Is it rationally possible to believe in a sensationless soul after death?



Epicurus's thoughts on death were:

-Death is the cessation of sensation
-Good and evil only make sense in terms of sensation
Therefore: Death is neither good nor evil

My (sort of related) question about death:

I was wondering if it's possible to rationally believe in a soul after death, but that after death there is still a complete cessation of sensation?

1.) One with a soul must have the ability to remain some level of consciousness after physical death.

2.) Consciousness does not require the ability to feel sensation ("Floating Man experiment" by Avicenna).

3.) Therefore: having a soul requires no sensation after death (but does not require a lack of sensation after death).

4.) In order to be "alive", sensation is required. Since the afterlife is "life after death", the afterlife requires sensation.

Then can you rationally believe in the soul (that some level of consciousness after physical death exists), but not in the afterlife (something which requires sensation)?

An idea: Does it depend on whether or not we pick a case in which one is or is not feeling sensation and holding consciousness at the same time?

Note: The question Does idealism allow for thought without any sensory input? Is discussing the validity of statement 2, not addressing my overall question. I would also argue that due to the "Floating Man experiment" by Avicenna, statement 2 has been fairly well proven.

Tobias Ethercroft

Posted 2018-11-15T22:53:37.870

Reputation: 257


Possible duplicate of Does idealism allow for thought without any sensory input?

– Conifold – 2018-11-15T23:22:06.813

Of course. Your soul is not a tangible item. It's a concept.. bit like truth or honour.. it exists. – Richard – 2018-11-16T00:27:14.527

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  • is one definition of "alive". From it no sensation means not alive follows trivially. If someone rejects the definition then it does not follow. But what is the question?
  • < – Conifold – 2018-11-16T01:06:44.033

    I am asking if it is rational to believe that "you" is not just your body, that you have a soul; while believing at the same time that there is no life whatsoever after death. – Tobias Ethercroft – 2018-11-16T01:26:11.320

    If you think that the soul dies with the body? Is There a name for that viewpoint? – Tobias Ethercroft – 2018-11-16T18:31:10.583

    1Most reincarnation beliefs presuppose a soul and no afterlife -- at least no afterlife other than another life. One of the most straightforward of these, Buddhism, actively seeks the cessation of sensation in 'nothingness', achieved by dying without attachments. So this is rational enough that it is the core of some of our more rationalistic religions. – None – 2018-12-16T05:37:26.890

    1@jobermark - Not 'nothingness' (praise the Lord) but no-thing-ness. Often described as 'Being, Consciousness, Bliss'. 'Nothingness' would be what materialists look forward to. This view requires no 'souls'. . – None – 2018-12-16T11:39:58.300

    If the afterlife is similar to an out-of-body experience or a lucid dream-state, one can say that there is perception of a different kind: the ability to see and hear the pure energy of specific forms. Also the ability for your own individual energetic form to consciously 'travel' or move around. And to think, and to observe. And to socialize or interact with other beings. Without the body, there is no pain or death. But the senses of sight and hearing remain, somehow. I'm not sure about scent or taste, but I suspect they survive somehow, as does touch, warmth, coolness (in some fashion). – Bread – 2018-12-16T13:20:58.640

    @Tobias_Ethercroft (Substance) monism, or, at least, a 'subcategory' of it? – Joachim – 2018-12-16T18:06:59.330

    Buddhists definitely do not believe that final nirvana is consciousness! which sutra or sastra are your referring to @PeterJ – None – 2018-12-16T21:22:38.630

    non abiding and final nirvana, often called bliss eternity purity and self (do they have a standard order?), is conventionally thought as the termination of the skandhas, which include consciousness (of bodily contact and so on). if you equate consciosuness with the buddha self then sure, but surely that would be a heresy in buddhism @PeterJ ? – None – 2018-12-16T21:54:29.967

    i'm guessing you've misunderstood consciousness only, yogacara buddhism, as meaning that nirvana is consciousness. you could ask on the buddhist stackexchange if that's right. ps i think of the skandhas as defining the body – None – 2018-12-16T22:00:39.400

    I think perhaps were using 'consciousness' in different ways. I'd add in the proviso that Nirvana is no different from Samsara and both are conceptual distinctions – None – 2018-12-17T12:13:43.587

    PS - Wiki is quite good on this and gives the various meaning of Nirvana in current use. – None – 2018-12-17T13:06:06.900

    I think the question allows for the kind of 'death beyond death' that these worldviews espouse. Whether you want to picture complete cessation from information as bliss or nonexistence, it is not an afterlife of the sort the OP seems to object to. Arguing out orthodoxies, when we haven't even chosen a given tradition is a waste of time. – None – 2018-12-17T22:36:13.803

    @jobermark - Good point. – None – 2018-12-19T13:16:53.230

    But sensation of incoming death is possible. – rus9384 – 2019-01-18T20:53:46.440

    Also, the idea that soul dies with body is the original one. Both in PIE and semitic languages it means "breathe". So, you die and don't breathe, no soul after that therefore. (The word "soul" itself is not derived from PIE, but appeared later) – rus9384 – 2019-01-19T07:20:47.140



    can you rationally believe... that some level of consciousness after physical death exists) but not in... something which requires sensation)?

