Has the question of after-life been discussed in philosophy?



There are a lot of debates and arguments about religions without mentioning the possibility of the 'survival of one's mind and personality'. Wouldn't it be great if there were more debates about whether an after-life is 'real' or not?

Please point me towards existing discussions in books/articles or in general philosophers that discuss the 'survival of the mind and personality..


Posted 2014-07-22T23:12:03.543

Reputation: 936

Question was closed 2014-07-24T15:59:07.723

1If souls are proven to exist as incorporeal beings, then it follows that they are eternal and subsist beyond the physical realm after death. – infatuated – 2014-07-23T01:10:18.827

This is going to depend greatly on what you mean by "afterlife." Ghosts have little to do with the Christian conception of the afterlife... There are definitely beliefs in ghost-like beings in Japanese thought and Taoism. – virmaior – 2014-07-23T01:42:39.687

I would recommend the OP to check out this philosophy of death course from Yale, really awesome stuff.

– user132181 – 2014-07-23T14:42:18.543

"Why the" "gratuitous" "use of this symbol". Is the holy ghost also silly to you? – Neil Meyer – 2014-07-23T17:16:17.367

Does not seem to be a real question. – Neil Meyer – 2014-07-23T17:18:30.190

1@infatuated: how does incorporeality entail eternality? Is that just an assumed property of the incorporeal? – Niel de Beaudrap – 2014-07-24T00:14:48.970

1It's been discussed to death!! – user4894 – 2014-07-24T02:45:32.293

1I disagee. The question about whether the Judeo-Christian concept of God has been discussed to death. The question of whether other Deities from Hinduism or Buddhism or Mormons etc., exist or not has not been debated much. The question about whether an after-life exist is not common.. – user128932 – 2014-07-24T02:57:34.650

2I think you probably have a useful question in there. As it's asked though, there are a few different related but different questions and a few statements of personal opinion. – James Kingsbery – 2014-07-24T16:00:10.307

1Unfortunate the loaded terminology, but the question itself is interesting. It can be posed as: what is a good secular argument for the afterlife? – yters – 2014-07-25T21:33:47.513

Scientific American has had a few articles about this Universe being some kind of Holographic phenomenon. This month's issue has just such an article. If we are all part of some Holographic events ; that is, if we exist as holographic beings isn't this like an 'incorporeal' being. And Scientific American is generally secular in their views. – user128932 – 2014-07-27T03:45:01.597

1Just asking about why aren't there more debates regarding the after-life and whether it exists is not pushing a personal philosophy.. – user128932 – 2014-07-27T03:47:30.537

Concerning what yters said on July 25; 'What is a good secular argument for an afterlife?'. If a robot had an advanced A.I.system that did mimic many of the functions of the human brain and it was totally self-sustaining could this dynamic system continue even as its physical structure deteriorated?? – user128932 – 2014-07-29T05:31:10.480

Its because its been discussed a lot that its worth limiting your question; or breaking it up into several ones. – Mozibur Ullah – 2014-10-02T16:57:08.677

I don't think any non-religious theories about how the 'MIND and personality' could 'survive after death have been discussed at all.( except maybe in the work of Swinbourn (forgive spelling)) – user128932 – 2014-10-03T04:52:14.717

@MoziburUllah ; the question of a real after-life or the'survival' of one's mind and personality ,and how this could really occur has NOT been discussed much at all; i.e., if the possibility has some 'backing' in physics or other sciences ( NOT para-psychology). I don't think any reputable journals would countenance such a discussion. Let's make discussions of the possibility of an After-life more reputable and less the province of Quacks. – user128932 – 2014-10-05T16:56:46.487

I'm not sure that physics or science is the right arena for this kind of discussion. Religion has been the usual forum. And different things are said by different religions. – Mozibur Ullah – 2014-10-05T22:20:02.890

No, I said a philsophical discussion about the possibility of an after-life being real and thusly if any real evidence exists for this that might involve physics or science info. I didn't imply to discus ideas about an after-life in a Physics arena. – user128932 – 2014-10-06T06:03:23.310

How could one have a secular argument for an after-life? Would that mean 'purely' scientific? Could a conglomeration of energy have the 'ability' to keep itself 'contained' to within a specifically defineable region of space? If this is pure fantasy how is it all the energetic subsystems in a computer stay organized and self-contained, at least for a while? – 201044 – 2015-05-08T17:39:59.023

We do not yet have the technology for an afterlife, or even the POSSIBILITY of such technology. The requirements include computation capacity, nervous system interfacing, proper analysis of brain activity. There are two multi-billion about ten year projects started in 2013 with the goal of establishing these requirements (although not for the purpose of after-life), one by the EU, and one by the US. However, like some other projects in the same vein earlier, like the Japanese 5th generation project (a 1992 $400 million failure), the goals are unrealistic. Say 40 years at least are NECESSARY. – Cheers and hth. - Alf – 2015-05-11T11:01:00.767

According to your rules no one can ask a question about the after-life because that would mean they are pushing a personal philosophy..I have seen many question on this site about an after-life written by some who don't believe in it. I guess they're not supposed to be pushing a personal philosophy. – 201044 – 2015-08-16T15:40:41.250

@201044 I'm also not a fan of this question being closed. However, i think some of the issue was that the wording clearly drove in the direction of personal philosophy. Reworded, I think this question could be quite a reasonable one... especially because there are already answers showing there are some historical things to draw upon. – Cort Ammon – 2015-08-17T02:16:09.580

@Cort Ammon; O.K. how would you word the question? – 201044 – 2015-08-17T23:00:57.300

