto the show and I will have Chris hopefully get up his the video stream there and me tell you a little bit about him so Professor Khaldoun Sweis’ world turned upside down when his son died, but it was through that pain that he found the evidence for Christ to be an indispensable anchor for his soul. He now seeks to help others who have gone through difficulties with the astounding evidence for Christ. He leads the famous Socratic project which hosts debates and discussions on critical issues of our time, he has taught philosophy of religion for none other than Oxford University for nine years and is currently associate professor of philosophy at Olive Harvey College in Chicago. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy of the Mind from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom and he’s got numerous books which we’ll get to later on, but Dr. Khaldoun Sweis thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: It’s a pleasure and honor, Kurt, thanks for having me.

KURT: Great. So, today we want to talk about the soul so let me start off with this broad question so before we get into sort of the reasons, we have for the soul, let me just ask a broad question what is the soul?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: You have come right to the heart of it. I would define it as the immaterial part that makes you who you are. The immaterial part that inner workings of your inner being; that part of you that cannot be quantified in a physical mechanism into the own universe. But nevertheless, without it, you cannot be you.

KURT: Okay, yeah, it’s that it’s that immaterial aspect to the human person. There’s something more than just our bodies- at least it seems. Okay so with that question sort of already put out there, you’ve provided here a number of reasons and again before you give the reasons, so what has made you interested to pursue this topic?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: You see Kurt, many of us go through different periods of life or difficulties in our lives that change us. One of the things that changed me and changed the trajectory of my life was watching my uncle die. And when he died my world turned upside down, he was gone and then later on when I lost my son, I went through a deep darkness within myself, at the time of questioning, a time of searching… the soul searching and asking myself is there anything more to life than this? Is the human being nothing more than a body? And I remember standing over the gravesite and my niece was there Arianna, she was about four years old at the time and they buried the… brought the tombstone down and not a tombstone excuse me but the coffin down. They began to cover that the dirt there, and somebody made a comment that he’s glad that he’s with the Lord now and she opened her mouth and blurted out wait a minute how could he be with the Lord when he’s right here in the coffin? Which is an astute comment coming from a four-year-old. If he is only a body, then that’s it? How could he be somewhere else? It’s a contradiction unless the person is more than just a body and that made me start thinking about the question at a deeper level. For me, it’s not just– [inaudible]

KURT: Yeah, no that’s… it really is a personal, a very deep emotional question. It’s a soulful question and so… that you’re right it’s not only an academic one and if it is at the… if it is talked about at the academic level, it’s surely not only academic it just… it filters its way into our lives and into our common shared human experience and so perhaps that’s why the question of the soul is so important that we take the time to consider what is the soul? Do we have it? And you know why is… it why is it therefore so important to us?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Well it is sad that we have to actually debate the soul presented because the vast majority of humans in the history of the world have believed that human beings are much more than their bodies. I mean you really have to have an academic degree nowadays to disbelieve that.

KURT: Yeah so that’s a great point, and you know, I know there are many out there that whether we think they’re self-deceived or just mistaken think that all that exists is the material world, so here I have in mind you know the New Atheists especially- and of course that’s it’s nothing new, I mean there have been materialists around especially you know I think the Greek philosophers there were at least a couple, and so it’s not a new topic but it’s something that maybe because of the growth of atheism in our country at least is becoming a more popular idea that all that exists is the material world. So…

KHALDOUN SWEIS: The prevalence of science and the advancement of the scientific establishment and the Scientific Revolution and the wonder size provided, suddenly people question well what about is the things science can’t answer? And it seems to be the consensus– at least in the modern mindset–is that no, science answers every question, that seems to be the common vernacular on that.

