Argument from the inconceivability of personal annihilation

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The argument from the inconceivability of personal annihilation is based on the inconceivability and therefore supposed impossibility of the future non-existence of a person. Therefore, an afterlife must exist.

"our mind [is unable to] conceive our own annihilation. Even to imagine my own annihilation I shall have to stand by and look on as a witness. [1]"

Counter arguments[edit]

The argument is a non sequitur because being unable to conceive of something does not imply its impossibility. For example, it was formerly considered absurd to think a cat could be simultaneously dead and alive at the same time. However, the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment, as well as experimental evidence from quantum mechanics, implies this may indeed occur.

"[The argument] confuses psychological inconceivability with logical inconceivability. [It is] a failure of the imagination, not an impossible state of affairs. [...] Though logically unsound, this is among the most powerful psychological impulses to believe in a soul, and an afterlife, and God. It genuinely is difficult—not to speak of disheartening— to conceive of oneself not existing! [2]"

"Clearly, the fact of death is intolerable to use, and faith is little more than the shadow cast by our hope for a better life beyond the grave."

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

It is possible to conceive of a my non-existence because I can imagine the universe existed before I was even born. Therefore, it may continue to exist after I am gone.

"I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

Mark Twain

References[edit]

  1. Swami Vivekananda, Is the soul immortal?, New York Morning Advertiser, 1895
  2. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, 2011