@201044 I think I'd just ask whether there are any philosophers which have defined "life" in such a way that an "after-life" is a meaningful concept without invoking religion. I think the biggest issue with the question is "Wouldn't it be great if there were more debates about whether an after-life is 'real' or not?" I know, for me, that phrasing immediately triggers the "Opinion based question" early warning radar. – Cort Ammon – 2015-08-17T23:08:52.207

I edited this question as Cort Ammon suggested. Why is it still closed? – 201044 – 2015-08-18T14:55:29.803



Plato/Socrates discusses the afterlife (and the prelife) in the Phaedo. Note that this both distinctly part of both occidental and non-Abrahamic traditions. http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/phaedo.html

ben rudgers

Posted 2014-07-22T23:12:03.543

Reputation: 366


Stuart Hameroff has been theorising about quantum consciousness and proto-consciousness existing generally in space. These quantum states are collapsed into moments of experience by (microtubules in) the physical brain. This means due to its quantum field nature, consciousness could re-coalesce elsewhere.

Stuart Hameroff on Singularity 1 on 1: Consciousness is More than Computation!

It's an interesting theory, but it seems very un-Zen to 'desire' afterlife :-

There are three attachments that are especially deep-seated in the minds of all: greed, anger and infatuation, which are based on lust, fear and pride. Back of these lies discrimination and desire which is procreative and is accompanied with excitement and avariciousness and love of comfort and desire for eternal life; and, following, is a succession of rebirths on the five paths of existence and a continuation of attachments. But if these attachments are broken off, no signs of attachment nor of detachment will remain because they are based on things that are non-existent; when this truth is clearly understood the net of attachment is cleared away.

A Buddhist Bible: Self-Realisation, page 112

Chris Degnen

Posted 2014-07-22T23:12:03.543

Reputation: 3 038

N.B. It is not in fact clear at all whether any instrumental connection exists between consciousness and quantum mechanics. – Niel de Beaudrap – 2014-07-24T00:16:50.733

From link here: "the evidence now clearly supports Orch OR," continue Hameroff and Penrose. "Our new paper updates the evidence, clarifies Orch OR quantum bits, or "qubits," as helical pathways in microtubule lattices, rebuts critics, and reviews 20 testable predictions of Orch OR published in 1998 – of these, six are confirmed and none refuted." (Jan 2014)

– Chris Degnen – 2014-07-24T07:54:16.367

1That quotation is by Hammeroff and Penrose themselves. It would be interesting to hear some of the criticisms to which they "respond robustly". There's also the weirdness associated with Hammeroff claiming that microtubules carry memory: are they all located in the hippocampus? And what is the relationship of microtubules to our physical senses, with which we tend to associate experience? Finally, by what mechanism do these waves yield consciousness? It's none of it clear. – Niel de Beaudrap – 2014-07-24T10:10:55.760

1My question was , why are most debates about the After-life focused on whether God exists or not and not if the 'mind' and persona can exist after death in some 'form'?? Isn't this a clear question? – user128932 – 2014-08-15T06:47:35.313

Was that the original question? The focus is such probably because in Christianity Heaven & Hell are predicated on God's existence. It's not like that in Buddhism. There the goal is to break free from the wheel of life; no supernatural deity stipulated. – Chris Degnen – 2014-08-15T10:10:12.577

1Christianity Heaven and Hell are predicated on the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition ; the God mentioned in the Bible. The concept of the After-life applies to MANY religions. I know Buddhism and reincarnation religions 'want' to break free of the 'wheel' of life, Samsara I think it's called. – user128932 – 2014-08-28T06:16:25.513

1I know some acedemics disrespect the idea of getting any useful ideas from Science-Fiction. Although in the philosophy of 'mind' others have used thought experiments about the 'mind' using Sci-Fi ideas, like 'philosophical Zombies and the 'duplicate Earth' thought experiment etc. So regarding the holographic 'supercomplicated' set of programs 'called' the Doctor on the 'Star Trek episode of 'Voyager' ; when he got his 'mobile emiter' he could walk around anywhere. A self-controlling 'energy' being similar to an immaterial being one could call the human mind. – user128932 – 2014-09-18T22:49:19.363

i also don't think buddhists would say that consciousness could exist without mental causation... so an extinction is by definition final and irreversible, regardless of whether it is a desirable event – None – 2014-10-03T05:48:29.183

The opinion I tend to agree with is that when Buddhism began in India c. 600 BC, Hinduism - a religion rich in afterlife concepts - was the dominant religion by far, and had been for centuries. So Buddhism logically incorporated the normal world-view of the era, meanwhile teaching that speculation on some matters is a 'fetter of views', unconducive to cessation and Awakening.

– Chris Degnen – 2014-10-06T09:28:52.087

When one thinks are the changing patterns of neuro-electric excitation involved with information 'processing' and 'recombining' all contained only by the physical structures of the brain? What keeps one's changing thought dynamics 'within' one's heads? Many thought 'programs' are 'contained' by other thought programs. – 201044 – 2015-05-26T23:58:29.903

Are there any reputable philosophers that will admit the extinction of the mind and personality of a person after the physical death of their body and brain is not an absolute truth? – 201044 – 2015-05-31T09:23:18.293

Stanislav Grof comes to mind. See this link. – Chris Degnen – 2015-05-31T10:52:51.640

So those who don't believe in an afterlife;do they believe non-existence after their physical body has ceased to function is an ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY? – 201044 – 2015-07-14T20:46:26.567