PHI101_71013_Lecture17_Oct29

PHI101_71013_Lecture17_Oct29 - Russell: The illusion of...

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Unformatted text preview: Russell: The illusion of immortality October 29, 2009 We seem to need both a body and a brain to instantiate our consciousness and personalities the brain seems to be the locus of conscious experience. But bodies and brains die and are disintegrated. What happens to your consciousness and your personal identity (372-373)? In this essay, Russell presents some major obstacles to the idea of life after death and argues that it is not reasonable to believe that our personalities and memories survive death.  Our desire to believe in immorality stems primarily from our pathological fear of death.  According to Russell, before we can even begin to tackle the question of whether there is life after death, we first have to respond to the question of personal identity. Before we can profitably discuss whether we shall continue to exist after death, it is well to be clear as to the sense in which a man is the same person as he was yesterday (377).  Before launching into questions about afterlife, Russell reviews the issue at present life. Philosophers used to think that there were definite substances, the soul and the body, that each lasted from day to day, that a soul, once created, continued to exist throughout all future time, whereas a body ceased temporarily from death till the resurrection of the body.  The part of this doctrine which concerns the present life is pretty certainly false (377). Our bodies continually change, matter is in constant flux; not even atoms retain identity. Thus, the continuity of the human body is related more to appearance and behavior than it is to the continuity of any fundamental matter. Moreover, Russell thinks the same holds true of the mind: there is no underlying substance that remains the same, but only emotions, perceptions, etc. All that constitutes a person is a series of experiences connected by memory and by certain similarities of the sort we call habit (377). Russells view seems to coincide with Humes proposal: I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other (Hume, 365) If we are to believe in life after death, we must somehow believe that our memories and personalities will continue to exist in an immaterial state. It is very unlikely, according to Russell, that our memories and personalities can exist in such a disembodied and immaterial state. Although it is theoretically possible for the pure...
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PHI101_71013_Lecture17_Oct29 - Russell: The illusion of...

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