I often encounter this statement. On forums, TV shows, and in discussions with my friends. That cars have souls.
I encounter it so often that, actually, that it doesn't sound unnatural to me. But... What is the soul? Can a car have one?
Above all, let us have a look at what the soul is. A lot of philosophers and wise people contributed to this topic.
In the Ancient Greece, for instance, the soul was regarded by majority as a divine or spiritual “breath” which animated the body. Otherwise the body would lie dead and motionless. Socrates, one of the biggest philosophers in history, argued that the soul was immortal and continued to exist even after physical death. The soul reflected itself in the “human” ability to think. Moreover, as one body died the immortal soul had to find another “home” in a new body. Pindar considered that the soul slept while the limbs were active and, vise versa, the soul awoke and revealed “an award of joy or sorrow drawing near” when a person felt into dreams. In other words, the soul could “manifest” itself only while the body was not active. Finally, Aristotle drew a three-level typology of souls claiming that plants, animals, and people have different. The soul of plants allowed them to perform basic biological functions, which are growth, sustenance, and reproduction. The soul of animals ensured their ability to act in accordance to their free will and use six senses to make behavioural decisions. The soul of people “embraced” the features of the first two and, in addition, included the superior power of “reason” (i.e. the ability to explore, explain, and evaluate the world). The “residence” of the human soul, according to Aristotle, was the heart.
In the magnificent medieval Arab world, Avicenna (Ibn Sina) defined the soul through the prism of self-consciousness and self-awareness. In one of his essays he encouraged people to imagine themselves floating in the air disconnected from all senses. Avicenna argued that even in this “ultimately isolated” condition people would still be able to grasp their body-less existence. People would still preserve the ability of self-consciousness. With this in mind Avicenna concluded that the soul has nothing to do with the physical reality. It is a substance which exists regardless of our senses and should be addressed in relative terms. In a couple of centuries Descartes would return to this argument and arrive at his famous “I think therefore I exist”
One of the most authoritative Catholic philosophers, Thomas Aquinas, agreed to the ancient Greeks that soul animated body. He also claimed that the human soul is immortal. Plants and animals had no critical thinking and knew no god, what would make them vanish in the material and non-material worlds. Thomas Aquinas also argued that the soul could not be grasped by our “limited” senses; it simply is and people should live with this fact.
But let us speak of more recent times. Encyclopedia Britannica claims that the soul is "the immaterial aspect or essence of a human being, that which confers individuality and humanity, often considered to be synonymous with the mind or the self." In its turn, Oxford online dictionary provides the following definition: "Soul is the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal. A person's moral or emotional nature or sense of identity."
Looking at both definitions, in order for anything to have soul, it should: 1) be a living creature / human being / personality; 2) possess mind, sense of identity, and / or consciousness; 3) be capable to experience emotions and follow some moral principles. This said, soul is immaterial. And even if anything is alive, conscious, and moral, it is impossible to actually check whether the soul is inside.
Coming back to cars. They have none of the needed features. They're product of our technology, metal boxes on wheels. They can't have souls a priori. Even the one Aristotle attributed to plants.
But, as I see it, a car can "emulate" soul. It can become the "integral" part of the driver and deliver feelings of the "spiritual" symbiosis. It may "evolve" into an "extension" of the driver's body and mind thus becoming somethning bigger than a simple vehicle. But this feeling is a human thing entirely, it is not the car's soul.
Some drivers speak to their cars. Some are trying to "grasp from the air" all "vibes" of car's mood before firing it up. Albeit the car stands motionless, dedicated drivers know it boils with emotions.
Every morning I see my little Mazda - though there should be only two of us in a garage - I greet her and briefly tell her where we will be going. And I think she does understand me. And this makes me "feel" that we've set a team for this ride. And she becomes even more closer friend of mine.
Every time I notice a new rusted bolt or scratch on a paint it starts aching. And it actually aches me, not my car. But I tend to think that she "feels" the pain either. And that she "appreciates" my concerns and empathy.
I've seen a lot of pictures of trashed cars with comments from their drivers that the car sacrificed itself, but saved their life. This is a pathetic nonsense. Car is not a living creature, it does not breathe, and thus it can not sacrifice itself. It does not even "know" what a "sacrifice" mean. Indeed, from the very human perspective, the biggest sacrifice anyone can make is giving his / her life to save someone else's (or save Homeland - thousands of lives). As the driver-vehicle relations are concerned, the first simply transfers the universal values of humankind on the second thus making it "alive". In other words, he / she "awards" the car with the consciousness and morality, both constituents of the soul. And this soul finally comes into being. But only for this particular driver. Only.
Some drivers say that a car acquires its soul on a factory while it is being screwed together. Therefore, for example, Toyota's and Honda's "have no souls", but TVR has. Or Ariel. Or McLaren. They're unique and hand made. As sponges, they absorb love and admiration of their creators. Some say... But this matters only if a particular driver cares. The amount of "soul" a car gets from the factory depends on the acknowledgement and recognition of this fact by the owner. Thus, there are some people who celebrate birthdays of their cars and there are those who may send their vehicle to junkyard if a windscreen gets cracked. The latter seem to have corrupted souls by themselves.
Car drawings can be another extension of "soulness". Being on a paper, the drawing is much more then a simple combination of paint for the artist. Sometimes the car drawn becomes more "real" and "integral" than the car driven. The artist, and later the viewer, "invest" themselves into the drawing and endow it with unique emotions and understandings. Thus, the drawing acquires "soul." And it exists only for those, who "see" it.
To conclude, a car shines in the rays of our affection. We are only responcible for making it "the subject," not "an object". Our personalization of a particular car, our uncovering of its uniqueness, our interpretation of its behaviour and whims - that is what brings the car to life. For us.
This said, every human being awards the same vehicle with different "souls." This said, the existence of a soul in a car depends on each and every of us, because it would not exist otherwise. We are Demiurges! We are Gods. And our consciousness is the only thing instilling the "spirit of life" into our beloved creations.
P.S. Matt Parsons can be reached here: www.behance.net/Matthew_Parsons_SA