Friday, September 02, 2005

Is resurrection consistent with substance dualism?

So far, I have only argued that living people have an immaterial aspect to their nature—a distinct substance we call a self, a mind, an ego, a spirit, or a soul. But whether the soul survives the death of the body is another question, and that’s what I’m going to talk about in this post.

I sort of posted on this before, and here is the post.

There’s a common objection that many people (especially Jehovah’s Witnesses) make against the idea that the soul survives the death of the body. They argue:

1. If we survive the death of the body and go to heaven or whatever, then there’s no point in having a resurrection of the dead.
2. There is a point to resurrection, because the resurrection of the dead to eternal life is the ultimate hope of Christians.
3. It follows that we do not survive the death of the body and go to heaven.

The problem here is with the first premise. While the first premise says that disembodied existence is inconsistent with resurrection, I will argue that resurrection is inconsistent with denying a disembodied existence between death and resurrection.

To make my argument, I’m going to use some thought experiments again. Some of these will sound a lot like my first argument.

First, let’s just think about what a resurrection is. I’m going to argue about this in a future blog, but for now, let’s just assume that a resurrection is when a physical body that has died comes back to life and is transformed into an incorruptible body. The body that rises is the same body that died, albeit transformed, and it’s a physical body. Moreover, everybody will be raised from the dead, both the righteous and the unrighteous according to Daniel 12.2.

Since both the righteous and the unrighteous will be raised, that includes both cannibals and their victims. Now let’s suppose a cannibal eat’s somebody and then dies a couple of days later. When you eat something, you absorb some of the molecules from that thing, and they become the building blocks of the cells in your body. To an extent, you are what you eat. Here’s the question, then: At the resurrection, who will get the molecules the cannibal got when he ate the other person? If the cannibal gets them, then the other person’s resurrected body won’t be completely identical with the body that died. But if the other person gets the molecules, then the cannibal’s resurrected body won’t be completely identical with the body that died. Either way, God must, to some extent, use new material to construct a resurrected body.

Jehovah’s Witnesses take this a step further and say that resurrection has nothing at all to do with the body that died. Even in the case of Jesus, they will say that Jehovah got rid of the body that was in the tomb, and the Jesus that appeared to the disciples only manifested a physical body for the sake of display, but it was not the same body that died.

Whether the JW’s are right or not, there must be some resurrections that will take place involving bodies made from new material other than the material of the dead body. Unless we have a soul that survives the death of the first body and reanimates the resurrection body, the person who rises at the resurrection is not the same person who died. That means for us, there is no resurrection. New people resembling us will be created, but we ourselves are done for at death.

This is not hard to see. I’ve already given the argument in an earlier blog. If all we are is the sum of our physical parts, then we cease to exist when those physical parts die. If a new body is formed, be it ever so like the body that died, then it will be a different person, even if that new person has all the same thoughts, emotions, temperament, memories, and sense of self.

But a couple of thought experiments also help to see this. According to JW’s, God remembers us perfectly when we die. He is able to remake us from his perfect memory at the resurrection. Now think about this. God is all-knowing, right? That means his perfect memory of us after we die is no different than his perfect knowledge of us before we die. He has perfect knowledge of us both before and after we die.

If God is able to remake us from his memory ten minutes after we die using materials other than our dead body, then he could do the same before we die. He would use material that already existed before we died to make a new body from his perfect memory of us. But he could just as easily use that same material to make a new body from his perfect knowledge of us before we die. But obviously, one person can’t be in two places at the same time. What we’d have is two distinct persons—one original and one replica. The replica would not know the difference, either. If God even created all his mental states exactly the same as the original, the replica would think he was the original.

If God really does raise us from the dead by creating a new us from his memory after we die, then what he’s doing is making a replica of us. He isn’t really raising us. He’s just making copies.

Look at it another way. If God can use any material to make us another body at the resurrection, then he could just as easily make two identical bodies from his perfect memory of us. But they can’t both be the same person, because one person can’t be in two places at the same time. So these are two different persons. Which one is the original? Well, neither is the original! They’re both copies.

