Sunday, December 29, 2013


  1. If there is no hope of an afterlife, all is hopeless.
  2. If all is hopeless, ultimate despair is the right attitude.
  3. Ultimate despair is not the right attitude.
  4. So there is hope of an afterlife.
I will argue for 1 and 3. If there is no hope of an afterlife, any redeeming value we might hope for is overshadowed by the ultimate evil of both the end of our individual lives and of the human race. But despair is not the right attitude, since despair makes it impossible for us to live our moral lives, both in terms of the motivation to pursue the good and in our duty to comfort others. Despair saps our motivation. And faced with ultimate hopelessness, any comfort we might offer to others is insincere and dishonest. In despair at ultimate hopelessness, we could only live the good human life through self-deceit and the deceit of others. But that is not right. So ultimate despair cannot be the right attitude as it makes the good life impossible.

So there is hope.


John B. Moore said...

Life is like a river that dries up before it reaches the sea.

1) If the river never reaches the sea, it can't be said to flow at all.

2) If it doesn't ultimately flow into the sea, total lack of flow is the right attitude.

3) But the river does flow!

4) So the river must indeed reach the sea somehow or other.

Why you always look to the distant future? Be mindful of where you are right now. The river dries up before it reaches the sea, and yet it is flowing right here, right now.

Unknown said...

Dr. Pruss' argument for (3) is a practical argument and your suggestion is a practical solution, but I think there is something dissatisfying about it. (1) and (2) are claims about the way the world is, not practical claims, so if they are correct they dictate what the present is like. What you suggest is to ignore (1) and (2); staving off despair through self-imposed myopia. But, for those who seek truth (philosophers), it is not satisfying to ignore some truths. So, philosophers cannot take this suggestion.

Also, your analogous argument uses "flow" equivocally in (1) and (3), so it is disanalogous with Dr. Pruss'. In (1), 'flow' means 'flow into the ocean' and in (3) it means 'moves in a direction.

I do think, however, that your objection points out just how far this argument goes. If (3) is only supported practically, then the negation of the antecedent of (1) is also only practical (i.e., we cannot live as if there is no hope of an afterlife). The only way to obviate this conclusion is either to become pragmatists about the nature of truth (which I think is a hopeless muddle) or pragmatists about justification. Theists could claim that God has providentially designed life to work best when we submit to the truth, so we are justified in believing in an afterlife because that is how life works best. Personally, I think this is true, but then it only argues for an afterlife to theists, who are probably already disposed to believe in it. There are probably other reasons to be pragmatists about justification, but I'm not aware of them.

Leon said...

This could also be an argument for some kind of transhumanism.