Where does the Soul Reside? The Heart Versus Brain Debate

Mawaru Penguindrum Penguinhat heart brain soul Himari Shoma

If you regularly follow my tweets, you might find that I toss around “♥” quite often. [1] The heart symbol, or rather the heart, has become quite an indispensable part of our modern culture—a short hand for love, a source for passion, and an organ for all we are. The convenient roles of the heart are especially fascinating when we consider just how arbitrary their designations may seem. After all, the heart is just a machine that pumps blood throughout our bodies. It is important, but not any more so than, say, our lungs, or our brains, or our medulla oblongatas.

So how is it that so much emphasis is placed on the heart?

Mawaru Penguindrum Ringo diary destiny

For centuries, almost all major culture have had this idea of a soul (or spirit, or ka, or chi) that embodies one’s identity. With that idea comes the debate over where that essence resides. The first to champion the heart as the seat of the soul were the ancient Egyptians, followed by the classical philosophers. It is not all that surprising when we look at the anatomy of things. The heart is a boss-looking, super animated organ. The pumping—expansion and contraction—of those strong-looking muscles is incredibly dramatic. In fact, so powerful is the human heart that it can continue to beat for another minute or two after its removal from the chest.

Mawaru Penguindrum Himari brain scan

As medicine and anatomy advance, people start to realize that perhaps the control centers for our thoughts, personality, memories—in a sense, our identities—lie elsewhere: the brain. Of course, the transition to this realization was hardly smooth. Along the way, different people had put forth ideas on which organs best embody us. There was the Egyptian heart versus Babylonian liver debate. The pineal gland was in the mix at some point, as were blood, each individual cell, invisible chi networks, and Thomas Edison’s crazy little factory people. Today, the legal definition of death is brain death, which of course, indirectly implies that we have decided, as a civilization, that life, our identity, lies in the brain. But what exactly does that mean?

Mawaru Penguindrum Himari flatline

In popular culture, the heart and brain dichotomy still persists, often leaning more toward Aristotelian ideas (heart) rather than the Hippocratic school (brain). For example, while technically, only when the brain dies is a person pronounced dead, we tend to actually judge death by checking for the tell-tale heartbeats.

Mawaru Penguindrum Crystal Princess Kanba heart string

Anime, as well, have often inadvertently put forth their own ideas of where the seats of our souls lie. Angel Beats! plays heavily with hearts.  (“Beats!”I assume refers to heartbeats.) In the series, Ootonashi has died in real life and wakes up in a purgatory-type world, where he meets Kanade. The two form a somewhat interesting friendship and romance. Eventually, we find out that the two’s instant connection are not unwarranted; before dying, Ootonashi had given his heart via organ donation to Kanade. The two’s fate are linked by their hearts. If destiny is an extension or a representation of the life of the soul, then Angel Beats! is in a sense giving heart the priority as the primary house. However, identity still remains with the brain—Ootonashi is, after all, still Ootonashi even if he is missing his heart.

Mawaru Penguindrum Himari Princess of the Crystal

This seems to be a common theme in anime. [2] A person’s identity—that is, her personality, her thoughts, and all that is hers—is in the brain, yet her fate lies with her heart, most often metaphorically, but maybe also, on rare occasions, literally.

In any case, how fascinating our mind and our heart work when it comes to the abstract self! [3]


  1. As an aside, I ♥ you all
  2. Hint, hint.
  3. Post draws heavily Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. More specifically, the chapter titled “How to Know if You’re Dead?”
This entry was posted in Angel Beats, Anime/ Manga, Editorial, Mawaru Penguindrum and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

87 Responses to Where does the Soul Reside? The Heart Versus Brain Debate

  1. passerby says:

    Is… is the blog post title a reference to the end of Jiraishin? >_>

  2. passerby says:

    And to be less useless in my comments: I suppose one reason why the heart is accorded priority is that the heartbeat tends to be a key physiological sign of strong emotions – hence all the dokidoki-ing in anime and manga. (This despite the fact that neurochemistry has more to do with the experience of emotions…)

    • Yi says:

      That is true. We do notice signs of increased heart rate at times of excitement and such. Although at the physiological level, the brain is still the control center for all those things we attribute to the heart, i.e sympathetic nervous system and hormones contribute to dokodoki, and not the heart’s own actions.

      Good point, passerby. ^ ^ Thanks!

  3. feal87 says:

    “1.As an aside, I ♥ you all”

    We love you too Yi. ;D

  4. gozieson says:

    There is a Chinese belief that if a certain part of the body has been transplanted to another person, the receiver will also receive vague memories of the donor.

    It is interesting to note that even if we are presumed dead when our heart stops beating, our body cells would still be able to survive for a short while like our heart being able to beat in a complete culture solution for a few moments after removal. It reminds me of a certain video, though it’s about a game, and has nothing to do with medical ethics.

    Please enjoy (or cringe) this video.

    • Yi says:

      I wouldn’t say it’s a strictly Chinese believe. It’s actually a very common thing that transplant surgeons see among patients: patients often take on the personality of their donors… Or so they think. What actually happens is that these patients have an assumption of what their donors are like, and project those images on their “new” self. Note though, the “assumption.”

      There was a really interesting case study. One patient after a transplant told the doctor that he started seeing dreams of an oppressed black woman living in the projects because he thought he received a black woman’s heart, when in fact, the donor was a middle aged white man. Mary Roach’s Stiff actually did a really good job exploring this phenomenon.

      Interesting video… I cringed a bit. Haha.

    • Ruth says:

      Actually, i have seen a documentary a looong time ago that documented instances of people who had heart transplants, liver transplants etc. and report inheriting certain memories from their donor after the operation.

      • gozieson says:

        Exactly what I thought, they could gain memories of certain accuaintaces that the donor knows and even remember certain things or stuff that the donor did.

