Image of woman leaving her body
Image of woman leaving her body

This essay continues my earlier “Fearing Death”. There I explored how different assumptions as to whether there is life after the physical body dies have led thinkers in different directions. Here I explore further the implications of the idea of an afterlife. It brings up an interesting philosophical question, the nature of personal identity.

We do not need to affirm belief in an afterlife to consider the idea; instead, we can look on it as a thought experiment. If you did live on in some form after the physical body dies, how would you know that you are you? All…

I have asserted that the way many people talk about being conscious, particularly the way they use the term “consciousness,” leads to confusion, because that term is too ambiguous. In fact, I advise not using it at all.(1) Philosopher Ned Block also believes that the term “consciousness” is ambiguous, but for different reasons. Unfortunately, his language suffers from the ambiguities that I warn against, making it harder to evaluate than it needs to be. In this essay I try to make sense of Block’s argument by restating it in my preferred terms.

Block starts his influential article, “On a confusion…

The twentieth-century phenomenologists — Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, de Beauvoir, et. al. — have done a great service to philosophy by emphasizing the first-person point of view. Many things become apparent when you quit looking at the world through the lens of objective scientific inquiry and instead pay attention to how it actually appears in your own experience. …

Infinity symbol
Infinity symbol

My essay “Fearing Death” examines whether we have any reason to fear being dead. That essay assumes that death will come to all of us eventually. But what if it didn’t? What if we could live forever? As it happens, a lively topic in current philosophy is whether it would be desirable to be immortal.(1)Is living forever something you would really, after some thought, want to do? In the jargon, is it choiceworthy?

I suppose that if, without thinking much about it, you fear being dead, then, sure, you would want to avoid that state. But the point of philosophy…


The world view expressed in one of humankind’s most ancient texts, the Tao Te Ching, is remarkably similar to one of the most recent comprehensive metaphysical systems, the process metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead. At the core of each is the recognition that process, not substance, is the fundamental characteristic of the world; what is most real is change and movement. …

Two children, one whispers into the other’s ear
Two children, one whispers into the other’s ear

One of the things humans do is to gossip. Maybe we should think about how to gossip well.

The term “gossip” often means something mean-spirited, speaking ill of others, but what I mean is just talking about people who are not present. In this sense parents gossip about their children, and we all gossip about our friends. There is some plausible speculation that gossip is actually evolutionarily adaptive, that it is one of the factors that have brought about our large brains.(1)

Increased brain capacity certainly has advantages. It enables us to learn from experience and to foresee possible futures…

Death: the dark source of unending creation

Is there any reason to fear death? I don’t mean the process of dying. There are plenty of ways to die that would be extremely unpleasant, and it is reasonable to try to avoid them. I mean the state of being dead after the death of your body. Certainly, many people do fear being dead, but the philosophical question is whether it is rational to do so.

Rational arguments depend on premises, and there are several different assumptions that we can make in thinking about death. The first is whether we continue in some form or other after bodily death…

The human capacity for second-order thinking — the ability we have to consider in thought and imagination not just the world around us but ourselves as well — has led existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone deBeauvoir to say that the human being is always free to recreate himself or herself, that we have no fixed essence, but are what we make of ourselves. There is certainly a germ of truth in this assertion. If you suffer from some behavioral or psychological problem, the first step in fixing it is to admit that you have a problem; that is…

Bill Meacham

Bill Meacham, Ph.D., is an independent scholar in philosophy and the author of the book How To Be An Excellent Human, available at

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