KURT:  Right and maybe we’ll get a little bit into this but I’m sure that there are some scientists that are trying to find the soul. Maybe they think it’s like an energy of sorts as opposed to just immaterial, well are you familiar with any sort of movement in that area?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Yeah there’s a field called the Center for Consciousness Studies in Arizona. David Chalmers and other great philosophers are heading there but what they’re doing is they’re studying that part of us that cannot be quantified physically meaning the spirit or the mind or the soul or however you want to call it, in different aspects and that center is doing a lot of wonderful experimental work about the inner workings of the mind or what is called the binding problem, or the consciousness problem. There are different terms for it; they’re also looking at something called the heart consciousness problem or the heart problem in Philosophy of the Mind which is trying to quantify something deeper than the “easy” problem. See in Philosophy of the Mind, we have all these terminologies but the easy problem is trying to figure out how the mind interacts with the body. How the spiritual or the non-physical interacts with the terrestrial or the heart things that [inaudible] your biology how that interacts with your mentality. That seems to be the easy problem supposedly it’s not really easy but because compare it to other problems, which is how is it that consciousness emerges from or comes out of the physical? How is it that this three pounds of flesh in my brain and that’s called my brain has this conscious experience that’s more complex than anything in this known universe? How does that happen? That seems to be the problem that the Center for Consciousness Studies actually looks into at a deeper level- using all the resources of science to do it and one of the things that they’re doing in the process is causing many to doubt the very tenant of naturalism itself. The claim is that only the physical exists, but there is something that’s not physical, namely our consciousness, our ability to wake up. And for your listeners when I say consciousness, what I’m talking about is when you wake up in the morning and you’re slowly becoming aware of your environment, aware hopefully of the person you’re with when you’re waking up, aware of your alarm clock. You’re becoming conscious of your environment and that’s called awareness or consciousness, becoming aware. That’s what I mean by that and that awareness is not all the awareness of the environment but also awareness of my inner-man, my introspective being of my soul, who am I thinking? So there’s a lot of work done there. There is some great research being poured into it.

KURT: So now, especially when you talked about humans being able to be introspective, to be self-aware- that would maybe differentiate mankind from the animal kingdom, is that an accurate statement?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Yeah there’s actually a test done in psychological circles called the rogue test and what the rogue test is-you take a young child let’s say, I know you have little kids.

KURT: Yeah, three and one, yes.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: I explained to my kids when they were little child who’s around there when they’re about crawling age and you put a little mark on their face, that’s a different color of say, lipstick or something to that effect- because when you put a mirror in front of a child for the first time, they think it’s another child, but when the child realizes that’s not another child, it’s actually them, the rogue test seems to tell him there’s something there. They begin to wipe the face, their own face rather than the face that’s in front of them.

If you put a mirror in front of a bird, he keeps hitting the mirror thinking it’s another bird, and most animals would think it’s another animal. Only chimpanzees and maybe higher order animals could actually recognize that. But whatever it is, it’s an ability to recognize that you are different than your environment and then you are able to self-reflect. So a dog knows that he’s hungry. You know that you know you’re hungry; that’s a deeper level- you know that you know. That level distinguishes us from animals, of course, there are many of different areas but one of the things, one of the main things is the ability to self-reflect and self-analyze yourself which actually makes you morally responsible [inaudible]

KURT: Nice, yeah, that’s well, the opposite use of the term wild you know. So okay, all right now lest we get off track here, we want to talk about what are some of the reasons for thinking that the soul exists and so you’ve got sort of five reasons here and I’m hoping you can guide us through these five reasons for why we should think that the soul exists.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Sure, we should go through that [inaudible] let’s see if it will pop up here and we could work that out. See that?

KURT: Yes.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: All right so I have… let’s take for example when we see a newspaper article or a  newspaper clipping or we hear this daily, sadly, that a body was found or the body of so-and-so was discovered under the river, why don’t we say Joseph Smith was found there? Why do we say the body of Joseph Smith was found because even our vocabulary betrays what we know inside. That Joseph Smith is different than his body. We know that at an intuitive level almost all the cultures of the world know that an intuitive level like I said earlier it takes an academic degree to doubt that. So when I lost my son Enoch, I began to think deeper upon the question and let me interject to start saying,”Okay what is the evidence for this?” And part of my doctoral work was actually looking into the evidence for something beyond the body, beyond what… was beyond the gravestone. So Sherlock Holmes said the following, which is one of my favorite literary characters,

“The process of finding things out starts upon the supposition that when you have eliminated all which is impossible then whatever remains however improbable must be the truth. It may well be that several explorations remain in which case one tries to test one after test until one or the other until one of them has a convincing amount of support.”