        It is actually fascinating when these kinds of things happens because science can’t really pinpoint the exact reason for this occurance.

        It’s probably a theory, but I think that when the transplated organ is about to be transplanted, certain neuroreceptors in the brain are still transmitting impulses to these certain areas. Maybe when the doctors took away and transplanted those organs, the responses and actions that were previously made by the donor would also be sent to the recepient.

        These impulses may have bits of those memories within them and if they were still left in the organ when the transplant takes place, it may send these memories to the recepient.

        Of course, right now my head is a little fuzzy and I’m talking gibberish right now.

        • Yi says:

          It is a fascinating though very very very rare occurrence that someone takes on anything from their donors. I just want to point out for the sake of right information that almost all cases of it have been found to be urban myths or unverified reports from those with an agenda. Most studies on this phenomenon has turned up negative.

          People do report having changed personalities, but mostly it’s only a psychological placebo effect that has nothing to do with the specific donors, but merely with the fact that these people are still getting used to the idea of someone else’s parts in their bodies.

          Another side note, neurons fire very rapidly (milliseconds) while surgery take a while (hours). Further, the neurotransmitters are not unique to any individual, especially not the ones that target other organs. ie. The neurotransmitters that tell my heart to beat are exactly the same ones that tell yours.

          With all this said, stories of people inheriting memories from dead donors certainly make very compelling popular media, movies, literature, ideas, and myths. A sort of semi Twilight Zone feel.

        • Interesting! So you think the soul is in the brain?

        • Yi says:

          I don’t know, and I have different thoughts about it every once in a while. In fact, without even being able to define “soul” concretely in the first place, we won’t be able to pin down where it lies or associates to.

          Strictly speaking, the scientist in me says it’s not a real thing, but spiritually, I’d like to think there’s something more to the physical body.

          I apologize if my response seems wishy-washy.

          Cheers! ^ ^

  5. Casshie says:

    So this shows you that the use of the ♥ outside the body is more useful than the use of the ♥ in the body XD.

    But even before we debate on where the soul resides, you must see if one believes if they have a ‘soul’. I personally believe in myself having a soul, though i don’t think it is either on your brain or ♥. I think my soul is a doppelganger of me, but in a spiritual form trapped inside my body till the day my ♥ stops beating. Although, if i had to choose whether it is in the brain or ♥, i would have to say that the soul lies in the ♥. Why? Simple. Because when you are brain dead, you are but a lifeless body with only your ♥ pumping blood(I think).

    I do not believe in the fact that the brain controls the ♥, or vice versa. I think that the ♥ is the only organ not controlled by the brain and works by itself.

    Why do i say this? Because from some health websites, i have read that the brain is made up of 85% cerebrum. Cerebrum is what they call the thinking part of the brain, the part which controls the muscles which can be moved when you want it to.

    Your ♥ is a muscle, but do you want it to beat? Well, i have never asked myself that before. But i have tried to ask myself for my ♥ to not beat(to see if it will stop), and of course, it did not work. You can all try it out as well(Lets just hope Shinigami-san is not in a good mood and decides to grant your wish) 😉 So because your heart is living by itself and is not affected by your brain, i believe your soul resides there.

    So because of that, i would say that the soul resides in your heart!!(It’s just me and my not so logical explanations!)

    P.S. Totally nice topic! I never actually thought to myself all these before! XD

    • Yi says:

      And I thought I overuse ♥… Haha.

      The idea of a soul is a highly debatable one. From a purely scientific view, there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of a soul (or at least the kind of spiritual entity most think of as a soul).

      As for the heart being not controlled by the brain… Forgive me if I throw some anatomy at you for a moment. Your heart is controlled by your brain. It’s not a voluntary control, just as your intestines and your, say, hair growth aren’t voluntary, but it is still very tightly controlled by your brain via nerves and hormones. It is not living by itself. If your brain stops, your heart will stop soon after (granted of course that you don’t use some other machine to keep supplying stuff to let the cells survive).

      Also, your logic for why you think the soul resides in the heart is the exact reason why people think the soul may reside in the brain–most people think that because once the brain dies, the person ends being a “lifeless” body, indicating that the soul leaves as the brain leaves, and thus soul resides in the brain. You, on the other hand, interpret that as the person’s soul residing in the heart. I just thought that was super interesting. ^ ^

      • Casshie says:

        Hmm that’s interesting =). Although i am wrong about the brain not controlling the heart(This is embarrassing XD), that is not the only reason why i think the soul lies in the heart. Literally speaking, the heart is made up of involuntary muscles and is controlled by the brain stem(done some research here) and thus this is what makes the heart beat. But i do think that there is another factor to prove that the soul lies in our hearts and not the brain.

        That is your emotions. Your emotions are definitely controlled by your brain, but is that all there is to it? Let’s say, for example, your boy/girl friend ditches you and you feel heartbroken, you will feel sad and cry and whatever you do when your sad, because that is what your brain signals you to do. But sometimes, you feel your heart wrenching in pain, screaming with sadness and despair, and you ask yourself, why do i feel this?

        In science, they say that it is due to your blood flow in the brain changing. But, if so, shouldn’t the brain feel pain instead? Why the heart? There is no muscle(to my knowledge) that can bring pain to the heart. And there is no nerve, besides the brain stem that can cause your heart to be pain voluntarily. And there is no reason your brain stem should be in any way sending signals to your heart to feel pain(it’s just wrong?). The only time we should feel pain in our heart is when we run out of breath, the heart struggles to pump blood a lot faster and you feel the pain due to the fatigue produced by the heart overexerting itself.

