For reference, here's a link to Paul MacDonald's 2007 paper on Husserl and immortality:


(Note: The IPJP site seems to prohibit "hotlinking", so you may need to copy and paste the link directly into your browser's address bar.)

Husserl argues that the transcendental ego is immortal and eternal, having no beginning and no end. What's interesting to me is that he grounds this claim in phenomenology, not theology.

I'd like to know if any other philosophers have made similar arguments, either influenced by Husserl or independently.

  • Saying that transcendental ego is "immortal" is not saying much, for Husserl it signifies that "enduring", "the process of living on" is unhalting, and has little relation to the usual use of "immortality". – Conifold Mar 25 '18 at 21:48
  • I don't know about philosophers, but physicists have. See quantum immortality. The idea is based on the many worlds interpretation of physics, and postulates that there is always a world where you live on, and that is the world you will be conscious of. – Kenshin Mar 26 '18 at 3:42
  • Try reading some Buddhist or Taoist philosophy or a commentary on the Upanishads, or even the writings of Erwin Schrodinger. Here 'immortal' should not suggest a period of time. – user20253 Mar 26 '18 at 9:54
  • @Conifold You're the 2nd person to tell me that I'm misinterpreting "immortality" (I asked on Reddit as well), so I'd like to dig into this further. I interpreted Husserl as claiming that we have always and will always exist as a conscious subject. I'm not interpreting him as making any claims about the nature of that experience after bodily death... this isn't about going to heaven or becoming a ghost. I viewed Husserl as merely stating that my existence as a subject will never terminate... that I always "am" and therefore I will continue to "be" after my body dies. Is that incorrect? – Matt Diamond Apr 5 '18 at 22:13
  • "My existence as a subject" typically refers to the individual existence of a personality. That is not what transcendental ego is, it is more or less an abstraction that underlies any personality (and no, not in the way that Hinduist Brahman mystically underlies every Atman). "Immortality" means that "conditions of possibility" of subjective experience do not temporally terminate. The simple reason for that is that for Husserl temporality itself is only meaningful under the said conditions. – Conifold Apr 5 '18 at 22:24

Prior to Husserl, Brentano discusses the immortality of the soul in the first chapter on "The Concept and Purpose of Psychology" of his 1874 book Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint. Despite the fact that psychology would no longer be "the science of the soul" but rather "the science of mental phenomena", it would still be capable of addressing the idea of immortality of "mental life", because there is a continuity of mental life that does not require the assumption of a substantial soul (which inner perception does not show us). The laws of psychology would still hold after our bodily death:

"When we depart from this life we separate ourselves from all that is subject to the laws of natural science. The laws of gravitation, of sound, of light and electricity disappear along with the phenomena for which experience has established them. Mental laws, on the other hand, hold true for our life to come as they do in our present life, insofar as this life is immortal."

This would seem to fit a "phenomenological" approach to immortality, though not a Husserlian one.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.