Dawkins’ concept of the meme pool, essentially equivalent to Popper’s World 3, is considered as an expression in modern terms for what Averroes knew as the ‘active intellect’, an immortal entity feeding into, or even creating, the ‘passive intellect’ of consciousness. A means is thus provided for reconciling a materialist Darwinian view of the universe with a conception of non-personal immortality. The meme pool/active intellect correspondence provides a strong basis for regarding science as a communal enterprise producing enrichment of (...) the meme pool and expansion of consciousness, and emphasizes the virtues of memetic conservation in relation to vanishing cultures. (shrink)
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
The present article focuses on Zhang 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), Zhang 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 Zhang 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)
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)
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)
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)
This article reflects upon the debate, initiated by Bernard Williams in 1973, concerning the desirability of immortality, where the latter expression is taken to mean endless bodily life as a human or humanoid being. Williams contends that it cannot be desirable; others have disputed this contention. I discuss a recent response from Timothy Chappell and attempt to pinpoint the central disagreement between Chappell and Williams. I propose that neither side in the debate has firm grounds for its claims, and (...) then proceed to consider four reasons for suspecting that the whole debate has yet to be placed on a conceptually coherent footing. (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.