Materialism Most Miserable The Prospects for Dualist and Physicalist Accounts of Resurrection
Loose (Jonathan)
Source: The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism, edited by Jonathan J. Loose, Angus J.L. Mengue, and J.P. Moreland. Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell. Chapter 31, pp. 470-487
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Notes

  1. I managed to copy the paper from the on-line book below. Unfortunately, the copy leaves a paragraph-break between words! I’ve replaced these with spaces. As I read the paper, I’ll sort this out.
  2. The whole book looks interesting, but is far too expensive in hardback, at £150, and still expensive in paperback, which isn’t even available until September 2023, at £42.
  3. Eventually I found the book on-line. See Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism.
  4. I doubt this site is legal – it must break copyright rules. You can download stuff in return for uploading other stuff. All very dodgy. But I might resort to reading on-line if it’s still there when I get round to it. As noted above, copy and paste doesn’t work very well.

Full Text
    Whether we are to live in a future state, as it is the most important question which can possibly be asked, so it is the most intelligible one which can be expressed in language. Yet strange perplexities have been raised about the meaning of that identity or sameness of person, which is implied in the notion of our living now and hereafter, or in any two successive moments. And the solution of these difficulties hath been stranger than the difficulties themselves.
    → Joseph Butler (1897 [1736], 317)
  1. 31.1 The General Resurrection
    • Stephen Davis’s detailed assessment of the doctrine of the general resurrection suggests that it is the claim that those who have died will persist into a subsequent, embodied life by means of a divine miracle (Davis 2010,108). The assumption on which this chapter is focused is that in resurrection a relation of numerical identity (henceforth, identity) must hold between the person who died and the person who is raised such that they are the very same individual. A concern to establish this has attended discussion of the general resurrection from earliest times. For example, early Christian theologians tended to join the vast majority of people in accepting anthropological dualism, taking the view that a human person is identical to or partly composed of a simple immaterial substance. At death the body decays and disappears while the soul departs and exists for an interim period in a disembodied state1. On the Last Day the very same (identical) human person stands again as a result of the miraculous reuniting of the soul with the identical body in resurrection. The relevant particles are reassembled to compose the body, which is suitably transformed to be fit for heavenly existence. This reassembly model is so characteristic of the period that Davis labels it the patristic theory in contrast to alternatives that do not dep end on reassembly, which he describes as modern (Davis 1993, 95).
    • The patristic theory suffers from problems that partly explain why recent discussion focuses on modern alternatives. For example, if sufficient matter required for my resurrection were annihilated or – more likely – came to be part of other human bodies prior to the Last Day then it (and hence my body) would not be available for resurrection. Also, given the continual replacement of bodily matter, it is possible that at a later stage of earthly life the material simples composing my body would not overlap with those that composed it at an earlier stage. Thus at the Resurrection both earlier and later bodies could be reassembled simultaneously, standing side by side each fully and equally qualified to be my resurrection body. Yet identity is a reflexive, symmetrical and – crucially – a transitive relation and so two bodies that are each identical to my body must also be identical to each other, which is absurd. Perhaps one solution is to claim that only the later body is qualified since it composed me most recently. However, this would make the identity of a reassembled body at the Resurrection dependent on the absence of a more recent candidate, which would also be absurd since it is a necessary rather than a contingent fact that a thing is the thing that it is and not something else. It seems safe to say that whether or not a particular body is my body cannot depend on the nonexistence of a better qualified candidate although, as we shall see, not everyone agrees.
    • Given these problems with the patristic view one might expect modern theorists to relinquish the bodily identity requirement and rely on the continued existence of the soul to preserve personal identity. This would not entail that human persons naturally survive death. Even if not essentially physically dependent, we are clearly contingently dependent on our bodies for our functioning during earthly life and so it remains possible that in the natural course of events immaterial human persons would cease to exist when the body dies. Survival would nevertheless be possible as an achievement of omnipotence, consistent with the Christian understanding of resurrection as divine gift. However, this promising move does not remove the Patristic commitment to dualism and – as van Inwagen (1998) notes – while dualist and materialist alike must face the problems generally associated with their positions, the problems often thought to be associated with dualism continue to make it unpopular. Thus a number of Christian scholars resist dualism energetically. For example, Baker describes souls as surds in nature (Baker 2007), and Wright has claimed that, “we do not need what has been called ‘dualism’ to help us over the awkward gap between bodily death and bodily resurrection” (Wright 2011). However, materialist accounts face what van Inwagen has called a “special philosophical problem about personal identity” (van Inwagen 1998). It is no easy task to show that a wholly material person at the Resurrection could be identical to a wholly material person who previously died. If the dualist can explain personal identity across the bridge of death and the materialist cannot then – to say the least – dualism has a significant advantage in demonstrating the possibility of resurrection. Indeed materialism may turn out to be inconsistent with resurrection belief2. So we consider the prospects for both dualist and materialist theories, but focus on the latter.