        You feel the pain caused by emotions in your heart. You feel a slight jerk in your heart when you are shocked, and you feel a tingling sense in your heart when you fall in love. Although you might say these are caused by our emotions, there is no reason our heart should be feeling these. That(to my knowledge), is not scientifically proven, and that, is why i think the soul lies in the heart. I believe the soul does get ‘injured’ when we feel emotional and responds by letting us feel pain in our hearts, and it also ‘shows’ our emotions more strongly than how our brain projects them through the heart.

        Again, these are all assumptions and are not by any means truth, they are just my interpretation 😉

        P.S. I personally don’t think you overuse ♥, it is an awesome thing to be used and i don’t think it can be overused(unless used till the extreme). I personally think more people should use ♥, i mean, doesn’t it look good ;p? ♥

        • Yi says:

          Without getting too into the specifics of the anatomy—the hormonal and neurological pathways—there are explanations for why the heart wrenches when you are experiencing intense emotions. But I do like your take on things. It’s charming and kind of cute. ^ ^

  6. Snippett says:

    It’s really interesting to analyse dichotomies. Heart versus brain is always a classic debate when it comes to binaries. However, I always have an impression that everything is just mental. The heartbeat and involuntary movements are just results of chemical reactions/neuron interactions on the brain–sorry I’m not well-versed when it comes to biology.

    As for where the soul resides… I believe soul is just an extension or modification of infinite thoughts. So despite the common dualistic views about the separation between the body(heart) and brain, I believed that the soul itself reduced those views in one single reality. So pretty much like soul is merely a thought and body is the extension or the object of the soul. Although I really like Descartes, I can’t seem to fully agree on the dualistic view in regards to this issue because I believed that, despite the separation, there can never be no thought or soul without the body (heart)–just like what Spinoza theorized.

    Thanks for the nice read, Yi. ^^

    • Yi says:

      Yea, it’s a very classic, very old debate that continues to be important on various levels today. As for whether the soul exists, or whether anything is just mental, that’s a slightly different argument I guess. This whole debate presupposes that there is a soul. Of course, if you don’t buy that, if you believe that all we are are chemical reactions (or even just interacting particles from a physics standpoint), then this debate will hold little meaning.

      And yes, there has been quite a lot of people who do hold your view that shrugs off the dichotomy, and instead attribute the soul to either a purely abstract form of thought. Perhaps because the concept of the soul is so poorly defined, there really can be so many different ways to see this.

      Thanks for the comment, Snippett. ^ ^

  7. draggle says:

    Another common belief is that the soul is separate from both the body and the mind. In most of Judeo-Christian thought, for example, the body and the brain are made of dust, but the soul is the breath of God. So there’s actually a trichotomy: body, mind and soul, with the soul taking on a wholly spiritual significance.

    • Yi says:

      Yea, that’s a very good point you mentioned about body, mind, soul. I think the same debate still applies to the Judeo-Christian thought. Where does our soul reside within our body, assuming that during our time here, the soul has a physical attachment to the other two parts, just as the mind is bound to the brain, which is bound to the body? In other words, which organ has to die before our spiritual soul moves on to the next world? And that affects our definition of life and death.

  8. MyHatsOffToYou says:

    I understand where the highlight on heart comes in with Angel Beats!, but I don’t particularly find it emphasized HEAVILY though……

    It’s mearly a connection between the main protagonist and angel, the heart wasn’t mentioned anywhere else.

    By the way, nice post. Interesting to see one emphasizing more on history and philosophy than anime.

    • Yi says:

      Maybe the heart isn’t emphasized heavily… But… I don’t know. It really feels like it is to me. The title itself is a reference to it in addition to the core thread between the main characters. I wonder how heavily a theme does heart to be before it is deemed an emphasis for you. ^ ^

  9. Seinime says:

    Beats can also refer to rhythm in music, but I’ll concede it to heartbeats since the opening song itself is “My Soul, Your Beats”.

    I also remember a girl beside Shouma reading a book before the survival strategy and it was something about how to rip through a guy’s heart or something. Right before the survival strategy happened. Heheh.

    Good to see you back posting again!

    • Yi says:

      Oh yea, that’s a good point. Music is another pretty important motif in Angel Beats. Perhaps my mind jumped to hearts first because of the heart EKG thingy in the opening sequence. Anyway, I think you’re definitely right about rhythm as well though. The more I think about it, the more I find the title of the anime to be so super clever.

      Hehe, good catch on Penguindrum. ^ ^

      I’m trying to keep up a weekly post, even though it is getting pretty difficult as time goes on. I’m actually running a post behind. Haha, but yea hope things work out.

  10. Nopy says:

    I ♥ you too!

    There are many things that science can’t explain, and I think that’s where the contradicting ideas of where the soul lies stems from. Personally, I don’t believe in a soul, but for the sake of fiction and literature, I like to think of the soul as connected to the heart.

    • Yi says:

      Thanks Nopy. ♥ ^ ^

      True true. This post explores the idea of a soul with the premise that something like souls exist, but yes, soul has no scientific basis whatsoever absolutely.

  11. 2DT says:

    Have you ever heard of the case of Clive Wearing? He’s a former conductor and musicologist who contracted a rare form of the Herpes simplex virus. It attacked his brain, leaving him not just an amnesiac, but completely unable to form any new memories– everything he experiences fades away within thirty seconds.

    However, he remembers his wife. Every time they meet, he reacts joyously, as if she’d just returned from a long absence. And he still conducts his old pieces beautifully, even if, after the song ends, he forgets that he ever did anything.

    Where does the soul reside in a man like that? Is it damaged like his brain, or just hiding? If he regains his cognitive abilities, has his soul returned?

    Here’s another one: Has Himari’s?

    • Seinime says:

      I remember studying a case like this in psychology, which brought up the search on Wikipedia. There’s a brilliant film, Memento, that relates to Clive Wearing’s syndrome, which we didn’t have the chance to watch due to time restraints. Thanks for the great reminder!

