Argument from the inconceivability of personal annihilation

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The argument from the inconceivability of personal annihilation is based on the inconceivability and therefore supposed impossibility of the future non-existence of a person. Therefore, an afterlife must exist.

"our mind [is unable to] conceive our own annihilation. Even to imagine my own annihilation I shall have to stand by and look on as a witness. [1]"

Counter arguments[edit]

The argument is a non sequitur because being unable to conceive of something does not imply its impossibility. For example, it was formerly considered absurd to think a cat could be simultaneously dead and alive at the same time. However, the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment, as well as experimental evidence from quantum mechanics, implies this may indeed occur.

"[The argument] confuses psychological inconceivability with logical inconceivability. [It is] a failure of the imagination, not an impossible state of affairs. [...] Though logically unsound, this is among the most powerful psychological impulses to believe in a soul, and an afterlife, and God. It genuinely is difficult—not to speak of disheartening— to conceive of oneself not existing! [2]"

"Clearly, the fact of death is intolerable to use, and faith is little more than the shadow cast by our hope for a better life beyond the grave."

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

It is possible to conceive of a my non-existence because I can imagine the universe existed before I was even born. Therefore, it may continue to exist after I am gone.

"I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

Mark Twain


  1. Swami Vivekananda, Is the soul immortal?, New York Morning Advertiser, 1895
  2. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, 2011