On Imagining the Afterlife

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

The author argues for three interconnected theses which provide a cognitive account for why humans intuitively believe that others survive death. The first thesis, from which the second and third theses follow, is that the acceptance of afterlife beliefs is predisposed by a specific, and already well-documented, imaginative process - the offline social reasoning process. The second thesis is that afterlife beliefs are social in nature. The third thesis is that the living imagine the deceased as socially embodied in such a way as to continue to fulfill on-going social obligations with others. The author further suggests six reasons why the fantasy/reality distinction breaks down for the imaginer such that the continued existence of the decedent in the afterlife is believed to be real. Finally, the author suggests avenues for further research which would support this cognitive account.

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