      • Seinime says:

        Ah, on further checking it was the documentary I was looking for, not the film. It’s on YouTube under “Man without a memory – Clive Wearing [BBC – Time: Daytime]”. Cheers!

        • Yi says:

          @Seinime: Yea, Memento was a very interesting and fun watch that uses retrograde amnesia and clever directing to tell quite a story. I loved it!

          Thanks for the mentions and the link, Seinime.

          Really cool watch as well. ^ ^

    • Yi says:

      @2DT: Oh yes, the case of Clive Wearing, a fascinating person for all psychologists and neurologists interested in anterograde amnesia.

      I have no answers for your questions obviously, but they do spawn another one: are our “souls” (whatever they are) tied to our experiences and/or our memories?

      And of course, Himari (Princess of the Crystal) presents an interesting case of her own.

      In any case, I now have much more to think about when I go running in a few hours. Thanks for that, 2DT!

  12. hoshiko says:

    Where does the soul reside? Hmmm…if I believe human has soul, it resides neither in just brain nor just heart but within the entire body and with connection to both brain and heart. Am I making any sense? But I guess when it comes to mainstream literature, heart is almost synonym as soul like “Heart and Soul”. I don’t think I’ve come across the term “Brain and Soul”.

    • Yi says:

      That is true. “Brain and soul” is hardly ever tossed around. By the same token, however, we have terms like “brain-dead” but rarely “heart-dead.” In any case, the idea that the soul is connected to the entire body is another fairly common one. In fact, I remember reading something about a military research done back in the days on whether individual cells retain some sort of “connection” to the whole person a distance away. The results were negative, but it does show that this idea of all our cells being a part of something is an idea many hold firm. It’s quite interesting, really, to question what’s me and what’s not. For example, are the skin cells that became separated from me because of a scrape still a part of me? Or for that matter, the DNA in the saliva I spit. And if not, why not? Is it because our “soul”, our “self”, our “identity” reside elsewhere in a centralized spot?

  13. Bladezer says:

    Hmm well I for one believe that both are vital. Your head decides your personality and your heart decides who you care for.
    “As an aside, I ♥ you all”
    Well right back at you.

    • Yi says:

      Oh, but on the contrary. Our heart does not decide who we care for, does it? Isn’t it the actions of our brain and memories that let us know someone and have feelings for that person?

      • Bladezer says:

        Well played MIss Yi well played. But I was referring to the metaphoric heart, the one that supposedly lies with in your soul.

        • Yi says:

          Ahh I see I see. I had assumed you were taking things sort of literally, as that is the ideas the post addresses. Sorry about that. ^ ^

  14. bluedrakon says:

    I think it is neither parts as they each have a function. I think like in most anime’s it is the center of our body right below the rib cage center bone (can’t remember the name). As this this is not a bodily function, it should not really ‘rest’ in a certain spot.

    IF I had to choose, then I would have to say it would be the heart as this is where our life blood starts and ends.

    • Yi says:

      While it is true that something so immaterial as the soul may not “rest” in any spot, but at the same time, there are parts of our body that we could theoretically lose without losing our soul. The question then becomes, which part of us must we lose before we decide that our souls have moved on? And to further expand on this, where do our lives reside?

      My response to Hoshiko above also kind of addresses this: http://goo.gl/LPwwm

      “It’s quite interesting, really, to question what’s me and what’s not. For example, are the skin cells that became separated from me because of a scrape still a part of me? Or for that matter, the DNA in the saliva I spit. And if not, why not? Is it because our “soul”, our “self”, our “identity” reside elsewhere in a centralized spot?”

      Interesting use of “life blood.” I like it. ^ ^

  15. CainHyde says:

    We ♥ you too Yi.

    I personally think our soul reside in neither of them, it’s separated from them.
    But both brain and heart have great influence to our soul.
    Our brain let us keep our memory, knowledge, experience, and thought.
    All of the things that seems to influence most of our action in life, conscious and unconscious.

    While our heart keep us alive, allow us to meet with various people, and experience many things.
    All of those that can change the life and personality of us greatly.
    I would like to believe that while soul is located separately with our brain and heart, they greatly influence our soul and without them our soul might ended up became quite different even if our soul isn’t blank.

    • Yi says:

      True true. Both have very different functions, but if we were to say which is irreplaceable, can we then prioritize one organ over another?
      The heart is only one of many organs that keep us alive, and can be replaced via heart transplant from another, but the brain is nontransferable… At least so far it remains undoable by modern medicine.

      And if we were to think that life and “soul” is separate from the body, we then have to question how we go about defining when life leaves a person. When do we die, and when do our souls move on? If it’s not tied to an organ, then how do we know someone’s body isn’t still alive?

      • CainHyde says:

        I gave up! XD
        This topic is really outside of my knowledge, so my response below might be as crazy as mad man ranting.

        I think someone body can be declared dead when all of the body organ has stopped working.
        Our soul will move on after that.
        As long as some of them still working, for example in other people body, I think in some way we can be considered as still “alive”.

        • Yi says:

          Interesting take on life and death–a person is declared dead only when all of the body organ has stopped working. The legal definition, as the post says, is that only the brain has to die. By your definition, however, some issues also arise. If I were to receive a heart transplant from another, that other person is still alive then? What about their legal rights (as being declared dead has legal implications)? What about people who donate blood and have them stored away or transfused into another, then unfortunately die. Are their souls still bound here because of those blood cells? For how long?

          Sorry to throw all these questions at you. I have no answers either, but what a fascinating topic to think about, isn’t it?

