Life After Death An undeniable statement by all, philosophers or not, is that our earthly life will one day cease to exist and every living individual will one day meet their death. A simple definition of death would be the complete annihilation of one self, where the life or awakeness one would feel in their brief life would be no more. Basically, the opposite to life. However, even the definition of death may be open to argument by many. Some may believe that death is not the end of life or not the opposite of life.
Some may believe that we do live on through the passing on of our genes or through stories being told about you after the process of death. Some may believe that we are reincarnated after our soul leaves the body. Some may believe that the soul is an eternal entity and never stops living. All of these are however open to argument. There is not even factual proof that a soul even exists so how would it be possible for such an entity to hold so much value in this argument.
The three main theories that will be discussed in this essay will stem from the Materialism perspective, the Idealism perspective and the Dualism perspective. The materialists beliefs are opposed to the idea that there is a life after death and the other theories support the idea of a life after death. I shall also discuss in this essay the possibilities of reincarnation and if it possible to have more than one life. Some religions will also be briefly looked at in this regard. Another commodity that will be looked at will be evidence to support the idea of life after death and the value of this evidence.
I shall then conclude by summing up the theories and discussing the theory closest to my opinion in relation to this subject. First-century Sadducees claimed that man is wholly material, having no spirit, so at death he simply ceases to exist. Modern materialists and Humanists likewise say we evolved by natural forces from animals, so like the animals, we simply cease to exist at death. Materialists believe that a human is nothing more than a living physical creature and once gone is gone. Every action is a result of a chain of events and that over time science has found more and more answers and eventually, science will also be able to answer the controversy surrounding life after death.
Just as there is no more to a dress sewn from a few yards of cotton, there is no more to a person than a brain attached to a body with a nervous system. Gilbert Ryle argues that the soul should not be considered as something that is separate to the mind or body. Any talk of a soul was talk about the way in which a person acted and integrated with others and the world. It was not something that was separate or distinct. When one says that he bought me a left shoe and a right shoe he would not say he bought me a left shoe, a right shoe and a pair of shoes. This is what Ryle would call the dogma of the ghost in the machine.
He said: When two terms belong to the same category, it is proper to construct conjunctive propositions embodying them Hard materialists have solid beliefs that there a living creature is just like a chemical. If there is nothing that can be seen, it does not exist. The consciousness of a man in nothing more than just mere brain activity and once the body dies, so does the brain. However, opposed to this there are soft materialists. Soft materialists although believe in the mainstream argument that materialists believe, they are less harsh in thinking that all characteristics are not physical ones.
Consciousness is more than just a brain process although the mind and body are related and do not act independently of each other. The common factor between hard materialists and soft materialists is that when the body dies, so does the mind. In short, as the soul cannot be seen or scientifically proven, materialists do not believe in the existence of it. As the body is matter alone, a soul cannot exist and when and if proven by science, this view may be reconsidered. Therefore there is no life after death according to the materialists. However, not all materialists accept that death is the ultimate end.
Because they believe that the physical body cannot be separated from the mind (soul) the only way there can be a life after death is if the whole body could continue after death. For example, the whole body is somehow resurrected even from ashes or decay by a superior being i.e. God. However the problem with this theory would then be how a body or in what form it is resurrected. If a person was to die at the age of 93 and was normally buried and she was to be resurrected, what age would she be resurrected as? If in fact at this age then what would then be the case if she was senile and had lost half of her memory, and if she were to be resurrected at the age of 35, what would become of her memories between the age of 35 and 93? It would obviously be in such a form that the person is recognisable and if indeed in her old age or have been cremated, then this would cause a problem.
If the person were not recognisable then this would erase that persons identity. Idealism is based on the premise that nothing exists except minds and spirits and their perceptions or ideas. A person experiences material things, but their existence is not independent of the perceiving mind and those material things are hence, mere perceptions. The thesis of Idealism is that what exists is spirit, or at least is penetrated by spirit. Therefore, there is a great possibility for life after death as it is the spirit that is the important factor for life and this can survive death. Leibniz said that the true atoms of nature were souls and that nothing existed except minds. Berkeley claimed that sensible things have no existence without the mind and that it is the spirits that experience and there are the contents of their experiences, but there is no independently existing world of matter.
Both Leibniz and Berkeley were subjective Idealists, they conceived of reality in terms of the experiences of individual minds. Hegel suggested that our minds are ultimately unreal and that there is a separate underlying absolute spirit which is regarded as the rational soul of the universe. It is from this spirit that our minds and other things in the world come. Hegels idealism has been adapted by many philosophers as proof for life after death, however on the other hand, has been used by many to discard such an assumption. Historically, the vast majority of Christians have believed and still believe today that human nature is dualistic, consisting of a material, mortal body, and an immaterial, immortal soul.
At death, the soul allegedly detaches itself from the body and …