Death and the Afterlife
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
Source: The Oxford Handbook for the Philosophy of Religion, William Wainwright, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005): 366-391
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction (Full Text)

  1. Death comes to all creatures, but human beings are unique in realizing that they will die. Hence, they are unique in being able to consider the possibility of life after death1. Ideas of an afterlife2 of one sort or another have been promulgated by all manner of cultures and religions. For ancient peoples, the afterlife3 was a realm of vastly diminished existence populated by shades, ghostly counterparts of bodies. Ancient Indians and Egyptians before 2000 BCE postulated a judgment after death. The Greeks had Hades; the Hebrews had Sheol. Far from being a matter of wish-fulfillment, an afterlife4, as pictured by ancient cultures, was not particularly desirable, just inevitable.
  2. There are many conceptions of an afterlife5. To say that there is an afterlife6 (of any kind) is to say that biological death is not the permanent end of a human being’s existence: At least some people continue to exist and to have experiences after death. The idea of reincarnation7 is shared by a number of religions — including Hindu, Jaina, Buddhist. According to the idea of reincarnation8, one is born over and over, and the circumstances of one’s life — even what sort of being one is — depend on one’s actions in the preceding life. Among philosophers, Plato had a view of reincarnation9. Plato developed the idea of the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo: According to Plato, a person is an immaterial soul, temporarily imprisoned by a body. Death is liberation from the prison of the body; but after an interval of disembodied existence10, the soul is again imprisoned and is born again into this world. On Plato’s view, all this occurs in the natural course of things.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. The doctrine of resurrection has not received as much philosophical attention as some other aspects of Christian theology (e.g., the problem of evil and the traditional arguments for the existence of God), but views on personal identity suggest intriguing possibilities for identifying conditions under which a premortem person can be identical to a postmortem person.
  2. Only if a premortem and postmortem person can be one and the same individual is resurrection even a logical possibility.

  1. Introduction
    1. Christian Doctrine
    2. The Problem of Personal Identity
  2. Exposition
    1. Sameness of Soul
    2. Sameness of soul-body composite
    3. Sameness of Body
    4. The Memory Criterion
  3. Criticism
    1. Sameness of Soul
    2. Sameness of soul-body composite
    3. Sameness of Body
    4. The Memory Criterion
  4. Original Philosophical Development
    1. The First-Person Perspective11
    2. Constitution
    3. Human Persons
    4. Resurrection on the Constitution View12
    5. Advantages of the Constitution View13
  5. Conclusion
  6. Selected Bibliography

  1. "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Need a Christian be a Mind/Body Dualist?" (1995)
  2. "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View" (2000),
  3. "Bynum (Caroline) - Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200 - 1336" (1995),
  4. Castañeda, Hector-Neri (1967), “Indicators and Quasi-Indicators,” American Philosophical Quarterly 4: 85-100.
  5. "Cooper (John) - Body, Soul and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-dualism Debate" (1989),
  6. "Cullmann (Oscar) - Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?",
  7. Davis, Stephen T. (1993), Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
  8. Geach, Peter (1969), God and the Soul (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969).
  9. "Hick (John) - Death and Eternal Life",
  10. MacKay, D.M. (1987), “Brain Science and the Soul” in "Gregory (Richard), Ed. - Oxford Companion to the Mind", 723-5.
  11. "Penelhum (Terence) - Survival and Disembodied Existence",
  12. Polkinghorne, John (1996) The Faith of a Physicist: Reflections of a Bottom-Up Thinker (Minneapolis: Fortress Press).
  13. "Price (H.H.) - Survival and the Idea of 'Another World'" (1964),
  14. "Swinburne (Richard) - The Evolution of the Soul" (1997),
  15. "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Dualism and Materialism: Athens and Jerusalem?" (1995),
  16. "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection" (1992),
  17. "Williams (Bernard) - Bodily Continuity and Personal Identity" (1973),
  18. "Williams (Bernard) - Personal Identity and Individuation" (1973),
  19. "Zimmerman (Dean) - The Compatibility of Materialism and Survival: The “Falling Elevator” Model", Faith and Philosophy 16: 194-212, 1999.


In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 14: Selected – ie. ignoring classic texts, and stuff I consider outdated or irrelevant.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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