Kizyr wrote:I wasn't asking that question for comedic effect. I was asking because many people go on about whether or not the soul exists, or who or what has a soul. But no one seems to have a consistent definition of what constitutes a "soul". KF
The intangibles are difficult.
In most medieval Christian theology, the human is a binary, body and soul. The body is tied to the natural, degraded, post-fall world (nature is not a virtue here). Its senses are tied to natural perception, and its inclination is to natural wisdom. Both of these are distractions from God and heaven.
The soul is everything else. It's the immaterial part of the union, both part of mind and feeling, a will which is bound up in the degraded body. It has the greatest potential to incline towards God, and at death it separates from the body, until the events in Revelations, and goes to either Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory.
Now, if you want a consistent definition of the soul, you might well be disappointed here. Outside of specific theological arguments, or outside of definitions so vague as to be ridiculous, you're not going to get one ("The soul is a life force;" "What is a life force?"). At best, like the distinction above, it will appear as a deconstructable binary.
The claim that all animals have souls has a long past. The first definitions of soul in the English language (according to the OED) encompassed both animal and human.
The principle of life in man or animals; animate existence.
Then the definition was tied up in thought and action in contrast with the body. Then, sometimes, it got bound up with the capacity for emotion, a shift that happened in medieval times but was really latched upon after 1600. By now it's gained connotations of all these previous aspects. If you want a crude test, then let's apply each to animals with advanced nervous systems (most vertebrates, mollusks, etc.).
1. Animate existence - yes! There is something that causes the animals to move beyond a mere reactionary state. In some cases (like migration) this can be hardwired in, while in others (like a squirrel getting food) it can be learned, adaptive, and apparently willed, much like a human.
2. Thought and action - yes, with a caveat. we assume thought as some sort of conscious meditation on a subject, but really most of the thought we do is not so high-ordered. They are quick estimations of when to cross the street, or all the mental gymnastics that go on after we've done something wrong. I'd argue this exists too, in that subconscious form. Have you ever watched a dog or cat moving around for a while? They look up at a table. Estimate the height, and whether they want to jump and can jump, and then choose whether to jump or not. When a dog is about to do something wrong, there's this clear hesitation. Then, if it still does it, it'll run around in a different manner for a few minutes. Which also leads us to...
3. Emotion - yes! If you can deny the other two, you can't deny this. Anyone who's had pets can't deny this one.
So I did that. And you can believe it if you want. But I don't think an animal has a soul like this. I don't think humans do either. Which is to say that... I think one can distinguish a soul culturally, and have it mean something, but it's not a transcendental truth.* The "soul" simply distinguishes that which we most value in ourselves, the part that cannot be reached or touched, including by those pretender animals that would feign having a soul.
So I prefer justifications for using animals that don't rest on extending soulhood or sentience to them, since we're already unsure of what those things mean for ourselves.
*To put an easier way, the soul is indistinguishable enough from bodily functions to make the body/soul division, on which the definition of soul rests, obsolete.