Imagine an Afterlife

Mon, Nov 02

Many philosophers have thought that the meaning of our lives is inextricably connected to the possibility for a good (or bad) afterlife.  St. Thomas Aquinas read Aristotle as arguing that the happiest life would be one of permanently contemplating God.  In class today, we will talk about different visions of the afterlife and it's implications for our more Earthly activities. 

By the end of class, you will:

  1. Understand key features of Aquinas's vision of the afterlife and how it relates to Aristotle's life of contemplation.
  2. Critically reflect on what is worth hoping for or desiring after death.
  3. Consider what it means to construct a philosophical apology while life is still in progress and whether we can appreciate the meaning of life before it has concluded, drawing on virtue ethics and existentialist insights from throughout the course.


Read This:


Summa Theologica 2-2: 179-181 (St Thomas)  


"A Dying Woman's Hope in Cryonics and a Future" (NY Times)

Do This:

Complete these steps before you come to class

  • Consider the following prompts (you may want to write responses to these in your journal or talk about them with a friend):
    • Do you hope for any kind of afterlife? Why or why not?
    • Aquinas thinks the afterlife will consist chiefly in your contemplating God. Explain why you would/wouldn't look forward to this.  What experiences (if any) in this life could you prepare for that one?
    • Is there an important difference between hoping for an Aquinas-style afterlife and hoping for a technologically-mediated afterlife (like Kim Suozzi)? What advice would you gice to Suozzi about her plan to have her connectome mapped?
  • Optional: test yourself by taking a practice comprehension check.

Watch This: