Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death?
Gasser (Georg), Ed.
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Borrowed from Leeds University Library (via Billericay Library using the British Library Interlending scheme), and selectively copied.

Foreword (Full Text)

… By Ted Peters
  1. Perhaps the most profound and terrifying of existential questions is this one: what will happen to me when I die? Oblivion? Non-being? The forgetting of all that has been and the loss of all expectation of what will come? Or, might there be some truth to one or another religious claim? Immortal soul? Astral body? Reincarnation1? Resurrection into God's new creation?
  2. How can we be sure? We cannot. What we can do is speculate. As we speculate we will try to draw mental pictures or construct conceptual models of what life beyond death might look like. As these mental pictures or conceptual models take shape, we can evaluate them. Do they make sense? Are they coherent? Are some better than others? Is it rational to believe that beyond death lies a hope that can enlist our devotion and inspire confidence in us?
  3. Demonstrating the rationality of belief in life beyond death is the task of the philosopher. Plato thought he could persuade us that the endurance of an immortal soul is something reasonable to believe in. Plato's dualism of body and soul is no longer persuasive, however. In our post-Enlightenment era we emphasize that human personhood is embodied personhood. Where might this lead us?
  4. The non-dualist alternative explored in the pages that follow is resurrection of the body. Is it rational for us to hope for a future resurrection in bodily form? If so, what will it look like? If death means the destruction of the body, what will be raised? A reassembling of the elements of our pre-mortem body? A brand new and perfected post-mortem body? Will it be "me" who is raised or will it be a duplicate2 of me? To think rationally here does not mean we can prove that resurrection will occur; but it does require that our mental picture or conceptual model demonstrate coherence.
  5. For us Christians who by faith rely upon God's promise that our future will include resurrection from the dead and life everlasting in God's kingdom, we need to understand it. We need to ask the theologians to help us understand just what resurrection of the body could mean. Are there grounds in divine revelation for reliance upon a divine promise? If so, how can we critically evaluate such a promise? Is it reasonable to speculate on the nature of our transfigured body as St. Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44: "So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body." It appears that we can expect qualitative identity in the resurrection — that is, we can expect our existing bodies to undergo perfecting while we remain who we are. Yet, the metaphor of the seed being sown and later rising as something different raises the question of numerical identity3: will the person in the resurrected body be "me" or a perfected duplicate4? Just how can we imagine continuity of identity will be maintained?
  6. Such questions puzzle philosophers and theologians as they strive to construct rational models depicting what resurrection into an incorruptible spiritual body might look like. This task is a difficult one. Yet, the philosophers and theologians writing in the pages that follow take this task on with courage and creativity.


Ashgate, Farnham, Surrey, 2010.

"Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and the Metaphysics of Resurrection"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

Author’s Abstract
    Theories of the human person differ greatly in their ability to underwrite a metaphysics of resurrection. This paper compares and contrasts a number of such views in light of the Christian doctrine of resurrection. In a Christian framework, resurrection requires that the same person who exists on earth also exists in an afterlife1, that a post-mortem person be embodied, and that the existence of a post-mortem person is brought about by a miracle. According to my view of persons (the constitution view)2, a human person is constituted by – but not identical to – a human organism. A person has a first-person perspective3 essentially, and an organism has interrelated biological functions essentially. I shall argue for the superiority the constitution view4 as a metaphysical basis for resurrection.

    Theories of the human person differ greatly in their ability to underwrite a metaphysics of resurrection. Baker's paper compares and contrasts a number of such views in light of the Christian doctrine of resurrection. In a Christian framework, resurrection requires that the same person who exists on earth also exists in an afterlife6, that a postmortem person be embodied, and that the existence of a postmortem person is brought about by a miracle. Baker advocates the Constitution View7 of a human person as a metaphysical basis for resurrection.


In-Page Footnotes ("Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and the Metaphysics of Resurrection")

Footnote 5: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser, a rather slavish but truncated copy of Baker’s Abstract of the original paper.

"Bruntrup (Godehard) - 3.5-Dimensionalism and Survival: A Process Ontological Approach"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    Bruntrup develops a metaphysical framework which combines aspects of a four-dimensionalist space-time-ontology with a presentism. The key intuition is that the ontological base level of reality is thoroughly four-dimensional in the sense of a stage theory2. This base level is a level of concrete event-like particulars. If ordered in a causal relation which establishes genidentity, this base level presents the constitution base for abstract time-invariant patterns. These patterns configure endurants, such as the human person. This metaphysical picture allows for a rather robust common-sense view of personal identity through time. It also is capable of accounting for post-mortem existence without having to make use of the notion of a Cartesian soul or the notion of a resurrected body identical to the earthly physical body.


In-Page Footnotes ("Bruntrup (Godehard) - 3.5-Dimensionalism and Survival: A Process Ontological Approach")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Corcoran (Kevin) - Constitution, Resurrection, and Relationality"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    Corcoran's paper points out that the Constitution View2 of the human person ought to be congenial to those stressing the relational character of personhood – a feature more salient in the continental tradition than in analytic philosophy. Corcoran addresses the issue of relationality head-on: first, he argues that relations figure crucially in the causal story of the emergence of a first-person perspective3, because a social context seems required for the development of such a perspective. Second, he underlines that relationality is essential to a Christian understanding of eschatological transformation since we are created in the image of God, a God who exists in three persons engaged in mutually reciprocated, intimate, perichoretic relations of love.


In-Page Footnotes ("Corcoran (Kevin) - Constitution, Resurrection, and Relationality")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Davis (Stephen T.) - Resurrection, Personal Identity, and the Will of God"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    Davis places God in the centre of his paper: he argues that God is not only the creator but also the sustainer and preserver of all contingently existing things. In other words, personal identity through time is based not just on the person's immanent causal powers to persist but also on the fact that God sustains and upholds the person by recognizing and calling her. The will of God is, so to say, the "further fact" needed to resolve the troubling cases of personal identity-indeterminacy. Davis elaborates his approach by ruling out various possible misunderstandings of the notion of God as sustainer and preserver of all contingently existing things.


In-Page Footnotes ("Davis (Stephen T.) - Resurrection, Personal Identity, and the Will of God")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: Bibliography"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

Full Text1


In-Page Footnotes ("Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: Bibliography")

Footnote 1:
  • Where I have the relevant edition, I've just included a link to the corresponding database item, and omitted bibliograhical details other than the year of publication.
  • Where I have a comparable edition, or a compendium including a version of the relevant work, I've included a link to this as well as the original citation.

"Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: Introduction"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

Full Text (some reformatting done, my own comments added as footnotes)
    If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith1. (I Cor 15:13-14)

The Intellectual Background
  1. The last four decades or so testify to a remarkable development in the academic climate of analytic philosophy. Stephen T. Davis witnessed this development from his college time in the late sixties and seventies onward. He writes: "in those days, we students were scarcely allowed even to mention words like ‘God' or ‘theology', and claims like ‘God raised Jesus from the dead' were dismissed with disdain, scorn and knowing looks2." Nowadays, instead, many philosophers, believers and non-believers alike, explicitly dedicate their work to religious topics. Philosophy of religion has become a respectable discipline within analytic philosophy.
  2. Conjecture abounds for the reasons3 for this development. In a recent article4, Nicholas Wolterstorff identifies three major ones:
    • First, logical positivism, once dominant among analytic philosophers, was unable to articulate in a satisfactory way its key concept of empirical verifiability. This inability proved to be positivism's5 downfall. The regressing influence of positivism paved the way for a rising interest in metaphysics in general and an open attitude to philosophical research of religious topics in particular.
    • Second, this shift in analytic philosophy went hand in hand with a waning interest in the theme preoccupying classical modem philosophy: the limits of the thinkable and the assertible. Whereas philosophers in the tradition of Enlightment are concerned that our epistemological limitations might make it impossible to investigate certain kinds of topics in a meaningful way, analytic philosophers today no longer share this concern. They are thus more open to all sorts of inquiry, including metaphysics and philosophical reflection on theological doctrines.
    • Finally, according to Wolterstorff, the third important development within analytic philosophy was the flourishing of meta-epistemology, that is, explicit investigation of alternative6 models of knowledge. Classical foundationalism — the view, roughly, that a belief is justified only if it rests ultimately on a foundation of non-inferential knowledge — was seen no longer as the only respectable epistemological theory. This made room for epistemological positions that were friendly towards the view that one might rationally hold religious beliefs.
  3. These three developments eliminated important obstacles to a more intense analysis of religious beliefs. Analytic philosophy became less uniform and led to a multitude of examinations concerning a vast array of themes. No wonder, then, that Wolterstorff describes current philosophical discourse as pluralistic:
      For want of a better term, call the picture of the philosophical enterprise that I have just sketched, dialogic pluralism. Philosophy is now widely assumed, by analytic philosophers, to be a dialogical pluralist enterprise7.
    Such a pluralistic8 enterprise is reminiscent of the situation in late antiquity when Stoics, Christians, Sceptics, Neoplatonists, and Aristotelians all contributed to shaping intellectual discourse. There was no body of principles or insights that all agreed on. Instead, proponents of the various schools met publicly, discussed and argued with each other, and when an argument was proven to be poor, the school which put it forward tried to improve and to articulate it in more detail. Analytic philosophy nowadays is like that: philosophers being reductive naturalists, non-reductive naturalists, non-naturalists, theists, and so on form a pluralistic mix, each philosophical strand representing a legitimate and important participant in dialogue. Such a situation offers an intellectual openness which encourages experimentation.
  4. This volume testifies to this courage to experiment: though all9 authors are sympathetic toward the possibility of resurrection, their starting points and intellectual resources for justifying it range from materialist to dualist conceptions of the human person and involve classical theological approaches, recent analytic metaphysics, and various ideas from continental philosophy.

Specifying the Problem: Mind the Gap
  1. Belief in some form of post-mortem survival10 is not extravagant. Take, for instance, Platonic Dualism: According to this view, bodies die and decay whereas an immaterial soul continues to live. The idea is that the soul naturally survives biological death for it is the nature of a soul to be incorruptible. Furthermore, this view claims that the soul is the essence of a human person: you are your soul, not your body. Though such a belief might be at odds with a materialist understanding of reality, it does not appear incomprehensible from a metaphysical point of view. Once you have accepted that incorruptible souls exist which are the essences of human persons, it is not presumptuous to claim that human persons live forever due to soul's incorruptible nature, whereas human bodies disintegrate.
  2. Belief in bodily resurrection, on the contrary, seems to be another matter together. It seems at the very least an odd belief indeed. Even its proponents are aware of this. Tertullian, one of the first Christian theologians in the West, wrote famously that "the resurrection of Jesus Christ is certain — because it is impossible11".
  3. Of course, Tertullian wants to provoke his pagan contemporaries. Nevertheless, he expresses a view which most of his contemporaries (and probably the majority today) deemed to be true: the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth seems to be impossible, if taken literally. The problem of the resurrection of the body multiplies, for it concerns not only the unique person with human and divine nature, Jesus Christ. Christian faith claims also that all human persons who have ever lived on earth will be resurrected. Jesus Christ's resurrection is the anticipation12 of all people's resurrection. The early church affirmed this belief explicitly in the Nicene and the Apostles’ Creeds. As documents summarizing the most important beliefs of Christian faith, the creeds make clear that the doctrine of bodily resurrection is not an addendum to Christian faith but belongs at its very core. Karl Barth, one of the most influential theologians of the previous century, for instance, underlines that the doctrine of bodily resurrection is the basic axiom of Christian faith: It is the key to the whole. And Adolph Harnack, the eminent church historian from the turn of the twentieth century, says that "the resurrection of Jesus became the pledge of the resurrection of all believers, that is of their real personal resurrection. No one at the beginning thought of a mere immortality of the spirit13."
  4. Why, then, is it apparently so much more difficult to believe in the resurrection of the body than in the survival of a disembodied14 soul or spirit?
  5. People are inclined to think that the body I have this afternoon is the same body that I had a week ago and that I will have at the end of the week. The view that I have one single body during my entire lifetime does not imply, however, that my body cannot change. The body I have now is very different from the body I had even a few days ago. At a very small scale it changed in size, weight and physiological composition. The body is continuously changing but nevertheless remains the same body. A good reason supporting such a view is the distinction between numerical identity15 and qualitative identity: when a thing changes, it remains numerically the same but becomes different in its qualities. In the process of change new acquired bodily qualities connect to already existing ones. So the same body has different qualities at different times, but these changes do not result in the old body's ceasing to exist and a new one's being generated.
  6. Is the resurrection of the body an instance of qualitative change? In light of the aforementioned distinction it would not be particularly bold to claim that our earthly body metamorphoses16 into a new one by acquiring heavenly "incorruptible" properties and losing the earthly "corruptible" ones. There would just be one more — admittedly miraculous — process of change in the long chain of natural bodily changes.
  7. The reason, however, why this traditional metaphysical solution to the problem of change cannot be applied to the Christian doctrine of resurrection is that death17 is the definite end of a human being's existence on earth18. If human persons are bodily beings which die and thereby cease to exist, then their bodies decay, are eaten by animals or destroyed in the fire of a crematory. Thanks to common sense and science, it is safe to say that nothing remains of human bodies after a certain period of time. There is simply no physical entity left which could19 acquire new qualities.
  8. Nevertheless, the creeds hold that the very same human persons who lived on earth will rise and exist again in bodily form. That is, the doctrine of bodily resurrection seems to admit that there is a gap between the earthly bodily existence of human persons and their resurrection. This gap is the reason why it is so much more difficult to believe in bodily resurrection than in the survival of the soul: many see no possibility to bridge the gap which death rips open between pre- and post-mortem human existence. There is simply nothing left of our human bodily existence which could cross the gap so as to preserve numerical identity20. God certainly has the power to create a new body which is a duplicate21 of the earthly one. Such a duplicate22, however, would not be the same body which existed at a determinate time in the history of the cosmos. The earthly body and its heavenly duplicate23 would have different histories: the latter was never on earth, the former never in heaven. There is thus not one and the same entity with different qualities but two numerically different entities with different qualities. Even for an all-powerful being it seems impossible to bring back into existence an entity which utterly ceased to exist. Nor could God suspend the metaphysical principle that the same entity cannot come into existence twice24.
  9. If these thoughts are correct, then Tertullian's statement is not just provocative rhetoric but makes a crucial point: The Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection seems to require a metaphysical impossibility in order to be true. If there is no identity between the pre-mortem and the post-mortem body in the sense that this very same body exists on earth and in heaven and in between, then the claim that the body will be raised again seems to be impossible. To believe a doctrine which apparently presupposes something metaphysically impossible is tantamount to having an irrational25 belief. If a central element of Christian faith is irrational, then Christian faith will be at the very least severely impoverished in terms of its ability to be rationally justified. So Christians face the challenge of showing that their doctrine of bodily resurrection is not irrational. It is incumbent upon them to provide arguments which show convincingly that the gap between the annihilation of the human person in this world and her bodily resurrection in the next world can26 be bridged.

