Back Cover Blurb
- Are humans composed of a body and a nonmaterial mind or soul, or are we purely physical beings? Opinion is sharply divided over this issue.
- In this clear and concise book, Nancey Murphy argues for a physicalist account, but one that does not diminish traditional views of humans as rational, moral, and capable of relating to God.
- This position is motivated not only by developments in science and philosophy, but also by biblical studies and Christian theology.
- The reader is invited to appreciate the ways in which organisms are more than the sum of their parts. That higher human capacities such as morality, free will, and religious awareness emerge from our neurobiological complexity and develop through our relation to others, to our cultural inheritance, and, most importantly, to God.
- Murphy addresses the questions of human uniqueness, religious experience, and personal identity before and after bodily resurrection.
[ … snip … ] Philosophers will not be satisfied with the arguments herein against neurobiological reductionism. Neither are we2; we hope soon to publish an adequate treatment of the issue. In its process of growth this book has incorporated pieces written for other purposes. Several pages are adapted from In Search of the Soul, edited3 by Joel B. Green, …. 2005. Others are adapted from "Brown (Warren), Murphy (Nancey) & Malony (H. Newton), Eds. - Whatever Happened to the Soul: Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature".
- It is a strange fact about our culture that we are operating with a variety of radically different views of the basic nature of human beings. Even stranger is the fact that so few people seem to notice the first fact. Are humans immortal souls temporarily housed in physical bodies, or are we our bodies? The purpose of this book is to pursue this question from the perspective of three disciplines: Christian theology, science (especially the cognitive neurosciences), and philosophy.
- My central thesis is, first, that we are our bodies – there is no additional metaphysical element such as a mind or soul or spirit. But, second, this “physicalist” position need not deny that we are intelligent, moral, and spiritual. We are, at our best, complex physical organisms, imbued with the legacy of thousands of years of culture, and, most importantly, blown by the Breath of God’s Spirit1; we are Spirited bodies.
Amazon Customer Review
- What conception should Christians hold about human nature? It is safe to say that most Christians think of the human person in terms of a body 'animated' by a soul which detaches from the body at death. There are a variety of theological and scriptural reasons for thinking this, but then again it is not the only option consistent with Christian belief. In her book Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? Nancey Murphy makes a compelling case for a nonreductive physicalist account of human nature, which in her words is the thesis that "first, that we are our bodies-there is no additional metaphysical element such as a mind or soul or spirit. But, second, this 'physicalist' position need not deny that we are intelligent, moral, and spiritual" (p. ix). There are a variety of reasons for adopting this position, including the fact that there is no specific Biblical stance on the subject anyway, recent advances in cognitive neuroscience and the importance in Christian spirituality of recognizing our embodied, social and relational aspects. With regard to this last reason, theologian John Garvey pointed out recently that:
"We find it hard, especially in a culture that stresses individualism, to accept the idea that the self exists only in relationship. In fact, who we are is formed by the family we are born into, the language we learn, the culture we are immersed in. Finally, we are, we exist, because we are loved by God, who wills us to be. Even within the Trinity, the persons exist separately only in relation to one another. The moment we think that our being is in any way independent of relationship, we fall into the trap Genesis warned us about: We want to be like Gods."
- Nancey Murphy's critics at the Secular Web accuse her and her collaborators of trying to have their cake and eat it too with a 'nonreductive' as opposed to a 'reductive' physicalist account, but the moment you accept any sort of physicalist understanding you face the problem C.S. Lewis identified many years ago in his argument against naturalism:
"Unless our conclusion [about some proposition arrived at through logical argumentation] is the logical consequent from a ground it will be worthless and could be true only by a fluke. Unless it is the effect of a cause, it cannot occur at all. It looks therefore, as, in order for a train of thought to have any value, these two systems of connection must apply simultaneously to the same series of mental acts. But unfortunately the two systems are wholly distinct. To be caused is not to be proved."
- If Nancey Murphy wants to have her cake and eat it too, her critics are trying to discredit their opponent by sawing off the epistemic branch they themselves are standing on when they argue that a nonreductive physicalist account is incoherent. As Murphy says at another point in her book, "In fact, if reductionism were true, no rational person could accept it because there would be no rational persons!" (p. 109).
- To get around this difficulty Murphy develops a concept of 'top-down' causation4, in which higher emergent processes have some causal efficacy over lower-level processes, without violating the laws of physics. I think that more work needs to be done to give a satisfying account of this concept, but very broadly I think something like this is required to account for the richness of human experience. We are not just biological machines, if we were we would never know it. This also opens up a way for God to act in the world, on the human nervous system in order to communicate to us His Will and also to perform miracles. Murphy also gives a satisfying account of how personal identity can be maintained in different bodies, before and after the resurrection, so this central Christian doctrine emerges unscathed from a physicalist treatment.
