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AOD said:

"Not good Bruce, not good!"

Is my P.I. license in jeopardy? (Psi Investigator.)

"Okay, I kid, I kid ... but Sudduth really does seem to think that anyone who fails to grasp his rather abstruse arguments is a dummy. I don't believe this is the best way to argue one's position, though it is prevalent in academic circles."

It's called the academic game and has nothing to do with the power of the intellect - as Einstein is reported to have said in various ways. Very few people of true intellectual integrity can stomach academia. I often wonder how Sheldrake managed as long as he did. The best minds always become outsiders to one degree or another. Sudduth is not one such.

In the “Contemplations” section of his blog Michael Sudduth has a telling quote from Carl Jung:

“Philosophical criticism has helped me to see that every psychology - my own included - has the character of a subjective confession. Even when I am dealing with empirical data, I am necessarily speaking about myself.”

We’ve been discussing Eban Alexander’s story as though we are all talking about the same thing. But there are many stories in fact; there is the story that came alive in me, the one that collapsed for Kathleen after two chapters, the fanciful tale that aroused outrage in Sam Harris, and the one that evokes some reserve and skepticism in Michael. None of these stories belong to Eban Alexander, they are all parts of our personal biographies. It isn’t just that we are blind men feeling different parts of an elephant, there is a whole menagerie of creatures that we bring to the discussion. As Jung said: “Even when I am dealing with empirical data, I am necessarily speaking about myself.” And that goes quadruple for when we are dealing with anecdotal evidence.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg put it differently: Ein Buch ist ein Spiegel, aus dem kein Apostel herausgucken kann, wenn ein Affe hineinguckt. "A book is a mirror: if an ape peers in, no apostle will look out." That Harris embraces his inner ape while I seek the apostle, is the inevitable bias that we each bring to the book.

I sympathize with the difficulty others have expressed with Sudduth’s prose style. Though I appreciate shades of gray as well as the next man (50 to be precise) sometimes writers need to dial up the contrast and fill in some of the shadows. And, yes Matt, a gray cover with a dead tree on the front seems like a spoiler for the author’s bleak outlook on our prospects upon surrendering the flesh. Perhaps the tree, rather, is symbolic of the withered attempts of survivalists to mount a cogent argument.

Yes Bruce, perhaps an informal administrative hearing might do for now but then again, a probationary license might be the only way to drive it home to you. I would hate to impose a $10,000 fine and remedial education classes but if it happens again that will be my only other recourse.-AOL :^)

Thanks Michael, I presumed there was a current debate within the neuro-scientific community.
But regarding this I would like to hear what Dr. Sudduth follows up with when he says above ... "I'll have more to say about the factual and conceptual aspects to Alexander's NDE-argument in a subsequent blog, once I've completed my discussions with various neuroscientists and medical doctors, but sufficient for the day are the criticisms thereof."

Also just been reading his "Personal Reflections on Life after Death", where he says
"I’m now comfortable in stating that I no longer believe in personal survival. Of course, I also don’t deny personal survival." then says at the end of his section 3,
"So it should be clear, then, that my agnosticism about personal survival does not entail agnosticism with respect to the continuation of awareness or consciousness as an aspect of our apparent individual experience. I don’t doubt that consciousness will continue after death, but it’s less than clear what this consciousness will be like. What sort of personal consciousness will it be? Will it even be personal? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but the possibilities and prospects are at least intriguing and worthy of further exploration."

This is surely interesting to everyone above. I tend to also think that if Reality is able to support consciousness after death in some form it would include some kind of personal survival possibilities within it otherwise what would be the point of the process itself? So perhaps it is up to each of us during our lives, as has been said before, to kind of facilitate this to be the best it could be. Free will and all that.

Julie,

||Careful, Matt. Your comment is on the point of heading in the same direction.||

Well, I have been cited by a fellow commenter once for in engaging in gobbledygook. :)

That aside, I don't think "vocab words" are what makes Sudduth's prose difficult to read. I think there are two main things:

• He uses a particular system of symbolic logic that is going to make the going tough unless you know it. I was a philosophy major in undergrad and took a course in symbolic logic, and either we didn't cover it or I have forgotten it, though I can still piece his meaning together with difficulty.

