Raynor Johnson on Reincarnation

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					The Case for Reincarnation
Alleged Evidences of Reincarnation

            1. “Past Life Memories”
   A person S possesses self-referential veridical information
             about a formerly existing person S*.

     2. Similarity of Physical Features
  A person S has physical feature(s) similar or identical to the
    physical features of some formerly existing person S*.

3. Similarity of Character or Personality
 A person S has a character or other personality features similar or
identical to the character and personality features of some formerly
                         existing person S*.
4. Similarity of Practical and Theoretical Skills
A person S possesses practical and theoretical skills similar to or identical to
                    some formerly existing person S*.

             5. Similarity of Self Perception
  A person S perceives himself as a formerly existing person S* perceived

6. The Existence of widely divergent degrees of
moral, spiritual, intellectual, and practical skills.

7. Reincarnation makes human suffering or the
     various inequities of life intelligible.
         Raynor Johnson on Reincarnation
  Raynor Johnson (a Christian reincarnationist) believes that
factual observations support the idea of pre-existence, and pre-
           existence in turn supports reincarnation.

A. The life situations into which people are born are vastly different and

B. There are widely different degrees of spiritual and moral
   development among people who are roughly the same age.

C. There are widely different degrees of artistic and scientific skills
   among people who are the same age.

D. A very high level of artistic and scientific skills are exhibited by some
   people at a very early age.

E. Members of the same family often exhibit vast differences in their
   mental, moral, and artistic characteristics.
                        Johnson’s Argument
  Johnson believes that the observational facts (A)-(E) are best
explained by supposing that human persons have existed prior to
                        their present life.
   Johnson intends an argument for pre-existence. The form of
   argument Johnson suggests is inference to best explanation.

                        Inference to Best Explanation
(1) If hypothesis H provides the best explanation for some observational
fact(s) F, then F makes H probable.
(2) Hypothesis H provides the best explanation for observational fact F.
(3) Hypothesis H is probable.

 Replace H with the pre-existence hypothesis and F with the facts
   (A)-(D) and we have Johnson’s argument for pre-existence.
    Potential Problems with Johnson’s Argument

The second premise of Johnson’s implicit argument is true only
     if there is no other hypothesis that provides an equal
             explanation for the facts Johnson cites.

  Johnson does not adequately engage alternate hypotheses.
        Inequities may simply be the result of chance.
      The possession of high degrees spiritual and moral
development, as well as advanced artistic and mental skills, at
an early age, may be the product of genetic coding, or genetics
             and favorable environmental factors.
 Differences of “profound kind” in mental, moral, and artistic
     qualities between members of the same family may be
  explained by the complex character of genetic inheritance.
   Since these alternate hypotheses would also lead us to expect the
      facts cited by Johnson, there is no obvious reason why pre-
         existence provides a better explanation of these facts.

A possible virtue of the pre-existence hypothesis is that it is a single
   hypothesis that would lead us to expect all of the cited facts,
 whereas more than a single hypothesis would likely be needed to
                explain the entire set of observations.

 One alternate hypothesis could combine chance (including random genetic mutations) and
 the laws of genetic inheritance to explain the facts, in much the same way that a Darwinist
 explains the existence of diverse complex living organisms in terms of the laws of biology
 and natural selection operating on random variations thrown up by nature.

    The remaining virtue of the pre-existence hypothesis is that it is
   compatible with the belief that the universe is overall a just place,
    for the inequities in life would be explained by a person’s own
                    actions in the past, not bad luck.
   Johnson’s case for pre-existence appears to depend largely on
  investing the universe with a particular moral quality, goodness
                             or justice.

             Johnson’s Argument for Reincarnation

“If the case for pre-existence is considered a strong one, then the
idea of reincarnation presents no logical difficulties.” ~ Johnson

    Johnson thinks that the probability of pre-existence makes
        reincarnation plausible (perhaps even probable).

  However, if Johnson’s case for pre-existence is not strong, then
 he loses his reason for affirming the plausibility of reincarnation.
        Johnson on Past Life Memories
    Johnson also considers one of the common objections to
reincarnation, namely the apparent fact that not everyone recalls
                    having lived a past life.

                      Johnson’s Response

  Observational Datum: Memory of past events is less frequent
 the further back in time we go. Our memories of events in our
         present life seems to terminate around age two.

    Predictive Extrapolation: We should not typically expect
   anyone to have memories of a past life. So the absence of
      such memories does not count against reincarnation.

Question for Discussion: Does the occurrence of apparent past
      life memories still count in favor of reincarnation?
      C.J. Ducasse’s Defense of Rebirth
Ducasse on Absence of Past
Life Memories. . . .
The absence of memories of
having existed at a particular
time t does not provide
evidence that we did not exist
at t. If it did, then we would
have to conclude that we did
not exist during the first few
years of our present life, for we
have no memories of that time
period. But this is absurd. So
absence of past life memories
would not disconfirm rebirth.
      Second Objection: Laws of Heredity Sufficiently
    Explain Mental and Physical Characteristics of Persons

           Ducasse Appeals to McTaggart’s Defense

McTaggart’s Argument: Hats are well-suited to the heads of
their owners, but not because there is any causal connection
between the hat and the head. Hats are not made for their
heads, nor heads made for their hats. Adaptation is due to a
person’s choice of some particular hat from those available.

Hence, “ there is no impossibility in supposing that the
characteristics in which we resemble the ancestors of our bodies
may be to some degree characteristics due to our previous lives.”

It is possible that we are reborn in bodies whose biological
ancestors had mental and physical characteristics similar to
those we acquired in a previous life.
            Clarifying McTaggart’s Argument

   Ducasse explains that McTaggart’s Argument does not
 involve a defense of the idea of the rebirth of personality,
  “the habits, skills, knowledge, character, and memories”
       which a person acquires during his or her life.

                   Ducasse’s Distinction
                   What Gets Reincarnated?

  Personality                                Individuality
Acquired Skills,           OR               Native Aptitudes
 Habits, and                                      and
  Memories                                   Dispositions
Ducasse favors the idea of the rebirth of a core of negative
and positive dispositions and aptitudes. It is individuality,
           not personality, that is reincarnated.

Third Objection: Our sense of personal identity depends
                on memorial continuity.

   Ducasse’s Response: We only need partial memorial
   continuity for our sense of personal identity, not the
 preservation of a comprehensive span of memories. We
have no memory of our earliest years, and yet this fact does
             not impair our sense of identity.

     “If, on each day, [a person] had a stock of memories
  relating to, let us say, only the then preceding ten years, or
   some other perhaps shorter period, this would provide all
   that would be needed for a continuous sense of identity.”
              Ducasse’s Conclusion

The objections to reincarnation considered are ultimately not
   good objections to the idea of rebirth (understood as the
  rebirth of “individuality” in Ducasse’s sense of the term).
 These objections do not provide good reasons for believing
that no life after death is possible, nor that such a significant
             form of survival cannot be imagined.

 Unlike Johnson’s Argument, Ducasse’s argument is not
  intended as a proof of reincarnation, but a defense of
       reincarnation against prominent objections.

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