The question Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987) forces us to answer is whether we too would be willing to renounce immortality? Or, to put it conversely, would we be wise to exchange our current mortal existence for immortality? If a state of senseless, inefficacious existence is undesirable, the question of the value of immortality becomes one of the conceivably of an alternative to the angels' form of existence. By contemplating the existence of the angels in Wings (...) of Desire, we can see that they do not simply exemplify one possible eternal existence, but that the negative aspects of their being are perhaps essential features of the immortal. I begin by exploring another argument for the undesirableness of immortality that has taken center stage in the debate, then turn my attention to the film and present a novel argument against the value of immortality. (shrink)
Although I reject his argument, I defend Bernard Williams’s claim that we would lose reason to go on if we were to live forever. Through a consideration of Borges’s story "The Immortal," I argue that immortality would be motivationally devastating, since our decisions would carry little weight, our achievements would be hollow victories of mere diligence, and the prospect of eternal frustration would haunt our every effort. An immortal life for those of limited ability will inevitably result in endless (...) frustration, since the number of significant projects that one is capable of completing is finite, but the span of time is infinite. (shrink)
In this paper we address Bernard Williams' argument for the undesirability of immortality. Williams argues that unavoidable and pervasive boredom would characterise the immortal life of an individual with unchanging categorical desires. We resist this conclusion on the basis of the distinction between habitual and situational boredom and a psychologically realistic account of significant factors in the formation of boredom. We conclude that Williams has offered no persuasive argument for the necessity of boredom in the immortal life. 1.
In this essay I consider the argument that Bernard Williams advances in ‘The Makropolus Case’ for the meaninglessness of immortality. I also consider various counter-arguments. I suggest that the more clearly these counter-arguments are targeted at the spirit of Williams's argument, rather than at its letter, the less clearly they pose a threat to it. I then turn to Nietzsche, whose views about the eternal recurrence might appear to make him an opponent of Williams. I argue that, properly interpreted, (...) these views in fact make him an ally. (shrink)
Might we be parts of a divine mind? Could anything like an afterlife make sense? Starting with a Platonic answer to why the world exists, Immortality Defended suggests we could well be immortal in all of three separate ways. Tackles the fundamental questions posed by our very existence, among them ‘why does the cosmos exist?’, ‘is there a divine mind or God?’ and ‘in what sense might we have afterlives?’ Defends a belief in immortality, without the need for (...) a religious affiliation or rejection of modern science Explores the ideas of ‘Einsteinian immortality’, the divine afterlife, and the theory of an infinite and divine mind Draws from the work of a wide-range of philosophers, from ancient Greece to the present day, and incorporates up-to-date scientific findings Written in a thought-provoking and engaging manner, accessible to anyone intrigued by the wonder of our being. (shrink)
Introduction -- John Locke and the problem of personal identity : the principium individuationis, personal immortality, and bodily resurrection -- On separation and immortality : Descartes and the nature of the soul -- On materialism and immortality or Hobbes' rejection of the natural argument for the immortality of the soul -- Henry More and John Locke on the dangers of materialism : immateriality, immortality, immorality, and identity -- Robert Boyle : on seeds, cannibalism, and the (...) resurrection of the body -- Locke's theory of personal identity in its context : a reassessment of classic objections. (shrink)
Recent research in the cognitive science of religion suggests that humans intuitively believe that others survive death. In response to this finding, three cognitive theories have been offered to explain this: the simulation constraint theory (Bering, 2002); the imaginative obstacle theory (Nichols, 2007); and terror management theory (Pyszczynski, Rothschild, & Abdollahi, 2008). First, I provide a critical analysis of each of these theories. Second, I argue that these theories, while perhaps explaining why one would believe in his own personal (...) class='Hi'>immortality, leave an explanatory gap in that they do not explain why one would intuitively attribute survival of death to others. To fill in the gap, I offer a cognitive theory based on offline social reasoning and social embodiment which provides for the belief in an eternal social realm in which the deceased survive—the afterlife. (shrink)