  16. kluxorious says:

    This is an interesting post. I am a person who is govern by heart and not brain. I do what my heart tells me to, like dumping a boyfriend for example. Often it contradicts what my brain is suggesting. I said no to 2 marriage proposal because my heart think the guys aren’t who I look for as a husband though my brain curses me since I’m already in my 30’s and shouldn’t be too picky. So I guess my soul does resides in my heart after all. Brain is just a backup system.

    p/s: I don;t think this comment makes sense, lmao

    • Yi says:

      Haha. Even though the post is mostly exploring the popular idea that emotions are heart’s domain and logic is brain’s domain, it’s lovely to hear you share an aside on your personal life. You’re awesome~ Best of luck with finding the one for your heart. ^ ^

  17. Marow says:

    I personally don’t believe in a soul (I think?), but it is an interesting concept. To me, it is the brain that decides all the stuff, may you be aware of it or not. Your heart beats without you wanting it to, you breath without you wanting to (you can control it, but if you fall asleep or pass out, you will continue breathing), you have reflexes and so on. There are some things you simply can’t control, because you as a creature has to survive.
    What about feelings vs logic then? Feelings are probably a mix of instincs, first thoughts and your unconsciousness. Logic is the result of a lot of things, such as analyzis and earlier experience.

    But then again, no one will know for sure. It is all very fascinating. I remember hearing a story about a person who lost half his brain (the left and right were disconnected, or whatever it’s called). He worked all properly, but one time one of his hands started to move on its own, like there was something else controlling him (other brain?). No idea if it’s true though, but it certainly sounds a bit hocus pocus.

    • Yi says:

      Yea, this post presupposes that we have souls, but there is really nothing scientifically indicating such anything exists.

      The brain does decide the vast majority of our functions, including thoughts, personalities, homeostasis, and the nitty gritty of survival. But as a minor side note, there are actually a few functions of the body that are not controlled by the brain. In fact, some reflexes, such as the patellar reflex, does not involve the brain, merely the spinal cord.

      The case you mentioned is actually true. There’s something called the alien limb syndrome, and it’s another fascinating case study in psychology and neurology: http://goo.gl/hUUkj

  18. Very interesting post.

    I’ve been thinking about reading Stiff for a long time now, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to. Is it any good?

  19. Leap250 says:

    First off, awesome topic

    The way I see it, if I had to choose between the brain and the heart, I’d have the soul reside in the heart. (Though, I do like to believe that the soul resides in the entire body, if that makes sense.) It’s like, relating the brain to the concept of the ‘mind’, since the mind isn’t tangible as well. The soul is sometimes referred to as the essence of being human, and since the mind, being the perception and thoughts of a human, is already at the brain, the soul would more fittingly in the heart, or something like that ^^

    • Yi says:

      The thing I’m challenging here is why the heart? Why not the liver, for example, or the stomach (i.e. gut instinct), or any of the other organs? What makes the heart something you tie the essence of a human to?

      • Leap250 says:

        The level of necessity maybe? We tie the heart to our ‘life force’ so to speak. Since the soul is the essence of our being, we can also tie it to being ‘alive’. So, if another organ other than the heart malfunctions, say a liver, we’d still have a soul. Though, the state of being brain-dead kinda makes me re-think my thoery

        • Yi says:

          There are also those with someone else’s heart via a heart transplant, and those with someone else’s blood via blood transfusion. Those are certainly also interesting to think about.

  20. tsurugiarashix says:

    Listening to the impulses of the heart can get you into a lot of trouble I believe, but so can listening to sound logic of the mind. Can not say where I fit into those two camps, but I since I do listening to both I can say both present their pluses and minuses. Although, if the old aphorism of “Lover conquers all” is true then, following what you have a passion and like and believe in…nothing wrong with that.

    And much love back to you, Yi. Nice to see you back.

    • Yi says:

      Ahh… But that’s not what the post is really about, is it? Why is it that we think emotions and impulse are heart’s domain while logic is the brains? What makes the heart the emotional one, when it’s really just a mechanical pump? That is the point of the post.

      Much love too, tsurugiarashix. ^ ^

  21. jreding says:

    After finally having had time to set my eyes on your interesting new post, Yi, I’d like to point out the importance of these sensual organs in this debate.

    Sure, the eyes are rarely regarded as the place where the soul resides. However, the eyes are the place where our personality and emotions are conveyed most easily to other people. I read somewhere that anime/ manga characters are often drawn with large eyes because the eyes are supposed to be the mirror of the soul.

    Furthermore, our sensual perceptions through the eyes define to a substantial part out idea of world around us and thus in turn shape our personality. The movie “The Eye” – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0325655/ – comes to my mind, where a girl receives a cornea transplant, becomes able to see ghosts and gets involved in the fate of the former owner of her eyes.

    I’m not sure if I can attribute my soul to a single organ. Rationally thinking, it would most likely be the brain, if at all, but then again the brain just processes impulses it receives from other parts of the body. When it comes to the soul of other people, however, their eyes are often the key for me.

    I ♥ you too, Yi, my ♥ is with you in your current exhausting times!

    • Yi says:

      Oh jreding, you always have such interesting comments. I hadn’t thought about the sensory organs at all, nor the other very romantic idea that eyes embody our souls. It’s really quite a marvelous thing, eyes. Eyes do sparkle and are so expressive indeed that it’s little wonder anime give them specific attention. To that end, even if they may not be where souls reside in real life, they could certainly be the souls of anime characters.

      Super interested in watching the movie now. I like horror (sometimes) and I am kind of curious about a film that talks about eyes.

      Thanks for the ♥’s, hun. ^ ^

      p.s. “After finally having had time to set my eyes on your interesting new post, Yi”
      Nice pun~

  22. K-Nashi says:

    Interesting read~ but one thing about soul is..first you have to believe whether it exist or not. And I think I heard some scientist said soul is simply a product of Religion, life start and end with the brain. But of course that is what they believe. haha,

    Another interesting fact, soul was believed to reside within lungs by one scientist during the 1800, forgot the name though..

