By Michael Sudduth
Sudduth offers a severe exploration of classical empirical arguments for survival arguments that purport to teach that information gathered from ostensibly paranormal phenomena represent strong facts for the survival of the self after loss of life. using the conceptual instruments of formal epistemology, he argues that classical arguments are unsuccessful.
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Additional resources for A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Postmortem Survival
I will show that the kinds of assumptions required by the classical arguments are epistemically challenged: they are either not independently testable or they otherwise fail to carry the appropriate sort of epistemic credentials. While this creates a general problem for the procedure of confirming and disconfirming hypotheses, I argue that it generates two kinds of logical “blowback” that surgically impact and defeat the classical arguments at their most crucial points. First, there is prior probability blowback since AAR defeats what the survivalist needs to maintain about the prior probability of the survival hypothesis in connection with Bayesian-style survival arguments.
So not surprisingly, some who hold to the psychological criterion of identity also hold that survival must be an embodied form of existence. Third, some survivalists who reject the psychological criterion of identity (as either necessary or sufficient for identity) accept the “soul criterion” of personal identity, as it is called (Goetz 2005: 33–60; Lewis 1982; Swinburne 1986: 145–73). As noted above, many survivalists identify the self with the soul, an immaterial or quasi-immaterial substance that is the bearer of mental properties.
The matter is of considerable importance since the explanatory arguments all depend on there being a determinable Likelihood for the survival hypothesis, but this strongly depends on the actual content of the survival hypothesis. Most of the literature on survival since the 1960s, and much of the literature before then, operates with a very simple survival hypothesis: for example, the postmortem persistence of “a non-physical subject of conscious states” (Lund 2009: 62, 83), “a mind, center of consciousness, or a soul” (Carter 2012: 65), “the human personality” or “I-thinker” (Hart 1959: 223, 263), or perhaps with a bit more specificity, “a personal stream of consciousness with its memories of past earthly life” (Hyslop Introduction: The Classical Empirical Survival Debate 17 1919: 53).