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Suppose you knew that, though you yourself would live your life to its natural end, the earth and all its inhabitants would be destroyed thirty days after your death. To what extent would you remain committed to your current projects and plans? Would scientists still search for a cure for cancer? Would couples still want children?
In Death and the Afterlife, philosopher Samuel Scheffler poses this thought experiment in order to show that the continued life of the human race after our deathsthe "afterlife" of the titlematters to us to an astonishing and previously neglected degree. Indeed, Scheffler shows that, in certain important respects, the future existence of people who are as yet unborn matters more to us than our own continued existence and the continued existence of those we love. Without the expectation that humanity has a future, many of the things that now matter to us would cease to do so. By contrast, the prospect of our own deaths does little to undermine our confidence in the value of our activities. Despite the terror we may feel when contemplating our deaths, the prospect of humanity's imminent extinction would pose a far greater threat to our ability to lead lives of wholehearted engagement. Scheffler further demonstrates that, although we are not unreasonable to fear death, personal immortality, like the imminent extinction of humanity, would also undermine our confidence in the values we hold dear. His arresting conclusion is that, in order for us to lead value-laden lives, what is necessary is that we ourselves should die and that others should live.
Death and the Afterlife concludes with commentary by four distinguished philosophersHarry Frankfurt, Niko Kolodny, Seana Shiffrin, and Susan Wolfwho discuss Scheffler's ideas with insight and imagination. Scheffler adds a final reply.
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press|
|Series:||Berkeley Tanner Lectures Series|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Samuel Scheffler is University Professor in the Department of Philosophy at New York University. He is the author of Human Morality, Boundaries and Allegiances, and Equality and Tradition. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2012, he delivered the prestigious Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Berkeley, on which this book is based.