• Sam26
    and yet I still fail to see the relevance of NDEs in relation to the question of mortalitysime

    Because a large percentage of NDEs and pre-death or death-bed visions are interactions with the deceased. Therefore, one can conclude based not only on this, but given all the other points that have been made, that we are much more than simply this body (the brain, etc).
  • Sam26
    An important epistemological point is that one of the main ways we justify a belief is through testimony, i.e., we learn things from people who are in a position to know. How do we know that Mary was at the party? Because several of our friends, who were at the party, told us. How do we know that Mr. Smith robbed the bank? Because several witnesses saw him rob the bank. How do we know that quantum physics is a reality? Because scientists have told us that countless experiments have yielded the same results over-and-over again (e.g., the many 2-slit experiments). Most of us are not involved with these experiments, i.e., we take the word of others (testimony).

    The amount of information we learn from others is massive, and much of it is conveyed by testimony. Moreover, we don't doubt most of it, because if we did, we would be reduced to silence. Even our concepts and words are learned from others. Our culture would fall apart if we doubted the truthfulness of all such testimony.

    However, this doesn't mean that everything that is conveyed to us is true. Thus, the need to question testimonial evidence. For example, is the person in a position to know? Were they there? Second, is the person skilled in the area in question? Third, is the person trustworthy? Fourth, does the testimony harmonize with other known truths?
  • sime
    Because a large percentage of NDEs and pre-death or death-bed visions are interactions with the deceased. Therefore, one can conclude based not only on this, but given all the other points that have been made, that we are much more than simply this body (the brain, etc).Sam26

    I don't follow. All that exists are verbal reports and their proximal neurological correlates that are roughly clustered, as is expected by the shared structure of human brains that learn and interact within a shared culture.

    These observations tend to reinforce the scientific usefulness of the Cartesian perspective, that mental states should be considered local, discrete and internal to each and every human brain.

    Certainly there are drawbacks and oversights of the standard Cartesian view, but I don't seem them as being intimately connected to the phenomena of NDEs.
  • 3017amen

    In trying to revisit some theories relative to EM fields of consciousness :

    "My hypothesis is that consciousness is the experience of information, from the inside. There is a postulate in physics that information is neither created or destroyed – the conservation of information ‘law’. It is however just a postulate, nobody has ever proved it. But, if true, it would suggest that awareness (associated with that information) – in some form – might survive death." JJ McFadden

    There have been some new studies (2007) in physics that I'm looking at now, which I'll report back later on to see if there are some other clues... .

    In the meantime, we all know William James. He had this feeling that the brain filters our access to a vast consciousness that extends beyond the limits of neural activity.

    I guess in both instances, one could analogize to the computer 'cloud server' idea... .
  • Sam26
    In trying to revisit some theories relative to EM fields of consciousness :3017amen

    It's a very interesting topic, but this thread isn't about theories of consciousness. I don't think we have enough information to come up with a good theory. It's fun to speculate, and I do some of that when talking about NDEs. I don't consider my argument to be speculation, but there are some areas of NDEs where we can speculate because there isn't enough evidence to make a good inference.
  • 3017amen

    No worries, I felt like there was another missing component to the discussion that could be helpful. Thus here was my reasoning below:

    -NDE's have been experienced by people
    -NDE's have been corroborated by third persons
    -NDE's themselves are conscious, subconscious and unconscious phenomena, that happens to people

    -people have consciousness
    - the nature of consciousness is largely unexplained
    -EM fields of consciousness is a concept that tries to explain some human phenomenon (and possibly NDE's)
    -the NDE phenomenon involves conscious states of Being outside the body
    -EM fields of consciousness partly involves theoretical storage of all consciousness states
    -physical theories posit that energy [one's conscious energy] storage include vector space, black holes, or some other unexplained space of possible storage

    So with that said, if the NDE individual has these out of body experiences, yet are presumed dead, how are they able to use their minds to think? Where does their stream of consciousness flow? (How or where does the conscious energy come from without blood supply?)
    Is it a supercomputer that has storage capability?

    These are Metaphysical questions that may not be answerable now, but biophysics/science is providing some new clues of analogous benefit.
  • PoeticUniverse
    NDE tunnels of light and such can be explained by neurology, and OBE’s by a condition called sleep paralysis. They can also be induced, resulting in full blown episodes. Neither, then, are proof of a beyond, but of an altered brain state.