    As for me, I believe soul does exist.Where? personally i dont foind it matters that much.. haha ^^

    your Post is getting deeper and deeper since the last time I see you mate, ha ha

    • Yi says:

      You’re definitely right about that. This post is based on the unverified, unproven, and questionable assumption that souls exist. Without that premise, this debate falls apart.

      Anyway, personally, I see no reason and no evidence that we have souls, but still… A part of me wishes that we all leave something behind, something that can still linger around and move on when we die. Perhaps it’s a fear of death (or rather, fear of non-existence), but if so, so be it.

      It certainly doesn’t matter where the soul exists. But if we were to rephrase the question into something related: where does life reside? Then there is a whole host of legal, ethical, and practical implications that make this a very very relevant debate.

      The lungs. Interesting. I can kind of guess where the idea comes from: breath of life… etc. etc. Thanks for the note!

      Interesting aside, this debate was at the core of beating-heart cadavers and medical uses of donor organs. It has quite a history within the medical field.

      p.s. “your Post is getting deeper and deeper since the last time I see you mate, ha ha”
      Maybe it’s because I’m getting more and more pretentious as I grow old, haha. ^ ^

      • K-Nashi says:

        Interesting aside, this debate was at the core of beating-heart cadavers and medical uses of donor organs. It has quite a history within the medical field.

        aye, of course. Hmmm..I guess..If we want to think about it…How does that matter much? Ok, theres a few situation here we might want to consider.Sittuation 1: The people who believe soul exist usually also believe that there is an afterlife.In this kind of situation, If a person is dead. Doesnt it means that the souls already passed on rather than “staying” in that particular organ? so why should it matter? Or situation 2: some of a person’s part is transplanted on another person’s body..while the donor is still alive. Does it means the transplants received a part of their soul is it?

        Now that you brought that up, I remember theres some story that some of donor receiver having memories of their donors, maybe that is connected somehow?haha. interesting food of thoughts indeed~

        • Yi says:

          I can provide some further situations where it matters beyond a mere religious or spiritual debate. For example, consider a beating-heart cadaver, whose completely functional organs can save 4-5 individuals’ lives (heart, liver, kidneys… etc.) through transplants. However, because the definition of life is not resolved (brain-dead versus “real” dead), the doctors may have no legal rights to retrieve the organs and save lives. This is one reason this debate on where souls reside, or in essence, where life resides can be so important in the medical field. It’s not just a philosophical or academic exercise.

          As for the whole urban myth about donor receiver having memories of their donors… I address that in an above comment. Basically, it’s mostly all just stories that have little to no basis. If you’re interested, gozieson and Ruth raise a similar point, and I put forth my thoughts in this above thread: http://goo.gl/aCHm1

      • K-Nashi says:

        ….This is one reason this debate on where souls reside, or in essence, where life resides can be so important in the medical field. It’s not just a philosophical or academic exercise.

        ah damn, I guess I hadn’t thought about it that far. You’re right, this is very complicated. I guess in the end it really depends on the party involved in that certain situation.

        In this situation

        /For example, consider a beating-heart cadaver, whose completely functional organs can save 4-5 individuals’ lives (heart, liver, kidneys… etc.) through transplants. However, because the definition of life is not resolved (brain-dead versus “real” dead), the doctors may have no legal rights to retrieve the organs and save lives..

        it really depends on the agreements of the family of the donor and the law in that certain country I guess whether its “legal” or not.

        All in all of course there won’t be any definite answer for this.

        Hmm ok, I’ll try to propose an answer here just for the heck of it.What if, say..the soul resides not in one place, but two!!which is of course brain and the heart. However since the two are heavily connected in a way. Soul will not “work” if one of them suddenly ead. or stop working.well, hows that, haha
        P:S: naah, dont call yourself that, “pretentious” is relative term anyway~~

        • Yi says:

          The legal issue is exactly why this debate has such significance in medicine. Not everyone making the laws were on the same page, and many tend to bring in their own interpretations of what life is and where souls are. It’s mostly a resolved issue now in legal terms in the US–brain death is the legal definition of death, making beating-heart cadavers OK for donation. But you could imagine and appreciate the relevance of this debate a few decades ago I hope.

          Interesting proposal. But then, I only wonder why the heart is so special. Your lungs are just as essential to survival and as connected to your brain as your heart is. And of course, there are those with someone else’s heart and their own brain. Are their souls not working fully then? I wonder…

  23. “medulla oblongatas.” you just had to pull that one off, didn’t you? 😀

    I’ve always thought that the brain vs. the heart was a very interesting thought play. I, personally, find them linked in some odd way, which I care not to try to explain. Maybe that’s why it works to me (like beliefs does to many others). When I don’t have to explain down in detail how it works, but just that it works.

    But that doesn’t mean I love to hear what other people have to say about it. I specially love to hear what other people have thought about it!

    Nice having a post from you Yi. It’s always something special 🙂

    • Also, you might want to put a spoiler at the Angel Beats talk. Thought people have properly watched it, you never know.

      • Yi says:

        I rarely put spoiler tags for a very silly (and perhaps egotistical) reason. They disrupt the flow of the writing and they don’t look nice. So I’m probably not going to put spoiler tags here either. I know… This is kind of jerky move. 😦

    • Yi says:

      Yea, I’m probably being a little too literal and medical with the approach to something so abstract as soul and identity. Maybe this really just isn’t something we ought to bother with the details or explanations. In any case, glad you still enjoyed the post.

      ““medulla oblongatas.” you just had to pull that one off, didn’t you?”
      Loll, yea I’m super pompous sometimes. ^ ^

  24. Nice post. A reason why the heart is so prominent could be that way back in the past, people never really looked into their own bodies, lacking the technology and knowledge to do so. So, they could only feel or hear the mechanisms from within their bodies. Perhaps that feeling of a strange sensation from within their bodies led them to believe that it was spiritual and critical to them with no prior knowledge? And that would have been passed down through generations, leading to the spiritual concept of the heart and soul that we know today.

