What if only I have a consciousness and after I die my life starts all over again for all eternity?! And the memories of my previous life get deleted? Please give me counterarguments! 😔
I'm reminded of the opening passage of Milan Kundera's great novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I reproduce here without comment.
Lightness and Weight
The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum! What does this mad myth signify?
Putting it negatively, the myth of eternal return states that a life which disappears once and for all, which does not return, is like a shadow, without weight, dead in advance, and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime, its horror, sublimity, and beauty mean nothing. We need take no more note of it than of a war between two African kingdoms in the fourteenth century, a war that altered nothing in the destiny of the world, even if a hundred thousand blacks perished in excruciating torment.
Will the war between two African kingdoms in the fourteenth century itself be altered if it recurs again and again, in eternal return?
It will: it will become a solid mass, permanently protuberant, its inanity irreparable.
If the French Revolution were to recur eternally, French historians would be less proud of Robespierre. But because they deal with something that will not return, the bloody years of the Revolution have turned into mere words, theories, and discussions, have become lighter than feathers, frightening no one. There is an infinite difference between a Robespierre who occurs only once in history and a Robespierre who eternally returns, chopping off French heads.
Let us therefore agree that the idea of eternal return implies a perspective from which things appear other than as we know them: they appear without the mitigating circumstance of their transitory nature. This mitigating circumstance prevents us from coming to a verdict. For how can we condemn something that is ephemeral, in transit? In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.
Not long ago, I caught myself experiencing a most incredible sensation. Leafing through a book on Hitler, I was touched by some of his portraits: they reminded me of my childhood. I grew up during the war; several members of my family perished in Hitler's concentration camps; but what were their deaths compared with the memories of a lost period in my life, a period that would never return?
This reconciliation with Hitler reveals the profound moral perversity of a world that rests essentially on the nonexistence of return, for in this world everything is pardoned in advance and therefore everything cynically permitted.
If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It is a terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make. That is why Nietzsche called the idea of eternal return the heaviest of burdens (das schwerste Gewicht).
If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives can stand out against it in all their splendid lightness.
But is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid?
The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.
Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.
What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?
Parmenides posed this very question in the sixth century before Christ. He saw the world divided into pairs of opposites:
light/darkness, fineness/coarseness, warmth/cold, being/non-being. One half of the opposition he called positive (light, fineness, warmth, being), the other negative. We might find this division into positive and negative poles childishly simple except for one difficulty: which one is positive, weight or lightness?
Parmenides responded: lightness is positive, weight negative.Was he correct or not? That is the question. The only certainty is: the lightness/weight opposition is the most mysterious, most ambiguous of all.
You ask "What if...", and I'd ask back: What then?
I'm asking seriously, think about it.
If your hypothesis was true, what would happen? How would that affect your current life, at all?
Please notice that failure to find an answer, would entail that your hypothesis doesn't really matter at all.
(And in contrast, if you found some answer, it might show how your hypothesis is important in some respect).
If the question is: How can we know for sure that we are not in a loop, then the answer is: we cannot. Both subjectivism and solipsism explain such views.
But it's the same as "how can we know that we have not been created last night with fake memories and a fake world around us", and many similar other ideas that could all be true, but not be true at the same time.
My answer here is similar to rkruse's.
Think of it this way:
there are (theoretically) infinitely many possibilities that we can imagine which cannot be proven nor disproven, and surely there are infinitely many possibilities that we COULD imagine. If you've ever heard the "flying spaghetti monster" response to religion, that is a somewhat similar idea, albeit a meme.
The idea is that you imagine a flying spaghetti monster that you can't see, hear, or touch. The monster has no appearance, and from both an epistemological and ontological perspective there is no thing to be learned, nor any knowledge to be derived, from asserting that it exists. You have trapped yourself by positing the possibility of something which cannot be proven nor disproven. This is the criterion of falsifiability.