I think one issue with using this system is that Sudduth lives to talk in terms of hypotheses, etc., as though he were doing laboratory science, but scientists actually engaged lab science don't use recondite symbolic logic. They don't need to. To be fair, Sudduth also expresses his arguments without symbolic logic as well, though he will freely switch into it. I think using symbolic logic severely limits Sudduth's audience, but I think that's part of his shtick: if people don't understand his tools, then they are stupid Walmart shoppers and may be dismissed.

(I think the Walmart quote that Michael provided is another nasty one and reveals a class-based layer to Sudduth's arrogance.)

• Per Michael's comment on academic writing, I think Sudduth writes to look cool to his professor buddies. He is "publishing," in other words, which is not the same thing as writing to communicate. He has chosen survival as his particular domain of expertise in the academic world, and his "brand" so to speak is founded on trashing, well, basically everyone doing work in the area while raising himself up as the voice of true intellect and professionalism. Ultimately, for him, it's not about participating in the collective search for truth but about aggrandizing his academic career.

David Chilstrom, nice comment (6:52pm)! You are clearly a very clever minion!

You do not understand the arguments of Sudduth? So you not understand my criticism of these arguments?

@Matt Rouge

I did not know that Sudduth had made those statements about Titus Rivas. So when I said "he seems like a nice guy" I now know he isn't. Thanks for showing me that.

"None of these stories belong to Eban Alexander, they are all parts of our personal biographies. It isn’t just that we are blind men feeling different parts of an elephant, there is a whole menagerie of creatures that we bring to the discussion. As Jung said: “Even when I am dealing with empirical data, I am necessarily speaking about myself.” And that goes quadruple for when we are dealing with anecdotal evidence." - David Chilstrom

I really like that. I never thought about it that way before, but I like it!

David, that is a very interesting comment that has much truth to it. As I've written here before, I believe I had an NDE after suffering a head injury. The NDE was very brief, and though astonishing to me, nothing at all like Eben Alexander's spectacular NDE. So that perhaps explains my skepticism. That doesn't mean his NDE isn't valid, and if people can take comfort from it, good for them.

David Chilstrom quotes Jung:

“Even when I am dealing with empirical data, I am necessarily speaking about myself."

I agree with others that this is profound.

As I see it, we are, above all, story-makers. From an infinite array of possibilities, we select the raw materials—including "facts" and experiences reported by others—that help us create the tales we want our own lives to tell.

The universe is not built from facts, but stories.

Just occurs to me that if Dr. Sudduth is saying he doesn't believe in "personal survival" but does say "I don’t doubt that consciousness will continue after death, but it’s less than clear what this consciousness will be like." (see full quote above) whether the idea we have for ourselves as being persons/selves in this life is quite right (being such a short time in all of Reality's time - like wow, was that really my life! :-) ), if a different kind(s) of consciousness is more default than what I am experiencing now.

Being in a body kind of fools us into thinking we are separate selves - is this just a persisting image maintained through objectifying the world? Reductionist science reinforces this, though this isn't to deny it's power and predictive capability.
The philosopher J.L. Schellenberg has discussed "Is God a person" and concludes against God being a person in the theistic sense but this doesn't deny a "divine reality" as he says. So because of this argument, survival in this medium (a divine medium?) after death will have less of the personal aspects to it and more of the "some other forms of consciousness" about it?
So God has less of the personal aspect, why shouldn't our continuing form reflect this more than the personal.
Not denying there can be personal aspects to survival!

The link where Prof. Schellenberg discusses this is here. Just thought it's worth linking these ideas from two philosophers together.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdB4HmYmyTA

Reviewing all the comments on this post, I can't help but being struck by the consistent humble self examination, self criticism and openness to doubt that I do not see in any Sudduth's writings.

It's so refreshing to see a crowd of people who value truth more than they value their ego.
Michael, you write a mean (in a good way) blog. Your commenters breathe fire into it.

This beautiful passage by William James (1909) seems kind of relevant to survival, at least in some form ...
"Out of my experience, such as it is (and it is limited enough) one fixed conclusion dogmatically emerges, and that is this, that we with our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest. The maple and the pine may whisper to each other with their leaves ... But the trees also commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean's bottom. Just so there is a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother-sea or reservoir. Our "normal" consciousness is circumscribed for adaptation to our external earthly environment, but the fence is weak in spots, and fitful influences from beyond leak in, showing the otherwise unverifiable common connection."

Often quoted I've noticed!

Hi Michael,

I had planned to react to Sudduth's response a few days ago, but my website is down after it had been attacked by a hacker. I hope it will be up someday next week. Anyway, here is the text of my reply:

Comments on a response from Michael Sudduth

In January 2016, I discovered Sudduth's response to my review. I was struck by his disproportionately hostile tone, and wonder whether he feels threatened by my criticisms. See: http://michaelsudduth.com/response-to-titus-rivas/ .

I do wish to admit that he is right about my misinterpretation of the topic of his former book about natural religion. I had not read that book (I did not claim that I had, by the way) but based my impression of its contents on ambiguous online information (including its title The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology). While doing so, I was prejudiced by my general view of Sudduth's interests as being largely destructive in nature - prejudiced because of my strongly discouraging direct experience with his correspondence, articles, and present book - and expected him to have undertaken something similar in the area of natural theology as he had done in the field of survival research. I was wrong about this and really should have checked whether my impression was correct or not. I wouldn't call this a “major” error though, because it plays just a marginal role in my review as a whole. Also, rather than calling me names in this context, Sudduth could simply have tried to reconstruct just why I had such a negative view of his intellectual endeavors. He could even have told me I was wrong about this point (he knew my e-mail address or could have easily found it on the Internet) and I would have gladly removed my error from my review, which was only published online and therefore did not depend on any inalterable printed text. He must have had his reasons to “punish” me for my mistake to such an outrageous extent.

However, his other comments, on the real core of my review, are less relevant and ultimately amount to empty sophistry. I cannot say I'm disappointed by them, because that would mean I had expected more of him.

My main criticisms of A Philosophical Critique (as such) clearly have not been refuted by Sudduth. If he had been a gentleman, he would have accepted my short discussion of important defects of his work in good spirit. If he were a conscientious scholar, he would even learn from it. But I realize that if is for children, to quote Roger Whittaker. Rather than admitting that his supposedly unique, sophisticated and enlightening approach inevitably leads to serious theoretical problems, he simply tries to demonstrate that his opponents have misunderstood and misread him on all counts. It seems very difficult for Sudduth to grasp the difference between rejecting his analysis and misunderstanding it, as if anyone who does not agree with him must be dumb, denying death, or indolent, or a combination of these. Only people with such personal imperfections can fail to see the utter genius of his analysis of the state of affairs within survival research. Only such handicapped individuals can fail to realize that the field is ill and needs a doctor of the stature of Sudduth, even if he offers no cure or medicine.

Could it be that a misunderstanding on his part explains his failure to appreciate the importance of my critical remarks? Due to my correspondence with him, I hardly find this plausible. I can hardly imagine that while I have fully understood his analysis in A Philosophical Critique, he would be unable to understand mine. I'm not inclined to downgrade the intelligence of my opponents.

I do agree, by the way, that it is not a good idea to 'psychologize' an opponent's position in order to reject it. However, I have done no such thing in this case. I first rejected Sudduth's approach (i.e. after exploring it extensively) and only afterwards tried to explain why such an intelligent philosopher wanted to defend such poorly supported and clearly fallacious standpoints as the ones chosen in his book. By now, I prefer reducing his underlying motivation to his being a closed-minded (rather than “stupid”) sophist, very much comparable to the archetypal closed-minded “skeptical” materialist, albeit on a different ontological basis and acting on a primarily theoretical level. Please note that I'm not saying that Sudduth is a materialist or even that he rejects the possibility or existence of survival, but what I do mean to say is that his attitude is just as unreasonable, closed-minded and indeed unpleasant as that of the average skeptic. Relevant similarities are his personal hostility, the way he makes “good use” of minor mistakes of opponents, his shameless ad hominem attacks and contempt, and, most importantly, the lack of any substantial response to serious counter-arguments, both in private correspondence and publicly. It is almost as if he had been trained in all this by a materialist (pseudo)skeptic and even surpassed him or her in his skills. I'm afraid it could take a professional deprogrammer to liberate Sudduth from these unbecoming habits and teach him basic principles of civilized, egalitarian debating and correspondence.

My former motivational analysis was more favorable, but it clearly is being rejected by Sudduth himself. I believed that Sudduth had realized that his dogmatic, rather thoughtless position would lead to rational agnosticism about survival and wondered why on earth he would want to put any energy into promoting such a fruitless, barren view. Based on our correspondence, his blog, and his general interests, I - rather plausibly, I might add - concluded that he was 'into' mysticism and especially Vedic religion (roughly equivalent to 'Hinduism'). I concluded that he based his own rejection of absolute (empirical and non-empirical) agnosticism concerning personal survival after death, as well as his belief in this type of survival (as strongly suggested by our correspondence) on something else than empirical and rational argumentation, namely on sacred revelations supposedly manifested through (or materialized in) Vedic or other religious scriptures.

I even wonder whether he's being totally sincere about this in his response, but I have no intention to explore it any further.

Anyway, if my reasoning was “stupid”, I guess the author must use this noble term as Sudduthian newspeak for “intelligent” or “brilliant”. I'm pretty sure he really had those unusual connotations in mind, because a long time ago I sent him several (working) links to my theoretical work and he ought to know that the standard meaning of “stupid” seems hardly compatible with it. He may sometimes be a bit hard to comprehend - he is very aware of this, because he often complains about the way he is almost generally misunderstood - but shouldn't we suppose that he means well?

Perhaps Michael Sudduth will one day have the courtesy and courage to publicly reveal his personal stance on survival (agnosticism, personal survival, personal extinction, or whatever), even if it is still only tentative. So far, I have seen very little to expect anything of the kind and I must confess I have lost most of my interest in his scholarly activities. Maybe I will some day skim through his book on natural theology and discover that he is really up to more than his recent exercises in advanced sophistry. After all, his embarrassing errors shown in the context of the philosophy and empirical theorizing of survival research are not the result of a very limited intellect. (I hope I hereby have restored Sudduth's trust in my psychological assessment skills.)

As I said before, I view Sudduth's program as destructive. This is because he has given his disturbing diagnosis of survival research such an irrefutable formulation that there seems to be no hope the field will ever progress beyond its supposed impasse. Like myself, many readers will want to know how Sudduth could conceptualize such a program as anything else than highly destructive. What solution does Sudduth plan to offer that would go beyond a stalemate between LAP and survival? Without a clear and unambiguous answer to this crucial question he should forgive us for regarding his program as leading to a situation that is a lot worse and more hopeless than how most of us view the status quo ourselves. The present state of affairs may be dissatisfying to his majesty in all his overwhelming superiority, but the route he envisages would rob most others of any rational hope they believed to have. It does not take a lot of empathy to understand why we demand very good reasons for such an unfortunate change and Sudduth has not even remotely delivered anything like that. Perhaps we'd better ignore him until he outlines his path of redemption in such a clear, unequivocal manner that there will be no room for misunderstandings. Until then, his message is too vague and confusing to deserve a lot of attention.

Let me finish by remarking that we really could use a 'conversation' within survival research. But it would have to be about how to arm sincere and transparent researchers and theorists against the kind of lecturing that our wise “redeemer” Michael Sudduth seems to be so fond of. Intellectual pluralism is an important ideal, which I fully endorse (meaning I'm not in favor of denying the right of freedom of expression to anyone who disagrees with me), but it must not be interpreted to mean that sophists should be allowed to silence everybody else.

Titus Rivas, January 8th 2016

Postscript
I will not respond to any new reply from Michael Sudduth and I won't participate in public debates with him either. I might comment on possible new arguments about theorizing in survival research, but only if they have not been published before. Apart from that possibility, the reader should consider these online pieces, as well as a few papers in Dutch (notably: Is Super-Psi een aannemelijk alternatief voor voortbestaan? of 2009), and various passages in books, to be my contribution in this context. Also, I sent Michael Sudduth links to several of my relevant online philosophical and theoretical papers years ago, to which I did not receive any serious response whatsoever, but only empty promises. The same goes for in my view sound, important arguments I sent him in private correspondence, which were simply ignored as well. In sum, I truly believe to have done a whole lot more than nothing and hold that it should be enough. It takes two – and a basic mutual respect – to tango.

Serious reactions may be sent to: titusrivas@hotmail.com

"I will not respond to any new reply from Michael Sudduth and I won't participate in public debates with him either."

And yet this missive is aimed, vicariously, directly at Sudduth. What an unnecessarily tortuous route. Still, if you feel your ball's burst and your clog lets water in, I suppose the only thing left is to go home. :)

Julie wrote,

||And yet this missive is aimed, vicariously, directly at Sudduth. What an unnecessarily tortuous route. Still, if you feel your ball's burst and your clog lets water in, I suppose the only thing left is to go home. :)||

His website is down, so he responded here. I can also understand how he feels about Sudduth. Titus has apparently communicated him on a friendly basis but then had his back stabbed on Sudduth's blog. No one enjoys such tactics.

