Theology, Philosophy Grants Announced

The Immortality Project at UC Riverside awards $1.5 million to study questions related to the nature of heaven, civic immortality, and the desirability of living forever

project banner

The Immortality Project has awarded $1.5 million to theologians and philosophers for the final phase of research.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Civic immortality, the nature of heaven, and ethical and social issues raised by the prospect of human life extension are among the topics theologians and philosophers will explore in the second round of research grants awarded by The Immortality Project at the University of California, Riverside.

Grants totaling $1.5 million will be awarded to 24 individuals or teams on July 1. The researchers will present their work at the Capstone Conference in June 2015, which will wrap up three years of research undertaken by The Immortality Project.

Proposals for the theology and philosophy grants were reviewed by a panel of seven judges from seven universities around the world, said John Martin Fischer, distinguished professor of philosophy at UC Riverside.

The project previously awarded $2.4 million for science-based research. Preliminary results of those projects were presented at a conference at UCR earlier this month. Abstracts of the papers are available at under the conferences tab.

The Immortality Project was established at UC Riverside in 2012 with a $5 million, three-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation to undertake a rigorous examination of a wide range of issues related to immortality. Fischer is the project’s principal investigator.

“We are very excited about the preliminary results presented at our mid-point conference recently,” Fischer said. “We are equally excited about all of the new philosophy and theology grants. We received outstanding proposals from around the world, and the winners are diverse and highly promising.”

Researchers and the projects funded through The Immortality Project are:

  • Yuval Avnur, professor of philosophy, Scripps College, Claremont — A project in epistemology concerning the justification that human beings acquire in this life to believe things about an afterlife.
  • Christopher Belshaw, senior lecturer in philosophy, The Open University, United Kingdom — The roles that memory and imagination can play both in an envisioned future life and in our present lives, the significance of history and culture in relation to concerns about death and immortality, and the relationship between death and meaning in life.
  • Stephan Blatti, associate professor of philosophy, University of Memphis — A project on the metaphysics of personhood, specifically the view called “animalism” – the idea that our fundamental nature as persons is given not by our psychological capacities (as John Locke thought), but by our biological constitution.
  • Ben Bradley, professor of philosophy, Syracuse University — An exploration of what emotions and attitudes are fitting or appropriate to have toward one’s death, and toward the possibility of radically extended life.
  • Mikel Burley, lecturer in religion and philosophy, University of Leeds, United Kingdom — Articles and a workshop that revitalize the debate over the meaningfulness of immortality. Foregoing the assumption that immortal life would be infinitely long, the project will employ philosophical and theological ideas to see whether it is possible to give a coherent account of a meaningful immortal life in cases where that life is not infinitely long.
  • Stephen Burwood, lecturer in philosophy, University of Hull, United Kingdom — A project exploring philosophical and theological issues surrounding the trans-humanist promise of immortality – i.e., the idea that, via the application of science and technology, human existence will be enhanced to where humans will not only be stronger, healthier, and cleverer, but also effectively immune to involuntary death.
  • Ryan Byerly, assistant professor of philosophy, Regent University, and Eric Silverman, assistant professor of philosophy, Christopher Newport University — Essays on questions about paradise.
  • John Davis, associate professor of philosophy, California State University, Fullerton — Ethical and social issues raised by the prospect of human life extension.
  • Helen De Cruz, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Somerville College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom — An investigation into the extent to which early-developed intuitive beliefs about personhood and the afterlife influence philosophical reflections on these subjects.
  • Andrew Eshleman, associate professor of philosophy, University of Portland — The development of an argument that even if one rejects belief in the reality of an afterlife, engagement with language and imagery about an afterlife can serve important religious and moral functions that are not otherwise easily accessible, such as pursuing ideals of reconciliation and restorative justice.
  • Luca Ferrero, associate professor of philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee — A series of papers investigating the possibility of a basic structure of an immortal life that we can recognize from our current standpoint. Getting clear on this structure is a precondition for taking up the question whether human immortality is desirable.
  • Cody Gilmore, associate professor of philosophy, University of California, Davis — An exploration of the concept of personal time (the role played by time in the life of an ordinary person) as a way of making progress on questions about the possibility (or otherwise) of resurrection and intermittent existence.
  • Yitzhak Melamed, professor of philosophy, Johns Hopkins University, and Oded Schecter, philosopher — Implications of the Spinozist theory of death. On the Spinozist theory, our common understanding of death as annihilation relies on anthropocentric misconceptions about the nature of human existence, and moreover, death as annihilation is an imaginary notion: death is actually a transformation that a certain ontological unit (“soul”) undergoes.
  • Carl Mosser, associate professor of biblical studies, Eastern University — A new theology of Christian deification that departs from contemporary Christian scholarship. He aims to give an account of deification that is biblically grounded, ecumenical in breadth, and philosophically informed.
  • Timothy Pawl, assistant professor of philosophy, University of St. Thomas, and Kevin Timpe, professor of philosophy, Northwest Nazarene University — An intense writing workshop in to discuss the philosophical and theological ramifications of, and implications for “the interim state” – the interval between the time of death and the final resurrection from the dead.
  • Mark Rowlands, professor of philosophy, University of Miami — A book project exploring the idea that an immortal life can be meaningful to the extent that it involves activities that are engaged in for their own sake rather than for the sake of anything else they might allow one to get.
  • Eric Schwitzgebel, professor of philosophy, University of California, Riverside — Speculative fiction aimed at opening readers’ minds to possibilities involving immortality or radical life extension, and to consider the consequences for the meaning and value of human existence.
  • Aaron Segal, assistant professor of philosophy, Yeshiva University — An article developing a novel view on the desirability of immortality.
  • Meghan Sullivan, assistant professor of philosophy, University of Notre Dame — A discussion of the ways in which principles of diachronic rationality – roughly, principles that say something about what mental states we are rationally required to be in next, given what mental states we are in now – inform our views about immortality.
  • Patrick Todd, Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Edinburgh, Scotland — An assessment of the theistic claim that it is essential to the experience of being “in heaven” that one enters heaven freely – i.e., the claim that, if some humans won’t repent their sins, it is not the case that God bypasses their freedom, thereby making them enter heaven. This “freedom constraint” on getting into heaven substantially depends on the nature of heaven.
  • Christina Van Dyke, associate professor of philosophy, Calvin College — A manuscript in Aquinas scholarship which argues that investigation into the standard Christian theological account of immortality suggests that perfect happiness involves less a fulfillment of human nature than a transcendence of what it means to be human—and that what we transcend is our need for the body.
  • Ajume Wingo, associate professor of philosophy, University of Colorado, Boulder, and Dan Demetriou, assistant professor of philosophy, University of Minnesota, Morris — A monograph in philosophical anthropology on “civic immortality” – the idea of a person’s reputation and standing in the historic memory of a culture and her/his influence on people in that culture.
  • Mark Wrathall, professor of philosophy, University of California, Riverside — A series of seminars and a book manuscript on the temporal implications of different ways of understanding the afterlife.
  • Philip Ziegler, senior lecturer, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom — An international team of Christian theologians investigate questions concerning the concept of human immortality.


Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

John Martin Fischer
Tel: (951) 827-1524

Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin
Tel: (951) 827-1524

Archived under: Politics/Society, , , , , , ,

Top of Page