Philosophy 2305: Death and the Afterlife

Instructor: Alexander R. Pruss


TA: Mengyao Yan <>

Course web page:

Class times: Tue/Thu 9:30-10:45 in MH 105

Instructor office hours: MH 213: Mondays 10:15-11:30 am, Wednesdays 1:30-2:45 pm, or by appointment


You have a plan for your life. But then comes death. What’s next?

Your existence either has a final end or goes on forever. If it goes on forever, then probably what happens after death is more important than what happens in this life.

We will think about death and the afterlife with a special attention to the Christian tradition. Questions we will consider include:

1.      Would a final end to our existence be bad?

2.      Could an eternal life be worth having?

3.      Is it likely that there is life after death?

4.      Do we have souls?

5.      Is it possible to exist after death?

6.      Might there be a hell?



Š       Reading online or in library reserve



The grades are based on:

Š         Three papers

o       There will be three papers assigned, each about four double-spaced pages long.  Specific paper topics will be given.  Paper grades start at a B- for a paper that does nothing but correctly explain what authors we have read or what class discussion said.  Papers that fail to do this correctly or do this with insufficient clarity or organization will have a lower grade.  For a higher grade, either deeper insight into the text is needed or original argumentation or, ideally, both.  Generally, B+ or higher level papers will include some original argument of yours that has not come up in class or in the reading. 

o       Occasionally, with instructor’s specific approval, you will have an option for writing a paper that does not specifically deal with texts we have read.  Please feel very free to talk about the ideas for your papers with me in office hours.

o       All papers are to be submitted online in the Canvas system.  Make sure your assignments are submitted to the right class!

o       You will have a chance to rewrite your first paper if your grade is less than an A-.  If you opt for this, then the grade of your first version will be averaged with the grade of your rewrite.

o       All papers will be scanned by upon submission to Canvas. Your papers will be retained after the end of the course by in order to help fight off future plagiarism. Students agree that by taking this course, all required papers, exams, class projects or other assignments submitted for credit may be submitted to or similar third parties to review and evaluate for originality and intellectual integrity. A description of the services, terms and conditions of use, and privacy policy of is available on its web site: Students understand all work submitted to will be added to its database of papers. Students further understand that if the results of such a review support an allegation of academic dishonesty, the course work in question as well as any supporting materials may be submitted to the Honor Council for investigation and further action. (The italicized text is provided by Baylor University.)

Š         Quizzes

o       There will be random quizzes, with a 1/3 chance of a quiz during each class starting with the second class.  The quiz covers only the reading.  Your grade starts at 60% for showing up.

Š         Comprehensive final exam

Š         Class participation


Academic integrity policy:

Credible suspicions of lack of academic integrity will be typically reported to the Honor Council for further investigation. 

Plagiarism is one of the most serious of the violations of academic integrity and consists in presenting the work or thought of another as one’s own.  If you are using someone else’s literal words, even if only a short phrase of two or three words, you need to put them in quotation marks (or in the case of a longer quote, in block-quote format which is single-spaced and with every line indented on the left as in the sample quiz question above) and give the source.  If you are paraphrasing or merely using someone else’s ideas, you still need to give the source explicitly.  The only exception to the last rule is that you do not need to specifically give the source for ideas that you got in my lecture when writing papers for this course.

Plagiarism is not only immoral but foolish.  The Honor Council may fail you in the class, or may suspend you or even expel you.  If you just hand in a mediocre but honest paper you will very likely (though I do not make guarantees) get at least a D on the paper, and anyway there are other papers in the course to pull up your average.

If you confess to plagiarism before I give you any sign of my suspicions (before I email you asking you for sources, before I ask you to meet with me, etc.), I will let you rewrite the paper and not proceed any


Grading details


Quizzes: 10%

Papers: 60% (20% each)

Final exam: 30%


The individual papers will be given grades, either zero (not turned in, cheating, etc.) or between F and A+.  These letter grades will be turned into numbers using the following scale:





























In-between grades will be interpolated.  E.g., B+/B (or, equivalently, B/B+) will yield approximately 88.34.  The numbers will be averaged (taking into account any dropping and double-counting), and a class participation bonus of up to 2% will be added.  At the end of the course, the numbers will be turned back to a letter grade, using the rule that the lower cutoff for a grade other than F and A+ is 1.67% below the grade’s value in the upper table.  Thus, an A requires 95%, an A- requires 91.66%, and so on.  There is no A+ at Baylor and anything below 61.66% will be an F.  The cutoffs will be sharp.  Thus, if the cutoff for an A is 95%, then 94.99% is still an A-.


