Death and the Afterlife

22 January 2016

CRASSH (SG1&2), Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Registration for this event has now closed.

£10 Students/£25 Full price (includes lunch and teas/coffees)


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.

Confirmed speakers:

  • Professor Samuel Scheffler (Department of Philosophy, New York University)
  • Professor Hallvard Lillehammer (Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck College, University of London)
  • Professor Joel Robins (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
  • Professor James Laidlaw (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
  • Dr Jonathan Mair (School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures, University of Manchester)
  • Dr Paul Sagar (Deparment of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge)
  • Dr Nakul Krishna (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge)



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

Accommodation for speakers selected through the call for papers and non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange or book accommodation; however, the following websites may be of help:

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms
University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

Administrative assistance:

Friday 22 January


Registration; Tea and coffee





  • Dr Nakul Krishna (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge): Sidgwick and the Afterlife
  • Professor Joel Robbins (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge): On the Nature of an Afterlife Worth Presupposing: Comments on Samuel Scheffler’s Death and the Afterlife

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)