The possibility of reincarnation

Tim asked:

What do you think about the idea of random reincarnation? That each life is a total end to itself but matter and energy is a flexible and infinite force that will continuously grant you the ‘I’ experience.

Answer by Craig Skinner

I don’t think much of the idea of reincarnation, never mind random reincarnation.

Reincarnation, or re-embodiment, makes sense only if ‘I’ am somehow separate from my body, as with the Platonic soul or Descartes’ res cogitans (thinking substance). But I feel we are essentially embodied beings, and that my mind, soul or self is the mental activity of my embodied brain embedded in a suitable environment. Mind is the mental activity of the brain as motion is the physical activity of a car, and it makes no more sense asking what happens to the mind if the brain is destroyed than to ask what happens to the motion if the car is destroyed. My death is the end of me as regards my ‘I’ experience.

So, for me, no reincarnation, no disembodied spirit existence, and no new, incorruptible body in heaven as Christianity has it.

But I would broadly agree with your second sentence if we omit ‘and infinite’ and ‘you’ so that it reads:

‘That each life is a total end to itself but matter and energy is a flexible force that will continuously grant the ‘I’ experience.’

Just so. Matter/energy are continually forming new ‘I’ experiences as human beings are conceived, born, live and experience. But only one of these beings can ever be you. Even if the universe is infinite and all possible arrangements of matter exist infinitely many times. In such a universe there would be countless copies of you (and me, and everybody else), each with its ‘I’ experience. But none of these would BE you, even if atom-for-atom and thought-for-thought identical. They would only be your counterparts (and you one of the counterparts of each of them)

As the song says ‘There will never be another you’.

One thought on “The possibility of reincarnation

  1. Okay, but what if we think about “you” in a different way. MY contention is that before the universe it was possible for me to exist in its future. So what if the universe gets to the same exact state that the universe was in 13.7 billion years ago. Obviously it wouldn’t be exactly the same, but i am saying it could be primed for the same reaction that caused us to be here now. like a shotgun reloading. Now I am not saying I would necessarily be a human this time or i would be in any way simililar to what I am now. But that it is possible that I could again be a thinking thing. Not a thinking thing anyway connected to me now. But a new me. Like reusing an IP adress for a computer.

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