3.1. Can this theory be scientific?
Scientists are apt to laugh at a theory that tries to establish as factual that there is a life after death, especially a life that could serve as some sort of a heaven and a hell; and so we had better consider whether they have any grounds for this, or if it is pure bias on their part.
The reason why this would occur is that the current dogma of science is that science deals only with what is (a) observable and (b) measurable, and that what science does not deal with is not "objectively factual." Obviously, the life after death is not observable (at least until you get there, in which case it's too late), and it's certainly not measurable. Therefore, according to current scientific thinking, it is not worth serious consideration as "factual."
This dogma of science, however, actually contradicts what science is doing. It is absurd to say that it is not scientifically established that there is such a thing as an "unconscious mind," which is responsible for some phases of our (observable) behavior. But the unconscious drives and so on are neither observable (or they wouldn't be unconscious) nor measurable. It is absurd to say that it is not scientifically established that dinosaurs once roamed the earth; but all that has been observed are the bones; no one has ever observed an actual animal like a dinosaur, let alone measured one. Furthermore, measurement of the dinosaurs' bones is really not relevant; these bones are so obviously unlike those of any known animal that, even without measurement, they establish the fact that animals different from any present kind once existed. Measurement can come in when attempts are made to describe what those animals must have been like.
But the point is that, though the data science starts from is always observable, the conclusions science reaches do not always deal with what is observable--even observable in principle, as Heisenberg's "uncertainty" principle in physics establishes.
Scientific conclusions, when dealing with what is not observable, are based on the fact that if this unobservable entity or property does not exist, the original data are contradicted.
Thus, the scientist says that there has to be something unconscious that accounts for certain uncontrolled behaviors, or these behaviors contradict themselves. There have to have been dinosaurs, or these bones couldn't exist; and the dinosaurs have to have had certain characteristics (such as being carnivorous or herbivorous) or their teeth would have been different, and so on.
But then it follows that if it can be established that human life contradicts itself unless life goes on after death, it is a scientifically valid conclusion that life in fact goes on after death.
Thus, the scientific attitude toward life after death (that it is just a superstition) is scientifically groundless, given evidence that our life on earth (which is observable) is a contradiction unless life goes on after death.
This is not to say that we have in fact presented such evidence by the reasoning given in the preceding chapter. But it is at least scientifically suggestive; and so scientists should be sitting up and taking notice, not simply dismissing it.
3.2. Evidence dealing with life after death
As I said at the end of the last chapter, however, a detailed discussion of the evidence dealing with this question is beyond the scope of this book, and belongs in the area of Philosophy of Human Nature (sometimes called "Philosophical Psychology," "Philosophical Anthropology" or "Philosophy of Man."). Let me here merely make a summary of the evidence.
A. Human consciousness, as aware of itself (and so containing itself within itself) is an act that "does itself" twice without being more than one single act. Such an act cannot be a form of energy, because energy, having a quantity, is limited to being only a certain amount of activity, and therefore cannot double itself. An act that is not energy is called a "spiritual act."
But if consciousness is spiritual and not energy, then it does not depend on the body and its energy, and can be active without a body. Therefore, human consciousness can continue existing beyond death.
Furthermore, consciousness, as a spiritual act, cannot deteriorate or in fact change in any way, except as the spiritual "dimension" of a body which is organized in a basically spiritual way (as the human body is). Hence, after death, there can be no further dying or going out of existence.
This indicates that there can be a conscious life after death, and that this life is an eternal life.
But it is at least conceivable that, since the spiritual "dimension" of the human being is a dimension of a bodily being, this might go out of existence at death even though it could survive on its own.
B. Nevertheless, a study of life and living bodies shows that all the acts of the body as living tend toward continued existence of the being or (as in reproduction) of the form of life. A study of these bodies confirms also that as you go up the scale of living things, there is less and less dependence on the quantitative dimension of the being's reality.
Thus, if human consciousness ceased with death, this ceasing would be directly contrary to the thrust of all acts of life; it would contradict the act as a living act. Therefore, it would be self-contradictory for conscious life to cease with death.
This indicates that human conscious does in fact continue after death.
