Review of Robert Almeder 'Death and Personal Survival: The Evidence for Life after Death'
Dilley (Frank B.)
Source: International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Jun., 1995), pp. 185-188
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. This book on the evidence for life after death1, written by a well-qualified philosopher, Robert Almeder, Professor of Philosophy at Georgia State University, is well worth its very reasonable price. Every philosopher ought to be interested in the best evidence that can be provided for life after death2, and Almeder's book is one of the best of the books of this type.
  2. In this book, Almeder examines cases which he thinks provide empirical evidence that the 'whole of personality cannot be identified with the human body, that human personality sometimes survives for some time after death, and that it sometimes reincarnates' (p. 267). His conclusion is a very strong one, not merely that beliefs in some form of survival and in reincarnation3 are not only possible, but that to disbelieve is irrational (pp. x-ix, p. 62 and elsewhere).
  3. The book is sophisticated and is carefully argued. The major part of the evidence comes from the research of Ian Stevenson on cases suggestive of reincarnation4, but he looks at other evidence as well. The book has six major sections: a discussion of the case for reincarnation5 and of the claim that belief in reincarnation6 and Christianity are compatible (one hundred pages), followed by sections of roughly forty pages each on apparitions of the dead, possession, out-of-body experiences7, and communications from the dead, and concluded with a fifteen-page general defense of survival against three sceptical objections, and a twelve-page bibliography of books and articles, heavily weighted toward sources favoring survival.
  4. Philosophical readers will be interested particularly in his final chapter since Almeder has written on philosophy of science. In his final chapter Almeder examines three criticisms of his case: the criticism that survival is not logically possible, which he successfully disarms; the criticism that his evidence is not scientific because it is not replicable, which he meets with claims that not all scientific knowledge is of that type and that the occurrence of similar cases should count as replication; and the hoax and fraud objection, which he meets by claiming that the particular cases he is citing have not been shown to be fraudulent.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. These comments should not lead the reader to conclude that this book should not be read. As was stated earlier, this reviewer does not know of a more impressive marshalling and critical discussion of the evidence for survival. Criticisms have been directed to gaps in the literature and to the strength of the author's conclusions. As Almeder noted, Stevenson claimed to have compiled cases which are suggestive of reincarnation8 but drew back from claiming that he had provided proof.
  2. It is surely unwise to claim that survival has been proved given that there are such few cases that even plausibly provide good evidence for personal survival and that those cases are very similar to other initially very plausible cases which have been exposed. Given the billions of people who have died without leaving a trace of their continued existence, surely Antony Flew is correct in contending that the presumptive case is against those who claim to have proved survival.


Review of "Almeder (Robert) - Death and Personal Survival: Evidence for Life After Death".

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
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