So what you do is you look at all the amount of evidence for a thing and see it has started eliminating that which does not conclusively point to it, and whatever is left leads you to the proposition that there may actually be something more to you than your body. That’s what I’m getting there, now there’s a problem, some people actually, Kurt, they would lead toward a soul in the gaps argument.

KURT: Okay, yeah, right.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: I mean we can’t explain it, therefore, it must be the soul. Yes, some people can go that route but let’s try not to make that fallacy as we go through this. Okay, so you asked earlier what is the soul. There’s a lot of you know… the biblical definition of the soul has different [inaudible] there’s a nephesh which is the Hebrew word for soul, Arabic can say [inaudible] which is breath and in Greek the word is psyche. Either way, they are talking about the inner-man. This is interesting, the word psychology is the root word for the psyche. It’s a study of the soul. But modern psychology has drifted away from that. They don’t care. Most of them don’t even believe in the soul. What their study is is the behaviors of people.

KURT: Right yeah, our mental our mental thought processes as opposed to our soul.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Exactly or what is it that makes us who we are? So it says in Ecclesiastes that says that the dust returns to the ground it came from and the spirit or the nephesh returns to the God who gave it. What is this thing that returns to the God who gave it? Well, Aquinas and Aristotle talked about that I’m not sure how far you want me to go with that or if you want me to get to just specifically the reasons and how far you want to go with this.

KURT: Yeah, well let’s… why don’t we go through the five reasons because I’m sure we’ll have… we’ll have plenty to discuss on those alone. But of course, if those of you following online here are interested, please do follow up and we’ll make sure we’ll address all of your questions.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Okay, so you see this here where you have part three?

KURT: Yes, yep.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Okay, so you know there are different levels and then what I’ll do is I’ll go through these together we’ll go through them. So qualia is what’s called conscious experience, this is the technical term cognitive scientists have used to describe the inner experience you have of listening and watching this show right now. For example, if you were if you were to go to the doctor’s office and he would ask you okay “How much pain are you in?” And how many of us have not heard that question? They show you this ridiculous chart of all these emojis, right? One of them is going [screams] and which of these emojis do you identify with? My first impression seeing a doctor, you’re the medical professional you tell me that’s how much pain I’m in. He can’t, can him? Because pain is a conscious experience that’s not quantifiable physically. This is called qualia, experiential experience.

KURT: Yeah so for a doctor, I mean he might be able to see say if we have a broken bone he can see the broken bone but he doesn’t… you’re right he doesn’t know how much pain we’re feeling as a result of that.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: He can see the neurological damages being caused or the neural firings gone off at certain parts of my brain when I’m feeling pain. I can see the nerve endings being damaged but he won’t see the pain because pain is not physical. Neither will we see pleasure by the way and you know what’s interesting Kurt, when I have a broken heart, how are you going to measure that one? Much more painful than any broken bone.

KURT: Oh yeah, well, and then interesting enough I mean the emotional experience, the even soulful experience will manifest itself in some cases to physical pain, for some people, yeah.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Yeah, it can lead to that. So that’s one main reason we can say that there’s something more to us in our bodies, our conscious experience of what’s around us. There’s something we call… number two called the unity of consciousness or the binding problem. It goes under different names in the scientific enterprise, but basically, it’s saying that there is something inside of us that unifies all of our experiences. So when I’m having this conversation with you and your team and your people are listening to this, there may be some grapes on the table you’re eating, there may be a bus that goes by, there may be a police officer who is making a rouse outside that you hear his car booming. All things together are a unified experience, it’s happening at once. Which part of the brain is quantifying all these together? There isn’t one part, that’s why it’s called the binding problem. We don’t have anything that will report on our inner lives that’s in us and beyond us. Philosophers have said this is a problem called the Homunculus Problem which is Greek for the little man. So if I look inside me I’ll find the soul, then what’s unifying the soul? Well, that’s another soul, what’s unifying that soul, another soul at least does infinite regress is what they argue. That’s because they’re falling to a problem called the categorical fallacy. What they’re saying is that the soul some kind of physical thing though.