    It is also the case that people of different religions see different religious figures during NDE’s, an indication that the phenomenon occurs within the mind, not without.

    OBE’s are easily induced by drugs. The fact that there are receptor sites in the brain for such artificially produced chemicals means that there are naturally produced chemical in the brain that, under certain circumstances (the stress of an trauma or an accident, for example), can induce any or all of the experiences typically associated with an NDE or OBE. They are then nothing more than wild trips induced by the trauma of almost dying. Lack of oxygen also produces increased activity though disinhibition—mental modes that give rise to consciousness.

    What about the experience of a tunnel in an NDE? Well, the visual cortex is on the back of the brain where information from the retina is processed. Lack of oxygen, plus drugs generated, can interfere with the normal rate of firing by nerve cells in this area. When this occurs ‘stripes’ of neuronal activity move across the visual cortex, which is interpreted by the brain as concentric rings or spirals. These spirals may be ‘seen’ as a tunnel.

    We normally only see clearly only at about the size of a deck of cards held at arm’s length (Try looking just a little away and the clarity goes way down)—this is the center of the tunnel which is caused by neuronal stripes. I am not really dying to go down the tunnel…
  • Sam26
    Robert Kuhn and Sam Parnia have a short talk about consciousness and the death of the body. The following is my response to the talk.


    As some of you know I'm not religious, but I do think there is evidence or good reasons to suppose that consciousness survives death (I go further than Sam Parnia). Also, some of you know that my two areas of interest are epistemology and near death experiences (NDEs), which I've been studying for many years. My views on epistemology inform my views on NDEs; and one of the most common mistakes made when I hear people (educated or not) talk about NDEs is the place or priority they give to scientific evidence (sometimes justified, sometimes not) as opposed to other kinds of evidence. The mistaken idea is that if science hasn't answered the question, then we don't have knowledge of the question at hand. This is the mistake that Kuhn makes all the time, and Parnia is making when he talks about the evidence for consciousness surviving death.

    It only takes a cursory look at the way we use the word know to understand that knowledge is arrived at in at least several ways besides experimentation. I surely don't need science to inform me that there is an apple tree in my back yard, or that the orange juice I'm currently drinking is sweet. I also don't need some experiment to inform me that I know algebra, or that German and French are languages. Correct reasoning (logic) also informs what I claim to know, i.e. inductive and deductive reasoning. Finally, one of the most pervasive ways of gaining knowledge is through testimonial evidence, i.e., much of what we know is handed down to us from scientists, historians, mathematicians, and physicists, to name a few, so, there are at several ways of attaining knowledge apart from science. If this is true, and I believe it is, then appealing to science all the time for our fund of knowledge is a fallacy. I'm not saying that science doesn't have an important place in what we claim to know, I'm simply saying that science is not the end all and be all of what we claim to know.

    Much of what Sam Parnia claims about consciousness relies on the testimonial evidence of NDEers. If this is true, then I believe that he's either ignoring some of the testimonial evidence, or he doesn't think it's strong enough for some reason he hasn't enumerated. For example, there is plenty of testimonial evidence that supports the idea that consciousness survives for much longer than he concludes. Many people who have NDEs report seeing their deceased relatives, which by definition means that they have survived, in many cases, for many decades after their bodies have decomposed. Moreover, there is other firsthand testimonial evidence that suggests we've been around for many lifetimes.

    The following was taken from page 14 of this thread. I want to reiterate what makes a strong inductive argument based on testimonial evidence. Or, one could ask, what makes strong testimonial evidence?

    As many of you know, the criteria for a good inductive (in this case an inductive argument based on testimonial evidence) argument is much different than the criteria of a good deductive argument. The criteria of a good inductive argument are as follows:

    (1) number
    (2) variety
    (3) scope of the conclusion
    (4) truth of the premises
    (5) cogency

    First, number. It seems rather obvious that if you have a greater number of testimonials that say X happened, then the stronger the argument. This does not mean that the conclusion relies solely on numbers, because numbers in themselves are not sufficient.

    Second, variety. The greater the variety of cases cited the stronger the conclusion. When examining the conclusion of an inductive argument the conclusion is either strong or weak, which is much different from a good deductive argument, where the conclusion follows with absolute necessity. The difference being what is probably or likely the case (inductive arguments), verses what necessarily follows (deductive arguments).

