Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: William James is dead. We will all die.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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William James is dead. We will all die. Religion, through its promise of continued existence in the afterlife, is what many turn to in the...
English: William James (January 11, 1842 – Aug...
William James is dead. We will all die. Religion, through its promise of continued existence in the afterlife, is what many turn to in the face of this difficult truth. Belief in the afterlife became increasingly important to William James. He publicly defended his support of personal immortality in his Ingersoll Lecture on Human Immortality, which addresses two widespread objections to immortality: (1) The brain generates consciousness and mental life so when the brain dies these can’t continue (James replies that the brain may serve a transmissive function) and the immortality of all biological beings would create too many immortal souls (James replies there is no ‘law of conservation’ for consciousness). His empirical evidence for an afterlife included psychic experiences and altered states of consciousness. Today, some scientific research examines ‘past-life experiences’, and even some who believe that the brain does generate consciousness continue to hope for an afterlife. The hope now lies with technology. Believers in strong AI hope to build a new machine-body into which we could upload our consciousness; other scientists hope that technology can one day keep us alive forever, or even bring us back from the dead. Ironically, technology has made near-death experiences more common, a type of religious experience that would certainly have fascinated James. Finally, people like James have achieved a certain form of life after death through their writings and photographs. James’s words and pictures call him back from the dead to speak to us still, and invite us to live a fuller life.
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