Tiny Soul

At one point in Hofstadter’s GEB he argues our culture values certain people’s ‘souls’ over others. For example, we hold the lives of some artists, scientists, mathematicians, authors, religious figures and other ‘gifted’ people in more regard over others – bakers, police, construction workers & politicians. It’s not that these ‘souls’ are intrinsically worth more than other people’s, but that their contributions to society can not be replaced by food workers, law enforcers, builders or professional liars. 1

One may quibble certain cases; it is impossible to argue the relative worth of Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus over a competent fast food worker, par exemple. One could even make the case the contributions of certain highly functioning people are ill-considered or flat-out wrong. 2 Still, Hofstadter notes, we value their lives over billions of plebes.

The obvious problem here is one of proportion.

Where does unquestioned appreciation cross into the cult of personality? And why do we continue to over-estimate the grandness of certain people’s ‘souls’ in the face of their despicable acts?

Bishop Finn leaps immediately to mind. His must be but a tiny ‘soul’, should such a thing exist; Finn does not lay awake at night muttering ‘Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?’, much less ever experienced anamnesis, for it is clear religion is but a means to political end for the sick creature. That is not in doubt. In fact Finn could die tomorrow and the world would be a better place.

But the Pope? Just how large is his ‘soul’?

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Show 2 footnotes

  1. We’re including both religious figures and politicians as liars.
  2. The whole of the scientific community, not to mention “informed” lay persons, were suddenly cast adrift by Hawking’s statement that black holes don’t, after all, exist. Talk about your conversation killers.

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