  2. 31.2 Dualism and Personal Identity
    • The dualist’s account of resurrection depends on the possibility that the identity of a person over time is preserved by the persistence of a simple immaterial substance with no necessary connection to a particular physical or psychological career. While there is little to be said about the persistence of simples, one common challenge to the claim that human persons persist as essentially nonphysical beings is that personal identity must consist in the criteria that we normally use when making judgments about it, namely the “continuities of mental or physical properties or of the physical stuff (that is, the bodily matter) of which they are made” (Swinburne 2012, 105). This is the complex view of personal identity over time. In contrast, substance dualism requires the alternative simple view that personal identity consists in a “quite separate further fact” (Parfit 1982) beyond these empirical continuities. Are there reasons to reject the simple view?
    • It is extremely difficult to hold that the simple view is impossible on the grounds that it is inconceivable that personal identity could consist in a “further fact.” First-person knowledge of what it means to be a subject of experience is central to the way in which we develop the ability to produce and understand sentences involving personal identity and this experience does not depend on particular continuities of mental or physical properties. Furthermore, the belief that human persons are naturally dependent on such empirical continuities is both unpopular and unnatural. Concepts of soul are ubiquitous throughout history and across human societies (including those of the Bible’s authors3). Psychological evidence supports the claim that even from infancy the default conception of human persons is that we are less physically constrained than material objects and in early childhood the default belief is that persons are capable of surviving death and disembodiment and doing so with a range of mental states intact4. The conceivability of disembodied personal existence has been considered sufficiently robust to constitute a premise in modal arguments for the truth of dualism (e.g., Taliaferro 19945), and disembodied experience is probably conceivable as indicated by speculative accounts such as Price’s (1964 [1953]) famous vision of a world of experienceable and communicable mental images through which disembodied persons might be known to one another6.
    • The ubiquity of default, dualist views about human persons strongly suggests that it is by no means inconceivable that personal identity over time would consist in the continued existence of the same soul rather than the physical and psychological continuities that we make use of when making judgments about it.
    • However, the seeming conceivability of the claim that a person’s identity consists in a “further fact” does not establish its possibility if further reflection reveals sound arguments demonstrating that the view entails a contradiction. Swinburne presents a typical example of just such an argument, developed from Locke:
        [Advocates of the complex view] may claim that “Socrates is the same person as the mayor of Queenborough, but has none of the same brain, memory or character as the mayor,” together with what they may claim to be a necessary truth “no one should be punished for any act which they cannot remember doing” entails “both {the mayor should be punished for any immoral act of Socrates} and not-{the mayor should be punished for any immoral act of Socrates}.” (Swinburne 2012, 113)
    • As Swinburne points out, however, there are ready objections to this particular argument and the soundness of such arguments is typically difficult to establish to the satisfaction of both defenders and opponents of the simple view. For example, we need only ask why the statement that “no one should be punished for any act which they cannot remember doing” is a necessary truth. Since the statement seems possibly false (as even Leibniz seemed to think7) the inconsistent conclusion is avoided. It is perhaps the difficulty of demonstrating the inconsistency of the simple view that leads some of its opponents to press its implausibility instead (e.g., see Shoemaker 2012). However, the simple view is not implausible per se for the immaterialist who also holds that the “further fact” in which identity consists is the ongoing existence of a particular simple immaterial substance.
    • Even if the simple view is neither inconceivable nor demonstrably inconsistent, what of the complex theorist’s positive claim that since we obviously depend on physical and psychological criteria when making judgments about personal identity it must be the case that it consists in these criteria? Perhaps, as Flew claimed, “persons are what you meet” (see Price 1964 [1953], 287). The simple theorist holds that Flew’s comment – while true in one sense – is false in the most fundamental sense. To elaborate on an earlier point, our underlying conception of personal identity over time comes not from third-person observation but from direct first-person knowledge of what it is to be a persisting subject of experience and each of us learns to talk about personal identity by associating various expressions with that knowledge. Such knowledge is, of course, psychological; however, this is not a psychological account of identity in the sense that is often discussed. We are not talking about psychological continuities as constitutive of identity, but certain experiences that give direct knowledge of identity. Thus, most fundamentally, persons are what we know ourselves to be.
    • Since judgments about the identities of others cannot involve first-person knowledge, they must be made on the basis of the evidence of those observable physical and psychological continuities that we have learned are normally closely associated with our own direct experiences of personal persistence. This close association would be expected on any version of dualism that takes soul and body to be integrated and most contemporary dualists hold that persons, while ontologically separable in principle, are best understood holistically.
    • It seems, then, that there is no compelling reason per se to hold that personal identity cannot consist in a “further fact” beyond physical and psychological continuities. Positively, it should also be noted that the simple view exerts a very strong pull because it is consistent with the strongly and widely held conviction that personal identity must be determinate . Joseph Butler and Thomas Reid famously distinguished different senses of identity, holding that personal identity is correctly understood in a determinate “strict and philosophical” (or “perfect” ) sense as opposed to the “loose and popular” sense that is employed when referring to other things8.
