Samuel SchefflerDeath and the Afterlife

Oxford University Press, 2013

by Robert Talisse on September 1, 2014

Samuel Scheffler

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Our moral lives are constructed out of projects, goals, aims, and relationships or various kinds.  The pursuit of these projects, and the nurturing of certain relationships, play central role in giving our lives their meaning and value.  This much is commonplace.  What is not frequently noticed is that our practices of valuing and finding meaning in our lives draw upon the presumption that others will outlive us, that there will be generations of human beings continuing into the future.  One way to grasp the significance of this presumption is to imagine a scenario in which we know that humanity has no future.  How would this knowledge affect our lives in the present?  Would the pursuit of our goals matter?  What do our likely reactions to the imagined scenario tell us about value?  And what does the envisioned scenario tell us about how we should regard our own death?

In Death and the Afterlife (Oxford University Press, 2013), Samuel Scheffler carefully explores these questions.  His surprising suggestion is that much of the value that we find in our own lives depends upon inevitability of our own death and the existence of others who will survive us.


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