And yet people in every culture believe in an afterlife of some kind or, at the very least, are unsure about what happens to the mind at death. My psychological research has led me to believe that these irrational beliefs, rather than resulting from religion or serving to protect us from the terror of inexistence, are an inevitable by-product of self-consciousness. Because we have never experienced a lack of consciousness, we cannot imagine what it will feel like to be dead. In fact, it wonâ€™t feel like anythingâ€”and therein lies the problem.
In a 2007 article published in the journal Synthese, University of Arizona philosopher Shaun Nichols puts it this way: â€œWhen I try to imagine my own non-existence I have to imagine that I perceive or know about my non-existence. No wonder thereâ€™s an obstacle!â€
Relativity in a nutshell: we know the world as a representation filtered through ourselves. When ourselves are gone, we become what we were before birth — chaos, or if we’re lucky our consciousness reverts to whatever facility bestowed it. More for the Arthur Schopenhauer fans out there to delight in playing with.