- Even so, many Christians find the idea that there is no metaphysical 'soul' troubling and continue to hold to some form of body-soul dualism. John Garvey gives what I think is the main reason:
"Belief in the immortality of the soul attracts us because we hope that something about us is less contingent than the body, less creaturely, something that possesses an inherent immortality. For much of history, people believed the mind was somehow separate from the body, consciousness was somehow spiritual in a way that the meat soup of the brain was not."
- Seen in this light, belief in the immortality of the soul is just wishful thinking. It is more in keeping with Christian faith to place all our hope for immortality in the faithfulness of a loving God. As Montaigne said centuries ago,
"...it was truly for good reason that we were held to God alone and to the favor of his grace for the truth of so noble a belief, since we receive from his bounty alone the fruit of immortality...Let us confess ingenuously that God alone has said this, together with faith: for it is not a lesson of nature and our reason. And anyone who will investigate his own being and his powers, both internal and external, without that divine gift, will see in him neither efficacy nor any faculty that smells of anything but death and earth. The more we give and owe and render to God, the more we act with greater Christianity."
- For me this is a very exciting development in Christian theological anthropology. There does not have to be any conflict between Christian belief and new neuroscientific discoveries, we regain an emphasis of the importance of the body, which we should offer as "living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God" and which is "the temple of the Holy Spirit". The risen Christ was no phantom. He ate with his disciples and communed with them by the sea. He invited the doubting Thomas to touch and see for himself. And as He is now, so shall we all be at the Last Day. A Christian can hope for no more. It is already much more than we deserve or can even imagine.
In-Page Footnotes ("Murphy (Nancey) - Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?")
Footnote 1: Just what does Murphy mean by this?
Footnote 2: Warren Brown and Nancy Murphy, both of Fuller Theological Seminary.
Footnote 3: From a quick look on Amazon, this – subtitled “Four Views on the Mind-Body Problem” – is a collection of essays by the usual suspects – including
"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Review of 'Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?' by Nancey Murphy"
Source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2006.08.03 (August 2006)
- "Murphy (Nancey) - Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?" is a welcome book. Nancey Murphy defends a version of physicalism for Christians. She characterizes the physicalism that she endorses as the thesis that “we are our bodies — there is no additional metaphysical element such as a mind or soul or spirit.” Nevertheless, biology does not tell the whole story: We are “complex physical organisms, imbued with the legacy of thousands of years of culture, and, most importantly, blown by the Breath of God’s Spirit; we are Spirited bodies.” (ix) Murphy takes her main opponent to be a soul- or mind-body dualist.
- The book appears in Current Issues in Theology, a series of short and focused theological studies, aimed at students, Christian teachers and church professionals. As her title suggests, Murphy’s book is on the nature of human persons. With no pretense to being scholarly with respect to early church history or biblical studies, the book presents brief and accessible summaries of views on the soul, on resurrection, and on the impact of science on Christian conceptions of human persons. Murphy is careful to point out that oversimplifications are inevitable in a brief and accessible book. Although a serious student of theology will want to dig deeper, this book is a good place to start.
- There are four chapters.
- Chapter One explores Biblical and theological perspectives on human nature.
- Chapter Two discusses what physics, evolutionary biology and neuroscience say about human nature.
- Chapter Three argues against reductionism1, and defends free will and morality.
- Chapter Four takes up human distinctiveness, divine action and personal identity as challenges to physicalism.
- Although I found many of the arguments difficult to follow in detail, I shall try to summarize the main points.
- In Chapter One,
- Murphy convincingly shows that there is no such thing as “the” anthropology of the Bible or of the Christian tradition. Murphy argues that the fact that the Bible seems to teach dualism is largely a result of poor translations. Once the translations are repaired, “it is hard to find any clear teaching on the metaphysical makeup of the person” in the Bible at all. (p. 37) The Biblical authors were “interested in the various dimensions of human life, in relationships, not in the philosophical question of how many parts are essential components of a human being.” (p. 39) Thus, the door is open to physicalism.
- What difference can or should physicalism make to theology? Murphy makes some brief suggestions about theological issues like the doctrine of God, Christology and Trinity, Salvation and History, and about the unfortunate effects of dualism. The adoption of physicalism may lend Christian spirituality renewed emphases on the significance of the body, and on the reign of God, in which followers of Jesus participate by active love of neighbor and in struggle for justice and peace. These are interesting ideas, worth pursuing at greater depth than is possible in a book of this compass.
