Obviously religion offers hope or order through the promise or threat of an after life, etc.. As far as I can tell there's no scientific evidence for immortality, if only because it would be difficult to verify through experiment.

Does that, or anything else, mean it's outside the scope of philosophy? And if so does that suggest disbelief?

  • incidentally i think i read heidegger claim that you can't rule it out without a lot of work. i should dig out that obscure quote – user6917 Aug 25 '16 at 2:52
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    you can watch this online if you're really interested: oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/phil-176, several lectures are devoted to this question, and it's pretty good – Eliran Aug 25 '16 at 15:29
  • Are you referring to this quote? philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/30172/… Even philosophy of science is meant to transcend scientific evidence, since it is looking to its future, so I do not see why philosophy at large should exclude the subject. – Conifold Aug 25 '16 at 19:58
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    What would it mean if immortality is 'outside the scope of' philosophy? That nothing can be said about it in philosophy? That the two are completely unrelated? I think this question could be improved if it were to ask if some immortality-related questions are 'outside the scope of' philosophy. To ask if some concept is outside the scope is rather vague. – user2953 Aug 26 '16 at 11:34
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    I think I'm more curious why you felt like asking this question. On the surface, it looks almost like a non sequitur. Why would the existence or nonexistence of scientific evidence limit philosophy's ability to include the topic unless you start from the presupposition that philosophy is a subset of science? This is especially puzzling since you recognize immortality as within the scope of religion, which would also imply religion itself is outside of the scope of philosophy. – Cort Ammon Aug 26 '16 at 16:40

Your question seems to hinge on a controversial and disputed premise, that something for which there is no scientific evidence and/or no empirical verifiability is not a fit subject for philosophy. While there are certainly philosophers in sympathy with that premise, there are also those who would contend that it is precisely those subjects which are outside the realm of science that are philosophical in nature.

Historically, immortality has been a major topic of interest for philosophers such as Plato, the Buddha and Bishop Berkeley. As a topic, it would be strongly associated with idealism. The exclusion of topics such as this is the defining characteristic of what are known as verificationist philosophies, of which logical positivism is the best known.

It would be possible to argue, on the one hand that the subject of immortality is properly a matter of religious faith, and therefore that philosophy should stay out of it, or on the other, that it is scientifically unverifiable, and thus no proper subject for philosophy, but either claim is best classified as a disputed minority viewpoint within the wider scope of the field over the course of time.

  • I was about to answer along the exact same vain, but I would made this answer stronger and pointed out that it is precisely this type of question which sets apart the logical positivists from other schools of thought. – Alexander S King Aug 26 '16 at 18:31
  • @AlexanderSKing Edited to follow your suggestion. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Aug 29 '16 at 12:57

I would say that 'immortality' is not outside the scope of philosophy. Think about the greeks, Pitagora taught and talked about past lives and he talked about himself that he had 9 past lives. Platon, Aristotel, the Orphic poems, then Marcus Aurelius. Everyone in a different manner taught and talked about an existence beyound the physical one. On the other hand philosophy is the "love of wisdom". But this is an 'immortality' in a "religious" way, which way, i think, is not understood correctly, religions talk about us as spirits that come to this world in a body of flesh. See Hermes Trismegistus idea from Corpus Hermeticum, he says that when we die our body decompose itself in the primary elements and the soul goes back to his righteous place in "heavens". The idea is that we as souls/spirits (there is an amazing difference between these two, you can find it in alchemy, religion, occultism, etc) live in an "etheric" world and descend here - on earth - (see Plotin discourse/dialog 'about One and Unity' to understand the descending and ascending process) in a body to live as a human being. So immortality as the eternal life of a soul is taught in philosophy or at least mentioned.

On the other hand, if you ask about the 'immortality' of our body from 'now' and about our 'now' self and thoughts, consciousness and all the characteristics that define us, i think it is the scope of philosophy too because 'immortality' may mean a healthy mind and body like in 'Mens sana in corpore sano'.

Anyway, 'immortality' is not outside the scope of philosophy because it fascinates us and philosophy is built on the things that fascinate us.


I don't think that any concept is outside the scope of philosophy, so is the immortality. You can see the debates (ex:Descartes) about the duality of human as body&soul where body is taken as mortal and soul is immortal. Moreover, religion is one of the main scope of philosophy as there is branch as religion of philosophy.

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