• CommonSense
    29
    The problem with the humankind argument is that humankind is simply a set of all individual human beings, if there is no afterlife it may be true that each generation dies an isolated physical death that negates any assertion that humankind has a continuing existence apart from its individual members. If each person's death results in their no longer existing, then no manner of historical recording, social progression, or other remembrance in the minds of those whose time for physical death is yet to come, can in any way affect, preserve, or make any difference whatsoever to those who no longer are. No one will survive to remember.
  • Relativist
    1.4k
    The problem with the humankind argument is that humankind is simply a set of all individual human beings, if there is no afterlife it may be true that each generation dies an isolated physical death that negates any assertion that humankind has a continuing existence apart from its individual membersCommonSense
    By that reasoning, a human is just a collection of cells, and the cells are just collections of atoms quarks and leptons. That extreme reductionist view is counter to common sense. A human being is something more than a mere collection of particles; it is an organism, which functionally interacts with the world - despite the fact that the actual particles of which it is composed are not fixed.

    The same is true of families and societies: they exist, and they functionally interact with other components of the world. Just as a person continues, despite there being an ongoing replacement of component particles, a society continues despite an ongoing change in its constituent members.
  • CommonSense
    29
    A human being is something more than a mere collection of particles; it is an organism, which functionally interacts with the world - despite the fact that the actual particles of which it is composed are not fixed.
    That is true, but a human being has an individual sentient consciousness, where a society does not have a single physical consciousness. A group of individuals is a family that is part of a society, but the group / society does not have a sentient existence apart from its members. If all sentient life on the earth was destroyed by a comet there would be no society that was aware of the destruction of humankind.
    If you believe in panpsychism then, while I would not agree, I would see a logical argument for an anthropomorphic society. Otherwise society and family consist of individual sentient conscious beings who, if there is no afterlife, cease to exist on each of their physical deaths.
  • Douglas Alan
    161


    Well, I don't really know how to respond to all this. GR works fine for me as it is, and leaves me with no feeling of unresolved mysteries at all.

    Except for how phenomenal consciousness arises. But I've already wasted years of my life on that debate.

    |>ouglas

    P.S. Okay, well there's also the mystery of how to unify GR with QM, but I consider that a completely scientific problem that likely doesn't really have any deep philosophical consequences. Except perhaps if we accept the Many Worlds Interpretation of QM, which I do.
  • Relativist
    1.4k
    a human being has an individual sentient consciousness, where a society does not have a single physical consciousness. A group of individuals is a family that is part of a society, but the group / society does not have a sentient existence apart from its members.CommonSense
    An individual "sentience" consists of a set of beliefs, memories, and dispositions processed with an intellectual capability. These all change over time. That's analogous to what goes on in a society over time. All are functional entities that persist in time and interact with the part of the world outside itself.

    If all sentient life on the earth was destroyed by a comet there would be no society that was aware of the destruction of humankind.
    So what?

    Otherwise society and family consist of individual sentient conscious beings who, if there is no afterlife, cease to exist on each of their physical deaths.
    So what?

    I'm guessing you just consider transcendent existence preferable. Sure, it would be. But that doesn't make it true.
  • CommonSense
    29
    Okay, well there's also the mystery of how to unify GR with QM, but I consider that a completely scientific problem that likely doesn't really have any deep philosophical consequences. Except perhaps if we accept the Many Worlds Interpretation of QM, which I do.
    There are dozens of deep mysteries that GR and QM don't solve. Many Worlds does not help with quantum entanglement, dark matter, etc. Quantum entanglement alone has philosophical significance that may never be unraveled.
  • CommonSense
    29
    I'm guessing you just consider transcendent existence preferable. Sure, it would be. But that doesn't make it true.
    It does not make it true, if it is true it is true, if it is not true then it is not true. My point is that it is more rational to accept the possibility that there is a non-physical life after physical death than it is to try to make something out of the nothing that may follow physical death if there is no non-physical afterlife.
  • Relativist
    1.4k
    My point is that it is more rational to accept the possibility that there is a non-physical life after physical death than it is to try to make something out of the nothing that may follow physical death if there is no non-physical afterlife.CommonSense
    I didn't make something out of nothing, I simply identified someTHINGS that you had overlooked: family and societies. And as I said, there is meaning and value for a human life within the context of humankind.. Again, this is not something from nothing. About all you can add to that is that this is a transient impact - families and societies disappear or evolve to unrecognizable forms, over time. And they will eventually disappear entirely. This doesn't alter the fact these are things that actually exist, they extend beyond ourselves, and provide something into which our contributions are relevant. In one sense, our contributions to these transient things is more meaningful than would be an afterlife: if there is a heaven, within which our existence continues, is there any reason to think that any one individual soul has a meaningful impact to that broad, extended existence - wherein every soul that has ever existed, and ever will exist, resides? Is that a society that evolves, for either better or worse, and within which we can make a difference?
  • Douglas Alan
    161