    • In introducing and naming the distinction between simple and complex views Parfit – himself a complex theorist – emphasized the strength of determinacy’s pull, writing that it is the simple view that is adopted by “the great majority of those who have thought about the question” (Parfit 1982, 227). He claimed that “most of us believe, and nearly all of us are inclined to believe, the Simple View” (Parfit 1982, 228) because problem cases reveal a strong intuition that whatever the degree of observable continuity between me and a future person, it can only ever be the case that that person either is or is not me. Yet, if personal identity consists in something that can be a matter of degree, such as the extent to which physical and psychological characteristics are continuous over time, then scenarios could be conceived in which the relevant continuities are present to a level that leaves the question of personal identity indeterminate even for an observer otherwise in possession of all the facts. In such a scenario it would seem just as likely that personal identity is preserved as that it is not and arguments could be made either way. Parfit claims that “nearly all of us” would prefer to claim that personal identity consists in a “further fact” rather than accept that it could be like this. Swinburne notes the important role that thought experiments involving such ambiguous scenarios have had in demonstrating the implausibility of complex views of personal identity and persuading philosophers of the truth of the simple view (Swinburne 2012). When attempts are made to reduce personal identity to nonpersonal continuities that admit indeterminate situations, the simple theorist may well claim that the perfect sense of identity is being confused with its loose and popular counterpart9. The importance of ambiguous situations will become clear when considering materialist, modern accounts of resurrection, to which we will turn next.
    • To summarize, substance dualism accommodates personal identity across the bridge of death in accordance with the simple view. The simple view is not inconceivable, underlying as it does the way in which we typically come to understand sentences involving personal identity and being consistent with the ubiquitous default view that persons are not physically constrained and may survive death. Neither does the simple view obviously entail a contradiction that would undermine the inference from conceivability to possibility. Importantly it is also consistent with the widely held intuition that personal identity must be determinate and it accommodates the important evidential role we ascribe to physical and psychological continuities when making judgments about the identity of other persons in normal circumstances.
    • Given all this, the dependence of the dualist account of resurrection on a simple view of personal identity seems unproblematic. Indeed, given the ubiquity of the simple view of personal identity, we could invoke a principle of credulity and hold that since it seems to almost all people to be correct and given that there is no compelling reason to reject it, then it probably is correct. Dualism then seems to offer an excellent account of the possibility of resurrection.
    • However, it is important to consider the prospects for a coherent materialist alternative. After all, not only is substance dualism unpopular among philosophers but a small number of people report that from the first their intuitions about human persons have swum against the tide and have been strongly materialistic, or that it is difficult in early childhood to understand how a human person might be absent from his dead body (e.g., Corcoran 2005, 69). Such “antecedent physicalists” do not see that dualism has any advantage based on early intuitions about the nature of persons or the way in which concepts and language about personal identity are acquired. We thus consider some popular materialist understandings of resurrection, considering first the account that is the progenitor of the current debate.
  3. 31.3 The Simulacrum Model
    • Peter van Inwagen rejects the patristic theory for reasons already given, but also because of the importance he accords to causal continuity in personal identity. To illustrate this, he considers a manuscript completely burned up some time after the death of its human author. Later on, God subsequently gathers up the dispersed particles and reassembles the manuscript. While materially indistinguishable from the original, the reassembled manuscript has a divine rather than human causal origin and is thus not identical with it. What goes for manuscripts goes for material human persons. If a body on the Last Day is to be me , then it must be both materially and causally continuous with me. However, according to van Inwagen this requirement does not preclude the possibility of resurrection. To see this we must recognize two things. First, there is a short period after death during which a corpse is not so badly damaged that it cannot return to life:
        a former corpse in which the processes of life have been “started up again” may well be the very man who was once before alive, provided the processes of dissolution did not progress too far while he was a corpse. (van Inwagen 1978, 119)
      Second, God can extend this short postmortem window of opportunity to cover the period from death to the Last Day:
        Perhaps at the moment of each man’s death, God removes his corpse and replaces it with a simulacrum which is what is burned or rots. Or perhaps God is not quite so wholesale as this: perhaps He removes for “safekeeping” only the “core person”– the brain and central nervous system – or even some special part of it. These are details. I take it that this story shows that the resurrection is a feat an almighty being could accomplish. I think this is the only way such a being could accomplish it. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s of little importance. What is important is that God could accomplish it this way or some other. (van Inwagen 1978, 121)
      This, then, is the simulacrum model of the general Resurrection. Van Inwagen regrets that his materialism brings him into conflict with the dualistic anthropology of the Church fathers and subsequent Christian history (and he thus holds that, even if false, dualism cannot be a pernicious belief). However, he takes his view to be consistent with the anthropology of Old and New Testaments10 and draws a parallel between the body preserved between death and resurrection and Paul’s notion of a “naked kernel” (van Inwagen 1995, 486).
    • Whatever the merits of the simulacrum account of resurrection it has proved unpersuasive. Thus, in a later postscript, van Inwagen changed his original claim, arguing that this is not the only way in which a divine being could accomplish resurrection, although we lack the conceptual resources to understand the alternatives. The model thus demonstrates the metaphysical possibility of the Resurrection given a materialist account of human persons; it is a “just-so story”:
        Although it serves to establish a possibility, it probably isn’t true. (And it is easy to see why someone might think it was preposterous, although it might be questioned whether any of us is in an epistemic position to make a judgment of this sort.) (van Inwagen 2009, 327)
      In addition to its seeming preposterousness, the account raises at least two other major problems: First, it entails a problematic conception of God; second it is at best uncertain whether it offers the animalist an account of resurrection after all.
