The Tree of Life: Agency and Immortality in a Metaphysics Inspired by Quantum Theory
Contributor(s)University of New England
KeywordsPhilosophy of Religion
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AbstractRecently several philosophers including Huw Price, Peter Lewis, and David Lewis have argued that on one interpretation of quantum theory (genus 'Indeterminacy', species 'No Collapse') death is an illusion. Taking Schrodinger's unhappy cat as the standard example, this interpretation tells us that it is as if the whole universe splits into two copies in one of which the cat survives and in the other there is a corpse. Fission into a living organism on the one hand and a corpse on the other is, most of us agree, a way of surviving. So we arrive at the first premise, namely that organisms survive situations like that of Schrodinger's cat. Moreover-and this is the second premise-the causes of death are, it is said, always relevantly similar to those in the Schrodinger's cat thought experiment. From these two premises it is inferred that death is an illusion.That interpretation also implies 'over-survival', that is, the repeated fission of organisms so that each one of us survives more than once, in fact more times than we naively thought there were human beings on Earth. Moreover, we are ourselves survivors of past fission. Such repeated over-survival is counter-intuitive, and might well be taken as a 'reductio ad absurdum' of the interpretation that leads to it.This paper is not intended as a contribution to a debate over whether quantum theory implies that death is an illusion, although it is inspired by and, as I argue in the Appendix, coherent with contemporary physics.