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PhilipBitar.com - Proofs - Mortality


One of the enduring problems of theism is to explain mortality, but as we’ll now see, this problem has a straightforward solution. For we can prove that in order for a free agent to have a meaningful life, the agent must be mortal, that is, subject to the possibility of suffering and death. Here’s a shortened version of the proof, accompanied by minimal explanation. We start with an axiom.

Axiom on willpower.  The feature of willpower — the exertion of effort — is necessary for meaning. That is, a free agent having the intelligence of a human but lacking the feature of willpower will find life meaningless.

The axiom clarifies that in order to do something meaningful, we must exert effort. If we could effortlessly think, make decisions, and act, life would be meaningless. This is evident in everyday life, for we feel a sense of meaning as a function of how hard we must work to achieve a goal. If something is easy for us to do, we don't feel deep meaning from doing it, and we reject praise for it. By contrast, if something is difficult for us to do, we can feel a deep sense of meaning from doing it, and we can accept commensurate praise. In all cases, we reject excessive praise, that is, praise that exceeds what is appropriate for the amount of effort that we expended.

Proof (shortened): willpower implies possibility of starvation.  A free agent that has the feature of willpower exerts willpower by expending a resource, which we will call energy. Since an agent’s body is of finite size, an agent must obtain resources from its environment in order to create energy. But since an agent must expend energy in order to obtain these resources, it follows that an agent may exhaust its resources and, as a result, cease to function. This proves that the feature of willpower implies the possibility of starvation.

I go on to identify three other modes of suffering that are the result of a system of energy transformation: injury, malfunction, and wear. Injury can obviously cause death, say, through crushing the body, through consuming the body in a fire, or through blowing the body to bits in an explosion.

Reference citation.  Philip Bitar, complement to Why? In Pursuit of the Ultimate Answer, Proofs / Mortality, posted at www.philipbitar.com, 2008-12-13, revised 2009-01-05.