“As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague possibilities.” – Charles Darwin
Our analysis of death and immortality has been quite revealing – taking us through the distinctions between life and existence, metaphysical and physicist conceptions of time, and being and nothingness. Literal biologic and personal spiritual immortality seem unreasonable and unwieldy. They appear to be the naïve thoughts or hopes of the childhood of our race, following our emergence via evolution to self-consciousness. We cannot prove our ancestors were wrong, but we can distill from our analysis more sophisticated formulations on life and death.
These conclusions include:
- Inevitable biologic death gives man a focal point for life, an impetus to accomplish something meaningful in a finite time frame, within one’s historicity.
- While alive man can have a transcendental form of eternity through infinite present moments and continuance within his phenomenal experience of being.
- Metaphorical immortality derives from offspring, effects on others, and works.
- Man’s perpetuity within the universe occurs via the recycling of his materiality, his mental energies, the chain of causation he initiates, and participation in space-time.
- If there is an afterlife it most likely takes the form of impersonal spiritual continuance within a greater being, but this cannot be demonstrated.
- Of known creatures, man uniquely participates in the two eternal aspects of the universe – by virtue of his material make-up of indestructible subatomic particles and through his knowledge of the eternity of the universe as a whole.
- Man also uniquely participates in the two poles of being – nothingness and ultimate being – and in this participation achieves the existential summit within the universe.
At the end of the day death does not truly justify the fear most of us naturally experience although only the most hardened fail to see it as a cause for regret. All of our reasoning converges on one conclusion; the best response to man’s mortality is for us to live fully and thoughtfully, to appreciate our apparent uniqueness in the cosmos, and to recognize that at a minimum our immortality is instantiated in having existed at all.
8 Replies to “HUMAN MORTALITY – CONCLUSIONS”
Interesting website with a large variety of philosophical topics. I’ve read some of your articles and will continue to do so when time permits, but I think in large I’ve got a pretty general idea on where you stand. I would say that two years ago I would have agreed with the majority of your views. Since then, some personal things happened in my life which compelled me to do more reading into spiritual topics and I’ve shifted from a roughly pandeistic paradigm to orthodox christianity. What baffled me is the discovery that at a fundamental level all religions of the world are a form of monism (dualism is just a soft eschatological version of it) and only orthodoxy has the essence – energy distinction model which allows epistemic flourishing and avoids the circular reasoning of monism. Please take a look at this paper which I think it’s a good representation of the way I see things as of now and let me know if you have any critique for the way the author presents his transcendental argument:
Thanks for taking the time to visit my site, and I appreciate your kind comments. I would offer two preliminary comments. First I will be taking on ultimate reality in the next section and hope to address aspects of religion you have referenced above. Second I wonder if your personal thinking follows the constructions of Bishop George Berkeley or perhaps Paul Tillich and how familiar you are with their works.
As to a critique on the paper you referenced, I will prepare my thoughts in my next three blogs (CURRENT READING – REV. DEACON DR. ANANIAS SOREM) which will publish on July 22, 25, and 27. I would love to hear your thoughts if you can find the time to read them.
Thank you for your interest in Philosophicalguidance.com
Unfortunately, all I’ve read on Berkeley was an introduction book in romanian, but I’ve never been an idealist, so I wouldn’t find Berkeley’s ideas appealing. As for Tillich, I heard about him, but never engaged with his ideas. Being a protestant, I would assume he was a promoter of absolute divine simplicity (monism), making me inclined to say that I would not share his views, at least on fundamental grounds. It’s interesting that you’ve brought up these authors and I’m curious to know why, since they have very little in common with orthodoxy.
Currently, the orthodox christian perspective seems to me the most plausible and I’m looking to challenge it because if this is indeed the truth, it should withstand any criticism thrown at it. I know it may seem like some kind of confirmation bias since Romania is an orthodox country, but it’s not my fault that it has the most coherent theology, as I understand it 🙂
You seem to have vast amounts of knowledge and have a nuanced way of looking at things, so I’m looking forward to your critique.
Yes you are correct, on re-reading your comment I see you are looking at a different kind of metaphysic – not idealism, nor existential, but I assume a dualism with the two aspects being divinity and materiality. Pardon my ignorance on your faith, but I have limited exposure to it and that mostly from a historical vantage point vis a vis Western Catholicism.