Julie Baxter, you missed the word "new" in "I will not respond to any new reply".

You also missed: "the reader should consider these online pieces [...] to be my contribution in this context."

Titus Rivas

"His website is down, so he responded here. I can also understand how he feels about Sudduth. Titus has apparently communicated him on a friendly basis but then had his back stabbed on Sudduth's blog. No one enjoys such tactics." - Matt

Oh I do agree. But e-mail is also a very effective method of communication. Why talk about Sudduth behind his back - or, as in this case, talk about him in third person to an audience in which Sudduth is likely present? It's bordering on childish. Anyway, speaking of which, Titus has just unfriended me on fb. (sob) :(

IMO there is something odd about the passion for super-psi Sudduth maintains, or perhaps its just his general antagonism toward the idea of an afterlife.

What is the goal here exactly?

Julie, it was meant as a public reply to his public response to my public review. Such public papers are meant to be public from the start. If my website were up, I'd simply add the url here. Anyway, you and I have a very different concept of what is 'childish'.

My dear chap. Mine was simply a public response to your public response to his public response to your public review.

BTW: Good luck with your website. I hope it's soon on the mend. :)

I just discovered something on a Facebook page on A Philosophical Critique, from which I was blocked.

Sudduth writes about me: "“He's been pestering and harassing me for over three years to give him the attention he feels I owe him.”

Well, I thank him for this ridiculous slander. Act as if a serious opponent whom you have repeatedly promised (!) a serious reponse were some kind of stalker and your problem will go away.

I'll leave it to others to complete Sudduth's exposure. I've had enough. Next topic.

Julie, if so, then what was your problem with my response to Sudduth being public? ;-)

This is why I steer clear of controversies as much as possible. They tend to devolve into personal exchanges. In this case, I'm afraid I contributed to the problem by mentioning Sudduth's "Walmart" crack. Bad on me.

As a general response to everything above, including my own posts, I would say that Sudduth's style of argument can come across as overly combative and personal, but this is not unusual in academic circles, his usual milieu. Academics are known for laying into each other with hammer and tongs; you learn to give as good as you get.

I admit it's not clear to me exactly what Sudduth is arguing or how it differs from super-psi, and I'm still unsure how one can think the evidence for survival is adequate but the arguments in support of that evidence are not. Maybe, as Matt says, it has to do with symbolic logic, something I know precisely zero about.

My way of coming to conclusions about empirical evidence is to make an inference to the best explanation. For all I know, this method is considered hopelessly naive in philosophical forums. In any event, my inference to the best explanation regarding survival is presented in posts like "Enos, Redbeard, and Dave," in which I try to make sense of the overall results of various lines of inquiry (NDEs, OBEs, deathbed visions, reincarnation memories, apparitions, etc.).

Super-psi is another possible explanation. To me, it's not the best explanation because we don't see psi working that robustly or that comprehensively in laboratory studies. Also I find the hypothesis effectively unfalsifiable in principle, although its proponents disagree.

In the context of survival evidence, I don't see the difference between LAP (living agent psi) and super-psi. It seems to me that LAP is being asked to do all the things that super-psi is said to do, and that the same objections would apply. But I could be wrong.

Finally I admit to a certain prejudice against philosophical discussions of this type, because I've found that philosophers often end up arguing about words, definitions, and propositions. Years ago I read an argument by Antony Flew (who was, at the time, a staunchly atheistic philosopher), in which he said that life after death is a meaningless concept because "death," by definition, means "the absence of life." Of course, this is a purely verbalistic argument, and all it really signifies is that the definition may need to be changed or clarified, yet he apparently thought it was something close to a knockout punch.

Hi Michael,

You may be right about (Anglosaxon) academic customs. It could be a cultural difference - as you will know, I live in the Netherlands. If I look at the British parliament or American politics, it is also very different from the Dutch parliament in terms of direct confrontations and personal attacks (with some exceptions, but they remain rare). I guess I will never really get used this difference as I personally prefer respectful discussions which concentrate on the topic at hand... All the same, I certainly don't think the problem with Sudduth is simply a question of academic style. But that should be clear by now.

