Advanced Search

If humans are nothing more than the interaction of DNA and environmental stimuli

If humans are nothing more than the interaction of DNA and environmental stimuli does this give us any hope for life after death? this may sound paradoxical, but if I am composed merely of memories and perceptions brought on by the course of nature is it possible my perceptions could return acting on a different substrate- I.e my perceptions and memories live on through my ancestors or people who shared a similar life experience? If they remember me in their dreams is this in fact an aspect of myself that lives on? Can a spirit be contained in a mere cause-effect relationship? If someone in the future is placed in a similar dillema to myself, is this like an echo in time? would they not share some of my perceptions? If the thoughts were merely part of an evolving system and conciousness is all action-reaction would this be a form of "resonance", Simpy because of a shared experience? Are the memories dead people not evolving just as we are? For example Jesus Christ is remembered as both a saint and a...

There is an awful lot going on in your question, and some of it I do not feel qualified to respond to. In particular, I think a complete answer to your question would require a good deal of work from contemporary theories of the mind, as well as how these theories inform questions of personal identity. So what I am about to say is only a very partial response (and may be inadequate even at that!).

To be frank, I think the whole idea of life after death is--at least in the various ways I generally hear it characterized--probably nonsense. To see this, let's begin with your experience of yourself--what it is like being you. Think about this for a minute to bring in into focus (as best as you can), and then try out a few of the popular afterlife options:

(1) Now imagine being both you and also, say, a chicken. Peck, peck...cheep, cheep...nice beak! Nah--you have no idea what it would be like to be a chicken, and whatever that would be like, it most certainly can't be anything like what it is like to be you. Maybe your atoms or molecules could become atoms or molecules in a chicken, but that hardly makes the chicken a new embodiment of you. Now I cannot "channel" chicken minds, of course--indeed, I can't even channel yours, despite our shared humanity (this is the famous "problem of other minds"). But I think you will find it is more than just a mystery to think about you being or becoming a chicken. So I am inclined to think that whatever your causal relations with the chicken who lives (on) after your death may be, there is no sense in thinking that the chicken will in any cogent sense be you. So much for transmigration of souls.

(2) OK, now imagine you having a different human body. Suppose now you are an adult male Chinese. OK, now imagine being an infant female from the Aka tribe of Africa. Wah! Got it? ...I doubt it. As I said, there is not only a problem of other minds here, there is also the problem that our personal experiences seem to be gendered (which can sometimes create very difficult challenges for transgendered people, whose personal experience--you might say personal identity--is one of the opposite gender than their own body). But then, what would it be like for you to be a member of a completely different ethnic group, with a completely different personal, familial, and cultural history, and so on? In what sense would that person be you? To go back to my example, you were an infant once (in some historical sense, at least). What was that like? You may have childhood memories that seem to be part of your current identity, but I doubt that you have any idea what it would be like to be you and at the same time be an infant. But if there is "life after death" in some meaningful way, there would need to be continued personal identity before and after death. That's my question: does it really make sense to think there could be an identity relation between you and the Aka baby girl? Say what??? So much for reincarnation.

(3) OK, well try this one now: imagine being both you and also a disembodied soul. Look Ma! No hands!!! Yeah, and no arms and no legs and no shoulders or hips; no belly or chest, no head, no brain...nothing but...well, whatever! What would that be like? Well, speaking just for myself here, I can't wrap my mind around the idea at all. Everywhere I have gone in life, my body has been with me all the while. Now, some people claim to have experiences "astral projection" in which they have experiences as of floating outside of their bodies. Could be I am stupid about this simply because I haven't had such an experience myself, but I wonder what they were seeing with since they didn't have eyes at the time? What would that be like? Damned if I know... To be frank, from an experiential point of view (in order words, in terms of my sense of self), to be me is to be embodied as I am. Even if some disembodied thing (whatever that might be!) conceived itself as in some way identified with me, I'd be inclined (at the moment, anyway!) to deny the conception and identification: whatever it is to be a disembodied thing, that can't be aligned with what it is to be me. So much for the separation of soul or spirit from the (dead) body.