- Chapter Two
- hammers more nails into the coffin of dualism. Murphy sees three periods of reappraisal of human nature prompted by science:
- The replacement of Aristotelian physics by modern atomistic physics;
- the Darwinian revolution; and
- recent developments in the neurosciences.
- So, …
- Murphy begins with a brief discussion of how the atomist revolution undercut the medieval Christian worldview by calling into question the Aristotelian and Thomistic idea of the soul as the form of the body. There seemed two options: Hobbes’ physicalism, and Descartes’ “return to a radical dualism of mind (or soul) and body.” (p. 45) In the face of modern physics, mind-body dualism has seemed implausible: How could an immaterial mind cause a body to move?
- The Darwinian revolution highlighted the continuity between human beings and other higher animals. The transitions between species were too gradual to suppose that humans have souls but other animals do not. Murphy points to the theological roots of social Darwinism. Paley set the stage by arguing that whatever the character of the natural order, it was designed by God. Then, Malthus (an Anglican clergyman) explained that the character of the natural order was “competition and starvation” — which then can be seen as providential2. (p. 53)
- The cognitive neurosciences give reason to think that all the human capacities attributed to the soul can be understood as “processes involving the brain, the rest of the nervous system and other bodily systems, all interacting with the sociocultural world.” (p. 56) Interestingly, a number of views of Thomas Aquinas (e.g., his recognition of vis aestimativa, or an estimative power) find echoes in neuroscience (e.g., the discovery of the role of the amygdala in responding to intentions of others).
- Chapter Three
- is a defense of nonreductive3 physicalism. In particular, Murphy aims to show how nonreductive4 physicalism allows us to have free will and moral responsibility. Her strategy has two prongs.
- First, she argues
- against reductionism5 and
- for downward causation6.
- Second, she argues
- that human beings are “highly self-directed organisms whose behavior exerts downward causal control over their neural systems,” and
- that they can come to “govern their own behavior on the basis of moral reasons.” (p. 73)
- So, …
- Murphy construes reductionism7 as the twofold thesis that all entities are (nothing but) arrangements of atoms and that the behavior of an entity is determined by the behavior of its parts. She takes reductionism8 to imply that all causation9 is microcausation10. This allows her to argue against reductionism11 by examples of “holistic” properties (like shape) that are causally efficacious. I do not believe that reductionists would be convinced. They agree that shape is causally efficacious and is a property of a whole entity, but they also believe that the shape of the whole entity is determined by the shapes and arrangement of the parts. (See, e.g., Jaegwon Kim.)
- Murphy defends downward causation12. She does not set out her defense straightforwardly as an argument; so what follows is my best reconstruction. (pp. 78-84) First, Murphy distinguishes laws from initial or boundary conditions; then she argues that boundary conditions are themselves determined top-down. Often, the boundary conditions (structural and environmental) exert downward causal efficacy by means of “selection of lower-level entities or causal processes according to the way they fit into higher-level causal patterns.” (p. 90) The laws of a system of higher-level organization, where natural selection operates, are not reducible13 to laws of physics. “The patterns of boundary conditions picked out by the special sciences have downward causal efficacy in that they can affect which causal powers of their constituents are activated or likely to be activated.” (p. 83) So, she concludes, higher-level processes can influence lower-level processes, including brain processes. (p. 97)
- The self-directedness needed for moral responsibility begins to emerge when an organism can use information from its environment to redirect its activity. (p. 86) Finally, more complex creatures are capable of “self-transcendence” — the “ability to represent to oneself aspects of one’s own cognitive processes in order to be able to evaluate them.” (p.89) Self-transcendence, along with language, provides the means of escaping biological determinism. (p. 91)
- Murphy then turns to free will and moral responsibility (the reason that we care about free will).
- She sets aside challenges to moral responsibility from God’s foreknowledge, predestination, and social determinism on the grounds that “the issue at stake for the physicalist is neurobiological determinism.” (p. 103) Her aim is to show that moral responsibility is compatible with what we know about neuroscience and cognition.
- One of the capacities needed for moral responsibility is the ability to evaluate one’s desires. Murphy comments that “cognitive processes need to be understood in terms of hierarchical levels of processing such that higher cognitive levels influence lower levels, for example, by means of attention, expectancy, intention — and thus lower-level brain processes.” (p. 97) Murphy says that if she has made the case for downward causation14 via selection, “it makes no difference whether the laws of the bottom level are deterministic or not; higher-level selective processes can operate equally well on a range of possibilities that have been produced (at the lower-level) by either random or deterministic processes.” (pp. 106-7, her emphasis) This claim seems to miss the point. Higher-level selective causal processes may themselves be deterministic; indeed, there is no reason to think that selective processes are not deterministic.
