Scientific conjecture about an atheistic conception of the afterlife

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

  1. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    And back to "no man, no problem."
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    How so?
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  5. wstewart Registered Member

    Author note: summarizing essential propositions of existential passage

    Hello, everyone. Tom Clark and I had similar propositions in mind when we wrote our respective papers on 'generic subjective continuity' and its functional equivalent, 'existential passage'. I thought I'd highlight some essential propositions of existential passage for clarity. If you don't see one of the thread's propositions in this list, it's probably not in my reasoning. Tom Clark uses different terms, but his reasoning parallels.

    If a discrepancy surprises you, feel free to ask about it.

    Summarizing some essential propositions of existential passage:

    1. Personal identity persists through the criteria, or necessities, of physical continuity, subjectivity and episodic memory.
    2. Subjectivity is the criterion that sets temporal limits on personal identity's persistence.
    3. Subjective continuity is distinguishable from, and does not require, subjective persistence.
    4. The content of subjective experience is unique; however subjectivity itself is not. This enabling, dynamic thalamocortical state is universal, as any other common natural process is universal.
    5. Subjectivity's temporal limits transition the subjective and the objective, the unique and the common, the personal and the impersonal. These transitions have no obvious relevance to subjective continuity. They do remove the unique, personal conditions of persistence that associate subjective continuity with the individual.
    6. William James' concept of the unfelt time-gap provides a functional framework for subjective continuity at temporal limits.
    I'll add a few assertions concerning the reasoning that follows the propositions:

    1. Existential passage is an explicit application of James' unfelt time-gap to the transitions of temporal limits. Existential passage is functionally identical to an unfelt time-gap; only it makes explicit the ontologic relevance of the transitions.
    2. Existential passage can be said to honor Occam's Razor in that it requires no more metaphysical entities than typical of physicalistic reasoning. Counter-arguments seem to require a greater number of metaphysical entities for their justification.
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  7. rodereve Registered Member

    All that atheists attest to is that there is no God. There's no atheist conception of afterlife, because atheists don't really have a concept of anything exclusively, atheism is not a belief in things, but a disbelief in God (or, you could say belief that there is no God). But I guess you could say that atheist's beliefs, are the negation of all the theistic religion's beliefs.

    And I don't think there CAN be an atheist view of an afterlife. For an afterlife to occur, some part of our identity has to be immortal, to carry onto a next life. It wouldn't be matter, because our bodies decay and degrade. It'd have to be some sort of spirit or soul, and to entertain that thought seems more religious than atheistic.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2013
  8. wstewart Registered Member

    That statement assumes the need for persistence of the individuated personal identity. However subjective continuity seems not to require persistence, and should not be equated with it.

    If the requirement of persistence is dropped - if mortality is granted - the conditions of subjective continuity remain, independently, per propositions (4.)-(6.) in the previous post. Hence the concept of 'existential passage' and its equivalents.

    The reasoning of existential passage honors Occam's Razor, and has precedent in the Hellenistic philosophical tradition. It's something to be aware of, if only as an exception to the rule - or rather, exception to common assumptions - about afterlife faith and reason.
  9. wstewart Registered Member


    Speaking of precedent, I note that this particular thread has recent precedent in two other philosophical forums. Similar threads, similar posts.

    292 posts at Philosophy Forums.

    1283 posts at the Richard Dawkins forum.


    A Philosophy Forums sample:

    • A poster is intrigued by Tom Clark's naturalistic thought experiment, which raises questions on the nature of subjectivity, self and death: 1
    • Stripping the mask from self, and the other: 1
    • A poster attempts an abstract of EP/GSC reasoning, and I respond: 1 2
    • A cognitive science researcher explores models of subjectivity with us: 1 2 3
    • The metaphysical hazard of depersonalized conditions - a premise of EP/GSC reasoning: 1
    • Buddhism and EP/GSC reasoning: 1
    • Foundations of Consciousness - Drawing The Line: 1 2
    • Unfelt Time-Gaps - Does Old Paul Pass to New? 1 2 3 4
    • Does Old Paul Pass to New? A Poll (closed Sept. 4, 2010): 1 2 3
    • Pulling out Occam's Razor: 1
    • A long conversation impresses the essay view of time-gaps upon a poster. He tacks to parallel our course: 1 2
    • A poster engages the concept of split passage: 1 2
    • Is metaphysical philosophy better without sci-fi? A Poll (opened Oct. 2, 2010): 1
    A Dawkins forum sample:

