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The Popularity of Near-Death Experience

Michael Cholbi: They invariably forgo the low road, abjuring cynicism in favor of sober, charitable, and painstaking analyses of near-death experiences and the arguments that appeal to them in support of supernaturalism. Their willingness to engage near-death experiences with philosophical seriousness is therefore courageous and, institutionally speaking, path-breaking. To a large degree, contemporary philosophical discussions of supernaturalism tend to stick to largely a priori disputes (whether, for instance, consciousness can be wholly theorized in physical terms or whether zombies could behave as humans do without having an interior mental life). Philosophical theology has exhibited this same tendency, more invested in whether (as Anselm proposed) there must exist a being none greater than can be conceived, than in ordinary people’s apparent confrontations with the supernatural and the divine. John Martin Fischer and Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin thus deserve enormous credit for investigating a phenomenon that, in all likelihood, does more to stimulate or sustain religious belief than any abstract philosophical argument ever has.

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