Can we conceive of a mind without body? Does, for example, the idea of the soul's immortality make sense? Certain versions of materialism deny such questions; I shall try to prove that these versions of materialism cannot be right. They fail because they cannot account for the mental vocabulary from the language of brains in the vat. Envatted expressions such as "I think", "I believe", etc., do not have to be reinterpreted when we translate them to our language; they (...) are semantically stable. By contrast, physical expressions from the vat language are semantically instable; due to Putnam's externalism they cannot be transported to our language without change. This contrast opens the way to a new understanding of what the immortality of the soul might be like: A brain in a vat (and its mental life) might survive what the brain calls "my physical body's death". (shrink)
Can we who have been touched by the scientific, intellectual, and experimental revolutions of modern and contemporary times still believe with and degree of coherence and consistency that we as individual persons are immortal. Indeed, is there even good cause to hope that we are? In examining the present relationship of reason to faith, can we find justifying reasons for faith? These are the central questions in Self, God, and Immortality, a compelling exercise in philosophical theology. Drawing upon the (...) works of William James and the principles of American Pragmatism, Eugene Fontinell extrapolates carefully from "data given in experience" to a model of the cosmic process open to the idea that individual identity may survive bodily dissolution. Presupposing that the possibility of personal immortality has been established in the first part, the second part of the essay is concerned with desirability. Here, Fontinell shows that, far from diverting attention and energies from the crucial tasks confronting us here and now, such belief can be energizing and life enhancing. The wider importance of Self, God, and Immortality lies in its pressing both immortality-believers and terminality-believers to explore both the metaphysical presuppositions and the lived consequences of their beliefs. It is the author's expressed hope that such explorations, rather than impeding, will stimulate co-operative efforts to create a richer and more humane community. (shrink)
The relationship between body and mind was traditionally discussed in terms of immortality of the intellect, because immateriality was one necessary condition for the mind to be immortal. This appeared to be an issue of metaphysics and religion. But to the medieval and Renaissance thinkers, the essence of mind is thinking activity and hence an epistemological feature. Starting with John Searle’s worries about the existence of consciousness, I try to show some parallels with the Aristotelian Pietro Pomponazzi (1462–1525), and (...) eventually show the Neoplatonic approach in Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499). The guiding question is: how can one philosophically address the problem of cognition in terms of corporeality and incorporeality? Searle maintains there is mind, although essentially related to a biological basis, and he is comparable to the Renaissance thinkers for his taking the interaction of the mental and the corporeal seriously. (shrink)
Descartes held that the human mind or soul is indivisible, unlike body. In this paper I argue that his treatment of this feature of the soul is intimately connected to his engagement with Aristotelian scholasticism. I discuss two strands in Descartes. There is a long tradition of arguing for the immortality of the human soul on the basis of this view. Descartes did use this view in defense of dualism, but I argue that he held that the soul’s (...) class='Hi'>immortality should be established rather on the basis of its status as a substance. This line of thought, I contend, is connected to his rejection of (most) Aristotelian substantial forms. Furthermore, the indivisibility of the human soul emerges repeatedly in connection to the union and interaction of mind and body in ways that connect to Aristotelian scholastic treatments of these issues. (shrink)
Two books bound together, from the religious period of one of the most renowned and representative thinkers. Written for laymen, thus easy to understand, it is penetrating and brilliant as well. Illuminations of age-old religious questions from a pragmatic perspective, written in a luminous style.
Why was the great philosopher Spinoza expelled from his Portuguese-Jewish community in Amsterdam? Nadler's investigation of this simple question gives fascinating new perspectives on Spinoza's thought and the Jewish religious and philosophical tradition from which it arose.
This study focuses on the ancient commentaries on Plato’s Phaedo by Olympiodorus and Damascius and aims to present the relevance of their challenging and valuable readings of the dialogue to Neoplatonic ethics.