Here's the litmus test I am proposing: what it is like to be you is either consistent with whatever the afterlife experience is supposed to be, or else whatever follows your death will not be you in an afterlife. Given the various kinds of nonsense I have heard about "the afterlife," I find absolutely no reason to think that there will be such a thing that I could count as me surviving my own death. As for you...well, I don't know what that is like, so...

There is an awful lot going on in your question, and some of it I do not feel qualified to respond to. In particular, I think a complete answer to your question would require a good deal of work from contemporary theories of the mind, as well as how these theories inform questions of personal identity. So what I am about to say is only a very partial response (and may be inadequate even at that!). To be frank, I think the whole idea of life after death is--at least in the various ways I generally hear it characterized--probably nonsense. To see this, let's begin with your experience of yourself--what it is like being you . Think about this for a minute to bring in into focus (as best as you can), and then try out a few of the popular afterlife options: (1) Now imagine being both you and also, say, a chicken . Peck, peck...cheep, cheep...nice beak! Nah--you have no idea what it would be like to be a chicken, and whatever that would be like, it most certainly can...

What happens after death? I mean, I've thought about this for a while, and have

What happens after death? I mean, I've thought about this for a while, and have concluded that this current life, the life we are all in, is merely for the purposes of enjoyment and pleasure (reading Aristotle's works :) ) So, when we die, does our perception of time immediately fade away? I mean this. Do we (after death) A) Immediately "respawn" (like HALO)? We die, then instantaneously take on the life of whatever creature that may be (thus time just kind of "skips scenes"? B) Wait in line, like at the DMV for a ticket? Do we simply sit in Limbo, waiting for our name to be called? C) Since there is no life after this (to some people), then life ceases to exist, explosions happen, stuff like that. Does that mean the moment we die,everything is gone? Thanks. PS, Please don't give me "well i'm not dead so i can't tell you haha" kind of stuff. Thanks. Only reason I am inquiring is I just joined a Philosophy club at our school, and I was very interested in this stuff. Thanks for the reply :3

Before I get to your question about death, I would really like you to reconsider your view of what life is all about. The view you express on this topic is generally called "hedonism," and this view is met with fairly strong resistance in most of the philosophical literature. Are there no bad pleasures (e.g. that of the sadist, as he tortures his victims)?

But let's focus on your main question. As you note, some people believe in reincarnation. To be honest with you, this view does not seem coherent to me. Consider the claims made about reincarnation as claims made about personal identity. So, for example, I die, and "come back" as a chicken. In what sense is that clucking, feathery thing me? It doesn't have my tastes in philosophy, art, music, food, or wine. It doesn't read Plato's dialogues or know Greek (or English!). I think about what it is like to be a chicken...and I come up empty. And I am pretty sure that the chicken also has no idea what it is like to be me. Now, I do know what it is like to be me, and I think that knowing this--what it is like to be me--is essential to what it is to be me. So, if the chicken doesn't (and, I suspect, can't) know what it is like to be me, and I don't (and can't) know what it is like to be that chicken, then I can't understand how to make any sense at all of the idea that that chicken is me. Of course it isn't!

The same goes for me becoming a disembodied being (in the limbo line, or in Heaven, or Hell, or wherever). What would that be like? I confess I can't do any better on this on than I can do on the chicken hypothesis. I know what it is like to be me--but when I think about that, the fact that I am embodied is something I simply can't imagine away. I can imagine being me with one or more of my limbs missing. But no body at all? Nope...I can't imagine what that would be like, but whatever that thing is (or could there even be such a "thing"?), it ain't me.

Or maybe I could become a ghost. What would that be like? Hmmm...sounds pretty much like "disembodied being" to me. In what sense would that thing be me? No arms, no legs, no belly, genitals, head, face...nothing? I would be able to see (without eyes) and hear (without ears), and move about (without moving legs or arms)...? Say what? I have no idea what that would be like...but I do know what it is like to be me. So, again, I conclude that whatever people might have in mind as "my ghost," that thing is not the same thing as me.

