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Rick Repetti

For Robert Thurman and Owen Flanagan):

Regarding the issue of the 2,000 cases of reincarnation that Robert brought up in reply to Owen's remark that belief in reincarnation was not supported empirically, Robert asked Owen whether he would consider it evidence if he himself suddenly had what appeared to be a reincarnational memory (the factual details of which were subsequently confirmed but unknown by Owen beforehand). Owen's response was that he hasn't had any such experiences. Fair enough. I mentioned this in my own presentation in Panel 5, on the second day of the conference, but not as a question, but I am somewhat in the position of being someone who, like Owen, prefers the sort of cautious epistemology of empiricism or naturalism, but who (as a long-term meditation practitioner) has had perhaps 2,000 experiences of my own that include what appear phenomenologically to count as reincarnational memories, out-of-body experiences, precognition, telepathy, and the like. When I had these experiences, I was not already trained in analytic philosophy, and I took them to be real. After my training, I no longer know what to make of them. Many of them might be able to plausibly explained away, but some of them strike me as such that the sorts of explanations a naturalist would imagine in order to explain them away are less plausible than some as-yet-inchoate explanation that requires me to think that the right explanation upsets at least the current understanding of what is physical or natural. I think Robert was suggesting that there is room in ultracontemporary theoretical physics for the possibility that future understandings of what counts as energy and thus as naturalistic might be hospitable to such an explanation. This is the most vexing philosophical question for me, both personally and philosophically. Can either of you speak to this?

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