In the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant grounds his postulate for the immortality of the soul on the presupposed practical necessity of the will’s endless progress toward complete conformity with the moral law. Given the important role that this postulate plays in Kant’s ethical and political philosophy, it is hard to understand why it has received relatively little attention. It is even more surprising considering the attention given to his other postulates of practical reason: the existence of God and (...) freedom. The project of this paper is to examine Kant’s postulate of the immortality of the soul, examine critiques of this argument, and show why the argument succeeds in showing that belief in the moral law also obligates one to believe in the soul’s immortality. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss some of Martha Nussbaum’s defenses of Epicurean views about death and immortality. Here I seek to defend the commonsense view that death can be a bad thing for an individual against the Epicurean; I also defend the claim that immortality might conceivably be a good thing. In the development of my analysis, I make certain connections between the literatures on free will and death. The intersection of these two literatures can be illuminated by (...) reference to my notion of a Dialectical Stalemate. (shrink)
Many religious thinkers hold the immortality requirement, the view that immortality of some kind is necessary for life to have meaning. After clarifying the nature of the immortality requirement, this essay examines three central arguments for it. The article establishes that existing versions of these arguments fail to entail the immortality requirement. The essay then reconstructs the arguments, and it shows that once they do plausibly support the immortality requirement, they equally support the God-centred requirement, (...) the view that God's existence is a necessary condition for life to be meaningful. The paper concludes by explaining why we should expect any argument for the immortality requirement also to constitute an argument for the God-centred requirement. (shrink)
Abstract In this paper I explore in a preliminary way the interconnections among narrative explanation, narrative value, free will, an immortality. I build on the fascinating an suggestive work of David Velleman. I offer the hypothesis that our acting freely is what gives our lives a istinctive kin of value?narrative value. Free Will, then, is connected to the capacity to lead a meaningful life in a quite specific way: it is the ingredient which, when aded to others, enows us (...) with a meaning over an above the cumulative value erived from ading together levels of momentary welfare. In acting freely, we are writing a sentence in the story of our lives, and the value of acting freely is thus a species of the value of artistic creativity or self-expression (understood appropriately). Finally, I contend that the fact that our lives are stories need not entail that they have endings, or that immortality would necessarily be unimaginable or essentially different from ordinary, finite human life. Yes, a certain sort of narrative understanding of our lives as a whole would be impossible in the context of immortality; but much of what we care about, and value, in our stories might remain. (shrink)
Death is a bad thing by virtue of its ability to frustrate the subjectively valuable projects that shape our identities and render our lives meaningful. While the presumption that immortality would necessarily result in boredom worse than death proves unwarranted, if the constraint of mortality is a necessary element for virtues, relationships, and motivation to pursue our life-projects, then death might nevertheless be a necessary evil. Mortal or immortal, it’s clear that the value of one’s life depends on its (...) subjectively determined quality, rather than its quantity. Thus, it is imperative to live forever in the present, with flourishing always in mind. (shrink)
This article contributes to the ongoing debate initiated by Bernard Williams’ claim that, due to the non-contingent finitude of the categorical desires that give meaning to our lives, an immortal life would necessarily become intolerably boring. Jeremy Wisnewski has argued that even if immortality involves periods in which our categorical desires have been exhausted, this need not divest life of meaning since some categorical desires are revivable. I argue that careful reflection upon the thought-experiments adduced by Wisnewski reveals that (...) they do not substantiate his proposal, and hence that a plausible reason for rejecting Williams’ position has not been provided. (shrink)
This essay examines texts from Kierkegaard's signed and pseudonymous authorship on immortality and the resurrection, challenging the received opinion that Kierkegaard's account of eternal life merely connotes a temporal, existential modality of experience as a present eternity. Kierkegaard's thoughts on immortality are more complicated than this reading allows. I demonstrate that Kierkegaard's ideas on the afterlife emerge out of a context in which the topic had been vigorously debated in both Germany and Denmark for more than a decade. (...) In responding to these debates, Kierkegaard establishes a "new argument" for immortality that stands as a robust account of the Christian resurrection and highlights the power of a personal God at the center of life, death, and post-mortem existence. (shrink)
The soul has played many different roles in philosophy and religion. Two of the primary functions of the soul are the bearer of personal identity and the foundation of immortality. In this paper I shall consider different interpretations of what the soul has been taken to be and argue that however we interpret the soul we cannot consistently maintain the soul is both what we are and what continues after our bodily death.
In this paper we address Bernard Williams’ argument for the undesirability of immortality. Williams argues that unavoidable and pervasive boredom would characterise the immortal life of an individual with unchanging categorical desires. We resist this conclusion on the basis of the distinction between habitual and situational boredom and a psychologically realistic account of signiﬁcant factors in the formation of boredom. We conclude that Williams has offered no persuasive argument for the necessity of boredom in the immortal life.
