Outline the arguments for and against life after death? Assess the significance of the following: reincarnation, resurrection and the immortality of the soul?

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Philosophy of Religion: Life After Death

Belief in life after death has taken many forms, some which are unique in particular religious belief systems, though; others can be found in more than one religion.  ‘For most religions, life after death is an article of faith.  In Western religions, the belief is founded in scriptural evidence, but for all religions the belief in life after death is the same: life after death has been promised to humans by an all powerful’

 There are many views of life after death in particular which have been much adhered to and much discussed by philosophers.  This essay will attempt to put forward some of the key ideas and arguments for and against life after death.

One view of life after death does have a venerable philosophical history.  It can be found in Plato’s Phaedo.  Here we are presented with the figure of Socrates who is about to drink poison because he has been condemned to death.  His friends are grief stricken but Socrates assures them that he is perfectly able to survive death.  His friends ask Socrates how he wants to buried and he responds to them by saying “however you wish, provided you catch me, that is, and I don’t get away from you”.  Socrates is distinguishing himself and his body, which is soon to be lifeless.  He is clearly thinking of his real self as something distinct from his body.  So according to this argument we shall survive as a disembodied self.  Many Muslims believe in a disembodied survival of death during which the soul is questioned and sentenced to either torment or ease until the day comes when the soul and earthly body is reunited.

If human beings are not to be identified with their bodies then there seems no obvious reason why they cannot exist without their bodies.  And if human beings can exist without their bodies then the view that they can survive death seems a plausible one.  We normally think of death as the end of a person’s bodily life.  But if people are distinct from their bodies, then the fact that their body dies does not entail that they die.  

This view that the body can survive as a disembodied state does not lack modern supporters.  According to Richard Swimburne it is coherent to suppose that a person can exist without a body.  Swimburne argues that if X can be without Y then X and Y are distinct.  This view that a people are essentially other that their bodies is referred to dualism.  There are a number of points, which seem to go in favour of this view on life after death.  For one there is the fact that we often naturally talk as if our real selves were distinct from our bodies- as for instance, when we say we have bodies and as when we agree that we can be the same person over a number of years even though our bodily make- up has dramatically changed in the meantime.

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Other views for life after death, which fit into the motion of dualism, include the immortality of the soul and the reincarnation of a person.

Firstly, reincarnation is a view of life after death in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.  ‘The view is held that we have lived many lives before and that, on death, we will be reborn again.  The conditions of our present lives are believed to be a direct consequence of our previous lives’.    During reincarnation the claim is that the soul migrates after death to another body.  According to many of the eastern ...

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