This number of the Independent Review of Coffee-Tasting and Philosophy is short and about philosophy rather than coffee-tasting, because my work over the past month has turned from coffee to what many philosophers would- or at least did- agree was the most important question, namely, whether there is a continuation of personal consciousness after bodily death. This is the subject of a course of extra-mural lectures I am giving in Trinity College Dublin, beginning on 3 October 2015. For details, see the TCD brochure.
The lectures, like my talks on coffee, are based on a workbook, in this case, The Logic and Credibility of After-Death Existences, which, like the Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting, is available from Artisan Philosophy Workbooks.
Which can be accessed at https://artisanphilosophybrochure.wordpress.com/
The Logic and Credibility of After Death Existences is similar in appearance to my coffee workbook, but is longer, 120 pages, about 50,000 words, and is being issued in a limited printing, each copy numbered and signed by me, priced at 10 euros. It is also, like the coffee workbook, available at Books Upstairs.
Here is a summary:
I begin by setting out what I take to be the seven or eight most serious forms or scenarios of after-death existences; these are (1) a disembodied realm of Heaven & Hell; (2) reincarnated persons; (3) resurrection of bodies; (4) pure indivisible minds; (5) world of Gods, demi-gods or Forms; (6) Brahmin consciousness, Moksha or Nirvana; (7) dream-image world; (8) oblivion or extinction. Along with setting out the logic and some history of after-death existences [=ade], I also introduce the case against ade, as well perhaps their greatest critic, namely David Hume and his essay great against Immortality.
I then move into a more autobiographical mode, in which I briefly describe how I came to be interested in this subject, and how I came to see that those holding (8)- which is the present educated consensus, and was previously my position- are in the grips of an illusion- understood in the Freudian sense- an illusion of mortality. Whereas I came to see that options 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7, are more feasible than is now generally allowed; and scenario 3, which is most widely and fervently accepted nowadays, by Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims, turns out, ironically, to be least credible as well as tending to occlude the other more credible options.
Hence what is probably most distinctive about this work is that while its attitude to after-death existences is positive, this does not come from a commitment to any established religion- indeed, if anything, quite the opposite. Another distinctive feature of the workbook concerns dreams, and especially the crucial ideathat just as when we normally dream we do not know we are dreaming, so, according to various writers, the dead (at least the recent dead) do not know that they are dead. What follows from this idea is the hypothesis that the most plausible way to understand the next life is as dream imaging, which is, in fact, broadly held by various religious traditions and has also been developed in a clear way by the Analytic philosopher, H. H. Price.
In chapter four, I examine the account of reincarnation of the idealistic philosopher, John McTaggart, which I believe is, like the dream-image theory, plausible yet largely ignored by present-day philosophers and those interested in reincarnation.
Then in the next chapter, I look closely at the work of another largely ignored thinker, Emmanuel Swedenborg, and his extraordinary account of the next life, which presents in detail one of the three important sub-forms of scenario 1 (the others being by Plato and Dante), having argued in chapter 3 that combining it with Price’s account of the next life as dream-image can enhance both theories.
Looking back on what has been said in chapters 1-5, and glancing very briefy at what is presently the most popular source of ade, namely Near Death Experiences, or NDEs, I then try to reach a conclusion about the credibility of ade.