- In fact, Murphy may well agree. Her characterization of free will is a compatibilist one: “[W]hen a person acts on the basis of considered goals and principles, without undue biological or social interference, she has become the author of her own acts and ought to be described as acting freely.” (p. 108) She explicitly argues against the idea of free will as “total autonomy”. This makes me wonder why she thinks that neurobiological determinism is a threat to moral responsibility at all.
- Chapter Four
- takes up four issues:
- What reason is there to think that physicalism is true?
- If human beings are just organisms (without souls), then in what way are human beings distinctive?
- How does God act in the physical world?
- In what does personal identity consist?
- And so …
- There is scientific support for physicalism, but not for dualism.
- Human beings are distinctive in being able to carry out moral duties, and to do so because they are moral duties. Also, we (sans souls) have the ability to have a relationship with God.
- Murphy suggests that God acts in the world at the quantum15 level, where there is no conflict with natural causation16. Indeed, Murphy says, “It is possible from a theistic perspective to interpret current physics as saying that the natural world is intrinsically incomplete and open to divine action at its most basic level.” (p.131)
- Murphy’s account of personal identity is that it “is not the body qua material object that constitutes our identities, but rather the higher capacities that it enables: consciousness and memory, moral character, interpersonal relations, and, especially, relationship with God.” (p 132) Taking consciousness to be an “integration of various aspects of memory and awareness,” Murphy proposes a combined “body-memory-consciousness criterion” of personal identity. (p. 136-7) Then she adds what might be called ‘moral character’ to the criterion. Finally, she drops any requirement of spatiotemporal continuity for the persistence of a body. This allows that there can be a temporal interval between “decay of the earthly body and what is then essentially the recreation of a new body out of different ‘stuff’.” (p. 142)
- Thus, in a very short span, Murphy uncovers many deep and important issues that face Christians today. Now I’d like to raise two questions about Murphy’s project:
- To what extent are we purely biological beings?
- Murphy’s emphasis on neurobiology suggests that we are purely biological beings; but her view that we are “complex physical organisms, imbued with the legacy of thousands of years of culture, and...blown by the Breath of God’s Spirit” (ix) suggests that biology deals with only part of what we are17.
- There is a related logical question about the place of the body in Murphy’s view. Murphy has a complex criterion of personal identity: a “combined body-memory-consciousness” plus moral character. (pp. 137-8) However, she also takes the body to be “the substrate for all of the personal attributes”, and she says that “there is no reason in principle why a body that is numerically distinct but similar in all relevant respects could not support the same personal characteristics.” (p. 141, my emphases) She goes on to allow for “essentially the recreation of a new body out of different ‘stuff’.” (p. 142) Is having this very body a necessary condition for being me or not?
- On the one hand, if body is part of the criterion of personal identity, then having this very body is a necessary condition for being me. On the other hand, if I could have a body that is numerically distinct from this body, then having this very body is not a necessary condition for being me. So, Murphy cannot have it both ways. (Murphy’s appeal to Wiggins does not mitigate this dilemma. In the first place, Murphy does not distinguish the sortal18 dependency of individuation19, which Wiggins endorses, from the relativity of identity, which he adamantly opposes. (see p. 133) In the second place, the dilemma pops up no matter how ‘same body’ is construed.)
- Exactly what philosophical role does Murphy see for neurobiology?
- She suggests, for example, that “one ask whether the theories of, say, Plato or Aristotle are better supported than contemporary neuroscientific theories about the sources of our capacities for cognition, emotion, and all of the other faculties that earlier theorists had attributed to the soul or mind.” (p. 115) Surely Plato and Aristotle were not trying to do what neuroscience does better. Neuroscience looks for mechanisms that subserve the phenomena (like evaluating one’s reasons) that Murphy discusses. But we should not conflate the mechanisms with the phenomena that they subserve. Plato and Aristotle were concerned with the philosophically interesting phenomena, not the mechanisms that subserve them.
