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Unintelligent ramblings regarding life after death

  1. Oct 27, 2004 #1
    This question is for people who believe in life after death.

    If death is the termination of life, than can it be proven to exist? If it is the intermission between two streams of life than can the lenght of death be measured? Or, is death just an intangible concept like absolute zero? Is it an unattainable state that we dread even though it does not exist?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2004 #2
    Understand that all belief in life after death makes a distinction between one's physical body and one's soul/spirit. Physical death is obviously a certainty. Length of the 'afterlife' can't be measured because it's infinite.
  4. Oct 28, 2004 #3


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    Death is defined as the cessation of life. Life is defined in various ways, but usually includes the minimal requirements that a system metabolizes and reproduces (or has the capacity to reproduce).

    The questions you pose are rather trivial if we take the definitions of life and death as above. I think what you're really interested in asking about here is consciousness and its relationship to death. I'll try to answer your questions with that in mind.

    I think you mean to ask here whether one's consciousness can be proven to exist (or proven to not exist) even after death of the organism (I will use 'death' as I defined it above). The answer here is, rather flatly, that it can't be proven either way. I can't even prove that you have consciousness right now as you are living, breathing, and reading this, even if I believe that you do. It's the old philosophical 'problem of other minds' at work.

    On the other hand, scientific evidence suggests strong links between the functioning of the brain and the state of one's consciousness. Different areas of the brain are responsible for different aspects of our mental lives. There are areas of the brain associated with one's personality, and damage to these areas can dramatically alter one's personality; there are areas of the brain associated with one's memory, and damage to these areas can destroy old memories, or the ability to make new memories, or both; and so on. If one extrapolates this pattern, there would not appear to be much left of an individual's mental life once his brain stops functioning completely.

    This question really has no answer under any interpretation. Even replacing 'life' here with 'consciousness' and assuming a 'stream of consciousness' means the totality of one's conscious experiences over a lifetime, there's no way to really proceed. 'Intermission between two streams' implies that two people's consciousnesses are really to be considered as one, with some sort of mysterious intermission phase followed up by a complete reworking of identity. This is a purely speculative idea with no real theoretical or empirical motivation to speak of. There is furthermore no known way to empirically observe experiential consciousness, making any question of measurement here more or less impossible.

    Again, I assume you mean 'death' here as the absence of consciousness, otherwise the question becomes trivial. So, I assume you are asking if it is even possible for consciousness to 'disappear' or 'turn off.' Well, no truly conclusive answer can be given here, once again thanks to the problem of other minds. However, if you consider deep, dreamless sleep to be sufficiently 'dark' to count as consciousness 'turning off' completely, then that would be an obvious case where consciousness does indeed cease to be for some time.

    I'm going to close this thread down because the subject matter seems overly speculative and there do not seem to be any solid empirical or logical grounds for making it otherwise. (Please see The Philosophy Forums Guidelines.) However, you may be interested in discussing the first hand accounts of people who have had near death experiences and other topics in that general vicinity in our Scepticism and Debunking forum (or the General Discussion forum if appropriate, etc).

    edit: Let me clarify this a bit. It's not so much the subject matter per se that is too speculative, but rather the specific questions framed in this thread and any potential answers they might receive. There might be some way to frame issues of 'life after death' that would have some philosophical merit. But the questions posed here are essentially empirical ones asking for a 'yes' or 'no' reply where no truly empirical answer can be given, and it's not clear to what extent the questions qua empirical questions are sufficiently well defined to begin with.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2004
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