The only way to maintain continuity of identity between death and resurrection is if the person who owned the body that died survives and is the same person who owns the body that rises. And the only way it can be the same person is if that person survives the death of the body and endures to reanimate the body that rises. So a real resurrection of those who die is only possible if we continue to exist between death and resurrection, which entails that we must have an immaterial self capable of disembodied existence. We must have a soul if we are to have any hope of a resurrection.

25 Comments:

At 9/02/2005 7:38 PM , Blogger Steve said...

this of course omits any argument that the soul in fact carries on after death.

Even if you argue that a person has a soul (which I think is impossible to prove), how can we argue that it passes on to the next life?

 
At 9/02/2005 10:32 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

steve, this is an argument that the soul carries on after death. Here's a summary of the argument:

1. If the soul does not survive the death of the body, then there will be no future resurrection for us.
2. There will be a future resurrection for us.
3. Therefore, the soul does survive the death of the body.

 
At 9/03/2005 1:32 PM , Blogger Steve said...

but how do you argue there will be a resurrection for us?

 
At 9/03/2005 4:49 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

That's another story. This argument is aimed at people who already believe there'll be a resurrection.

 
At 9/03/2005 5:46 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

Hi Sam,

That simulated reality argument I gave earlier, I found out more information about it on Wikipedia. It looks like it was originally presented by philosopher Nick Bostrom. There's more discussion about it through the link.

Simulated Reality

 
At 9/03/2005 10:06 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dale, do you see now why I don't think it will ever be possible for people to create virtual people with minds of their own? It's because I don't think it's possible to have a mind if you don't have a soul.

 
At 9/03/2005 10:33 PM , Blogger Steve said...

It just seems as though these arguments are logical deductions based on faith. And it would seem to me that if one is trying to take a leap of faith to believe in something, what is the need for any logic after that point?

 
At 9/04/2005 9:21 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve,

If you mean some of the premises must be taken on faith, I'm not sure I agree. Most of these arguments do depend on premises that can't be proved, but the fact that something can't be proved doesn't mean it has to be taken on blind faith. We can't prove the external world exists, but that doesn't mean we have to take it on blind faith. Likewise, we can't prove that we maintain identity through physical change, but the belief that we maintain identity through physical change is hardly an arbitrary belief. The same goes with our sense of having a will that is able to initiate actions. It could all be an illusion, but you just have to be honest with yourself and ask yourself what's more reasonable to believe--that your mind is passive, and your sense of having a will is an illusion, or that you really are able to initiate actions by willing them to happen.

Sam

 
At 9/04/2005 3:05 PM , Blogger Steve said...

so you're saying that even though something isn't provable, it can be reasonable?

See I agree in part that we can determine whats reasonable, but I think that is so heavily dependent on knowledge, science and technology. Whats reasonable for a 21st century American to think is not necessarily reasonable for a 14th century monk in Byzantium.

As a result, I think our determinations of what is reasonable could simply be "relative" and not universal, or objective based on our worldview and experiences.

 
At 9/04/2005 4:13 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve,

Yes, some of the most reasonable things we believe are things that can't be proved. You can't prove the laws of logic, because they are the basis upon which everything else is proved. You can't prove the uniformity of nature, but the uniformity of nature is the basis of all scientific proofs. The things we know with the greatest certainty are things that can't be proved.

Think about it, Steve. For anything you claim to know, somebody can always ask you, "How do you know that?" And then you have to give him a reason. But then he can continue to ask, "Well how do you know that?" And then you have to give him another reason, and he can keep asking how you know.

One of two things can happen in a conversation like this. You can either get yourself into an infinite regress, or you can arrive at some basic item of knowledge you know without having to give a reason. If you get into an infinite regress, then you don't know anything at all, because there's no fundamental basis for how you know it, and you can't complete an infinite number of proofs. So if you know anything at all, then there must be some things you know that you can't prove. In fact, there must be some things that can't be proved at all.