C. Human life, unlike all lower forms of life, has no genetically determined "mature state." The only thing that the genes determine is a range of possible "states of life." The person himself must pick from this range (by choosing) the state of life that is "his." Thus, it is human choice which specifies which life a human being is going to live, and not something built into the human from the beginning.
But if choice determines the life, it is contradictory for the choice not to be able to achieve its goals; because then the determiner of life cannot determine life.
But if life ends with death, then (a) those goals not achieved before death are necessarily unfulfilled; and (b) those achieved before death must be given up, which contradicts the fact that once a person achieves success in any area of life, he immediately has the goal of staying that way.
This indicates that life must continue after death in such a way that choices can be fulfilled, or the essence of the human as self-determining is contradicted.
This is actually the structural foundation of the first of the arguments that formed the hypothesis in the preceding chapter; it is corroborated by all the evidence that we have to try to control our lives, and in the last analysis it is "luck" and circumstances that have the real control--unless life goes on after death.
Since the goals are conceived in consciousness, it is at least possible that a conscious life after death could be such that the goals could be achieved.
D. Finally, there is the moral argument, which formed the second prong of the rough-and-ready argument stated in the preceding chapter.
If life ends with death, then deliberate seeking of frustration is often more fulfilling than trying to avoid deliberate frustration and being frustrated by circumstances.
Since most people are the oppressed rather than the oppressors, what this means is that most people will have no chance to live any meaningful kind of human life, because they will be prevented from doing so by the greed and malice of those who have power over their lives. This makes it a mockery to try to live consistently with human nature.
But if consciousness survives death, and if immoral choices mean setting up as goals "goals" that are known to be impossible (because self-contradictory), then this might imply that the frustration in immorality (striving for an impossible goal) continues eternally; while the temporary frustration in this life (because not deliberately chosen) would cease, since it is not contained in the conscious act.
This would make sense of morality, and be consistent with the other evidence.
CONCLUSION: Conscious life must continue after death, and is such as to make it possible to fulfill choices and be to one's advantage to be moral.
[See also A HREF="../modes/modes3/m3d3.htm#3.4.3"> Modes, 3.4.3]
3.3. Nature of the life after death
Is there more, based on evidence that we have available to us here, that we can say about what this life after death must be like? It turns out that there is.
First of all, since our consciousness now depends on our brain to select which act we are to be conscious of (it is a kind of spiritual "dimension" of the nerve-energy in the brain), then on the assumption that consciousness continues after death, it continues without a brain to select among the various acts of consciousness we could be having.
Therefore, consciousness after death must consist of every act of consciousness we have ever had during our life as a body, including all our choices with their consciously-set goals--all "rolled up" into one single, extremely complex act of consciousness.
Essentially, what our brain allows us to do now is to forget or put out of consciousness things that we don't happen to find useful to think about at the moment. But this means that consciousness without a brain would have to be an all-or-nothing thing: either no consciousness at all, or no possibility of being unconscious of anything. Since we have concluded that consciousness survives death, the second alternative must be true.
FIRST MORAL IMPLICATION: All of the immoral choices made during life will be eternally present to the person, along with the knowledge that their goals are impossible to obtain; and hence, the frustration implied in immoral choices will be eternal.
Thus, the moral command is the most serious obligation we have, if this is true. Any frustration we would have as a result of being moral would be something that happens in our physical life, not our consciousness, and would be temporary, ceasing with death.
But any frustration deliberately sought (by an immoral choice) is ipso facto an eternal frustration if every act of consciousness is part of our eternal consciousness.
Since even a small frustration which never ends is greater on balance than the most horrible frustration which ends, it follows that it is always to a person's objective advantage to make only moral choices. Honesty is the best policy, after all--not in this life, but taking this life and the eternal one after it into account.
NOTE that it is according to the person's own standards that he will be frustrated, because he himself set the goals that he wants but knows he must try for without being able to achieve.
So even though standards are subjective, the punishment of not being able to achieve your goals makes it always to your disadvantage to be immoral.
Hence, we need not assume that there is an angry god who is going to slap us around for doing what he doesn't like. (Which is fortunate, since it can be proved that that kind of a god doesn't exist.) All this theory states is that if you want to choose your own frustration, then, since your consciousness doesn't stop, you choose eternal frustration.
SECOND MORAL IMPLICATION: Moral choices made during this life will find their fulfillment somehow after death.
