Afterlife

Edited by K. Mitch Hodge (Masaryk University, Queen's University, Belfast)
About this topic
Summary The afterlife, or more specifically the belief in an afterlife, is the belief that it is possible for individuals to survive death.  Scholarly discussions of afterlife beliefs cover a broad range of academic disciplines (e.g., philosophy, religious studies, anthropology and psychology) and philosophically relevant topics (e.g., personal identity, epistemology of religious belief, imagination, ethics, arguments from parapsychology, dualism and materialism).  Beliefs in the afterlife are generally one of two types: metaphysically thin, whereby the some non-identity conferring substance of the individual continues after the death of his/her physical body (e.g., their atoms, or their life force or energy is redistributed into the universe to make up other things); or metaphysically thick, whereby some essential personal identity conferring essence or substance (e.g., the person’s soul , mind or resurrected body) is said to survive either immediately after death, or at some later time.  Most scholarly discussions as well as most religio-cultural systems are concerned with the latter rather than the former.  Metaphysically thick afterlife beliefs usually take one of two forms: reincarnation (also known in the philosophical literature as transmigration of the soul), by which the individual is reborn into this world with a new life, or the individual continues his/her existence in a spiritual realm (e.g., heaven, hell, or the realm of ancestors).  How, and whether, personal identity can be maintained in an afterlife has a long history of debate in philosophy.  In addition, one cross-culturally common and philosophically important element of metaphysically thick afterlife beliefs is that the individual is rewarded or punished for his/her moral propriety or moral transgressions that he/she committed in this life. 
Key works Philosophical discussions of the afterlife date back to Pythagoras unknown and Plato 2008, 1999,  both of whom argued for the transmigration of the soul.  With a rise of Christianity in the West, discussions concerning the afterlife shifted to how personal identity was maintained in the afterlife, especially given the doctrine of the resurrection of the body (see, Sorabji 2006, and Barresi manuscript).  After Descartes 1984 [1641], however, the emphasis in philosophy shifted away from survival after death in a resurrected body, to the idea that one survives death as a disembodied mind.  The modern era saw the first substantial skeptical challenge to belief in an afterlife with Coleman 2007, ms.  Contemporary philosophical discussions of the afterlife have focused on the possibility of disembodied existence and how this is to be understood (see Blose 1981, Gillett 1985, 1986, Tye 1983, Hick 1976, 1973, Swinburne 1986, Mavrodes 1977, Penelhum 1982, and Perry 1977).  In addition, with the rise of the cognitive science of religion, and experimental evidence (see Bering 2006) that humans intuitively believe in an afterlife, philosophical debate has begun on how and why the human mind is predisposed toward this belief, and the role the imagination, emotions and concepts play in representing the deceased and the afterlife (see Bek & Lock 2011, Paul & Rita 2006, Nichols 2007 and Hodge 2011, 2011).
Introductions Encyclopedia articles include Hasker 2010Andrade 2011 (on immortality).  Good introductory books to the topics dealing with the afterlife include: Corcoran 2001, Benatar 2004, Sorabji 2006, and Barresi manuscript.
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  1. Humanist Redemption and Afterlife: The Frankfurt School in Communist Romania.Alexandru Cistelecan - forthcoming - Historical Materialism:1-35.
    This paper discusses the reception of Frankfurt School critical theory in Communist Romania. After some opening remarks concerning the relevance of this topic, Section 2 sketches the evolving political and historical contexts that circumscribed this philosophical reception. The content and configuration of the Romanian reception of critical theory is then discussed in a double sequence: first, by surveying and analysing the main clusters of arguments developed in these texts, which are filtered and classified into four categories: a) general considerations and (...)
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  2. Global Dialogues in the Philosophy of Religion: From Religious Experience to the Afterlife.Yujin Nagasawa & Mohammad Saleh Zarepour (eds.) - forthcoming
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  3. Griselda’s Afterlife, or the Relationship Between Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Chaucer’s The Clerk’s Tale and the Tale of Magic.Andrzej Wicher - 2021 - Text Matters - a Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture 11:334-352.
