Psychle: Life Stages | Afterlife
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AFTERLIFE

There are five sections in this entry. In the first, we propose that beliefs about death and the possibility of an afterlife are of enduring significance because of our care for persons here and now, and thus our concern for their future and our own. Just as it is reasonable to hope that those we love have a fulfilling future in this life, it is natural to consider whether this life is the only life there is and, if there is reason to believe that there is an afterlife (or a life beyond this life), it would be reasonable to hope that this might involve a new, valuable environment or at least one that is not Hellish in nature. We bring to the fore other reasons why the topic of an afterlife is philosophically interesting.
DATABASES
There are five sections in this entry. In the first, we propose that beliefs about death and the possibility of an afterlife are of enduring significance because of our care for persons here and now, and thus our concern for their future and our own. Just as it is reasonable to hope that those we love have a fulfilling future in this life, it is natural to consider whether this life is the only life there is and, if there is reason to believe that there is an afterlife (or a life beyond this life), it would be reasonable to hope that this might involve a new, valuable environment or at least one that is not Hellish in nature. We bring to the fore other reasons why the topic of an afterlife is philosophically interesting.
The two basic premises of Plato's doctrine of the immortality of the soul are a radical dualism which sees man as a composite of a material body and an incorporeal soul, and the assertion that the soul, and not the body, is the essential, the true man. The soul is not only totally independent of the body, but it is of divine origin and only an unwilling guest in the body. This is what makes Plato define death as a liberation of the soul from the bodily “prison.” The probable source of this view is the Orphic “soma-sema,” the body is the prison (of the soul). Whether it is this view of the soul which leads to the notion that the soul is the essential person or the other way around, is impossible to determine.
The belief in life after death, which is maintained by each of the Abrahamic religions, raises the metaphysical question of how the human person is to be defined. Some form of mind-body dualism, whether Platonic or Cartesian, in which the mind or soul survives the death of the body, has been favoured by many theologians. Others have claimed that some version of physicalism or materialism is most consistent with scriptural ideas about the resurrection of the body. The former group has a tendency to disparage or downplay the importance of embodiment; the latter group, however, faces the problem of giving an account of the continuity of the person across the temporal gap between bodily death and bodily resurrection.
Dreams and visions of the afterlife have been constants across human history, and the near-death experiences (now known as NDEs) of those whose lives were saved by medical advances have established, for millions, a credible means by which someone could peek into the next world. Lately a fair-sized pack of witnesses claim to have actually entered into the afterlife before coming back again to write mega-selling accounts of what they saw and felt there. Afterlife speculation has become a vibrant part of the zeitgeist, the result of trends that include developments in neuroscience that have inspired new ideas about human consciousness, the ongoing evolution of theology, both popular and expert, and the hopes and fears of an aging population.
The afterlife (also referred to as life after death or the world to come) is an existence in which the essential part of an individual's identity or their stream of consciousness continues to live after the death of their physical body. According to various ideas about the afterlife, the essential aspect of the individual that lives on after death may be some partial element, or the entire soul or spirit, of an individual, which carries with it and may confer personal identity or, on the contrary nirvana. Belief in an afterlife is in contrast to the belief in oblivion after death. In some views, this continued existence takes place in a spiritual realm, and in other popular views, the individual may be reborn into this world and begin the life cycle over again, likely with no memory of what they have done in the past. In this latter view, such rebirths and deaths may take place over and over again continuously until the individual gains entry to a spiritual realm or otherworld. Major views on the afterlife derive from religion, esotericism and metaphysics.
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