The post-death question in African metaphysics: Engaging Attoe on death and life’s meaning

South African Journal of Philosophy 42 (2):89-97 (2023)
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Aribiah Attoe took issue with the materialist and the non-materialist African conceptions of death by arguing that the reality of death puts pressure on the human conception of life’s meaning. He admits the reality of an afterlife experience through a causal principle that sees events in the world as the product of interactions between predetermined past events. It is an afterlife where a decomposing body continues interacting with other things in the world, not an afterlife involving consciousness. While conscious meaning-making ends in the death of the body in Attoe’s materialist view, thereby affirming the conclusion that human existence is meaningless and the universe is purposeless, the conviction about life’s meaninglessness is also reinforced by the possibility of a second death, that is, the death of the transcendent consciousness in the traditional African view. In this article, I will mount two objections to Attoe’s submission. First, I argue that Attoe’s refutation of life’s meaning may be faulted by a world view devoid of the ideas of the afterlife and immortality. Life’s meaninglessness for him should have been limited to the facts of human existence in the world, not the human inability to continue meaning after death. Second, Attoe’s conception of death as finality questions his principle of causality that suggests the reality of an endless afterlife. Attoe’s overarching submission on life’s meaninglessness gives the impression that theories of life’s meaning must be anchored on the thought of an afterlife and immortality.

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