    Some influence of Chaucer’s The Clerk’s Tale, also known as the story of the patient Griselda, on Shakespeare, and particularly on The Winter’s Tale, has long been recognized. It seems, however, that the matter deserves further attention because the echoes of The Clerk’s Tale seem scattered among a number of Shakespeare’s plays, especially the later ones. The experimental nature of this phenomenon consists in the fact that Griselda-like characters do not strike the reader, especially perhaps the Renaissance reader, as good (...)
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  4. Film and the Afterlife.David Rankin - 2019 - Routledge.
    This book explores how post-death existence is represented in popular film, looking at issues such as continuity, personal identity, and the nature of existence beyond the grave. Film often returns to the theme of dying, death and the afterlife, both directly and indirectly, because there are very few subjects as compelling and universal. The book compares the representation of death, dying and the afterlife in films to scholarly surveys of attitudes towards life-after-death through the analysis of twenty films made between (...)
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  5. Imagining the Afterlife in the Ancient World.Juliette Harrisson - 2018 - Routledge.
    Human beings have speculated about whether or not there is life after death, and if so, what form that life might take, for centuries. What did people in the ancient world think the next life would hold, and did they imagine there was a chance for a relationship between the living and the dead? How did people in the ancient world keep their dead loved ones alive through memory, and were they afraid the dead might return and haunt the living (...)
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  6. The Death and Afterlife of Mahatma Gandhi.Makarand R. Paranjape - 2014 - Routledge.
    Who is responsible for the Mahatma's death? Just one single, but determined, fanatic, the whole ideology of Hindu nationalism, the ruling Congress-led government whichfailed to protect him, or a vast majority of Indians and their descendants who considered Gandhi irrelevant? Such questions mean that Gandhi, even after his tragic and brutal death, continues to haunt India – perhaps more effectively in his afterlife than when he was alive. The Death and Afterlife of Mahatma Gandhi is a groundbreaking and profound analysis (...)
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  7. The Afterlife of Decriminalisation: Anti-Trafficking, Child Protection, and the Limits of Trauma-Informed Efforts.Jennifer Lynne Musto - forthcoming - Ethics and Social Welfare:1-24.
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  8. ‘The Soviet Problem’ in Post-Soviet Russian Marxism, or the Afterlife of the USSR.Vladimir Tikhonov - 2021 - Historical Materialism 29 (4):153-187.
    The present article deals with different Marxist theories on the Soviet experience, which emerged in post-Soviet Russophone Marxist or neo-Marxist scholarship. The article demonstrates that these theories – if we leave the remaining ‘Marxist-Leninists’ of the classical Soviet type aside and focus on critical, post-Soviet Marxism – may be classified as either ‘fundamentally rejectionist’ or ‘Thermidorian’. The former, in line with the seminal criticisms of K. Kautsky and other early opponents of Lenin, reject the socialist nature of the October 1917 (...)
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  9. Mammoth, Or: The Dialectic of Human Afterlife.Stefan Niklas - 2021 - Krisis 41 (2):98-101.
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  10. Afterlife.Wyatt MacGaffey - 2021 - In V. Y. Mudimbe & Kasereka Kavwahirehi (eds.), Encyclopedia of African Religions and Philosophy. Springer Verlag. pp. 39-40.
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  11. Russian Religious Philosophy: The Nature of the Phenomenon, Its Path, and Its Afterlife.Sergey S. Horujy - 2021 - In Marina F. Bykova, Michael N. Forster & Lina Steiner (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Russian Thought. Springer Verlag. pp. 51-72.
    The tasks of this text are not historical, at least in the sense of describing historical facts or sources. Today in the factual history of Russian philosophy, there are no greater lacunae or enigmas. Thus the principal goal of this chapter is conceptual: it is to comprehend the phenomenon of Russian religious philosophy both in its diachrony and in synchrony. These two aspects will be considered not nacheinander, but nebeneinander that is not in succession, but in parallel to each other. (...)
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  12. Holism, Particularity, and the Vividness of Life.August Gorman - 2022 - The Journal of Ethics:1-15.
    John Martin Fischer’s Death, Immortality, and Meaning in Life puts forth a view that individual experiences could provide us with sources of endless fascination, motivation, and value if only we could live forever to continue to enjoy them. In this article I advocate for more caution about embracing this picture by pointing to three points of tension in Fischer's book. First, I argue that taking meaningfulness in life to be holistic is not compatible with the view immortal lives would be (...)