Recent work in developmental psychology indicates that children naturally think that psychological states continue after death. One important candidate explanation for why this belief is natural appeals to the idea that we believe in immortality because we can't imagine our own nonexistence. This paper explores this old idea. To begin, I present a qualified statement of the thesis that we can't imagine our own nonexistence. I argue that the most prominent explanation for this obstacle, Freud's, is problematic. I go (...) on to describe some central features of contemporary cognitive accounts of the imagination, and I argue that these accounts provide an independently motivated explanation for the imaginative obstacle. While the imaginative obstacle does not dictate a belief in immortality, it does, I maintain, facilitate such a belief. (shrink)
D. Z. Phillips is widely assumed to have held that Christian immortality has no reality outside of language. The author challenges that assumption, demonstrating that Phillips wished to show that contemporary analytic philosophy distorts the reality that immortality has for believers. While most philosophical accounts of Christian immortality depend upon terms that have little religious significance, Phillips offered accounts that stress the centrality of that significance. The author gives an account of the sort of philosophical attention that (...) Phillips gave to Christian immortality and demonstrates Phillips’ lament for both the lack of this sort of attention in contemporary philosophy as well as the loss of certain ways of living that exemplify a belief in eternal life with God. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine the thought of Descartes and Spinoza regarding the immortality of the soul. I conclude that Descartes’s argument(s) for the immortality of the soul—or at least the argument(s) that one can construct based on Descartes’s texts—are disappointing, and that Spinoza’s thought on the soul and its relation to the body leaves little room for the traditional doctrine of personal immortality.
It is widely believed that such old-fashioned questions have been rendered absurd by the materialism of modern empirical science, but some seemingly 'magical' properties of quantum mechanics have brought them back into serious discussion in some circles. I will examine the possibility of making miracles using well-established principles of quantum mechanics--in particular, the possibility that quantum theory allows for the most desirable 'miracle' of all: immortality.
Kant's noncognitive argument based on practical reason claims that moral considerations alone suffice to justify the idea of personal immortality as a postulate. Some recent objections are considered here that have charged him with overstepping his own distinction between phenomenon and noumenon. After examining the arguments, Kant is exonerated of having violated his own principles. More troubling, however, is the peculiarity involved in postulating an infinite progression toward a goal whose attainment, by hypothesis, would undermine the very foundations of (...) morality (which for Kant always requires the agonistic condition of struggling to improve one's lower nature). It is argued that this paradox necessitates a reexamination of some tacit cultural presuppositions underlying Kant's conception of the soul. Finally, an examination is made of the thought of Kitarō Nishida, whose Zen Buddhist–inspired dialectic of the basho (logical "place") provides an alternative perspective from which to reconsider the postulate of immortality. Nishida, like Kant, rigorously maintains the phenomenonnoumenon distinction, yet his examination of ethics leads him to postulate an eventual sublation of the "soul" principle. It is concluded that Kant's postulate of immortality, while plausible enough on its own terms, is limited by a Western cultural bias and therefore fails in the end to be compelling. (shrink)
This article examines immortality ideologies in Western philosophy as exemplified in the writings of Descartes, Heidegger, and Derrida, showing in each instance the distinctiveness of the ideology. The distinctiveness is doubly significant: it broadens understandings of the nature of immortality ideologies generally and deepens comparative understandings of the ideologies of the philosophers discussed. Pertinent writings of Otto Rank, the psychiatrist who first wrote of immortality ideologies, contribute in fundamental ways to the discussion as do pertinent writings of (...) cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, who elaborated and publicized Rank's thesis concerning immortality ideologies. The notion of an ideology, clarified in the beginning as an empirically unfounded belief structure, hence an illusion, is taken up briefly but pointedly at the end in the context of Rank's distinction between rational and irrational elements of the self as they are played out in the creations of the hero-artist. The article ends by examining his distinction in the context of the philosophic perspectives discussed, most notably the perspective of Heidegger. (shrink)
In the Dedicatory Letter of the Meditations, René Descartes claims that he will offer a proof of the soul’s immortality, to be accomplished by reason alone. This proof is also promised by the title page of the first edition of the Meditations, which includes the words “in which the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are demonstrated.” But in the Synopsis, and later in his replies to objections, Descartes gives a more nuanced account of the (...) possibility of proving immortality and whether an attempt is even to be found in the Meditations. To confuse matters further, the title page of the second edition no longer mentions a demonstration of immortality but promises only to prove the distinction between body and soul. The question arises, therefore, whether the Meditations contains a purely philosophical demonstration of the immortality of the soul. (shrink)
