Scientific conjecture about an atheistic conception of the afterlife

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

  1. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    It depends on how you define the "I". Two identical computers - down to the arrangements of individual atoms and quarks - might operate in exactly the same way. But they would be two distinct computers. Or do you think that they are somehow the same?
    The difference therefore, one could argue, is in the potential that each offer: they each offer the potential to be in different places, to experience different things. And this makes them distinct. They might operate (up to that point of difference) in exactly the same way based on the identical wiring and experiences, but they would be different due to all those factors: place, time etc.
    It is not the physical matter per se... but the arrangement and movement of matter... the pattern that the matter adopts and acts in. And each pattern is unique due, in part, to being located in different places / times.
    If you replace all your atoms with identical ones, you would still be you because the arrangement and movement of the matter remains the same.
    The pattern constantly changes, to a degree (more so if there is damage) sure, but our memories then root our current pattern to the one of a moment before, to provide that sense of it being a continuous "I". At least that is how I see it.
    In many regards people who knew the original "you", as well as the "you" in the new body, would all think that the new "you" is the same as the old "you".
    And there is nothing to say that it isn't... and to all intents and purposes it is. I have no qualms with that.
    Any issue would only arise with there being multiple copies at the same time - and I do not think that they would all be the same "you"... i.e. there would be no communal sense of "I" - each would have their own.
    It is up to observers (including ourselves) to judge who "you" are. The only thing the individual can say is that they are themselves, and their memories provide internal consistency to that claim.
    And it is an unscientific claim that, while possibly offering comfort to individuals who wish to believe it, is to others a pointless venture into wishful thinking.
    It's an idea, sure.
    I just question the point of it... like stating that the universe sits in a bowl of custard.
    Science does not discount the possibility. But it is not something that science can feasibly prove - unless it can monitor all people at all time - which it can't - and thus it is unfalsifiable.
    That it doesn't happen (the claim made by science) IS a scientific claim as it can be falsified by the simple occurrence of a single case of duplication.

    The default for science is the one without redundancy, and the one with the fewer unknowns - the one that would satisfy Occam's Razor. That we merely cease to exist after death is thus the default. No need to invoke any further complexity into the default unless demonstrably necessary.
    I would say that "my body" is the one in which the sense of "I" can confirm it is operating within. If "I" ask my hand to lift and it does, and I can "feel" and see it does, it gives me comfort that it is "my" body. And of course it will (hopefully) match the body of my memories.
    You're almost slipping into solipsism with that train of thought.
    I'm not sure I follow it fully, though.
    It might well depend on what you mean by an "unphysical entity"... one could call the motion of the sea an "unphysical" entity that applies itself to the physical water. If that is the type of thing you are referring to then I do not see this as unphysical - it is merely a pattern of activity of the physical.
    But if you see the "unphysical entity" as something more then I do not agree... it is a possibility, sure, but so is the possibility that a planet can exist made out of pure milk.

    Your last sentence is meaningless, simply because "We" didn't exist with which to have no differing qualities. It is therefore meaningless to say "we had..." when there was no "we" to have anything.
    What is simpler than the sense of "I" being solely due to the physical... i.e. a pattern of activity within our biological body, requiring no proven "unphysical entity"?
    What problem do you have with such a view?
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    You misunderstand.
    I am not attributing "selfhood" merely to memories and friends.
    I am attributing it to a pattern of activity that only operates with memories. I consider memories to be a key requirement of "self-hood" - but not the be-all and end-all of.
    The rest I attribute to the working patterns of activity within the brain.
    But switch off the memory and the working patterns become subconscious... and there is no sense of self-hood.
    You only recognise this because of memory - i.e. the last memory being when it was dark outside, and the next memory being that it is light. The disparity thus allows one to infer that there was such breach.

    People without the ability to form long-term memories do.

    But since you have grossly mistunderstood my position, I won't belabour the issue of arguing further on your misunderstandings.
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  5. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    If the experience of deep dreamless sleep was a junction between two points of memory we wouldn't have the experience!!

