It is interesting that you won't rule out self-consciousness on the part of animals, on account of the fact that 'we don't have evidence of what they think', but appear to rule out the idea of a life beyond this one. How can there be any evidence for or against that? ....
Argument from brain damage
This argument has been formulated by Paul Churchland, among others. The point is simply that when the brain undergoes some kind of damage (caused by automobile accidents, drug abuse or pathological diseases), it is always the case that the mental substance and/or properties of the person are significantly compromised. If the mind were a completely separate substance from the brain, how could it be possible that every single time the brain is injured, the mind is also injured? Indeed, it is very frequently the case that one can even predict and explain the kind of mental or psychological deterioration or change that human beings will undergo when specific parts of their brains are damaged. So the question for the dualist to try to confront is how can all of this be explained if the mind is a separate and immaterial substance from, or if its properties are ontologically independent of, the brain. Property dualism and emergent dualism avoid this problem by asserting that the mind is a property or substance that emerges from the appropriate arrangement of physical matter, and therefore could be affected by any rearrangement.
Phineas Gage, who suffered destruction of one or both frontal lobes by a projectile iron rod, is often cited. Gage certainly exhibited mental changes after his accident, though the extent of those changes is less certain. But undoubtedly this physical event, the destruction of part of his brain, caused some kind of change in his mind, suggesting a correlation between brain states and mental states. Moreover, in more modern experiments, it can be demonstrated that the relation is much more than simple correlation. By damaging, or manipulating, specific areas of the brain repeatedly under controlled conditions, for example in monkeys, and obtaining the same results in terms of changes in mental state each time, neuroscientists have shown that the relation between damage to the brain and mental deterioration is causal.
Argument from biological development
Another common argument against dualism consists in the idea that since human beings (both phylogenetically and ontogenetically) begin their existence as entirely physical or material entities and since nothing outside of the domain of the physical is added later on in the course of development, then we must necessarily end up being fully developed material beings. Phylogenetically, the human species evolved, as did all other species, from a single cell made up of matter. Since all the events that later occurred which ended up in the formation of our species can be explained through the processes of random mutation and natural selection, the difficulty for the dualist is to explain where and why there could have intervened some non-material, non-physical event in this process of natural evolution. Ontogenetically, we begin life as a simple fertilized ovum. There is nothing non-material or mentalistic involved in conception, the formation of the blastula, the gastrula, and so on. Our development can be explained entirely in terms of the accumulation of matter through the processes of nutrition. The postulation of a non-physical mind would seem superfluous.
If you want to pursue this line of argument, it should be done in a new thread, as this one is supposed to be about the idea of what impact the lack of an afterlife has on ethics, not about whether or not there is an afterlife.
So when you turn off your car, it is "resting" because it's "tired". The action is important, not the concept or the thinking. That way leads to silliness...
I don't get why you are acknowledging the important difference, but arguing with someone who is saying there is an important difference :listening:
You are trying to convince him of something he hasn't denied and presumably accepts, unless you are saying he thinks humans don't have basic drives?
I wonder if anyone has thought about whether the absence of belief in an afterlife has any bearing on the suicide rate?
There has been a big rise in the suicide rate in Australia, although it has come down again, due to the dedicated efforts of mental health initiatives such as Beyond Blue and Black Dog institute (more strength to them.)
But I would have thought that religious considerations might be important in this matter. After all, if death really is the end of everything, then I can see why, for so many troubled people, it seems so attractive. There are no consequences - well, none that the victim need worry about. But if the culture said that there were consequences in the next life, it might be a deterrent. (My personal view, which is Buddhist, is that every action must have consequences - I can't see any way around this, including dying. But of course, I don't expect many to agree with that.)
And again, people who are rational, reflective, and can set their own goals and navigate life - I don't think these are the kinds of people that the destruction of popular religious culture really effects. But from a public policy perspective, I think that materialism, of the type that says you only live once, and life has only the meaning you are prepared to give it, can't help but cause nihilism in the minds of many ordinary people. And I think nihilism - not a considered, reflective, philosophical nihilism, but a F*** everything nihilism - is actually a very common outlook among the Western young.
I think that it often leads to nihilism because people have been indoctrinated with the religious belief that without religion there is no meaning or purpose to life, and when the person manages to throw off the shackles of religion, they do not manage to throw off all of the residue of their religious training, and so they believe such things.
Well I have well and truly 'thrown off the shackles' and declined confirmation as an Anglican at age 13, something I have never regretted. But I have nevertheless become, or remain, a very religious person, in the sense that Einstein was religious - not in an orthodox or denominational way. And what if the purpose of life is 'the cosmic religious feeling'? If you deny it, you might be denying something of great importance. (Einstein said 'atheists are those who still feel the weight of their chains.)
And what if the purpose of life is 'the cosmic religious feeling'? If you deny it, you might be denying something of great importance. (Einstein said 'atheists are those who still feel the weight of their chains.)
The 2007 biography by Walter Isaacson: Einstein - His Life and Universe has a chapter called 'Einstein's God'. He was not at all sympathetic to atheism. - one of the quotes says something like 'I know there are people who say there is no God, but what really annoys me is when they quote me in support of that view'. I do wonder whether this chapter was edited in light of 2006's The God Delusion, wherein the first chapter of which, A Very Religious Non-Believer, Dawkins tries to show that Einstein's view of religion was basically the same as his own - which I am quite sure it is not. Einstein was completely dismissive of religious orthodoxy, Jewish or any other type, and was very much a supporter of Spinoza's type of pantheism, as well as a generally intellectual type of mysticism. But he was equally dismissive of atheism, as that chapter will show.
"I'm not an atheist. I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws."
actually the provenance of that quotation has been disputed by some scholars, which is a shame, because I particularly like it.
In this extraordinary book, Mark Johnston sets out a new understanding of personal identity and the self, thereby providing a purely naturalistic account of surviving death.
Death threatens our sense of the importance of goodness. The threat can be met if there is, as Socrates said, "something in death that is better for the good than for the bad." Yet, as Johnston shows, all existing theological conceptions of the afterlife are either incoherent or at odds with the workings of nature. These supernaturalist pictures of the rewards for goodness also obscure a striking consilience between the philosophical study of the self and an account of goodness common to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism: the good person is one who has undergone a kind of death of the self and who lives a life transformed by entering imaginatively into the lives of others, anticipating their needs and true interests. As a caretaker of humanity who finds his or her own death comparatively unimportant, the good person can see through death.
But this is not all. Johnston's closely argued claims that there is no persisting self and that our identities are in a particular way "Protean" imply that the good survive death. Given the future-directed concern that defines true goodness, the good quite literally live on in the onward rush of humankind. Every time a baby is born a good person acquires a new face.