Personalised accounts of out-of-body (OBE) and near-death (NDE) experiences are frequently interpreted as offering evidence for immortality and an afterlife. Since most OBE/NDE follow severe curtailments of cerebral circulation with loss of consciousness, the agonal brain supposedly permits 'mind', 'soul' or 'consciousness' to escape neural control and provide glimpses of the afterlife. -/- Michael Marsh critically analyses the work of five key writers who support this so-called "dying brain" hypothesis. He firmly disagrees with such otherworldly 'mystical' or 'psychical' interpretations, (...) ably demonstrating how they are explicable in terms of brain neurophysiology and its neuropathological disturbances. The original basis and thrust of Marsh's claim sees the recorded phenomenology as reflections of brains rapidly reawakening to full conscious-awareness, consistent with other reported phenomenologies attending recovery from antecedent states of unconsciousness: the "re-awakening brain" hypothesis. From this basis, Marsh also offers a re-classification of NDE into early and late phase sequences, thereby dismantling the untenable concepts of "core" and "depth" experiences. -/- Marsh further provides a detailed examination of the spiritual and quasi-religious overtones accorded OBE/NDE, highlighting their inconsistencies when compared with classical accounts of divine disclosure, and the eschatological precepts of resurrection belief as professed credally. In assessing the implications of anthropological, philosophical, and theological concepts of 'personhood' and 'soul' as arguments for personal survival after death, Marsh celebrates the role of conventional faith in appropriating the expectant biblical promises of a 'New Creation'. (shrink)
In Search of Immortality: The Political Economy of Anti-aging Medicine Content Type Journal Article Category Original Paper Pages 267-279 DOI 10.1007/s12376-009-0020-x Authors Alan Petersen, Monash University Sociology Program, School of Political and Social Inquiry Clayton VIC 3800 Australia Kate Seear, Monash University Sociology Program, School of Political and Social Inquiry Clayton VIC 3800 Australia Journal Medicine Studies Online ISSN 1876-4541 Print ISSN 1876-4533 Journal Volume Volume 1 Journal Issue Volume 1, Number 3.
In the ninth fragment of his posthumous work Living Up to Death , Paul Ricoeur reflects on Jacques Derrida’s final interview given to the French newspaper Le Monde just months prior to his death. Although he confesses to a genuine distanciation from Derrida regarding salient aspects of their individual memento mori , he does so within the context of significant concessions of agreement. I argue in this article that their differing positions de facto agree at a critical structural level with (...) reference to the possibility of positing something akin to a textual immortality. Both contend that traces of the author remain in the corpus of a work, a remainder that allows for a form of resurrection through reading. By analogizing their perspectives with Rudolf Bultmann’s kerygmatic resurrection of Christ in the proclaimed word, I conclude that Ricoeur and Derrida contend that one truly learns to live up to death ‘ finally ’, that is, enfin — ‘at last’, ‘after all’, or one might say, ‘ in a word ’. (shrink)
In 1513 the Fifth Lateran Council determined that the immortality of the rational soul is not true only in theology, but also in philosophy. The determination can be related also to the actual teaching of philosophy. In the university of Erfurt, Bartholomaeus Arnoldi de Usingen and Jodocus Trutfetter wrote expositions on natural philosophy at that time. Usingen's and Trutfetter's expositions of De anima represent a position, which faithfully follows in methodology and aspirations the tradition of the via moderna. Furthermore, (...) they give an interpretation of the relationship between philosophy and theology, which Trutfetter considered consonant with the intentions and the formulations of the Fifth Lateran Council; and finally, Trutfetter even presents a practical application of the Council's recommendations. (shrink)
The question of personal immortality is a central one for Gabriel Marcel. Early in his life he took part in parapsychological experiments which convincedhim that one could, rarely and with great difficulty, communicate with the dead. In a philosophical vein he argued that each self has an eternal dimension which isof eternal worth. This dimension is particularly manifest in self-sacrifice, where I find it meaningful to give my life for another and when I unconditionally commitment myself in love to (...) another self. Marcel also cites the experience of trust or hope, and the experience that life is not an absurd freak accident of nature destined for eternal extinction but rather possesses absolute meaning and value. Yet, none of the above experiences involves certitude; one remains free to accept or reject them and what they claim to involve. (shrink)
