# Scientific conjecture about an atheistic conception of the afterlife

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by entelecheia, Oct 9, 2012.

1. ### TwoplankerBannedBanned

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Subjectivity requires something.

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3. ### C CConsular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy"Valued Senior Member

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He's not espousing literal transmission of anything though; other still living (or later living) humans already have their "feeling of always having been here" or whatever is selected to fill the placeholder of a common property of experience. You seem to be conflating either Cyperium's comments or some of my own outside the context of Clark's paper, with the latter. In fact, it's rather difficult to see what the value of Clark's argument is to the individual, since in the end this really just involves the continuation of a general property of experience as distributed across and instantiated in a larger population of conscious agents. Clark seems to want us to believe that one is "still continuing" in some sense after death, vaguely similar to how electromagnetism is still the case in the universe after a particular magnetic field disappears when a solenoid is switched-off. As if being "this stream of experience" is a sub-identity that belongs a broader one which nevertheless is only associated with other discrete, examples of subjectivity. But by his own accounts (below) of dispelling misinterpretations, he indicates this is merely an illusory manner of speaking, of sounding a bit like some Eastern beliefs when he's actually not espousing a knock-off of such (Example: "Atman: ...that cosmic self which is the same in every dweller on this globe...the world-soul or life principle, overarching Subject, yata, yata, yata"). Ergo, that his efforts have significant value for even the compromising non-extinctivists or quasi-extinctivists (or the lower level to which they demote their post-death wishes to), is considerably questionable.

Clark: "In proposing [continuity of generic experience] I don't mean to suggest that there exist some supernatural, death-defying connections [mechanisms] between consciousnesses which could somehow preserve elements of memory or personality. This is not at all what I have in mind, since material evidence suggests that everything a person consists of --a living body, awareness, personality, memories, preferences, expectations, etc.-- is erased at death. Personal subjective continuity as I defined it above requires that experiences be those of a particular person; hence, this sort of continuity is bounded by death. So when I say that you should look forward, at death, to the 'subjective sense of always having been present,' I am speaking rather loosely, for it is not you --not this set of personal characteristics-- that will experience 'being present.' Rather, it will be another set of characteristics (in fact, countless sets) with the capacity, perhaps, for completely different sorts of experience. But, despite these (perhaps radical) differences, it will share the qualitatively very same sense of always having been here, and, like you, will never experience its cessation.

".... To identify ourselves with generic subjectivity is perhaps as far as the naturalistic materialist can go towards accepting some sort of immortality. It isn't conventional immortality (not even as good as living in others' memory, some might think), since there is no 'one' who survives, just the persistence of subjectivity for itself. It might be objected that in countering the myth of positive nothingness I go too far in claiming some sort of positive connection between subjectivities, albeit a connection that doesn't preserve the individual. I might be construed as saying, to borrow the language of a different tradition, that an eternal Subject exists, ever-present in all contexts of experience. I wouldn't endorse such a construal since it posits an entity above and beyond specific consciousnesses for which there is no evidence; nevertheless such language captures something of the feel for subjectivity and death I want to convey."

Oh, come on.

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That seems to flirt with taking the scheme of doubt underlying "your red is my green" to new heights, to where around the corner it may become like some neopragmatist contending that human experience or consciousness conforms to no common regularities or principles from one person to another (or one culture to another, if that's more on target). And Clark is only latching onto a single, potential one of those ("feeling of always having been here"), not a whole shebang of possible candidates. We might as well toss naturalism out the window if we're not all representing / understanding ourselves and the world in similar enough fashion -- not perfect agreement by any means, but enough to have made the consensus conclusions we have (especially in science) possible.

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5. ### CyperiumI'm always meValued Senior Member

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Yes. Yet this would make any particular life utterly meaningless for any single person, all the work accomplished and all growth mercilessly cleared only to find yourself in a blank mind. What if you had accomplished peace on earth, what if you had managed to become a very nice and loving person? Perhaps your soul matures so that the next life really is dependent on this one? Maybe your subjectivity changes so that it can only fit in a body that resembles your personal growth in this life?