    • Jumping into the fray: 1
    • Importance of the philosophical meaning of the word, "person": 1
    • Is consciousness discontinuous, or not? An experiment: 1 2
    • An opponent stumbles into the vortex, and pulls others in: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
    • Weighing some pros and cons of existential passage: 1
    • A Druze leader offers a word of support: 1 2
    • Philosophy is unlike poker. 1
    • Respecting the Aristotelian Law of Noncontradiction: 1 2
    • Sailing the Ship of Theseus upon a spacetime diagram: 1
    • Simultaneity: relative or absolute? 1 2 3
    • Selections: other authors' reasoning for existential passage, or close analog: 1
    • Philosophy, Lawrence, Arabia: 1
    • Opponents persistently contradict each other, and even themselves, when trying to explain unfelt time-gaps: 1 2 3
    • How things stand after 1200 posts: 1
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2013
  10. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Then a matter of whether or not a particular individual is satisfied with the possibility of this generic subjectivity's continuance, as a "kind of" globally available principle still being indulged in by scattered organisms that evolve any "equipment organization" necessary to partake in it. People who have suffered something bordering on total amnesia, and re-acquired a new personality / life over time again, might appreciate this better than any standard identifyings of "who I am" with either one's unique brain memories or body history (though the latter would still get to be retained by such cases of deep memory loss).
  11. kx000 Valued Senior Member

    Atheism is a inherent wickedness. You either are right and you go to the dirt, or you are wrong wrong wrong and to hell for ya! What is a non-believer?
  12. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Tell me about all the religions you don't believe either, and I'll tell you why your hell is also BS.
  13. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    I believe in atheistic reincarnation, but it's the body that's immortal, not the spirit. The body never disappears, it just changes form.
  14. kx000 Valued Senior Member

    Tell me.
  15. wstewart Registered Member

    Thank you for considering the concept's reasoning and application.


    As regards satisfaction:

    I think "satisfaction with the possibility" is not the best measure of the concept. That's effectively a satisfaction with outcome, which measures philosophies with the ruler of personal desire. If we adopt that measure we must discard other measures, including those of knowledge and reason. History indicates that this is a bad move.


    As regards personal and impersonal aspects of the concept:

    Existential passage does not posit persistence of personal identity, but of course impersonal persistence, transmission and recovery of mental content do occur regardless. When someone grasps the meaning of recorded thoughts, the impersonal record then enters, and potentially informs, personal thoughts and personal identity. In this way the impersonal record could be thought to bypass the loss associated with existential passage, effecting some recovery. (Just as example: Adler and Van Doren's Great Treasury of Western Thought is one "impersonal record" that recovers much.)

    A recovery after passage would be only selective, partial. The possibility of partial recovery - education viewed as a tool of personal recovery - might satisfy some personal desires. It cannot satisfy all, or even most. But again, I think that's the wrong measure of philosophies, per above.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  16. rodereve Registered Member

    I don't really see what this has to do with subjectivity. Are you thinking along the lines of Jungian theory of passing on a collective consciousness or something. I feel like with the "afterlife", that would require us (our own personal identity) to live it. In any other case, then it wouldn't be OUR afterlife.

    Well I'd agree that the body is immortal, that would be like agreeing that matter is indivisible. But I don't think that would be reincarnation of yourself, just of basic building blocks of matter.
  17. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Which then go into other organizations of matter we call people. The patterns echo through time while the raw materials stays more or less the same.
  18. wstewart Registered Member

    Does Old Paul pass to New?