Gilbert Ryle came out with a wonderful book back in the 70’s when he said people caused… what is called a categorical mistake. So if I was to go to Oxford University and I walk through the halls and I’ll stop a student and say “Excuse me where’s Oxford?”

He’ll say it is here.

“No, I’m looking for Oxford University sorry.” I leave then and I go to the biology department through the law department, the physics department and I keep asking them where’s Oxford? I’ll never find it because it is the unified center of all colleges.

KURT: Well, yeah, and that’s even that I think that’s a better example than say like American universities because in America you know, usually it’s bound to just a campus, a physical location but all the Moors… which I think your point here is still valid that it’s not even bound to the physical campus but for some, a place like Oxford where there are colleges throughout the town, it yeah, you’re right it’s this unifying body and I don’t mean body in a physical way.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: All these colleges together make up Oxford. I mean even in the recent Marvel movie The Ant-Man, the man shrinks to the level of a subatomic level and he goes into the brain in the body and some of the comic series he actually goes in there looking for the soul. You won’t find it, ah, there mustn’t be one! And that’s what Ryles experienced while he was here that you’re looking for it but you won’t find it because the unifying… but you won’t find it because it’s not physical! That is why you won’t find it. It’s a category problem it’s like asking who made God, right? It’s a category problem because the answer has a different category of things because the category of God has no maker. Well, the category of everything else does and it’s asking where the soul is. We can’t find it because it’s not physical in the physical world per say.

The second reason I gave you was the unifying of our conscious experience is one of the reasons to say there’s something more to us than just our body, there’s something that unifies all the experiences of our lives and that’s so that’s the second thing there. So let’s see here, that was the first one and there’s…by the way there’s something in the quantifying our inner lives called the knowledge argument by Frank Jackson, you ever come across that, Kurt, in your studies?

KURT:  I have not.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Oh, this is fascinating!

KURT:  All right, so tell me about it.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Imagine there’s this girl named Mary, all right so here’s Mary. And Mary is born congenitally blind, it’s color blind. And she’s been blind since she was a child. So Mary is blind, but the problem is, Mary is fascinated with color. She’s colorblind but she’s fascinated by color so she becomes the world scholar on colors who knows all the spectrums of colors and all the different types of light variations that every single color has and the neurological firings that go off with you experience every type of color. I mean she’s the best at it. But there’s a problem. Does Mary experience color? No, there’s something else in addition to your knowledge of red that you will have differently when you actually experience it so one day Mary wakes up with a miracle she can now see red. Has Mary learned something more than just the physical information? Yes. Frank Jackson says this is the qualia part, this is the part that unifies all of us as well that there’s something more to the world than just the knowledge we have. There is also the experience of the knowledge. And he couples the knowledge argument which is one of the ways to take down another pillar of naturalism that he takes down with that, although he himself was interestingly enough, he struggles with naturalism himself even though he has this wonderful argument that knocks at one of the pillars of naturalism, there’s more than a physical world than just the physical.

KURT: Yeah, that’s really a great point that we can study the facts and the propositions, we can be experts in a field, but if you haven’t experienced it, that’s an entirely different notion as well so what can explain those experiences, it’s something that is not quantifiable that’s really a great evidence for the soul.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Particularly when it comes to swimming. You can learn all you want about swimming, but it’s a different world when you jump into that water.

