There is one thing on which all philosophers agree: ” our earthly life in our current physical form will end”(Jordan).
According to Collins English dictionary death is “the perminent end of all functions of life in an organism.” Many people accept death as the end of any form of existence. Others would argue that death is not the end of life, and that we continue in some form after death. However, there are various reasons for believing in live after death, all of which differ in nature.Some believe the existence of an afterlife is necessary on, moral grounds.
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Immanuel Kant taught that when we look about the world we see many injustices that seemingly go unpunished. Kant based his argument on a similar question: why do some people who lead an almost sinless life end up being killed at an early age or die of rape, and some who sin all through their life die rich and happy? The fact that many injustices go unpunished in the world, led to Kant (and Hick) to adopt a belief in an afterlife as a “necessary postulate.” In other words, people believe and see life after death as a place where unjust and just will be finally dealt with.However this argument is very vulnerable to criticisms. People do not like the idea of being treated unfairly and would always prefer to believe that injustice will always be overcome by justice.
Many believers would state that “although I have a “bad” earthly life, when I die, God will reward me with a “good” afterlife.” By basing his argument on a similar idea, Freud claimed that belief in live after death is simply a “wish fulfilment” where we believe in what is pleasant for us to believe and not in what many would claim to be the “reality,” (ie: “the end of life”).David Hume adds to the criticism of believing in life after death, suggests that instead of spending time in prayers and dedicating our selves to God, for the sake of good after life, we should be sorting out the problems in present life (eg: injustice such as poverty). Hume therefore asserts that it is “immoral to believe in good after life,” as it is simply a waste of time that can be used for better good. He also adds that the idea of life after death seems to be unjust as it “only rewards one type of virtue.” In the case of Christianity, it seems that to have a good/heavenly afterlife, one has to believe in God and Jesus Christ, and avoid sinning. However Hume calls attention to fact that Christianity and other religions do not give any credit to those who, although sin and do not believe, but for example, spent their lives composing beautiful music or producing breath taking paintings that fulfil others with joy.However, there is more to believing in afterlife than just “necessary postulate.
” Christians affirm their belief in an afterlife on the basis of scripture where God promises immortality to the righteous. John 3:16 states: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Majority of Christians therefore base their belief in afterlife, simply because God/Jesus said so. Philosophers argue that the Bible is simply a book of myths and therefore reasoning beliefs on scriptures is seen by many as a very weak reason, due to the fact that there is no way of knowing whether what the Biblical teachings say is true. Nonetheless, Christianity is not the only example of this, as religions such as Hinduism preach similar idea where the soul which is believed to be a part of Brahman (the impersonal absolute of Hinduism) never dies and unlike the body carries on living. The type of soul’s afterlife also depends on one’s belief in God and in following his rules. This too falls under the same criticism, simply because majority of religious writings are viewed as mythical and it is hard to prove in what they state to be true.There are those who believe in life after death partly because they believe that we have actual evidence of the existence of an afterlife in the form of past life remembrance and Near-Death Experiences.
A.J. Ayer had an NDE where he was, “confronted by a red light, exceedingly bright , and..
.was aware that ‘it’ was responsible for the government of the universe.” Dr Raymond Moody realised that the descriptions by the people of what happened to them while they were ‘dead’ were so similar that it must be more than coincidence.
His research into the phenomenon of ‘near-death experiences’ demonstrated that there were common features to the experiences. Majority of those who experienced NDEs felt a rapid movement down a tunnel, with a bright light at the end, there was also a common experience of persons being able to bass through walls, as their movements were unrestricted. The most remarkable experience that Moody has observed in his ‘patients’ was the fact that some saw their dead relatives waiting at he end of the tunnel, which seems to be a good back up to the belief in afterlife.More over, some base their belief in life after death on experiences of after life under hypnosis. If people have had earlier lives, then there is a belief that memories of these past lives ought to reside in the subconscious. There have been cases where people who claim to have memories of former lives , as they give full descriptions of their past lives.
Although one may argue that these experiences are simply made up stories, in fact historical records seem to back up many of these claims. This therefore makes it more difficult to argue against such experiences.While some seem to be possessed by a spirit and claim that to be the evidence of afterlife, the possibility of communication between spirit world and the living is regarded by many as a further evidence of life after death. Many mediums have passed on messages from departed spirits that contain accurate information, which was previously unknown to the medium. These messages give comfort to the bereaved, as they suggest that their loved one is still ‘alive’ in another dimension, and that at some future they will be able to join them. However while some see it as good evidence for life after death use this as a base for their belief in afterlife, many simply see it as fraud and therefore it cannot be viewed as evidence.Although nearly all ‘spirit experiences’ are argued to be false and therefore are not seen as evidence of afterlife, however, as the principle of credulity states: in the absence of special circumstances, what we preserve to be the case, is probably the case.Why might these reasons be problematic?”Whether we are to live in the future state, as it is the most important question which can possibly be asked, so it is the most intelligible question which can be asked.