    • The most oft-cited reason to reject van Inwagen’s account is that it entails divine deception, raising the serious concern (shared with Descartes) that it thereby entails a defective concept of God11. If bodies are replaced with simulacra at death, then God systematically deceives the bereaved about what it is that is buried or cremated and about which they grieve; a deceit compared by Zimmerman to the theory that God placed dinosaur bones in the earth simply to deceive us about its age (Zimmerman 1999, 196). Van Inwagen’s brief reply to this objection is that in producing a situation in which humans form false beliefs under optimal conditions God does not of necessity do something morally objectionable and the purpose of providing simulacra is to give a valuable counterfactual demonstration of what death would mean if we were “left to the situation we had earned for ourselves” without Christ (van Inwagen n.d.).
    • It is reasonable to claim that an act that causes a false belief may not be an act of deception if it is not part of the actor’s purpose to bring it about. However, simulacra are provided solely for the purpose of affecting the experience and beliefs of humans and in a way that seems to require the false belief. The most potent symbol of sin’s limitation of life is found in the interment of the very matter that composed the deceased at the moment of death, because in this event the bereaved are faced with the irretrievable terminus of that life and hence the full horror and finality of death without Christ and (counter-factually) the miraculous nature of Christ’s achievement. The term “simulacrum” can mean “an unsatisfactory imitation” and the knowing burial of a simulacrum would indeed be unsatisfactory by comparison. However, even if some case can be made that simulacra could serve this purpose without divine intent to create a false belief, it seems highly likely that God has another purpose that requires it. The disappearance of bodies as they are snatched at death would seem to provide such obvious evidence of divine activity that it may remove the cognitive freedom for people to choose whether or not to believe. Hence, simulacra cover God’s tracks and preserve this freedom. Divine deception remains a problem.
    • Deception is an important issue, but does the simulacrum model even amount to an account of resurrection? This animalist model requires that personal identity over time depend on the continuation of a particular life, while resurrection seems to require a gap in that life between death and the Last Day. Careful consideration of the way in which a life might cross the gap shows that the model fails to offer the Christian animalist a sure and certain metaphysical possibility of resurrection; perhaps even pushing her toward a simple view of personal identity over time and most probably toward dualism. To see this requires looking at the simulacrum model in some detail.
    • Van Inwagen’s moderate account of composition12 holds that if a group of material simples is to possess the unity required to compose an object then they must be caught up together in a life and persistence at different times requires simples that are caught up in that particular life at those times. Hence, if I am to appear at the resurrection, the simples that will compose me then must somehow be caught up in the very same life as the simples that compose me now and a model of the possibility of resurrection must show that this can occur.
    • The question of how lives persist is difficult to answer because the nature of life remains controversial and van Inwagen notes that the task of defining it should be left in the hands of biologists13. However, he nevertheless emphasizes the standard view that lives are self- maintaining, homeodynamic events14. Therefore, at any moment the simples caught up in a life must possess the individual properties and relations necessary for that life to continue into the future. If these simples come to be dissociated and are thus incapable of causing the life to persist, then that life has ceased in the sense of disruption :
        We may be confident that the life of an organism which has been blown to bits by a bomb or which has died naturally and has been subject to the normal, “room-temperature” processes of biological decay for, say, fifteen minutes has been disrupted. (van Inwagen 1990, 147)
      A disrupted life has ceased irretrievably and so cannot be followed by resurrection. The seeming advantage of the simulacrum model, then, is that the preservation of the corpse ensures that disruption never occurs. The corpse does not decay and dissolve, but is removed and preserved until the Last Day.
    • One way to make sense of this idea of preservation is to notice the obvious similarity to situations of cryogenic freezing (e.g., see Hasker 1999, 223). Van Inwagen elsewhere discusses a hypothetical successful case of the cryogenic freezing and thawing of a cat. While the cat is frozen there are no chemical or biological processes ongoing within it and when thawed it appears unharmed with all its vital signs intact. The question is whether the life of the cat that was frozen is identical to the life of the cat that was subsequently thawed. In discussing this question, van Inwagen makes a very important comment: “It is not altogether clear that the life of the cat ceases when it is frozen” (van Inwagen 1990, 146). The absence of biological and chemical processes might suggest the cessation of life, but it is attractive to think that it remains present since it might have been:
        squeezed into the small-scale physical processes (the orbiting of electrons and the exchange of photons by charged particles). Its life became the sum of those sub-chemical changes that underlie and constitute chemical and large-scale physical unchange. . . . I . . . would describe the frozen cat as a living corpse. (van Inwagen 1990, 147; emphasis added)
    • If the frozen matter was indeed a living corpse then the cat clearly continued to exist through this period. Cryogenic freezing is a case of the removal from the organism’s environment of the resources that it needs to manifest the chemical and biological processes associated with its life, but without removing the capacity for it to do so again when those resources return. It is thus attractive to claim that the organism’s life remains pent up within it in the way that van Inwagen suggests. Importantly, in actual cases of cryogenic freezing it is usual to consider the organism to be alive despite the absence of the normal chemical and biological processes. For example, cryogenically frozen embryos or dehydrated tardigrades15 are considered alive because they are viable, possessing the capacity for vitality (Luper-Foy 2016).
