The Argument from Brain Damage Vindicated

In Keith Augustine & Michael Martin (eds.), The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 105-133 (2015)
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It has long been known that brain damage has important negative effects on one’s mental life and even eliminates one’s ability to have certain conscious experiences. It thus stands to reason that when all of one’s brain activity ceases upon death, consciousness is no longer possible and so neither is an afterlife. It seems clear that human consciousness is dependent upon functioning brains. This essay reviews some of the overall neurological evidence from brain damage studies and concludes that our argument from brain damage has been vindicated by such overwhelming evidence. It also puts forth a more mature philosophical rationale against an afterlife and counters several replies to the argument. 1. Philosophical Background -- 2. The Dependence of Consciousness on the Brain: Some Preliminary Evidence -- 3. Brain Damage, Lesion Studies, and the Localization of Mental Function - 3.1 Perception - 3.2 Awareness, Comprehension, and Recognition - 3.3 Memory - 3.4 Personality - 3.5 Language - 3.6 Emotion - 3.7 Decision-Making - 3.8 Social Cognition and Theory of Mind - 3.9 Moral Judgment and Empathy - 3.10 Neurological Disorders and Disease - 3.11 The Unity of Consciousness -- 4. Objections and Replies - 4.1 Souls, Minds, and Energy Fields - 4.2 The Instrument Theory - 4.3 The Embodied Soul Alone is Affected -- 5. Conclusion

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Rocco J. Gennaro
University of Southern Indiana


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