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7. ### CyperiumI'm always meValued Senior Member

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You perfectly capture my thoughts on this too.

It may not be that the next baby born becomes any of those 7+ billion previous instances though, and any of those instances might become someone in the entire universe, and in the entire time of the universe, cause subjective nothing has no time and doesn't follow the time of the universe.

Last edited: Oct 13, 2012

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9. ### entelecheiaRegistered Senior Member

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Help me with this idea:

I find no reason to think our science 'understand' what is the reality.
Perhaps the reality in infinitely complex., or simply our senses too limited to decypher it.

That notion of Infinite Complexity i add to the notion of Fatalism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatalism

If our reality is uninteligible, a Borgian Labrynth, an absurdity, why we must expect the Afterlife will not be a continuation of it?

How science can help to dissipate our natural fear to death?

10. ### entelecheiaRegistered Senior Member

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If is a Borgian Labrynth, ruled by ininteligible unimaginable forces; ergo the extinction of our minds shouldn't too good to be true?

Sci-fi writer H.P. Lovecraft:

Lovecraft's guiding aesthetic and philosophical principle was what he termed "cosmicism" or "cosmic horror", the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally inimical to the interests of humankind.

Isaac Asimov's reflections about infinity, time and reality:
(I read his speculation about speed universe - slow universe in his book Please Explain. Asimov answers 100 questions on science.)

http://www.worldvieweyes.org/resources/Strauss/Time&Reality5p.htm

11. ### C CConsular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy"Valued Senior Member

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Depends upon what is specifically feared here. If it concerns phobia of punishment in an afterlife, then I'd think any extinctivist conclusions drawn from science would solve that problem. Also the interests, obligations, responsibilities, and pursuits of various habits / addictions which compel one to crave eternal existence will be expunged with every other characteristic of personhood, so it's not like there will be somebody still around to be tormented by those needs that can't be fulfilled.

12. ### Rav∞Valued Senior Member

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When I die, one instance of subjective sense ceases to be. Others go on. Additional instances emerge. Anyone who disbelieves in any sort of afterlife would agree. If Clark isn't suggesting something more than this, what is the point of his paper (other than to correct conceptual errors related to the nature of being and non-being)?

I'm not sure you understood what I was getting at.

One of the contentions I've built my responses in this thread upon is that there is a core architecture in the human brain that forms the seat of our sense of self. An emergent instance of the subjective sense that we've been discussing, if you like. I would further contend that our sense of personal identity and continuity (in which memory and other brain function play a critical role) basically form around that as a sort of extension or expansion of that instance. In the event of serious brain trauma, where memory or behavioural centres are severely affected, a person may awake with no knowledge of who they are, and exhibit behaviour that is significantly different from that which they once would have. Friends and family may say "that's just not the same person". But if the core architecture from which the seat of the self emerges remains intact, then we are indeed still dealing with the same instance. Only what surrounds it has changed. One might say that the instance of subjective sense finds itself in a new context.

But if anyone is even going to hint at this being even remotely analogous to what might occur after physical death, then one does indeed have to explore matters of "transmission".

Last edited: Oct 14, 2012
13. ### C CConsular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy"Valued Senior Member

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That's just it, though. The case he makes isn't what it may appear to be initially, by his own admission. He almost seems to encourage a misinterpretation for the benefit of the unwary naturalists, while also covering his back in regard to the suspicious ones. I'm tempted to view it as a covert version of those figurative platitudes that philosophical naturalists prescribe to themselves, like the astronomers in episodes of science programs waxing on about "my replacement for God is the awe and wonder which the complexity of the vast cosmos generates in me". And for the traditionalist majority, there's no more value to Clark's centimeter-deep facade here than a typical extinctivist taking comfort in the human species still continuing on after one's demise or his/her specific bloodline continuing in his/her children. So there is this "feeling of having always been present" also residing and surviving in other people after one croaks -- big deal. That is, such is apt to provoke that kind of sarcasm from not only the after-lifers but even those that have accepted lower expectations (reincarnationists, dissolvers into a more general consciousness or a returning to some God's [third-person] Eye View, etc).

