What if there's an afterlife but no God?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Magical Realist, May 18, 2013.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I think it is useful to distinguish between Selfness in the sense of "identity" and selfness in the sense of "uniqueness."

    The Self as identity is the subjective conscious connection one has to one's own being or essence--selfhood taken in the sense of a property that is instantiated in a particular body or person. The self as uniqueness or individuality is the objective character of being a "this" that is discrete and unique. Philosophically this distinction was made on a more proto-self level as applying to all beings not just conscious ones:

    "Haecceity may be defined in some dictionaries as simply the "essence" of a thing, or as a simple synonym for quiddity or hypokeimenon. However, such a definition deprives the term of its subtle distinctiveness and utility. Whereas haecceity refers to aspects of a thing which make it a particular thing, quiddity refers to the universal qualities of a thing, its "whatness", or the aspects of a thing which it may share with other things and by which it may form part of a genus of things."--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haecceity

    An example in this case would be the thisness or haecceity of an apple being what makes it THIS apple as distinct from all others. The quiddity of that same apple would be it's instantiation of the essence or property "Apple". Again, it is the distinction between being a "this" and a "what."

    Lest we see the acquisition of haecceity or "thisness" thru out life as limiting, take the example of a fractal which forever unfolds new and unique variations of its fundamental quiddity or essence as its own iterative algorithm. A self in this sense would never be complete and yet forever manifest novel applications of its Self defined as its eternal mathematical essence.
    Last edited: May 23, 2013
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  3. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Indeed, and doesn't this natural self-differentiantion of the self over time occur with just one person as well. In a matter moments we feel the continuity of our self with our previous thoughts and experiences. There is a self-evident continuity between before and after that occurs second by second. But over weeks, months, and even years, our continuity as the self-same being gets stretched and diluted. Are we even the same self we were years ago given the amount of change and new data that has been incorporated into us? Perhaps not as much as we think. Perhaps the whole point of being a self is to experience ourselves over time as different selves, as "others" who like avatars or dream characters express parts of the larger intersubjective collective Self that we eternally are.
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  5. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    You seem to be a presentist. I lean more to the eternalist conception of time, described in the article below:

    a. Presentism, the Growing Past, and the Block Universe

    "Have dinosaurs slipped out of existence? More generally, we are asking whether the past is part of reality. How about the future? Philosophers are divided into three camps on the question of the reality of the past, present, and future. The presentist viewpoint maintains that the past and the future are not real, and that only the present is real, so if a statement about the past is true, this is because some present facts make it true. Parmenides, Duns Scotus and A. N. Prior were presentists. Advocates of a growing past argue that, in addition to the present, the past is also real. Reality “grows” with the coming into being of determinate reality from an indeterminate or potential reality. “The world grows by accretion of facts,” said Richard Jeffrey. This growing-past theory was advocated by C. D. Broad. It is not clear whether Aristotle accepted this theory or accepted a form of presentism; see (Putnam, 1967), p. 244 for commentary. William James famously remarked that the future is so unreal that even God can’t anticipate it.

    Opposing both presentism and the growing past theory, Bertrand Russell, J.J.C. Smart, W.V.O. Quine, Adolf Grünbaum, and Paul Horwich object to assigning special ontological status to the present. They say there is no objective ontological difference among the past, the present, and the future just as there is no objective ontological difference among here, there, and far. Yes, we thank goodness that the pain is there rather than here, and that it is past rather than present, but these differences are subjective, being dependent on our point of view. This third ontology of time is called the block universe theory because it regards reality as a single block of spacetime with its time slices ordered by the temporally-before relation. It is mental perspectives only that divide the block into a past part, a present part, and a future part. The future, by the way, is the actual future, not all possible futures. William James coined the term “block universe,” but the theory is also called “eternalism” and the “static theory of time.” If time has an infinite future or infinite past, or if space has an infinite extent, then the block is infinitely large. On the block theory, time is like a very special extra dimension of space, as in a Minkowski diagram, so the view is also said to promote the spatialization of time.

    The presentist says that when an entity loses its presentness it goes out of existence. One of the major issues for presentism is how to ground true propositions about the past. What makes it true that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated or that there’s a difference between last April and last May? And the presentist must account for causation, for April showers causing May flowers. A survey of defenses of presentism can be found in Markosian, 2003.

    The presentist and the advocate of the growing past will usually unite in opposition to the block universe theory on two grounds: (i) the present is so much more vivid to a conscious being than is any other time. (ii) the block theory misses the special “open” character of the future. In the block universe there is only one future, so this implies the future exists already, which is fatalism or determinism, and we know both of these are incorrect. The counter from the defenders of the block universe is that, regarding (i), the now is significant but not objectively real. Regarding (ii) and the open future, the block theory allows determinism and fatalism but does not require either one. Eventually there will be one future, regardless of whether that future is now open or closed, and that is what constitutes the future portion of the block.