    Your second assumption is doing all the work here, the rest are junk. 1 and 4 are defining your terms, and 3 restates your conclusion without the definition in 4, of the afterlife.

    Consciousness does not require the ability to feel sensation ("Floating man experiment" by Avicenna).

    If Avicenna is right then yes the mere fact that you don't have sensation after death does not mean you won't have consciousness. That's deductively certain, it says the same thing as Avicenna. Maybe it would help you if you rewrote it into symbolic logic?

    However, you will need further assumptions to argue that there actually is consciousness after death. Doesn't consciousness depend upon a brain?


    Posted 2018-11-15T22:53:37.870



    Belief: feeling of surety about existence of something.

    Knowledge: to have awareness about something as experienced by our five senses, namely - sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.

    Life is when humans are alive. Are you sure that you are alive? Then you know what life is.

    When you see a human not alive biologically, are you sure he is dead? If yes, then you know what death is.

    But when death occurs to you, will you know you have died? No! because you would not be biologically capable of being alive and thus to perceive. Then, how can you be capable of knowing (let alone living), that you are dead? If you aren't capable of knowing that you are dead, how can you be capable of knowing you are alive after you die. Hence, if knowledge is incapable of being preserved after death, how can a living body even think that he knows he had a previous life. If he can't be certain that he had a previous life, how can he be sure that he is a consequence of another life? If he can't be a consequence of another life, how can another life be a consequence of his? If another life can't be a consequence of his, how can there be an afterlife? He can only know that there is no afterlife.

    Raag Dholakia

    Posted 2018-11-15T22:53:37.870

    Reputation: 93

    If you have a reference to someone who takes a similar view this would support your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome to Philosophy! – Frank Hubeny – 2019-01-18T11:22:05.720


    I suspect that memories are stored in the brain, and so a soul would probably be bored without a body; without sensation, it might not be worth calling such a soul's existence "life" at all.

    elliot svensson

    Posted 2018-11-15T22:53:37.870

    Reputation: 4 000

    If you think that a souls existence doesn't entail an afterlife, then your saying that it is rational to believe in a soul and but not in an afterlife? – Tobias Ethercroft – 2018-11-16T00:23:39.247

    Also, in statement 3, I say that the existence of a soul doesn't make any conclusive statements about sensation after death(whether there is sensation or isn't). – Tobias Ethercroft – 2018-11-16T00:27:29.767

    Memories are indeed stored in the brain. Can you be sure they're not stored somewhere else in different form? A soul would have to duplicate some functionality of the brain, and without a way to test this could duplicate any functionality. – David Thornley – 2018-11-16T21:33:42.657

    @DavidThornley, great thought! Yes, there's no reason to believe that memories couldn't be duplicated in another place, such as "the book of life" which appears in Christian prophecy. – elliot svensson – 2019-01-18T15:56:25.903

    @TobiasEthercroft, the revelation / prophecy to which I have been exposed (contained in the Bible) indicates a bodily afterlife in addition to the disembodied afterlife experienced by Isaiah. (I Samuel chapter 28) – elliot svensson – 2019-01-18T16:00:33.470


    If you believe that the soul is a physical entity (perhaps made of some substance unknown to science), then you'll struggle with this problem.

    But what if the soul is in fact made of literally nothing. In the same way that the concept of pizza is made of nothing. That is, Pizza itself is a thing which is created by humans, who have first been given the 'meme' of pizza by someone else. The 'idea' or 'recipe' for Pizza has no mass. It is simply an idea.

    So it is with the soul. When you die, the shape of your person, how you behaved, the things you said and did, are remembered by those who survive you. That, is your soul. You become an idea, a massless entity.

    Death, is essentially no different from Birth. At birth, your consciousness appears from nothing. In death, your consciousness goes back to nothing. Death, in and of itself is absolutely a-moral. The 'act' of your death on the other hand, is not. If you were murdered for example, or neglected to death. But death.. the act of ceasing to be.. well that just is.


    Posted 2018-11-15T22:53:37.870

    Reputation: 310


    Let's say the law of the universe were different and we were going to live for ever and the amount of memory space we have increased linearly with time. Now let's say you have a line up for people with numbers that either end at some very large number or never end and we don't know if it ever ends and if it ends where it ends. No information between people in the line gets exchanged except for each person looking into a crystal ball to see how the life of the person at the one earlier spot in the line went. For example, is a certain algorithm ever going to halt in their life. They don't know that you even exist. However, you know that you exist. Despite that, it still does not follow that a person at a later spot in the line with a crystal ball seeing how your future is going to go exists.

    For myself, enough time went by for me to feel like eons of passed since a decade ago. Now that that is my state of mind, I claim that it is like eons of time have passed because enough time went by for an earlier thought pattern to get buried in the sand and do my own thing. For myself, technically, it's like the decade ago past isn't real and is like a book that I'm interpreting my own way. Now relating to the example of the people in the line. We can think of it as being almost like infinite ordinal times exist but we don't know how far they exist up to although we know time ω^2 and later times don't exist. We can think of each person in the line as being a set of infinite ordinal times. For example, if you are the 6th person in the line, you know that time ω 5 exists because you are the range of times at least ω 5 and less than ω 6. However, you still don't know that time ω 6 exists. This totally makes sense.


    Posted 2018-11-15T22:53:37.870

    Reputation: 150