KURT: As someone who doesn’t like to swim, yes, that’s right.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Let us go to the third one here on my list, the problem of free will, okay? This is fascinating about free will. Now free will is one of the biggest debatable concepts in all philosophy and also what keeps us philosophers informed, of course, keeps us paid because we can debate about it constantly because there’s no one answer to the question. But think about this, if we are nothing but the physical body, if we are just a physical mechanism of neurological neural firings and amino acids, then we would be following after the law of cause and effect in the chain of cause and effect. If naturalism, which is the theory that everything is natural, says that if the human body itself is a force in nature then that force will be acted on by another force in nature and every decision I make is acted on by a prior decision but that decision was a prior decision and unless there’s something within me that can override all that and say no to my dispositions, characteristics and desires and preferences, then I am just another animal. But I’m not just another animal. I can say no to all my dispositions, characteristics and their desires. I don’t have to do what dog does; they must give in to that, that’s their nature. Unless it is overriding force such as an attacking animal or something of that effect, he will eat when he’s hungry, he will wake when he is on heat. I don’t have to contrary to certain popular books out there and popular media about teenagers having they have to give in to all the natural inclinations but we can override that and that ability it is what sets us apart. One of the things that sets us apart from the animal kingdom- our ability to be free.

KURT: Yeah now let me ask you this since I know some of the listeners to the show you know we’ve talked a couple times about the Calvinism, Arminianism debate here. And so you’ve brought up the notion here of free will and with regard to the soul, does that sort of, the idea…. does this argument of free will require a certain level of freedom? A model of freedom which could prevent one from embracing one or two of those camps, of course, I think there are more than those camps but let’s just take those two camps?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: What do you mean by that? Are you saying a biblical model or does the soul necessitate a certain particular model that should be embraced or well I’m not sure you’re asking…

KURT: Yeah, I know and I don’t want to get super technical, but I’m sure some of our listeners might be wondering this. So you talked about how the freedom, the human freedom that we have here means that we can do more than what our nature desires, does that make sense? And there might be some Christians you know I have in mind here you know determinists here who might think that we can only do what our nature says, is that related to this issue here of the soul? And I’m again I’m just asking because I know some people might be concerned about that here.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Right, well there’s a whole debate in the theological enterprise and how free we are… there’s determinism and determinism different types of the libertarian free will theories on it but basically it’s saying is when God gives us a command choose this day who you will serve in Joshua and in Corinthians it says no temptation is taking you except what is common to man God is faithful he will not allow you to be tempted more than you can bear, but when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so you can do it. Now how can that be unless I can choose to either give in to the temptation or walk away? And the temptation may be giving in to my biological urges or my [inaudible] whatever do I have to give it to the flesh? No, I don’t have to be true to myself so to speak, I need to be true to God and I have to choose to do that. And I can’t do that unless I have the ability to choose, and of course, there’s a whole thing of soteriology regarding the issue of salvation whether what God chooses or what we choose sure that’s a whole different discussion.

KURT: That’s right, but suffice it to say here this model of free will is able to be affirmed on both sides of the camp. That’s what you’d say?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Yeah, so you could be a compatibilist or determinists, a compatibilist or libertarian free will agent and still believe that this argument can be used to support the soul. I think you could have a hard problem if you are more in the deterministic camp because you would be getting into bed with the naturalist and the materialists at that point.

KURT: Right, and part of my reason for asking this is I know that there are… so now this is my reason for I guess delving a little bit in this direction, because I know that there are some Reformed folk that affirm, it’s called a Christian physicalism or materialism and they’re people that they believe that there is no soul. I mean these are Christians that don’t think the soul exists and so, yes.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: I can see that there are much of those and actually more recent in the theological landscape. Take for example Nancy Murphy or other people like Norman Malcolm Peter Forrester others have argued for Christian type of materialism where the soul is real but it’s not necessarily different from the body it’s actually unified. And there is a lot of theological and philosophical problems with this position that we can get into later if you’d like, but there are people who can hold to that.

KURT: Well, okay, all right well lest we get totally off course, let’s get back here so free will and then sort of the fifth… The fifth evidence here for the soul you had was personal identity.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Okay first, did we miss intentionality here?

