Afterlife, Misc

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 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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  1. Aristotle's Categories and the Soul : An Annotated Translation of Al-Kindī's That There Are Separate Substances.Peter Adamson & Peter E. Pormann - 2009 - In Maha Elkaisy-Friemuth & John M. Dillon (eds.), The Afterlife of the Platonic Soul: Reflections of Platonic Psychology in the Monotheistic Religions. Brill.
  2. Immortality.Gabriel Andrade - 2011 - In James Fieser & Bradley Dowden (eds.), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Immortality is the indefinite continuation of a person’s existence, even after death. In common parlance, immortality is virtually indistinguishable from afterlife, but philosophically speaking, they are not identical. Afterlife is the continuation of existence after death, regardless of whether or not that continuation is indefinite. Immortality implies a never-ending existence, regardless of whether or not the body dies (as a matter of fact, some hypothetical medical technologies offer the prospect of a bodily immortality, but not an afterlife). Immortality has been (...)
  3. Walter Benjamin : The Afterlife of an Artwork as Cognitive Heterocracy.Brunella Antomarini - 2009 - In Stefano Giacchetti Ludovisi & G. Agostini Saavedra (eds.), Nostalgia for a Redeemed Future: Critical Theory. University of Delaware.
  4. The Hour of Our Death.Philippe Ariès - 1991 - Oxford University Press.
    This remarkable book--the fruit of almost two decades of study--traces in compelling fashion the changes in Western attitudes toward death and dying from the earliest Christian times to the present day. A truly landmark study, The Hour of Our Death reveals a pattern of gradually developing evolutionary stages in our perceptions of life in relation to death, each stage representing a virtual redefinition of human nature. Starting at the very foundations of Western culture, the eminent historian Phillipe Aries shows how, (...)
  5. Near-Death Experiences Are Not Evidence for Either Theism or Atheism.Keith Augustine - 2019 - In Joseph W. Koterski & Graham Oppy (eds.), Theism and Atheism: Opposing Viewpoints in Philosophy. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 594-596.
    The failure to secure replicable positive results in near-death experience (NDE) target-identification experiments does not establish the nonexistence of any spiritual realms, but it does serve to substantially challenge positive arguments in favor of the existence of spiritual realms from NDE reports. For if veridical paranormal perception occurs during out-of-body experiences (OBEs) or NDEs, why the failure to find it in all of the controlled experiments that have been undertaken to document it thus far? Various explanations can be put forward, (...)
  6. Does Paranormal Perception Occur in Near-Death Experiences?Keith Augustine - 2007 - Journal of Near Death Studies 25 (4):203-236.
    While most near-death researchers have disregarded reports of near-death experiences (NDEs) with hallucinatory features, many have sought cases of veridical paranormal perception during NDEs. But despite more than a quarter century of near-death studies, no compelling evidence that NDErs can obtain information from remote locations during their NDEs has been forthcoming. This paper, Part I of a critique of survivalist interpretations of NDEs, reviews the quality of the evidence for veridical observations during NDEs, and finds the case for veridical paranormal (...)
  7. Near-Death Experiences with Hallucinatory Features.Keith Augustine - 2007 - Journal of Near Death Studies 26 (1):3-31.
    Though little systematic attention has been given to near-death experiences (NDEs) with clear or suggestive hallucinatory features, reports of such experiences strongly imply that NDEs are not glimpses of an afterlife. This paper, Part II of a critique of survivalist interpretations of NDEs, surveys NDEs incorporating out-of-body discrepancies, bodily sensations, encounters with living persons and fictional characters, random or insignificant memories, returns from a point of no return, hallucinatory imagery, and unfulfilled predictions. Though attempts to accommodate hallucinatory NDEs within a (...)
  8. Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates Undermining a Survivalist Interpretation of Near-Death Experiences.Keith Augustine - 2007 - Journal of Near Death Studies 26 (2):89-125.