    Many Worlds does not help with quantum entanglementCommonSense
    Of course it does. It tells us precisely what results from quantum entanglement.

    As far as I'm aware, the probability problem is the only deep philosophical problem of QM left open by the Many Worlds Interpretation. And I've got more important things to worry about, personally, than that detail.

    dark matter, etcCommonSense

    There's nothing philosophically problematic about dark matter. It's just a physics problem that we don't yet know the answer to.

    |>ouglas
  • Gnomon
    715
    This is vastly different from saying that we can live a meaningful existential life if there is no extension after death, it says that if we do not exist after physical death then all will be as if it never was (which is certainly not to be feared or even thought about). The logical conclusion is that if on physical death all will be as if it never was, then the rational choice is to live the most positive life that we can with belief in the possibility, no matter how slight, that there is a non-physical life after death which gives meaning to both the First Act and Second Act. To do otherwise is to believe in the myth of the Übermensch.CommonSense
    Perhaps not "all will be as-if it never was". Most of us can find a bit of solace in the notion that we can live-on in our genes, our children will be our mark on the world. Even if our physical gene-line comes to an end, the memes (memories) that each person has generated may still inhabit the minds of those that survive. Those who have made a more permanent impact on the world, in writings or in deeds, may even "live-on" as historical personages. But that is small comfort for those who can't deal with the idea of non-being. I have no idea where I was before I was born, and no idea where I'll be after death.

    The "possibility, no matter how slight" sounds like Pascal's Wager. But he was assuming that a heavenly hereafter was promised only to those with blind faith. Yet, many believers make their lives miserable with pathological anxiety about their eternal destiny. And Pascal should have known from experience that mundane Gambling is an act of blind faith that creates far more losers than winners. So why not bet on a sure thing : today? Besides, what is a "non-physical life?" The only life we know anything about is a property of physical beings.

    Anyway, if non-being after death is no more scary than non-being before life, then why should we hope in vain for 'the possibility, no matter how slight"? If we can't find our meaning & purpose in this life. why should we expect to find it in another life? Nietzsche didn't proclaim that a person alive today will become a superman tomorrow. He was talking about evolutionary progress of the species. That possibility doesn't give any meaning to my life right now. So why not forget about meaning & purpose being assigned to you from above, or inherited without doing anything meaningful. Instead, write your own story with your actions, and your relations with others. :cool:

    " Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. "
    Matthew 6:33-34

    I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.
    Woody Allen
  • SophistiCat
    1.3k
    From a purely rational basis it seems to me that there are two most probable consequences of physical death (1) that there is nothing and all (including our past) will be as if it never was and (2) that there is a life after physical death. Since if 1 is true there will be no positive or negative consequences to physical death, living for the possibility that 2 is true is the logical choice. Therefore we should live the most positive physical life possible, not based on the humanistic myth that physical life has existential meaning, but rather on the possibility that there is a non-physical life after physical death that gives meaning to both our physical and non-physical lives. We will know if 2 is true after our physical death, if 1 is true we will never know because the question will die with us.CommonSense

    I think this is the clearest statement of your thesis (excluding the odd bit about "as if it never was," which is what I picked up on initially, but I guess it's not that important). But this is just a variation on Pascal's Wager (as it is usually interpreted when read out of context). And as with the Wager, this argument is ineffective when deployed against a skeptic or agnostic, one who is not at least biased towards a particular kind of afterlife belief.

