Death and the Afterlife: A Review Essay

Marc Davidson*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    In Death and the Afterlife (2013), Samuel Scheffler has argued that without the expectation that humanity will survive long after we are gone, without the expectation of a 'collective afterlife', many of the things that matter to us would cease to do so. Immortality would not be a good thing since our confidence in our values would depend on our status as mortals who lead temporally bounded lives. The purpose of the present review essay is twofold. First, to embed Scheffler's 'afterlife conjecture' in the wider literature. Although the book has been widely praised for pioneering a new field of philosophical inquiry, thought experiments and analyses similar to those by Scheffler have been well known in environmental ethics for more than three decades. Second, to argue that Scheffler's reasons for rejecting the desirability of immortality are undermined by his afterlife conjecture. Nevertheless, because we are mortals with diminishing capabilities towards the end of our lives, the afterlife conjecture gives us reason to end our lives even if we have the resources to prolong it. Although collective arrangements affecting the elderly have generally been discussed from the point of view of intergenerational solidarity and reciprocity, the values exposed by Schefler's analysis offer a new perspective.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)547-571
    Number of pages25
    JournalEthical Perspectives
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


    • Death and the Afterlife
    • Samuel Scheffler
    • immortality
    • self-transcendence
    • environmental ethics
    • DUTY
    • CARE
    • DIE

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