    This paper, Part III of a critique of survivalist interpretations of near-death experiences (NDEs), considers psychophysiological and cultural correlates of NDEs suggesting that such experiences are solely products of individuals' minds rather than windows into a transcendental realm. While current psychophysiological models do not fully explain out-of-body experiences (OBEs) and NDEs, several psychophysiological correlates offer promising clues about the mechanisms implicated in their production. These correlates do not definitively identify their precise causes, but strongly imply that such experiences represent internally (...)
  9. Christian Beliefs About Life After Death.Paul Badham - 1976 - Macmillan.
  10. Persons and the Metaphysics of Resurrection.Lynne Rudder Baker - 2007 - Religious Studies 43 (3):333-348.
    Theories of the human person differ greatly in their ability to underwrite a metaphysics of resurrection. This paper compares and contrasts a number of such views in light of the Christian doctrine of resurrection. In a Christian framework, resurrection requires that the same person who exists on earth also exists in an afterlife, that a postmortem person be embodied, and that the existence of a postmortem person is brought about by a miracle. According to my view of persons (the Constitution (...)
  11. Believer in Hell.Wesley C. Baker - 1968 - Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
  12. Chesterton and Ibsen.Vincent J. Balice - 1976 - The Chesterton Review 2 (2):215-225.
  13. Got to Have Soul.Joseph A. Baltimore - 2006 - Religious Studies 42 (4):417-430.
    Kevin Corcoran offers an account of how one can be a physicalist about human persons, deny temporal gaps in the existence of persons, and hold that there is an afterlife. I argue that Corcoran's account both violates the necessity of metaphysical identity and implausibly makes an individual's existence dependent on factors wholly extrinsic to the individual. Corcoran's defence is considered, as well as Stephen Davis's suggestions on how an account like Corcoran's can defend itself against these concerns. It is shown, (...)
  14. Madness in the Method: Fatal Flaws in Recent Mediumship Experiments.Christian Battista, Nicolas Gauvrit & Etienne LeBel - 2015 - In Keith Augustine & Michael Martin (eds.), The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 615-630.
    This paper reviews one of the most methodologically rigorous studies of mediumship conducted to date. On the surface, the statistical procedures used by Julie Beischel and Gary E. Schwartz in the study seem to support the existence of anomalous information reception (AIR), but in fact have been misapplied. Other methodological flaws are fatal, including unaccounted for researcher degrees of freedom, which completely calls into question Beischel and Schwartz’s conclusion regarding AIR. We conclude by proposing an experimental design more appropriate for (...)
  15. Survival: Death and Afterlife in Christianity, Buddhism, and Modern Science.Carl Bradley Becker - 1981 - Dissertation, University of Hawai'i
    Survival is the theory that some significant part of man continues after the death of his physical body. This dissertation studies philosophical argumentation of Christians and Buddhists, and analyzes the latest available empirical data, to determine which if any forms of survival are most probable. ;Part I finds insuperable difficulties in the purely materialistic resurrection theory, and in survival of disembodied minds as pure process. To make sense, resurrection must postulate either invisible bodies as conscious carriers of personal identity, or (...)
  16. Afterlife Beliefs: Category Specificity and Sensitivity to Biological Priming.Judith Bek & Suzanne Lock - 2011 - Religion, Brain and Behavior 1 (1):5-17.
    Adults have been shown to attribute certain properties more frequently than others to the dead. This category-specific pattern has been interpreted in terms of simulation constraints, whereby it may be harder to imagine the absence of some states than others. Afterlife beliefs have also shown context-sensitivity, suggesting that environmental exposure to different types of information might influence adults? reasoning about post-death states. We sought to clarify category and context effects in adults afterlife reasoning. Participants read a story describing the death (...)
  17. Book Reviews. [REVIEW]Daryl Bem - manuscript
    Gary Schwartz, author of The Afterlife Experiments, has an impressive set of academic credentials. After receiving his Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard, he moved to Yale, where he served for twenty-eight years as a professor of psychology and psychiatry, director of the Yale Psychophysiology Center, and codirector of the Yale Behavioral Medicine Clinic. In 1988, he moved to the University of Arizona, where he is a professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, psychiatry, and surgery. He has published more than 400 scientific (...)