Bridging the Gap
  1. It was very early that Christian theologians offered a way to meet this challenge: after death the body decays but the last material particles constituting our body continue to exist. On the Last Day, God gathers up these very last material particles which once constituted our body and reassembles them into a new heavenly body which he then rejoins with the surviving soul. So body and soul once more constitute the same single human person who once existed on earth. Brian E. Daley calls this view "anthropology of composition": in order to be raised there must be both material and spiritual identity between the earthly and heavenly person27.
  2. One problem with this view is that particles constituting one body at t1 might constitute another body at t2. Take, for instance, the often discussed example of cannibalism: if a cannibal eats a fellow human person, so he incorporates particles into his body which formerly belonged to another body. On the resurrection day both the cannibal and his victim shall be raised again. But there are certain particles belonging to both bodies: how shall God proceed? God has to decide first who owns which particles. There are a few possible criteria: the first body has priority over all successive bodies to which a given particle belonged. Or the last body has priority over the previous ones. Or female bodies over male bodies or saints over sinners or believers over non-believers. The apparent problem is that there are no obviously objective criteria for deciding, leaving God to solve this puzzle arbitrarily28. In a second step, then, the missing particles have to be replaced with newly created ones. Then, however, no resurrected body with new particles is identical to the earthly body, strictly speaking. Athenagoras, a Christian apologist from the second century, was well aware of this problem. He invokes medical reasons for solving it. According to him each animal has a food suited to its nature. Only appropriate parts of the food can be absorbed so as to remain permanently in an animal’s body. Human beings cannot absorb human flesh, for it is not suitable to them. So, the particles constituting a human body could never end up as particles constituting another fellow human person's body as well. In a similar vein, early rabbis taught that an indestructible part of the spinal cord will be the toehold for the reconstruction of the resurrection body29.
  3. There are good reasons to look for other models of bodily resurrection. As far as we know, neither Athenagoras' nor the rabbi's accounts work30: there are no incorruptible parts of the human body and it is possible that certain particles belong to more than one human body. In the light of the length of human history it is even very probable to assume that some particles making up human bodies now belonged to other bodies previously.
  4. Peter van Inwagen came up with a different approach for avoiding these problems31. On their deaths men apparently cease to exist and human bodies apparently decompose. At the moment of each human person's death God clandestinely removes the dying person, whom He replaces with a simulacrum which falls prey to the natural destiny of material things: it rots and decays. The person, however, continues to live or is revivified in eternity. The problem of the gap does not arise, giving way instead to just the sort of miraculous intervention which an almighty God could enact. Such an intervention, however, would at any rate be necessary to guarantee the resurrection of an entity which is not immortal by nature. According to van Inwagen, nothing in the creeds contradicts his story. The downside of this model is that it requires God systematically to deceive human beings. Van Inwagen speculates that one reason for so much divine trickery might be God's will to leave enough freedom for voluntary faith. Imagine that a world in which the body-snatching scenario were apparent to all: in such a world all would believe in the existence of God for the simple reason that God's existence would amount to the best explanation for the observed phenomenon of body-snatching.
  5. Van Inwagen's solution for the problems plaguing the reassembly theory is ingenious. Nevertheless, serious troubles remain: the body-snatching model seems to imply either that no person ever dies, strictly speaking, or that resurrection amounts to a process similar to reanimation32. If we interpret van Inwagen's model in the former sense, then the dying person is brought to heaven where she continues to live in a transformed and glorified way. Such a story, however, apparently contradicts the Christian doctrine that human persons truly die. The creeds confess that Jesus suffered death and was buried. There is no hint in these documents that these statements should not be taken at face value. In the latter sense, instead, the corpse33 is brought to heaven and brought back to life again. This gives the event of resurrection a very "biological touch". Human persons seem to be bound indissolubly to the body they had at the moment of death and the continuance of the biological functioning of the body seems to be all that truly matters for resurrection. Resurrection comes close to the reanimation34 of the deceased, along the lines of the resurrections reported in the gospels of Lazarus and of Jairus' daughter.
  6. In order to avoid some of the problems beleaguering van Inwagen's approach, Dean Zimmerman came up with the so called "falling elevator model35”. Zimmerman’s idea was to use van Inwagen's materialist metaphysics of human persons while developing a model by which God is able to raise human persons again without secretly replacing their dying body with a simulacrum. According to this metaphysics it is essential for human persons that they are organisms; the matter constituting an organism is caught up in a special event — a Life — which continues as long as the organism exists. Life is self-maintaining, that is, earlier stages in a Life tend to cause their successive stages. This process of continuous causation36 is direct and immanent; the immanent causal relations cannot pass through anything external to the organism, such as a teleportation37 machine. It is imaginable that one's psyche can pass through such a device and reappear elsewhere in a new organism. But it is hard to see how a material organism could survive such a procedure; all that could be accomplished is the generation of a duplicate38 organism formed, from the original pattern, either out of old or new particles. Given this framework, Zimmerman proposes the following solution: God could endow the particles constituting a human organism with a miraculous "budding" power. In the moment of death the particles continue to immanently-cause later stages in the existence of these particles on the one hand. The dying body becomes a corpse39 in a process we are familiar with. But, on the other hand, thanks to the budding power, in the next world the organism reappears. So the living organism goes one way, ending up in the next world, and at the same time the particles of the very same organism immanently cause a corpse40 in this world. The particles undergo a kind of fission process while the organism's Life remains one and the same.
  7. Zimmerman's approach avoids positing massive deception on God's part. The matter of the human body stays in this world. Nevertheless, nagging doubts remain about this approach. David B. Hershenov pointed out that in normal life-processes new particles gradually get integrated in the organism's body41. Zimmerman's budding event does not allow for a slow replacement of old particles over certain period of time but is more reminiscent of a very unusual birth scenario. He concludes:
      The entity in heaven is a clone42 of the deceased, and thus Zimmerman's account provides us with no more immortality than that which comes from an identical twin surviving our death. And whatever consolation that may give us as we are dying, it is not a case of true immortality43
  8. If I understand him correctly, Hershenov objects that Zimmerman's account is unable to guarantee personal identity strictly speaking. All we are left with is a kind of a closest continuer44 theory. The organism showing up in the next world is the closest continuer45 of the organism that died in this world. The corpse46 cannot be said to be the closest continuer47 of the organism that died, for it is essential to an organism to be alive and the only organism alive in this story is the one in the next world. To do justice to Zimmerman's model it must be noted that Zimmerman is well aware of the problem of a closest continuer48. However, he accepts it willingly. For Zimmerman this is simply the metaphysical price which attends a metaphysical framework such as van Inwagen's49.
  9. Those unwilling to pay the price of a closest continuer50 theory might embrace a four-dimensionalist materialist conception of the human person. According to this approach a human person is composed of various temporal parts. Different entities are able to share the same temporal parts. If a fission scenario occurs, then according to four-dimensionalism, it becomes apparent that there have been two entities all along sharing the same temporal parts till the fission event and then dividing up by occupying different temporal parts from this moment on. Imagine, for instance, the human person John, composed of temporal parts resulting from a lifetime of eighty years. According to four-dimensionalism, there is not one entity, Johnp, but rather at least two different entities, namely the human person Johnp, and the human organism of Johnp, alias Johnorg. The difficulty in distinguishing between these two entities stems from the fact that, during his earthly lifetime, the temporal parts making up Johnp are all shared by Johnorg.
  10. When Johnp dies, the linked lives of both entities, Johnp and Johnorg, come to an end. A fission event occurs: saying that Johnp is raised from the dead means Johnp is succeeded by another part, John living in eternity, alias Johne. So, it can be said that Johnp continues to live in heaven because of his successive part Johne. The organism Johnorg, instead, remains on earth and is followed by temporal parts resulting in Johnp's corpse51, alias Johnc. Johne does not stage-share any of his temporal parts with a living human organism such as Johnorg; rather he has features of what the gospels report from the body of the risen Christ. How four-dimensionalist approaches account for the causal linkage between different temporal parts such as Johnp. and Johne, allowing these parts to form one persisting entity, is a matter of dispute which can be neglected at this point. It could be imagined that God commands there to be the right causal linkage.
  11. A four-dimensionalist approach in this vein can easily address the difficulties raised about the relation between the different pre- and post-resurrection bodies. Hud Hudson, defender of such an approach, writes:
      owing to this very liberal account of composition, our Four-Dimensionalist Universalist is in a unique position to claim that no matter how profound are the differences between two temporally non-overlapping items, we will always be correct in our supposition that there is some persisting object that has them each as temporal parts, for even when those items are wholly unlike one another and separated by a significant temporal gap, some continuant or other is trivially guaranteed by the Universalist consequence that any two temporally discontinuous things have a mereological sum52.
  12. According to such an approach the problem of personal identity mutates into a problem of different temporal parts overlapping in such a way that the mereological sum of these parts forms one single entity. Unquestionably the four-dimensionalist approach offers a very elegant solution to many metaphysical problems besetting the doctrine of bodily resurrection, especially the problem of gappy existence.
  13. But like every metaphysical theory, four-dimensionalism comes with a price many are unwilling to pay.
  14. Apart from peculiar metaphysical worries53, the main motivation for rejecting a four-dimensionalist solution comes probably from common sense: in everyday life we do not conceive of ourselves as sums of temporal parts. We experience ourselves not as four-dimensional space-time-worms but rather as three-dimensional beings. E.J. Lowe voices this assumption:
      And even if we accept that temporal-parts theories provide a unitary explanatory framework in which problems of qualitative change, fission, and vagueness can conveniently be dealt with, we have to wonder whether this is enough to justify our acceptance of an idea so apparently obscure and contrary to common sense as that of temporal parts54.
  15. In light of this criticism of four-dimensionalism the impression arises that each account of bodily resurrection comes with a high cost. Either people do not die literally, or the resurrected person is the closest continuer55 of the deceased person, or identity claims mutate into technical reflections about mereology. No solution is able to preserve identity in the strict sense.
  16. Maybe, someone might argue, bodily resurrection simply takes a miracle and no informative metaphysical conditions for explaining identity between the pre- and post-mortem body can be given. There are no metaphysical conditions justifying our belief about identity between earthly and heavenly human existence which do not already presuppose this very same identity for which they are claimed to be conditions. Thus, a modest agnosticism about the problem of personal identity and resurrections is appropriate.
  17. Trenton Merricks is the proponent of such an "agnostic approach". According to him we may have intuitions that the way in which laws of nature structure this-worldly occurrences necessarily excludes the possibility of personal identity over gaps. Do such intuitions, however, justify us in holding that there are no metaphysically necessary conditions for identity over time which can possibly span temporal gaps? This question does not refer to nomological but to modal56 intuitions. Unluckily, our capacities for discerning what is principally possible and impossible do not lead to clear judgements concerning personal identity — not even in this world, as the many well known thought experiments57 about fission-and fusion-cases show. Therefore, according to Merricks, a modest agnosticism is the most reasonable position regarding criteria of identity58 in general and the possibility of bodily resurrection in particular. Admittedly, it cannot be shown that a resurrected person satisfies a bodily criterion for identity with some deceased person. But this negative result is less alarming than is generally thought. Since we seem to lack clear criteria even in this world, Christian faith is no worse off than our ordinary assumptions about personal identity59.
  18. This philosophical conclusion is meager but it should not dishearten us. Belief in resurrection does not derive primarily from philosophical reflections about personal identity and temporal gaps but is the direct consequence of divine revelation. Merricks underlines:
      to the extent that revelation justifies belief in the resurrection, I think it also justifies belief in bodily identity across a temporal gap. So it likewise justifies the conclusion that there are no necessary conditions for bodily identity that cannot possibly be satisfied across a temporal gap60.
  19. At the end, all hope for bodily resurrection resides in God's promise to raise all human beings again as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead with a glorified body. This hope is not a desperate one, for it is reasonable to believe that God, an almighty and perfectly good being, would not make a promise that is beyond his power to keep. So we are justified in holding that bodily resurrection is possible even though it takes a miraculous divine intervention for accomplishing it. At this point the same question can be asked which concludes Mavrodes's article: "But who knows whether that is philosophy61?”

