Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Afterlife and Aggression: Creating Hell to Attain Heaven?
by Karabin, Geoffrey George, Ph.D., Villanova University, 2012, 394; 3507701
Abstract (Summary)

My dissertation questions whether a belief in a personal afterlife supports or undermines aggressive forms of violence. By aggressive violence, I refer to uses of force where the other is not only attacked, but attacked in such a way that his or her incarnate value is simultaneously discarded. Given that I trace aggressive violence to a devaluation of the present person, I am ultimately asking whether a belief in the afterlife can encourage a believer to affirm the incarnate value of the human person. Exploring this question, I examine the various desires and experiences that can give rise to the belief.

In the first chapter, I explore, via a focus on Lev Tolstoy, Grace Jantzen, and Norman Brown, a belief in the afterlife that emerges from a repudiation of incarnate existence. In the second chapter, I examine how a belief in the afterlife can act as a mechanism to produce allegiance to particular congregations and/or specific moral codes. The production of behavior is linked to a self-interested desire to attain rewards and avoid punishments. To exemplify this position, I focus on Blaise Pascal's "Wager." Still within the second chapter, I utilize Immanuel Kant to examine how the belief can be traced to a desire for justice and the hope that the universe is moral at its most fundamental level. In the third chapter, I take the perspective of an oppressed believer. A trichotomy then arises between those whose hope for the hereafter is nothing more than a succor for their hardship, those whose original protest morphs into an appetite for vengeance, and those whose commitment to their protest remains intact. I utilize Karl Marx and Albert Camus to examine a consolation belief in the afterlife; the 2nd century Christian theologian Tertullian represents a vengeful view of the beyond; and liberation theology, primarily via thinkers such as Gustavo GutiƩrrez and Enrique Dussel, are the basis of what I call a liberation belief in the afterlife. In the fourth chapter, I discuss how a belief in the afterlife can be grounded upon an individual's passion for personal preservation. The Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno along with the American Social Scientist Ernest Becker allow me to develop a personal preservation view of the beyond. In the fifth and final chapter, I examine how a belief in the afterlife can emerge from the experience of love. I use an insight from father Zosima in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov and the work of the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel to assist me in articulating the nature of a love-based belief in the afterlife.

My conclusion is that a belief in the afterlife can be structured such that aggressive violence can be undermined and even rejected. Yet this dissertation is also meant to assist the reader in understanding why certain formulations of a hope for an afterlife leave believers fundamentally susceptible to acts of aggressive violence.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Busch, Thomas W.
Commitee: Desmond, William, Scholz, Sally
School: Villanova University
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 73/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Religion, Philosophy, Philosophy
Keywords: Afterlife, Aggression, Immortality, Justice, Love, Personal preservation, Violence
Publication Number: 3507701
ISBN: 9781267331106