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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing., June 4, 2008
This review is from: Merely Mortal?: Can You Survive Your Own Death? (Hardcover)
Being either an agnostic or an atheist depending on how you define the line between them and what my mood is that day, I'm inclined to share Dr. Flew's scepticism on the subject of an afterlife, but I find his arguments rather circular and totally unconvincing; his insistence that he has thoroughly debunked the argument in favor of the mind as the indentifier of personal identity rather than the body is rather irritating, considering that he has done no such thing; he discounts the argument that if a person's consciousness suddenly found itself in a different body as mere science fiction and therefore irrelevant, ignoring the fact that while (so far as we know) this has never happened and can never happen, IF IT DID, the consciousness would be the source of identity, not the body. Granted, there are aruments that make this problematic; if one accepts that consciousness is the source of identity, then one has to define what constitutes consciousness, and if one goes with "memory", that leaves us with the question of whether an aged person suffering dementia who has lost much of his/her memory is no longer the same person, as well as the question of why, if mind/personality is the source of identity, physical/chemical effects (hormones, drugs, even lack of sleep) can make such a radical difference in a person's mental abilities and personality. Flew attempts to address these arguments, but does a particularly vague and unenthusiastic job of it, largely because he seems to feel that they are unnecessary arguments because he feels that his other arguments against mind/consciouness as the seat of identity are better when in fact they're completely unconvincing. (And if they don't convince me, a fellow sceptic, I'm not sure who they ARE going to convince.) And while his writing style occasionally attempts to achieve colloquiality, it is generally as ponderous as one expects of philosophy, so if you aren't comfortable with heavy-duty philosophy, it will be rather hard going, but if you ARE comfortable with serious philosophy, you may find his occasional forays into failed attempts at being chatty somewhat annoying.

I give this book two stars rather than one because the idea is a good one, and the scholarship is good, but I can't rate it any higher because it really doesn't do a very good job of what it sets out to do. I'm closer to giving it one star than three.
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