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  13. Commentary on Rich Eva’s “Religious Liberty and the Alleged Afterlife”.Emily McGill - 2021 - Southwest Philosophy Review 37 (2):49-51.
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  14. Religious Liberty and the Alleged Afterlife.Richard Eva - 2021 - Southwest Philosophy Review 37 (1):179-185.
    It is common for religiously motivated actions to be specially protected by law. Many legal theorists have asked why: what makes religion special? What makes it worthy of toleration over and above other non-religious deeply held convictions? The answer I put forward is that religions’ alleged afterlife consequences call for a principle of toleration that warrants special legal treatment. Under a Rawlsian principle of toleration, it is reasonable for those in the original position to opt for principles of justice that (...)
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  15. Praying for the Dead: An Ecumenical Proposal.Benjamin McCraw - 2017 - In Kristof K. P. Vanhoutte & Benjamin McCraw (eds.), Purgatory: Philosophical Dimensions. Basingstoke, UK: pp. 239-262.
    In this paper, I defend the claim that we have good reason to think that God can (and maybe does) answer prayers for the dead, and, perhaps surprisingly, these reasons hold even if one is agnostic on Purgatory. I examine philosophical discussions on the efficacy of both petitionary prayer and praying for the past: showing that the reasons offered for efficacious prayers of those types apply to prayers for the dead as well. Hence, supposing that we have good reasons to (...)
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  16. Bodily Desires and Afterlife Punishment in the 'Phaedo'.Doug Reed - 2020 - Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 59:45-78.
    In this paper I investigate whether in the 'Phaedo' the body or the soul is the subject of bodily desires. By analyzing Plato’s portrayal of the disembodied soul in the dialogue, I argue that because many souls are shown possessing bodily desires after death, the soul can possess bodily desires. Part of my analysis is built on my argument that the best way to understand afterlife punishment in the dialogue is as the necessary frustration of persistent bodily desires. Finally, I (...)
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  17. Intuitive Dualism and Afterlife Beliefs: A Cross‐Cultural Study.H. Clark Barrett, Alexander Bolyanatz, Tanya Broesch, Emma Cohen, Peggy Froerer, Martin Kanovsky, Mariah G. Schug & Stephen Laurence - 2021 - Cognitive Science 45 (6):e12992.
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  18. An Ethical Framework for the Digital Afterlife Industry.Carl Öhman & Luciano Floridi - 2018 - Nature Human Behavior 2 (5):318-320.
    The web is increasingly inhabited by the remains of its departed users, a phenomenon that has given rise to a burgeoning digital afterlife industry. This industry requires a framework for dealing with its ethical implications. We argue that the regulatory conventions guiding archaeological exhibitions could provide the basis for such a framework.
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  19. Supernaturalist Analytic Existentialism: Critical Notice of Clifford Williams’ Religion and the Meaning of Life.Thaddeus Metz - 2021 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 89 (2):189-198.
    In this critical notice of Clifford Williams’ Religion and the meaning of life, I focus on his argumentation in favour of the moderate supernaturalist position that, while a meaningful life would be possible in a purely physical world, a much greater meaning would be possible only in a world with God and an eternal afterlife spent close to God. I begin by expounding and evaluating Williams’ views of the physical sources of meaning, providing reason to doubt both that he has (...)
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  20. Living Info: Notes on the Exegesis.Paul Bali - manuscript
  21. Judaism’s Distinct Perspectives on the Meaning of Life.Thaddeus Metz - 2021 - Journal of Jewish Ethics 7 (1-2):13-38.
    In contemporary Anglo-American philosophy, there has been substantial debate between religious and secular theorists about what would make life meaningful, with a large majority of the religious philosophers having drawn on Christianity. In this article, in contrast, I draw on Judaism, with the aims of articulating characteristically Jewish approaches to life's meaning, which is a kind of intellectual history, and of providing some support for them relative to familiar Christian and Islamic approaches (salient in the Tanakh, the New Testament, and (...)
