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Infinitely Long Afterlives and the Doomsday Argument

  • John Leslie (a1)

A recent book of mine defends three distinct varieties of immortality. One of them is an infinitely lengthy afterlife; however, any hopes of it might seem destroyed by something like Brandon Carter's ‘doomsday argument’ against viewing ourselves as extremely early humans. The apparent difficulty might be overcome in two ways. First, if the world is non-deterministic then anything on the lines of the doomsday argument may prove unable to deliver a strongly pessimistic conclusion. Secondly, anything on those lines may break down when an infinite sequence of experiences is in question.

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1 Oxford: Blackwell (2007).

2 See, for instance, Bohm, D. and Hiley, B.J., The Undivided Universe (London: Routledge, 1993).

3 For the Platonic creation story and the pantheism to which it can lead, see Immortality Defended (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007) or these other writings of mine: ‘Our Place in the Cosmos’, Philosophy 75 No. 291 (January 2000), 5–24; ‘The Divine Mind’, pp. 73–89 of Philosophy, the Good, the True and the Beautiful, A. O'Hear (ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000); and Infinite Minds (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001). That there's no logical absurdity in the idea that ethical (or, to use a philosopher's term, ‘axiological’) requirements are themselves responsible for the existence of something, perhaps a divine mind or perhaps a universe, has been accepted by leading philosophers and theologians of modern times: for instance A.C. Ewing, Hans Küng, J.L. Mackie, Nicholas Rescher, Derek Parfit, John Polkinghorne and Keith Ward.

4 London: Routledge (1989). For the doomsday argument, see p. 214.

5 Among the earliest of the papers are ‘Is the end of the world nigh?’, Philosophical Quarterly 40, No. 158 (January 1990), 65–72; ‘Time and the anthropic principle’, Mind 101, No. 403 (July 1992), 521–540; and ‘Testing the doomsday argument’, Journal of Applied Philosophy 11, No. 1 (1994), 31–44. In The End of the World: the Science and Ethics of Human Extinction (London: Routledge, 1996) see particularly 187–264, plus the Preface to the paperback edition of 1998; in Immortality Defended see 13–14.

6 Leslie, J., ‘The doomsday argument’, The Mathematical Intelligencer 14, No. 2 (Spring 1992), 4851.

7 For this Shooting Room case, see pp. 235–236 and 251–256 of The End of the World, and also xvii–xviii of the Preface to the paperback edition.

8 See his ‘Scientific and Philosophical Challenges to Theism’, forthcoming in Melville Y. Stewart, (ed.), Science and Religion in Dialogue (Oxford: Blackwell).

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
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