Theological Reservations
  1. Merricks's and Mavrodes's accounts might sound far too theological for many philosophers. Nevertheless, most theologians are purportedly rather dissatisfied with the accounts put forward by analytic philosophers. From a theologian's perspective, the accounts may be apt for solving certain metaphysical problems but they are inappropriate for genuine theological purposes. Here are some reasons why this might be so: as indicated already, a strong materialist conception of the human body levels the difference between this life and the next. If the same particles get reassembled , then the laws of nature, which are presupposed by the existence of particles in this world, probably ought to obtain in the afterlife62 as well. If human persons are necessarily biological organisms, then resurrection seems to be a divine form of re-animation63 and eternal life a kind of divine fountain of youth. To most theological ears this sounds too materialist, biological, and this-worldly. The British physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne makes this point very clear:
      It is not necessary, however, that the ‘matter' of these bodies should be the same matter as makes up the flesh of this present world. In fact, it is essential that is should not be. That is because the material bodies of this world are intrinsically subject to mortality and decay. If the resurrected life is to be a true fulfillment, and not just a repeat of an ultimate futile history, the bodies of that world-to-come must be different, for they will be everlastingly redeemed from mortality64.
  2. Many theologians would thus be pleased to see whether an alternative, less materialist, conception of bodily resurrection could be developed without converging into a version of Platonic or Cartesian soul-body-dualism. The theologian's desideratum conceives "of the person as ‘more than' the body, and as a ‘centred self' distinct in some ways from it and its experiences, without ever being separable from it65."
  3. Furthermore, such an alternative account ought to be essentially relational. So far, approaches in the analytic tradition appear to theologians to be individualistic and sell-engaged. After an analysis of anthropological approaches ranging from substance dualism to non-reductive physicalism, theologian Stuart Palmer comes to the conclusion that they all need further development in terms of "a holistic and relational understanding of personal identity66
  4. To sum up: the philosophical discussion explicates the problems concerning the nature of human persons, diachronic identity, and God's role in resurrection. Philosophers are aware that an omnipotent God could accomplish the resurrection of the body in other ways than those which their models propose. As philosophers, however, it is hard to come up with "more godlike" solutions, since this would transcend the field of philosophy. So theologians should take seriously the metaphysical problems which philosophers try to overcome with their models. They should aim at incorporating valuable philosophical insights in their own accounts and see whether more theologically appropriate models can be spelled out thereafter.