The reason for this is that if it doesn't occur, then the totally moral person (one who made only moral choices during life) would not have fulfilled all his goals before he died (as we saw in Argument C above). But if consciousness goes on after death, the consciousness of having unfulfilled goals would also go on after death; and since no change is possible once death occurs, this consciousness of having unfulfilled goals would be eternal. But that means that the moral person would be frustrated eternally also. The essential state of the moral person and the immoral person would be the same.
Actually, this would put the moral person in a worse position than the immoral one, because the immoral person chose his frustration because--in this life at least--on balance he was better off, while the moral person made his moral choices in spite of disadvantages in this life--in the hope that he would be better off after death.
Hence, if moral goals are not fulfilled after death, then it is objectively advantageous for a human being to act inhumanly, or to seek his own disadvantage, and so on, and moral and rational activity is contradicted, as we saw in Argument D above.
It also follows that it is impossible to achieve goals (whether moral or immoral), and so Argument C is also contradicted.
Hence, if a moral person cannot achieve his goals after death, this knocks the props out from the best evidence that there is a life after death in the first place; not to mention that human life as such makes no sense.
CONCLUSION: after you die, you will eternally be and be conscious of yourself as, everything you have chosen to be; no more than that, but no less either--unless you have chosen to be something impossible, in which case you will be eternally frustrated in that aspect of yourself.
Note that this second clause, the eternal frustration, means also that you will eternally be what you have chosen to be, because, knowing that the goal was impossible, you chose to have it as a goal anyhow; and therefore what you chose to be was frustrated.
And this makes sense out of life. What more could we ask than to be just what we ask to be? You can be whatever you want (so long as it is in principle possible for you); and you will eternally be just this: you will not be forced to be any greater, and you will not be compelled to be any less.
3.3.1. Relation of this theory to others
This is not a book whose purpose is to go through the history of philosophy and give and critique all views of ethics; it is supposed to be building a view based on the best objective evidence available.
Still, I should mention where my view stands in relation to the major theories of ethics. We have already seen that I think that the emotivist theory of ethics is false: that is, that what is morally right is a matter of your "deep-set feelings" about things. The problem with this view is twofold: (a) we can feel fine about doing something we know is inconsistent with ourselves (and vice versa); and (b) in the last analysis, it doesn't matter how you feel about something; what's wrong is still wrong--so it can be tremendously to your advantage to get your satisfaction by stepping all over other people's rights.
Secondly, deontological theories of ethics stress that there is a command to avoid what is wrong; but the most famous of them (Immanuel Kant's) doesn't tie this "categorical obligation" to any reward or punishment. But then in practice all this means is that if you choose what is wrong, you're being immoral. Big deal. If that's all that happens to you, and what you gain by it is fame and fortune, why bother?
Thirdly, consequentialist theories define what is right and wrong in terms of the results. For instance, Utilitarianism says that what is "good" (i.e. morally right) is what "brings about the greatest happiness of the greatest number." But (a) this implies that if you violate someone's rights (and so act inconsistently), you might be bringing about fifty people's happiness--and so this theory makes "the end justifies the means" into a recipe for doing good, of all things. Also (b) why should I care about "the greatest number's" happiness if I have to suffer for it?--unless there's something in it to motivate me to do what I have to do. So this view not only gives a silly definition of what's right and wrong, it provides no practical motivation for doing what even it calls the right thing.
The point is that, as the "deontological" theories stress, there has to be a command that makes you do what is consistent with what you are; but at the same time, there have to be consequences making it always to your disadvantage to act in any other way. Without both of these, all the discussions of morals are a waste of time; and I submit that the "natural-law" theory as I have outlined it, coupled with an afterlife of reward and punishment, is the only theory that can make sense out of why it is necessary always to avoid what is morally wrong.
3.3.2. Happiness and enjoyment
Things are not quite as rosy as they might seem, however. There are several "hidden variables" in this equation that we must take into account. First of all:
The condition of our afterlife does not depend on what we would like to be, but on what we choose to be.
Thus, if a person enjoys, say, fixing automobiles, and instead of becoming a mechanic chooses to go to college and get a degree and become a business manager, he has rejected as his goal in life the thing that he enjoys doing. Therefore, he will not, in his life after death, be "fulfilled" in the auto-fixing aspect of his life, because he had the chance to choose this as a goal and explicitly chose not to do it but to do something else. He will eternally be the manager he has chosen to be and not the mechanic he would like to be.
