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Critically Discuss D.Z. Phillips Conception of Immortality.

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Introduction

Critically Discuss D.Z. Phillips Conception of Immortality In his book 'Death and Immortality', D Z Phillips starts by asking the question: does belief in immortality rest on a mistake? The first two chapters are negative in the sense that they examine traditional philosophical, as well as common sense, conceptions of what immortality means. Phillips argues that philosophical analyses centred on the notion of immortality have generally been constructed around certain essential presuppositions: presuppositions that assume some form of continuation of personal identity after death. One cannot logically deny that, by definition, death entails the end of bodily existence, so one, it seems, is logically drawn to the notion that survival after death entails the survival of some kind of non-bodily identity - the soul. In the last two chapters Phillips disputes this presupposition, claiming that a perfectly valid conception of immortality can be maintained without resorting to any form of dualism. Phillips gives an alternative account of immortality based, not on any realm of existence beyond this life, but on certain moral and religious modes of living within this life. Unlike some of writers, e.g. R. Swinburn, D Z Phillips does not support the notion that belief in continuous personal existence is logically defendable. Indeed, he provides an extremely robust argument to the contrary, claiming that such claims are open to fatal logical objections. ...read more.

Middle

And it is in this context that we should view the concept of immortality. Phillips is making an important distinction here: the distinction between a belief as empirical proposition and a belief in terms of faith, that is seeing one's life in context of certain eternal, and non-temporal considerations. I.e. "I believe that God exists" is an empirical proposition, whereas "I believe in God" is a statement about one's faith and moral commitments. This is a critical distinction because it is in "believing" in the second sense, that we come to understand the meaning and value of self-renunciation , and thus , journey from the temporal to the eternal. This is the religious conception of "dying to the self" and Phillips wants to say that this is the true Christian message that is so often lost when the scriptures are read too literally. Very much linked to the concept of immortality is the big moral question that has occupied philosophers for centuries, namely: why should I live a good life? A superficial reading of the scriptures provides a simple answer i.e. our conduct in this world is rewarded or punished in the next world. Philips does more than merely disagree with this reading, here he draws on Simone Veil, arguing that such a conception of immortality is positively harmful because all notions of compensation in the next life for ...read more.

Conclusion

Again, if the meaning of the picture is seen in these terms then who is Phillips to take that picture a way? The question is: is Phillips's picture truer, more meaningful, or more valuable than any other is pictures? Phillips certainly believes that he is touching on the original meaning. He argues that this meaning is not only found in the scriptures but goes back as far as Plato. (The Christian concept of immortality is thought to be based on the platonic theme) He criticises those who fail to read the whole meaning. For example, of Geach and Flew he says: "my quarrel... is not of what they say they find in the Phaedo, but because that is all they find their" (P46). Phillips picks up on Plato's idea of "purification", arguing that this refers to the differentiation between doing an apparent morally commendable deed, but impurely (essentially for the good of the doer) and acting morally for the right reason (for the sake of the good). As for the question of whether Phillips's conception of immortality is more valuable than any other concept of immortality? Well, Phillips, being a philosopher, would certainly argued for the value of the truth over falsity. But whether those of a non- philosophical disposition could find meaning, and those of a spiritually insecure disposition could if find solace in Phillips's conception of immortality is perhaps doubtful. ...read more.

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