An Exceedingly Brief Suggestion How to Proceed
  1. In light of theology's wish list, the phenomenological tradition might help to avert the suspicion that the philosophical discussion of the metaphysics of resurrection is too materialist and self-centered. The phenomenological tradition distinguishes between the concept of the human body conceived as something a subject experiences directly because it is her body, and as a material entity describable from a scientific point of view. In the former sense the human body is something you know about subjectively. In the latter sense, instead, you perceive the human body as something objective. Now, the former approach to the human body is necessary for an adequate understanding of specific capacities of the human person such as first-person-perspective, self-representation, and subjectivity. The latter approach, according to phenomenology, is instead the consequence of a certain practice, such as that of seeing something that is by nature essentially subjective as an object in order to study it scientifically.
  2. This twofold approach avoids strong materialist conceptions of the human person. Phenomenology teaches us that the concept of bodily resurrection is the notion of an embodied human person not that of a physical body as accounted for in scientific theory. In other words: it does not contradict the creeds to claim that bodily resurrection requires embodiment but not the physical realization of one's body as we are familiar with it from this world. We do not need an "anthropology of composition" as the Church Fathers believed in order to account for bodily resurrection. Accordingly, to rise again with a transfigured body means that ascriptions of physical or biological qualities cease definitively.
  3. Embodiment suffices for conceiving of the human person as an individual who was fundamentally embedded in relationships on earth and still is so in the afterlife67. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body underlines that the human person does not "pull off' her history and earthly existence in the afterlife68. Rather, these become integral parts of the communal inter-personal reality which serves as the interpretation of the eschatological fulfilment of the cosmos. The basis for human personhood is not physical reality but embodied existence which is able to participate in a communal reality created and maintained by God. Following the theologian Karl Rahner, the notion of the body refers to the symbolic reality of man, that is, what a human person becomes because of a specific history and life.
  4. Embodiment indicates, so to speak, that human persons are not isolated "pure" souls but subjects whose nature is to forge experiences by entering into relationships and taking up a determinate perspective toward the world they occupy. The concept of embodied human person embraces both the notion of a human subject capable of experiences and that of experiences made by this very human subject, through which that subject becomes the kind of human subject she is.
  5. One might ask at this point how to conceive of embodiment if not in terms of physical realization. In all humility we can admit that we do not yet know. It seems reasonable to concede that we presently lack the conceptual resources for answering this question in detail: We live in a physical world and cannot clearly conceive either of an eschatologically transformed world in partial discontinuity with the actual one nor of ourselves as being bodily but non-physical.
  6. We can aim, however, to specify the conditions that must obtain in order for bodily resurrection to be metaphysically and theologically feasible. This task leaves room for creativity to develop different sorts of models which meet these conditions. Such models indicate that an informative defense of the doctrine of resurrection is available even though we are not in a position to specify which mechanisms God actually uses for raising us from the dead69.
  7. The contributions in this volume follow this line of reasoning. They dispute the claim that bodily resurrection from the dead is a metaphysical impossibility by offering possible scenarios in which it occurs. These scenarios are a lively expression of the old dictum fides quaerens intellectum. They neither prevent nor impugn the faith of those believers who trust that a God who created the cosmos ex nihilo can also sustain human persons in existence when the physical world as it is known comes to an end. On the contrary, such scenarios can aid believers in considering more precisely which prospects for accomplishing this feat are the most promising. All the same time, non-believers are not exempt from considering these possible scenarios: Even if they do not see it as a matter of existential importance, reflecting on the scenarios put forward presents a provocative intellectual journey. It stretches the imaginative powers in thinking about what might happen to us after our earthly existence comes to an end.