Anyway, I agree with you that some philosophers may sometimes make silly errors such as claiming that life after death would be a contradiction in terms. Sometimes, this kind of meaningless wordplay may ultimately get reflected in the terminology of scientists. For instance, some NDE researchers prefer to talk about "existence after death", because "life" would be a biological, and therefore bodily phenomenon! :-) As if talking about mental, inner, spiritual life etc. would be "incorrect".

Best wishes,

Titus

Michael said:

"I'm still unsure how one can think the evidence for survival is adequate but the arguments in support of that evidence are not"

Assuming you've correctly defined his stance, Michael, the only logical meaning I can assign to it would be: "The evidence is adequate. But nobody understands the evidence."

Or perhaps: "Nobody is explaining the evidence very well."

So my question for Michael S would be, what are your grounds for believing that the evidence is better than it seems?

Or are you saying something entirely different than what Michael P suggests?

Michael,

You wrote,

||This is why I steer clear of controversies as much as possible. They tend to devolve into personal exchanges. In this case, I'm afraid I contributed to the problem by mentioning Sudduth's "Walmart" crack. Bad on me.||

Not sure what the problem is. It's a public debate in which the behavior of one of the participants has been poor. He's only been called out on his public behavior, which seems fair. He's also gotten a few compliments in the process, such as recognition that he's highly intelligent and knowledgeable.

||Years ago I read an argument by Antony Flew (who was, at the time, a staunchly atheistic philosopher), in which he said that life after death is a meaningless concept because "death," by definition, means "the absence of life."||

Haha!

Yeah Michael I don't think you've been out of line in this at all.

Interestingly enough this style of philosophers came up on the Skeptiko forums as Raymond Moody as at least twice called parapsychology a pseudoscience even as he argues from evidence.

Apparently he thinks having a philosophy of nonsense is the key - perhaps he is trying to get at some Zen Enlightenment, or follow in Buddhist/Taoist Philosophy?

I don't know...but one would think the slow dismantling of philosophy departments (or so I'm told) would make them realize it's the parapsychologists who have any chance of convincing the broader public.

If one out of 5 people were capable of being mediums, how many would even bother to take the Super-Psi argument seriously? I mean sure it would get talked about, in the same way we might be living in the Matrix, but it wouldn't be something the average person would care too much about while chatting with deceased relatives.

"Finally I admit to a certain prejudice against philosophical discussions of this type, because I've found that philosophers often end up arguing about words, definitions, and propositions."

And all-too-often a pedantic dedication to academic minutiae goes hand-in-hand with the kind of painfully long-winded, ad hominem diatribe that marks the shift from an exchange of thoughts, ideas and possibilities to a petulant clash of egos, beneath which any semblance of truth-seeking is buried.

Even worse is when the protagonists think that kind of spectacle belongs in the public domain - where each proves themself as petty and tedious as the other. One doesn't stoop to conquer, not if one has any sense dignity, one rises above. Or, in the absense of dignity, a sense of humour often helps.

Just my two-pennorth on this bright and promising mid-January morning here in the UK. :)

My website is up again: http://www.txtxs.nl/artikel.asp?artid=883

\\"he said that life after death is a meaningless concept because "death," by definition, means "the absence of life."//
------------

It's the continuity of waking up in the afterlife from the operating table or wherever that makes it seem real. From this life to the next, you're still you and you know it. If there was no continuity then it wouldn't be life after death. If we forget who we are then in essence life after death is meaningless. Life after death is only real if there is a continuity between this life and the next. Just like when you wake up in the morning and know that you are the same person as you were the day before.

Josh Groban - You're Still You
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTady0w6dZ0

Michael Prescott said:

||Years ago I read an argument by Antony Flew (who was, at the time, a staunchly atheistic philosopher), in which he said that life after death is a meaningless concept because "death," by definition, means "the absence of life."||

Raymond Moody, the guy who wrote "life after life" and who coined the acronym NDE, made the same "argument".


This phrase "life after death" simply refers to the notion that in some form or another one's stream of consciousness will continue after the body stops functioning. Often it is referred to "the survival hypothesis" (as opposed to the "extinction hypothesis" which advocates people cease to exist when their body stops functioning). That is to say one does not literally mean there is *life* after death, but simply mean to convey there is a continuation of one's stream of consciousness after the death of one's body.

So Dr Raymond Moody's and Antony Flew's (and many others) "argument" here is not in fact an argument at all, but purely playing with words.

