Thursday, 16 June 2016

Personal And Cosmic Futures

Philosophy and Literature would make a good academic combination. I think that any philosophical issue can be focused through the works of Poul Anderson.

At the end of Chapter XXXIV of Anderson's War Of The Gods (New York, 1999), King Hadding's men find him hanged. The viewpoint character of the short concluding Chapter XXXV stands beside an ash tree higher than heaven and says, "'I was Hadding...'" (p. 297)

Is this possible? After my death, will someone say, "I was Paul"? It is at least logically possible that, by technological or arcane means, my memories will be reproduced in a later organism with or without my appearance. If the new body is produced in the usual way, then we say "reincarnation" or "rebirth." If it is specially constructed, then we say "resurrection." Arguably, however, the sole criterion of personal identity is spatiotemporal continuity of a body. Therefore, any later organism with my memories is not identical with me. See here. Whether this concerns the new "Paul" depends on the philosophical outlook of the original Paul. Knowing myself, I know that he will want to continue living from the point where I ended.

Whether or not there is a personal future after death, there is a cosmic future. Anderson's Starfarers envisages a multi-species cosmic civilization bound together by intertemporal communication. Odin tells Hadding/Njord:

"'...when the new world rises from the sea and Baldr comes back from the dead, you will be there to help build its peace.'" (p. 298)


1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And in various of his later works (beginning with THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS) we see Poul Anderson examining the idea of men artificially transferring an individual's memories and personality pattern from one body to another. And the bodies could be either robotic or organic.

Frankly, I'm skeptical such a thing will ever be possible. And I think Poul Anderson was as well. But, he was willing to examine even the most implausible ideas and see where the consequences might go!