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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 have read that there exists a Buddhist belief that one's incarnations might

I have read that there exists a Buddhist belief that one's incarnations might not occur in chronological order: that is, I might die and be reincarnated in what currently appears to me to be the past. Following this line of thought, would there be any logical inconsistency with or contradiction of Buddhist belief in the mechanism or purpose of reincarnation if I were to suppose that I might encounter this other incarnation during my lifetime, or even that many or all living things are various incarnations of one entity?

This question obviously has a large psychological component, but I think there

This question obviously has a large psychological component, but I think there is a philosophical aspect as well: I have a four year old that is vaguely aware of a death that recently occurred. I do not want him to be afraid that his family will suddenly and permanently vanish, but, as previously discussed on this board, it seems neither moral nor prudent to lie to him. Is there any theory of what happens when someone dies that is at least somewhat plausibly correct but that will not terrify the little guy?

You're right, I think, that this is largely a psychological matter. So I respond here mostly as a fellow parent struggling with precisely this issue. Yesterday, Annabel, the pet goldfish of our our almost four-year old daughter, Lane, died suddenly while Lane was watching. Lane knew immediately what had happened: "Annabel died!" So we weren't confronted with the dilemma of whether to sneak out to a pet store during her nap to buy a fishy-doppelganger. But even though Annabel's death was surprisingly non-traumatic for Lane, it has raised in her all sorts of questions about her dead grandparents (one of whom she knew) and some other deceased pets. We reply that all these people and pets go to the same place. And when she asks where, we say that we don't know. This is border-line misleading, since we're atheists posing as agnostics. (I once replied that they all "went into the ground", but this seemed unnecessarily grim, and not exactly true about Anabel anyway, since she went down the drain.)

The problem for those of us without religion is that there isn't a very hopeful answer to give to these questions. Still, it's best, I think, not to beat around the bush, though I see no reason to elaborate unnecessarily. When we talk about these matters, I have been adding that I miss these people and pets, and that their absense makes me sad. This seems useful: it allows Lane to share feelings of loss, but to be comforted by the fact that her parents feel this way too. Or so I think. In the end, this may all come back to haunt us, or Lane. Where's AskPsychologists when you need it?

Is this a probable way to think about death?: the same "nothingness" we

Is this a probable way to think about death?: the same "nothingness" we 'experience' before we are born and have memory is what we will 'experience' when we die. (It just makes sense to me - what about to whomever reads this?)

I agree with you that the state before you're born is like the state after you've died in that in neither will you exist. But I don't agree that these are states that we somehow experience. I note that you yourself place "experience" in scare quotes, indicating that perhaps it's not to be taken literally. And that's right: the period after you've died and before you're born is not a period in which you are around and having, how can we put it?, rather bland experiences. No. Before you're born and after you've died, there is no you to be the subject of any experience. Your birth brings that subject of possible experiences into being and your death terminates its being.

Why don't people who say that when you die you go to a better place kill

Why don't people who say that when you die you go to a better place kill themselves? If death is a better place, why are they staying in this "lesser" world? Is it that they are unsure if they are right or not and don't want to risk it? -Dylan (13)

Maybe some people are, as you say, confident but still not certain about the afterlife. Perhaps some don't wish to cause pain to their friends or loved ones, who will miss them terribly. And perhaps some don't believe that they have the right to "quit their station in life" (as the philosopher John Locke put it): they are God's property and have no right to destroy themselves.

I believe that death is nothingness, when my conscious mind is dead, nothing

I believe that death is nothingness, when my conscious mind is dead, nothing else will exist. What are your thoughts on this and are there any writings on this theory?

For related discussion of the first of the two thoughts that Alex distinguishes, see the responses to this question.

Assuming that there is no afterlife -- that you lose the ability to think or

Assuming that there is no afterlife -- that you lose the ability to think or feel anything once your body dies -- is it irrational to fear death? Asked another way: Was Larkin wrong when he described the philosopher's contention that "no rational being can fear a thing it will not feel" as "specious stuff"?

The reasoning that in the absence of an afterlife it would be irrational to fear death dates back at least to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, who wrote:

"Accustom yourself to the belief that death is nothing to us. For all good and evil lie in sensation, whereas death is the absence of sensation… Therefore, that most frightful of evils, death, is nothing to us, seeing that when we exist death is not present, and when death is present we do not exist."

There is a good collection of essays edited by John Martin Fischer called The Metaphysics of Death on this subject. Of particular interest to you might be the essay "Death" by Tom Nagel. Nagel argues (along similar lines to those used by Peter Lipton above) that there are things that can harm us (and thus that it would be rational to fear) that occur outside of our experience. Thus the mere fact that death is outside of our experience does not mean that it would be irrational to fear it.

If someone murders many people, is it fair that they die once for their multiple

If someone murders many people, is it fair that they die once for their multiple victims?

I'm not sure that fairness enters into it. Whom would one be treating unfairly by condemning a murderer to just one death? His victims? Once dead, they are not being treated in any way at all; so they're not being treated unfairly relative to the murderer.

Perhaps you mean that it would not be right or just for the murderer to die just once. But even if we could kill someone more than once (which we can't), why does justice demand that someone be made the victim of precisely the crime he or she committed against another? If you think of all the crimes people commit against one another, do you find that nothing short of visiting the same wrong against the perpetrator will right the moral balance?

Is it possible for one to possibly know what exists after death? As humans, with

Is it possible for one to possibly know what exists after death? As humans, with a mind that exists solely as physical matter (and a soul, if religion is counted), when we die, how is it possible for this purely physical mind to keep on functioning, and allow us to realize that we are dead? As well, if we have souls, how can an entity created purely of energy (or whatever you think a soul is made of) have senses and detect that it exists, or even think?

Some people think they do know what exists after death. As Alex notes, "Nothing" is one option, and some people believe they have strong enough evidence for this view to make it a reasonable belief, and perhaps even to count as knowledge. On the other side, there are people who would claim to know, on the basis of divine revelation, that they will survive the deaths of their bodies. Presumably, not both camps can be right, and both camps might be wrong about their claims to know. But I don't see any general reason, absent consideration of the details, for supposing neither of them could know.

Perhaps one wants to say that neither camp can really know, on the ground that truly conclusive evidence isn't available. But truly conclusive evidence is rarely available for anything, and yet we claim to know lots of things. That is to say: The claim that it is not possible to know what exists after death seems to be based upon a general sort of skeptical challenge that, allowed to run free, would undermine all claims to knowledge.

I don't know if this is a good question, but is it morally correct to execute

I don't know if this is a good question, but is it morally correct to execute murderers with lethal injections? I mean we are murdering them for murdering, which is kind of ironic; it would be like setting fire to a criminal who killed people by setting fire to them. Sure it's an eye for an eye, but is it correct? We are just humans, and it's not right how we sentence other humans to death; I don't think it's our place.

I tend to be opposed to the death penalty myself, but one needs a more subtle argument. Is imprisoning someone who has kidnapped someone kidnapping them for kidnapping? If you don't think so, then you need to ask what the difference is between that case and capital punishment.

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