    I can entertain a nominal possibility of an afterlife of some kind. But what will this afterlife be like? How will the choices that I make in this life affect that hypothesized afterlife? I have no idea. There is nothing that I could use to inform a guess, let alone formulate a theory. I could propose radically different afterlife scenarios, and none of them will be any more probable than the others, as far as I am concerned. Therefore, the mere possibility of afterlife cannot influence my thinking and decision-making in any way whatsoever. It is completely irrelevant to my (actual) life.
  • SophistiCat
    1.3k
    This assertion is false in General Relativity. In GR, all of space-time exists forever.Douglas Alan

    GR does not imply this. You are thinking of eternalism, which is a metaphysical view. GR does not imply it any more than Newtonian mechanics does. GR (or rather SR) constrains to some extent alternative views.
  • Douglas Alan
    161


    GR does not imply this.SophistiCat

    Yes it does. Or at least it does as interpreted by physicists who specialize in GR. E.g. Hawking and Smolin.

    Also GR allows for "closed timelike loops" which let you travel into the past. You can't travel to something that doesn't exist.

    Of course, GR could be wrong in some important way. Or its conventional interpretation could be wrong. Maybe closed timelike loops turn out to be impossible for reasons that we don't yet understand.

    But the OP is making strong claims based on premises, some of which are claimed to be wrong by standard interpretations of GR. So the OP's premises are on very shaky ground. And even if GR is wrong, or the conventional interpretations are wrong, we still have no good reason to accept the premises of the OP's argument.
  • Banno
    8.3k
    What is usually missed is that in addition to no future, Bill has no past because Bill does not exist.CommonSense

    That's not the best argument I've seen; sliding the word exists from one sense to another.
  • SophistiCat
    1.3k
    Yes it does. Or at least it does as interpreted by physicists who specialize in GR. E.g. Hawking and Smolin.Douglas Alan

    If Hawking and Smolin subscribe to eternalism, and I don't know if they do, that is on them and not on GR. GR has nothing to say on the question of existence, it is not a metaphysical theory.

    Also GR allows for "closed timelike loops" which let you travel into the past. You can't travel to something that doesn't exist.Douglas Alan

    This is a red herring. In any theory of spacetime you can travel to the future by the normal means, that is by waiting for it to actualize, but that doesn't imply that the future exists.
  • CommonSense
    29
    There are many deep philosophical problems to be solved in GR and QM, not the least of which is whether or not space itself is emergent and not fundamental as explained by Lee Smolin in Scientific American. For me, the most important issue is whether we live in a block universe or a universe made up of a sequential series of events (causal set theory). The philosophical significance is that in Many Worlds some sort of permanent consciousness exists in an infinite number of "me's", in the causal set interpretation of GR/QM it appears that physical existence is false - true - false - I do not exist - I exist (physical existence - causal set does not address non-physical existence) - I do not exist . Scientists agree that GR and QM in their current forms do not and cannot explain the non-locality required in quantum entanglement. The current theoretical uncertainty of whether time and space are fundamental or emergent is perhaps the greatest philosophical mystery of all.
  • CommonSense
    29
    That's not the best argument I've seen; sliding the word exists from one sense to another.
    The problem with most words is that they are consciously or unconsciously "tensed". If you look at the mereological existence of someone who is conscious the word exists is used by me as equivalent to not conscious - conscious - not conscious. Someone who does not exist, is not conscious, does not have a past that is their past, a past they are aware of.
  • CommonSense
    29
    Yes it does. Or at least it does as interpreted by physicists who specialize in GR. E.g. Hawking and Smolin.
    You are right that Smolin in particular championed an interpretation that includes temporality in his book Time Reborn. It is not as clear if he still supports that position six years later, his contemporary Carlo Rovelli does not
    a local notion of a sequence of events, which is a minimal notion of time, and that’s the only thing that remains
    .
    For my argument it does not really matter if you accept GR, QM, and many worlds as an incomplete block universe model where there are an infinite number of isolated "me's" scattered in an infinite number of universes or existing as an infinite number of points on a worldline, or you accept causal set theory where there is only one transient me - in both cases after my physical death there is no singular me who is aware of my past, or for that matter aware of anything. An infinite number of me's does not equal a singular consciousness that survives physical death.
  • CommonSense
    29
    Let me just state my argument again:

    If we live in a block universe (eternalism) then there are an infinite number of approximate physical isomorphs of me living in an infinite number of isolated universes (many worlds theory) or an infinite number of me's at every point on my worldline, none of which can be said to be a singular conscious me who exists after my physical death.

