Since my falling away from Christianity, I've rejected the idea of a soul. I think the essence of who we are lies within the combination of our personality and our life experiences which shape our personality. With this view, some frontal brain injuries and illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer can change someone's personality so drastically that they could be considered to be a different person in the same body. "She/he's not the same person I married", is a refrain I heard numerous times from the spouses of patients with advanced dementia.
But on the other hand, everybody changes to some degree in both personality and experiences as they age. I consider myself vastly different from the girl I was 10 years ago, in both personalty and experiences, but I don't consider her to not be me. How can the two be reconciled without adding in a "soul" aspect? Is there a different explanation of what makes you you, without getting into spiritual answers?
the sum of all past experiences shapes who you are
Think of it like evolution, one day cannot drastically change a person, such that they are not recognisable (in terms of personality, not looks), nor can a year, likewise one generation cannot change an organisms species. Yet over many years a person can change so that they are very different. Many mental disorders can reverse this, so that what once made them them is no longer there.
What makes you you is BEING you.
I'm with the existentialists on this: every person is a creation of that person by that person.
I just figure that the 'soul' is what makes 'me', 'ME', and not 'YOU'. I do not see it as 'spirit', but more like 'programming' within this rather large 'wet-drive' of a brain.
Why use a term with confusing spiritual connotations?
The future is indeterminate, and memories of the past are extremely susceptible to the power of suggestion. Add into that memory altering substances such as alcohol or medical MMJ, and one might argue that I only exist here in the present.
What makes the self? Is it our unique neural pathways that make our specific pattern of thought unlike any others? is it our personal physical makeup, our specific asymmetries and quirks?
I identify as a community, garden, and bestiary. I am a self-sustaining conglomerate of cooperating lifeforms (many of which even have unique DNA). That answer suffices, but seems no less mystical to me than an ethereal undetectable ego.
I am simply some matter of the universe that has inherited the ability to comprehend itself. that comprehension continues, even as cells are replaced and my personal makeup alters over time. what makes me myself is my continued comprehension of and association with this organic biological vessel.
To people who cast doubt on existence, I might say "If you will consent to my sticking a needle or pin into your arm, you can tell me if you exist."
I will want their consent in writing.
What makes me, me?
Some DNA my parents gave me and some experiences the world gave me."
And when I kick the fucking bucket I will go away and not be heard, seen, or smelled again. So there!
I don't believe in souls, so it's not something i have to fall back on. I've been doing quite a bit of reading on the brain and the work that is being done dealing with the cognitive functions of the brain and the human personality. To me, my mind, made up of my brain's functionality, past experiences, and positive feedback mechanisms is what defines "me" as a person. I change every day as new inputs and experiences are introduced into my mind and old ideas fade away. There is nothing static or timeless about my mind and one day it will die and the person who is me will cease to exist. My legacy (my children, friends, and their memories of me) will stay around for a while after my death, but even those will fade in time. I won;t care of course, because I'll be dead. At least that's how I see it.