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.

  • 1
    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
  • 4
    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
  • 1
    Most reincarnation beliefs presuppose a soul and no afterlife -- at least no afterlife other than another life. One of the most straightforward of these, Buddhism, actively seeks the cessation of sensation in 'nothingness', achieved by dying without attachments. So this is rational enough that it is the core of some of our more rationalistic religions.
    – user9166
    Dec 16 '18 at 5:37
  • 1
    @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'. .
    – user20253
    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.

  • 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! Jan 18 '19 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? 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). 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. 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. Jan 18 '19 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) Jan 18 '19 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.

  • Pizza doesn't come from nowhere..
    – CriglCragl
    Mar 28 at 19:02
  • @CriglCragl Physical pizza clearly does not But at the point when you think to yourself I'm going to make pizza, where is the pizza?
    – Richard
    Mar 28 at 19:35

How you reconstruct your past is a property of how you think now. Some people might be accumulating a lot of memories. I keep rethinking independently of my past what makes sense all the time and find it normal. I have slow access to reconstructing memories of my past and do it through slow thinking with more of my attention on what's going on now and find it normal. So by my standards, I'm performing at 100% and those who are relying on how they were doing things earlier and going on a torturous chase to get past environments back after they lose them are underperforming. Another person who is relying more and more attached to their memories might see me as losing awareness at the same rate as I'm gaining it and never getting very far and gaining much and being in a lower place than them.

Theoretically, things could be thought of another way but I don't really have a feel for it. If everyone all the time during their own existence defined themself to be a future of another person who died before they were born, they would think of it as "My mind is truly on the environment I'm presented with now and not on how it went in that earlier individual. I don't see why how it went is anything I need to know. It makes sense." Then they would be focusing on what they already did of having become themself and seeing that it's not so bad. Then they would feel like it makes sense that they keep dying and being replaced by separate individuals later all the time. However, since most people don't think that way, it would keep problems gone to keep surviving as an individual rather than die and having a new individual created to take their place who then looks at what they haven't done yet and prone to a lot of depression while they're young, and at how they're going to be dead as an individual.

I think of it as what's the true natural sensical way to look back at earlier by my standards. With my current way of thinking that I have no idea whether would change a whole lot after a long time, I wouldn't be impatiently waiting for anything so much later. Rather, I would look at now and think of it as once it is the so much later time, I might focus on what's going on right then my own way and enjoy it. So with my current way of doing things, if I was 1,000 years old, I would think of my distant past self as the thing gotten by taking my present self then applying the operation of taking one's decade ago past self nearly 100 times. Even a decade ago is very buried in the sand. But I would construct what happened about 10 years earlier. Then I would see that one of the things I did was remember by then 10 year ago past self. I feel like broken telephone is how my 1000 year ago past self is supposed to be looked at. Maybe in a more slow advanced way, I could construct 100 years ago and feel like that's how it's supposed to be looked at once it's that long ago. I may have done the same thing 100 years ago for 100 years earlier. However, I no longer feel the need for all the details of how I did it at the time that I felt the need for at the time. It's sort of like what ever I knew one century, I'm satisfied with the awareness of each thing I did that century being extracted some time in the next century being cut in half the next century. It wouldn't be quite like this but more like "Something like that is definitely going to be the way of looking back that keeps coming very naturally right then through separate independent on the spot advanced constructions my own way right then." So I could construct the previous century and remember that some of the things I did were construct my then previous century.

I'm certainly prepared to keep living on and on a really long time. My really good ability to adapt to what ever the environment is if it comes means that if I were to live to a very old age, I would still have a wandering mind instead of having standards that are so high that they're impossible and therefore be able to adapt to the environment on the spot really well, provided my brain actually is naturally headed the way it seems. Also, in one sense, it's like my decade ago past elf is not real so sometimes I look at things from a decade earlier and then see it as a new present experience rather than as having rushed into now from then using relativistic time dilation, and so it ends up okay. I think I could also do something like that at the age of 1000 with no problem with my current mind set. You might be thinking it's like being a separate individual every 10 years each of whom is accepting that they're going to be dead in 10 years and be unable to imagine how somebody else could come to terms with it. I don't really think of it that way. If my mind is wandering, I could sometimes keep making up what ever I feel like about how my past went with no problem and be like I don't have to get it right. Then through the slow advanced construction by broken telephone recognizing the technicality of what it really means to say how it went and thinking of that as being the correct way to accept as proof how it really went, an automatic attention snagger of stuff from 100 years ago, my brain might be like "I don't accept it as proof of how my really distant past went" and thus consider it a new present experience because the attention snagging strategy for remembering it is not the slow advanced construction strategy. When my mind is wondering, I might also be like "How it really went is nothing I need to know" and also be fine with feeling like I rushed to now from 1000 years ago using relativistic time dilation to feel like 10 years.

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