The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 97–112 | Cite as

University Professor Lecture: Near-Death Experiences: The Stories They Tell

  • John Martin FischerEmail author


I argue that we can interpret the stories told by near-death experiences (NDEs) in a naturalistic way. Thus, the profound significance of NDEs need not come from a supernaturalistic conception of them, according to which in an NDE the individual is in touch with a heavenly realm. We can respect the sincerity of NDE reports, but we can capture their meaning in a naturalistic framework.


Eben Alexander Benevolent guidance Colton Burpo Near-death experiences (NDEs) Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) Narrative explanation Naturalistic interpretation of NDEs and OBEs Stories Supernaturalistic interpetation of NDEs 



I thank Chancellor Kim Wilcox and Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences MIlagros Pena for hosting this lecture at the University of California, Riverside. I also delivered this as the Lanier Leckture at Santa Clara University. I have benefited from the questions and comments on these occasions. I am very grateful to Gary Watson and Eric Schwitzgebel for helpful questions and conversations about this material. Much of this lecture is based on ideas in the book I wrote with Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin: Near-Death Experiences: Understanding Visions of the Afterlife. At various points in this lecture I follow closely the presentation in our book. Mitchell-Yellin’s significant intellectual contributions to this book have continued to influence me, as have our many conversations on these topics. Some of the material in this paper will appear, in re-worked form, in my book, Death, Immortality, and Meaning in Life (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2019). I am extremely grateful to the John Templeton Foundation for two generous grants that have provided indispensable support for my work on near-death experiences and related topics: “The Immortality Project” and “Immortality and Meaningfulness in Life.” The views I express here are not necessarily those of the Templeton Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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