- The condition of being exempt from death or destruction, of living for ever. Personal immortality entails that after our death (as identified by others) we ourselves shall enjoy experiences, possibly after an interval, and shall live another life, and continue to do so forever. The doctrine may involve only the survival of our ‘ soul ’ conceived of as an immaterial thinking substance contingently and temporarily lodged in our present body. Or it may involve resurrection of the body itself. In the Platonic tradition the former is possible. But for Aristotle the soul is the form of the body, and cannot exist without it as a separate substance could, any more than a grin can exist without the grinning face. The arguments that the soul is immortal include metaphysical arguments (e.g. that it is simple, and hence cannot decompose), moral arguments (e.g. that immortality is a presupposition of morality, providing the arena in which the just triumph and the unjust are punished), and empirical arguments (e.g. that there are cases of living people having experience of spirits of the dead or of ghosts). No argument from these families enjoys much respect among contemporary philosophers. The first kind of argument was attacked by Hume and especially by Kant in Bk. ii of the Transcendental Dialectic of the Critique of Pure Reason . Those of the second, moral, class seem more like wishful thinking than arguments, although Kant himself held a highly nuanced version of them. The third kind are included in the general mistrust of parapsychology . Special revelation or faith remain the most powerful sources of belief in immortality, and belief that it is incoherent to postulate the separation of mind and body remains the most powerful philosophical response. Less attention has been paid to the question of why immortality appears desirable: see Makropoulos case . In the Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions immortality may be given a ‘timeless’ twist. Rather than living for ever the goal is to live out of time altogether (see eternity ); the coherence of this ideal is not, however, at all evident, although frequently testified to by mystics and practitioners of meditation. It should be noticed that whilst the foregoing points apply to personal immortality, the immortality, or at least the continued existence, of some of a person's features may well survive death. One's work, or fame, or notoriety, or genes, may well survive in the minds or bodies of others. See also life, meaning of.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.