This is what you get with many professional philosophers and often scientists too; namely the most asinine ridiculous assertions imaginable eg one is not conscious unless one has learnt a language (hence no non-human animal is in fact conscious! Clearly none of them has ever owned a dog or cat). Or before we can say whether consciousness survives the death of our bodies, we must define it. But of course we all in the most immediate manner possible directly aware of our own consciousness, and hence in the most immediate manner know what it is.

Ian writes: "This is what you get with many professional philosophers and often scientists too; namely the most asinine ridiculous assertions imaginable eg one is not conscious unless one has learnt a language (hence no non-human animal is in fact conscious! Clearly none of them has ever owned a dog or cat). Or before we can say whether consciousness survives the death of our bodies, we must define it. But of course we all in the most immediate manner possible directly aware of our own consciousness, and hence in the most immediate manner know what it is."

Well said, old chap! And, in the world of my faithful Giant Schnauzer, Biff, "I stink, therefore I am!" :)

@Art: "Life after death is only real if there is a continuity between this life and the next. Just like when you wake up in the morning and know that you are the same person as you were the day before."

Ah, but are you *really* that same person? Are we not changed by every psychological experience and even the smallest effect of time upon our biological cells?
.
.
.
.
.

Only joshing. :)

Ps. My apologies for spelling mistakes earlier. Some of us simply aren't pedantic enough.

In an earlier outline of his recently relseased book "A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Postmortem Survival" , Dr Sudduth included a chapter on the justification of belief on survival. The earlier outline can still be accessed via this link:

http://michaelsudduth.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Survival-and-the-Empirical-World-November-2013-Outline.pdf

The outline is as follows:

Chapter 9: The Justification of Belief in Survival

Chapter 9 Abstract

Having argued in earlier chapters that classical empirical arguments for survival do not
provide a suitably robust justification for belief in survival, I propose in this chapter to
consider the extent to which belief in survival can nonetheless be justified, as well as the
extent to which empirical arguments for survival might contribute to this.

First, I favorably consider the prospects for a direct experiential justification of survival beliefs analogous to how philosophers of religion have argued for a direct experiential justification of religious belief based on religious experience. I outline similar prospects for survival beliefs based on subjects who have apparitional experiences, experiences as mediums, and out-of-body and near-death experiences.

Second, I consider how empirical arguments for survival might play an auxiliary role in the justification of belief in
survival. For example, I show how they might shore up the justification of experientially
justified survival beliefs, as well as operate in tandem with philosophical arguments for
survival.

Finally, I consider the value of empirical arguments for survival when they are
relocated in a religious context. Here I argue, largely in a programmatic manner, that
empirical survival arguments can contribute to the development of religious eschatologies
by providing constraints on theorizing about the afterlife similar to the conceptual
constraints that have guided philosophically informed religious eschatologies.

9.1 The Prospects for an Experiential Justification of Belief in Survival
9.1.1 Experiential vs. Inferential Justification of Belief in Survival
9.1.2 Experiential Grounds for Belief in Survival
9.1.3 Religious Experience and Survival Experiences
9.2 Empirical Arguments in Philosophical Context
9.2.1 Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of Souls
9.2.2 Empirical Arguments and the Nature of the Afterlife
9.3 Empirical Arguments in Religious Context
9.3.1 Apparent Conflicts between Empirical Evidences and Religious Conceptions of
the Afterlife
9.3.2. Empirical Evidence and the Intermediate State
9.3.3 Reincarnation Evidence Considered in Religious Context
9.4 Concluding Remarks


This chapter was not included in the final version of Dr Sudduth's book.

I asked Dr Sudduth about this by e-mail and he told me that he could not do justice to the topic in a single chapter and that he plans to write a sequel book which covers the positive case for survival.

Some philosophers have tried to prove that the afterlife notion is a contradiction in terms or logically impossible, but none have succeeded. Expression of life after death is not a contradiction in terms or logically impossible because "life" can have two meanings: biological life, as the movement of cells, biochemical reactions, observable in third person, or psychological life, as consciousness, feelings, perceptions, observable in first person. So say that there is a life after death is to say that the psychological life of one continuing after the end of their biological life. For which it is not only logically possible but there is empirical evidence of it.

"My website is up again: http://www.txtxs.nl/artikel.asp?artid=883"

BTW, great review of Sudduth's book, Titus. Your erudition speaks for itself and needs no defence against aggressive attack. People only throw stones at trees bearing fruit. :)

A lot of "life after death" books I read usually end up containing a chapter about reincarnation. To be honest I don't consider reincarnation to be a form of "life after death". I'm not sure what it is but the concept of reincarnation is in a class by itself if you ask me. It is not survival of consciousness if I lose my sense of self.