DEFINITION: Success is doing all the things you have chosen to do.
DEFINITION: Happiness is the knowledge that you have achieved success.
DEFINITION: Enjoyment is doing something that is emotionally satisfying.
The relation between happiness and enjoyment is this: In the first place, enjoyment deals with the fact that because of our body's particular genetic structure (as, some people are muscular, others not), our early training, and habits we have acquired, certain acts are easy to us and pleasant, and others difficult and unpleasant.
Our body, in other words, has an inclination to certain types of activity rather than others; and performing these acts results in emotional satisfaction.
These acts to which we are inclined by our bodily structure and habits, however, may not even be acts that we can morally choose. It does not follow that if an act "fulfills" some one aspect of yourself that it does not contradict some other one; and if it does so, then to choose to enjoy yourself in this way is to make an immoral choice, and therefore to be eternally frustrated.
Obviously, in this case, to choose to enjoy yourself brings the very opposite of happiness, because it sets up as a goal in life something you know you can't really achieve.
And since we are free, we do not have to choose to perform these acts. If we choose not to perform them, then they are not part of our goal in life--and therefore, the enjoyment implied in doing them is not part of our goal in life. We may like doing what is enjoyable, but if we choose not to do it, we do not want to do it.
Essentially, when you choose to do something other than what is enjoyable, what you are doing is saying that, taking all the effects of your acts into account, the sum total of the effects is "more yourself" in doing the non-enjoyable set of acts than in doing the enjoyable one. Thus, the person who chooses to be the business manager rather than the mechanic considers that he would rather have the higher status and salary that he thinks will result from the business career than the enjoyment in fixing cars.
And this is precisely what human freedom implies. We are not bound to choose what is more enjoyable; we can choose anything at all as a goal; and if that goal is in principle fulfillable (i.e. not self-contradictory), then that goal becomes part of our happiness when we achieve it, whether or not it is part of what our "built-in" inclinations headed us towards.
But this means that if we enjoy some activity, we had better choose it as a goal here in this life, because it will not occur after death unless we do so.
Now of course, this does not mean that the act has to be one of the main goals in your life; you can choose it as a hobby or avocation. Our businessman, for instance, can tinker with cars in his spare time, and so being a mechanic is part of his life, if not (now) the major part. The point is that if he rejects this as part of his life here on earth, he cannot expect to find it waiting for him after he dies.
[See also Modes, 3.4.3]
3.3.3. No forgiveness
The second hidden implication in this theory of morality and its relation to the life after death is rather horrible to contemplate. This theory makes sense out of life, because we get just exactly what we ask for, including frustration, if that is what we choose.
But once you have chosen a self-frustrating goal, there is no way you can remove the choice and its consequent frustration; it is from then on part of your eternal consciousness.
Well, suppose you realize what you have done afterwards, and then repent. What does that do?
First of all, notice that "realizing what you have done" does not mean that you made a mistake when you made the immoral choice; it simply means that you didn't (a) experience the effects that you foresaw, and/or (b) foresee all of the consequences of the act you chose to do.
But you can't be immoral in your choice if you don't realize that there's something self-contradictory about it. If the choice was the result of a total mistake (so that you didn't suspect that there was anything wrong with it), then you didn't in fact set up self-contradictory goals for yourself, and so there is no frustration in your consciousness which would carry over to the next life. Hence, an immoral choice is always a deliberate attempt to frustrate yourself at least to some extent.
With that said, then, all that repentance does is set up as a goal not having made the choice which you actually made. But this does not erase the previous choice; it merely adds the choice "I choose not to have done this." But that choice, of course, is itself self-contradictory, because you did do it. As Lady Macbeth said, "What's done cannot be undone."
Hence, the person who repents of an immoral choice is actually doubly at cross-purposes with himself: he has the self-frustrating purpose implied in the immoral choice, and he has as a purpose not to have this purpose which he has. Repentance does you no good.
But this does not mean that, once you have been immoral, it makes sense to say, "Well, as long as I'm damned anyway, I might as well enjoy myself," and to continue to make more immoral choices.
The reason for this is that there are degrees of frustration, depending on how important the goals are in your life. One immoral choice in your whole life sets up an unfulfillable goal as a goal in your life; but if this is the only one you have, then it probably doesn't figure very heavily in your definition of your "true self," and so wouldn't bring much frustration along with it.
But if you choose this goal again and again, or choose many self-contradictory goals, then these goals become increasingly important to you, your definition of "the true self" turns more and more around these acts (and consequently depends on the impossible "fulfillment" of these goals); and therefore more and more of you remains unfulfilled (because unfulfillable) eternally.
3.3.4. The afterlife and God
There are those who would react to this in this way: "But God loves us too much to leave us frustrated forever, especially if we repent of what we have done. He'll forgive us for offending him."
Unfortunately, this conclusion simply doesn't follow either from the evidence dealing with morality or the evidence dealing with what God is.
The evidence that there is a God at all (which I am not going to go into but which you can find, for example, in my The Finite and the Infinite.) indicates that God is totally incapable of being affected by anything that happens in the world; so our immoral choices do not "bother" him in any way; and so for him there is nothing to forgive.
God's "love" for us consists, not in some "affection" for us, which is "saddened" if we ruin ourselves, but in the fact that when he does something for us, he gets nothing personal out of it. Fundamentally, God's love for a free creature means an infinite respect for that creature's reality. If, then, the creature deliberately chooses to mess up his life, then it would be contrary to God's love to save him from the consequences of his choice--because it would be to take control over his life from the creature.
But this would again contradict Argument C above, because ultimate control over our lives would then only apparently be in our hands, but would actually be due to God, or "luck." A person who didn't want to be happy would then be forced to be happy in spite of himself because of "God's love." Furthermore, if God's "love" is such that the immoral person is actually going to be made happy eventually, then again it makes sense to be immoral and be forgiven than to be moral and suffer--which contradicts Argument D, and therefore contradicts the evidence that there is an afterlife at all.
Granted, the immoral choice, as an attempt to be "independent" of God (and be one's own creator totally, as if one had no limits), is objectively an "offense" against God (who set the limits), and as an "offense" against the Infinite, can be called an "infinite offense," this still does not mean that God is offended, let alone infinitely, by our silliness. So the "offense" in this sense does not need to "satisfy" the offended party, because he isn't offended (in the psychological sense).
In any case, the statement, "God loves me too much to let me be frustrated eternally" contradicts the evidence for saying that there is a God at all, as well as the evidence for saying that there is a life after death.
Remember, eternal frustration for immorality doesn't mean that you have made God angry, and he's going to get even by punishing you. All it means is that if you want to frustrate yourself, you get what you want. Your choices don't bother God; and if that's what you want, why should he do anything about it?
So a belief in a God is no way out of the mess you get into by making an immoral choice. And if you believe in a God that will save you in spite of yourself, then you believe in a God that doesn't exist, because that kind of God can't exist.
184.108.40.206. Theological note on salvation
This is as far as philosophy goes. It turns out, however, that the actual truth goes beyond this in an important way; and I would not like to leave readers with a false impression, simply because in a book on philosophy one has to stop at what can be proved based on observable data.
Hence, in this section, I am going to be talking about what I believe is true and factual; but the evidence is not the data about life, but the Bible (specifically, the New Testament) and Christian tradition. There is evidence for saying that the New Testament is reporting facts; but I am not going to go into that. Suffice it that what I will be saying here is outside the realm of philosophy or science, but that this does not mean that (a) it is unreasonable, or (b) that there is no evidence in its favor.
There is scientific, philosophical evidence that our nature is "fallen"; as embodied spirits, (a) we ought not to have to die, because our spirit is by nature one that organizes a body, and if it is deathless, so should our body be--which makes a purely conscious eternal life a paradox, since for practical purposes the whole of our lives is spent being only part of ourselves. Further (b) as embodied spirits, our consciousness ought to be in complete control over itself; but our emotions can sometimes take over control of our actions in spite of our choices--in which case our own mind in its emotional dimension is at war with itself in its reasonable dimension, which is absurd, since it is the same mind.