In-Page Footnotes ("Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: Introduction")

Footnote 1: My usual objection to the use of this quotation in the context of books such as this is that while Paul’s argument appears sound, the possibility of a general resurrection, while sufficient for Christ’s resurrection, is not necessary. There may be special circumstances involved in Christ’s resurrection that don’t apply in the general case. Ignoring Christ as a special case per se, his resurrection is one where there is bodily continuity which is lacking in the general case. Hence, Christian materialists have an easier time explaining the resurrection of Jesus than they do of those whose bodies are utterly destroyed. So, while it’s true that if resurrection is impossible, then Christ has not been raised, Christ’s resurrection as a demonstration of the possibility of resurrection has nothing metaphysically to say about the possibility of resurrection in the general case. Click here for Note for my developing thoughts on Resurrection.

Footnote 2: Stephen T. Davis, "The Counterattack of the Resurrection Sceptics. A Review Article", Philosophia Christi, 8 (2005): pp. 39-63, p. 40.

Footnote 3: Despite Wolterstorff’s resons that follow, I’m suspicious that it’s just the case that more Christians have found their way into academic philosophy, in the USA at least, though Woltersdorff is probably right as to the reasons contemporary analytic philosophy is more conducive to Christians than it was in the mid-20th century. I’ve read a paper on this – asking atheistic philosophers to stand up and be counted – but have forgotten what it is. It may be "Smith (Quentin) - The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism", or something else by its author.

Footnote 4: Nicholas Woltersdorff, "How Philosophical Theology Became Possible with the Analytic Tradition of Philosophy", in Oliver D. Crisp and Michael C. Rea (eds), Analytic Theology. New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 155-68.

Footnote 5: The usual objection to LP in this context is that the verification principle is itself unverifiable, so is nonsense by LP’s own lights. This may be correct, but LP ought to be repaired to be a theory of truth rather than of meaning. It is healthy to ask that for a statement to have claims to truth, there ought to some evidence – either logical or empirical – in its favour. But there are many meaningful but unverifiable statements. The LPs were also unduly pessimistic about the possibility of meaningful metaphysics, though they were right (as was Hume) to be suspicious of unrestrained metaphysical speculation.

Footnote 6: Is this Reformed Epistemology, as developed by Plantinga (see "Sudduth (Michael) - Reformed Epistemology and Christian Apologetics").

Footnote 7: Wolterstorff., p. 167.

Footnote 8: Such pluralism seems a step back from following the truth where it leads. Philosophers seem to be incorporating alien principles into analytic philosophy. I suppose a cornerstone of analytic philosophy was a commitment to naturalism, which does beg the question against the theists (if not deists). What we get are believers who (allow themselves to) see no problems with theism – and view their role as at least partly apologetic – and unbelievers who take the opposite stance. I suppose there are many neutral areas where there can be a meeting of minds. But philosophy – by its very nature – questions everything, while any ideological commitment protects some or many doctrines from criticism. Faith is by its very nature anti-philosophical.

Footnote 9: Not quite! It seems to me that all the contributors are Christians with the exception of Eric Olson, so this book is hardly a balanced presentation. I don’t know Olson’s faith-stance, if any, but as an animalist he can’t be open to the possibility of resurrection.

Footnote 11: No doubt the notion of resurrection was alien to Platonists, who looked for release from the body, but just what did Tertullian find “impossible” in the idea of resurrection?

Footnote 12: I’ve noted above the special case that is Jesus’ resurrection, because of some form of physical continuity between the pre- and post-mortem bodies. But, if Olson is right, we still have “gappy” existence – because “we” will never be identical to a corpse, as we (organisms) and corpses (masses of matter) have different persistence conditions. So, even in Jesus case, there is a period of discontinuity.

Footnote 13: Why “spirit” rather than “soul”? Just what is (a person’s) spirit in Christian theology? Is it just a life-principle, with no “personality” to it? “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Do individual persons have individual spirits? Why no mention of the “revolution” forged by Oscar Cullmann, in returning the focus to bodily resurrection, in – for example – "Cullmann (Oscar) - Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?"?

Footnote 16: Metamorphosis – is a tricky notion. There’s a distinction between qualitative change of a quantitatively self-identical thing (a human body) and a metamorphosis of one kind into another (frog to prince). A resurrection body (presumably) has different persistence conditions to the pre-mortem one – so cannot be of the same kind (or so it is said: Click here for Note, Click here for Note).

Footnote 17: Death – when not used metaphorically – is the permanent cessation of biological function. I assume such locutions as “I died on the operating table” – referring to the temporary cessation of heartbeat – as being figures of speech for dramatic effect. The real death of all human beings (and of Jesus) is important – but quite what Christian theology makes of it is unknown to me. Biological understanding is of fairly recent development. In Christian theology, death is important as the promised consequence of Adam’s sin upon all human beings (whatever is made of that), and is presumably associated with the separation of spirit from body.

Footnote 18: Some Christians would deny this and look for resurrection on a renewed Earth (at least for some humans – eg. the Jews – if not for they themselves). There seem to be two points here. First, that death is (in some sense, ie. in the absence of resurrection) the end of the individual. The second is that – given that we “are” in some sense bodily organisms of which (in general) nothing remains post-mortem – there is no hope for the resurrection of the very same individual.

Footnote 19: So, no Luz bone — I cover this in various Notes (Click here for Note, Click here for Note, and Click here for Note).

Footnote 24: Is there more to this principle than “Origin Essentialism” – that a thing’s origin is one of its essential characteristics, so couldn’t be other than it was. Hence Kripke’s argument that I couldn’t have been born at a time other than I was – though maybe this has to do with the composition of the zygote, so it’s not metaphysically impossible. See "Kripke (Saul) - Naming and Necessity: Lecture III", "Robertson (Teresa) - Possibilities and the Arguments for Origin Essentialism" and "Wilson (Jack) - Beyond Horses and Oak Trees: A New Theory of Individuation for Living Entities". Or is it a consequence of Leibniz’s Law?

Footnote 25: Can any philosopher believe something he knows to be irrational? Isn’t this tantamount to the reverse of Moore’s paradox (“I know Y is true, but I don’t believe it”) – “I believe X but not-X”? No doubt the line would go that X is not false as such, but something the truth of which I (benighted intellect that I am) can see no way of justifying.

Footnote 26: ”Can” is rather a loose word here. There’s no promise or expectation of a convincing solution to the problem. Zimmerman and Van Inwagen seem happy provided they can come up with any old “solution”, however unlikely, to bridge the gap – and leave the correct solution up to God.

Footnote 27: Brian E. Daley, "A Hope for Worms", in Ted Peters, Robert J. Russell and Michael Welker (Eds), Resurrection. Theological and Scientific Assessments (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 136-64, p. 148.