If I can't remember who I am, and lose the identity of who I was here, then for all intents and purposes the person I was here, "Art", is extinct and in no way shape or form is that "life after death." I'm not sure what it is but it isn't what I'd call life after death.

It has to be simple. Complete continuity from here to there. I have to wake up in the next life remembering and realizing who I am just like I do here when I wake up otherwise the person I am now is for all intents and purposes extinct.

In The Long Trajectory Weiss explains how, from a philosophical standpoint, one utilize the ideas of Sri Aurobindo & Whitehead to have a metaphysics that explains survival as well as the quantum - so essentially this world & the next.

Julie Baxter, all your comments are great! You're very intuitive.

Art,
Your take on reincarnation is acknowledged but perhaps you might consider a broader view. I think it is true that in a new incarnation most people don't have access to memories of a previous personality although some very young children sometimes do. I think that one's sense of self however is not a personality to be remembered from life to life but rather my 'self' is that thing, seemingly in my head, that is experiencing this current life form. I am not my body nor am I male or female, young or old, rich or poor. It is the essence of me---my soul if you will--- that survives. I don't think that I lose my sense of self. I am that I am, without language, without labels, without form. That essence of me can take on various and many forms in time, perhaps including forms that are non-human and my oversoul remembers each incarnation even though my current conscious mind or personality does not.

It may be true that it seems as if a past personality becomes extinct but perhaps one might consider that it has become part of the oversoul as has previously been discussed in Michael Prescott's metaphor of the diamond and is not extinct but takes its place among other personalities that make up the experiences of the oversoul. In a similar way I am right now a comingling of all of the personalities which I have been in this life including an infant, child, adolescent, young adult, mature adult and an old adult. It doesn't seem right to say that my infant, child , adolescent etc. is extinct. Those personalities are all there as part of the being I am now.

Just for a moment consider that reincarnation does occur and imagine that I die and wake up in another body, perhaps for simplicity's sake, a female born to Hawaiian parents. If continuity with my current life as a Caucasian elderly male living in Central Illinois was retained, how do you suppose that would all work out when I woke up in Hawaii as a young girl? - AOD :^)

"Julie Baxter, all your comments are great! You're very intuitive." - Barbara

'Ere, wot's your game! ;)

Thanks, Barbara. But I'm only surprised I haven't been locked out of this place yet!!

Yes great comments Julie, Very well put.

Wrt your comment to Art: different person but same individual perhaps? ;)

Art said:

"I have to wake up in the next life remembering and realizing who I am just like I do here"

That's exactly how it happens for many people.

Carole Bowman's books make clear that some children are still so deeply immersed in the feelings and circumstances of their previous incarnation, they have to be coached by parents into understanding that they have been born into a new body, and that what is troubling them has to do with the past, not the present.

These are usually cases in which the previous death was traumatic, so important aspects of that life are unresolved.

As for the rest of us, think of it this way—if there were no forgetting, there would be no sense of newness or discovery.

When you watch a movie, don't you relish the opportunity to forget this world and temporarily enter one more to your liking?

Forgetting is as important to the soul's well-being as remembering.

Julie said:

"I'm only surprised I haven't been locked out of this place yet!!"

The committee is meeting and will announce our decision later today.

Sorry!!! Couldn't resist. :)

@Amos: "It doesn't seem right to say that my infant, child , adolescent etc. is extinct. Those personalities are all there as part of the being I am now."

And all were different levels of consciousness with different relationships to the passing of time.

Julie wrote,

||Thanks, Barbara. But I'm only surprised I haven't been locked out of this place yet!!||

Or locked up elsewhere.

j/k!!! ;)

And at the risk of getting kicked out of here for my low-brow taste, there's a novel, "Green Darkness," that actually describes pretty accurately how personality survives through different reincarnations. It's a lurid romance tale that begins in the Middle Ages, and the author does very aptly describe how personalities remain intact - and hopefully evolve to become more compassionate and just. The novel is ridiculous for various reasons, but it does a good job of showing how, even if you couldn't remember past lives, your personality would still be intact and you would still be "you." But I don't know why any would wish for reincarnation, and even the Eastern religions that subscribe to it, advise that it should be avoided through "good behavior" and/or detaching from the ego.

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