How we got this way, philosophy cannot say; but the Adam legend sheds light on the subject. I am not going to pursue this here, however. The fact is that we are this way; and what is important for my purpose here is that this means that when we make a choice, our whole personality is not wrapped up in that choice, because (a) we do not necessarily have all the information dealing with that choice available to us (we can forget relevant facts), and (b) the conflict with our emotions makes the choice to be immoral less "totally ours" than if every aspect of our mind was completely dominated by the choice.
Furthermore, since our lives are now spread out in time, with only one small aspect actualized at any moment, it is therefore possible, while we live as bodies, for a choice to be erased without destroying the whole person. For a pure spirit, like an angel, an immoral choice can't be erased without annihilating the whole angel, because the choice isn't a "part" of him, but a dimension that permeates and "colors" the whole--just as you can't "remove" the mass of a body without annihilating the whole body, so with a pure spirit, any "act" of consciousness is not part of a system of acts, but simply a way of looking at the act as a whole.
But this is not how it is with our consciousness, since it spreads itself out in time, and especially since it is in conflict with itself. It is not (in this life) totally present to itself. Hence, there is no contradiction in (a) our repenting of a choice we have previously made, or (b) in that choice's being erased while leaving us in some sense the same person.
There are three difficulties with this, however. First of all, as I mentioned, repentance of itself cannot erase the previous choice, but only adds the choice not to have done what we have done. In fact, since the only thing we can do by ourselves is forget (which does not mean erase, but simply file out of the conscious area temporarily), then there is nothing at all we can do to erase an immoral choice we repent of. Hence, if any erasing of our choices is done, this must be by a miraculous intervention of God.
Secondly, there is no reason why God would do a thing like this. When we made the original choice, we knew what we were doing, and the repentance afterward does not change that. So to leave a person with a repented immoral choice is not unjust, unfair, unmerciful, or unloving of God.
Nevertheless, since the original choice was not something we were totally committed to, then there is no reason why God would not erase such a choice if we repented of it. It is not that he cares, one way or the other; and so there is no reason why he should do one rather than the other. But this means that a loving God might indeed do the act of erasing our sins for us.
But, thirdly, it is still true that each choice forms a dimension of our eternal lives, and that we create our personality bit by bit by the choices we make through time. Hence if a previous choice is erased, this means that in a real sense we will be from that moment a different person.
That is, a person who wants to give up a previous choice he made can't simply give it up the way he can take off a coat he is wearing. That choice has infected his whole being; everything about him is different (in some way) because of it; and hence if it is removed everything about him is going to be different in some unknown way.
Therefore, a person who repents and wants his sin erased must be willing to reject himself, to give up the person he is and become someone else. Who? Not just "the same one without the sin." In fact, the person whose sin is erased is given, in addition to the newly-formed personality, the life and thought of God himself; he becomes YHWH, or the man who is YHWH embodied, Jesus.
It is impossible to be saved and to remain the same person. He who wishes to be saved must be willing to give up his self and become a new creation--to live the life Jesus lives in addition to a transformed life of his own.
That's just the way things are. God could have arranged things differently, so that we would simply live a transformed human life after the erasure of our sins. But he chose to lift us in addition totally beyond the finite and to make us live his own life--which is something totally beyond human desires or goals (in fact, to choose to be God would be immoral for a human being, as contradicting his finiteness; this divine life must be a gift, not a goal).
If you don't want to accept this condition upon salvation, that's fine with God. It's there if you want it. He became man and died the horrible death he died, not to show us how horrible to him our sins are, but to show us graphically that he didn't care about himself and to prove that the fantastic gift is real. That is, he gave himself up to death as an example that we can, if aided by him (if we take up our cross and follow him) die to ourselves; that his love extends far beyond what is "necessary" or "merely sufficient," and that by giving his life for us it is reasonable to believe that he gives his life to us; that failure does not matter, because after death there is resurrection; that the body we lose will not, in fact (as philosophy would seem to imply) be lost forever, but by a miracle will be restored glorious--and to show a thousand other things that make life not only make sense once again for the sinner but make it beautiful beyond our wildest dreams. "No eye has seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered the mind of man to conceive what is in store for us."
All this is true, if in fact Jesus came back to life after he died. This is what his Emissaries, who were there, swore happened. If it didn't, then the whole thing is a noble, beautiful, wonderful fairy-tale, and a dream, and philosophy is the whole truth, and there is an afterlife, and we are eternally cursed with our sins.
