Latest Issue

Soul survivor

The logic of reincarnation

By Jim Holt   July 2000

The late Carl Sagan once asked the Dalai Lama what he would do if science were to cast doubt on a central tenet of Tibetan Buddhism-reincarnation. The Dalai Lama replied with a grin: “It’s going to be hard to disprove reincarnation.”

The doctrine of reincarnation is not peculiar to Buddhism. It is prominent in other eastern religions as well as in some tropical African cultures. The Pythagoreans made reincarnation a part of their metaphysics; so did Plato (who argued that it accounted for our knowledge of the Forms) and, later, Schopenhauer. It has cropped up in certain Christian heresies and…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect