Can Philosophy Prove Life After Death?

Can Philosophy Prove Life After Death?

The following is excerpted from Why an Afterlife Obviously Exists: A Thought Experiment and Realer Than Real Near-Death Experiences by Jens Amberts. You can purchase the book HERE, or read its review from Psychology Today.

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There is arguably no question that is more important for humanity as a whole, or for the average individual, than the question of whether an afterlife exists or not. And it is definitely granted that very many people already believe, hope, or doubt that an afterlife exists. But belief, hope, or doubt does not really take us very far, or rather, it results in the kind of world we live in right now with respect to this issue, where everyone has different viewpoints, beliefs, opinions, and doubts.

In this book, however, I will make the case that we already know, with a high degree of certainty, that an afterlife exists, if we reflect upon four non-controversial facts about the near-death experience (NDE) in a new light and from a more philosophical perspective. Unfortunately, however, the question of whether an afterlife exists or not is all too often not merely a factual, rational, and empirical question for ideologically stubborn and
emotional human beings who do not live in a cultural vacuum.

Why An Afterlife Obviously Exists

It is not as neutral and as irrelevant a question as, for instance, whether a certain enzyme in the liver of a chicken has mundane property A or mundane property B. When it comes to neutral and ultimately irrelevant questions like that, virtually no one has strong feelings one way or the other. Regardless of which fact turns out to be true upon closer analysis it will not have a significant impact on our lives, on our own worldview, or on our emotions.

This is in stark contrast to the issue of whether an afterlife exists or not. Few questions are as important, relevant, or as close to the core of our entire worldview as the question of whether there exists an afterlife or not. Therefore, few people are able to evaluate the arguments and the data in favor of it or against it as dispassionately as the issue deserves, and are easily tempted into committing all kinds of subtle or even well-known fallacies. And this is true not only for those who are desperate to believe in the existence of an afterlife and who go on to do so for obviously bad reasons, such as the need for the feeling of existential comfort, but it is also true for those who prefer to think of themselves as rational, scientific, and skeptical disbelievers in the existence of an afterlife.

When a person’s core worldview is threatened, the defense mechanisms at their cognitive disposal go into overdrive and, consequently, all objectivity and logic tend to fly out of the window. A person finding themselves in such a situation will often grasp at whatever emotional straws, irrational rationalizations, or rhetorically disguised fallacies that they can and hold on to them for dear life in attempts to make the threatening information go
away from their immediate awareness. Since the most intimate convictions and understandings about what reality is and how the world is structured is being challenged, it can often be a life-changing, arduous, and deeply uncomfortable experience for many people.

Photo by Sean Martin

Therefore, if you currently believe that there is not an afterlife, or that there probably is not an afterlife, or that we do not or can not know that there is an afterlife, and if this is an important conviction for you to hold on to, then this book might not turn out to be a pleasant read, since it will seriously challenge that conviction at its core root foundation. If you in the pursuit of truth, out of sheer curiosity, or for any other reason do go on to read this book despite holding any of these convictions and finding it important to hold on to these convictions, then I sincerely want to apologize in advance for the serious cognitive dissonance that you will very likely come to experience when embarking on the mental journey of new insights that this book will take you on.

Growing up as a rational person in Sweden, interested in science, philosophy, and the larger questions in life with justified answers to them, I unsurprisingly grew up as an atheist and as a materialist. Indeed, in general when a person grows up in Sweden, religion, spirituality, and what happens after death are largely irrelevant issues that are not considered so important that they are generally bothersome to most people. Back in 2006 when I was nineteen years old, however, I one day asked myself the following question: “Alright, whatever. What is the best argument in favor of the proposition that I am fundamentally wrong for having my current worldview?”

After a lot of googling and reading around, I eventually found Neal Grossman’s paper “Who’s Afraid of Life After Death?”, which explains why the evidence in favor of the existence of an afterlife is being systematically ignored, marginalized, and ridiculed not only by academia, but also by the religious institutions and, indeed, even by society at large. And while it did not go over the data in favor of the existence of an afterlife in great detail
in and of itself, it did encourage me to start researching NDEs a lot more, and it eventually changed my entire perspective on everything when I discovered that there actually was solid empirical data to support what Neal Grossman had been arguing for in that paper.

I had not previously considered the possibility that the issue of whether an afterlife exists or not could be an empirical question. I thought it had just been, as he characterized it, a democratic issue where everyone is free to believe whatever he or she wants, but that we can not know anything about it through empirical investigation. What followed was years upon years of further research into the NDE and a lot of philosophical reflection and spiritual development on my own. I am now firmly convinced that an afterlife exists, and the argument that you are about to read is the main reason for that conviction as far as I have been able to articulate it. I can of course not predict whether it is as convincing to you as it is convincing to me, but this is still my best attempt at trying to put into words and materialize an argument that only has been hinted at before by some in the NDE research community


Jens Amberts is trained in philosophy at Linkping University, and his primary research interests are near-death experiences and the intersection between philosophy and spirituality. He lives in Linkping, Sweden.

Read our previous excerpt from Why an Afterlife Obviously Exists.

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