On The Impossibility of My Own Death
Johnston (Mark)
Source: Johnston (Mark) - Surviving Death, 2010
Paper - Abstract

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  1. In Chapter Two, Johnston begins by continuing the discussion of various Christian, particularly Protestant, theological attempts to connect this life with the afterlife2. Johnston is committed to the idea that the question of the immateriality of the soul is an empirical one, which follows from his commitment to naturalism. A brief discussion of the failure to provide evidence of the existence of the immaterial soul occurs to remind the reader why it is plausible to deny the existence of such a soul. For Johnston, the denial of the existence of a soul is key to the very possibility of the survival after death. At the end of Chapter One, Johnston only promises that he will explain why later in the book. This claim by Johnston, and the general strategy he employs, is one of the weaknesses of the book. The book is carefully argued, but the payoff for individual threads is continually pushed off until later. Johnston too often states that why something is important or why something is the case will become evident or will be explained later. Although not all aspects of a complex argument can be discussed at once, Johnston adds unnecessary complexity and mystery to his overall argument that could be avoided with some short explanations at a few key points.
  2. Johnston then identifies and explains his view of the self as an "arena of presence and action." The basic idea is that I am, or you are, simply the arena of consciousness out of which I live my, and your, life. One might plausibly think that what will then survive death is the individual arena of presence and action an individual experiences. However, Johnston believes that is clearly not the case. Thus, the overall picture lacks clarity and even appears paradoxical, to Johnston's own admission. Thus, much work must be done to explain how a person can survive death when what is meant by "a person" is "an arena which is experienced," and it is not even that particular arena which survives death. The rest of the chapter attempts to overcome these difficulties. The main idea is that individuals are not concerned about death itself, but about their own death. Once one realizes that there is no self on which to place the concept of death, the concern about one's own death should disappear. As Johnston states, "Our conclusion should then be that one's ownmost death is impossible, because radically undefined." (p. 179) Johnston holds this view after discussing various views of the self and rejecting them while also discussing various types of death, e.g. biological death, subjective death, and the death of the self.

  1. The Faith-Threatening Character of Creedal Religion
  2. What Do We Know Of The Soul?
  3. Absence of Evidence
  4. The Sobering Verdict
  5. The One at the Center
  6. The Arena
  7. Lichtenberg Vindicated
  8. On Discovering That "You" Don't Exist
  9. On Being Me
  10. Calm Down!
  11. Mere Facts Of Identity
  12. Feats Of Autoalienation
  13. Am I Now Contingently Johnston?
  14. Something I (Almost) Always Know
  15. What Is Death?
  16. Johnston's Death and My Death
  17. What Really Matters In Survival?
  18. Self Identity Versus Personal Identity
  19. A Merely Intentional Object
  20. Presence and the Self
  21. The Impossibility of My Ownmost Death
  22. Offloading Again
  23. An Inner Substance?
  24. A False Presupposition of "My Ownmost Death"
  25. The Retreat to the Human Being
  26. The Irrelevance of Substantial Selves
  27. On Having No Self
  28. Summary of an Argument
  29. Questions and Replies
  30. Addendum: The Arena, The Horizon, And The Limits Of The World

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: From "Caldwell (Christopher M.) - Review - 'Surviving Death' by Mark Johnston".

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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