Footnote 28: Just what’s the problem here? The “theory” is that a person is identical to the (suitably ordered) set of particles (plus the soul) that once made up that person (in this case, at the moment of death). But there is no such set that is “owned” by a person throughout life. I’m not too worried about God “arbitrarily” making up the numbers of particles by choosing similar ones as he sees fit, if “enough” were available to form the basis. But this model of identity just won’t do. There might be no particles in my body aged 90 that were in my body aged 2, yet I would have remained the same person.

Footnote 29: Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), p. 55.
… See "Bynum (Caroline) - Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200 - 1336"

Footnote 30: So these “theories” fail empirically. There are no problems in the assimilation of human flesh, and there are no “Luz bones”. Athenagoras’s theory would seem to fail even if true in the immediate sense. God would have to mark each particle so that if a worm ate human flesh, and a bird ate the worm, then that part of the bird would then not be capable of being assimilated by human digestion. I’m unclear how “Luz bones” were supposed to work. Would that mean that I am really, when it comes down to it, my Luz bone? Sounds even worse than saying that I am really my brain.

Footnote 31: Peter van Inwagen, "The Possibility of Resurrection", International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 9 (1978): pp. 114-21, reprinted in Paul Edwards (ed.), Immortality (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books 1997), 242-6.
… See "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection"

Footnote 35: Footnote 41: David Hershenov, "Van Inwagen, Zimmerman, and the Materialist Conception of Resurrection", Religious Studies, 38 (2002): pp. 451-69, pp. 460-3.
… See "Hershenov (David) - Van Inwagen, Zimmerman, and the Materialist Conception of Resurrection"

Footnote 43: Hershenov, p. 463.

Footnote 49: See Zimmerman's article in this volume (Chapter 2).
… See "Zimmerman (Dean) - Bodily Resurrection: The Falling Elevator Model Revisited"

Footnote 52: Hud Hudson, A Materialist Metaphysics of the Human Person (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), p. 190.
… See "Hudson (Hud) - A Materialist Metaphysics of the Human Person"

Footnote 53: See, for instance, Michael Rea, "Temporal Parts Unmotivated", The Philosophical Review, 107 (1998): pp. 225-60.
… "Rea (Michael) - Temporal Parts Unmotivated"

Footnote 54: Ernest Jonathan Lowe, A Survey of Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 57.
… See "Lowe (E.J.) - A Survey of Metaphysics"

Footnote 59: A very similar point was made by George Mavrodes, "The Life Everlasting and the Bodily Criterion of Identity", Nous, 11 (1977): pp. 27-39.
… See "Mavrodes (George I.) - The Life Everlasting and the Bodily Criterion of Identity"

Footnote 60: Trenton Merricks, "The Resurrection of the Body", in Thomas P. Flint and Michael C. Rea (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 476-90, P. 481.

Footnote 61: Mavrodes, "Life Everlasting", p. 39.
… See "Mavrodes (George I.) - The Life Everlasting and the Bodily Criterion of Identity"

Footnote 64: John Polkinghorne, Science and Theology: An Introduction (London and Minneapolis: SPCK and Fortress, 1998), pp. 115-16.

Footnote 65: Paul S. Fiddes, The Promised End. Eschatology in Theology and Literature (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), P. 91.

Footnote 66: Stuart Palmer, "Christian Life and Theories of Human Nature", in Joel B. Green and Stuart L. Palmer (eds), In Search of the Soul. Four Views of the Mind-Body-Problem (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), pp. 189-215, p. 214. On the importance of relationships for an appropriate theological anthropology see also Alistair I. McFayden, The Call to Personhood. A Christian Theory of the Individual in Social Relationships (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)."

Footnote 69: Christian Tapp highlights this point in his contribution in this volume (Chapter 12).
… See "Tapp (Christian) - Joseph Ratzinger on Resurrection Identity"

"Haag (Johannes) - Personhood, Bodily Self-Ascription, and Resurrection: A Kantian Approach"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    Haag defends the claim that ascribing states of consciousness to ourselves is only possible if we are able to apply to ourselves predicates signifying bodily states as well. Understood as a transcendental thesis, this means that bodily self-ascription is an enabling condition for self-ascribing states of consciousness. This transcendental thesis unfolds by way of reference to the philosophical work of I. Kant, G. Evans, and P.F. Strawson. In light of these results, Haag asks which concepts of embodiment and self-reference underlie the eschatological transformation of the human person.


In-Page Footnotes ("Haag (Johannes) - Personhood, Bodily Self-Ascription, and Resurrection: A Kantian Approach")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Hudson (Hud) - Multiple Location and Single Location Resurrection"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    Hudson's approach depends on recent metaphysical considerations about the relation between space-time regions and the objects occupying them. The basic insight says that a resurrected human person might he conceived as an entity located either in two different space-time regions or in one scattered region with two (salient) temporally connected parts. On this view, the whole human being consists of a terrestrial part on the one hand and of a celestial part on the other hand with different spatio-temporal properties accordingly. Though this approach comes packaged with costs of its own, the resulting metaphysical framework may turn out to be of considerable interest to theologians for being able to account for personal identity though partial discontinuity.


In-Page Footnotes ("Hudson (Hud) - Multiple Location and Single Location Resurrection")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Michaud (Derek) - Review of 'Personal Identity and Resurrection: How do we Survive our Death?' Edited by Georg Gasser"

Source: The Heythrop Journal Volume 54, Issue 2, March 2013 Pages 330–331

Author’s Conclusion
  1. While uniformly insightful, the essays making up this collection generally suffer from a cluster of closely related, but by no means fatal, shortcomings.
    1. First, there is little evidence of an appreciation for the (potentially) symbolic nature of the creedal affirmation of bodily resurrection. Expressed another way, are the authors correct in their assumption to be speaking on behalf of the Christian view?
    2. Second, the authors fail to take even a cursory glance at popular culture or the platitudes and practices of loved ones at funerals, which indicate a dualistic model of the soul’s escape from the body and immediate transferal to heaven (or otherwise). The apparent dominance of this view among both practicing and nominal Christians begs for more consideration of the rationale for this project (i.e., creedal orthodoxy).
    3. Third, despite the stated goal of providing a philosophical account of the rationality resurrection there are a surprising number of appeals to what amounts to miracles to be found in this collection.
    4. Finally, it seems that granting the usefulness (or necessity) of this project is to already concede most of what is to be demonstrated. While Gasser is very clear about the intention of his collection to take the doctrine of the resurrection as its starting point why not simply continue to operate within the sphere of theology? How rational an account can one provide (and in what sense, “rational”?) when one has already taken for granted that resurrection is subject to a rational account?
  2. In short, like most well-crafted works in the philosophy of religion, this collection leads to reflection on its topic but also on the nature of the field and its relationship to theology as well. In this lies the highest strength of Gasser’s collection and its authors’ greatest gift to their reader.