- Murphy says: “Neuroscience now contributes to our understanding of both morality and religious experience.” (p. 66) She cites the famous case of Phineas Gage, the 19th century workman whose brain was run through by a metal rod. Although it is interesting that brain damage to specific areas of the brain results in certain moral deficits, I do not see how this information helps us to understand morality any better than we already did. Similarly, I do not see how the fact that specific parts of the brain are activated during meditation and prayer helps us understand religious experience. (pp. 67-8)
- On a number of points, I think that Murphy is exactly right:
- There is no single teaching about the metaphysics of human beings in the Bible or in Christian tradition;
- Some nonreductive20 version of physicalistic anthropology is compatible with Christianity;
- the grounds for believing in souls have been undercut by the sciences;
- we are still morally responsible;
- libertarian free will is incoherent;
- the free will problem has been badly framed;
- brain imaging will not “provide evidence for or against the existence and action of God;” (p. 69)
- higher-level entities exist in their own right.
- But defending this package of theses requires more careful attention than was always apparent in the book. For example, on p. 74, Murphy says flatly that “the laws of nature are deterministic.” Then, with no qualification of that statement, she says on. p. 131, that the laws of quantum mechanics21 are only statistical. No doubt, she was referring to different (irreducible22) levels, but she should have made this explicit.
- It is perhaps inevitable that a book of this sort will skim across the surface of many deep issues. Still, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? is written in a comfortable conversational style and introduces many of the controversies that confront Christians today. It will be successful if, as I expect, it whets readers’ appetites for more.
In-Page Footnotes ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Review of 'Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?' by Nancey Murphy")
Footnote 2: Dr. Pangloss would have been proud of this thought.
Footnote 15: So, God’s intervention appears random?
"Hershenov (David) - Review of Nancy Murphy's 'Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?'"
Source: Religious Studies, 43:2, June 2007, 237-242
- Nancey Murphy argues that Christians have nothing to fear from physicalism. We can reject dualism without contradicting biblical accounts of our nature, abandoning belief in our distinctiveness, denying that we are free and responsible, or giving up the hope for an afterlife1. The benefits are less mystery, more scientific respectability, a spirituality less absorbed with inwardness and otherworldliness, and a greater concern for community.
- As a Christian physicalist I hope that she is right; however, I am not as confident as she that soul theories are in such bad shape or that her favored physicalist account of embodiment, identity across time, and resurrection is free of major problems.
”In summary, Murphy should take us to be “spirited animals, essentially alive”, for
- Hershenov starts by summarising Murphy’s sanguine assessment of physicalism from a Christian perspective.
- We are “neither identical to a soul nor have one as a part. ”
- “We are physical bodies, though very complex organic ones. ”
- “Soul” refers to “the whole living person”.
- We are “spirited bodies” – where “spirited” is “aspective rather than partive” … “ ‘Spirit’ stands for the whole person in relation to God, not a part of his nature. ”
- Murphy’s intentions are to keep Christian accounts of human nature “in keeping with current intellectual developments in the sciences”. Fine – but a bit of a hostage to fortune. Better, her claim that the NT doesn’t intend to teach us anything about human metaphysical compositions, so we’re free to follow the truth where it leads.
- Hershenov issues warnings about a couple of Murphy’s specific objections to dualism3:-
- Conservation of energy: Hershenov asks whether the mind might influence merely the distribution of energy. Has this been discussed anywhere? It sounds fishy to me – while we might get away without violating the first law of thermodynamics, moving energy about effortlessly violates the second law.
- God’s intervention at the quantum level: this, apparently, “doesn’t violate statistical laws of physics”. How so? Hershenov’s objection is that the dualist can also use a similar wheeze, but he doesn’t spell out how.
- How would disembodied4 souls communicate? If this is an objection to dualism, it’s an objection to God and angels communicating, so a Christian5 can’t make use of this objection
- Hershenov notes the intended audience – upper undergraduate and graduate students in theology, plus Christian teachers and Church professionals – will find her section on physicalism and free will “especially useful”.
- It seems that Murphy has an affinity with Hobbesian spiders as for at free will is concerned.
- “… the freedom that we want is just the freedom to act for reasons”
- “Any more freedom of the libertarian6 bent she thinks is untenable and perhaps even incoherent. ”
- So far so good – “controversial but plausible”, but Hershenov thinks the wheels fall off in the last section of the last chapter ("Murphy (Nancey) - What are the philosophical challenges to physicalism? Human distinctiveness, divine action, and personal identity") where personal identity and resurrection are discussed.
- She’s stopped reading the literature with Wiggins in the early 1970s.
- She doesn’t give a clear account of identity, dithering between psychological (memory) and physical (brain) accounts and wanting to add “same moral character” to the mix.
- It seems that Murphy wants to have her cake and eat it. She wants us to be living animals, but won’t accept the consequences of this and tries to add in a contradictory psychological aspect.
