"The Phenomenology of Immortality (1200-1400)"

In The History of the Philosophy of Mind. Vol. 2: Philosophy of Mind in the Early and High Middle Ages. London: pp. 219-239 (2019)
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Discussions of immortality in the Middles Ages tend to focus on the nature of the rational soul and its prospects for surviving the death of the body. The question of how medieval figures expected to experience everlasting life—what I will be calling the phenomenology of immortality—receives far less attention. In this paper, I explore the range of these expectations during a relatively narrow but intensely rich temporal and geographical slice of the Middle Ages (the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in the ‘Latin Christian West’). In section 1, I sketch the two central accounts of the rational soul and human nature (inspired by the Platonist and Aristotelian traditions) that set the metaphysical parameters for medieval discussions of our experience of the afterlife. In section 2, I address accounts that involve transcending the soul’s experiences of itself as an individual. In section 3, I turn to views that emphasize the embodied aspect of human existence and depict our unending union with God in affective and physical terms. In section 4, I argue that the views discussed in 2 and 3 form endpoints of an ‘experiential continuum of immortality’ that provides important context for scholastic accounts of immortality as well as expanding the traditional narrative of medieval philosophy.
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