3.4. The meaning of life
But with that said, let us return to philosophy and what it can tell us about our lives. Given the conclusions we have reached, what does the nature of the afterlife tell us about what life (this life plus the one afterwards) is all about?
Since we are self-determining, our life in itself does not have purpose or meaning; we give it its meaning and purpose by our choices.
What this amounts to is that it is impossible to discover what your life is "all about" or "really means," because the constitution of the human person is such that he has no built-in purpose, but gives his own life directions toward goals of his own choosing.
And there is nothing about us that means that we have to select this goal rather than that one. The moral obligation simply says "Do not try to select self-contradictory goals"; but a self-contradictory goal is not a real goal, simply because it is the opposite of itself. So there is nothing in morality that says one real goal is to be chosen rather than another; what you want to make of yourself is up to you, and is not imposed on you by (a) your nature or (b) God.
So to ask God, "What is your plan for me?" as if you could find out from him what your particular goal in life was (what he wanted you to be) contradicts the fact that he created you self-determining. His plan for you is the life you choose for yourself; there is nothing he "wants" you to be other than exactly what you choose to be. Even if you choose to be eternally frustrated, that is his plan for you: because he created you to be the master of your own eternal destiny. You make God's plan for you; it is not the other way round.
Many people would actually like things not to be this way; they would like to be like animals, which are not self-determining, and whose mature state is built-in from the beginning. Animals are not responsible for what they become; they can't help themselves. But we are, and we can. What we can't do, if this theory of life is correct, is avoid "helping ourselves," and being totally responsible for the eternal selves we will be.
What you will be for eternity depends solely on your free choices; you cannot "blame" the environment, luck, God, fate, parents or anything else, because even though these things affect the life before death, they do not force us to choose.
Thus, the eternal future state you will be in is the sum of the goals you have chosen. And this is the whole meaning and purpose of your life. It has no other.
[See also Modes, 3.4.4]
3.4.1. God as the "real" goal of life?
There are many Christian philosophers who have tried to amalgamate their Christian belief into their philosophical systems, and have called God the "ultimate goal" of any human being's life, and so the standard of and objective kind of moral "goodness."
The reasoning goes this way: The human will desires the possession of the good; but since it desires this in the abstract, it cannot be satisfied with the possession of any finite good; but possessing an infinite good could satisfy it, and therefore, the will desires the possession of God, and hence God is objectively the goal of our choices or our "final end and good."
There are several difficulties with this. First, it assumes that, if I could "want to possess" more, then I will, and won't be satisfied with the way I am. But this is not so. The goal is simply an imagined "self" that we set up as something to try to reach; and if it could be greater, this does not imply that we want it to be greater. You could enjoy listening to Beethoven's symphonies rather than Jethro Tull or Madonna; and this is an objectively higher (because more complex) type of musical experience. But it doesn't follow that you "secretly want to." Beethoven isn't better music than the Beatles, objectively; his music is more complex, more varied, more intricate, etc., but it is "better" only for the person who considers listening to complex music the ideal, rather than in being easily entertained by interesting sounds.
Secondly, for the "possession of God" to be a goal which would satisfy all possible "desire," I would have to want to possess God infinitely, because to possess him as I now do, knowing little about him and caring not that much for him is hardly the ultimate in "satisfaction." But this makes being God a goal for a creature--which, as I said earlier, is immoral, because it contradicts the finiteness of one's nature.
Hence, the possession of God is not the goal of our lives; our lives only have the goals we set for them; and the sum of these goals is the only purpose we have, and this is what being good is for us. But this varies from person to person.
Well, what of the purpose God had in creating us? Isn't that God? The reason God created us was himself, in that he recognized that his power was such as to be able to do this, and he had no need of us. But all that means is that he created us because he could; not because he "wanted" something from us. But we fulfill that "purpose" simply by existing, not by having him somehow as a goal toward which we are supposed to work.
Therefore, we give our life its purpose, which means we create the ideal which is to be our "true self," and this ideal will be eternally realized, as long as it does not involve any contradictions; and hence the life after death will be the "good life" for each of us; but in each case, the "good life" will be different.