The same follows for your fear of an ever-repeating universe or an ever-repeating life. This idea appears in many religious/spiritual texts, and various philosophers have no doubt dissected the idea under a microscope from many angles. When you suggest that something may occur after death, and may occur infinitely over many lifetimes, you are willfully forming a question that is unfalsifiable. In the same way that the person who fears the Flying Spaghetti Monster chooses to imagine that you can't see or hear or feel him, and therefore can't prove or disprove that he exists, you are doing the same thing by forming your question specifically so that it cannot be tested or verified in any way. One could just as easily ask if there is a Flying Spaghetti Monster living somewhere on Earth, which is something that can be predicted, tested, and verified. But they ask the harder question, the one that quite literally cannot be answered.
(Please note that this is just the first and most popular example that comes to mind, I am not at all using the Flying Spaghetti Monster to mock people who practice different religions.)
Does that mean that unfalsifiable questions are silly questions? Absolutely not. I personally believe that we as humans tend to form these unfalsifiable questions because we are falling down an anxiety rabbit hole, because we are scared of something. And, when we start to panic, it's turtles all the way down. "What if I wake up and I'm in a new life? Ok, well I'll still remember my old life. What if I don't remember the old life? Ok, I'll find a way to recover my memory and prove that I was in another life. What if I am trapped and can't prove that I was in another life, and my memories are erased?" This is infinite regress, essentially asking "what if?" to any possible explanation. We have a tendency to posit questions and theories that go to logical extremes, and resign ourselves to overwhelming skepticism of the world. As you are experiencing right now, it is an unpopular way to think for many reasons.
I should note that the criterion of falsifiability does not EXPLICITLY say that your endless life theory is false. The purpose of the criterion of falsifiability is to decide whether a theory is predictive and testable (ie. whether a theory has the power to produce predictions which can actually be tested and verified). However, the problem arises when your brain keeps coming up with infinite questions about infinite things and inventing new fears in response to any possible answers. While your infinite lives theory cannot be proven false epistemologically (at least as far as I know), neither can the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Neither can the idea that all oranges - and only oranges - cease to exist when you aren't looking at them . Neither can the idea that dogs can talk, but they simply choose not to so we don't become suspicious of them. Neither can the idea that all US government officials were implanted by an alien race and are actually cyborgs.
You may think all of those theories are silly, but we can apply a similar sort of logic to them as you are applying with this infinite lives theory. One could argue that all government officials CAN'T be implanted cyborgs, because we saw Joe Biden living his daily life long before his career in government began. But "what if" he was killed and replaced with a cyborg when he took office? And "what if" he and his family were planted on earth by the aliens, and every state and federal election he entered was rigged by the aliens to make sure their cyborg candidate wins? Well, one might argue, surely we know he is human .. because his doctor and his friends have seen him, hugged him, shook his hand, and they can confirm that he is human. Okay, but "what if" the aliens' cyborg technology is so advanced that Joe Biden has human flesh on the outside and appears exactly like a regular human?
Again, it's turtles all the way down, because we have chosen to pursue a question which is unfalsifiable, and we are asking increasingly reaching "what if" questions ad infinitum... yet all of us can agree that the cyborg theory seems a little silly on the surface. There are many arguments a philosopher might employ to disprove the theory that all government officials are cyborgs. One of them is Occam's Razor, which posits that the explanation which posits fewer entities (the "simpler" explanation) is the preferred explanation. But personally, MY main problem with your unfalsifiable theory is that I don't understand why we need to pick and choose which unfalsifiable theories to be afraid of. As we just demonstrated, there are infinitely many questions we can ask, infinitely many possibilities we can imagine, which we can neither prove nor disprove. Actually, there are many ongoing epistemological and ontological discussions dealing with the idea of whether something MUST be possible simply because we can imagine it, although most people seem to implicitly agree that something isn't necessarily real just because we had the thought in our head.