The claim, "You can't know something unless it can be proved," is self-refuting, because the statement itself can't be proved without relying on unproven assumptions.

The fundamental items of knowledge that I've been calling "reasonable," are not culturally relative. They are known by every human being who has a normally functioning mind. I'll just list them.

1. Everybody knows what they are percieving. They could be mistaken that what they are percieving is real, but they can't be mistaken that they are percieving it. That includes all of their sensory perceptions--sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing.

2. Everybody knows that they exist. If anybody even entertains the idea of doubt on this question only has to ask himself who is it that's doing the doubting.

3. Everybody knows the basic laws of logic--the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the law of excluded middle. Even dogs know the law of excluded middle. If they know the food is behind one of two doors, and they go to discover the food is not behind one door, they know automatically that it's behind the other door. They also know basic rules of logic like the modus ponens, the transitive property, etc. It's impossible to even think without knowing these thigns.

4. Everybody knows that two and two make four. All you have to do is think about it.

5. Everybody knows the uniformity of nature--that the future will resemble the past. This item of knowledge is the basis upon which we are able to learn things by experience. Imagine a baby who sees a candle flame, and he wants to touch it. As soon as he touches it, he burns his hand. If he's thick-headed enough, he may touch it a couple more times, but eventually, he'll stop touching it, because he knows that it will burn him again. But how does he arrive at this conclusion? He arrives at it by assuming that the future will resemble the past. If the candle burned him every time he touched it in the past, then it will probably also burn him if he touches it in the future. Science could not function without this assumption. But this assumption cannot be proved.

6. Everybody knows there's a real world out there. This is something we automatically assume as soon as we start having sensory perceptions. It is a universal truth in every single culture in history that children assume that what they are experiencing is real. It isn't until they start entertaining the possibility that they are dreaming that they begin to wonder if maybe it isn't real. And even among those who say it isn't real, they continue to live as if they think it is real.

The assumptions I've been making in proving the soul are all (with the exception of this last one on the resurrection) universally known.

We know that there's a past. The memories I have of being 10 years old really are my memories, not just memories I inherited from some other person who has ceased to exist. That means I myself have endured through physical change.

We know that when we make decisions in our mind, and then act on those decisions, that we are acting willfully. Our first person subjectivity is immediately obvious to us, and part of that subjectivity is the experience of making decisions and acting on them. That means the mind has causal power over the brain.

I see no reason at all to doubt what is perfectly obvious to me. If something is obvious, and it's denial seems crazy, then you should believe the obvious unless you have good reason to think you're mistaken. So just be honest with yourself about these things. Are you really entertaining any serious doubts that you have existed longer than seven years? Are you really entertaining any serious doubts that you have ever actually made a decision that you then acted on? Was it you who chose to lift your fingers and type on the keyboard, or are you passively observing your body doing all these things wholly apart from your control or intentions?

The way I look at it is like this. If somebody has to resort to denying these seemingly obvious assumptions in order to avoid the conclusion that we have a soul, then I think my arguments must be pretty strong, and it's safe to say that we have a souls.

 
At 9/04/2005 9:56 PM , Blogger Steve said...

i see your point sam and im always impressed by the strength of your arguments.

however i think that the notion we must "accept" or "reject" something which appears reasonable is making the world into black and white.

Isn't it possible to carry on some measure of doubt about all things, even existence and souls? That way we can say "I feel this is true because life would be too weird if it isn't" but at the same time admitting "but then again we'll never really know"

Its true that we cant say ANYTHING beyong a reasonable doubt, or that which is fully proven - but maybe we can say these things in a hopeful, but not certain manner. "I hope there exists souls" or "I hope there is an afterlife" rather than stating it in the affirmative.

On your other points, im not so sure they are all certain. The "uniformity of nature" for example - its not logically true to say that simply because something has happened in the past it will happen in the future, and often just because b follows a, we dont know the b was caused by a.