    Third, scope of the conclusion. This has already been covered briefly in the opening paragraph. It means that the less the conclusion claims the stronger the argument. In other words, conclusions that are broad in scope are more difficult to defend. A conclusion that is limited in scope is easier to defend.

    Fourth, truth of the premises. Clearly this means that the premises must be true, which by the way, is the same criteria that makes a good deductive argument, i.e., a good deductive argument must be sound (soundness means the argument is valid and the premises are true).

    (a) Also, since we are dealing with testimonial evidence, in order to know if the testimonial evidence is true we need corroboration, i.e., we need an objective way to verify some of the testimonial evidence. This helps to establish the truth of the testimonial evidence, and since the evidence is testimonial evidence, it helps to establish the fourth criteria of a good inductive argument, viz., the truth of the premises.

    (b) Another important factor in determining the truth of testimonial evidence is firsthand testimony, as opposed to hearsay or second-hand testimony. Firsthand testimony is stronger than hearsay or second-hand testimony, all things being equal.

    (c) Consistency of the reports is another important criterion in terms of getting to the truth. However, testimonial evidence does not have to be perfectly consistent to be credible. When dealing with a large number of reports you will inevitably find some inconsistency. So, inconsistency itself is not enough to rule out the reports unless the inconsistency is widespread, and of such a number that it affects the quality and number of consistent reports. So, although consistency is important, it must be looked at in terms of the overall picture.

    Fifth is cogency. You rarely hear this criteria, but it's very important in terms of effectiveness. Any argument's (deductive or inductive) effectiveness is going to be based on whether the person to whom the argument is given, knows the premises are true. For example, if I give the following argument:

    The base of a souffle is a roux.
    This salmon dish is a souffle.
    Hence, the base of this salmon dish is a roux.

    If you do not know what a souffle or a roux is, then you do not know if the premises are true, so how would you know if the conclusion is true. You may know that the argument is valid based on its form, but you would not know if the premises are true. Thus, you would not know if it is sound. For any argument to be effective, you have to know if the premises are true; and since knowledge varies from person to person, an arguments effectiveness is going to vary from person to person.

    Finally, the main point of this post is to point out that we can know many things apart from what science tells us, and I think this is where Kuhn and Parnia go astray.
  • Sam26
    As a matter of fact, Wittgenstein plays an important part in my epistemology. Consider where I talk about the many uses of the word know, which is taken from the PI and especially OC.
  • Sam26
    This is a video documentary showing the commonality of NDEs. It's over an hour long, but worth watching.

  • sime
    As a matter of fact, Wittgenstein plays an important part in my epistemology. Consider where I talk about the many uses of the word know, which is taken from the PI and especially OC.Sam26

    But what about ontics? If the meaning of a proper noun, say "Elvis Presley", is considered to be a family-resemblance of uses across partially over-lapping language-games, then the question as to whether Elvis Presley is dead or alive doesn't have a single definite answer. In Karoake, as far as i'm concerned, if it looks like Elvis and sounds like Elvis, then it's Elvis.

    Our understanding of the "soul" of a person has much in common with our attribution of sense to their name, which is retained after the expiration of a referent bearing that name. If an anti-realist concerning other-minds ontologically prioritises sense over reference, he will answer questions concerning immortality very differently to the realist, for these opposing view-points use different and incompatible criteria for personal identity.

    Realists also vehemently disagree with one another. One argues that "Elvis" is token-identical with the current state of a corpse buried at Graceland and that evidence for Elvis's reincarnation on earth or in heaven is therefore logically impossible. The other says "Elvis" is type-identical with a class of potential physical objects, and that reincarnation is therefore physically possible but unlikely. The presentist argues "Elvis" is meaningless because nothing bears the name in his present vicinity etc.

    When you argue for the possibility of evidence of consciousness surviving the body, what is your understanding of a proper-name?
  • Sam26
    When you argue for the possibility of evidence of consciousness surviving the body, what is your understanding of a proper-name?sime

    Roughly, there has to be some consistency of memory and experience to be able to say that that person is Elvis. Memory and one's experiences create a kind of narrative that follows that person throughout his or her life. I'm of the opinion that identity goes beyond the physical body. Others believe that one's identity is necessarily tied to the physical body, or the brain. I would tie a proper name to that which has the memories and/or experiences of the one we call or called Elvis. When we talk about Elvis we're talking about the one who had the experiences associated with a particular life. Whether one's identity goes on after death is the question at hand. I believe the evidence is strong, given my argument, that one's consciousness or identity survives.
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