A few examples of other errors in Sudduth's recent book

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Titus Rivas   (publicatiedatum: 16 January, 2016)


A few errors in A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Postmortem Survival, additional to the ones mentioned in a review by Titus Rivas.


A few examples of other errors in Michael Sudduth's recent book "A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Postmortem Survival"

I recently wrote a short review of Michael Sudduth's "A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Postmortem Survival". Here are a few other examples of errors in Sudduth's book, not mentioned in my review:

- The author writes: "To show that proposed counter-explanations [to survival] are unsuccessful is not to show that the survival hypothesis is successful [...]" (p. 12)

Formulated as such, this is obviously wrong if the counter-explanation (LAP) is accepted to be the only serious alternative option to survival, and there is no logical third option (except for the supernatural intervention of a deus ex machina, by gods or demons, etc.). In that case, exhaustively and convincingly refuting a counter-explanation (LAP) certainly equals showing that the survival hypothesis is successful. I mean, entering the debate presupposes that you accept that the concept of survival is not an empty concept, and this limits your logical options from the start. If (regarding a meaningful question) there are only two serious contenders, and one is wrong, the other must be right.

- "[...]The survivalist must select among a wide range of auxiliaries (consistent with the survival hypothesis) which tell different stories about the afterlife and survivors, many of which have very different predictive consequences once we join them to the simple supposition of survival." (p. 23)

This is simply not true. Most survivalists (who do not reject reincarnation for ideological, mostly religious reasons) agree that the evidence is convergent and that it points to a very consistent "story about the afterlife and survivors." Unless they regard so-called channeled messages from higher spirits as a superior source of information, whereas these really belong in the realm of supernatural revelation.

- Sudduth claims that substance dualism is compatible with several very different conceptions of survival, including resurrection. (p.27)

The problem is that he is discussing a specifically religious type of substance dualism (Christian substance dualism) within the context of purely philosophical, non-religious types. Most philosophical currents of (real, classic, non-emergent and non-Thomistic) substance dualism agree that the ontological substantiality of the personal soul at least implies the survival of that soul with all its psychical characteristics (that belong to the soul and not the body).

- "The interactionist hypothesis requires that survivors have fairly extraordinary means of knowing and causally interacting with the physical world." (p. 39)

What is truly extraordinary about this remark, is that it should be clear to Sudduth that psi belongs to the psyche, and not to the brain. Even a LAP-supporter should therefore accept that IF there is survival, THEN it is to be expected that psi will survive too, as an integral part of the surviving psyche.

- Sudduth claims that changes such as a complete memory loss might more plausibly be interpreted as involving the emergence of a new person rather than the survival of a former person. (p. 40).

From an ontological viewpoint this is clearly incorrect! Either one accepts the existence of ontological substances that may change over time, remaining themselves as a substance (substantialism), or one does not (process metaphysics/Buddhism, et cetera). If one does AND considers the psyche to be an ontological substance, no amount of change can ever take away the personal identity of the substantial personal soul. If one does not (OR if one accepts substantialism but does not regard the personal psyche as on ontological substance but only as an ontologically 'accidental' manifestation within a divine, universal soul - the position of Advaita Vedanta, etc.), there is no such thing as an ontologically substantial personal soul, and this fact does not depend on any amount of change. Personal identity (in the philosophical rather than judicial sense) is an ontological question, not an empirical, scientific one.

- In his discussion of the Man with Dentures, he has overlooked our (Smit's and my) explanation of the pain experienced by the patient, in terms of psychogenic pain, and therefore comes to an unfounded conclusion about the subject's (somatogenic) "cognitive impairment". (p.71)

We wrote: "In our view, a possible explanation of this perception could be that the pain was not normal physical pain but was a purely psychogenic pain experience triggered by the patient’s extrasensory perception of the activity of the Thumper."
Perhaps he missed this hypothesis, because by then he had concluded that I had no 'theoretical credentials'.

- "It is initially surprising that subjects with veridical perceptions [in NDEs and CORTs] do not have more knowledge than they are able to report." (p. 231)

This is a completely baseless remark. Both in NDEs and in CORTs, the surviving soul has to deal with the impact of brain functioning on the mind after returning to the physical world. It is very awkward that Sudduth implies there would be sound reasons to expect that the psyche would have far more knowledge than it has. The point is of course that materialism cannot explain any knowledge of this type and that LAP cannot satisfactorily explain most cases in these categories either.

- "One final explanatory option would be to postulate the survival of some aspect of the person, but one that is insufficient to constitute the survival of the individual self or person." (p. 250).

No, it would not be an option for substantialists, because for us, the minimum that would survive is the substantial psyche or Self, regardless of what survives in terms of its memories, traits, capacities, personality structures, etc. Only for scholars who support non-substantialist currents it would, but they would not need any evidence for it, because for them, personal survival would be out of the question a priori.
I explained this in a paper I sent to Sudduth years ago. In it, I argue that empirical evidence should be interpreted within (analytically founded) ontological frameworks, rather than naively assumed to be able to refute or prove such frameworks. Because of the paper's supposed "inferior quality", I obviously never received any reply from him.

This should be enough.

Titus Rivas, January 2016

Contact: titusrivas@hotmail.com