- "Whether we are to live in a future state . . . is the most important question which can possibly be asked. . . . Yet strange perplexities have been raised about the meaning of that identity or sameness of person, which is implied in the notion of our being now and hereafter. . . ."
- These words, written by the Anglican Bishop Joseph Butler, concisely summarize the crux of the problem which renowned philosopher Antony Flew tackles in this profoundly thoughtful book.
- Despite the perennial hope of life beyond the grave, Flew shows that there are insuperable difficulties in elucidating post-mortem survival1 on a rational basis. He analyzes the three ways that philosophers of the past have attempted to get around these difficulties:
- the "reconstitutionist way" (miraculous reassembly of our deceased bodies at some future time, such as the Last Judgment);
- the "way of the astral body" (a sort of duplicate, undetectable "body," which detaches itself from the material body after death); and
- the "Platonic-Cartesian way" (an incorporeal mind or soul containing a person's identity which lives on after death).
- The main problem, says Flew, is the impossibility of logically demonstrating how a person surviving death in any imagined altered state could identify him- or herself as the same person who had previously lived a flesh-and-blood life on the Earth.
- Flew reviews both the classic arguments of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Descartes, as well as the modern findings of parapsychology, elucidating this complex issue with logical rigor and engaging wit.
"Quinn (Philip L.) - Review of Anthony Flew's 'The Logic of Mortality'"
Source: Nous, Vol. 26, No. 1, Mar., 1992, pp. 102-104
COMMENT: Review of the first edition of "Flew (Anthony) - Merely Mortal?".
"Flew (Anthony) - Merely Mortal? Preface & Introduction"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000
Preface (Full Text)
… [… snip …] …
- This book is based on my Gifford Lectures delivered in the University of St Andrews during the Michaelmas Term of the academic year 1986-7. But preparations began in the late forties, while I was still a graduate student: the thesis for my never completed B.Phil, was to be on 'Personal Identity'. Next, as the Bibliography below will make clear, several of my earlier publications were in this same area.
- So in 1963, when I was invited to give Gavin David Young Lectures in the University of Adelaide, I took that as an opportunity to write at rather greater length on 'The Presuppositions of Immortality'. Most of the substance of those lectures found its way into print either in the long Introduction or in the other pieces of editorial material for "Flew (Anthony), Ed. - Body, Mind and Death" (1964).
- During the remainder of the sixties, and throughout the seventies, I was working almost entirely in very different areas. I reverted to present topics only in reviews, and in occasional discussion notes; notes either provoked by fresh articles on problems of personal identity or else prompted by what seemed to me to be misinterpretations of parapsychological evidence.
- But I have never abandoned the intention, proclaimed so long ago in a rash and premature parenthesis (Flew 1953, p. 3), to write a full book on The Logic of Mortality. I believe that it was while I was working on a B.Phil, thesis in 1948 that the thought first crossed my mind that, if I were ever to be invited to give Gifford Lectures, that might be their subject. Then, Pringle-Pattison's was the most recent set to be devoted entirely to The Idea of Immortality (1922).
- Although the questions of survival, and even of survival for ever, gain no explicit mention in the definition of 'Natural Theology' provided in Lord Gifford's will, it has surely been usual to regard these questions, in the form of arguments for or against the natural immortality of the human soul, as proper parts of the business of that discipline? No doubt - to quote that definition - this is mainly because of their perceived relevance to 'Knowledge of the Relations which men and the whole universe bear to Him, the Knowledge of the Nature and Foundation of Ethics or Morals, and of all Obligations and Duties thence arising'.
- It was remarkable, therefore, although I cannot suggest any moral to be drawn, that this subject had already for more than a quarter of a century been neglected by Pringle-Pattison's successors. More remarkable still, this neglect apparently continued till 1983, the year in which my Keele successor Richard Swinburne began his Gifford Lectures in the University of Aberdeen. The final chapter ("Swinburne (Richard) - The Future of the Soul") of "Swinburne (Richard) - The Evolution of the Soul", the first book to result from these lectures, does discuss 'The Future of the Soul'.
- Unfortunately, as a result of a change of Editors at Philosophical Books, my own copy reached me only after I had begun what were intended to be final revisions of The Logic of Mortality. Nevertheless, had Swinburne developed any criticisms of my work in this area, I should have felt bound to delay publication until such time as I was able to incorporate a careful response to that criticism. But, since he did not1, perhaps my comments upon his latest work may reasonably be deferred.
In-Page Footnotes ("Flew (Anthony) - Merely Mortal? Preface & Introduction")
Footnote 1: Thereby showing some contempt for Antony Flew, I imagine.
"Flew (Anthony) - Three Ways to Survival"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000, Chapter 1
- Establishing two fundamentals
- Possible routes around or over the obstacle
"Flew (Anthony) - Plato (i): From Preexistence to Immortality"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000, Chapter 2
- Remarkable assumptions unremarked
- Reminiscence of preexistence
"Flew (Anthony) - Plato (ii): Attempted Proofs of Immortality"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000, Chapter 3
- Two conceptions of the soul
- The good life and the principle of life
- Two anaemic arguments
- Everlasting lives and timeless ideas
- Plato defends Platonic assumptions
"Flew (Anthony) - Plato (iii): Intimations of Immateriality"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000, Chapter 4
- Unmoved movement and acting for reasons; both supposed immaterial
- Causes and choices
- Inconceivables, or commonplaces?
"Flew (Anthony) - Aristotle and Aquinas"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000, Chapter 5
- Aristotle, and the immortality of the intellect
- The expedients of Aquinas
"Flew (Anthony) - The Cartesian Turn"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000, Chapter 6
- Myself essentially a thinking substance
- Three consequences of incorporeality
"Flew (Anthony) - Personal Identity: (i) Conceivable Differences?"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000, Chapter 7
- Contemporary objections to the Cartesian conceivability contention
- The imaginability thesis
- Personal identity and material continuity
"Flew (Anthony) - Personal Identity: (ii) Uniting Memories?"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000, Chapter 8
- The implications of open texture
- Memory proposed as the uniting principle
- Personality and personhood
"Flew (Anthony) - Substances, Stuff and Consciousness"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000, Chapter 9
- No-ownership, serial theories of the self
- Direct knowledge of bodiless continuity?
- The traditional mind-body problem
- The mind/brain identity theory
"Flew (Anthony) - The Significance of Parapsychology"
Source: Flew - Merely Mortal? 2000, Chapter 10
- The evidential situation
- Platonic-Cartesian assumptions in parapsychology
- What would bodilessness be like, and for whom or what?
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)