    • Yi says:

      Yea, I agree. The emphasis we place on the heart stems from an age when anatomy was so far behind today, and when we have little understanding of how our bodies work. In fact, the heart is perhaps the loudest and most active internal organ just from a superficial standpoint. We could feel its beating with our hands on our chest. Great point, Ephemeral Dreamer!

  25. Duqs says:

    “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master”

    Hope everything goes well in Taiwan too =D

  26. baka~ says:

    i’m quite confused. are you trying to draw a difference between the soul and a person’s destiny?

    for instance, can we say that a person’s soul reside in the memories (the brain) of others, much like how people often get immortalized by how we relish their memories? in a way, how is this different from the concept of ‘destiny’ as shown in Mawaru Penguindrum where Ringo immortalizes her sister by “trapping” her soul by the memories embedded in the diary?

    in addition, there have been elements in anime where a character’s “fate” has been altered by putting themselves in the shoes of a person they idolize. the phrase “what would xxx do if he was here?” is the most concerete evidence that I could think of to support this concept.

    I hope i’m making sense since i’m getting unsure myself x_x

    • Yi says:

      I’m confused myself on this issue as well… But in all seriousness, I’m drawing a connection between the anime’s use of destiny and heart versus identity and brain.

      And further questioning whether identity or destiny or soul or mind or brain are determinants of the self. All the questions you raised are along this line, and I have no answers. But they are fascinating to think about, aren’t they? Thank you for that!

      And then, of course, we can also further explore fate’s interactions with the person and its surroundings.

      Anyway, I’m lost too, but I did enjoy this series of questions. ^ ^

  27. Xine says:

    Yi!!! How are you?

    For something as abstract as the the soul, I’d like to believe that it’s connected to every part of the body and perhaps it resides in the heart. Though the heart is just something to symbolize love and feelings and the brain controls every function in the human body, I think the heart is something more special than that, for reasons I’m not sure of. ^^;

    We don’t have a special character for brain unlike the ♥ and if we do, I don’t think it would be as ubiquitous as the ♥. Lol.

    • Yi says:

      I’m doing OK, Xine. Very busy, but OK I guess. Thank you so much for asking. ^ ^

      As a symbol, the heart certainly does its job really well. As far as the seat of the soul goes, however, things become complicated. What of those who have their own brain, but someone else’s heart from a heart transplant?
      And just what makes the heart so special other than its symbolism? I’m not so sure myself either.

      “We don’t have a special character for brain unlike the ♥ and if we do, I don’t think it would be as ubiquitous as the ♥. Lol.”
      True true. ^ ^
      Although to be fair, ♥ does not really look that much like the heart, so perhaps one day, we can find a short cute little thing for the brain as well.

  28. Ryan A says:

    Delicious post. Actually, while I was reading this I couldn’t help but float a thought about The Wizard of Oz, in how the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow contrast each other in a similar [philosophical] debate, though over necessity. It’s difficult to rest a soul on the heart, brain, or any part of the physical body in my opinion, but a more mystical thought would be that both (among other organs) connect to the soul for various reasons (e.g. Chakra).

    I tend to believe that the soul (if existing) is not manifested in measured physical space / perceived universe, but I believe that certain parts of our bodies are connected to it; some more strongly than others, per-individual. So in theory, it isn’t where the soul reside, but what affects the soul and vice-versa. Such is the case. These past few weeks my heart has been heavy for different reasons, and while I do not believe a soul is there, I feel that the physical experience, through sense/nerves and memory, is something constantly being etched into a soul listening on the other side.*

    Why does the history of myth and fiction place so much emphasis on certain parts of the body? It’s intriguing, but also easy to ponder. Our minds, emotions, and what we feel through sense or internal chaos can be so terrifying and powerful, that before scientific explanation (which is still needing) it would be largely viewed as inspiration for imagining ideas and stories we can relate to in an otherworldly way.

    Of course, we now know the perception of feeling is in the brain, but I also find interest in the numerous receptors we have elsewhere in our body. And when I think about an extreme feeling, one’s heart bursting from their chest with happiness or excitement, I wonder what nerves are at play, or if it’s all part of the dream.

    Cheers love.

    *There was a discussion on G+ about this, and I shared some thoughts, but I feel the question: What would a spectrum analysis of your life look like? shows something interesting and akin to the concept of experience etching into the soul.

    • Yi says:

      Ooh yes! Good note on Wizard of Oz. Scarecrow and Tin Man are such apt extensions of this idea that I’m so glad you brought it to my attention. ^ ^ Thanks!

      As for the debate on the soul, it is indeed hard to rest it in any place. But if we were to rephrase it as where life resides, then it becomes a necessary debate for more than philosophical reasons. The legal, medical, and ethical implications of where life is is huge. For example, it’s easy for us to say that someone who has lost his right arm is still alive, but what about his heart? For years, people had troubles with defining life and death.

      Now, let’s get back to the idea of a ubiquitous soul, something akin to chakra. We can use the same example above. Does that person who has lost his arm lose a part of his soul then? What about someone who donates blood or a kidney? Or for that matter, something less extreme–the skin cells that we all shed everyday?
      And if we don’t lose any part of our soul from that, then at which point, which organ, do we say that the soul has left this person?

      I love your idea of a soul that is metaphysical but connected and affects our bodies to varying degrees. It does get around the question I posed above. It’s a very elegant and fascinating idea that may just be the answer (assuming of course that something like souls exist). It’s certainly my favorite one in the comments. A note though, with this, we could still assign priorities to the “connectedness” each part of our body has to that other-worldly soul. And which organ then is supreme? I’d guess not those skin cells or blood cells.

