Personal Identity and the Survival of Death
Zimmerman (Dean)
Source: Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Death; ed. Ben Bradley, Fred Feldman, and Jens Johansson (OUP, 2015), pp. 97-153
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. The argument for a Protean criterion of identity1 (section 4), shall, I hope, be of interest to anyone who takes seriously the idea that we might persist by means of temporal parts. But, beyond the argument for Proteanism, the conclusions of the chapter will be of greatest interest to those who think there is, or may well be, a God. Most of today’s atheists are materialists; and the forms of survival-for-materialists that shall emerge require miraculous events. Furthermore, my conclusions about the prospects of survival-for-dualists provide little comfort for (that rare bird!) the dualist atheist. A person’s mental life evidently depends upon her possession of a living, healthy brain; so, even if she is an immaterial thinking thing, it seems unlikely that she could go on thinking after the destruction of that organ — barring, once again, some miracle. Without God in the picture, dualism by itself would not lead us to expect any very meaningful kind of survival of death2.
  2. Some philosophers have taken materialism to be obviously true, and to be incompatible with our enjoying any kind of life after death3 — thus providing a knock-down argument against the existence of a good God who will right wrongs and explain the meaning of our earthly circumstances in the afterlife4. If I am right, these arguments would fail, even if materialism were as obvious as many take it to be. So the chapter should interest atheists who make use of such arguments — however quaint they may find the supernatural machinery that I frequently wheel in.


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