Moratlism (Heinegg, 2003)
In the 2003 book Mortalism, Peter Heinegg steps through the views and works of 55 mortalists. [3]
In beliefs, mortalism, from mortal- “destined to die” (see: Mor) + -ism “doctrine”, as compared to “immortalism” (belief in the afterlife), refers to “denial of the belief in immortality” (Berman, 1979) or the “conviction that death means everlasting extinction, with no possibility of an afterlife” (Heinegg, 2003). [1]

Mortalism, alternatively, according to Merriam-Webster (Ѻ), is the “doctrine that the soul is mortal”. This definition, which seems to have been commonly accepted usage in the previous three centuries, however, in modern terms, confounds “disbelief in existence after early existence” with belief in the existence of the soul, which therein obscures things. Famous mortalists include: John Milton, Thomas Hobbes (Ѻ), and Thomas Browne. [2]

In 2003, Peter Heinegg, in his Mortalism: Readings on the Meaning of Life, steps through the views and works of 55 “mortalists”, including his own views, as shown below:

1. The Epic of Gilgamesh (c.2000 BCM)
2. The Bible (Job—Ecclesiastes [dates unknown)
3. Homer (eighth century BCM)
4. Sophocles (c.496-406 BCM)
5. Other Greek Poets
6. Plato (428-348 BCM)
7. Epicurus (c.342-270 BCM)
8. Lucretius (c.96-55 BCM)
9. Catullus (Gaius Valerius Catullus, 84-54 BCM)
10. Horace (65-8 BCM)
11. Seneca (Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 4 BCM - 65 ACM)
12. Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus, 76-138 ACM)
13. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 ACM)
14. Bede the Venerable (673?-735 ACM)
15. Michel Montaigne (1533-1592)
16. Chidiock Tichborne (d.1586)
17. William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
18. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
19. David Hume (1711-1776)
20. David Hume (1711-1776)
21. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
22. Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
23. Marquis de Sade (1740-1814)
24. Johann Goethe (1749-1832)
25. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
26. William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)
27. Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)
28. Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837)
29. Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883)
30. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
31. Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)
32. Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
33. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
34. Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909)
35. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
36. William James (1843-1910)
37. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
38. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
39. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
40. George Santayana (1863-1952)
41. Miguel Unamuno (1863-1936)
42. Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
43. Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
44. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
45. James Joyce (1882-1941)
46. D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
47. Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
48. Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
49. Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
50. L. E. Sissman (1928-1976)
51. Richard Selzer (1938-)
52. Margaret Atwood (1939-)
53. James Fenton (1949-)
54. Gjertrud Schnackenberg (1953-)
55. Epilogue: William R. Clark (1938-)


The following, according to Peter Heinegg (2003), are the three main representative “mortalism” quotes:

“This being busied with thoughts of immortality is for the noble classes and especially for women with nothing to do. A solid person, though, someone who already intends to be something worthy here, and who therefore has to strive daily, has to struggle and work, gives the world to come a rest.”
Johann Goethe (c.1820)

“By withdrawing their expectations from the beyond and concentrating all their freed-up powers on earthly life, human beings will probably manage to make a life that is tolerable for everyone and a civilization that oppresses no one.”
Sigmund Freud (1927), The Future of an Illusion

“Broken heart. A pump after all, pumping thousands of gallons of blood every day. One fine day it gets bunged up and there you are. Old rusty pumps: damn the thing else: The resurrection and the life. Once you are dead you are dead.”
James Joyce (1922), Ulysses

See also
● Moralism

1. (a) Berman, David. (1979). “The Poverty of Mortalism” (Ѻ), The Free Thinker, 99-100:3-35.
(b) Mortal – Online Etymology Dictionary.
(c) Heinegg, Peter. (2003). Mortalism: Readings on the Meaning of Life (Amz). Prometheus Books.
2. Marshall, Cynthia. (1991). Last Things and Last Plays” Shakespearean Eschatology (pg. 47). Southern Illinois University.
3. Heinegg, Peter. (2003). Mortalism: Readings on the Meaning of Life (Amz). Prometheus Books.

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