More life, less meaning

Sara Maitland committed an elementary philosophical blunder in her article on the afterlife ("Immortal longings grow again", 9 August). She claimed that the promise of an afterlife gives life meaning; that without it ordinary finite life is meaningless. But an afterlife is simply an increase in quantity. If an ordinary finite life is meaningless, then adding millions of extra years to it will be equally meaningless but longer.

Les Reid
Belfast Humanist Group

Julian Baggini should know that we don't use a ruler to "prove" the length of the same ruler (Letters, 23 August). Similarly with human consciousness, it is difficult to see how the extinction of consciousness after death can be "proved" when the only tool we have at our disposal for such a finding is consciousness itself - while we are alive.

Only an objective sideliner, uninvolved with brains, minds or consciousness, could ever know the truth of these things. Why not call such an observer God if the concept helps to make sense of things? Or at least allow others the unmocked right to do so?

Ian Flintoff
London SW6

This article first appeared in the 30 August 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Gordon Brown, the great feminist