- Hershenov points out that the psychological element would:-
- Mean we were never mindless embryos7 or infants.
- Raise problems about what happens to this mindless being8 when our psychology develops.
- We couldn’t survive severe amnesia, even if re-trained (say, after a stroke).
- Certain modal9 claims normally considered true would be false: eg. you couldn’t have been brought up a Muslim.
- So, we’ve ended up in something of a muddle. We started off with us being human animals10, but Murphy’s account ends up with psychological persistence conditions11 that are inconsistent with this.
- Hershenov thinks that Murphy’s account of resurrection12 – where we acquire new bodies – is more akin to reincarnation13, and (it seems) is contrary to the Apostles’ Creed in that the same body isn’t restored. There’s a long quotation from Murphy is which she states:-
- That spatio-temporal continuity – while necessary for the persistence of material objects – is only a contingent part of our concept of a person, since are psychological characteristics are only contingently supported by a material object.
- So (she says) there’s no reason why a numerically distinct but qualitatively similar body shouldn’t preserve these same characteristics.
- This “recognition” allows us to finesse the “torturous attempts as in the early Church to reconcile resurrection with material continuity. ”
- Hershenov wants to know what sort of physical being (which Murphy starts off claiming we are) can switch bodies. In particular – he claims – “No organism, no living being that is essentially alive14, can acquire a new body. ”
- Hershenov now tries to repair15 Murphy’s analysis of human personhood. He can think of two16 options:-
- Constitution: this is Lynne Rudder Baker’s Constitution View17. Hershenov’s rejection18 of the CV19 is necessarily too brief20 in this small space. It comes down to:-
- A person is “derivatively and contingently an animal for it is now constituted by an organic body thought it might not be so in the future”, but this isn’t enough “since persons are supposed to be a kind of material object and thus should be subsumed under the latter’s nature”.
- As far as it goes, it’s OK for our “possibly not being alive in the next world with a numerically distinct, transformed body where the laws of nature will not hold and thus ‘we cannot answer in advance questions about digestion, metabolizing and so forth.’”
- Contra Baker’s protestations (elsewhere), Hershenov thinks that the CV21 involves a commitment to “a new physicalist dualism” with two physically indistinguishable material bodies with different properties in the same place at the same time.
- In particular, it falls prey (he says) to the Thinking Animal Argument22.
- Identity: we persons are not constituted by – but are identical to – a body that is only contingently alive.
- Hershenov thinks there are two ways of unpacking this idea:-
- Contingent23 Identity: Now I’m identical to one organic body; in the “next life24” I’m to be identical to a numerically distinct body.
- Phase Sortals25: Numerically the same body is at one time alive and at another not so. Hence, “being organic” is like “being an adolescent” – not an essential property of bodies.
- So, how do these possibilities fit in with Murphy’s claims?
- Satisfies “a replica of my body could be me”; and “a transformed version of my body could be me”.
- Satisfies only the first of the above claims.
- And what are the problems?
- Hershenov has an interesting paragraph detailing the additional problems with the “contingent identity”31 interpretation.
- There’s an “unwarranted leap” from organisms’ admitted ability to survive the replacement of matter to the wholesale replacement of matter by “different stuff” in the resurrected replica.
- It is usually taken as a metaphysical necessity that “property instantiations (modes or tropes) can’t32 switch substances”.
- Also, “too large or too quick a replacement33 results in a duplicate rather than the same substance composed of different matter”.
- “Thus new matter must be gradually assimilated to preserve continuity of substance and person preserving property instantiations34.”
- Hence, the resurrected replica35 is a duplicate rather than the pre-mortem body transformed.
- Hershenov doesn’t think Murphy should adopt either of the above construals of the body/person relationship – either constitution or identity – as neither is required either by physicalism or the need for resurrection.
- Instead, she should drop her claim for our psychological traits being necessary for our persistence and just:-
- “trust God to resurrect us in a manner that restores our mind to the manner it was last36 in when in working order. ”
- “if we had died in utero, which seems to have been a possibility37, trust that God would resurrect us and allow us to develop into conscious, moral and loving human beings and introduce us to our family. ”
- Murphy – says Hershenov – should also drop the idea that we are only contingently alive, as follows:-
- “We don’t have to transform our notion of being an animal in order to make sense of how we could possess a body38 that will serve us without end in the afterlife39.
- All that is needed is for God to ‘mask’ those dispositions of our organic makeup that would otherwise lead to our eventual decay.
- Homeostatic and metabolic functions could be perfectly maintained by the ‘divine doctor40.’