It is now our task to look into our choices more closely, to see their relation to the actual facts, the facts we know, our emotions, and the various aspects of ourselves.
Summary of Chapter 3
Even though this theory concludes to a life after death, it can be scientific, because scientific theories, starting from what is observable, often conclude to what is unobservable, if this is the only way to save the observable data from contradicting itself.
The evidence that life continues after death is (a) that human consciousness doubles itself in one single act, which means that it is spiritual, not energy, and therefore can exist without a body; if it does so, it does so unchangingly, immortally, and eternally; (b) as an act of life, it partakes in the nature of life, which is to continue indefinitely, and so would not cease at the death of the body if it could go on; (c) if consciousness ended with death, this would mean that human goals could not be reached, which contradicts the fact that humans by nature cannot avoid determining themselves by setting goals, since human life has no built-in goal; and (d) if consciousness stopped at death, it would be reasonable to act immorally, which, as setting unrealistic goals, is the unreasonable thing to do--which is absurd.
Since forgetting depends on keeping energy out of certain areas of the brain, then the conscious life after death cannot forget, and so is the sum total of all experiences we have ever had, including all our choices, present together eternally and unchangingly.
Therefore, any immoral choice, which intends to achieve a goal which cannot be achieved, necessarily involves eternal frustration, which, even if small, is always greater than any advantage which ends with death; thus it is worth it to be moral, even if one suffers for it in this life.
Moral choices have possible goals; and since the moral person with eternally unfulfilled goals would be worse off than an immoral person, it follows that all goals will be eternally fulfilled after death (except the immoral--self-contradictory--ones). This makes it worth while to be moral.
So this theory is not an "emotivist" theory, since we saw that how you feel about things has no relation to whether your act is right or wrong. It is not just a "deontological" theory (stressing the command), since those theories don't give any practical advantage in doing what is commanded; and it is not just a "consequentialist" theory, since what is right or wrong is not defined by the consequences of the act, and it is only the consequences in the life after death that make it advantageous to do what is right.
Success is the fulfillment of goals; happiness is the knowledge that one has fulfilled goals. Frustration consists in not being able to achieve your goals. The afterlife is a happy one for the moral person. Enjoyment is doing what is emotionally satisfying; and the moral person will only enjoy his eternity if he chooses as a goal something he finds enjoyable. If what he finds enjoyable involves a self-contradiction of some other aspect of himself, this will be eternally frustrating.
Once an immoral choice has been made, there is no way a person can erase it. Repentance merely sets as a goal the self-contradiction of intending not to have made a choice which one has made, but does not erase the previous choice. Thus, any immoral choice inescapably results in eternal frustration; to make more immoral choices merely means that the frustration will be worse eternally. Since God is not really offended by the immorality, then God cannot "forgive" the insult to him.
(God can erase an immoral choice, however; and Christianity believes that he does do this if the person repents and is willing to give up his reality and become Jesus in love. But this erasure of immoral choices is miraculous, and there is no scientific evidence that it happens.)
Our self-determination means that we create by our choices the meaning and purpose of our life; in itself it has no purpose. There is nothing we can blame but ourselves for our eternal life, because our choices are under our control.
The possession of God cannot be the "real" goal of life, because it is possible to be unsatisfied when possessing God unless one possesses God infinitely, which means being God--and to have this as a goal is immoral for a creature. In fact, our purpose is the set of finite goals that we have chosen during life, and this defines what the "true self" is to be.
Exercises and questions for discussion
1. But the fact that God is really forgiving vitiates the whole argument, doesn't it? Because it means that if you deliberately do what is wrong, you can repent and everything will be OK. So the immoral person wins again.
2. It doesn't seem fair that a person who, to be moral, has given up much of what he'd enjoy doing, can't be doing those things after he dies. Isn't he worse off than the immoral person, who after all did do them for a while?
3. If there is no forgiveness for any immoral choice, isn't that cruel on the part of God, given how weak we are?
4. If there is no built-in purpose or meaning to our lives, does this imply that the life after death is a meaningless, purposeless life?
5. Suppose a person gets murdered, and as he dies he makes a purpose of his life letting people know he's been murdered. Could this allow for the possibility of ghosts?
6. If one of your goals in life is actually doing some good on earth after you die, does this mean that dead people can really change the world?Next