    • So identity may be preserved in virtue of the persistence of a life event, albeit in an unusual manner. This seems the most likely explanation of the simulacrum scenario. It may be that the short period of time during which death seems to be reversible and during which preservation can take place is a period in which the life is actually there16. The problem here is that resurrection first requires death and if life is not lost then death has not occurred:
        It is part of the Christian faith that all men who share in the sin of Adam must die. What does it mean to say that I must die? Just this: that one day I shall be composed entirely of non-living matter; that is, I shall be a corpse. (van Inwagen 1978, 120)
    • If lives are “squeezed” during preservation then there is no time at which I am composed of non-living matter and the model amounts to an account of mere resuscitation. An account is required on which preservation involves the loss of life.
    • It goes without saying that the clearest account of death – namely irreversible disruption – is of no help to the simulacrum model. This is a serious problem since, despite ongoing debate about the notion of life, the claim that disruption is likely to be essential to death is common. As De Grazia observes:
        The qualifier “irreversible” is important ...If the body of an organism stops functioning, even for a long time, but the condition is later reversed so that function resumes, it is presumably incorrect to say that the organism died before returning to life. (De Grazia 2014, 83)
    • So it is highly likely that the simulacrum model fails because loss of vitality without irreversible disruption is not death and without death a return to vitality is not resurrection.
    • Nevertheless, we should not reject the model too quickly. If lives squeezed into living corpses cannot offer an account of resurrection, then perhaps there is a way that a life may cease without irretrievable disruption. This is “suspension”:
        a life has been suspended if it has ceased and the simples that were caught up in it at the moment it ceased retain, owing to the mere absence of disruptive forces, their individual properties and their relations to one another. (van Inwagen 1990, 147)
    • Could the life of an organism be preserved at death this way? Unlike squeezing, suspension envisions the loss of life and unlike disruption this loss may be followed by a subsequent return. However, it remains extremely unlikely that suspension offers the right account of preservation. As explained above, when an organism is preserved in a viable state in the absence of disruptive forces then the most likely and frequent explanation is that the life remains present.
    • In the unlikely event that lives are suspended rather than squeezed at death, some development of the principles governing composition and persistence is required to show that the organism continues to exist in the absence of its life and that the life of the revivified organism is the same as the life of the organism that died despite a temporal gap. In the case of persistence, van Inwagen’s developed principle holds that “if a life is going on at t1 and t3 , then for any time t2 between t1 and t3 there must be objects whose activity at t2 constitutes or results from that life” (van Inwagen 1990, 149; emphasis added). By allowing that a later life that merely results from an earlier one may be identical to it across a temporal gap, the principle accommodates the strong intuition that the revivified organism would be identical to the organism that died. However, if our understanding of the persistence of lives is sharpened in this way, it risks undermining strong intuitions in other difficult cases.
    • Consider metamorphosis. The physical facts seem to suggest strongly that metamorphosis is a case in which the life of one organism (a caterpillar) comes to an end and the life of a distinct organism (a butterfly) begins. If temporal gaps in lives are impossible then this view can be defended on the grounds that there is an interim period during the pupal stage when the life of the caterpillar has ceased and the life of the butterfly has not yet started. However, it seems more difficult to defend the claim that the processes within the chrysalis allow us to say that the life of the butterfly does not even result from the life of the caterpillar. This example demonstrates the difficulty of offering an account of the persistence of life that avoids creating conflict between strong intuitions about distinct, difficult cases. These difficulties arise only in the case of suspension and thus reinforce the view that it is better to think of preserved lives as squeezed into the small-scale physical processes underlying temporary chemical and biological unchange.
    • Despite what has been said in favor of squeezing over suspension, there is a larger issue. It is important to be mindful of van Inwagen’s indicative remark that it is not altogether clear whether or not a life ceases in such circumstances. There is ambiguity surrounding the persistence of a life in the simulacrum situation and it is not obvious that this ambiguity would be removed simply by a more detailed knowledge of the physical facts. If not, then this indeterminacy could be a linguistic matter; a consequence of our semantic indecision given the lack of a perfectly precise understanding of life. If such knowledge is not beyond our epistemic limits to attain then perhaps we will attain it and thereby know whether the simulacrum model entails a gap in the life of an organism, whether identity would be preserved across a gap, and how this would be consistent with solutions to other difficult problems about the persistence of lives. Without this knowledge it remains very difficult for the animalist to be certain about the possibility of resurrection in light of the simulacrum idea.
