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Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense

  1. Dec 6, 2009 #1
    Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    Dear scientists!!!

    What do you think happens to you when you die? By which I mean, according to physics what happens to the mind?

    I have this strong belief that the mind can't die, in some senses of the word. I don't actually mean in the sense of lingering in people's thoughts but I think that it doesn't matter right now what my personal belief about how exactly I will exist.

    So what does current science rule out? I am also concerned to a lesser extent about if I have a grounded belief on what happens when I die without scientific proof (for what it's worth I don't really mean appeals to any scripture)?

    OK thanks :-)

    Edited to add that while I don't want to be insulted, I'd be very happy to hear a rubbishing of any religious beliefs.

    I just want to know in what ways I will not exist when I die / what ways I will. According to science.
    And / or if that's just a question for science
    . I'm really sorry if this doesn't make sense.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2009
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  3. Dec 6, 2009 #2

    DavidSnider

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    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    Other than wishing it to be so, why do you think the mind survives death?
     
  4. Dec 6, 2009 #3
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    Because philosophy might have something to say about it and philosophy might say that we survive death.
    Yes I know that all I've said is the word philosophy twice there, so I'll add that my starting point is just that I can't imagine it being any other way.

    You might reply that I can or you can or I'm just being silly but: it makes no sense to me to say that the life of my mind as a stream of events can become something that cannot be described as a type of vision.

    Why suppose that it would be a good thing?
     
  5. Dec 6, 2009 #4

    DavidSnider

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    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    Where do thoughts come from? We know we can alter thoughts by physically altering people's brain. We know brain damage causes problems with thought. Once that machinery breaks down, what is it that you imagine to continue your thought processes?
     
  6. Dec 6, 2009 #5
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    I'm not sure I'm talking about thought processes as much as something like the container of the brain.



    Or maybe that the life of the brain is a reality that is separate from that of natural cause and effect. Not that science cannot say we die extinguished and that's it but that that reality doesn't map onto the brain's life so simply. E.g., maybe the event of my seeing a colour is not just brain processes. That is a very common idea in philosophy.
     
  7. Dec 6, 2009 #6

    DavidSnider

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    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    Again, what would make you think this? What evidence is there that this is the case?

    Why not? What makes the brain more special than your heart or liver?
     
  8. Dec 6, 2009 #7
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    This is imho a poor analogy because a machine is just a machine nothing more, as i mentioned above.


    Again, like I said above, my lack of imagination. I see no reason why that couldn't be formulated into a philosophical argument, e.g. a phenomenological one.

    I don't know what makes it so but I have good reason to believe that my life cannot be reduced to the chemical functioning of my organs. As I mention in the first paragraph of this post.
    FWIW I didn't really want to discuss the validity of philosophical argument in general but I'd be happy to talk about that, actually.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2009
  9. Dec 6, 2009 #8
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    A difference between a chemical explanation of me and something like the cogito is that the cogito is more certain.
    Does greater conviction in a lower level theory ever have consequences to their integration? I'm not sure that I know much about how science works tbh.
     
  10. Dec 6, 2009 #9
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    What happens if the mind of a person with Alzheimer's survives death? Do they keep the Alzheimer's mind or does their mind revert back to its factory setting?
     
  11. Dec 6, 2009 #10
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    I don't really understand your facetiousness..? I'd suggest that all minds "revert" to the same state.

    Does physics really say nothing about the mind or what happens to it at death? In_that_case I suppose that the only question left for me is whether argument can pick up on these little gaps.
     
  12. Dec 6, 2009 #11

    DavidSnider

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    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    "I don't know what makes it so" ...
    followed by
    "but I have good reason to believe ... "

    Do you understand why people might be confused by this?
     
  13. Dec 6, 2009 #12
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    Well no.
    There's a (big obvious) difference between an explanation of how something comes about and a reason to believe it.
     
  14. Dec 6, 2009 #13

    DavidSnider

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    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    What is your reason to believe it though?
     
  15. Dec 6, 2009 #14
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    My reason? Lots of people have different reasons and I suppose that the one I'll give now is that believing I am just physical processes does an injustice to the conviction of the cogito.
     
  16. Dec 6, 2009 #15

    DavidSnider

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    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    What do you mean by 'the cogito'?

    As far as I know cogito means 'I think'. It doesn't say anything about how or why you think or if your thinking ever stops.
     
  17. Dec 6, 2009 #16
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    Well I mean something close enough to "thinking" as to be OK with you understanding it as such in such and such a way...

    How can some item of knowledge [I exist] be nothing more than some other item of knowledge [I am this chemical body] if the event they both describe is more likely the first item than the second?
    If the second were to subsume the first it would be as or more certain, just as if they were identical statements [Like A and B, and, B and A] they would convince as much as each other, accrue the same level of support.
     
  18. Dec 6, 2009 #17

    DavidSnider

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    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    Nobody was saying that people don't exist. Both "I exist" and "I am this chemical body" are true.

    Still, I don't see how this is relevant to whether or not you continue to exist when your brain stops functioning unless you are using some notion of existence in the sense that a perfect circle exists.
     
  19. Dec 6, 2009 #18

    apeiron

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    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    The easy answer is that when your brain is gone, so is your mind.

    But you could also argue that mind is a little more complicated than that. To the degree that your nervous and endocrine system is an expression of your genes, you will in some sense continue to persist in any children you may have.

    A second more convincing way that minds can persist is through culture. Most of what is considered essential to human-level awareness is sociocultural - higher emotions, self-consciouness, voluntary memory, etc. See the literature on Vygotskean psychology and social constructionism (or memes if you want the very rudimentary view).

    So to the degree in which you influence your society with "distinctively you" ideas, you will continue to think and imagine and remember - even though it will of course be other brains/minds that are literally responsible for this persistence of your self.

    Your kids are of course then a double dose of this persistence of you-ness. And I have to confess that as I get older, I seem to sound and act more and more like my dad.
     
  20. Dec 6, 2009 #19
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    But do they say the exact same thing: is personal existence just biological processes?

    If the mind is not just what science says it is, then maybe descriptions of mental events are not a map of descriptions of material events, in the sense of mind flowing past the point where we would otherwise infer that it physically and therefore mentally ends. Mind then survives death in that death will, according to this map of the mind, never happen (though I have not given much of an argument for being unable to conceive of a fully extinguished mind, Kant suggests something a bit like what I mean at the very beginning of the Critique of Pure Reason, imvho).

    I'm going to sleep now so thank you for the replies.
     
  21. Dec 6, 2009 #20
    Re: Death, being dead, afterlives and other nonsense!!

    I was being serious. If a mind survives past death, what happens to the minds that have been damaged by disease? Does that damaged mind persist past death?
    For example, if your mind and your aunt's mind meet in the afterlife, if she had Alzheimer's disease, would the mind you meet be the damaged Alzheimer's diseased mind or the mind of the younger version of herself with a mind still perfectly intact?

    So your answer is they revert to the same state. I guess that means that all minds have a default state that they each have in common.

    What I don't understand is what medium do you think through after your brain is gone? We use our brains here in this mortal body, but once that's gone, I don't see how our minds could escape.
     
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