Dualism, Materialism and the Problem of Post Mortem Survival
Corcoran (Kevin)
Source: Kevin Timpe (Ed.), Arguing About Religion (Routledge, 2009)
Paper - Abstract

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Author's Introduction

  1. Does dualism have any obvious advantage over materialism when it comes to post mortem survival? It would seem so. After all, it seems bodies peter out and eventually cease to exist. And on any plausible materialist account of persons, one’s body is necessary for one’s own existence. So the materialist, it seems, has quite a story to tell about how a body that peters out and ceases to exist can somehow turn up in the New Jerusalem. Or if the materialist happens to believe in immediate resurrection, then she’s got to tell some whopper of a story about how a body that has apparently died nevertheless continues to live. I say the story must be a whopper because often the corpse1 is right before our eyes. How then can a dead body be enjoying any kind of meaningful resurrection existence? Dualists don’t have such problems. Or do they?
  2. This paper falls into two parts.
    • In the first part of the paper I show why it is plausible to believe that Christian dualists are no better off when it comes to making sense of the after life than their materialist siblings. For it is plausible to believe that the Christian dualist, whether she realizes it or not, faces one of the very same challenges as the Christian materialist2; namely, that of accounting for how a body that apparently falls apart and ceases to exist can nevertheless put in an appearance in the Heavenly City.
    • In the second part of the paper I take up the challenge of providing just such an account. I begin with a presentation of the standard reassembly view of resurrection and suggest ways of defending that view against two common objections.
    • I then offer what I take to be a plausible account of the persistence conditions3 for human bodies; one which, at least on the face of it, seems to conflict with the reassembly view.
    • I go on to offer reasons for believing that this account of the persistence conditions4 for human bodies is compatible with intermittent existence5 and also, therefore, compatible with belief in resurrection of the body, even it should turn out that resurrection is not possible via reassembly.
    • I close with a consideration of a non-gappy account of survival for friends of immediate resurrection.
  3. If I am correct in my diagnosis of Christian dualists, namely, that they face one of the very same challenges as their materialist brothers and sisters, then the discussion of resurrection that follows cannot be summarily dismissed as only of parochial interest6.


For the full text, follow this link (Local website only): PDF File7.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 6: I assume in this paper a three-dimensionalist account of material objects. Therefore, what I go on to say will be of only limited relevance for friends of four-dimensionalism. For a discussion of my problems with a four-dimensionalist view of persons see my "Corcoran (Kevin) - Persons, Bodies and the Constitution Relation", Southern Journal of Philosophy 37 (1999) 1-20 .

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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