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Symposium: Death and the Afterlife

When Jan 22, 2016
from 10:00 AM to 05:30 PM
Where CRASSH (SG1&2), Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT
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Death and the Afterlife SymposiumConveners

Paul Sagar (University of Cambridge)
James Laidlaw (University of Cambridge)


This symposium is an interdisciplinary exchange focused on the recent book Death and the Afterlife, by Professor Samuel Scheffler (New York University). It will bring together perspectives from social anthropology, philosophy, and political theory.

Professor Scheffler contends that when it comes to questions of what we value and why, to a surprising degree such matters appear dependent upon the supposition that others will continue to live, long after we have died. Is this really the case? If it is, what does it tell us about how and what we value? Does Scheffler’s contention hold good across many cultures, or is it a peculiarly western and contemporary phenomenon? Can our understanding of death and the importance of being succeeded by others be elucidated through comparative cultural experience? If it really is so important that others continue to live long after we are gone, what implications does this have for the way we organize our politics? In the era of climate change and environmental degradation, why are we not more concerned about securing the prospects for our collective afterlife?

This symposium will address these questions, and more. It is open to scholars from all fields, and papers will be presented with a broad audience in mind.

Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH).

For more information and to register please see the CRASSH: Death and the Afterlife website





Tea and coffee; Welcome



Dr Nakul Krishna (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge): Sidgwick and the Afterlife

Professor Joel Robbins (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge): Anthropological Reflections on Time and Value

Chair: Dr Rob Jubb (Department of Politics, University of Reading)





Professor Hallvard Lillehammer (Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck College, University of London): Who is the Last Human Being?

Professor James Laidlaw (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge): What if we know the afterlife is only going to get worse?

Chair: Dr Edward Hall (Department of Politics, University of Sheffield)


Tea and coffee



Dr Paul Sagar (Junior Research Fellow in Politics, King’s College, Cambridge): Is the Desire for Immortality a Desire not to Die?

Dr Jonathan Mair (Department of Religions and Theology, University of Manchester): Death, and the Afterlife, and the Life After That

Chair: Dr Maryon McDonald (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge)


Closing Remarks: Professor Samuel Scheffler (NYU)