Monday, October 07, 2019

Moreland–is there life after death?

In this post I'll use "dualism" as shorthand for substance dualism. I subscribe to Cartesian interactionist dualism. I don't subscribe to Thomistic dualism (hylomorphism). 

A. This is a fairly useful exchange as far as it goes:

But it tries to cover far too much ground in far too little time. Also, Moreland and the interviewer are talking at cross-purposes for a while, which squanders precious time. 

B. Moreland probably has far more to say about religious pluralism, but due to time constraints, deflected that issue.

C. Up to a point, dualism and physicalism are empirically equivalent explanations. Both are consistent with the data that the interviewer cited, viz. memory loss, inability to form new memories, and loss of cognitive function.

According to dualism, the brain is an interface between the mind and the physical world. It mediates action or information in both directions. If damaged, the brain blocks input or output at both ends. 

If the brain is damaged, that may block new sensory input. That prevents the mind from receiving new information from and about the sensible world.

If, conversely, the brain is damaged, that may block the ability of the mind to communicate with the outside world. Memories are stored in the mind, not the brain. If the brain is damaged, that impedes retrieval. The memories can't get through a washed out bridge. So long as the mind is embodied, that imposes limits on mental activity. 

All things being equal, the scales tip slightly in favor of physicalism as the simpler explanation. All things considered, additional evidence weighs heavily on the dualist side of the scales. 

D. Moreland greatly understates the evidence for the afterlife. I'll begin by proposing a more complex taxonomy:

1. Indirect philosophical evidence for the afterlife

2. Indirect empirical evidence for the afterlife

3. Direct theological evidence for the afterlife

4. Direct empirical evidence for the afterlife

Let's run back through these:

(1)-(2) constitute evidence for dualism. If there's evidence that the mind is ontologically independent of the brain, then that's indirect evidence for the afterlife. That's what makes disembodied consciousness possible. 

1.  Indirect philosophical evidence for the afterlife

i) The hard problem of consciousness. 

Philosophical arguments that the characteristics of consciousness are categorically different from physical structures and events. 

ii) Roderick Chisholm's argument:

2. Indirect empirical evidence for the afterlife

i) Veridical near-death experiences and veridical out-of-body experiences.  

ii) ESP, psychokinesis. If all mental activity takes place inside the brain, then the mind can't know about the physical world or act on the physical world apart from sensory input or the body interacting with its environment. If, conversely, there's empirical evidence that mental activity is not confined to the brain, then that's evidence for the metaphysical possibility of disembodied postmortem survival. 

3. Direct theological evidence for the afterlife

i) The biblical witness to the intermediate state. If there's good evidence that the Bible is a trustworthy source of information, then that's indirect evidence for whatever it teaches. 

ii) The resurrection of Christ

That's evidence, not for the immortality of the soul, but a reembodied state. 

That's what "Christian physicalists" pin their hopes on. However, the immortality of the soul is a bridge to the resurrection of the body. A philosophical objection to "Christian physicalism" is that if consciousness ceases at death, then what God resurrects isn't the same person who died but a copy of the person who died. And that raises questions of personal identity. If your existence is discontinuous, if there's a break or gap in your existence, then what does God restore? Is a copy of you you

4. Direct empirical evidence for the afterlife 

i) A subset of near-death experiences report meeting a decedent who wasn't known to be dead at the time. In a variation, the decedent imparts information that could not naturally be known. If the report is true, that's direct empirical evidence for postmortem survival. 

ii) Veridical postmortem apparitions, viz. poltergeists, grief apparitions, crisis apparitions, Christophanies. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post.

    I wonder if the following argument might work too: Suppose one has a brand new USB flash drive with no information on it and an old USB flash drive with information on it (various files). However, short of something that can read a USB flash drive, one can't detect whether or not there is information on either. The physical properties (e.g. weight, mass, size) of both USB flash drives may well be identical. Nevertheless there is information on the latter. Likewise the human soul or at least mind isn't directly detectable via the physical body and its physical properties. Yet the human soul or mind exists.