Now, we can say its a universal truth that everything we see is "real" but perhaps its a distortion of real. Perhaps if we saw life on a different band of the visual spectrum or a different intensity (instead of seeing solids, molecular levels) or from a fly's perspective, we would say that the same "real" is not inclusive and encompassing of all there is.

The assumptions about what is real are dangerous in my mind!

 
At 9/04/2005 11:04 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve,

I don't mean to make the world black and white by saying we should accept the reasonable. By saying "reasonable" rather than "certain," I'm acknowledging that there's room for doubt. In the case of logic, our existence, that 2 + 2 = 4, I think we can know these things with absolute certainty. But it's possible that we're wrong about some of these other things. By "reasonable" I just mean that it's highly unlikely that we're wrong. To suggest that we're wrong about these things seems unreasonable. Some of these things can be doubted, but I don't think they can be REASONABLY doubted. You have to be unreasonable to doubt them (or at least you'd have to have a very strong argument against them). There are some things that can't be proved one way or another, and we just have to ask ourselves if it seems more reasonable to affirm it or deny it. Maybe we have to remain agnostic about a lot of things, but the things I've been using as premises in my argument seem so obvious to me, and they have such a strong appeal to common sense, that I think it's unreasonable to deny them.

I probably wouldn't characterize my beliefs in terms of hopes. I may believe something is true and hope it's not. Or I may believe something is not true and hope it is. The only reason I hope there's a soul is because I hope to be resurrected, and I don't think it's possible to be resurrected unless I have a soul. But if it wasn't for that hope, I could care less whether I have a soul or not. At most, it would just make for an interesting philosophical (or theological) discussion.

I'm going to hold off responding about the uniformity of nature and the reality of the external world, because I plan to do blogs in the future on epistemology, and those are some of the things I'm going to talk about. I just meant to use them as examples in this discussion.

 
At 9/05/2005 1:06 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

Sam,

I think I see why you can't create a virtual person with its own mind.

On another note, how do we know that inanimate objects, such as books or pens, are not actually conscious? Do you think trees have their own mind?

 
At 9/05/2005 3:40 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dale,

I think the only way to say that something else has a mind is to compare it with ourselves. We see in ourselves what it's like to have a mind--we show emotion, we make decisions, etc. We see the same thing in animals.

It seems like everything that exhibits behavior consistent with having a mind, also has a brain. The brain turns out to be the window through which the mind interacts with the physical world in humans and in animals. Rocks and trees don't have brains.

Even if rocks did have minds, those minds would be completely useless to a rock, since a rock doesn't do anything. They'd be pretty useless to trees, too, unless those trees happened to live in Fangorn Forest.

I don't think any inanimate object has a mind. There just doesn't seem to be any reason to think they do. Or if they did, there doesn't seem to be any way for us to know about it.

 
At 9/05/2005 2:27 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

I see, that makes sense.

On another note about this topic, is there something wrong with the following argument?

Substance dualism: Physically, if the body changes, then there must be some immaterial (non-physical) aspect of our nature that maintains identity through physical change. This immaterial aspect of our nature is our mind/soul.

However, along similar lines,

1. Immaterially (non-physically), if the mind changes, then there must also be some non-physical AND non-immaterial (non-mental) aspect of our nature that maintains identity through both physical AND immaterial (mental) change.

2. Both the body and mind do change.

Physically, this can be seen from our cells being replaced every seven years. Mentally, this can be seen by a person's personality changing through years of experience. An optimistic young boy may turn into a pessimistic old man. Our personality is a property of the mind (tell me if you disagree). If our personality changes, our mind changes too. If you disagree about personality, then, more surely, watch someone ingest a few illegal drugs. It will affect their consciousness and change their mind in some adverse way. The fact that the brain can causally influence the mind shows that the mind can be changed (see last Wednesday's post). Even if the change is temporary, it is still change. Yet we still maintain our identity through this physical and mental change.

3. Therefore, it follows that there must be some non-physical AND non-immaterial (non-mental) aspect of our nature that maintains identity through both physical AND immaterial (mental) change.

