- This is a YouTube video, and not a paper as such. See Link.
- As it is a quick way in to Zimmerman’s views on the subject, this is a quick file-note outlining1 what he says.
- Obviously, given that he’s a Christian, Zimmerman thinks there is life after death2; he also thinks there are no insuperable philosophical difficulties in getting us to the future life, though it may require a miracle.
- Zimmerman is not a Christian Materialist3, but holds some form of the Soul4 view.
- In Detail5:-
- The nature of ourselves is a deep mystery.
- Amongst analytical philosophers working on the metaphysics of human beings – even those in no way religious – there’s an incredible spectrum of views about the nature of persons:
- are we entirely material,
- do we persist by having instantaneous temporal parts standing in for us one after the other?
- So6, Zimmerman sees no reason to doubt the traditional Christian teaching that we are not made up entirely of matter, but that there’s something else interacting with our brains; something that could in principle continue to exist (after our brains have ceased to be).
- He sees no reason to say that the soul – to give it its traditional name – is naturally immortal.
- The soul is a part of nature in the sense that it is the natural result of the very complicated human brain functioning as it’s supposed to do.
- Animals have souls as well.
- But, he dislikes the expression “having a soul”, as though I’m a different thing to my soul.
- If the soul is the subject of my thinking, and experiencing qualia, then it’s me.
- I’m intimately related to my body, which I require to act – and to think – but I’m the thinking thing.
- If the thinking thing is immaterial, then I am immaterial.
- So, could the soul survive death?
- Well, if it’s the sort of thing that’s naturally generated by brains, its natural state is to be united with a living organism.
- So, if it were to survive (disembodied)7 it’d have to be by a miracle as it has no natural staying power – so it would have to be unnaturally sustained by God in a “maimed” state.
- So the doctrine of the resurrection is essential and – if that’s what souls are like – we may suppose that God will supply a body … and it’s supposed to be this body.
- What that means is hard to say, as this body is headed for disaster, so how can it be brought back again?
- God could gather together the bits – entirely appropriate – and we’d “naturally” call it the same body – but he’s no idea whether that’s really what will happen; and the precise identity of the parts (eg. it we’ve been nuked) isn’t important as we gain and lose parts all the time.
- There might be something more mysterious going on – for instance at the moment of death this living organism is given the ability to generate a successor to itself at some other place or time.
- St. Paul makes fun of those who ask hard questions like that, so we can’t expect to know much more than that it’s possible.
- Some brief comments8:-
- Some Christian philosophers deny that it is the Biblical teaching – even if it is the traditional Christian teaching – that we “have” souls – or are most fundamentally immaterial. See "Corcoran (Kevin) - Rethinking Human Nature: A Christian Materialist Alternative to the Soul" in particular, especially Corcoran’s wriggling when it comes to the creeds.
- An interesting thing about animals9 being ensouled. Presumably only those that think, or at least perceive. Maybe primitive animals have primitive souls?
- Does Zimmerman really believe that – at the most fundamental level – we are immaterial thinking things? How does this compare – say – with Baker’s view that we are individuated by our FPP10?
- How is the “union with a living organism” supposed to take place? This is a traditional problem for dualism11.
- Also I wasn’t sure how important the “organism12” (rather than “body13”) is to be in Zimmerman’s metaphysics. Are our resurrection bodies supposed to be “organisms”?
- He’s a little bit quick (and sanguine) on the reconstitution of “this body”. Does he comment anywhere of Olson’s "Olson (Eric) - Life After Death and the Devastation of the Grave"?
- The “mysterious ending” is his “falling elevator” model, most recently expounded in "Zimmerman (Dean) - Bodily Resurrection: The Falling Elevator Model Revisited".
- I had thought that Zimmerman’s metaphysics did not need something like the above transfer mechanism, but maybe he’s now convinced that “this body” is essential – either as being Christian doctrine, or to ensure identity of the person.
Footnote 1: Well, “detailing” is more appropriate – though what he says is obviously just a brief outline of his thoughts on the topic.
Footnote 5: This is a very full, and hopefully faithful, but not quite verbatim account.
Footnote 6: This strikes me as methodologically unsound. Given that philosophers never agree on anything, this gives license to believe whatever you like on everything.
Footnote 8: As this is a very brief self-exposition of Zimmerman’s views, it’s not worth saying much here, so I just add a few pointers for future reference.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020