- Substance Dualism identifies the person with the immaterial soul, a mysterious entity hidden under a “muddy vesture of decay.”
- In our naturalistic age this view has come under attack as unscientific and is currently held by only a minority of philosophers. This is not the place to survey and assess critically the arguments put forward against substance dualism. Many are based on an oversimplified picture of dualism and would not withstand careful scrutiny. However, as part of the philosophical Zeitgeist they are to a certain extent taken for granted.
- The fact that physicalism is all but the received view in contemporary philosophy of mind serves certainly as a strong incentive to express Christian doctrine independently of any commitment to substance dualism. A recent collection of papers by Christian philosophers is provocatively entitled “Do we need Dualism?”. It does not come as a surprise that several non-dualist metaphysical accounts have recently been put forward by Christian philosophers.
- Worries about the compatibility of Christianity and substance dualism are hardly something new. Scripture clearly formulates the notion of bodily resurrection. Based on this testimony, the tradition has claimed that a body is necessary for the survival of a complete person. Christian philosophical anthropology thus followed to a large extent the Aristotelian tradition in which the soul is the form of the body (Council of Vienne, 1311-1312). Form and matter together constitute the person, a substantial unity, a compound of body and soul.
- The recent rise of Christian materialism is however a much more radical dismissal of all things dualist. It is the claim that the Christian view of persons can be preserved without loss within a genuine physicalist ontological framework.
- While this seems hard enough already when dealing with matters like consciousness, intentionality and freedom, it seems – prima facie – all but impossible when the Christian hope for post-mortem survival1 is to be explained within a materialist world view.
- However, the issue is not quite that simple. Whatever one's favorite philosophy of mind may be, a Christian philosopher will have to account for the resurrection of the flesh. Since the bodily resurrection will obviously be at the center of materialist accounts of the possibility of post-mortem survival2, a deeper understanding of that difficult notion should be expected from investigating them.
For the paper, see Link.
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