Why Immortality Alone will not get Me to the Afterlife

Philosophical Psychology 24 (3):395-410 (2011)
Recent research in the cognitive science of religion suggests that humans intuitively believe that others survive death. In response to this finding, three cognitive theories have been offered to explain this: the simulation constraint theory (Bering, 2002); the imaginative obstacle theory (Nichols, 2007); and terror management theory (Pyszczynski, Rothschild, & Abdollahi, 2008). First, I provide a critical analysis of each of these theories. Second, I argue that these theories, while perhaps explaining why one would believe in his own personal immortality, leave an explanatory gap in that they do not explain why one would intuitively attribute survival of death to others. To fill in the gap, I offer a cognitive theory based on offline social reasoning and social embodiment which provides for the belief in an eternal social realm in which the deceased survive—the afterlife.
Keywords afterlife  immortality  simulation constraint  imaginative obstacle  terror management theory  explanatory gap  off-line social reasoning  imagination  social embodiment
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2011.559620
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Tamar Szabó Gendler (2008). Alief and Belief. Journal of Philosophy 105 (10):634-663.

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