14. ### CyperiumI'm always meValued Senior Member

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From what I understand of the paper he does say that you should look forward to exist, not as the same person, but with the sense of "always been present" in a different context. It is indeed a big deal, because it implies that your subjective existence go on after you die (even if you can't remember your past life, and doesn't know that it has indeed been in a different context before). We can't say that this is not what he meant, because that would indeed destroy the point of the paper (which wasn't just to say that "nothing doesn't exist" but also to say that your subjectivity goes on in a different context after you die - even if there is a vast gap of nothing before that happens).

And, by all respect, if he made it appear to be something then that is what it appears to be, if it was meant differently then he should have made it appear differently, that is a requirement for getting through to people. I can't see how he could have meant it differently either.

15. ### C CConsular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy"Valued Senior Member

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It's not "my subjectivity" that continues, but that claimed "feeling of always having been here" that is already residing in others and will arise in those yet to be born. He is construing those particular instantiations of it as a generic subjectivity that I'm part of and a fractional component of while alive, and which persists because the rest of the population still supports / constitutes it after my death (plus it never has any positive confirmation of not "existing", even when it might wholly be absent in the cosmos for long periods if complex life goes extinct).

There is no transmission of an individual case of subjectivity (or it is unnecessary for what Clark actually contends) because of the semi-ubiquitous capacity of this "feeling of always having been here" to emerge in a conscious-enough organism. Like the generation of electricity being just as possible on Mars as Earth, because electromagnetism is global, though this generic subjectivity is obviously not a field pervading the universe, but nevertheless has a potential, far-reaching ability to emerge anywhere under the applicable biological circumstances. Yet again, note that there is no reference below to a transmission, only the "persistence" of subjectivity as distributed among multiple bodies; Clark is engaging in slight of hand, giving the impression in the way he phrases things at times that there is something "special" transpiring here, but there is no meat to it in the end.

"So when I say that you should look forward, at death, to the 'subjective sense of always having been present,' I am speaking rather loosely, for it is not you --not this set of personal characteristics-- that will experience 'being present.' Rather, it will be another set of characteristics (in fact, countless sets) with the capacity, perhaps, for completely different sorts of experience. [...] there is no 'one' who survives, just the persistence of [a generic] subjectivity for itself."

Even the generic subjectivity he has abstracted as a generalization from individual instances is something he himself pulls the rug from underneath as being a real entity; more like some quasi-lawful regularity that brain experiences can conform to, in that the "feeling" reliably emerges in association with multiple bodies possessing sufficient consciousness / intellect.

"I might be construed as saying, to borrow the language of a different tradition, that an eternal Subject exists, ever-present in all contexts of experience. I wouldn't endorse such a construal since it posits an entity above and beyond specific consciousnesses for which there is no evidence..."

16. ### C CConsular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy"Valued Senior Member

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What we haven't analyzed is Wayne Stewart's work, which Clark references. I frankly haven't felt the interest yet to make time to read it, but it could more boldly or uncompromisingly stick to a purported transmission: “...a shift of perceived existential ‘moment,’ a natural relocation of the awareness of existence.” Others more aroused by curiosity about it can report back on what they find in Stewart's "book", via apparently being able to read it at: http://mbdefault.org/

17. ### CyperiumI'm always meValued Senior Member

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I interpret it to mean exactly what he says, that I can look forward to the subjective sense of always been present, but that it isn't actually me (not this set of personal characteristics) but I would be somebody else (a different set of personal characteristics).

Why would he otherwise write that I can look forward to it, if it wasn't my subjectivity that will exist in a different person? If he meant what you are implying then he would have said "you shouldn't look forward to anything at all".

