Request for Proposals: “The Philosophy & Theology of Immortality”

The University of California at Riverside, with the help of a very generous grant from The John Templeton Foundation and under the direction of John Martin Fischer, welcomes proposals to investigate, through philosophical and theological research, questions that concern personal immortality. Such questions are central existential concerns that know no geographical or cultural bounds.

We anticipate proposals that fall under one of the following six categories:

1. Investigation into whether persons survive, or could survive, bodily death. Such investigation could take the form of philosophical or theological treatments of the relevant empirical evidence, philosophical challenges to post-mortem survival (e.g., challenges to the possibility of continuous pre-mortem and post-mortem personal identity) and responses to such challenges, and more besides.

2. Exploration of some topic related to the issue of immortality, e.g., puzzles about the goodness of post-mortem survival, the rationality of desiring to survive, the implications of believing/not believing in post-mortem survival, “quantum immortality,” longevity and the postponement of bodily death, etc.

3. Exploration of the relationship between immortality and views about the meaningfulness of life, even finite life. (E.g., does reflection on the possibility of meaningfulness in an immortal life shed light on what makes even our finite lives meaningful?)

4. Investigation into the nature of infinity, and our conceptual grasp of infinity, as these relate to immortality. (Sample questions here might include the following: Can we grasp the nature of infinity in a way that is adequate to envisaging an infinitely long life? Insofar as the mathematical nature of infinite magnitudes are different from finite magnitudes, does this make it difficult to grasp infinitely long life? How do the mathematical puzzles of infinity relate to the possibility of immortality?)

5. Investigation of the relationship between the badness of death and the desirability of immortality. (E.g., if death is a bad thing for an individual, does it thereby follow that immortality is (or could be) desirable?)

6. Investigation of one or more explicitly theological issues related to the topic of immortality, e.g., investigation into the nature of “the intermediate state” or purgatorial or post-resurrection existence carried out within a Christian theological framework, the nature of karma carried out within a Buddhist or Hindu framework, post-mortem survival and its place in theodicy, etc.

Recently published works that constitute, contain, or describe research that addresses one or more of the topics above include the following:

Aranyosi (2012), “Should We Fear Quantum Torment?” Ratio.
Fischer (2009), Our Stories, Oxford.
Gasser, ed. (2010), Personal Identity and Resurrection, Ashgate.
Green (2008), Body, Soul, and Human Life, Baker.
Hodge (2011), “Why Immortality Alone Will Not Get Me to the Afterlife,” Philosophical Psychology 24: 395- 410.
Johnston (2010), Surviving Death, Princeton.
Marsh (2010), Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences: Brain-State Phenomena or Glimpse of Immortality? Oxford.
Metzinger (2009), The Ego Tunnel, Basic Books.
Nichols (2007), “Imagination and Immmortality: Thinking of Me,” Synthese 159: 215-233.
Ribeiro (2011), “The Problem of Heaven,” Ratio 24: 46-64.
Wright (2009), Surprised by Hope, Harper-Collins.

Application Instructions

Applicants may request up to $100,000 for projects not to exceed one year in duration. The total available payout for the RFP is $1.5 million.

Letters of Intent are due by 15 December, 2013. Notification will be made by 1 February, 2014, with submission of full proposals no later than 15 March, 2014. Final award decisions will be issued by 1 June, 2014 for research to begin no later than 1 September, 2014.

Letter of Intent (LOI) Stage

Applicants are required to submit:

§ A complete curriculum vitae for the project leader and all other team members (if applicable).

§ A letter of intent that includes the central questions of the project, the background and significance of the questions, identification of which of the six research categories (listed above) the project falls under, and a summary of the main idea or argument. The letter should not exceed 1,500 words (references do not count toward this total).

§ The amount of funding requested (one sentence is fine for this). No budget narrative or justification is needed at this stage. The amount can be revised at the full proposal stage.

Application materials should be submitted by e-mail attachment, if possible, to sptimmortalityproject@gmail.com. The phrase “Philosophy of Immortality” or “Theology of Immortality” should appear in the e-mail subject line; which phrase is used should be determined by the nature of the proposal. The only acceptable file formats are .doc and PDF. Questions about the application process can be sent to the same address. All LOI materials must be received no later than 15 December, 2013.

Full Proposal Stage

Those applicants who are invited to submit full proposals must include:

§ A cover letter with the title, amount requested, duration of the project (not to exceed one year), and team members (if applicable).

§ A description of the work to be carried out, not to exceed 5,000 words (references do not count toward this total). The description should include the central questions of the project, the background and significance of the questions, identification of which of the six research categories (listed above) the project falls under, and a summary of the main idea or argument.

§ A project abstract of up to 500 words which explains the project and its significance to non-academics, and which would be published on The Immortality Project website and possibly in Templeton materials, and included in publicity materials if the proposal is funded.

§ A timeline.

§ A detailed budget with accompanying narrative explaining line items. Overhead is limited to 15%, and funds cannot be used for major equipment purchases.

§ Approval of the department chair and the institution’s signing officials.

Full proposals should be submitted by e-mail attachment, if possible, to sptimmortalityproject@gmail.com (questions about full proposals can be sent to the same address). The phrase “Philosophy of Immortality” or “Theology of Immortality” should appear in the e-mail subject line; which phrase is used should be determined by the nature of the proposal. The only acceptable file formats are .doc and PDF. Full proposals will be accepted only from applicants who have been invited to submit by the project director, on the basis of the LOI phase. Full proposals must be received no later than 15 March, 2014.

Grant Eligibility 


The PI must have a Ph.D. and be in or contracted to a faculty position at an accredited college or university before 1 July, 2014. Applicants can have their name on only one proposal for this competition. The judging panel will consist of philosophers and theologians with appropriate specializations; some proposals may receive additional reviews by scientists with expertise in the relevant domains. Selection criteria will include: feasibility of the project in the specified timeframe, prior research accomplishments of the project leader and other team members, originality and interest of the intended project, relevance of the project to the themes of the RFP as described above, quality of the budget justification, and coherence of the intended research plan. While additional funding from other sources is not required, applicants are encouraged to seek such funding and to list the amount and sources of additional funds in their proposals. All applications must be submitted in English and all payments will be made in US dollars.

Projects that are primarily historical in focus will not be funded.

Funded projects must have their PI commit to the following:

§ Submit interim and final reports, as well as interim and final expenditure reports. The interim and final reports should not exceed 5 pages, and should detail the outcomes of the funded project. Reports must be submitted at the end of six months and at the conclusion of the project if the project is for one year.

§ Attend and present conclusions at the capstone conference in June, 2015 (expenses covered).

§ Consent to have their presentation at the capstone conference videotaped for the Immortality Project website.

§ Notify the project at sptimmortalityproject@gmail.com of all conference presentations, papers, and books that arise from the funded research.

§ Follow stipulations of grant award as communicated by Templeton either to the University of California at Riverside or to the recipient directly, and as determined by the University of California at Riverside.

All questions should be directed to:

The Immortality Project

Email address: sptimmortalityproject@gmail.com

Physical address (although email preferred, all materials can also be submitted here):

The Immortality Project
Department of Philosophy
HMNSS Building 1604
900 University Avenue
University of California
Riverside, CA USA 92521
The Science, Philosophy, and Theology of Immortality

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