A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for by Michael Sudduth

By Michael Sudduth

Sudduth presents a severe exploration of classical empirical arguments for survival arguments that purport to teach that information amassed from ostensibly paranormal phenomena represent solid proof for the survival of the self after loss of life. using the conceptual instruments of formal epistemology, he argues that classical arguments are unsuccessful.

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So it will be natural to suppose that survivors are self-aware centers of mental life, have interests and purposes, possess powers of intentional action, and so forth. It might be, of course, that there is a postmortem persistence of the general psychological properties of human persons, but the individual postmortem psychology of persons might differ, perhaps greatly, from their antemortem psychology. Introducing considerations relevant to the individual identity of survivors would therefore augment an otherwise minimalist conception of psychological survival.

Paterson’s Bayesian defense of classical empirical arguments. Paterson presents a cumulative case argument in which the different strands of evidence for survival (from different kinds of ostensible paranormal phenomena) each incrementally raise an initially low prior probability of the survival hypothesis, so that when each new piece of alleged evidence for survival is considered, the older evidence is included in the background knowledge. The purported net effect of this is to gradually raise the prior probability of survival so that it reaches ½ and the remaining empirical evidence then increases this probability so that survival is more probable than not.

8 Unlike other philosophical works on survival (Almeder 1992; Braude 2003; Griffin 1997; Lund 2009; Paterson 1995), I exclude apparitions of the dead and haunting phenomena, as well as other kinds of phenomena often alleged to be evidence for survival. I have opted to restrict my attention to phenomena that I think provide the best evidence of survival. In my view, apparitions and hauntings provide the weakest kind of evidence for survival, in part because most documented cases lack strong veridical features, which makes them particularly vulnerable to various non-survival counter-explanations.

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