    • In fact, we can go further and suggest – given the previous discussion – that the simulacrum model might offer the kind of ambiguous state of affairs that Parfit recognized drives many to the simple view and which Swinburne urges should do so given the strong intuition that personal identity cannot be indeterminate. Van Inwagen concludes that lives are metaphysically vague entities admitting genuine borderline cases17. If so then ambiguity around the presence of a life through a period of preservation could reflect a relation of “indefinite identity.” It would not be true to say either that the person at the resurrection is or is not identical to the person who died. This emphasizes not only the failure of the simulacrum model but also the inability of animalism to offer an account of personal identity accommodating strong intuitions about its determinate nature.
    • I have argued that the seemingly preposterous simulacrum model fails to offer animalists such as van Inwagen an account of the metaphysical possibility of resurrection. It is most likely an account of resuscitation, but the situation is ambiguous and highlights the inability of animalism to provide a determinate account of personal identity, putting it at a disadvantage in comparison with the dualist’s simple view. However, this model has regularly been cited by Christian physicalists as a conceptually coherent account of the metaphysical possibility of resurrection with the problem of deception being the remaining sticking point. It is for this reason that Zimmerman offered an alternative account aiming to remove the need to involve God in the systematic deception implied by last-minute body- switching but otherwise utilizing the same metaphysical assumptions (Zimmerman 1999, 2010).
  4. 31.4 The Falling Elevator Model
    • Zimmerman suggests that instead of snatching away the body at the moment of death, God could give the simples that make up the body of a person, [A], the power to bud (or, in the original version, to fission) such that there come to be two identically structured sets of simples; one in this world [C], and one in the next [B]. Each of these products inherits the life-preserving causal relation from [A]. Thus, the self-sustaining causal process that had been passed down a single path during [A]’s earthly life would now continue down two separate and unrelated paths in two different worlds. However, crucially, we might say that the budding is only singly successful, since [C] in this world immediately goes on to constitute a nonliving corpse while [B] in the next world, suitably healed, functions as the sole and therefore successful candidate for the continuation of the pre-fission life (i.e., A = B). Zimmerman named this idea the falling elevator model because it describes a last- minute escape from annihilation, just as a cartoon character might escape death from a falling elevator by having it stop an inch from the ground so that he can step out of it! The difficulties with this “budding” account of resurrection are first that it is inconsistent with the nature of identity and second that it does not remove the deception problem after all.
    • The first problem is that the identity of [B] in the next world depends on the fate of [C] in this world. Imagine by contrast a doubly successful budding process in which both [B] and [C] are living bodies. In that case we would reasonably conclude that [A] continues life on earth as [C] (i.e., A = C) and the product of budding in the next world [B] is a different person. Thus, whether or not [A] continues into the next world as [B] depends on the fate of [C]. As noted at the outset, it seems absurd that this should be the case, and identity cannot function this way. Noonan emphasizes this with his “only X and Y” principle ( “OXY” ) (Noonan 2003; see also Williams 1956) which may be stated in terms of [A] and [B] as follows:
        Whether a later individual [B] is identical with an earlier individual [A] can depend only on facts about [A] and [B] and the relationships between them: it cannot depend upon facts about any individuals other than [A] or [B] [such as C]. (Noonan 2003, 129)
    • To deny OXY is to deny the necessity of identity. If two things are identical, then they are identical in every possible world. Yet, we have already seen that given the denial of OXY, the question of whether [A] and [B] are identical is dependent on the fate of [C]. So identity is being treated as a contingent rather than a necessary relation.
    • Another consequence of the nature of identity is that the previous suggestion that a doubly successful budding might lead to the continuation of [A]’s earthly life is mistaken. In this scenario it seems that both budding products have equal claim to identity with [A] and so either both continue [A]’s life or neither does. Given the transitivity of identity and that necessarily one thing cannot be two things, the answer cannot be “both.” Hence, bizarrely, [A] has budded out of existence. The falling elevator’s clash with the necessity and transitivity of identity, if real, is fatal for it.
    • In order to salvage the budding account, Zimmerman argues that a closest-continuer account of identity can be adopted. Broadly speaking, a closest-continuer account of identity denies OXY and thus allows that there might be multiple competitors for identity with a prior entity. The winner is the competitor more strongly continuous with the prior entity according to the metric specified by the theory in question. Closest-continuer theories are clearly articulated and defended by Nozick (1981).
    • Zimmerman argues that all materialist accounts must make use of closest-continuer theories and that the consequences of doing so are merely odd rather than absurd. However, Hasker disagrees with the former point, arguing that Zimmerman introduces a weakness into his model by making this move (Hasker 2011). It also seems too quick to claim that the consequences of the closest-continuer theory can be dismissed as acceptable oddities; the view has consequences that count significantly against its acceptability.
    • Consider again the singly and doubly successful budding situations described above. In the second (doubly successful) situation, the budding event, along with all of the prior events that make up the previous life of [A] are the progenitors of a new person in the next world. In the first (singly successful) situation, those same events fail to be the progenitors of a new person since in that case the next-worldly product of budding is the continuation of a person who already existed. Thus intrinsically identical sets of events produce different things. This seems to be an obviously absurd claim and thus its consistency with the closest- continuer theory serves to emphasize strongly the unacceptability of that theory (see Noonan 2003, 134).