    Existential passage (or Clark's generic subjective continuity) is not a Jungian concept, no. And nothing material or immaterial is posited as passing between the subjective transitions. As in essay Ch. 9: "No 'thing' is imagined to have transferred any memory, or personality, or soul, or any psychic entity whatsoever from Nicos to Thanos."

    It's as with James' unfelt time-gaps, generally. And more specifically, here no particular thing - no structure, process, record, entity - tangibly connects the broken ends of the unfelt time-gap. Only the temporal order of the subjective transitions is argued as being relevant.


    Speaking to your assertion:

    In Ch. 9 I modified James' illustration of the unfelt time-gap, to present a more extreme but still familiar case. With Old and New Paul, the unfelt time-gap disrupts personal identity through a retrograde amnesia that begins at the start of the time-gap, at the time of the subjective transition. Interestingly, no reader ever challenged Old Paul's passage to the New. The essay's reasoning raised no objection there. Yet the conditions of that unfelt time-gap are functionally identical to those of the existential passage of Nicos to Thanos, which many readers have challenged.

    When I pointed out this discrepancy, and asked readers to apply their challenges to Old and New Paul, none could.

    What does that tell us, if anything?


    In your case, you've asserted (in essay terms) that Nicos' loss of personal identity makes it impossible for him to experience Thanos' life, afterward, as his own. That is, as his "afterlife".

    But would you say the same of Old and New Paul, where conditions are functionally identical?

    Does Old Paul's loss of personal identity make it impossible for him to experience New Paul's life, after?


    For reference, some targeted posts from a discussion of this very question at Philosophy Forums:

    • Unfelt Time-Gaps - Does Old Paul Pass to New? 1 2 3 4
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  19. wstewart Registered Member


    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    If I might comment on your thread title:

    There is, I think, a meaningful consonance between the sort of reasoning we're developing here, and Christian faith.

    This may seem, well, heretical - but requirements of consonance are actually presented in Pope John Paul II's Fides et Ratio. I spoke to each Catholic requirement when I addressed the Magisterium in Rome in 2000.

    In the transcript excerpt below I talk about Metaphysics by Default, but I feel these remarks apply also to the similar reasoning of Tom Clark and other like-minded writers - including posters who've ventured similar ideas in this thread.

    What do you think about that?

    P.S. In this also existential passage reasoning has precedent. The Druze community in Lebanon underwent an investigation of its doctrines and practices back in the 1950's. The Druze were judged to be Muslims in good standing - as of course anyone who has broken bread with them can readily believe.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  20. wstewart Registered Member

    Applying the views of sarkus, lightgigantic and wynn to Old/New Paul.

    If I might ask the three of you:

    Does Old Paul pass to New?

    I think I understand your recent views, but it would be easier for me if you could express your views in terms of Old/New Paul. Also this would give continuity to previous posts on the question.

    Some previous posts: 1 2 3 4


    As regards language:

    We know that language has hard limits. (Who could reconstruct a concert from its reviews?) We encounter another hard limit of language when we talk about the transition from subjective to objective states. Language presumes a distinction between subject and object, just as we presume it, and experience it, in daily life. Subject-verb-object is the common declarative form, with good reason. But when subject transitions to object, or vice-versa, language becomes inadequate; just because the common presumption of language is undercut by the nature of the event described. This hard limit afflicts descriptions of Old and New Paul, including my own.

    In my experience, methodical reasoning, precise use of words, and imagination help us communicate our views of the matter. Communication has in fact succeeded at times. But here a hard limit of language greatly increases the potential for miscommunication.
  21. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

    Hi, wstewart, I have a question for you, what do you think is the requirement for the Nicos subjective to pass specifically to Thanos? In the case of Old Paul and New Paul the requirement seem to be that the brain has the same structure (it is the same brain after all, with minor modifications), however, how much alike would Thanos brain need to be in order to be the brain most fit for Nicos subjective?

    Also, what does order has to do with anything? When Thanos passes away, there is no subjective (it is gone, which is required for the argument), if there is no subjective then there is no subjective time (no time in which the subjective is present), hence why should there be a requirement that Thanos must be objectively in a time later than Nicos? Arguably Nicos subjective could find itself present in any body in any time that meets the requirements.
  22. wstewart Registered Member

    Hi Cyperium.

    Thinking first of Old and New Paul:

    With Old Paul the structure is not just modified, but functionally disrupted to the point at which subjectivity is ended and episodic memory is lost. From that time to the time of recovery, subjectivity and more generally personal identity do not persist in the structure.

    In your view the common structure is vital. But what would be the relevance of that structure to the unfelt time-gap, during that time when the structure lacks the function required to close the gap?

    Asking another way: Must Nature prevent closure of the unfelt time-gap until such time as that particular structure recovers its function? If so, how, or why?

    As regards objective and subjective time:

    James' time-gap, whether felt or unfelt, ends at a time that is objectively later than the start. True, there's no subjective experience of time in an unfelt time-gap, but that doesn't alter objective time. Objectively, when conditions for gap closure are first met, one expects the gap to close. There is no obvious reason to expect otherwise, and I haven't seen substantial argument against that expectation.

    Of course the "conditions for closure" are not perfectly understood, and certainly open to question and argument, as above.
  23. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

    That depends basically if the subject is unique, cause if he is unique then something must make that subject unique, in other words, it has to have some property (or properties) that makes that subject be in that particular body instead of any other body. After recovery, one could either say that it is the same subject, or a different subject, depending solely on if he continues to feel existence, and it does not depend on if he has the same identity or can even identify that he has been in that body previously.

    If the subject isn't unique, then what makes him be in that particular body instead of anyone else? If it depends on structure then the subject must have properties that depend on that structure but that would make it unique (we can't exist as two bodies simultaniously).

    Of course nature mustn't do anything, it would be preferred if the process was automatic in that way (but this is a bit problematic in some ways that I can explain if you want).

    The reason I think otherwise is that subjective nothing and objective nothing are the same thing. If you are nothing, then time has no relevance to you, it would be as if you never existed (as it was before you were born). How can time pass in nothing? There is no object in subjective nothing. That is the part that I have most difficulty understanding. There can be no time and no world in nothing, even if it is subjective nothing. To think otherwise would sustain the thought that the subject somehow exist in time and the universe even when we by definition say that it doesn't exist. I mean, how is subjective nothing before you were born different from subjective nothing after you died? If it is different in any way then it isn't nothing, as it must then have properties (like time, or at least something that goes along with time). Also, how is subjective nothing different from objective nothing? Nothing has no properties and nothing to differ it.

    Perhaps it could help by imagining subjective nothing as being outside of space and time, outside of any existence. Even if you actually aren't anywhere (nor anytime), that's why you are nothing after all.

    Might I ask another question; if we never existed before we were born (which is a common view) couldn't we be said to have been non-existent for a eternity of objective time? If we have been non-existent for a eternity of time then how come we can yet exist now? Also, we are commonly said to never exist again after death, yet that never is also a eternity of time and if we follow the same reasoning as we do before we were born then 'never' doesn't actually mean never does it?

    It is as much a contradiction that we never existed before we were born, as it is a contradiction that we never will exist after we die.

    It is a somewhat common belief of people (perhaps teenagers?) that the world ends when they die, and people say to them that it doesn't end, the world goes on. Well, I honestly think that the world ends (or you could equally well say that it becomes what it was before it begun), cause it does for you. The belief that the world goes on even when someone dies is the illusion of those that lives on.

    Btw, I'd like to say that I greatly value your work, I also like the discussion of it, it has raised attention to a very difficult subject and I believe that discussion of it could bring us further into understanding the concept of death and if we can exist again (or perhaps even forever), and I can't imagine what subject could be more important. To further this, I think that it isn't only important for subjective existence, but also for objective existence. In a way I think we exist on the same basic principle (we are intertwined), perhaps there is no objective and no subjective, it is only existence, the manifestation of that existence can have different natures (like objective/subjective/fantasy/...) but all those natures rest in the same basic existence.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2013

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