Epicurus's thoughts on death were:

-Death is the cessation of sensation
-Good and evil only make sense in terms of sensation
Therefore: Death is neither good nor evil

My (sort of related) question about death:

I was wondering if it's possible to rationally believe in a soul after death, but that after death there is still a complete cessation of sensation?

1.) One with a soul must have the ability to remain some level of consciousness after physical death.

2.) Consciousness does not require the ability to feel sensation ("Floating Man experiment" by Avicenna).

3.) Therefore: having a soul requires no sensation after death (but does not require a lack of sensation after death).

4.) In order to be "alive", sensation is required. Since the afterlife is "life after death", the afterlife requires sensation.

Then can you rationally believe in the soul (that some level of consciousness after physical death exists), but not in the afterlife (something which requires sensation)?

An idea: Does it depend on whether or not we pick a case in which one is or is not feeling sensation and holding consciousness at the same time?

Note: The question Does idealism allow for thought without any sensory input? Is discussing the validity of statement 2, not addressing my overall question. I would also argue that due to the "Floating Man experiment" by Avicenna, statement 2 has been fairly well proven.

  • Possible duplicate of Does idealism allow for thought without any sensory input? – Conifold Nov 15 '18 at 23:22
  • Of course. Your soul is not a tangible item. It's a concept.. bit like truth or honour.. it exists. – Richard Nov 16 '18 at 0:27
  • 3
    4) is one definition of "alive". From it no sensation means not alive follows trivially. If someone rejects the definition then it does not follow. But what is the question? – Conifold Nov 16 '18 at 1:06
  • I am asking if it is rational to believe that "you" is not just your body, that you have a soul; while believing at the same time that there is no life whatsoever after death. – Tobias Ethercroft Nov 16 '18 at 1:26
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    @jobermark - Not 'nothingness' (praise the Lord) but no-thing-ness. Often described as 'Being, Consciousness, Bliss'. 'Nothingness' would be what materialists look forward to. This view requires no 'souls'. . – PeterJ Dec 16 '18 at 11:39

can you rationally believe... that some level of consciousness after physical death exists) but not in... something which requires sensation)?

Your second assumption is doing all the work here, the rest are junk. 1 and 4 are defining your terms, and 3 restates your conclusion without the definition in 4, of the afterlife.

Consciousness does not require the ability to feel sensation ("Floating man experiment" by Avicenna).

If Avicenna is right then yes the mere fact that you don't have sensation after death does not mean you won't have consciousness. That's deductively certain, it says the same thing as Avicenna. Maybe it would help you if you rewrote it into symbolic logic?

However, you will need further assumptions to argue that there actually is consciousness after death. Doesn't consciousness depend upon a brain?


Belief: feeling of surety about existence of something.

Knowledge: to have awareness about something as experienced by our five senses, namely - sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.

Life is when humans are alive. Are you sure that you are alive? Then you know what life is.

When you see a human not alive biologically, are you sure he is dead? If yes, then you know what death is.

But when death occurs to you, will you know you have died? No! because you would not be biologically capable of being alive and thus to perceive. Then, how can you be capable of knowing (let alone living), that you are dead? If you aren't capable of knowing that you are dead, how can you be capable of knowing you are alive after you die. Hence, if knowledge is incapable of being preserved after death, how can a living body even think that he knows he had a previous life. If he can't be certain that he had a previous life, how can he be sure that he is a consequence of another life? If he can't be a consequence of another life, how can another life be a consequence of his? If another life can't be a consequence of his, how can there be an afterlife? He can only know that there is no afterlife.

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  • If you have a reference to someone who takes a similar view this would support your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome to Philosophy! – Frank Hubeny Jan 18 at 11:22

I suspect that memories are stored in the brain, and so a soul would probably be bored without a body; without sensation, it might not be worth calling such a soul's existence "life" at all.

  • If you think that a souls existence doesn't entail an afterlife, then your saying that it is rational to believe in a soul and but not in an afterlife? – Tobias Ethercroft Nov 16 '18 at 0:23
  • Also, in statement 3, I say that the existence of a soul doesn't make any conclusive statements about sensation after death(whether there is sensation or isn't). – Tobias Ethercroft Nov 16 '18 at 0:27
  • Memories are indeed stored in the brain. Can you be sure they're not stored somewhere else in different form? A soul would have to duplicate some functionality of the brain, and without a way to test this could duplicate any functionality. – David Thornley Nov 16 '18 at 21:33
  • @DavidThornley, great thought! Yes, there's no reason to believe that memories couldn't be duplicated in another place, such as "the book of life" which appears in Christian prophecy. – elliot svensson Jan 18 at 15:56
  • @TobiasEthercroft, the revelation / prophecy to which I have been exposed (contained in the Bible) indicates a bodily afterlife in addition to the disembodied afterlife experienced by Isaiah. (I Samuel chapter 28) – elliot svensson Jan 18 at 16:00

If you believe that the soul is a physical entity (perhaps made of some substance unknown to science), then you'll struggle with this problem.

But what if the soul is in fact made of literally nothing. In the same way that the concept of pizza is made of nothing. That is, Pizza itself is a thing which is created by humans, who have first been given the 'meme' of pizza by someone else. The 'idea' or 'recipe' for Pizza has no mass. It is simply an idea.

So it is with the soul. When you die, the shape of your person, how you behaved, the things you said and did, are remembered by those who survive you. That, is your soul. You become an idea, a massless entity.

Death, is essentially no different from Birth. At birth, your consciousness appears from nothing. In death, your consciousness goes back to nothing. Death, in and of itself is absolutely a-moral. The 'act' of your death on the other hand, is not. If you were murdered for example, or neglected to death. But death.. the act of ceasing to be.. well that just is.

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