Surviving Death

Surviving Death

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Surviving Death
    Book Description:

    In this extraordinary book, Mark Johnston sets out a new understanding of personal identity and the self, thereby providing a purely naturalistic account of surviving death.

    Death threatens our sense of the importance of goodness. The threat can be met if there is, as Socrates said, "something in death that is better for the good than for the bad." Yet, as Johnston shows, all existing theological conceptions of the afterlife are either incoherent or at odds with the workings of nature. These supernaturalist pictures of the rewards for goodness also obscure a striking consilience between the philosophical study of the self and an account of goodness common to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism: the good person is one who has undergone a kind of death of the self and who lives a life transformed by entering imaginatively into the lives of others, anticipating their needs and true interests. As a caretaker of humanity who finds his or her own death comparatively unimportant, the good person can see through death.

    But this is not all. Johnston's closely argued claims that there is no persisting self and that our identities are in a particular way "Protean" imply that the good survive death. Given the future-directed concern that defines true goodness, the good quite literally live on in the onward rush of humankind. Every time a baby is born a good person acquires a new face.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3460-0
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Chapter One Is Heaven a Place We Can Get To?
    (pp. 1-125)

    Having shaken off the yoke of being chair of the department (after seven years) it is a great honor to be invited by my colleagues to give these lectures. It is also a particular delight. For this lecture series celebrates the memory of our wonderful former colleague, Carl Gustav “Peter” Hempel.

    Like all those who knew him, I remember Peter as a very good and kind man. To mention just one small kindness—a single example among so many—one Princeton summer, long ago, Peter offered his magnificent office in McCosh to my then fellow graduate student Alison McIntyre and...

  5. Chapter Two The Impossibility of My Own Death
    (pp. 126-188)

    The last lecture converged on certain Protestant theological attempts to bridge the gap between earthly life and the afterlife, without recourse to an immaterial soul that could continue after the death of its brain and body. These were attempts to make sense of the resurrection without drawing on the legacy of Plato, illustrated byThe Entombment of Gonzalo Ruíz, Count of Orgaz, with its depiction of Gonzalo’s immaterial soul carrying his identity to heaven.

    The Entombmentis Platonized Christianity of just the sort firmly rejected as unscriptural by Protestant thinkers as various as Rudolf Bultman, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Paul...

  6. Chapter Three From Anatta to Agape
    (pp. 189-240)

    Philosophers have distinguished mere “de re” thought about oneself— thought thathappens to beabout oneself, as when Muhammad Ali in the last stages of mental decay and forgetfulness takes a wholly impersonal interest in the career of a fighter called “Cassius Clay,” no longer realizing that this man is he—from true “de se” thought about oneself, thought that involves the recognition of who one in fact is, thought about oneselfas oneself, thought characteristically captured by identifications involving the first-person pronoun and its cognates. What Ali has forgotten is the de se truth that he would express by...

  7. Chapter Four What Is Found at the Center?
    (pp. 241-304)

    This lecture, in many ways the most demanding, is based around a philosophical parable. I believe that at least part of what the parable describes is possible, and I shall argue for this. I shall then investigate in remorseless detail just howit could be possible. In answering that question we shall discover something very useful about the nature of personal identity, something that will bear directly on the question of surviving death. But before we turn to that, let us make a connection with the previous lectures.

    I feel, after a night’s reflection, that self-based future-directed concern has not...

  8. Chapter Five A New Refutation of Death
    (pp. 305-378)

    Let us begin with an anticipation of the central idea to be defended in this lecture. Here is John Stuart Mill on what he calls, after August Comte, the “Religion of Humanity”:

    I am now speaking of the unselfish. Those who are so wrapped up in self that they are unable to identify their feelings with anything which will survive them, or to feel their life prolonged in their younger cotemporaries and in all who help to carry on the progressive movement of human affairs, require the notion of another selfish life beyond the grave, to enable them to keep...

  9. Index
    (pp. 379-393)