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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Death and the Self

Shaun Nichols, Nina Strohminger, Arun Rai, Jay Garfield
Cognitive Science (2018) 1–19


It is an old philosophical idea that if the future self is literally different from the current self,
one should be less concerned with the death of the future self (Parfit, 1984). This paper examines
the relation between attitudes about death and the self among Hindus, Westerners, and three Buddhist
populations (Lay Tibetan, Lay Bhutanese, and monastic Tibetans). Compared with other
groups, monastic Tibetans gave particularly strong denials of the continuity of self, across several
measures. We predicted that the denial of self would be associated with a lower fear of death and
greater generosity toward others. To our surprise, we found the opposite. Monastic Tibetan Buddhists
showed significantly greater fear of death than any other group. The monastics were also
less generous than any other group about the prospect of giving up a slightly longer life in order
to extend the life of another.

The article is here.