    People without the ability of long term memory have no experience of deep dreamless sleep?
    You got evidence for this or are you just making stuff up?
    Or are you simply saying that a forgotten experience of deep dreamless sleep or a dream somehow disables it from being identified as a foray of selfhood beyond memory etc?

    Not really

    If you are arguing that selfhood essentially derives from mechanisms of memory you are still left with the problem of wakefulness, dreaming and deep dreamless sleep being experienced by a singular identity (despite the mechanism of memory not being consistent in either three states)

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  7. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I think that in these discussions on the nature of selfhood, it mustn't be forgotten that it is actual selves who are having these discussions. And these selves have needs, interests and concerns and may be pursuing particular aims with the input they give. For example, aims like face-saving, getting others to submit to one's views, looking smart and gaining approval, trying to indirectly solve a personal problem ...

    In short, arguably, there cannot be such a thing as a neutral, unbiased conversation on the topic of selfhood.
  8. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    In many people, it evokes basic existential fears, along with deep nihilism. And proponents of physicalist reductionism offer no means to ease those fears (other than more nihilism and cynicism).

    You'll probably say here, again, that all this doesn't matter, for one reason or other.

    But can you really look into the mirror and say "I am nothing more or less than a rather complex set of electrochemical activities in my* brain cells" - and agree with it?

    Do you ever actually experience yourself as being "nothing more or less than a rather complex set of electrochemical activities in my* brain cells"? Do you know anyone who does?

    And if you don't, why opt for such an explanation?

    (*For the moment leaving aside the problem of how you can call your brain cells yours, if you are merely a product of their activity.)
  9. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Many people seem to build their sense of self by connecting themselves to external givens, and by introjecting other people's projections.

    Which is how such people, if, without their knowledge they find themselves in a different place (for example, if they are suddenly drugged and then wake up at another location, or in a state of sensory deprivation (the famous experiments with the sensory deprivation chamber), or if abandoned by their spouse, become confused, lose their sense of self.

    Of course, this is not true for everyone. For example, soldiers of the special forces are trained to maintain a clear sense of direction even if the external world seems in ruins, or if they are injured, or tortured etc. Professional negotiators are also trained to maintain clarity even in the face of severe psychological manipulation, and to counteract it.

    The sense of self that such people have seems to be quite different than the sense of self of an ordinary person.
    Too bad we can't really study those professionals.
  10. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    For many people, it works that way.
    But it also works without that. If you ever had a dizzy spell, you'd know. You're knocked out for a while, you know that a while passed, but you have no idea what happened in that time or how much time has passed.

    Have you never woken up in the middle of the night, after suddenly falling asleep, only to notice on the clock that several hours somehow passed, but you've no idea how?
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2012
  11. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

    If you are one of those computers then you could ask yourself "why wasn't I the other computer?" and it would be a completely sensible question as they are equal in all regards. Of course the other computer could ask itself the same question, and if we build a thousand ones then any of them could ask themselves that question. Wouldn't you agree that any of the computers could have been any other computer?

    But it doesn't give a fulfilling answer to the question. It doesn't answer why I am a particular body when there are other bodies which are the same. I can agree that once we are one body then we would always be that body until that body dies. But before we are any body then the probability that we could be any body are just the same (as we have no characteristics in being nothing).

    It's not up to observers, it can't be cause observers can't judge your subjective experience of existing, even though your personality has changed and they say that you are a different person you would still exist in that particular body. As such they can't say that you don't exist, cause you do, you're just a different person in the same body.

    A single case of duplication would only serve to confirm that there is something that isn't physical, cause evidently there would be two different subjects. Also the point is pretty clear, it means that the universe won't end for you when you die, you will continue to experience the universe in a different body although it wouldn't be the same "you". If the idea that nothing comes next is correct then that would be the end of all existence for you.

    Only if it explains it to the same degree as the competing theory, which is why I don't go with your idea, cause I perceive a problem which requires a better one, with more explanatary power. I have tried to keep it as simple as possible though, only when a unphysical entity is required have I mentioned one.

    Well, I perceive that it is necessary. Science can't explain why we are a particular body. Therefor it is correct to question if there is no more existence after death. Demonstrably we have been non-existing but yet we have come to exist. If we can't explain why we are a particular body then we can't explain why we were nothing but came to exist as one.

