Edited by K. Mitch Hodge (Masaryk University, Queen's University, Belfast)
|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 1993, 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 1978). 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 2010, Andrade 2011 (on immortality). Good introductory books to the topics dealing with the afterlife include: Corcoran 2001, Benatar 2009, Sorabji 2006, and Barresi manuscript.|
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