KURT: Perhaps not. Maybe we skipped over?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Maybe, well we’ll get to personal identity but what about intentionality as a bonus? So intentionality is not just your intentions but it’s a technical term in philosophy meaning it’s about something. So this computer or this video, the computer is not about something, images is not about something but your thoughts can be about something. Thoughts toward the content of the object that conscious beings refer to it.  Alvin Plantinga, one of the greatest philosophers in the last four or five decades, one of the greatest maybe in the 20th century in the philosophy of religion, put it this way, now listen to this, this is amazing now, he put it he said we can examine the neural events as carefully as we please. We can measure the number of neurons it contains, their connection, their rates of fire the strength of electronic impulses is involved in the potential of axons across synapses, with as much precision as you can possibly desire. We can consider the electrochemical neurophysiological properties in the most exquisite detail possible however nowhere here will you find a hint of content, meaning I’m thinking about my mother you can study all these wonderful aspects of my brain. You will not find my mother. That’s something I experienced myself, it’s a conscious it is called the intention of the aboutness of it.

Let me give you an example how this works. Okay, so the student comes into my office a couple years ago, great guy one of my best students. He says, “Professor Sweis,” he says, “I’m struggling with something. He said “I can’t seem to grasp the fact or put my mind around the fact that there’s more to us than just a physical. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe in anything that is not physical.”

“I told him, you don’t believe that.”

He said, “I do.”

I said, “You don’t.”

He said, “Why?”

Think about it, the very thought you have, “I don’t believe anything that’s not physical” is itself not physical

He thought for a moment and said, “You’re right.”

I said, “As a matter of fact, there’s a whole ton of different things in the world that are not physical that you believe. For example morality, you can prove how somebody died, when they died, how long they’ve been dead, what kind of instrument was used to kill them, but you cannot prove scientifically that it was wrong to kill them. Yet, morality is very much real, but it’s not physical. Intentionality is one of those things that sets us apart, that sets our consciousness from us, there’s something about us in our mind namely our thoughts and our ability to think about things. That it is not physical, it’s evidence that there’s more to us than our body.

KURT: So before we get to the next point, we do have to take a short break here but afterwards I want to… after the break I want to make sure we finish up here on these evidences. We do have a question from a texter here and for those that are interested, if you want to keep following along with the discussion and if you want to have your voice heard you can text me so just text the word “veracity” to 5 5 5 8 8 8 and while be sure to ask  Dr. Khaldoun Sweis your questions about the soul so stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.

KURT: Alright, thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. I’m joined by Dr. Khaldoun Sweis and today we are discussing what is the soul and how do we know that the soul exists, and before we get into that, the last point of evidence I guess I’m not going I’m not sure if I asked you this beforehand if you wanted to play in a game or a round of rapid questions. This is just that…

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Sure, go for it.

KURT:  Okay, so again we’re just going to ask you short fun questions, you’ve got 60 seconds to answer as many of these as you can and so we will get the game clock started here, are you ready?


KURT:  Okay here we go, what’s your clothing store of choice?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Banana Republic.

KURT:  Taco Bell or KFC?


KURT: What’s your favorite sport?


KURT: What’s your most hated sports franchise?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: The hockey team from Chicago.

KURT:  Have you ever driven on the other side of the road?


KURT: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?


KURT: What’s one thing you’d be sure to keep with you if you’re stranded on an island?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: My trusty hat.

KURT: Okay the hokey-pokey, electric slide, or the Macarena?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: The hokey pokey.

KURT: And what fruit would you say your head is shaped like?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Dragon fruit.

KURT: Hey what was that?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Dragon fruit.