    Any body can do that, it isn't what defines you to be your body, it only confirms it to you.

    I'm not saying that the unphysical entity is any particular unphysical entity, it simply needs to be unphysical as all physical characteristics can be duplicated, even the movement of each physical arrangement.

    It isn't meaningless because why otherwise would any particular body be you if there isn't anything to you to begin with?

    Because it presents paradoxes as all physical structures are redundant (they will sooner or later happen again, or at least they have a very real possibility of happening again). If it is solely due to the physical then we have to ask ourselves why we are any particular physical body.
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    We don't have the experience of it. We have an experience of falling asleep and then of waking up. The gap between the two is inferred from recollection of memories of the time before and comparison to the time after.
    But there is no experience of it by the "I", while it happens.
    If you think otherwise perhaps you can explain exactly what is experienced?

    Given that i don't think anyone experiences it... their body may but their sense of "I" doesn't... then no, I don't think they do.
    No, i am saying that without memory to provide the sense of continuation then i do not consider there to be a sense of "I".

    I am not arguing that - I am saying that it relies on memory the way a car relies on fuel. Without either there is no motion, and it is this morion that i consider analogous to the sense of "I".
    But i still remain puzzled how you thonk a deep dreamless state can be experienced by a sense of "?".
    I have certainly never experienced it, and would actually categorise it by the distinct lack of any awareness or experience during that period.
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Sure - and they would be examples that also fit my understanding: that the lack of experience of any sense of "I" during that period can only be inferred... whether by looking at a clock or other comparison to memories prior to the period of lack of experience. And it is because there is no ongoing comparison during this period (that we experience during wakefulness or dreams) that i do not hold there to be any sense of "I" during this period... i.e. i see a clear link between the two that i consider to be more than mere correlation... i.e. that if you have no memory then you have no sense of "I"... and that the sense of "I" relies on menory (but, for the sake of clarity for LG, is not a function of memory per se).
  14. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Mountains dont't stop being mountains just because people fear to climb them.
    And likewise people can still have fear even after climbing them.
    I think it's a little more complex than that, but on one level I could say that, agree with that, and then marvel at the wonder of it... and all before breakfast!

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    This is where some of the complexity lies - in that i consider there to be differing levels of phenomena that emerge from the same basic foundation... and since i consider "experience" to be such a phenomena that only operates at the higher orders then it stands to reason that in such a view one can not experience the lower or foundation levels. But one can still acknowledge an understanding of that foundation level, even if one is not able to show how each level might emerge from the lower.
  15. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    we do.
    If we didn't we wouldn't be discussing it outside of validating the experience through observe a clock or something.

    and as I said, if we didn't experience it, it would be an invisible moment between two moments. IOW it wouldn't be distinguishable from any other juxtaposition of two consecutive moments of memory!!!

    Its the common experience of everyone that they can understand that they have just undergone a considerable moment of deep dreamless sleep
    an absence of consciousness, with the indubitable comprehension that "I" (as opposed to someone else or no one else or whatever) experienced it. It is a distinct experience between two consecutive moments of memory or some inaccurate analogy of a computer that gets turned on or off.

    everyone experiences it

    so if you forget where you put the keys, its not you who lost them but your body?

    and as already explained, wakefulness, dreams and dreamless sleep confound this definition since the mechanism is not consistent within all three states. The "car" and its "fuel" defies being defined as "a single entity" despite it being the common experience of everyone that it is singular. IOW its within the common experience of everyone that your definition of selfhood is inaccurate or partial at best.

    I am curious how you can even isolate it as a point of discussion since according to your analysis it would be a moment completely invisible to our consciousness (which it obviously isn't ... even in the minds of persons with some sort of memory loss problem)

    If you couldn't experience it, you would be hard pressed to determine it as a complete lack of awareness. IOW it would just simply be another junction of two consecutive points of memory indistinguishable from any other two consecutive points of memory.
  16. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    It's not. Have you everactually had a dreamless sleep? The last time i did i closed my eyes, opened them what i thought was the next moment and eight hours had passed. No experience during that time. The only way i could tell was through inference from comparison of memory - whether it be a clock or that my body didn't feel as tired. But "I" had no experience during that time.
    So yes - it IS an invisible moment.
    Then i suggest you have not ever actually beem through such a period.
    Yes - through inference - through the comparison of memory pre and post period.
    You seriously think that one "experiences" unconsciousness? I have never experienced anything when i have been unconscious. What do YOU experience?
    What i do experience is the instant i am no longer unconscious... and that is possibly sufficient to provide one with the inference that one has undergone such a period.
    I admire the quality of your argument here.