  18. Life, Death, and Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions.David Benatar (ed.) - 2009 - Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
    Introduction -- Part I: The meaning of life -- Richard Taylor, The meaning of life -- Thomas Nagel, The absurd -- Richard Hare, Nothing matters -- W.D. Joske, Philosophy and the meaning of life -- Robert Nozick, Philosophy and the meaning of life -- David Schmidtz, The meanings of life -- Part II: Creating people -- Derek Parfit, Whether causing someone to exist can benefit this person -- John Leslie, Why not let life ecome extinct? -- James Lenman, On becoming (...)
  19. The Thumotic and the Erotic Soul: Seth Benardete on Platonic Psychology.Ronna Berger - 2005 - Interpretation 32 (1):57-76.
  20. The Folk Psychology of Souls.Jesse M. Bering - 2006 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (5):453-+.
    The present article examines how people’s belief in an afterlife, as well as closely related supernatural beliefs, may open an empirical backdoor to our understanding of the evolution of human social cognition. Recent findings and logic from the cognitive sciences contribute to a novel theory of existential psychology, one that is grounded in the tenets of Darwinian natural selection. Many of the predominant questions of existential psychology strike at the heart of cognitive science. They involve: causal attribution (why is mortal (...)
  21. The Essentials of Bhagavān Mahāvīr's Philosophy: Gaṇdharavāda: A Treatise on the Question and Answers Between Eleven Brahim Scholars and Mahāvīr Bhagavān Relating to the Soul, Karmas, Panch Bhuta, Heaven, Hell, and Salvation.Vijay Bhuvanbhanusuri - 1989 - Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.
  22. The Afterlife of a Treaty1.Sarah Bolmarcich - 2007 - Classical Quarterly 57 (02):477-489.
  23. Prosocial Aspects of Afterlife Beliefs: Maybe Another by-Product.Pascal Boyer - 2006 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (5):466-466.
    Bering argues that belief in posthumous intentional agency may confer added fitness via the inhibition of opportunistic behavior. This is true only if these agents are interested parties in our moral choices, a feature which does not result from Bering's imaginative constraint hypothesis and extends to supernatural agents other than dead people's souls. A by-product model might handle this better.
  24. Odysseans of the Twenty-First Century.James T. Bradley - 2007 - Zygon 42 (4):999-1008.
    In his book Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies—and What It Means to Be Human (2005), author-journalist Joel Garreau identifies four technologies whose synergistic activity may transform humankind into a state transcending present human nature: genetic, robotic, information, and nano (GRIN) technologies. If the GRIN technologies follow Moore's Law, as information technology has done for the past four decades, Homo sapiens and human society may be unimaginably different before the middle of this century. But (...)
  25. Natural Selection and Religiosity: Validity Issues in the Empirical Examination of Afterlife Cognitions.M. Hughes Brian - 2006 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (5):478.
    Bering's target article proposes that the tendency to believe in an afterlife emerged (in evolutionary history) in response to selective pressures unique to human societies. However, the empirical evidence presented fails to account for the broader social context that impinges upon researcher–participant interactions, and so fails to displace the more parsimonious explanation that it is childhood credulity that underlies the acquisition of afterlife beliefs through cultural exposure.
  26. The Geography of Finitude.Sara Brill - 2009 - International Philosophical Quarterly 49 (1):5-23.
    Plato’s use of afterlife myths is often viewed as an abandonment of rational discourse for a coercive practice designed to persuade citizens to be concerned about the condition of their souls by appealing to their worst fears about the afterlife. But such interpretations overlook the frequently critical tenor of Plato’s myths. In this paper I develop the claim that Plato appeals to muthos as a means of critiquing various specific logoi by focusing upon the relationship between the myth of the (...)
