The Soul in Popular Fiction: Conclusion

It seems like every time I make a new post I’m apologizing for my long absence, but well… sorry. I certainly haven’t abandoned this blog, and I have a few posts lurking in the back of my head that I’m excited about, but I can give no promises on the timeframe.

In the meantime, here is the final piece of my senior thesis (as always, look at “Thesis” on the sidebar for the previous sections). This is my conclusion, which is by far the shortest and least interesting part of my paper, but such is the nature of conclusions I suppose. I hope you enjoyed looking at my thesis with me and, as always, feel free to give any feedback.

The Conceptualization and Ethical Implications of the Soul in Popular Fiction: Conclusion


The soul remains elusive. Despite multiple portrayals in fiction, religion, and philosophy, there is not, and there is unlikely ever to be, a consensus on the reality or functions of the soul. This is perhaps as it should be, because much of the power ascribed to the concept of the soul is in the idea that it is somehow beyond us while still being a part of us. To pin the soul down and dissect it would be to rob the idea of its beauty—a beauty maintained in the imagination and therefore at least partially sustained by fiction.

Just as there is a lack of consensus about the soul, there is a lack of agreement about ethics. Many ethical systems are grounded in the idea that right and wrong are real things—perhaps not tangible, perhaps not objective, perhaps not even knowable, but real. We say the some action is or is not right, as if ‘right’ were an independent idea which ethical systems attempt to help us aim for and understand (and which often disagree about the best way to do so), but which exists somehow beyond those systems.

Based on my interpretation of the soul in the stories of Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, His Dark Materials, and Star Wars, in which the soul consistently functions, not only as a description of ethics, but also as a source of ethics, I would like to suggest that ethics is not a human construct, but that it is a product of humanity—of what we as humans truly are. From this postulation one might pursue arguments about the source of humanity, be it God, evolution, or something else, attempting to reach the ‘source’ of morality. My ambitions are not quite so high. I will simply say this: if fiction is worth anything in aiding our understanding of the world, then based on my reading of it, the conception of what a human being ontologically is may be one of a person’s most crucial ethical formations, because out of it springs so many others. This is perhaps the true power of the soul: that it holds within it not only what we are, but what we ought to be.

~ by ntertanedangel on January 28, 2011.

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