Zai’s 張載 attitude toward death and its moral significance. It launches with the unusual link between the opening statement of the Western Inscription 西銘 regarding heaven and earth as parents and the conclusion that serving one’s cosmic parents during life, one is peaceful in death. Through the analogy of human relations with heaven and earth as filial piety ( xiao 孝), Z hang Zai sets a framework for an understanding that being filial through life eliminates the fear of death. The (...) article shows that filial piety as a root for morality enables a “sense of immortality,” which is in fact a sense of morality. This moral immortality is elucidated through Z hang Zai’s discussion on vital power ( qi 氣) as that which life is made of, which persists through ongoing transformation and enables a moral continuum. This continuum is manifested through filial piety, which transcends the limits between life and death, and thus makes physical death pointless as morality endures. (shrink)
: William James' investigation of religious experience neglected consideration of immortality. This was likely because, as James saw it, belief in personal immortality often engenders what can be called spiritual provincialism. In Human Immortality: Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine (1897/1979), James brings up the phenomenon of psychological overload that occurs when an individual considers the immense numbers of humans who would inhabit Heaven if spiritual merit were determined democratically. Consideration of James' example shows the beginnings of (...) his pragmatic notion of immortality, one that is influenced by the religious philosophy of Henry James, Sr., and which focuses on the undeniable connections among people on earth rather than the immutable persistence of individual souls in Heaven. Those who have considered the implications of James' notion of immortality as it relates to the notion of worldly embeddedness include French writer Romain Rolland, who, inspired in part by the work of James, advocates a socialistic religious philosophy. With reference to Rolland and the elder James, as well as contemporary Christian pragmatist Cornel West, James' view can be more clearly understood. (shrink)
Apparently alone among medieval Christians, Eriugena argues that all life is immortal. He relies on Plato’s Timaeus as his primary source for this claim, but he modifies the argument of the Timaeus considerably. He turns Plato’s cosmic soul into the genus of life, thereby taking a treatise that originally dealt with cosmology and using it to explore the ontological significance of definition. All species that fall under the genus of life must be immortal, because a mortal species would contradict the (...) genus. No later medieval author would take up Eriugena’s arguments explicitly, although Aquinas comes close. The two thirteenth-century thinkers to address universal immortality seriously—Aquinas and Bonaventure—argue against it, but they are more faithful than Eriugena himself to a literal reading of the Timaeus. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop a Kantian reading of Ludwig Wittgenstein's early notions of immortality and the problem of life. I argue that, in spite of his rejection of the assumption of temporal immortality as a solution to the problem of life, Wittgenstein's understanding of the problem itself reflects the Kantian setting of his early system. Moreover, while there is no room for any postulates of practical reason in Wittgensein's early thought, God and immortality are still notions (...) that figure in his preferred solution to the problem of life. (shrink)
This essay tries to show that there exist several passages where Kierkegaard (and his pseudonyms) sketches an argument for the existence of God and immortality that is remarkably similar to Kant's so-called moral argument for the existence of God and immortality. In particular, Kierkegaard appears to follow Kant's moral argument both when it comes to the form and content of the argument as well as some of its terminology. The essay concludes that several passages in Kierkegaard overlap significantly (...) with Kant's moral argument, although Kierkegaard ultimately favors revealed faith over natural theology in general and Kant's moral faith in particular. Whereas Kant uses the moral argument to postulate the existence of God and immortality, Kierkegaard mainly uses it as a reductio ad absurdum of non-religious thinking. (shrink)
One of the greatest philosophers of the nineteenth century, Arthur Schopenhauer is best known for his writings on pessimism. In this 1851 collection of essays, he offers concise statements of the unifying principles of his thinking. Schopenhauer, unlike most philosophers, expressed himself in simple, direct terms. These essays offer an accessible approach to his main thesis, as stated in The World as Will and Representation. They include "On the Sufferings of the World," "On the Vanity of Existence," "On Suicide," " (...) class='Hi'>Immortality: A Dialogue," "Further Psychological Observations," "On Education," "On Women," and On Noise," plus "A Few Parables.". (shrink)
William James states “Immortality is one of the great spiritual needs of man,” yet the arguments presented in his LECTURE ON IMMORTALITY, while interesting and ingenious, are somewhat less than conclusive in proving that human beings can survive bodily death. Therefore I attempt to clarity the notion of “individual survivor” through an analysis and discussion of various approaches to the problem, before returning to a further examination of James’ thought in the “Final Impressions of a Psychical Researcher,” the (...) THEORY OF THE SOUL, the PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY, the VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE and a PLURALISTIC UNIVERSE. James’ often neglected Christian position provides the key to a better understanding of his thought on the topic, and allows me to conclude on a cautiously optimistic note on the possibility of a philosophical proof for human survival. (shrink)