    The advocates of the block universe attack both presentism and the growing-past theory by claiming that only the block universe can make sense of the theory of relativity’s implication that, if persons A and B are in relative motion, an event in person A’s present can be in person B’s future, yet advocates of presentism and the growing-past theories must suppose that this event is both real and unreal because it is real for A but not real for B. Surely that conclusion is unacceptable, claim the block theorists. Their two key assumptions here are that relativity does provide an accurate account of the spatiotemporal relations among events, and that if there is some frame of reference in which two events are simultaneous, then if one of the events is real, so is the other. See (Putnam, 1967) for a discussion of this argument.

    Opponents of the block universe counter that it does not provide an accurate account of the way things are because it considers the present to be subjective, and not part of objective reality. For a review of the argument from relativity against presentism and its counters, see (Saunders, 2002)."---
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  7. kx000 Valued Senior Member

    Men are alpha orientated, I'm sure there will always be a all mighty.
  8. Balerion Banned Banned

    But if you were being duplicated, "you" would only be in one body, then there very much is a correct answer as to which is really you. Your consciousness exists in only one body, so even a replicated "you" wouldn't actually be you; you wouldn't feel what the other you feels, nor see through the other you's eyes. So there must be a "me" different from the sum of one's experiences and memories. A physiological "me" that is tethered to one brain.

    I disagree. While we may not think of ourselves as having the same attributes we once did (consider that we were all at one point children, with different desires, perhaps fuller imaginations, and aspirations that we may or may no longer hold) but this doesn't disrupt the continuity of self. It's simply a change in status, like going from naked to dressed, or from sick to well.

    Don't know how you arrived here. It doesn't follow from your previous points.
  9. Neddy Bate Valued Senior Member

    Imagine that you are put under anesthesia for some kind of operation, and when you wake up, there is a duplicate of yourself. You know that you are the "real" you, because you remember being yourself before the anesthesia. But the thing is, the duplicate you also remembers being you before the anesthesia, because all the memories of your whole like were programmed into the duplicate. So, even though you are 100% sure that you are the "real" you, the duplicate is also 100% sure that they are the real you. Now imagine that the doctor sits you down and tells you, "I'm sorry to break the news to you, but you are the duplicate." You are not going to believe him, right? You are going to tell the doc that he must have mixed you two up. But that is exactly what the duplicate would do in that situation!! They would be just as sure that they were the real you!!

    Weird, right?
  10. Chipz Banned Banned

  11. elte Valued Senior Member


    A comon view is that birds are dinosaurs.

    I see here, there, and far as physically real so long as none of them are the past. That fits Relativity as well. Things exist there, and we could physically interact with them if we could get there. In the case of far, we might get there by means of an airplane or a wormhole.
  12. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Presumably a duplicated body would contain all the same memories and information you contain. While the sense of "you" will still persist in the original body, it will therefore be duplicated in the twin. Two bodies claiming to be the same person. And as with Neddy's thought experiment, suppose you were anaesthesized and then woken up not knowing if you were the twin or the original. How would you be able to tell? Maybe you're the twin who feels just as continuous with your past as you did. Granted, both your identities would experientially diverge from then on. But that happens with the original too. New experiences come along adding novelty to the pattern of you without turning you into a new you. Or does it? Sometimes I think we just create this fictional narrative of a me that is the same person all our lives because it is comforting and gives us meaning. In reality we are complex metamorphi of many persons over our lives. Indeed, the matter that makes up our bodies gets changed out every year or so. It would be entirely possible to construct "you" at various phases of your life in separate bodies linked only by a chain of shared memories. Which would be "you" then?

    Perhaps. Even the experience of being a different person, of not being "oneself", assumes an unchanging pov such that such a change can be experienced. IOW, if I am a different person, it is still ME being the different person.

    A mere poetic flourish spontaneously indulged in typically at the end of my compositions. Ignore it.

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  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    That would probably depend on the nature of the duplication, I guess. If Dave's body was precisely measured in all of its particulars, and then an identical new-Dave was constructed in a future 3-D copier somehow, outside onlookers would likely say that the original that was measured is still the real Dave and that the copy is a new individual that falsely identifies himself as Dave.

    But suppose that Dave's body was somehow induced to divide in the same way that single celled organisms divide into two cells. I don't think that it would be nearly so easy for third-person onlookers to decide which of the two post-division Daves was the 'real' Dave.

    In the case of single celled organisms, I guess that the traditional way of looking at it is to treat both of the division products as new individuals, as a new generation.