    If we live in a universe made up of sequential events (causal set theory) then as a conscious physical being I do not exist - I exist - I do not exist.

    In both cases after my physical death - nothing. All would be as if it never was.

    My argument is that it is far more rational to believe in the possibility (not certainty) of a non-physical existence after physical death than it is to make something out of nothing - to argue for existential meaning in a purely physical existence. That is what humanists who understand science and neuro-existentialists must do if they are to escape Camus' absurdity. Ubermensch, and any other assertions of meaning associated with a purely physical being, are in fact the irrational myths.

    I carefully explain the reasoning behind this conclusion in the Something Out of Nothing book (Google Play Store and Kindle Books) - free on Google and Apple - minimum allowed price on Kindle.
  • Relativist
    1.4k
    My argument is that it is far more rational to believe in the possibility (not certainty) of a non-physical existence after physical death than it is to make something out of nothing - to argue for existential meaning in a purely physical existence.CommonSense
    To be rational, there must be a rational justification for the belief. I haven't seen one, and I'm not going to read a book to see if it's buried in there somewhere.

    What is the "something" that you allege is from nothiing? Meaning? That woulld be reifying an abstraction.

    Walk me through your justification, and we can then assess whether or not it's rational.
  • SophistiCat
    1.3k
    The problem with most words is that they are consciously or unconsciously "tensed". If you look at the mereological existence of someone who is conscious the word exists is used by me as equivalent to not conscious - conscious - not conscious. Someone who does not exist, is not conscious, does not have a past that is their past, a past they are aware of.CommonSense

    I think I am getting a handle on this confusing bit that recurs in your posts. The problem here is even more basic than tensed predicates. You cannot predicate anything in the absence of an entity to which the predicate would attach. You cannot describe someone who does not exist as having no past, because you cannot describe someone who does not exist at all.

    My argument is that it is far more rational to believe in the possibility (not certainty) of a non-physical existence after physical death than it is to make something out of nothing - to argue for existential meaning in a purely physical existence.CommonSense

    I carefully explain the reasoning behind this conclusion in the Something Out of Nothing bookCommonSense

    When even after two pages of discussion you have failed to so much as hint at such an argument (beyond the tired old Pascal's Wager), I don't think I want to invest my time into reading your book.
  • CommonSense
    29
    You are
    you cannot describe someone who does not exist at allSophistiCat

    That is my point. That is the essence of nothing. That is the the logical basis of the conclusion all will be as if it never was.
  • Qwex
    366
    Bill died.

    We, Bill's friends and enemies, know that Bill is decomposing, and from our view he's no longer conscious.

    Proposition 1:
    The energy that experienced Bill, has returned to the environment.

    Proposition 2:
    Something recorded Bill's life and Bill is awaiting judgement.

    In any case, Bill no longer exists. However, if my propositions stand any ground here...

    In proposition 1, Bill's energy may exist again, it's not fully gone and unrelated.

    In proposition 2, if Bill can't be distinguished out of the energy, something, that recorded Bill's life, may re-create Bill.

    What I'm trying to suggest is, even if afterlife is a factor of existence, Bill, upon death, is more of a non-existent, even in a passage to another life...
  • SophistiCat
    1.3k
    That is my point. That is the essence of nothing. That is the the logical basis of the conclusion all will be as if it never was.CommonSense

    Well, your point, as in the point of this thread, is rather elusive. But as to a more specific point that I was addressing, it is simply wrong. It is wrong to say of someone who has died that she has no past, for example - in the same way that it is wrong to say "The present king of France is bald." If you say "Albertine has no past," this can be interpreted as a conjunction:

    1. There is one and only one x such as x is Albertine.
    2. For every x that is Albertine, x has no past.

    But if Albertine is dead, then (1) is false, which makes "Albertine has no past" false (as well as "Albertine has a past," of course).
  • Banno
    8.3k
    The problem with most words is that they are consciously or unconsciously "tensed". If you look at the mereological existence of someone who is conscious the word exists is used by me as equivalent to not conscious - conscious - not conscious. Someone who does not exist, is not conscious, does not have a past that is their past, a past they are aware of.CommonSense

    So when you ask if someone from the past exists, you are actually asking if someone who is dead is conscious?