So, if any of these scenarios is supposed to give me any kind of reasonable hope for the afterlife, I'm afraid they all seem like complete failures to me--I simply have no idea at all (and I suspect, neither do those who advocate such views of the afterlife) how whatever they are talking about can possibly qualify as "me" after death. Remove that vivid and very personal experience of being me and try to identify that thing with a chicken, a disembodied spirit, or a ghost--or, for that matter, a different human being--and I think the claim of identity simply fails. Whatever that thing may be, it ain't me.

Here is a thought: what is so difficult about thinking that you might cease to exist? It sure seems like there was a time before you existed. Why can there not be a time after you existed, when you don't exist any more? On what basis (other than some absurd hope or religious belief) wouldd you expect to be immune from non-existence? Just like before you lived, plenty of stuff was going on in the world. And the world will still be very busy after you are gone. That's just how things work--why is that so difficult to accept?

Before I get to your question about death, I would really like you to reconsider your view of what life is all about. The view you express on this topic is generally called "hedonism," and this view is met with fairly strong resistance in most of the philosophical literature. Are there no bad pleasures (e.g. that of the sadist, as he tortures his victims)? But let's focus on your main question. As you note, some people believe in reincarnation. To be honest with you, this view does not seem coherent to me. Consider the claims made about reincarnation as claims made about personal identity. So, for example, I die, and "come back" as a chicken. In what sense is that clucking, feathery thing me ? It doesn't have my tastes in philosophy, art, music, food, or wine. It doesn't read Plato's dialogues or know Greek (or English!). I think about what it is like to be a chicken...and I come up empty. And I am pretty sure that the chicken also has no idea what it is like to be...

Is there a particular theory against the philosophical possibility of eternal

Is there a particular theory against the philosophical possibility of eternal life? I ask this because it seems to me that if eternal life were possible, men may lose the incentive to philosophize, hence the demise of philosophy.

I agree with Richard Heck's response, but would like to respond to the first part of this question. I think there are some fairly persuasive reasons for thinking there is no such thing as eternal life--though I doubt that an argument could be given to show its impossibility. So:

(1) If we agree that the body dies and is ultimately destroyed as an entity, then the only way there could be eternal life would be if the living self is entirely distinct from the body. But the kind of mind-body dualism that might make this possible has been shown (in many ways and by many philosophers) to be at least profoundly problematical, if not simply incoherent. Indeed, many philosophers regard the very idea of "disembodied existence" as problematical, if not simply incoherent.

(2) Even if survival of death means re-embodiment in some form, it would still appear that the living self is entirely separable from the body that dies, so that does not solve the problems of (1). Similarly, there seem to be fairly strong conceptual reasons for supposing that theories of reincarnation or transmigration of consciousness are incoherent. There are many technical reasons for this, but for an intuitive grasp of their gist, consider: Is it really imaginable that you could be both YOU and also A CHICKEN (for example)? How can a being have BOTH a human and a chicken form of consciousness (whatever that might be like)? If "what it is like" to be a chicken is something in principle not available to you, then actually being or becoming a chicken is something that in principle cannot happen to you--either you would not really be a chicken, or else you would be destroyed in the process.

Unless there is some other (coherent) way to conceive of eternal life, then I think you would do well to worry about the one (mortal) one you have. Last chance!

I agree with Richard Heck's response, but would like to respond to the first part of this question. I think there are some fairly persuasive reasons for thinking there is no such thing as eternal life--though I doubt that an argument could be given to show its impossibility. So: (1) If we agree that the body dies and is ultimately destroyed as an entity, then the only way there could be eternal life would be if the living self is entirely distinct from the body. But the kind of mind-body dualism that might make this possible has been shown (in many ways and by many philosophers) to be at least profoundly problematical, if not simply incoherent. Indeed, many philosophers regard the very idea of "disembodied existence" as problematical, if not simply incoherent. (2) Even if survival of death means re-embodiment in some form, it would still appear that the living self is entirely separable from the body that dies, so that does not solve the problems of (1). Similarly, there seem to be fairly...