So, are we looking at substance tri-ism or something?

 
At 9/05/2005 3:44 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dale,

The only problem I have with the argument is that it seems to assume mental properties, such as thoughts, personality, memories, etc., are what the mind is made up of, so that when you change them, you change the mind. But I would argue these are only properties of the mind. Just as a ball of wax can change properties (going from being round to being square) and still remain the same piece of wax, so also can a mind change properties (go from thinking about one thing to thinking about something else) and remain the same mind. But even if we could argue that the mind completely changes, it would be the self that maintains identity through both physical and mental change.

 
At 9/05/2005 5:17 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

About your last line, "but even if we could argue that the mind completely changes, it would be the self that maintains identity through both physical and mental change."

So you mean if the mind did completely change, the non-physical, non-mental aspect of our nature would be the self?

 
At 9/05/2005 5:21 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

Isn't the self a property of the mind?

 
At 9/05/2005 10:53 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

If the mind changes, and but the person remains himself, then the "self" is not the mind. The self has a mind. That's why it sounds odd to say, "There's this mind that has a Sam," but it doesn't sound odd to say, "Sam has a mind."

Personally, I don't think the mind and the self are identical, but a lot of substance dualists use the terms interchangeably.

 
At 9/06/2005 3:19 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

So how exactly would this change the number of substances involved, i.e. does this mean if the mind did completely change, then there would still be two substances -> physical and non-physical? If so, then would that mean both the self and the mind would be of the same non-physical substance, i.e. the same nature?

 
At 9/06/2005 3:26 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Congratualations, Dale, you made the 20th post, making this the longest discussion of anything I've posted on this blog.

There's still only two substances involved. By the principle of Occam's razor, it's only necessary to suppose one other substance (besides the physical) to account for mental properties and continuity of identity through physical change, resurrection, etc. Whether the self and the mind are identical or the mind is a property of the self is debatable. In either case, there's only one other substance involved.

 
At 9/06/2009 5:08 PM , Blogger Tears of Oberon said...

I am not going to get too far into the whole “substance duelism” philosophical stuff, as that has already been debated back and forth enough by others.

I simply wished to point out specific flaws in the foundation of this argument.

1) You make an unproven assumption at the beginning:

“just assume that a resurrection is when a physical body that has died comes back to life and is transformed into an incorruptible body.”

It is fallacious to just “assume” something to be true. Since you are framing this argument within the context of the Bible, it follows that the working definitions of your terms should be kept within the context of the Bible as well. The Biblical definition of “resurrection” is not restricted in lexicons to “the same physical body that dies coming back to life and then being transformed into an incorruptible body (while still being the same physical body as was possessed originally).

“Resurrection” (Gr. Anastasis, from ana, "up," and histemi, "to cause to stand") means in Strong’s, Vine’s and Gesenius’ lexicons simply: a raising up, rising (e.g. from a seat). Within the context of the Bible, the word is most often associated with death and life. “Resurrection” is not always associated with a transformation into an incorruptible body, as the Bible has numerous examples of “temporary” resurrections. The word “resurrection” being either always physical or always non-physical is also not discussed in the lexicons. Therefore, I would venture to put forth that a superior working definition of “resurrection” for this argument would be” “a raising from a state of death to a state of life.” This definition makes far less assumptions and has far less “add ons” than your definition, and thus Occam’s Razor should favor it more.

That brings me to the main thrust of the “real” opposing arguments:

1. “Resurrection” is a raising from a state of death to a state of life.
2. An immaterial “soul” (as you define it) does not die (we may have to define “death” later).
Conclusion: An immaterial soul cannot experience “resurrection.”

1. The purpose of “resurrection” is to bring a “human” from a state of death to a state of life.
2. A “soul” (as you define it) is perpetually alive.
3. All humans possess souls.
4. A “soul” (as you define it) does not need a physical body to exist or maintain consciousness
Conclusion: There is no need for a resurrection of any human.