    When it comes to human beings (as compared to bacteria and protozoa) we seem less inclined to simply think of the two post-division individuals as entirely brand new people. In the human case, we seem to want to say that the subjective 'me' from the individual that divided is preserved and still continues.

    I'm inclined to say that both of the division products would 'really' be Dave. That needn't mean that both division products would be telepathically linked and share only one consciousness between them. There would now be two subjective 'me's, both of them with equal rights to call himself the 'real' Dave. Both of them would then proceed to accrue his own experiences and memories, and grow increasingly different and distinct as time went on.

    I think that it does need to be discovered.

    Both A and B wake up after dividing. Both have the first-person feeling of being 'me'. But who is that 'me'? What name, history and identity are associated with it? How are 'me's' individuated and connected to proper names?

    Both of them remember being Dave and possess all of Dave's memories, attitudes, predispositions and so on. Both of them remember entering the laboratory and being sedated in preparation for the duplication process. Both of them examine themselves in their recovery rooms and are reassured to find Dave's body, with all of its unique blemishes.

    Each of them identifies himself as being Dave in precisely the same ways that we identify ourselves upon waking up in the morning as being the same person who went to bed the night before.

    Is there really anything more to being Dave than that?

    After the duplication, both A and B will wake up to find himself in his own body and will have his own unique sense of being 'me'. Neither will have any privileged access to the thoughts and experiences of the other.

    The problem is in determining which of them, or perhaps neither or both of them, is still the same individual as the Dave who entered the experiment.

    My opinion is that both of them will have equal and entirely adequate and correct justification for concluding that he is indeed Dave.

    I don't think that there's anything more to it than that. In particular, I don't think that 'Dave' is the proper name of a self-aware temporally-extended spiritual substance that can only be present in one body at a time. I don't think that there's really any more continuity to my life from day to day and moment to moment than the continuity of my memories, dispositions and bodily organism. I don't see my personal identity as being anything more transcendental than that. And seeing as how all of my personal characteristics are always changing, I'm not even convinced that I'm exactly the same person that I was yesterday. I guess that I see myself as kind of a constantly-changing process extended through time.
  14. Balerion Banned Banned

    That doesn't matter. All that matter is that the experiencer of this new information and the sense of "youness" remains tethered to one body. Much in the same way a person who suffers from total amnesia doesn't lose the sense of self even though all of their memories are gone, a person who is duplicated won't suddenly lose their sense of self, or have it split between two bodies. For that reason, our sense of self must be separate from the memories we create.

    You seem to be equivocating on the meaning of "person," between the philosophical usage - the self-aware being - and the sociological usage - the person as defined by their behaviors.

    I have never heard this claim before. It sounds an awful lot like another spurious claim, though. Namely, the one in which we replace every cell in our body every seven years. If this is what you're driving at, I assure you it is a myth. Cells in various tissues are replaced, but at different rates, and not all tissues have cell turnover. And cell turnover no more makes us a new person than cell turnover gives us a new liver; if your liver is diseased today, it will still be diseased seven years from now, or however long it takes those cells to be replaced. And your new cells aren't appearing out of thin air; they're divided from existing cells, so there's really no way, even poetically, to call oneself a new person because their cells have been replaced.

    You're a bit murky with your terms here, so I'm having trouble following. If you're saying that there is an ever-present "me" that exists independently of experience, then I agree.
  15. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member


    Lots of things "sound spurious" until you actually research them:

    "We can calculate a low estimate by thinking about the issue in an entirely different manner. The atoms in your body go through a complete turnover about once every seven years. As with the loss of RBCs, this does not mean that your body is rebuilt miraculously on your 7th, 14th, 21s, 28th, etc. birthdays. Rather at any given time, most if not all the atoms that were in your body seven years ago will have been lost through metabolic turnover. So, if you consider that replacement of all of the atoms in a cell to be the 'loss' of a cell (a loose definition at best), then in any given second you are lose ~40 trillion / (7 * 32 million) or 181,000 cells on average."--


    Just curious, but which cells are not replaced by new atoms over time?
  16. Upstate8987 Registered Member

    I am a firm believer that there is no afterlife. I just think when we die, we die. Nothing happens, just the end of us.
    But very interesting ideas in this thread!
  17. Balerion Banned Banned

    Also when they're presented in such a clumsy manner, and mixed in with contradictory claims that we are eternal.

    This claim isn't true. Atoms in our brains, heart, teeth, and DNA never turnover. And the turnover of atoms in cells does not amount to a turnover of cells; our atoms are replaced (something I didn't know until just now) almost completely every year (with the exceptions I've noted, as well as others) but cells aren't replaced that quickly.

    And I fail to see how any of this amounts to a change in the sense of self one experiences during their life. We don't notice cell division or atom turnover. I'm still the same me I was fifteen years ago, despite trillions and trillions of cells and atoms being replaced during that period.

    The only cells (not atoms; cells) that are never replaced, at least as far as we know today, are in the cerebral cortex.
  18. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Do you have some actual documentation to back that up or is it just from your "out of your ass" file? I cited a molecular biologist. That's good enough evidence for me. In any case, here's another source:

  19. Balerion Banned Banned

    Excuse me, Mr. We Are All Eternal Selves, but I think you're standing on quicksand when telling others they're pulling things out of their asses. But since you said it, I'd love an example of me making something up on this forum. Go on, if the list is so large it requires its own file, then it shouldn't be difficult to cite an example.

    Arguments from authority don't impress me. What he wrote is factually inaccurate, irrespective of his degrees.

    You clearly didn't even bother to listen to the story.

    I mean, seriously.
  20. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    You really think I go around reading your posts? Don't flatter yourself. Even when you AREN'T getting into petty pissing matches with theists, you're not that interesting and rarely have anything original to say. But the last line of bullshit I read from you was something along the line that morality was an illusion and that killing and raping a child was ok. How did that turn out for ya?

    My bad..I failed to notice that earlier retraction.
    Last edited: May 24, 2013
  21. Rav Valued Senior Member

    I should have been more clear. The question posed to the onlookers wasn't supposed to be "which one is the original Dave" but merely "which one is Dave". If they are indeed identical the answer should be "both". In any case, it was designed to highlight the fact that a third party could have a different opinion about which one is you than you do and that therefore it is critical in these types of thought experiments to put yourself in them instead of adopting a third party vantage point.

    Perfect example. Here, when assuming a third party vantage point, you can indeed say both are really Dave. But if you put yourself in Dave's shoes before the duplication, wont you discover that afterwards you are only one them? Try to resist the urge to go third person again in your analysis.

    What will be self-evident to "you" after the duplication is that you are only one Dave, and not both. This will be true no matter which Dave you are.

    Yes, I agree with that conclusion given your description of the problem. But the problem I'm pointing at (or at least trying to point at) is different. It's not about which one is Dave, it's more like "into which Dave will your experiences, as the original Dave, continue?". Again, don't go third person with the analysis. Be Dave.

    The point here, in the context of cosmictotem's suggestion that each of us could have an afterlife by virtue of the material representation of the core self "rising again" or whatever, is that things don't seem to be quite that simple. If all that's required for "you" to exist again is the reemergence of the same physical substrate, then how is it that "you" wouldn't exist at every point where that physical substrate is present simultaneously? This is what I'm trying to point out with the thought experiments involving Dave. It doesn't seem to matter how physically identical a copy is, a single instance of a subjective sense of self seems to be tied to a single instance of the physical substrate from which it emerges.

    Either that, or perhaps the problem here is that I'm thinking of the substrate in classical terms just by assuming that duplication is even possible. Maybe the quantum mechanical properties of the substrate are critical here, but are simply impossible to duplicate. Maybe you could, at least in principle, get really really close to a proper duplication, even to the point where you succeed in creating a new self-aware entity with same personality and memories. But there would never have been 100% parity.
  22. Balerion Banned Banned

    You're the one who made it sound as if I make things up regularly. Now I never say anything original? It sure sounds like you're desperate to insult me, rather than make a valid point.

    Do you think that's something I made up?

    You fail to notice a lot of things, including the part of the NPR story that confirms what I said about atoms we never lose.

    And I didn't retract anything. I never said the claim about atoms wasn't true, only that I had never heard of it, and that it sounded a lot like the claim that we change our cells every seven years - which isn't true.

    If you need me, I'll be here waiting for your retraction.
  23. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I think that it does.

    Continuity, or at least the appearance of continuity. But perhaps not identity. Certainly not identity in the strong logical sense.

    Instead of thinking that there's some mysterious inner defining essence of us that persists from moment to moment, perhaps it makes more sense to think of our unique state at each moment being determined in some large part by our state at the preceeding moment, along with environmental inputs. (If somebody doesn't like an ontology of discrete temporal moments, then they can imagine the moments as calculus-style infinitesimals or something, so as to make things mathematically continuous.)

    We're causally continuous with our earlier self, but we aren't exactly identical with him. Many things can be truly said of us now that would have been false if they were said about us twenty years ago.


    That's kind of a Vedantic way of looking at it. That's cool. But I'm more inclined to think of this in the Buddhist manner, and think that most likely there isn't any metaphysical 'self' in there at all.

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