He also wrote that unless the universe stops existing we can't really say that nothing will come next.

Further, why would he even write that there would be a gap that isn't experienced, if he didn't mean that we would experience existence again without a gap? It is indeed a kind of personal continuity that he speaks of, but without any personal characteristics - and hence not actually personal in that sense (cause, as he understands it, they can't persist). I believe that the point he is trying to make about general subjectivity is that it is general also to us, but we confuse it with a personal subjective because we can't really experience any other subjectivity even though they exist at this very time all around us.

As he wrote here:
 Instead of anticipating nothingness at death, I propose that we should anticipate the subjective sense of always having been present, experienced within a different context, the context provided by those subjectivities which exist or come into being.´´

And as he wrote here:
To identify ourselves with generic subjectivity is perhaps as far as the naturalistic materialist can go towards accepting some sort of immortality.´´

If you agree or not that is a different matter, but that is what he wrote, and I can't understand how he can mean something so different as what you interpret it as without rewriting it.

BTW; what would be the logical flaw if that was the case? To discuss what a author meant is one thing, to discuss the subject at hand is another. I take it that you don't believe that we can exist again in some way after we die, but why not? After we die is different from before being born? How would it be different?

Also; Isn't it weird how things happen again and again in the universe, but that we subjectively just can't happen again? Why would we be so special that we won't exist again in the universe? To me it is a logical flaw to assume that we don't exist again, and that is what I will argue for. You could say that "this particular rock that I now crush will not exist again, the pieces are spread out and won't assemble again into this particular rock, they might assemble into a different rock, but not this particular one", but is my subjectivity really dependent on the unique parts that embodies me? Does it really come down to the particular atoms that my body consists of? Couldn't a arrangement closely resembling me be enough for the job, even using parts that wasn't originally from my body?

BTW 2; I'm reading that book right now, I haven't read that much but I think it will come close to my point as well

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(edit); and it did come close to (or even hit) the point, as this conclusion of a thought experiment shows:
 The underlying time-gap conditions also correspond. Nicos' death — a cessation of subjectivity — is the beginning of an unfelt time-gap; and Thanos' birth — subjectivity's restoration — is the very condition whereby any unfelt time-gap ends.
What can we infer from these similarities?
The direct inference: Nicos' supposedly interminable time-gap has actually reached its end with Thanos' birth. Nicos has passed, imperceptibly, to Thanos; and the amnesiac new man who is Thanos lives unknowingly as a continuation of the life of his father Nicos.´´

I can also say that he didn't have any transmission in mind (just like Clark didn't have a transmission in mind), instead it is the general subjectivity that is divided into singular subjects, just as the ocean can divide two islands - your subjectivity in that case would not need any transmission to be experienced in a different context, just as a island can pop up from the ocean and yet be connected to all other islands naturally beyond the sea (of nothing), subjectively the island can only perceive itself as a island when it is above the surface of the sea and hence do not know the connection it has to all other islands. <---this is my own interpretation of it, but it captures the feeling I believe that he is trying to make.

Last edited: Oct 15, 2012
18. ### Rav∞Valued Senior Member

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If an exact duplicate could be made of you in a lab, which you would you be? I imagine that your answer would be "the one that I am now", and I would agree. And if you died, would you suddenly find yourself looking out through your duplicates eyes instead? Not without somehow snuffing him out of existence first! So if a new, distinct entity emerges as a result of duplication, why would it be any different if natural processes eventually conspired to create an arrangement closely resembling you?

19. ### CyperiumI'm always meValued Senior Member

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You have a really good point there, it isn't a logical flaw on my behalf though, what is the difference with having a exact duplicate existing in another point in space, than just simply moving your own body to another point of space? Given the continuous aspect of subjectivity no gap would be experienced between existing in one place and then another (just as if I've been moving my own body there).

