Is there any reason to suppose that I will survive my death?

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Sam Ewens                                              

Is there any reason to suppose that I will survive my death?

“The undiscover’d country from whose bourn and no traveller returns” (Hamlet)

No matter how complex the philosophical issues involving the relationship between what is normally called mind and body, what we normally consider death is when one’s body is no longer able to show that he/she is or can be associated with any kinds of mental states. Death is the cessation of or the event of dying/departure from life. It is, therefore, irreversible. The survival of death is therefore dependent on some sort of existence after death – a life after death. The belief in life after death can be divided into different groups. The traditional views of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are known as Reanimation where at the end of time, a divine act will raise the dead and they will live on in a new life. Another, more modern view is of the souls liberation from its earthly body and its journey to a spiritual body, representative of the individuals personality, in another realm. A view held by Hindu’s and Buddhists is the view of reincarnation where the soul migrates to another body and begins a new life.

There are philosophical arguments to support belief in survival of or life after death. Plato first argued on the nature of the soul. The idea that a thing can only be destroyed by the specific evil associated with it means that the human body can be destroyed only by disease. The argument continues with Plato claiming that a good soul exhibits virtue and a bad soul exhibits vice which is therefore the specific evil of the soul (eg injustice, ignorance). However, vice never results in death of the soul in the same way that disease results in the death of the body. Plato concludes that since a thing can only be destroyed by its specific evil, and a soul does not get destroyed by its specific evil, the soul cannot be destroyed. Therefore the soul is immortal. Kant, however, argues not that there is life after death but life after death is a postulate of pure practical reason. Kant argues that we are under moral obligation to make ourselves perfect, and this is possible. Kant goes on to explain that this perfection requires perfect rationality, which in turn requires that emotions are rendered powerless. Since such a task will take infinity to complete, we must suppose that we have an infinite life. This is one example of an argument based on the nature of human life. Both arguments therefore display reason to suppose there is life after death.

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Focusing on evidence throughout the world today, however, we can see additional cause to presume survival of death actually exists. One phenomenon providing evidence is the Near-Death Experience. Near-Death Experiences (NDE’s) occur when the subject of the experience appears to be clinically dead. The term near-death is used as the person is revived after what is considered to be death. Death remains as Hamlet defined it. NDEs have become more frequent recently due to advances in medical technology allowing doctors to revive patients after they have been clinically dead. The experiences follow a familiar pattern which can be described in stages. The first ...

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