Life after Death

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Pascal's Wager

Pascal's Wager is the idea that, if you don't know whether there is an afterlife, it makes logical sense for you to believe in a God than not to believe. At best, you'll be saved from eternal damnation. At worst, either a) nothing will happen when you die or b) you'll go to hell. So why not believe in God?

  • This goes against the idea of an omnscient God - if God is all knowing, surely he'd know if someone was only believing in him as a back up plan?
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Why do we believe in LAD?

Dawkins openly rejects the idea of an afterlife, referring to is as "the delusional next world." He calls the idea illogical and implausible. So why do people beleive in life after death? Does it provide comfort?

Freud would certainly argue that the afterlife is just a human construct to escape the fear of death. And more importantly, what is life after death? Is it a spiritual world? Do we live on through the soul, mind, memories, body, all of these or something else entirely?

Some argue that life after death exists on this planet, through our own offspring - our own life after death. Others suggest that we live on after death through what we leave behind. So Shakespare lives on through his work.

Epicurus stated "death... is of no concern to us, for while we exist death is not present, and when death is present we no longer exist."

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Why do we believe in LAD?

Epicurus' view is similar to Mark Twain, who argues that a fear of death is ridiculous - we were "dead" for millions of years before we were born, so why should we fear it?

Flew said that surviving death is a contradiction - "can a man witness his own funeral?"

Kant argued that there has to be an afterlife for his moral argument for the existence of God to work. He said that there must be an afterlife where morally good people will be rewarded with summum bonum. Kant said we ought to achieve summum bonum, so that means we can achieve - and since we can't achieve it on earth, we must be able to achieve it in the afterlife.

This may seem idealistic - as it is based on an assumption. Some argue that life after death cannot compensate for the unfairness in this life. Many refer to Kant's argument as a "cop-out." Ought doesn't mean can - if a teacher says "you ought toget an A in this" it doesn't necessarily mean that you can achieve this.

Locke questioned whether it is the soul or the body that makes us human. He gave the story of a prince and a cobbler who switch minds - are they still the same person? Who is who?

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Monist View

The monist view that states that we are physically bodies only. Once we die, that's it. Emotions are simply psycho-chemical reactions and nothing more.

Dawkins argues that everything that we are links back to the brain. We are simply survival machines, and we exist only to pass on our genes "there is no spirit driven force" "life is just bytes and bytes of digital information"

He states that belief in the soul/afterlife is just wish fulfilment for those who fear death

Richard Swinburne rejects Dawkin's view, stating that the body and the soul are separate and that the soul lives on after we die. He said that the most important aspects of our personality cannot be explained in physical terms.

Another monist Gilbert Ryle said that the idea of a soul is like "the ghost in a machine"

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Dualist View

Plato was one of the earliest dualists and the differentiation between the body and soul links to his differentiation between the world of Forms and the world of appearances. The soul has access to the world of Forms, and has objective knowledge, thanks to our ability to reason.

The body, however, gains knowledge not through reason but through the senses. Plato said that since senses change, they cannot always be trusted. This leads to his overwhelmingly pessimistic view of the body, which he called "the prison of the soul." He calls the body weak because of its desires and flaws, and says that it gets in the way of who we truly are and detracts from our power of thinking.

Plato said our souls are in the spiritual world while our bodies are stuck in the physical world - we should do our best to break free of the physical world.

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Dualistic View

Regarding the soul, Plato states that it has three distinct parts:

1) REASON - helps us to work out right from wrong, helps us see the WoF and helps us to gain knowledge

2) EMOTION - gives us the ability to love, be courageous etc but can lead to recklessness

3) APPETITE - makes us look after the physical needs of our bodies - can lead to hedonism

Plato helpfully said that the soul is both simple and complex, and is like a diamond - it is one thing but can be viewed from many different angles. We function correctly when we balance all three parts

Criticisms of Plato - how do we know when all 3 parts of the soul are in balance? The theory doesn't match with our idea of being unified whole. Relies on the assumption of the World of Forms

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Aristotle believes in the soul, saying that "to attain any assured knowledge of the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world." He refers to the soul as a stamp in wax. The shape is imprinted on the wax just as our souls are imprinted in us - the two cannot be separated.

The soul gives the body life, and there are different types of soul. Aristotle said that living things possess characteristics (a hierarchy of being): intellect, locomotion, desire, perception and nutrition. E.g. a flower has a vegetative soul can only access 2 characteristics - nutrituion and perception. Animals have 2-5 and we achieve all 5. Our ability to reason sets us aside from all other forms of life.

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Aristotle called the soul the function of the body, just like the function of an axe is to chop. Aristotle said that when we die the souls dies too.

Originally he said that the body and soul are inseparable but later argued that rational thought may be separated from the body after death. While emotions and sensations cannot survive beyond death, perhaps mental activity can. This is similar to the Platonic view that the soul is more important than the body, and may be able to exceed death.

  • The most obvious critcism of Aristotle is the contradictory nature of his argument - it seems both monist and dualist. Anthony Kenny states that "he is unclear about what happens to the soul"
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Christian View

Most Christians believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus confirms the afterlife. Christians believe that souls are unique to humans and that souls are judged once we die. The good souls go to heaven and the bad souls go to hell.

In 1 Corinthians 15:12 Paul states that Christians can all go to heaven, where their souls are given a "heavenly body" by God

  • However, his only reason for believing in resurrection is that it is what the religion is based on "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless"
  • Are you still the same person if your soul is transferred to a different body?
  • Contradicts the monist view
  • Incoherent if we do not have a soul
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Christian View

According to Christianity, how can we get to heaven? Does it depend on what we do or who we are?

Matthew 19 states that "if you want to enter life, obey the commandments" "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to end the Kingdom of God."

Similarly in Matthew 25 it is said that those who are kind and help those in need are helping God as well as the poor, and so will gain eternal life. Once again it seems that we get to heaven depending on what we do

However in Luke 13, it appears that getting to heaven depends on who we are. It states that people who beleive in God before he is presented to them will get to heaven "through a narrow door." Similarly, in John 3 it is stated that "whoever beleives in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

  • This shows how contradictory the Bible is
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Disembodied Existence

Disembodied existence is the beliefthat we can survive without a body, advocated by Swinburne. He says that surviving outside the body is a logical concept - because we can imagine it, it is possible. He also says that our use of language points to body and soul being separate: we say "i have a body" not "I am a body"

  • Brian Davies criticises Swinburne's view that just because we imagine something it is therefore possible. He calls disembodied existnce an illogical concept

Swinburne draws a line between thoughts and actions, suggesting that consciousness can exist independently of the body.

  • But consciousness comes from the brain - that's a scientific fact.
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Disembodied Experience

H.H Price agrees with Swinburne, stating that the afterlife is like having a dream; it feels real t us and we have experiences, but we are not bound by time or space. Price suggests that the mental images of the afterlife are so strong that we don't know we are dead

  • But dreams come from the brain - without the brain we have no mental processes or identity to fall back on
  • The view is inconsistent with the Biblical belief of resurrection
  • What about those who don't/can/t dream - is there no afterlife for them?
  • Dreams are made up of experiences - so what if someone's life is made up of suffering? Does this mean that they will be haunted by their experiences even in the afterlife?
  • Price says that he never stated that the afterlife would be pleasant for anyone
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