1. "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better." (Phil Gibb’s definition of Occam’s Razor)
2. To explain events and properties in terms of one is simpler than explaining the same events and properties in terms of two or more, e.g., believing in the existence of two, ontologically distinct, entities (mind and brain) instead of a single entity (brain).
3. Non-duelism is a better explanation than duelism.

 
At 12/07/2010 3:27 PM , Blogger You Are Israel said...

Excellent analysis and post Tears of Oberon. Couldn't have addressed it any better.

 
At 12/07/2010 5:33 PM , Blogger Sam said...

I don’t usually respond to comments that come so late after my original post, which is why I didn’t respond to Tears of Oberon before. But since I linked to this post for your benefit, David, I’ll respond to his arguments.

He is right that I based my arguments on a premise that I did not prove in this post. But I have defended my understanding of “resurrection” in other posts, namely in a 19 part series I did on bodily resurrection in November and December 2005 that begins here. and ends here. There was no flaw in my reasoning. There was just a premise that I didn’t bother to defend in this post.

Oberon’s definition of resurrection is based on a simple Lexicon definition, and I do not dispute that definition. But my premise is not a definition of resurrection. It’s an explanation of what resurrection entails. I suspect that Oberon would agree with me that a resurrection entails a dead body coming back to life. He never disputes my premise about what a resurrection entails, so he doesn’t really deal with my arguments.

Now let’s look at his first argument:

1. “Resurrection” is a raising from a state of death to a state of life.
2. An immaterial “soul” (as you define it) does not die (we may have to define “death” later).
Conclusion: An immaterial soul cannot experience “resurrection.”


This, I agree with, but not without qualification. I would agree that resurrection is something that happens to the body, not the soul, although the soul is involved in the process. In my view, death involves a separation from the soul and the body, and resurrection involves the reunion of the soul and the body. A soul can be said to be dead in the sense that the person has physically died. But a soul can, at the same time, be said to be alive in the sense that the soul continues to exist after the body has died.

So far, none of this addresses the arguments I made in my post.

 
At 12/07/2010 5:35 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Let’s look at his second argument:

1. The purpose of “resurrection” is to bring a “human” from a state of death to a state of life.
2. A “soul” (as you define it) is perpetually alive.
3. All humans possess souls.
4. A “soul” (as you define it) does not need a physical body to exist or maintain consciousness
Conclusion: There is no need for a resurrection of any human.


I also agree with this, but not without qualification. He’s right that a human does not need to be resurrection in order for that person experience conscious existence since the soul can experience conscious existence apart from the body. But since human nature consists of both a body and a soul, a human does need to be resurrected in order to be complete. You and I can live without arms and legs, but we are incomplete without them. In the same way, a soul can exist without a body, but it is incomplete without one. God designed human beings to have physical bodies, which we would not have if God did not raise us from the dead.

Again, this does not address any of my arguments. Let’s look at the Oberon’s last argument:

1. "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better." (Phil Gibb’s definition of Occam’s Razor)
2. To explain events and properties in terms of one is simpler than explaining the same events and properties in terms of two or more, e.g., believing in the existence of two, ontologically distinct, entities (mind and brain) instead of a single entity (brain).
3. Non-duelism is a better explanation than duelism.


The problem with this argument is that resurrection cannot be explained by non-duelism. That was the whole purpose of my post—to demonstrate that duelism is necessary to explain resurrection. If non-duelism were really able to explain resurrection, as well as consciousness, continuity of personal identity through physical change, the ability to act intentionally, and every other phenomena dualism attempts to explain, then it would be the better explanation since Occam’s razor would remove any need to postulate an immaterial soul to explain these things. But that is the very issue under dispute between dualists and non-dualists. I have given an argument that non-dualism is not sufficient to explain resurrection, and that dualism is necessary to explain resurrection. Oberon has completely ignored my argument, leaving this last argument completely unsubstantiated. Postulating a brain alone would not yield the same predictions as postulating a mind and a brain, so Occam’s razor does not apply.

 

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