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  22. Sider’s Puzzle and the Mormon Afterlife.Taylor-Grey Miller & Derek Haderlie - 2020 - Journal of Analytic Theology 8 (1):131-151.
    There is a puzzle about divine justice stemming from the fact that God seems required to judge on the basis of criteria that are vague. Justice is proportional, however, it seems God violates proportionality by sending those on the borderline of heaven to an eternity in hell. This is Ted Sider’s problem of Hell and Vagueness. On the face of things, this poses a challenge only to a narrow class of classical Christians, those that hold a retributive theory of divine (...)
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  23. Could the Buddha Have Been a Naturalist?Chien-Te Lin - 2020 - Sophia 59 (3):437-456.
    With the naturalist worldview having become widely accepted, the trend of naturalistic Buddhism has likewise become popular in both academic and religious circles. In this article, I preliminarily reflect on this naturalized approach to Buddhism in two main sections. In section 1, I point out that the Buddha rejects theistic beliefs that claim absolute power over our destiny, opting instead to encourage us to inquire intellectually and behave morally. The distinguishing characteristics of naturalism such as a humanistic approach, rational enquiry, (...)
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  24. Where Human and Divine Intimacy Meet: An Insight Into the Theodicy of Marilyn McCord Adams.Ionut Untea - 2020 - Sophia 59 (3):525-547.
    Marilyn McCord Adams’s perspective on the intimacy with God as a way of defeating horrendous evils in the course of a human being’s existence has been met with a series of objections in contemporary scholarship. This is due to the fact that the critiques formulated have focused more on the debilitating impact of suffering on the sufferer’s body and mind, on intimacy as mere intermittent relationships between God and humans, or on what is lost or gained from the presence or (...)
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  25. Religion: Its Origins, Social Role and Sources of Variation.Richard Startup - 2020 - Open Journal of Philosophy 10 (3):346-367.
    Religion emerged among early humans because both purposive and non-purposive explanations were being employed but understanding was lacking of their precise scope and limits. Given also a context of very limited human power, the resultant foregrounding of agency and purposive explanation expressed itself in religion’s marked tendency towards anthropomorphism and its key role in legitimizing behaviour. The inevitability of death also structures the religious outlook; with ancestors sometimes assigned a role in relation to the living. Subjective elements such as the (...)
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  26. Niṣkāmakarma and the Prisoner’s Dilemma.Tommi Lehtonen - 2020 - Sophia 60 (2):457-471.
    The Bhagavadgītā, part of the sixth book of the Hindu epic The Mahābhārata, offers a practical approach to mokṣa, or liberation, and freedom from saṃsāra, or the cycle of death and rebirth. According to the approach, known as karmayoga, salvation results from attention to duty and the recognition of past acts that inform the present and will direct the future. In the Bhagavadgītā, Kṛṣṇa advocates selfless action as the ideal path to realizing the truth about oneself as well as the (...)
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  27. Two Arguments for Animal Immortality.Blake Hereth - 2018 - In Simon Cushing (ed.), Heaven and Philosophy. New York, NY, USA: pp. 171-200.
    Some, like the Scholastics, held that nonhuman animals could not survive bodily death and would therefore be absent in any afterlife. Against them, I argue that all sentient animals lacking moral agency are immortal and that their immortality is good for them. Call this thesis Animal Immortalism. This paper offers two arguments for Animal Immortalism: the Faultless Harm Argument and the Just Compensation Argument. According to the former, because death and eternal misery are harms to sentient animals to which they (...)
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  28. God, Incarnation in the Feminine, and the Third Presence.Lenart Škof - 2020 - Sophia 59 (1):95-112.
    This paper deals with the possibility of an incarnation in the feminine in our age. In the first part, we discuss sexual genealogies in ancient Israel and address the problem of the extreme vulnerability of feminine life in the midst of an ancient sacrificial crisis. The second part opens with an analysis of Feuerbach’s interpretation of the Trinity. The triadic logic, as found within various religious contexts, is also affirmed. Based on our analyses from the first and the second part, (...)
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  29. Editor's Page.Joseph Schwartz - 1992 - Renascence 45 (1):2-2.
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  30. Editor's Page.Joseph Schwartz - 1979 - Renascence 31 (4):194-194.