Your point isn't logically flawed either of course, there can only exist one subjective me, even though there could potentially exist two exactly identical bodies of me. Instead of either of us being absolutely correct I would say that both of us are correct and that the inconsistency is really a paradox which would have to be solved by either a entity that isn't physical and hence can't be duplicated - a soul, or something else which I can't figure out, anything that involves a selection process would also involve the soul, cause something has to be the entity that is selected. I know that "soul" will instantly put everyones defence into action but should we describe it as something else?

20. ### Rav∞Valued Senior Member

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You can move from one location to another because the underlying physical architecture from which you emerge can move from one location to another. In fact this is still happening even when you're stationary relative to your immediate surroundings because the earth itself is constantly moving through space. A duplicate of that underlying physical architecture is distinguished not just by being in another location, but by being another instance of such.

The realm of consciousness that we find ourselves within is causally connected to the physical architecture from which it emerges. In fact I believe that it is a mistake to think that those two things are actually distinct in any way. Consciousness is physicality. In other words, one of the emergent properties of particular elaborate interactive architectures of matter is the subjective sense of "what it's like" to be matter. It might seem difficult to try to quantify such a seemingly unphysical dimension in terms of it's underlying substrate, but is it really fundamentally different in that sense from a spatial or temporal dimension? It's certainly difficult to try to quantify a property like "length" in terms of constituent elements, because length is an emergent relational property. It's not an entity in it's own right, merely a property of others, and most often it's a measure of innumerable others. Now, I'm not really suggesting that consciousness itself is merely a relational property, but perhaps we need to be thinking about it in that sort of way. In addition to that, I also think we need to be thinking about consciousness in terms of it being a deeper, richer more expansive manifestation of something which is, in a more fundamentally basic form, an inherent property of the constituent elements of the physical fabric that underlies it.

So the way I tend to think about the possibility of eternal existence these days is in terms of the possible eternal existence of the universe itself. Individuality may just be something of an illusion that grows out of a piece of the universe temporarily manifesting as a distinct self-directing entity, and while death may be the end of that distinctiveness, there's not really any such thing as a net loss. Perhaps one could think of individuality as a swell in a body of water, which at it's peak considers it's own distinct form for a while, before becoming indistinguishable from the collective body again. It's far from a perfect analogy, but I think it conveys the essence of the idea.

Finally, we are still in the infancy of our scientific understanding of the universe and everything in it, so I have no doubt that new information and perspectives will eventually come to bear on considerations such as these in the future, which might make more sense of some things, and force us to consider others.

Last edited: Oct 16, 2012
21. ### C CConsular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy"Valued Senior Member

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In terms of "duplicates" of one's self distributed over "many-worlds" in the context of the Everett Interpretation of QM, where the question occasionally arises of why it would be the life of this particular Jane or John alone that seems to be experienced[1]... The "how" could be explained away as due to reflective thought and local awareness being dependent upon the memory stored and accumulated in a specific brain. That is, even if a kind of 'generic' experience pervaded these variations of an individual supposedly described by or embraced under a single wave-function, the functionality for pondering and verifying phenomenal occurrences would only be available for this instantiation of brain/body and that instantiation of brain/body, etc, of Jane. There would be no over-arching intellect for apprehending the whole lot of them and their varied pasts as one, multi-branching consciousness. This memory-dependence is essential in Daniel Dennett's hypothesis for subject or self-consciousness in [2] below, though his utter need for language in representing stored concepts utilized for "grasping what is going on" is probably overblown. Animals would use bulkier sequences of visual memories and the like for what is quickly summarized and subsumed by a word/words, in the latter's application to perceptual content (generating deeper awareness via understanding those outer experiences, as well as the inner). Language just enables a vaster, more complex version of what pre-human cognitive abilities started.

[1] Max Tegmark: "Many legitimate wave functions correspond to counterintuitive situations, such as a cat being dead and alive at the same time in a so-called superposition. In the 1920s physicists explained away this weirdness by postulating that the wave function 'collapsed' into some definite classical outcome whenever someone made an observation. This add-on had the virtue of explaining observations, but it turned an elegant, unitary theory into a kludgy, nonunitary one. The intrinsic randomness commonly ascribed to quantum mechanics is the result of this postulate. Over the years many physicists have abandoned this view in favor of one developed in 1957 by Princeton graduate student Hugh Everett III. He showed that the collapse postulate is unnecessary. Unadulterated quantum theory does not, in fact, pose any contradictions. Although it predicts that one classical reality gradually splits into superpositions of many such realities, observers subjectively experience this splitting merely as a slight randomness, with probabilities in exact agreement with those from the old collapse postulate." --Parallel Universes; SciAm 2003-2004

[2] Dennett: "I believe, but cannot yet prove, that acquiring a human language (an oral or sign language) is a necessary precondition for consciousness -- in the strong sense of there being a subject, an I, a 'something it is like something to be.' It would follow that non-human animals and pre-linguistic children, although they can be sensitive, alert, responsive to pain and suffering, and cognitively competent in many remarkable ways -- including ways that exceed normal adult human competence -- are not really conscious (in this strong sense): there is no organized subject (yet) to be the enjoyer or sufferer, no owner of the experiences as contrasted with a mere cerebral locus of effects.

"[...] Finally, since there is often misunderstanding on this score, I am not saying that all human consciousness consists in talking to oneself silently, although a great deal of it does. I am saying that the ability to talk to yourself silently, as it develops, also brings along with it the abilities to review, to muse, to rehearse, recollect, and in general engage the contents of events in one's nervous system that would otherwise have their effects in a purely 'ballistic' fashion, leaving no memories in their wake, and hence contributing to one's guidance in ways that are well described as unconscious. If a nervous system can come to sustain all these abilities without having language then I am wrong."
http://edge.org/q2005/q05_10.html#dennett

22. ### CyperiumI'm always meValued Senior Member

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What does it matter to the undelying structure which instance it is? Two could be created at exactly the same time which instance would be in which physical structure then? You can call it "instance" or you could call it "soul" we would still mean the same thing. Nothing has really changed the point being made by calling it a different instance instead of calling it a different soul, all physical properties are alike, and if it matters who was there first then both could have been created at the same time, physical structures could be exactly the same but there would be two instances. Objectively it doesn't matter of course, cause we can't tell the instances apart, but subjectively it does matter and it is the subjectivity that is in discussion here.

I agree in the sense that subjective qualities are usually (or always) "what it is like to be", but I disagree that we can fully fuse the physical and the subjectivity in the sense that if we could then there really could be a duplicate subjectivity of a duplicate physical system. Something else has to make the difference.

I want to elaborate a bit about that though, you are right that two physical systems from which subjectivity emerges must have distinct subjectivity that is seperated from eachother, that comes pretty easy to realise. However, which subjetivity that should be present in each system (of all the possible candidates, all the billions of existences that could potentially exist and which do not differ from each other while being non-existent). We could go on to say that there really is a general subjectivity, but that doesn't really help us distinguish which subjectivity that should exist in each body, since it would make a huge difference if I existed in that body instead of you. Because of that reason there must be a difference and a subjectivity - although general - but which has a personal part to it (that which you could call "instance" but that which I would call "soul").

Ok, I will pretty much ignore the "language" part and focus on the "many-worlds" dilemma where duplicates would surely be found and which is covering the ideas we discuss (I can remember things from when I couldn't speak and I was surely very aware, so to me it is evident that the idea is false anyway).

Two memories could at one point be identical only to diverge at another point, we would still need a selection process as to which subjectivity that would come to follow which path. And why only two memories? A infinite number of them probably, or at least a very vast amount if we judge that each possibility would have a different universe and all that. I should say that I'm not very fond of the "many worlds" interpretation anyway so perhaps I'm not the one to judge, but it seems implausible that memory should be the differing factor, also because the subjectivity is already "set in place" while new memories are formed.

23. ### TwoplankerBannedBanned

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(Subjectivity is defined by spirit. We are one with God.) Spirit is one with us.