KURT: Dragon fruit- I’m not even sure I’ve heard of a dragon fruit before, nice I’ll have to google that, alright. Well, Dr. Sweis, thank you so much for playing a round of rapid questions. Okay so for those of you just a quick summary here of where we’ve come from so far so in the first half of the show we talked about what the soul is and some of the various perspectives on that and then why this topic is so important and then lastly we’ve been going through five reasons or evidences that point us to believing that the soul exists and as Dr. Sweis said it’s is very much like a Sherlock Holmes point-of-view here where we look at all of the evidence, we look at how a number of theories fail to adequately understand that evidence and when we’re just left with the one theory, it most certainly has to be that that explanation in some might think of this as circumstantial evidence but yet because there’s one theory that best fits the evidence, we should embrace that viewpoint that model so alright now remind me where we were… we went through is it… how do you say qualia?  Qualia. And we’ve also gone through the unity of consciousness and then we’ve touched upon free will and even intentionality. Okay, so we’re left with this last one here of personal identity. So tell us, how does personal identity point us to believe that the soul exists?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Well take, for example, the Ship of Theseus, which is a philosophical paradox and conundrum. So Theseus has a ship that he travels within Greek mythology. [Inaudible] -The ship is falling apart, so they begin to replace the ship little by little. Sooner or later, the entire ship is replaced. Can we still say that’s the same ship? Well we can say, “Sure, because it’s all has different replaced parts, but what do you do with a person when you start replacing different parts of a person? See our body doesn’t make up who we are completely, it’s part of our identity. See, I’m not a substance-duelist in the fullest extent of the term. I believe in more of a holistic type of dualism where the body and soul make up who we are together because of who you are as individuals made up by the body that God has given you, because Adam didn’t become a full person till God breathed into him the breath of life then he became a living soul the Scripture says. We can’t take apart the soul, but we can take a part of a ship or take apart a person. We can take apart my hands, take out of my feet but I’m still me but take a part my inner being, rip me apart, and put me back together? Will I be the same person? No.

Take as an example a 90-year-old criminal, there are many… One famous individual, I forgot her name, the name escapes me but right now but she was in one of the terrorist attacks in Ireland number of years ago back in the 50’s in which she had escaped to put a bomb under a car which killed a family. In her 90’s, she was discovered hiding in the United States with a whole new family. Finally, they took her to trial and she argued, “That wasn’t me. I’m a different person now than I was in my twenties.”

Granted a lot of her has changed, but there’s still a part of her that’s the same. But what part of her is that? The body changes, it sheds cells, the bones change, the brain structures change, right? What is it that is the same? And this is what Fosters called the personal identity problem. What is it that makes the one thing [inaudible] throughout its entire journey throughout its entire tenure. There is something that keeps you the same we call it the inner man of the soul. Take the picture you see here of an older lady in the infant. Now granted, when you were little, you were small, cute, and cuddly, Kurt. I don’t know what happened now [laughs]. But now you’re a different being but we still say, you are the same, Kurt. A lot of things have changed, even your fingerprints may have changed since you were an infant, your genetic structure may have changed, but you’re still the same being. What is it that makes you the same through time? We call that personal identity. It’s one of the things actually Buddhists deny. Buddhists argue there is no Atman there is no soul that survives. It’s only your experiences that survive, but what is it that is arguing against that? So I talked to one of my Buddhist friends you’re arguing against a soul but who is it that’s arguing?

KURT: Yeah who is arguing that? That’s funny.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Those are the five main reasons you can hope to say that there may be more to us than just our body. Mainly, our soul and our man that survives us after our death; the man that is held accountable. And in the end, he will unite the body and the soul together in the resurrection. In the same way, you have the software and the hardware, if I may use that example. Your body’s hardware that separated from death and divorced from the death of the mind or psyche and spirit. And at the resurrection, God brings these together [inaudible] fully compatible human [inaudible] in eternal bliss.

KURT: Yeah, that’s great, that’s great. Oh well, we’re running a bit short on the time for our show today but let me… We do have someone who texted in this question and I know we covered this a little bit earlier but this texter is wondering how do I know and I’m paraphrasing a bit here. “How do I know that the soul is not a physical thing?”

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Okay, great question. What’s the name of the questioner?