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  31. Rahner Papers Editor's Page.Ann R. Riggs - 2012 - Philosophy and Theology 24 (2):331-332.
  32. Ursula Verhoeven: Das frühsaitische Totenbuch des Monthpriesters Chamhor C., unter Mitarbeit von Sandra Sandri (Beiträge zum Alten Ägypten 7), Basel: Orientverlag 2017, 68 S., 63 Tafeln. [REVIEW]Stefan Bojowald - 2020 - Zeitschrift für Religions- Und Geistesgeschichte 72 (2):212-213.
  33. More Observations.Paul Merriam - manuscript
    Anthropic principle, Perspectival ontology, Hard problem, Why something rather than nothing, Life after death, Buddhism, God.
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  34. A Philosophical Defense of Myth: Josef Pieper’s Reading of Platonic Eschatology.Edvard Lorkovic - 2021 - Heythrop Journal 62 (2):257-269.
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  35. The Guide to Gethsemane: Anxiety, Suffering, Death by EmmanuelFalque, Translated by George Hughes , Xxx + 159 Pp. [REVIEW]Barnabas Aspray - 2020 - Modern Theology 36 (1):230-232.
  36. Will Postmortal Catholics Have “The Right to Die”?Anna Bugajska - 2019 - Forum Philosophicum: International Journal for Philosophy 24 (2):397-433.
    The article discusses the transhumanist and Catholic perspectives on death and immortality within the speculation on the rise of a postmortal society, and asks the question if Catholics have the right to reject immortalist technologies. To address this problem, I first outline the ideas and technology leading to the rise of a postmortal society, and accept Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon as a counterfactual scenario. Further, the naturalistic and Catholic understandings of death are compared, and it is shown that despite (...)
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  37. A Kryptic Model of the Incarnation.Andrew Loke - 2014 - London, UK: Routledge.
    The Incarnation, traditionally understood as the metaphysical union between true divinity and true humanity in the one person of Jesus Christ, is one of the central doctrines for Christians over the centuries. Nevertheless, many scholars have objected that the Scriptural account of the Incarnation is incoherent. Being divine seems to entail being omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, but the New Testament portrays Jesus as having human properties such as being apparently limited in knowledge, power, and presence. It seems logically impossible that (...)
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  38. Climate Engineering From Hindu‐Jain Perspectives.Pankaj Jain - 2019 - Zygon 54 (4):826-836.
    Although Indic perspectives toward nature are now well documented, climate engineering discussions seem to still lack the views from Indic or other non‐Western sources. In this article, I will apply some of the Hindu and Jain concepts such as karma, nonviolence (Ahiṃsā ), humility (Vinaya ), and renunciation (Saṃnyāsa ) to analyze the two primary climate geoengineering strategies of solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR). I suggest that Indic philosophical and religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and (...)
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  39. Paradise Understood: New Philosophical Essays About Heaven.T. Ryan Byerly & Eric J. Silverman (eds.) - 2017 - Oxford University Press.
    Paradise Understood: New Philosophical Essays about Heaven systematically investigates heaven, or paradise, as conceived within theistic religious traditions such as Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It considers a variety of topics concerning what life in paradise would, could, or will be like for human persons. The collection offers novel approaches to questions about heaven of perennial philosophical interest, and breaks new ground by expanding the range of questions about heaven that philosophers have considered. The contributors wrestle with questions about human (...)
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  40. Reply to Panelists.Andrew Loke - 2019 - Philosophia Christi 21 (1):49-56.
    I explain why my model of the Incarnation avoids the problems with alternative models and reply to objections concerning my model’s coherence with scripture, the understanding of personhood and natures, the concrete–abstract distinction, the human soul of Christ, the lack of the unconscious in Christ, and the incompatibility with a strong sense of immutability and simplicity. I conclude that my model stays faithful to scripture and can help to secure unity in the body of Christ concerning the doctrine of the (...)
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  41. Loke’s Preconscious Christ.Oliver D. Crisp - 2019 - Philosophia Christi 21 (1):39-47.
    In several recent articles and a monograph, Andrew Loke has outlined a particular model of the Incarnation, which he calls the Divine Preconscious Model. In this article I provide a critique of this model, drawing on recent work by James Arcadi in order to show that there are serious theological costs involved in adopting the DPM.