  27. The Incoherence of Denying My Death.Lajos L. Brons - 2014 - Journal of Philosophy of Life 4 (2):68-98.
    The most common way of dealing with the fear of death is denying death. Such denial can take two and only two forms: strategy 1 denies the finality of death; strategy 2 denies the reality of the dying subject. Most religions opt for strategy 1, but Buddhism seems to be an example of the 2nd. All variants of strategy 1 fail, however, and a closer look at the main Buddhist argument reveals that Buddhism in fact does not follow strategy 2. (...)
  28. Paradise Understood: New Philosophical Essays About Heaven.T. Ryan Byerly & Eric J. Silverman (eds.) - 2017 - Oxford University Press UK.
    A collection of seventeen philosophical essays that systematically investigate heaven, or paradise, as conceived within theistic religious traditions.
  29. Animal Life and Afterlife.Alan Carter - 1999 - Cogito 13 (1):27-31.
  30. Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates.Thomas Cathcart - 2009 - Viking Press.
    Surely there must be some mistake -- Just let your angst be your umbrella -- Death? the way to go! -- Heidegger-dog, ziggity-boom, what you do to me -- Spin your own immortality -- The eternal now -- Plato, the godfather of soul -- Heaven, a landscape to die for -- Tunnel vision -- The original knock-knock joke -- Beating death to the punch -- Immortality through not dying -- The end.
  31. Time in Zionism.Eyal Chowers - 1998 - Political Theory 26 (5):652-685.
  32. Waking-Up: A Neglected Model for the Afterlife.Stephen R. L. Clark - 1983 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 26 (2):209 – 230.
    An inquiry into the possibility that life?after?death be understood as waking from a shared dream into the real world. Attempts to outlaw the possibility that ?really? we are, e.g., vat?brains are shown to lead to unwelcome, anti?realist conclusions about either the world or consciousness. The unsatisfactory nature of empirically observable (Humean) causal connections suggests that real causes may be found beyond the world of our present experience. Though such a story cannot now be proved to be true, we are entitled (...)
  33. Death, Nothingness, and Subjectivity.Thomas W. Clark - 1995 - In Daniel Kolak & R. Martin (eds.), The Experience of Philosophy. Wadsworth Publishing. pp. 15-20.
    The words quoted above distill the common secular conception of death. If we decline the traditional religious reassurances of an afterlife, or their fuzzy new age equivalents, and instead take the hard-boiled and thoroughly modern materialist view of death, then we likely end up with Gonzalez-Cruzzi. Rejecting visions of reunions with loved ones or of crossing over into the light, we anticipate the opposite: darkness, silence, an engulfing emptiness. But we would be wrong.
  34. Ecological Variability and Religious Beliefs.Adam B. Cohen, Douglas T. Kenrick & Yexin Jessica Li - 2006 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (5):468-468.
    Religious beliefs, including those about an afterlife and omniscient spiritual beings, vary across cultures. We theorize that such variations may be predictably linked to ecological variations, just as differences in mating strategies covary with resource distribution. Perhaps beliefs in a soul or afterlife are more common when resources are unpredictable, and life is brutal and short.
  35. Boethius, Gregory the Great and the Christian 'Afterlife' of Classical Dialogue.Kate Cooper & Matthew Dal Santo - 2008 - In Simon Goldhill (ed.), The End of Dialogue in Antiquity. Cambridge University Press.
  36. Heaven and Philosophy.Simon Cushing (ed.) - 2017 - Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
    This volume is a collection of essays analyzing different issues concerning the nature, possibility, and desirability of heaven as understood by the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity. and Islam. Topics include whether or not it is possible that a mortal could, upon bodily death, become an inhabitant of heaven without loss of identity, where exactly heaven might be located, whether or not everyone should be saved, or if there might be alternative destinations (including some less fiery versions of Hell). Chapter (...)
  37. A Puzzle About Death’s Badness: Can Death Be Bad for the Paradise-Bound?Taylor W. Cyr - 2016 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 80 (2):145-162.
    Since at least the time of Epicurus, philosophers have debated whether death could be bad for the one who has died, since death is a permanent experiential blank. But a different puzzle about death’s badness arises when we consider the death of a person who is paradise-bound. The first purpose of this paper is to develop this puzzle. The second purpose of this paper is to suggest and evaluate several potential attempts to solve the puzzle. After rejecting two seemingly attractive (...)
