On Philosophy

June 15, 2006

Materialism and Immortality

Filed under: General Philosophy — Peter @ 4:28 pm

Let us say that you are a religious person who as been convinced by my argument concerning dualism and ethics. You might say to yourself “I have a strong desire to be rationally ethical, because I do not want to be mislead by false intuitions, but neither do I want to give up the idea of immortality”. As strange as it sounds it is possible that a completely non-physical after-life is consistent with materialism. The key is that although the physical word is casually closed the “spiritual” world is not necessarily subject to this restriction. That is to say that your consciousness could be seen as a cause of various states in the non-physical world, such that when you die your consciousness is preserved in the spiritual world.

Unfortunately such a claim is only a consistent belief, it can neither be certain nor knowledge (see here), and thus I would reject it as a valid philosophical position. That doesn’t mean you can’t have faith in it, just that you can’t justify your faith in it by objective standards, and thus can’t expect anyone else to be persuaded by this belief.

Of course I personally don’t believe in the existence of a non-physical world or an afterlife; so you may be asking: why did you bother to write this piece? Well I was thinking to myself how to really convince dualists to give up substance dualism, and I think one of the reasons that people hold on to substance dualism is that they want the comfort and security of the belief in an afterlife, which they think materialism necessarily denies. Secondly, thinking about these issues is one way to exercise the belief / consistency / certainty / knowledge distinction that I will be developing in more detail tomorrow.

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