      The heart’s importance today in myth, fiction, and even daily language and ideas is probably because of more things than just its historical and physical dominance. Perhaps it is indeed that we can feel our hearts bursting with excitement, or more notably, aching with emotions that we give it so much attention. The brain and the nerves may be the centers, but it sure feels like a heartache.

      Cheers, hun, and as always, thanks for the discussion!

      p.s. These past few weeks my heart has been heavy for different reasons, and while I do not believe a soul is there, I feel that the physical experience, through sense/nerves and memory, is something constantly being etched into a soul listening on the other side.*
      How romantic, yet somewhat sad. I hope you feel better now. ^ ^

      p.p.s. I saw that video on Google Reader. While I’m not quite sure how it’s a spectrum of life–i.e. what is it depicting exactly that makes it life–it is a gorgeous video. I couldn’t quite find the G+ discussion though (my G+ is a mess of pixiv art…), but the “concept of experience etching into the soul” has a beautiful ring to it!

      • Ryan A says:

        On the ubiquitous soul,

        You question, “at which poin, which organ, do we say that the soul has left this person?” And it’s fair, but in the ideal model, the person never loses their soul, but the connection to the soul. As a shadow, connected through “something,” perhaps the soul is represented within us, but in fact is not inherent to our physical bodies. As you may know, there are many ways in which the texture of physical reality may communicate with “trivial” points within the universe, and while there are factual restrictions on such communication, it is still quite elusive to our knowledge. Mathematically, I cannot understand the connection between body and soul, regardless of dimensional complexity, but as a scientist, I leave it to a “black box” of necessity rather than a conventient falsification. Bohr’s model of the atom, simplistic, yet insightful, and I believe such insight is with the stream of progressive knowledge instead of completely invalid.

        As for “connectedness,” I believe the interactive strength at each point varies between individuals, and regard different attributes of the soul. I am unable to comment on the traditional notion of Chakra, in the varying levels of “awakening,” but I would believe the supreme organ is that which is of most use to us in this life, that which we benefit from or leads us to a greater clarity. We make it our own, and my own would be the heart; compassionate ability, the courage and willingness to sustain tears and fractures, to welcome them, and the ability to more forward no matter how scarred, I believe that is supreme. To allow oneself to be hurt, without understanding or familiarity, and maximize love through tourment. Curious..

        I had previously read on the Heart Sutra in relation to this topic but have since forgotten what I wanted to say. I’m sorry, this will have to do, love.

        • Yi says:

          I like using the idea of the “black box” to approach these ideas. After all, the soul and our identities are such abstract concepts; to really understand the inner workings of our connections may be beyond our means. However our souls define us, perhaps it’s more important to focus on whether they do. And whether they exist has such significant implications to our roles here in the physical world.

          Now I have to study up on Heart Sutra and chakra. ^ ^

          p.s. Love the Bohr model comparison. It’s so appropriate on so many levels (i.e. It is at once elegant, functional, not really a true model, yet still such a simple and working model for the purposes of understanding the basics.)

  29. Swordwind says:

    Yi, you’re as interesting as ever.

    Kokuro is an interesting homophone in this case, isn’t it?

    Take care~

  30. Accelerator says:

    I suppose I’ll just state my opinion. The heart is just a simple organ, same for the brain, they are required for life, thats all they are. As for the soul of a human? I dont believe such a thing exists.

    • Yi says:

      Ahh, keeping it very real. I have my doubts about the soul, but sometimes I like to indulge in the romantic nonsense as well. This post is one of those times.

      But yea… The scientist in me says that no such thing as a soul as people commonly think of exists.

  31. A quick point to make that medical science isn’t quite decided on the topic as it might seem. I think the reason for ancient beliefs on the importance of the heart revolved, as you pointed out, around how people thought it was the “seat”, the “origin” of emotions or even the soul. And while we do concede the brain does play more of a role than we used to think, any statement that we now think the brain the seat/origin/etc of emotions is difficult to substantiate and makes little sense scientifically. Physicians have begun to acknowledge the myriad ways in which physical health can directly influence mental health, and indeed, how the heart can influence the brain’s emotional processing state: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20851735

    tl;dr: the brain shouldn’t be considered any more/less important than the heart in terms of emotions OR survival value. The same may be said for the soul – if indeed it does exist – and as to how it preserves itself as completely intact regardless of extent of physical trauma on death, perhaps a hallmark of how much more technology has to advance!

    Very nice articles you got btw. Came for your Hanabira analysis, but will def be staying alot longer now~

    • Yi says:

      Ooh, that’s a fascinating article. I suppose there is more to the ♥ symbol for love than previously thought. It’s not only a dynamic organ, but also directly influence our emotions. Doki doki~

      On a related note, all this discussion about the soul isn’t without practical significance. The soul is perhaps to “spiritual” for legal and medical purposes, but “life” is not. Knowing how to define when “life” leaves a body, i.e. death, has such important consequences.

      We know that death is actually a process, but without a clear definition of that process, there’s significant legal, ethical, and medical gray areas. For example, here in Taiwan (where I’m now studying medicine…) that there are two different definitions for death. For organ donors and organ harvest, determination of death has different criteria, as surprising as that may be. For organ donors, it’s less stringent, as the organs need to be alive and healthy when harvested. However, for non-organ donors, death is more stringent… So the right to die is not equal… Another example where knowing how to define death (and all this talk about life, death, seat of the soul… etc.) is important is in resuscitation and DNR’s. In a lot of cases, it’s possible to prolong a dying life for quite a long time, but when is it “OK” to let go?

      Anyway, sort of went off in a tangent there, but yea, even with the advances of medicine today, we still have so many things we don’t know about the mind (soul?) and the body.

    • Yi says:

      p.s. Thanks for visiting. Your comment really made my day!
      p.p.s. It’s such a nice feeling whenever I see someone read beyond those Hanabira posts. ^ ^ Really, thank you~

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