Please let me know when I have a misunderstanding as I work through Fr. Sorem’s essay.
This should be interesting!
Orthodoxy and catholicism share the same history and dogma in the first millennium until the filioque dispute when the patriarch of Rome severed the west from orthodoxy (the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church) by going against the nicene creed. So, there’s a lot of overlapping between the two, but with the later introducing a lot of innovation into its teachings after the schism. One of those additions is the “actus purus” doctrine (there’s no unactualized potentiality in God) which resulted in an absolute divine simplicity metaphysical model for understanding the Trinity.
The orthodox position is that there can be real distinctions in the unity of God as essence because it doesn’t assume the presupposition of Aristotle, that any kind of distinction necessitates a composition, separation or division. The issue arises when starting with dialectics, with a philosophical definition based on reason and not divine revelation on what divine simplicity is. That is the case (to begin metaphysics with revelation) because God’s will, actions (his uncreated energies) in the world must be different than the attributes applied to him from all eternity (his essence), otherwise creation becomes an eternal emanation and we fall into problems of monism. Therefore, when tackling for example the one and the many issue of monism, justifying the gap between the metaphysical absolutes and the temporal, finite attributes of creation (material and spiritual created realms) requires a commitment in defining the world as illusory, which is a self defeater. That’s why I was saying in my first comment that dualism is just a weak version of monism because it makes of the visible, material dimension an epiphenomenal appendage to the real, spiritual world.
Thus, orthodoxy has the only metaphysical system which can lay claim to theism, a personal view of God via the eternal communion of the three hypostasis. In a simplest way, you can think of the essence as God in himself (the undetermined potentiality) and his uncreated energies as God manifested (the active voice, knowable to creatures through Christ, the second person of the Godhead), but the line between the knowable active and the ineffable passive recedes asymptotically as we go through the process of purification, illumination and deification (theosis, partaking through synergy to the uncreated glory of God, which saints get to experience from this life).
A short introduction to the essence – energy distinction:
In this discussion, Dr David Bradshaw goes more in depth:
For a nuanced understanding I recommend “Divine Essence and Divine Energies. Ecumenical Reflections on the Presence of God in Eastern Orthodoxy” in which different perspectives on the matter are brought together:
And if you want to get familiarized with Orthodoxy in general, I would recommend “Orthodox Theology: An Introduction” by Vladimir Lossky:
Since you’ve said that you are not accustomed with the christian orthodox ideas, maybe you can get more into the epistemic critique of natural theology and leave the theological part for another time.
Thank you for taking your time to give your perspective on this subject!
Wow, my head is still spinning. I will need to reread your response several more times and hope to find time to listen to the YouTube videos. The additional essays might be a a stretch for now.
I agree, my critique must be directed mainly at the philosophical points – I will have to defer theological doctrine and the nuances of God’s nature to more knowledgeable individuals.
Let me know if July 25th ‘s post is in any way inaccurate regarding my synopsis of any theological points…or for that matter the entire essay. Please note I wrote it before reviewing your comment above.
Thank you for your continued interest and contributions to philosophicalgudiance.com.
I think it’s a good synopsis. I would only point out that in your first notation (“… his attempt to demonstrate that Western philosophical reasoning is not a valid means to justify faith”) Fr. Sorem would be talking about justifying true beliefs (knowledge) , not faith, as the latter is not concerned with conceptual knowledge (gnosis in orthodoxy is experiential), but is the basis for the possibility of reason itself (having faith in the revealed truth justifies our faith in reason and senses). Faith is the catalyst through which we accept to enter in a synergistic relationship (covenant) with God, a purified state (catharsis) in which one must be found in order to be illumined (theoria) by God’s uncreated grace and directly experience His eternal glory (theosis).
May be a bit subtle for me. It seems that you are parsing religious faith differently than the more general use the word faith… such as I have faith in logic, mathematics, or the principles of science. Perhaps you mean faith experientially as I have faith in what my eyes see versus the algebraic formulas in a text book. Still I suspect I can use reason to justify that faith – i.e. the consistency of what I see by opening and closing my eyes or the utility of vision in the light, but not in the complete dark, etc. Beyond this, I am not qualified to address the theological features of your comment, though I may give it further attention as time permits.
Thanks for the input.