When it comes to your theory that "only I exist", this idea has a name. It is called ontological solipsism. Under ontological solipsism, only MY consciousness exists, and everything else in the world is merely the "contents" of MY consciousness. The radical extremities of this school of thought are believed to have arisen from Descartes "cogito, ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am") thought experiments. In Descartes' "Discourse on Method", he seeks to reduce all knowledge down to one, irrefutable - or "undoubtable" axiom. The only thing which he ends up being certain of is the fact that he thinks, and is therefore conscious. He also notes that he experiences doubt in his consciousness, so therefore he must be consciousness. From there he attempts to logically reconstruct the world and prove, epistemologically, that the things he thinks he knows are knowable. His attempt to prove the existence of other minds and the "outside world" is often criticized and taken under intense scrutiny, partly because one of his central arguments relies on the existence of a God who would not deceive him. However, the vast majority of human beings, including those who are extremely well-versed in modern philosophy and the sciences, have perfectly valid reasons to believe that other minds exist. Obviously ontological solipsism is still an unfalsifiable thought experiment, but again... there is a reason that pioneers of the philosophies and sciences choose to engage with falsifiable, testable, understandable ideas. Thought experiments and other radical philosophies definitely have their place in the world, but there is certainly no concensus among philosophers that points to solipsism being likely, nevermind "true". It is very heavily scrutinized, and numerous philosophers of ontology and language have proposed strong arguments against it. No one argument is universally accepted or goes unchallenged, but that's kind of what you get when you pose an unfalsifiable question. And that's why most people consider it merely a "thought experiment".
And again, I am more concerned with why you have chosen THIS specific unfalsifiable question, when there are infinitely many others to be thinking about. In my life personally, I have dealt with many questions about death, reincarnation, perception, and insanity. And I genuinely think that those are all related to my life experiences and the things I fear. The deaths of my loved ones at a young age, as well as my trouble socializing and inability to form lasting close friendships as a toddler, left me with trauma that I think has resulted in my obsession with these specific questions that follow certain "themes". I am not a psychiatrist, but a lot of people who experience these persistent, unending thought cycles of "what if this? what if that?" are OCD sufferers (like me). If you haven't heard much about OCD, I would encourage you to look into it online and see if some of the symptoms match your experiences. Ignoring - for a moment - the question of whether or not your infinite lives theory were true, it seems like it is giving you a lot of anxiety and you may be very preoccupied by these thoughts throughout your day. By comparison, many people will read this same infinite lives idea in school or online, and they will think "huh, that's interesting and kinda scary"... but then they will shrug it off and be unbothered throughout the day. Being preoccupied by a philosophical question doesn't necessarily mean you are suffering from any kind of condition, but again - I do not think there is any harm in Googling a bit about it if that is something you have ever wondered about.
Regardless, if you are severely bothered by these thoughts in any way, I would encourage you to try and see a professional therapist/counselor. If you are like me, you may feel like talking to a close friend or therapist and telling them your thoughts will make them seem more real, or sharing them will lead to you accepting them and admitting that they are true. But I assure you, I feel better each and every time I talk to someone about it, and sharing my fears with other people doesn't make those unfalsifiable questions true. It only means that other people had a similar idea and they share the same fear. Feel free to message me if you have any questions about this comment.
The picture you paint is an actuality in a serial universes cosmology. I had a wonderful epiphany. It felt as if the universe actually showed itself to me after years of wondering, attempting, puzzling, theorizing, and trying to understand in the dark. The zillions of puzzle pieces fell into place and showed a shining and glittering image.
The universe showed me that we are living confined to three dimension. Particles are actually 6D structures of which three are curled up to Planck-sized circles. All matter is made up of two basic an massless field.
Consider now a 4D space. Or better, two of them connected by a 4D wormhole with a Planck-sized diameter at the center. Around the mouth a virtual field of the two basic massless particle fields (with associated 8+8+1 gauge fields) exists while in the extra dimension two real fields head their way to eternity. The 4D space is actually 7D, like the near point particles are 6D structures of spacetime.
On both sides of the wormhole mouth, on the both infinite 4D spaces,, a (apparently) 3D universe accelerates towards infinity. When all matter particles in both universes have evaporated into photons and all matter has turned into nothing more than diluting memories, the virtual Planck volume will be stimulated to make a new time start and virtuality is inflated into reality. A new big bang. A simple calculation shows that after inflation the two new mirror universes had already a diameter of about 10exp11 times the diameter of the present observable universe. The negative curvature of the two sides of the 4D wormhole nicely explains the initial inflation and current accelerated expansion, i.e. dark energy. So at this moment, a mirror universe is accelerating away towards infinity at the other side of the wormhole and after us a new bang will occur at the singular wormhole.
So, fresh particles arrive in serial big bangs. The clone argument doesn't hold for separate universes. Only within the universes themselves. So a new you and me will appear over and over again. There is no escape!