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Death and the Afterlife$
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Samuel Scheffler and Niko Kolodny

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199982509

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199982509.001.0001

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The Afterlife (Part I)

The Afterlife (Part I)

(p.14) (p.15) Lecture 1: The Afterlife (Part I)
Death and the Afterlife

Samuel Scheffler

Oxford University Press

We normally assume that other people will live on after we ourselves have died. Even if we do not believe in a personal afterlife, we assume that there will be a “collective afterlife” in which humanity survives long after we are gone. This assumption plays a neglected and surprisingly important role in our lives. Drawing on P. D. James’s novel The Children of Men, this chapter defends “the afterlife conjecture,” which holds that if we were faced with the prospect of humanity’s imminent extinction, we would lose confidence in the value of many of our most cherished activities. By contrast, the prospect of our own deaths does little to undermine that confidence. In certain respects, then, the future existence of people who are as yet unborn matters more to us than our own continued existence. This conclusion complicates widespread assumptions about human egoism.

Keywords:   afterlife, human extinction, death, egoism, value, confidence, P. D. James

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