- Surely this can happen for resurrection is a miracle and eternal life may indeed mean the many of our laws of our world don’t hold41.
- “This seems … to be what it is to take embodiment seriously and avoids problems of:-
- colocation and too many thinkers42,
- contingent identity43,
- human animals44 with bizarre disjunctive persistence conditions45, and
- property modes switching bodies.
- Such an approach takes our biological nature seriously but
- Doesn’t deny that we are distinct46 from the rest of the animal kingdom in being free, rational and moral creatures that can know God.
In-Page Footnotes ("Hershenov (David) - Review of Nancy Murphy's 'Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?'")
Footnote 2: These aren’t intended to be in any way complete.
Footnote 3: Hershenov – despite being a materialist – suggest that dualism may be in better shape than Murphy makes out.
Footnote 6: I think this goes along the lines of not just wanting to do what we will, but will what we will.
- Hershenov says “presents no new difficulties”, which is fair enough.
- The question is, should a Christian be worried?
- For all we know, angels are material – they are certainly represented as being able to take human form.
- As, of course, is God.
Footnote 8: This is a general problem – much beloved of extreme pro-lifers like Hershenov – with any account of our identity that doesn’t insist we come into existence at conception.
- I’ve not heard this point before against certain versions of the PV.
- But is this objection correct?
- Hershenov claims that the TE would violate the transitivity of identity.
- He also claims (correctly) that the child would develop psychologically in very different ways, and that the adults in the two possible worlds would not be psychologically connected.
- But this may just be confusing psychological continuity with psychological connectedness?
- It’s a bit like Reid’s “Old Soldier” argument against Locke, which also raises issues about the logic of identity.
- This is answered by friends of the PV by invoking “quasi-” psychological attributes, but it’s not clear to me what the response is in this case.
Footnote 15: He says “construe … the relationship between persons and their animal bodies that might make sense of Murphy’s claims”.
- It is interesting that Hershenov treats "life" as a strictly biological activity of organisms, essentially involving metabolism and the like.
- While I quite like this way of treating “life”, it does need to be spelled out clearly.
- It is natural to assume that anything that is not “alive” is “dead”, but this isn’t what Murphy has in mind. She presumably imagines that in the next world the post-mortem individual, while not needing to metabolise, can still function, be conscious, and have all the benefits of “life” while not being alive, strictly speaking.
- We need a new term for “non-biological ‘life’”.
- It would apply to God, and the angels – and (maybe) to whatever the transhumanists can dream up.
Footnote 16: Which these two are isn’t very well signposted. The first is clear, but the second not.
Footnote 20: He deals with it at length in "Hershenov (David) - Problems with a Constitution Account of Persons".
Footnote 24: In what sense of “life” is the “next life” life?
- See contingent identity.
- CI usually refers to possible but non-actual situations, but in this case the situation is supposed to be actual.
- It is the case though that under this supposition I’m not necessarily identical to this organic body, so – as I am supposed to be currently identical to it – I must be only contingently identical to it.
Footnote 29: This was the claim – probably false – against the first "CV" interpretation.
- I agree, but this is very “quick”, in that it might not be readily apparent what he means by “property instantiations (modes or tropes) can’t switch substances”.
- A “mode” is an enlightenment term for a property of a substance.
- A “trope” (at least in metaphysics) is an individuated property.
- So, the thought is that the person – being a property of a substance (the human animal) – cannot hop from one substance (the human body) to another (the resurrection body), any more than a particular smile or dent could: the numerically-distinct object might be smiling or dented, but it wouldn’t be the very same smile or dent.
- But – true though this is – the objection depends on this interpretation of just what a person is.
- A holder of the CV wouldn’t accept this analysis.
- This metabolic assimilation requirement is very reasonable, but may be hard to make precise.
- It also seems to apply to non-metabolising objects – artifacts for instance.
- But, just what speed of replacement is “too quick” or chunking of matter “too large”?
- Presumably both are relative to the “pace of life” and size of the organism / object?
- Also, is there any principled reason for all this, apart from an intuition?
Footnote 35: The fact that the term “replica” is used must mean that Murphy denies any identity-claims for the bodies, and must be adopting a constitution view (given that she’s a physicalist).
- The last four words of this sentence – “person preserving property instantiations” – require some exegesis.
- But I’m not sure what this should be!
Footnote 37: Several points here:-
- All accounts of resurrection are a bit obscure about just what stage of our being is the most appropriate to “restore” us to – if this is the right term, or suggestion.
- But at least on this proposal, if the mind just comes along with the body, that’s one problem finessed.