    Yeah, you can have that argument to yourself.
  • Douglas Alan
    161

    There are many deep philosophical problems to be solved in GR and QM, not the least of which is whether or not space itself is emergent and not fundamentalCommonSense
    That's not a philosophical problem. It's a scientific one.

    And if turns out to be a question that science can't answer because there's no way to falsify certain theories that could be right, it doesn't really matter anyway.

    This is not like the distinction between Bohm's Interpretation of QM and MWI, which are experimentally indistinguishable, but which posit worlds that would be extremely different in extremely important ways philosophically.

    For me, the most important issue is whether we live in a block universe or a universe made up of a sequential series of events (causal set theory).CommonSense

    Again, this sounds like a scientific problem, not a philosophical one.

    Though I suppose it would have consequences for philosophy should it turn out that eternalism is false.

    The philosophical significance is that in Many Worlds some sort of permanent consciousness exists in an infinite number of "me's", in the causal set interpretation of GR/QM it appears that physical existence is false - true - false - I do not exist - I existCommonSense

    Sounds like a distinction without a difference to me. E.g., maybe I die every time I go to sleep and then there's a new, different me every time I wake up? If you use the word "die" in that manner, then you've basically redefined the word "die", though.

    Because whatever happens when I go to sleep and wake up, has been defined as a single, continuous life by virtually everyone since people have been using language.

    Didn't Parfit write about these kinds of worries in his book?

    Scientists agree that GR and QM in their current forms do not and cannot explain the non-locality required in quantum entanglement.CommonSense

    This is just wrong. In MWI, everything is local and deterministic.

    The current theoretical uncertainty of whether time and space are fundamental or emergent is perhaps the greatest philosophical mystery of all.CommonSense

    I don't see this as being an important philosophical worry at all. It's like worrying that maybe I don't exist because I'm just a pattern of energy waves, and waves are emergent. E.g., a wave in the ocean is constantly made of different water as it travels.

    But despite any of these worries, I exist. Waves exist. The wrinkles that I can't get out of my bedspread exist. I find none of this mysterious or worth fretting about after one has finished Philosophy 101.

    |>ouglas
  • Douglas Alan
    161
    If Hawking and Smolin subscribe to eternalism, and I don't know if they do, that is on them and not on GR. GR has nothing to say on the question of existence, it is not a metaphysical theory.SophistiCat

    Something doesn't have to be a metaphysical theory for it to entail obvious metaphysical consequences.

    This is a red herring. In any theory of spacetime you can travel to the future by the normal means, that is by waiting for it to actualize, but that doesn't imply that the future exists.SophistiCat

    That's not traveling; that's waiting.

    Let me be more clear with a more specific example. Let's say that we build or find a closed timelike loop. And now let's say that we have a million people traverse this timelike loop, but traverse it differently so that they all end up in different times in the past. And at each of these times, let's say that each of these million people is causally connected to billions of other people.

    So, we now have a million different people who were here earlier today but are now spread across the past. Did they cease to exist? Or do only the locations surrounding these million people exist in spacetime? What about all the billions of people that are causally connected to them?

    I'm sure that someone could come up with some crazy explanation for this which doesn't entail eternalism, but it sure to be ad hoc and completely violate Ockham’s razor.

    |>ouglas
  • SophistiCat
    1.3k
    That's not traveling; that's waiting.Douglas Alan

    Time travel is nothing more nor less than waiting. You are perhaps led astray by conventional word associations: waiting feels passive, while traveling feels active. But once you build or find your time machine/closed time-like curve, all you need and can do in order to complete your journey through time is what all of us do all of the time: wait, let the time pass. And if the spacetime topology happens to have a certain exotic configuration, then your waiting may take you to places unexpected.

    But all this is an unnecessary complication, because, whatever the topology of your worldline, you still exist/existed/will exist on the points of that worldline. And the question remains: do all of those points exist? Or does only one moving point exist? Or a growing segment? Is there a fact of the matter about which of these points are in the past and which are in the future? These are metaphysical questions (or perhaps, as some argue, language questions), which physics is not equipped to address.
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