    • We might also ask whether on the closest-continuer account situations such as those just compared can really be described as different. Of course, it would be absurd to claim that a situation in which a next-worldly person is identical to [A] is no different to the situation in which the next-worldly person is not identical to [A], but it turns out that this is what is being claimed. Consider Geach’s distinction between “mere Cambridge changes” under¬ stood as the gaining of a property without undergoing any real change. For example, if my son grows taller than me then I gain the property of becoming shorter than my son, not because I have changed but because he has. While the change in him is real, mine is a “mere Cambridge change.” Given this distinction, consider again the situation of [B] in the next world. Whether or not [B] continues the life of [A] depends on the fate of the causally unrelated, and spatiotemporally distinct budding product [C]. Thus, from [B]’s point of view, the differences in the situation dependent on the fate of [C] can only be mere Cambridge differences. There are no real differences between the situations analogous to my son growing taller than me, but only Cambridge differences analogous to my becoming shorter than my son. However, normally two situations are considered identical even if there are Cambridge differences between them. In other words, Cambridge changes are not normally regarded as events (Noonan 137). We are unable to claim the situations are different even though they involve different persons. This obviously absurd claim again emphasizes the unacceptability of the closest-continuer account that is consistent with it.
    • If all materialist accounts of resurrection must involve a closest-continuer theory of identity then absurdity abounds. We might well agree with Butler that we are approaching the strange problem of personal identity across the bridge of death by proposing yet stranger conceptions of identity. However, Zimmerman’s reason for putting forward the budding account is to provide van Inwagen an account of resurrection that avoids the systematic deception of the bereaved. More worrying, then, is the fact that the account fails to do even this.
    • When first introduced, the account seems to show that at the moment of budding the identical causal connection from [A] to [B] and [A] to [C] establishes that [A]’s corpse is left on earth ( = [C]) while [A] enters the next world ( = [B]). Hence there is no deception. However, even a closest-continuer theory does not allow that one thing can be two things and so if the budding process takes [A] to the next world then [C] in this world is not [A]’s corpse. Hasker makes this clear through a discussion of what happens to [A]’s proper parts at the moment of budding. It is deeply implausible to think that [A] could be present in the next world while being composed of wholly new parts, as is made clear by the following dialogue:
        ”That’s a fi ne new axe you have there!”
        “Oh, no – it’s the same old axe I’ve been using for many years. But it just came back from the repair shop, where they fitted it with a new handle and a new axe-head.” (Hasker 2011, 90)
    • However, if [A]’s proper parts are transferred with [A] to the next world, then [C] is neither [A]’s corpse nor an object composed of the organs and other parts that previously composed [A], since these are all in the next world. The only advantage that [C] has over the simulacrum is that [C] is composed of material simples that were previously caught up in the life of [A]. However, contrary to appearance, [C] fails to be composed of parts that once belonged to [A], for these have been taken to the next world and are still composing [A] ( = [C]). It seems, then, that in both van Inwagen’s and Zimmerman’s models a simulacrum is left on earth while the deceased is transported to the next world. What distinguishes them is the way in which this is achieved. In van Inwagen’s account the simulacrum is a divine construction, while on Zimmerman’s it is the product of the divine provision of a causal power for the body to jump to the next world. In neither case do the bereaved bury or cremate the body of the individual who died. The common objection to van Inwagen’s account is not dealt with by the budding account.
    • The prospects for animalism and resurrection seem miserable. Van Inwagen’s account makes God a deceiver, is probably an account of mere resuscitation and presents a seemingly ambiguous scenario that emphasizes the relative inadequacy of complex theories of personal identity. Zimmerman’s alternative requires a counter-intuitive closest- continuer theory of identity and seems ultimately to cover up rather than remove van Inwagen’s deception problem. Even if either of these accounts were to succeed, they are intended not as acceptable proposals but only as demonstrations of metaphysical possibility, offering little hope that resurrection is in fact something that in fact occurs given the nature of the actual world.
    • Surely the animalist believer in resurrection must seek an alternative materialist metaphysic. Jacobs and O’ Connor (2010) seek to apply the budding scenario while avoiding a closest-continuer account of identity. Their materialist metaphysic holds that a complex object possessing features not exhaustively constituted by the features of its parts (e.g., a human being) will additionally possess an emergent particularity as a non-mereological constituent. Identity over time will thus depend not only on immanent causal connections but also on the persistence of this emergent particularity. At budding, the individual goes wherever the particularity goes and so OXY is not denied. Given symmetrical fissioning the destination of the particularity at budding is indiscernible but, they claim, there is a fact of the matter and there could plausibly be a built in bias toward the particularity making it to the next world. However, the resurrection case is not symmetrical and if the differences between the this-worldly and next-worldly budding products are taken to be identity- relevant, then the particularity is overwhelmingly likely to fail to make the jump to the next world (see Hasker 2011). Even if it does, the deception problem remains.