Footnote 38: So, Hershenov thinks that it’s this very body.
- Firstly, this again reflects Hershenov’s ultra-Catholic pro-life stance. Every scrap of human life has eternal value which must be recognised as having a right to achieve fulfilment.
- It is at least consistent, modally speaking, with the OT:-
- Job 10:19: “If only I had never come into being, or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave!”
- Ecclesiastes 6:3: “A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.”
- So, he has Biblical support for the anti-PV approach – though whether the writers really thought that they would be numerically identical to a still birth is uncertain. See Gill: “For though it cannot be said absolutely of such an one, an abortive or untimely birth, that it is a nonentity, or never existed; yet comparatively …”
- However I doubt there’s any support for Hershenov’s rosy account of post-mortem development from a presumed blank slate.
- Also – as Hershenov’s a keen advocate of purgatory (eg. "Hershenov (David) & Koch-Hershenov (Rose J.) - Personal identity and Purgatory") – ought he not to think of limbo as the home for the unbaptised innocent? It seems though that there’s no longer clear Catholic teaching on this matter – and that “Limbo of Infants” isn’t an official doctrine (Wikipedia: Limbo).
Footnote 40: This would seem to be rather “hands on”. It’s all pure speculation, of course, but if you go along with this essentially materialist and naturalist approach, you’d be better off positing a change in the laws of nature, rather than eternal tinkering (unless you think that’s what’s already happening).
Footnote 41: Indeed. How could it be otherwise, unless we wanted an eternal mess rather than only a temporary one
- Is this a saltation, or just a matter of degree?
- What would be Hershenov’s guide on this matter?
- In particular, is there any animalist motivation for a difference of kind rather than just of degree?
- It is, though, admittedly difficult to know how non-linguistic animals could “know God” – even if they might (to a degree) be “free, rational and moral” but maybe God has a way.
"Murphy (Nancey) - Do Christians need souls? Theological and Biblical perspectives on human nature"
Source: Murphy (Nancey) - Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?
- Prospect and problems
- History’s ambiguous message
- 2.1 Contradictions in historical criticism
- 2.2 So where do we stand?
- Ancient philosophy and early Christian thought
- 3.1 Plato and Aristotle
- 3.2 Early Christian responses
- 3.3 Medieval and Reformation developments
- So what does the Bible say?
- 4.1 Old Testament scholarship
- 4.2 Conflicting accounts of the New Testament
- 4.3 My thesis
- Physicalism and theology
- 5.1 Doctrine of God
- 5.2 Christology and Trinity
- 5.3 Salvation and history
- Questioning the spiritual quest
- 6.1 Augustinian inwardness
- 6.2 Contemporary revisions
"Murphy (Nancey) - What does science say about human nature? Physics, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience"
Source: Murphy (Nancey) - Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?
- The atomist revolution in physics
- 2.1 The medieval world-picture
- 2.2 The Copernican challenge
- The Darwinian revolution
- 3.1 Our embarrassing relatives
- 3.2 Theological roots of social Darwinism
- Neuroscience and the soul
- 4.1 Biology and the life principle
- 4.2 Neuroscience and the animal soul
- 4.3 Investigating the rational soul
- Retrospect and prospect
"Murphy (Nancey) - Did my neurons make me do it? Reductionism, morality and the problem of free will"
Source: Murphy (Nancey) - Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?
- What’s wrong with reductionism?
- 2.1 The pervasive influence of pictures
- 2.2 Defending downward causation1
- 2.3 Further complications
- The emergence of self-direction
3.1 Fixed patterns of complex activity
- 3.2 Mammalian flexibility
- Human self-determination and responsibility
- 4.1 Animal precursors
- 4.2 Language and the prerequisites for morality
- 4.3 Language and self-transcendence
- 4.4 An illustration
- But is this free-will?
- 5.1 A confusion of definitions
- 5.2 A critique of the terms of debate
"Murphy (Nancey) - What are the philosophical challenges to physicalism? Human distinctiveness, divine action, and personal identity"
Source: Murphy (Nancey) - Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?
- The epistemological issue
- 2.1 On the unreliability of philosophical intuitions
- 2.2 Physicalism as a scientific research program
- Human distinctiveness
- 3.1 Morality versus animal altruism
- 3.2 Physicalism and religious experience
- Divine action in the natural world
- 4.1 Why this should not be a problem
- 4.2 The modern challenge
- 4.3 Current proposals
- Personal Identity
- 5.1 Philosophical distinctions
- 5.2 Theological considerations
- 5.3 Bodily identity
- 5.4 What we know we cannot know
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)