Would life after death truly be desirable?
For once, I am doing something very unusual by my standards: I am commenting on something in which I don't have an education. That something is psychology. Anyone who wishes to correct things, therefore, feel free. Of course, I am also commenting on something in which I have firmer footing, philosophy.
The idea that life after death is innately desirable seems almost axiomatic to many of us. We hold that even if we don't accept the concept, we like to think that it is true, and those who do hold to it cannot imagine the lives of those who do not. Tillich in particular emphasized the concept of "existentialist angst". This was the deep fear on part of humans of the idea that one day, they, their consciousness, would no longer exist. This, Tillich said, was not neurotic, it was deeply rooted in the human condition.
To state up front in a very blunt manner: I do not believe in Life after death. Once the organic and biological processes responsible for maintaining the central elements of my personhood, such as my memories, my functional abilities, my consciousness, etc. are destroyed by organic death, so too, it logically follows, am I. So powerful is this notion that it still holds even if one accepts a dualist understanding (which I reject anyway), because, even if we admitted that the material brain was not the whole story, ultimately, it is impossible to hold that our personhood could possibly continue in any meaningful way without memories, without sensory equipment, without perception of a physical world, without the ability to form thoughts (because it depends on memory), etc. Ultimately, therefore, the concept of life after death is destined to collapse.
However, that is not what I am talking about. The primary purpose of this thread is to question the implicitly held idea that life after death is an innately desirable achievement? Would it really be? Consider it: The eternal continuity of your consciousness? Surely, that would be the absolute and ultimate embodiment of nihilism? An utterly purposeless continuity, not merely an extended continuity but an eternal one. It would be a torture equivalent to Camus' description of Sisyphus. The idea that we would persist forever is ultimately daunting, and taken to the inevitable conclusion, dreadful. We like to fantasize about it, that we won't really die, but in truth, if our wish were fulfilled, we would despise it. We are not merely discussing an extension of lifespan. Eternity is eternity, after all. Some might argue that the concept isn't really meaningful anyway, but then, we are discussing an idea which takes the idea of "meaningless" to a new level. There are many things which we fantasize about that we don't really want to come to fruition. It is not the actual fulfillment of these objectives that we desire, it is fantasizing in itself that is being enjoyed. Obviously, from this perspective, life after death is sort of the ultimate sort of this type of fantasizing, because you can continue until you die, and there is little that can deviate an individual from the continuity of the fantasy. I am simply pointing out that the idea that belief in Life after death is desirable and those who do not hold to it should be pitied, is specious, yet unquestioned. This is probably because most people don't stop and consider what a daunting prospect the eternal continuity of their consciousness is. Are we realizing what an absurdity we are discussing. The human lifespan is approximately 80-100 years in modern nations with good healthcare. Could you even begin to conceive the idea that it could exist for 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years? What about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years?
Probably not. When viewed in this manner, it hardly seems desirable anymore. And of course, the number I just mentioned, which, by the way, is 1x10^123, is, by definition, an infinitesmal fraction of the eternal stretch of existence being discussed. To put it mildly, you would get bored. To put in more precise language, the eternal continuing of your consciousness would be unimaginable and ultimately lead to despair and hopelessness, as it would be an ultimately pointless continuity. Indeed, the very idea of a "point" to the whole process would lead to internal contradiction. A point of something is defined by its ending. We speak of having accomplished actions, and we speak of objectives being fulfilled in the sense that they will be fulfilled, hence there will, if the objective is fulfilled, eventually be a termination of the process leading to the objective. The notions of "a point" or a "meaning" are ultimately at loggerheads with the idea of "never ending", and anyone who thinks that atheists are despairing nihilists because they hold in the eventual and final cessation of consciousness, should take note of the that.
You wouldn't want it. Nobody would. We like to think we would, only because we don't really like the idea that we have lifespans in the double-digits in terms of years. That's not very long. It just demonstrates that humans are impossible to please.
"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.