Tentative schedule

Note: Underlined readings are on the web, and non-underlined readings either posted on Canvas or in the electronic course reserves.  Go to and select this syllabus to read the online texts.  The syllabus will be updated throughout the semester and additional readings may be added, so you should always check the syllabus online when preparing for a class. 


Please contact the instructor as soon as possible if you discover a non-working link.



Tue Jan 12


Thu Jan 14

Topic: Is death bad?

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

Tue Jan 19

Thomas Nagel

Stephen Rosenbaum

Thu Jan 21

Topic: Could eternal life be good?



Tue Jan 26



Thu Jan 28

Topic: Is it likely that there is life after death?

Plato, Phaedo

Tue Feb  2


Thu Feb  4


Tue Feb  9

Topic: What does it take to survive?


Thu Feb 11



Paper #1 due (extended to Saturday, Feb. 13)

Tue Feb 16

Swinburne, Part II, Chapter 8 (keep on clicking on "Next" until the chapter is finished)

Thu Feb 18

I generally recommend the RSV translation of the Bible, but feel free to use another.

Old Testament:  Daniel 7 &12, Isaiah 24-27, Ps. 49, Ezekiel 37

Non-Pauline New Testament:  Luke 20: 37-38, John 5: 28-29 and 11: 23-24

Deutorocanonical Works: 2 Maccabees 12:38-46 (text here)

Pauline Texts:  Romans 8, I Corinthians 15, II Corinthians 5: 1-10 & 12: 1-4, I Thessalonians 4: 13-18

Tue Feb 23

1. Stephen T. Davis, “The Resurrection of the Dead,” in Death and the Afterlife, Stephen T. Davis, ed., pp. 119-127 (§§I-IV).  Scan available in Canvas (click on Files).

2. St. Augustine, Enchiridion, Chapter xxiii

3. St Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on the Resurrection, Questions 69-86 in the supplement to the Third Part of the Summa Theologica:

i.      Whether There is to be a Resurrection of the Body?  Question 75, article 1

ii.      Whether it is Natural or Miraculous?  Question 75, article 3

iii.      Whether in the Resurrection the Soul will be United to the Same Identical Body? Question 79, article 1

iv.      Whether it will be Identically the Same Man that shall Rise Again? Question 79, article 2

Thu Feb 25

John W. Cooper, “Biblical Anthropology and the Body-Soul Problem,” in Kevin Corcoran, ed., Soul, Body, and Survival, (Cornell UP).   Scan available in Canvas  (click on Files).

Tue Mar  1

Trenton Merricks, “The Resurrection of the Body and Life Everlasting,” in Michael Murray, ed., Reason for the Hope Within (Eerdmans). Scan available in Canvas (click on Files).

Thu Mar  3


Tue Mar 15

van Inwagen

Corcoran (will be available in Canvas)

Thu Mar 17


Tue Mar 22

Aquinas 1

Aquinas 2 (read articles 6-8; note: “speculative” here means something like “non-practical” or “intellectual”; “science” means any intellectual discipline)

Aquinas 3 (read articles 1, 4, 6, 7)

Thu Mar 24

Swinburne (available in Canvas)

Paper #2 due: topics here

Tue Mar 29


Thu Mar 31

Pawl and Timpe

Tue Apr  5


Thu Apr  7


Thu Apr 14


Tue Apr 19


Thu Apr 21

Swinburne (in Canvas as SwinburneHell.pdf)

Tue Apr 26

Adams (in Canvas); Lewis (will be in Canvas)

Thu Apr 28


Sat Apr 30

Paper #3 due: topics here

Fri May 6

2-4 pm

Final exam