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    So tell me what you experienced while you were unconscious.
    And please don't assume to know what everyone experiences... to me unconscious is a state where i have no experience. I never have experienced anything while unconscious. But perhaps you can explain exactly what you think "everyone" does experience?
    Yay - another strawman... or merely a lack of comprehension on your part. Perhaps you can point out where i said that failure to retrieve one memory equated to a lack of "I"?
    Ah, yes, your attempt to argue with the "You're wrong" line of argument. You have explained nothing since i disagree with your assessment, and have explained why.?
    Yet your assessment is clearly flawed since you hold that we experience unconsciousness, rather than such a period being defined by its very lack of experience by the individual.
    And the car analogy holds for the purpose intended... i.e. the comparison to an action requiring multiple aspects. You may disagree with the underlying concept but the analogy is sound for purpose.
    I am only ever aware of such periods of unconsciousness through inference. Again i can only surmise that you have never been unconscious. It IS invisible to our consciousness... at least until we infer that it occurred.. an inference which may occur the instant we regain consciousness.

    Again, this is exactly how it feels, and it can be massively disorientating, because our sense of continuation is jarred by discontinuity in our immediate memory... until such time as we can infer and accept what happened.

    But please do detail what you experience when you are unconscious... and if you have nothing else to offer than arguments from confidence then don't waste our time.
  17. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Again, I think there are culture-specific predispositions for how people will reason about states like dreamless sleep or unconsciousness; which experiences they will recognize, which they will dismiss.

    Ie. what a person experiencing those states will think that happened in those states will be depending on the culture they are accultured into.
    So if in that culture, there is no particular vocabulary for those states, or if that culture has a negative attitude toward those states, then the person will possibly say that they "blacked out," that they have "no recollection," and such.
    Whereas someone from another culture may experience those same states and note something like "I experienced a profound, numb, deaf void."

    I had an interesting dream once: I dreamt that I was in a fire, and that my body started to burn as well. I saw, heard, felt and smelled how my body was burning, and then as my eyes burnt away, my ears, my skin burnt, I was still there, although I didn't feel anything anymore (I had no functioning senses anymore). I basically had bare awareness.
    (I think in Buddhism, they would call this "identifying with consciouenss.")

    Not for everyone. Of course, this is where it comes down to personal testimony, so the scientific value of these inputs is relative.
  18. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    If humans would not also be moral beings, the above perspective could be acceptable.

    But as moral beings, we require that our philosophy not be demoralizing.
  19. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    They can reason all they want - but I'm not sure you can experience an absence of experience.
    If you experience then you are surely not unconscious - by definition.
    It is not a cultural difference, it is a matter of logic.
    How one reasons after the event is up to the individual, sure - but to me there is a vast difference between an "absence of experience" and an "experience of absence".
    I've had similar, I think. A detached awareness. Not sure it was burning as opposed to being caught in some vortex/wind/stream that slowly stripped everything away. I think I may have just seen a film or animation that depicted at least the physical part of that, but it was certainly a weird dream.
    Of course the scientific value is relative... and I should have added "... how it feels to me."
    But I can not explain how I experienced non-experience / unconsciousness, because I didn't. I have yet to be shown how it is even logically possible to experience it other than by inference after the event.
    No matter how many times LG might retort with nothing more than "you're wrong" or "incorrect".
  20. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Are you referring to morals or morale with the term "demoralizing"?
    And how exactly is that philosophy "demoralizing" (whichever meaning you were referring to)?
    I don't find it such at all (regardless of meaning of the term).
  21. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    LG, Sarkus -

    How do you view the idea that someone else can tell one who one is?
    How do you view the idea that a person should accept as their identity what someone else tells them they are?