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  42. A Kenotic Theologian’s Response to Andrew Loke’s “Kryptic Model” of the Incarnation.C. Stephen Evans - 2019 - Philosophia Christi 21 (1):33-38.
    In this article I compare the kryptic model of the Incarnation, developed by Andrew Loke, with two other models, the “two-minds” model and the kenotic model. All three models succeed in showing the logical coherence of the doctrine of the Incarnation, and I concede that Loke’s model has some of the advantages of both of the other two, while avoiding some perceived disadvantages. However, I argue that Loke’s model also has some of the disadvantages of both of the other models. (...)
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  43. Stepped Characterisation: A Metaphysical Defence of Qua-Propositions in Christology.G. H. Labooy - 2019 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 86 (1):25-38.
    Given Conciliar Christology and a compositionalist metaphysics of the incarnation, I explore whether ‘qua-propositions’ are capable of solving the coherence problem in Christology. I do this by probing the metaphysical aspect of qua-propositions, since ‘semantics presupposes metaphysics’. My proposal focuses on the fact that the Word accidentally owns an individual human nature. Due to that individuality, the human properties first characterise the individual human nature and, in a ‘next step’, this individual human nature characterises the Word. I call this ‘stepped (...)
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  44. Reading Rahner’s Evolutionary Christology with Bonaventure.Michael Rubbelke - 2018 - Philosophy and Theology 30 (2):507-529.
    In his evolutionary Christology, Karl Rahner shares some surprising affinities with Bonaventure. Both envision human beings as microcosmic, that is, as uniquely representative of the whole of creation. Both describe creation Christocentrically, oriented in its design and goal toward the Incarnate Word. Both understand humans as radically responsible for the non-human world. These similarities point to a more foundational congruence in their Trinitarian theologies. Rahner and Bonaventure connect the Father’s personal character as fontal source of Son and Spirit to God’s (...)
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  45. Intercarnations: Exercises in Theological Possibility by Catherine Keller.Thomas A. James - 2019 - American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 40 (1):82-85.
    Though Catherine Keller frequently publishes essays, and many of her book chapters have had their beginnings in journal articles, most of the material she is known for has been delivered in the form of tightly organized, if somewhat chaophilic, monographs. What makes Keller's latest offering, Intercarnations, distinctive is that it is a collection of recent stand-alone pieces, some of which carry her ideas and her deterritorializing style into new territories. There is no tight organization here, only resonances across various interventions (...)
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  46. Carl-Martin Edsman: Die Haupreligionen des Heutigen Asiens. J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck.) ÜTB 448, Tübingen 1976, 214 Pp. [REVIEW]Udo Tworuschka - 1976 - Zeitschrift für Religions- Und Geistesgeschichte 28 (3):279-280.
  47. Things Fall Apart: Reflections on the Dying of My Dad.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In December of 2013, my Dad died of advanced Alzheimer's and a condition called Myasthenia Gravis. This is a selection of journal entries I made over the course of the two years leading up to my Dad's death. It is not a philosophical essay, but a personal reflection, in "real time" so to speak, on the nature of the dying process in relation to questions of faith, hope, despair, and the meaning of a man's life. I offer it here for (...)
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  48. God’s Role in a Meaningful Life: New Reflections From Tim Mawson.Thaddeus Metz - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10 (3):171-191.
    Characteristic of the contemporary field of life's meaning has been the combination of monism in method and naturalism in substance. That is, much of the field has sought to reduce enquiry into life's meaning to one question and to offer a single principle as an answer to it, with this principle typically focusing on ways of living in the physical world as best known by the scientific method. T. J. Mawson's new book, God and the Meanings of Life, provides fresh (...)
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  49. La Clarté d'Une Fin : L'Interpretation Historico-Critique de la Bible.Pierre Gibert - 2011 - Recherches de Science Religieuse 99 (4):511.
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  50. Book Review: Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of LifeResurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of LifebyLevensonJon D.Yale University Press, New Haven, 2006. 274 Pp. $40.00 . ISBN 978-0-300-11735-6. [REVIEW]James Luther Mays - 2008 - Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 62 (3):335-336.
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