  5. 31.5 Constitutionalism
    • One further prominent materialist alternative to animalism is based on Wiggins’s view that two things of different kinds can be at the same place at the same time (Wiggins 1968). Consider first a statue (David) and the lump of marble of which it is made (Piece). Statue and Piece exist as distinct objects because they have distinct modal properties (e.g., if the matter were re-shaped into a perfect sphere then only Piece would survive; David would not). In that case the relation between David and Piece is one of neither identity nor mere coincidence but of constitution, where constitution is a philosophical term of art describing a sui generis relation beyond coincidence that – unlike identity – is asymmetric and irreflexive.
    • In her influential account of constitution, Baker explicates the notion in terms of circumstances and primary kinds (Baker 2000). An object in the Accademia Gallery might possess an extrinsic property that is the type of relation to an artworld that statues must possess (circumstances) and in virtue of this it is a statue (primary kind). Every individual is a member of just one primary kind. Thus, when a thing ( x ) of one primary kind comes to be in circumstances favorable to another primary kind a new thing ( y ) of that latter kind comes into existence. In this way y is constituted by18 (and not identical to) x.
    • On Baker’s view, human persons are constituted objects. When a thing of the primary kind “human organism” comes to possess a certain property it is in circumstances favorable to the primary kind “human person” and it thereby comes to constitute a new thing of that kind. The property in question is a first-person perspective, which Baker describes as the property of being able to think of oneself as oneself; to think of oneself without making use of any name, description or demonstrative. This self-conscious reflexive understanding is the defining characteristic of persons for Baker and is not possessed by other conscious animals19. The advantage of such a theory when it comes to resurrection is that human persons, while necessarily embodied, do not necessarily have the bodies they in fact have. The career of an individual person may involve periods of constitution by a number of different objects (Baker 2007, 338). Furthermore, since a first-person perspective cannot be fissioned or duplicated there cannot be multiple claimants for identity with a particular individual at the Resurrection and so a closest-continuer theory is avoided.
    • However, this intriguing theory fails to provide an informative account of personal identity over time. It may be seen as a virtue shared with dualistic accounts that personal identity is not reducible to the nonpersonal continuities relied upon by the complex theorist. However, while dualist accounts ground personal identity in the persistence of a simple immaterial substance (a soul), the uninformativeness of the constitution view has a different and problematic source.
    • Baker holds that “a person exists when and only when her first-person perspective is exempli fi ed” (Baker 2012, 182). So in order to talk about personal identity over time we must talk about the exempli fi cation of that property over time. However, a first-person perspective is an unusual property since each exempli fi cation is unique to the thing that exempli fi es it. To grasp this, consider two properties of the Taj Mahal: it is white and it is identical to itself. While whiteness is independent of the existence of the Taj Mahal, the property of “being identical to the Taj Mahal” is not; it presupposes the Taj Mahal’s existence. So, on pain of circularity, impure properties such as “being identical to x” cannot be numbered among the constituents of x. First-person perspectives are also impure properties. The property of “thinking of myself as myself” presupposes my existence and so cannot be a constituent of me.
    • The impurity of this property explains why the constitution view is unable to offer an account of what it is that I am20 and indicates that the features that characterize a first- person perspective should be accounted for in another way. Moreland has observed that the having of a first-person perspective involves being a point from which the world is viewed. It could thus be reduced to a sentient (viewing) kind of substance (point) that possesses the properties characteristic of persons. In other words, we can recognize that a first-person perspective is the thing that a person is rather than a property that a person has. However, if this is the case then the property of being a first-person perspective becomes redundant, since “first-person perspective” just describes the situation in which an ordinary mental property (e.g., being painful) is exempli fi ed by a substantial personal ego. No further constituent is required or needed. As Moreland writes:
        The first-person perspective is just a way of describing/referring to an ontologically prior substantial, sentient person with ordinary mental properties to which that perspective can be reduced. (Moreland 2009, 13321)
    • While the seeming benefits of Baker’s account for an account of resurrection are very similar to those of dualism, the view lacks an informative account of personal identity for the pernicious reason that it is built on a property of human persons that cannot bear their weight: the first-person perspective has no place as a constituent of a human person. Thus the constitution view of persons is unsuccessful in offering the materialist an account of how an individual might die and yet appear again at the Resurrection.
    • While dualism offers a coherent account of personal identity consistent with the possibility of persistence across the bridge of death, the claim that materialism can do likewise seems flimsy indeed. Animalism aims to offer just-so stories adequate to establish the metaphysical possibility of resurrection by unknown means (which is not much to hope for) but fails to do even this. I therefore conclude that dualism offers a better account of the resurrection than materialism.
    • To conclude, it seems the materialist ontological commitments of some Christian philosophers should lead them to be of all people “most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19b). However, the present reassessment in the philosophy of mind of the difficulties commonly associated with various forms of both materialism and dualism has involved an increasing turn away from materialism toward moderate forms of dualism, a renewed interest in the nature of the human subject and a reinvigorated intra-mural discussion about the form dualist theories ought to take (see the rest of this volume). It seems, then, that these Christian philosophers may feel increasingly able to reject materialism, and that this should give them reason for cheer22.

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In-Page Footnotes

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