  38. The Afterlife Myth in Plato's Gorgias.Charles B. Daniels - 1992 - Journal of Value Inquiry 26 (2):271-279.
  39. Soul Search: A Scientist Explores the Afterlife.David J. Darling - 1995 - Villard Books.
    Soul Search lifts the shroud that has, until now, blindfolded us to the discovery that soul and mortality lie at the very heart of the universe.
  40. Six Feet Over: Out-of-Body Experiences and Their Relevance to the Folk Psychology of Souls.Kemmerer David & Gupta Rupa - 2006 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (5):479.
    During an out-of-body experience (OBE), one sees the world and one's own body from an extracorporeal visuospatial perspective. OBEs reflect disturbances in brain systems dedicated to multisensory integration and self-processing. However, they have traditionally been interpreted as providing evidence for a soul that can depart the body after death. This mystical view is consistent with Bering's proposal that psychological immortality is the cognitive default.
  41. Death and Afterlife.Stephen T. Davis (ed.) - 1989 - St. Martin's Press.
  42. The Politics of the Afterlife in Plato's Gorgias.Damjan de Krnjevic-Miskovic - 2006 - In Stanley Rosen & Nalin Ranasinghe (eds.), Logos and Eros: Essays Honoring Stanley Rosen. St. Augustine's Press.
  43. Do Near-Death Experiences Provide a Rational Basis for Belief in Life After Death?Andrew J. Dell’Olio - 2010 - Sophia 49 (1):113 - 128.
    In this paper I suggest that near-death experiences (NDEs) provide a rational basis for belief in life after death. My argument is a simple one and is modeled on the argument from religious experience for the existence of God. But unlike the proponents of the argument from religious experience, I stop short of claiming that NDEs prove the existence of life after death. Like the argument from religious experience, however, my argument turns on whether or not there is good reason (...)
  44. Philo of Alexandria and Platonist Psychology.John Dillon - 2009 - In Maha Elkaisy-Friemuth & John M. Dillon (eds.), The Afterlife of the Platonic Soul: Reflections of Platonic Psychology in the Monotheistic Religions. Brill.
  45. A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life After Death.Curt John Ducasse - 1961 - Springfield, Ill., Thomas.
  46. Tradition and Innovation in the Psychology of Fakhr Al-Dīn Al-Rāzī.Maha Elkaisy-Friemuth - 2009 - In Maha Elkaisy-Friemuth & John M. Dillon (eds.), The Afterlife of the Platonic Soul: Reflections of Platonic Psychology in the Monotheistic Religions. Brill.
  47. The Afterlife of the Platonic Soul: Reflections of Platonic Psychology in the Monotheistic Religions.Maha Elkaisy-Friemuth & John M. Dillon (eds.) - 2009 - Brill.
    This volume of essays presents a selection of studies in the ways in which Platonist psychology is adapted to the needs of thinkers in the three great religious ...
  48. Evidence for Early Dualism and a More Direct Path to Afterlife Beliefs.David Estes - 2006 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (5):470-+.
    Ample evidence for dualism in early childhood already exists. Young children have explicit knowledge of the distinction between mental and physical phenomena, which provides the foundation for a rapidly developing theory of mind. Belief in psychological immortality might then follow naturally from this mentalistic conception of human existence and thus require no organized cognitive system dedicated to producing it.
  49. Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death.Fred Feldman - 1992 - Oxford University Press.
    What is death? Do people survive death? What do we mean when we say that someone is "dying"? Presenting a clear and engaging discussion of the classic philosophical questions surrounding death, this book studies the great metaphysical and moral problems of death. In the first part, Feldman shows that a definition of life is necessary before death can be defined. After exploring several of the most plausible accounts of the nature of life and demonstrating their failure, he goes on to (...)
  50. The Afterlife of Terri Schiavo.Joseph Fins & Nicholas D. Schiff - 2005 - Hastings Center Report 35 (4):8-8.
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