A Possibly Specious Argument for Immortality of the Mind

  1. Energy is always conserved. This is a fundamental law of physics. It was even proven by Emmy Noether in 1915 that the law of conservation of energy necessarily follows from the fact that the laws of physics do not change over time. Of course, it’s known that matter and energy are interchangeable (hence E=mc2 and the atomic bomb), so that means matter is conserved too except when it’s converted to or from energy, in which case its constituent energy is still conserved.
  2. Everything is, theoretically, made up of matter and energy.
  3. Therefore, when we say that something—any physical thing—has been created or ceased to exist, it must merely mean that its constituent matter and energy has been transformed into some other configuration, which we then call something else.
  4. Therefore, the “things” that we observe to come into existence or cease to exist must only amount to perceptual categories. Sure, these things “exist” inasmuch as they are made up of matter and energy, but since this matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed (the big bang and quantum fluctuations not withstanding), these things do not exist independently of our perceptual categories inasmuch as they can be created or cease to exist.

    (The rest of #4 you can skip if you like.)

    This is not to say that Eastern Airlines or the library at Alexandria still exists, but that, exactly inasmuch as they have ceased to exist, they amount to an abstraction or concept in mere reference to a particular part or aspect of what is or was.

    For example, let’s take a wooden chair. Over a very long period of time, this chair will slowly rot into oblivion. Or it might burn up in a fire.

    During this process, there is no definitive point in time at which the chair, as such, ceases to exist. At the end of this process, you may unequivocally state that the chair no longer exists, but choosing the exact point at which its constituent matter and energy is no longer a “chair” is a complete judgment call! It is arbitrary, hazy, and what it shows is that we do not have actual objects that are created and cease to exist, but rather, actual matter and energy whose state is continually shifting into and out of our relatively arbitrary categories like “chair” or eves “wood” versus “dirt” or perhaps “light” and “heat.”

    (Even the transformation of energy in a chemical bond into light and or heat form, as well as the material separation of the atoms, is a process or event, taking some amount of time, so there is a continuum of state that ranges from fitting into one label (such as “wood) and another label (such as “light”), even on the level of individual molecules. The same applies even to the nuclear transformation of matter into energy.)

    So all we really have is eternal actuality versus transient perceptual categories.

    To go on a tangent and make another point along the way, this means that nothing in our human experience truly has every been created or destroyed. So to extrapolate that, because everything we know of has been created and will cease to exist, the universe itself must have been created and must cease to exist at some time (as opposed to being eternal, which is something we have trouble comprehending), is a blatant intuitional error.

    The universe itself contains all transient states of matter and energy which we categorize as this thing or the other thing that we think has been destroyed when its matter and energy has transformed into another thing. That energy itself, which can take the form of anything we know of, has never been known to be created or destroyed, and obviously any possible state of that energy could be said to constitute “the universe”.

    Therefore, the universe is, in all likelihood, eternal.

    (Since all our physics breaks down when extrapolated backward to the point of the big bang, it’s pure presumption to say that the big bang was the beginning of existence or the beginning of time. We don’t know what may have existed before it and caused it.)
  5. The mind precedes, and is primary to, all of its conceptual categorizations. Your mind necessarily exists, both chronologically and logically, before it can classify the stuff it observes.

    So, we have shown that..
    1. The existence of a mind is primary to its representation (or conceptualization) of all other “things”‘ existence. Specifically, the creation and destruction or cessation of things happens strictly with respect to the mind’s representations of those things.
  6. Therefore, the mind itself is never destroyed in actuality.

This argument is a rewrite of essentially the same argument I made in 2001 that can be found here. Its style is highly awkward, and it’s too terse for even me to follow some of it now, but it contains a little bit of stuff not presented here. Also, it begins to make a completely different point at the end that I didn’t include here because I seem to have found a non sequitur in it and not to mention because it ends mid-sentence and mid-thought. (How I was planning on finishing that thought I have no idea now.)

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