this book--and trying to be patient. The problem is that a lot of it is written "ad hominem"--in the technical sense. In other words, Johnston spends a lot time talking to a reader whose assumptions are not his own, and not mine either. For example, the very long first chapter is addressed to a reader who believes in a supernatural god who resurrects the dead--and the question is whether there's any way to conceive of how this might work. I could be interested in that question for some number of pages, but not for 125.
Towards the end of the second chapter, things start to get somewhat more interesting. There are still lots and lots of detours through not-important-for-me terrain but there's starting to be a glimmer of hope that we will come to the book's central question. As he puts it--"Our purpose here is to see whether there is a naturalistic account of how it is that death does not threaten the importance of goodness." (p. 130)
Earlier on, he argued that death does seem to threaten the importance of goodness. If good people can expect exactly the same fate as bad people after death, it detracts from the sense that it's really, really important to be good. I don't think he means to say there's no incentive to be good, it's just not quite so super-important.
And now a confession. From time to time I find myself having to go through some sort of adversity in order to do the right thing. As I persevere under pressure, it never dawns on me to think: no matter what I do (the right thing or the wrong thing), I'll be dead anyway in 50 years. I never (literally, never) experience my mortality as a threat to the importance of morality.
This isn't good, because I do want to finish the book, but I don't find myself with the distress that Johnston is trying to remedy. Can anybody help me worry more about how mortality threatens morality?