    Because this is what essentially goes on both in science as well as in religion:
    Both the scientists and the religionists make claims about who I am (although they have different ones), and both expect me to just accept those claims, internalize them.
    The scientists expect to think that "I am nothing less nor more than electrochemical activity" and the religionists want me to think that "I am a servant of God."
    Neither of them seems to care that I experience myself as neither.
  22. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    It is a cultural difference, because it is not everywhere that unconsciousness is defined as an "absence of all experience."

    And the limits of one's language are the limits of one's world.

    Or so your particular language makes you think.

    We can point out that the definitions of terms are different, and that those differences are based on differences in the basic philosophies in different cultures.

    Defining unconsciousness as an "absence of all experience" is contextualized within a particular reductionist, naturalist view. Using that definition keeps us firmly within that view, seemingly confirming it.

    Well, yes, hence my two questions above:

    How do you view the idea that someone else can tell one who one is?
    How do you view the idea that a person should accept as their identity what someone else tells them they are?

    I will argue that claims about the nature of selfhood necessarily come down to confidence claims and power plays between participating individuals.

    Like I said earlier, which nobody seemed to notice:

    In an episode of "Heroes," one of the protagonists, the teenager Claire Bennett is an adopted child and she wants to find out who her biological parents are, because she is confused about her identity and wants to find out who she really is.
    Her foster mother tells her - "Sweetie, nobody can tell you who you are. You have to figure that out for yourself."

    This succintly sums up the problem of personal identity: By its nature, personal identity is not something that one person could define for another person, the other person considering that definition obligatory for themselves. Which is why the usual scientific approach when it comes to identity is misplaced, as it tries to externally define something that is inherently internal.

    Both, as they are related.

    For many people, it is. As you have undoubtedly noticed that people not rarely are not filled with joy to think of themselves as "nothing more nor less than electrochemical activity."

    Tell a teenager who is going through an identity crisis, or a middle-aged person who has lost a job and can't find another one and is distressed, doubting everything, the worth of the world, of themselves - tell such people that they are "nothing more nor less than electrochemical activity" and see how that goes.

    It could be interesting to find out why you don't.

    Why acknowledge something that one doesn't experience?

    Why hold as true something one does not (and perhaps even can not) actually know for oneself?
  23. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    An absence is still an absence, regardless of how it is framed in language. Language doesn't turn a cat into a dog - even if we label the animal that we're looking at differently, it is still the same animal. The lack of experience when unconscious is not language dependent.
    But the difference here seems to be more than mere definitions, but of actual experience.
    A cat does not morph into a dog by changing the definition.
    The view point does not change what is happening... only one's interpretation. And the lack of experience while unconscious is more than just an interpretation.
    Someone else provides an external viewpoint of oneself... i.e. how "I" am perceived external to my self. That is their domain - to provide an objective (i.e. not-subjective as opposed to objective meaning unbiased) view of who I am, and my domain would be to provide a subjective view of who I am.
    One might say that a happy person is one where the two views are in harmony.
    There is a difference between a sense of personal identity and the experience of self-hood... the "I". The former is the clothing worn by the latter.
    I don't necessarily find having something break down my morals to be demoralising as in lowering my morale. But I accept they may be related in that regard.
    Possibly - but my point is that the view is not, in and of itself, demoralising.
    It is up to each individual to determine for themselves whether it is demoralising to them or not.

    As you have undoubtedly noticed that people not rarely are not filled with joy to think of themselves as "nothing more nor less than electrochemical activity."
    To me it is more interesting to find out why people do.
    We acknowledge the effect that it can have on us after the event. We know there is a gap. That gap becomes part of us as soon as we wake up from it. That lack of experience, as a whole, has an effect on us.
    If we never woke up from it then we wouldn't acknowledge it at all.
    I don't hold it as true... my bad for the language I have used... it is easy to revert to more definitive positions when one is confronted with people merely saying "incorrect" or "clearly everyone does X".
    It is a rationalised position... and until I come across evidence to the contrary or experience that alters that rational assessment... it is the position I accept. Not as "truth" but as the rational position based on my experiences (or lack thereof

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