Personalist Idealism, The “I”, and Immortality


DeVall:There should be an “organic” relationship between finite beings and a divine creator. A lot of idealist metaphysics purporting to explain how finite beings can maintain their individuality while being a part of the Absolute. The paper, while speculative, seemed to rely heavily on the metaphor of a flock of sheep. To a casual observer, they all appear the same. But to the shepherd, they exist as individuals.

Douglas McDermid: Mac Taggart is famed chiefly for his notorious proof of the illusory nature of time. But he also argues for immortaliy of selves. Selves, he argue, are sui generis, unlike material thing, which are subject to alteration, fragmentation, and destruction. parts of walls (bricks) can exist independently of the wall, but parts of a self cannot subsist without a self. So the self is not a mere combination of parts and science gives n reason to think it could be annihilated. So the argument from impermanence collapses.

Comments: The snippet from MacTaggart is merely a negative argument and doesn’t seem a cmpelling argument for immortality. As McDermd himself concedes, tis is an ad hominem argument.

DeVall argues that “we” are engaged in a progressive evolutionary process towards greater knowledge of the Absolute. And even though the idea of progress itself is controversial in epistemological and philosophical circles, it seems some trained observers (in fact, the overwhelming majority) have converged on some ideas – heliocentrism and the theory of evolution, for example. So maybe this convergence marks a sort of progress. But on the question of the Absolute, we don’t see this convergence.

In fact, the longer religions exist, the more they fragment themselves into more and more diverse and mutually exclusive doctrines, unable to agree on even the most basic metaphysical questions (e.g., the status of Jesus as the shepherd) or moral questions (e.g., whether women should be accorded equal rights with men).

DeVall replies that he’s optimistic that this convergence will eventually occur. This seems to me to be a sort of millennialism or a perhaps unfounded optimism that the Absolute will reverse the global epidemic of religious fracture and diversity.


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