Abstract In a well-known paper, Bernard Williams argues that an immortal life would not be worth living, for it would necessarily become boring. I examine the implications for the boredom thesis of three human traits that have received insufficient attention in the literature on Williams? paper. First, human memory decays, so humans would be entertained and driven by things that they experienced long before but had forgotten. Second, even if memory does not decay to the extent necessary to ward off (...) boredom, once-satisfied desires often return after a sufficient period of time. Eternity would always contain sufficient time for our desires to rejuvenate. Third, even if too many of our desires were satisfied but not yet rejuvenated, we can expect that human ingenuity would continue to invent new pursuits, pastimes, careers, and ways of life that would prevent us from becoming bored as we moved from one to another. Finally, I consider and respond to several objections, including the claims that as much variety as I propose to be put into an eternal life is inconsistent with having one character throughout one?s life and that the sort of character change and memory decay I postulate is inconsistent with personal identity. (shrink)
The idea that we may continue to exist in a bodiless condition after our death has long played an important role in beliefs about immortality, ultimate rewards and punishments, the transmigration of souls, and the like. There has also been long and heated disagreement about whether the idea of disembodied existence even makes sense, let alone whether anybody can or does survive dissolution of his material form. It may seem doubtful that anything new could be added to the debate (...) at this late date, but I hope to show that this is not so. I will explore the problem of disembodiment from a somewhat different direction than has been tried before, one that leads to what seem to me more interesting and more definite conclusions about its unintelligibility. Furthermore, the approach I will be taking puts both the traditional mind-body problem and the competing claims of dualism and physicalism in a fresh light that can help us to understand better the nature of our embodied existence. (shrink)
Souls play a huge part in the Harry Potter story. Voldemort creates six Horcruxes, thereby dividing his own soul into seven parts, and Harry must destroy all of the Horcruxes before Voldemort can die. At different points in the books, several main characters (Harry, Sirius, and Dudley) narrowly avoid having their souls sucked out of them by a dementor; Barty Crouch, Jr., does not escape this fate. So what is the soul? In Harry Potter’s world, it is clear that people (...) have souls, and that these souls generally survive bodily death. But it is not entirely obvious how souls work and what their nature is. Over the centuries, philosophers and theologians have proposed various different accounts of the soul, and have argued about which is an accurate picture. In this chapter, I will survey some of the major philosophical accounts of the soul before turning to the question of how souls work in Rowling’s books and whether her picture of the soul is plausible. (shrink)
Immortality has long preoccupied everyone from alchemists to science fiction writers. In this intriguing investigation, Stephen Clark contends that the genre of science fiction writing enables the investigation of philosophical questions about immortality without the constraints of academic philosophy. He shows how fantasy accounts of phenomena such as resurrection, outer body experience, reincarnation or life extending medicines can be related to philosophy in interesting ways. Reading Western myths such as that of vampire, he examines the ways fear and (...) hopes of immortality are an intrinsic part of Western culture and philosophy. As one of the first works to suggest the use of science fiction in the study of philosophy, Clark creates a ground for intellectual, philosophical and experimental inquiry. (shrink)
Adrian. In the Apology, Socrates said that since death involves one of two alternatives, either nonexistence or transition to a better place, then it is not to be feared. Now I think he was absolutely wrong about this for the simple reason that non-existence is a frightful alternative. For those of us who love life, who want to continue living—and admittedly, that's most people in the world—the prospect of ceasing to exist is a cause of legitimate fear.
Cryoethics is a new theme within bioethics (see bioethics) concerned with the ethics of cryonic storage. Cryonics, which is also erroneously referred to as “cryogenic” technology, offers people the option of having their bodies or brain-stems preserved at very low temperatures after death in order to be revived at some point in the future when technology is sufficiently advanced to enable reanimation, and possibly immortality. The main issues in cryoethics center around whether it is ethical to use this technology, (...) and whether it is prudent to do so. While there are several prudential and ethical arguments against cryonic storage, there is only one argument in favor, but it is quite powerful: the possibility of cheating death for a few years, or even forever if technology advances enough in the time before revival (Shaw 2009). (shrink)