KURT:  Well, so we’re using our texting plan here so we just have a phone number.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: So, we have a text message, right? But you can’t have a text message unless you have a test messager. You can’t have a thought unless you have a mind that makes the thought. Follow me? And this mind that makes a thought, it still has to be able to generate that thought. You can’t have pain without someone experiencing pain. There has to be more than our body. Descartes struggled with this a lot in his meditations which I recommend you take a look at, a wonderful piece of literature. What he argued was that the mind and the body is defined as follows, the body is that which is extended into space and the mind is that which reflects and thinks, okay? Everything physical is extended into space, there are some various objections to that within the physicality in physics such as gravity and things of that nature but overall everything physical is extended there into space that can be measured. The mind is not physical that’s why [inaudible] and he can’t put out any machine to test it. Nevertheless, it makes us who we are, I mean you have something called brainwashing. Where you can alter the trajectory of somebody’s life by feeding them false information- and cults do that. That’s who you are and that is what makes it physical. I mean real, but not physical. There’s a lot more to that of course.

KURT: Good, well, before we end here I want to talk about some of your books. So your most recent book is called Killing God addressing the best arguments from the New Atheists. So I imagine you deal with some topics of the soul in this book?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Yes, well, quickly before I go there I have three books that I recommend for people to take a look at, Biblical Anthropology and the Dualism Debate by John Cooper [inaudible], J.P. Moreland’s book, The Soul and The Search for the Soul which is four views of the soul. These are books I recommend if your readers would like to dig deeper into this aspect. You mentioned the book I wrote Killing God that specifically addresses the main arguments that the New Atheism has had. I went into those on a more detailed level. It’s done for a popular audience. It doesn’t address the soul per say, but it does go over the problems of atheism.

KURT: Sure, yeah and we also have here this book Christian Apologetics an Anthology of Primary Sources which is just a great collection, I mean this is some of the best if not most of the best of the best of Christian apologists throughout history and it’s a book that you can buy at the Defenders Media store too so go to defendersmedia.com and click “shop” you can buy it straight off of our website. Tell us where can people learn more about the work that you’re doing?

KHALDOUN SWEIS: Sure I’m currently… if you follow me on the website logicallyfaithful.com and I also have a podcast by the same name Logically Faithful now I do a similar work that you’re doing now- interviewing and interacting about the greatest ideas in history and it’s an amazing journey that we are on! So logicallyfaithful.com I recommend people go there, by the way, there’s a free book for you that I have another free one in addition to the ones I did called Blind Spots of Science: Ten Things Science Can’t Prove and that’s available for you at the Logically Faithful website. You just go there and you can download that.

KURT: Nice awesome well thank you so much, Dr. Khaldoun Sweis for coming on the show today.

KHALDOUN SWEIS: It was an honor, thank you for having me.


KURT:  All right, God bless you. All right, well that does it for our show today. Before I sign off here, let me send one more reminder to you about the fundraiser that we’re doing for Veracity Hill. We would love to get your support. We’re looking for monthly recurring donors to help us reach our now decreased goal of $750 a month and we would love to get your help to get this podcast out to other people who may not have heard of it before.

Among the other reasons for why we’re raising the money here so we’ve got next week we’ve got an interview coming up it’ll be a pre-recorded show, it’s an interview with Dr. John Walton on his recent book on the conquest the supposed genocide commands and his take and if you’re interested we… last year we did a show with Dr. Paul Copan on this topic so feel free to go back it was one of the earlier episodes we did probably in the first ten. Go back find that episode you can find all the episodes on the website and so listen to that before perhaps tuning in next week as I again interview Dr. John Walton from Wheaton College. So that does it for the show today. I am grateful for the continued support of our patrons and partnerships that we have with our sponsors Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, the Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0 and Ratio Christi and thank you to the tech team today, Chris, he was hard at work getting that that live stream going with the video feed of our guests so hopefully that’s something we’ll continue to do for you and hope that you enjoyed that as well so please give us your feedback on that. And finally, I want to send a thank you to Khaldoun Sweis who provided some insightful reasons here for why we should think that the soul does, in fact, exist- five reasons that point us in that direction for embracing that model, a theory as to why we should think that the soul exists. So that does it again for the show I want to thank you for your support for your listenership and if you really enjoy the show I would love it if you gave us a review on iTunes or the Google Play Store and so thanks again for tuning in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.

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Michael Chardavoyne

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