The concept of an afterlife has been present in philosophical circles for ages and has triggered multiple thinkers to produce arguments for and against the existence of life after death. In essence, the life of people on earth is predominantly dependent on the perception of the concept of death as prescribed by culture or religion. In particular, religious views on death and life after death contribute to the understanding of the concept of the afterlife and might differ from religion to religion. However, the central issue of the discussion concerning life after death is in determining whether it is possible or not, regardless of the religious or cultural premises. Therefore, this paper is aimed at arguing that life after death is conceivable based on the validations provided by some prominent philosophers.
Since ancient times, philosophers have argued about the physical and metaphysical domains of human existence, the phenomenon of death, mortality, and immortality, and the afterlife. The philosophical and theological debates continue even at present, providing a solid theoretical background for contemplation and validation of one’s point of view. Indeed, the debate on death, life, and life after death was incepted by philosophers from different corners of the world such as Aristotle, Lucretius, Epicurus, Razi, and others (Olorunnisola 31; Riddle 11-12; Wazir et al. 136). It has been addressed by modern philosophers and theorists such as John Hick and others (Olorunnisola 32-34). Argumentation for the existence of the afterlife in the current paper is presented by using the reasons provided by the philosophers contributing to the topic by their logical justifications that have been produced in the debate.
The topic of life and death is approached from various angles and entails several opinions within the philosophical domain. In particular, as defined by Olorunnisola, there are three general schools of thought regarding life after death (31). Firstly, there is a cohort of believers whose strong support of the existence of life after death is validated by their religious values and doctrines. Such considerations do not include any rational justification or empirical validation of afterlife experience. Secondly, another school of philosophical thought assumes that if there is no rational and evidence-based explanation of the existence of life after death, then there is no afterlife in principle. This school does not rely merely on the logic of religious assumptions but denies life after death based on scientific terms. Finally, there is a third school that positively perceives and supports the idea of the afterlife as a possibility (Olorunnisola 31). Based on the outlined variety of approaches to speculating on the topic of life after death, the considerations of philosophers considering the conceivability of this phenomenon are also opposing.
Among the philosophers who argue for life after death, John Hick is the one who builds his argument on the combination of religious beliefs and philosophical validations. In Hick’s opinion, the concept of the afterlife is inherently combined with immortality, which is perceived as a natural phenomenon (Olorunnisola 31-32). The immortal feature of being is validated by Hick using parapsychological phenomena that entail spiritual encounters with the dead or other manifestations of non-bodily existence. These elements include “telepathy, near-death experiences, and extrasensory perception such as clairvoyance, spiritual mediumship or trans-mediumship” (Olorunnisola 33-34). To illustrate how these examples apply to the proposed argument for the existence of the afterlife, one should provide a more detailed explanation.
Indeed, near-death experiences contribute to the discussion of the afterlife by presenting a semi-evidential basis. It is an occurrence of a temporary pause in brain function due to trauma, accident, or heart dysfunction, after which a person returns to normal life but his or her consciousness encounters the other side of life (Olorunnisola 34). In the reported cases, it is commonly claimed that the spirit separates from the body, and the “conscious self can master the happening in the other world independent of the physical brain” (Olorunnisola 34). When considered in combination with telepathy and spiritual mediumship were the nonphysical interactions deemed to be possible, the occurrences of near-death experiences obtain some contextual support. Thus, the existence of such implications provides a more evidential basis for arguing for the conceivability of life after death.
The justifications of the afterlife provided by the philosopher demonstrate the body of theoretical ideas, assumptions, and considerations that are based on logic and contribute to the support of the argument for the afterlife. Given the validations presented above, the basic outline of Hick’s argument might be represented as follows:
- The existence of life after death might be experienced only after death.
- Anything that cannot be proven empirically or experientially is not conceivable.
- Anything that cannot be denied is conceivable.
- It is impossible to deny the existence of the afterlife because to experience it, one must die.
- Therefore, the existence of the soul without the body as the manifestation of the afterlife is conceivable (Olorunnisola 32-33).
In other words, according to Hick, if it is impossible to check the information about the afterlife, it does not mean that afterlife does not exist.
There are several objections to the opinion that life after death is conceivable. In particular, one of the most prominent opponents of eternal life and the immortality of the soul was Aristotle. This ancient philosopher denied the possibility of the existence of the soul apart from the body, claiming that these two entities are inherently interrelated, and therefore, one cannot exist without the other (Olorunnisola 33; Wazir et al. 137). The soul and the body are co-dependent in existence; thus, if the body dies, the soul also stops existing. However, following the argument proposed by Hick, one might address Aristotle’s assumption. Following Hick’s logic, if the soul is independent of “the body and could exist temporarily apart from the body where it is housed, then the thought of an afterlife existence is conceivable” (Olorunnisola 33). Thus, the afterlife is possible to conceive based on the logical assumptions that appear based on a philosophical debate.
Furthermore, Razi’s considerations also serve as a basis for the rebuttal of Aristotle’s claims. This Islamic philosopher built his theories on a religious basis and asserted that the soul is an independent metaphysical entity that continues to exist eternally after death, which is why no human should be preoccupied with death (Wazir et al. 137). Razi claimed that the soul is “self-subsisting scurvies death and may go through a series of transmigration before reaching its complete liberation from the body and its return to its world” (Wazir et al. 137-138). From this perspective, Hick’s ideas of the conceivability of life after death coincide with the validations of the Islamic philosopher.
A prominent Roman philosopher, Lucretius, contributes to the discussion concerning the afterlife by providing a mirroring perspective. He proposes to view life before birth and states that “in this way, Nature holds before our eyes the mirror of our future after death” (Riddle 11). His argument is commonly referred to as the symmetry argument and is used to argue against the negative perception of death. However, in the case of validating the afterlife, this argument serves a beneficial purpose. The existence of a human being before birth serves as proof of the possibility that immortality of the soul is possible in the form of eternal life after death.
In summary, the ongoing philosophical debate around the possibility of life after death is represented by numerous theories and argumentations. The current paper aimed at arguing that the afterlife is conceivable and sought to validate this argument by the philosophical ideas presented by some prominent thinkers of the past and present. As has been demonstrated, the intersection of philosophical and theological perspectives creates much space for irrational assertion. However, following the logic of Hick’s argument, it has been justified that since one cannot deny the existence of the afterlife due to the impossibility of witnessing it, the afterlife is conceivable. This idea is supported by the occurrences of parapsychology, Razi’s metaphysical theory, and Lucretius’ symmetry argument.
Olorunnisola, Titus S. “John Hick’s Global Theology of Death and Immortality in Conversation with the Yoruba-African Philosophy of Afterlife.” (2019). Journal of Philosophy, Culture and Religion, vol. 44, pp. 31-50.
This source provides a detailed analysis of John Hick’s philosophical claims that argue for the conceivability of life after death. This source helped me build the content for my paper and provided logic for the argument.
Riddle, Isabelle Olivia. “A Deep Dive into Death: Analysis and Arguments from Three Philosophical Frameworks.” 2020, JHU Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium, 365. Web.
This article covers the phenomenon of death from different philosophical perspectives. It provided me with an in-depth view on the philosophical problems associated with the perception of life and afterlife. Moreover, I used this source to support my argument and provide validation for my rebuttal.
Wazir, Muhammad, et al.. “Razi’s Concept of an Afterlife.” Open Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 7, no. 6, 2019, pp. 136-141.
This article was used as an information source to illustrate the theological/religious side of the argument that is inherent to the debate around afterlife. I used Razi’s metaphysical theory to illustrate the philosophical views that oppose Aristotle’s claims of mortality of the soul.