” The confident opening of Bishop Butler’ dissertation “Of Personal Identity” asserts that the immortality of a person is a coherent doctrine and asks whether it is true.Flew however stated that it is impossible to be immortal, after death, as he claimed that it is simply not possible to be both “dead” and a “survivor;” likewise he argues that “surviving death” is self contradictory and therefore meaningless. Similarly the phrase “life after death” has its problems – if one defines “death” as the “end of life” then clearly “life after the end of life” is nonsense.However, arguably, “life after death” is not necessary a meaningless concept, and in fact this statement can be seen weak due to the way we use words. One’s understanding and belief in life after death depends on his/ her views on the nature of “human life.”Writing in The Republic, Plato stated that the soul belonged to a level of reality that was higher than that of the body. He thought that the soul is a substance and is immortal. In this statement Plato took a dualistic approach which is common with almost all religionists.
A dualist approach to mind and body argues that it is the mind that determines our personality and that the body is an outer shell for the real self. The body is contingent and therefore is designed for decay (there is no doubt in this as it is a fact), but dualists believe, that the mind is associated with the higher realities, such as the truth, goodness and justice and is immortal.Descartes and Plato were substance dualists , who believed that there are two types of substance: one material and one spiritual.
Descartes argued that the mind and body are intimately related, (this theory also became known as “Cartesianism”). He argued that the mind wasn’t physical, and is distinct form the body as, it is not composed of matter, and doesn’t have extension in space.Although it seems to explain the reasoning for believing in an afterlife, dualism also has attracted a lot of criticisms form both scientists and philosophers. Francis Crick pointed out that science has the answer to the argument about the “immortal mind/soul,” as he claimed that there is “no need for a religious concept of the soul… our minds can be explained by the interactions of nerve cells and molecules.
” Don Cupitt’s view on this issue also backs up Crick’s scientific approach as Cupitt suggests, “consciousness is just electronic waves of excitation.”David Hume adds, even if we accept that the soul is immortal there are still several major criticisms. Firstly he argues that the soul “if immortal, exited before our birth” which makes no impact whatsoever on us then its existence after us is of no real benefit either. More over, even if the soul were immortal, what guarantee would we have that all our thoughts and memories would be left after death, which itself involves loosing of consciousness and memory.
The soul’s living on either a new realm or in some version of reincarnation would be of no value, whatsoever to the person whose soul it was.Hume further adds that “everything is in common betwixt soul and body,” meaning that there are only different aspects of the whole man: body and soul make one not two. As Bernard Williams has remarked “when we are asked to distinguish a man’s personality form his body, we do not really know what to distinguish from what.” Hume in other words would disagree with Descartes who said that the soul is the real essence of the person.
There also arguments against life after death, which take a materialistic approach. First of all Okham’s Razor, which proposes the fact that the materialist’s view is the simplest one and therefore suggests that we do need a soul. The neurologists know there is a brain; they increasingly know how the workings of the brain impact on our moods, our speech, our actions, etc, scientists are even positive to assess that such phenomena’s as hypnosis, may be explained from a neurologists point of view. NDEs can therefore be simply explained as the outcome of brain’s activity during ones’ near death experience, and not the going into the afterlife.More over, if reason, emotions and consciousness are activities of the mind and not purely the brain we might expect that these facets of human nature could not be impacted on physically. However, drugs, alcohol, etc, as well as physical damage to the brain can have major impact on all those attributes. This therefore suggests that, claims of seeing ghost and spirits, can simply be hallucinations of some form of brain’s abnormal activity.
Further more, Darwin’s theory of evolution, seems to weaken dualistic point of view. Churchland argues that “The human species and all of it’s features are the wholly physical outcome of a purely physical process.” This in result implies that the soul, which is non physical, cannot evolve from a physical process, which means that the immortality of the soul/life after death is impossible.If the human being is an “outcome of a purely physical process” Gilbert Ryle therefore claims that the traditional dogma of man as a dualist being is fundamentally wrong as it is a category mistake. Ryle called the idea of a soul “a ghost in the machine,” because our body’s functions are simply physical: emotions, thoughts, dreams, are the result of brain’s activity, just like our movements are the results of muscle contractions. This in result means that there is once again no need for a soul and therefore no possibility of afterlife.According to logical positivism, claims of experiences which point out to afterlife, such as talking to spirits of the ones that died etc, are impossible due to the fact that they cannot be verified via empirical evidence. Ayer claimed that a proposition is meaningful if it is known how to prove true or false, and if such verification cannot take place, then a proposition is meaningless.
This means that there is no life after death, because there is no evidence that could prove this.In result we can therefore see that although the idea of afterlife might sound appealing to men, and therefore has tendency to be convincing, in fact it seems that there is no empirical evidence to suggest the existence of afterlife. More over it is questionable whether we need or have the soul, which can carry on living. This leads us to conclude that the argument of afterlife is seen to be a weak one.