"Niederbacher (Bruno) - The Same Body Again? Thomas Aquinas on the Numerical Identity of the Resurrected Body"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    Niederbacher discusses Thomas Aquinas’s influential teaching about bodily resurrection. Apparently there are two rival views in Aquinas's teaching, one more materialist, the other more dualist. The materialist says: what makes for the numerical identity2 of the body is that some elemental parts of which the body is composed during the earthly life will be part of the resurrected body. The dualist says: what makes for the numerical identity3 of the body is nothing other than the substantial form. Whenever the substantial form is embodied, this body will be of its flesh. Niederbacher argues that Aquinas should opt for the "dualist" view, in order to maintain the consistency of his overall account and to meet systematic objections.


In-Page Footnotes ("Niederbacher (Bruno) - The Same Body Again? Thomas Aquinas on the Numerical Identity of the Resurrected Body")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010
Write-up Note1 (Full Text reproduced below).

Author’s Abstract
  • The paper concerns the metaphysical possibility of life after death2.
  • It argues that the existence of a psychological duplicate3 is insufficient for resurrection, even if psychological continuity4 suffices for personal identity. That is because our persistence requires immanent causation5.
  • There are at most three ways of having life after death6:
    1. If we are immaterial souls;
    2. If we are snatched bodily from our deathbeds; or
    3. If there is immanent causation7 ‘at a distance' as Zimmerman8 proposes – but this requires an ontology of temporal parts9.

  1. Life After Death10
  2. The Irreversibility Principle
  3. Souls and Body-Snatching
  4. The Psychological-Duplication11 Model
  5. Immanent Causation12
  6. Some Consequences
  7. In Defence of Immanent Causation13
  8. The Ontic-Leap Model
  9. The Divine-Command Model
  10. Worries
  11. The Four-Dimensional Divine-Command Model


Write-up14 (as at 21/04/2018 20:05:17): Olson - Immanent Causation and Life After Death

This Note is a detailed review of "Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death".

Author’s Abstract
  • The paper concerns the metaphysical possibility of life after death.
  • It argues that the existence of a psychological duplicate15 is insufficient for resurrection, even if psychological continuity suffices for personal identity. That is because our persistence requires immanent causation.
  • There are at most three ways of having life after death:
    1. If we are immaterial souls;
    2. If we are snatched bodily from our deathbeds; or
    3. If there is immanent causation ‘at a distance' as Zimmerman16=8 proposes – but this requires an ontology of temporal parts17=9.

  1. Life After Death
  2. The Irreversibility Principle
  3. Souls and Body-Snatching
  4. The Psychological-Duplication18 Model
  5. Immanent Causation
  6. Some Consequences
  7. In Defence of Immanent Causation
  8. The Ontic-Leap Model
  9. The Divine-Command Model
  10. Worries
  11. The Four-Dimensional Divine-Command Model

  1. Life After Death
    • What would God have to do to provide us with life after death?
    • By ‘life after death” Olson requires three conditions to be satisfied:-
      1. The survivor must be you, not a replica or counterpart, and not your soul, unless this is identical with you or its existence entails your own. He explicitly leaves to one side (Parfit’s) question whether the survival of someone non-identical to you might be as good for you as your own survival.
      2. You must be alive – not necessarily biologically19 – but ‘survival’ as a corpse won’t do. Consciousness – and psychological continuity pre/post-mortem – while not necessary20 for your survival – is essential for an interesting afterlife.
      3. He’s not concerned with the “easy” case where your corpse is frozen, maybe repaired and then revived. This might well be you, but this sort of case isn’t the sort that features in the ‘great religious traditions’ – which are concerned with ‘the life of the world to come’. Wherever21 this is, it is spatiotemporally removed22 from our pre-mortem location.
    • So, Olson’s question is: is it metaphysically possible for …
      1. Us, to exist
      2. In the next world, after we die
      3. Conscious and psychologically continuous with our pre-mortem selves?
  2. The Irreversibility Principle
    • On the face of it, your survival is impossible because – as "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection" admits – you have been totally destroyed – and none23 of your remains will retain any personal features.
    • Olson gives an example of the Colossus of Rhodes. If the statue had been totally destroyed – the iron rusted away and the bronze melted down into weapons, say – then no latter-day reconstruction of the Colossus in Las Vegas could possibly be the very same Colossus that was cast in antiquity.
    • Olson says, of any reconstruction:-
      • it would only be an exemplar of the original design – “like a particular copy24 of a novel”,
      • a replica,
      • modern Greeks couldn’t ask for their Colossus back25.
    • Also,
      • after the original Colossus had been destroyed, there would be nothing that could be pointed to as the Colossus, only ‘radically transformed26’.
      • maybe if there were parts that could be reassembled27, there would be room for debate, but not following total destruction.
    • God would have no more power in this regard than the Las Vegas hoteliers. Even recovering and recombining the original atoms, and taking account of radioactive decay to give the appearance of age, would only be making a better job of it. It would only be an ‘authentic reconstruction’ – not the original artefact.
    • Olson claims that what holds for the Colossus holds in general28. It’s nothing to do with artefacts, or inanimate things – an ancient pine, or the fire that burnt it, could similarly not be restored – because they have been totally destroyed.
    • Olson calls the claim that “what has been totally destroyed has ceased to exist and cannot again exist” the irreversibility principle.
    • Maybe there are restrictions – to statues and human beings, say – Olson calls them “ordinary29 things”.
    • Applied to us, the principle30 implies that we cease to exist when totally destroyed, if not sooner. God might bring something back that is ‘intrinsically identical31’ to me, but it would not be me.
  3. Souls and Body-Snatching
    • So, our only hope is that the analogy with the Colossus fails – and that we are not totally destroyed at death.
    • Obviously, something is destroyed when your body decays following your death. But maybe what initially survives your death, and then decays, are not strictly speaking your remains, or not all of them. We might hope that something of our characteristic32 states and structure otherwise survives.
    • The favourite account (the “Platonic Model”) is that we are immaterial substances; Olson ignores the variant whereby we have an immaterial substance as a proper part that is somehow sufficient for our persistence trans-mortem. Such a soul33 is radically independent34 of the body, so can survive its death and total destruction. Olson rejects this view out of hand – it has grave difficulties he needn’t rehearse35 – and if this was our only hope of getting to the next world, this hope would be dim.
    • An alternative is the Body-snatching Model (see "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection"). At the last moment, unobserved, God swaps our bodies out for a counterfeit – made of other materials – which dies in our place. There are variants – God might replace some identity-preserving proper part, eg. your brain. Obviously, there are difficulties with this view too.
      • the pre-corpse would need radical repair36 in the next world. This is troublesome in the case of brain-damage, though this is a problem for all accounts of post-mortem survival.
      • A non-discoverable continuous space-time37 path is needed from this world to the next. Olson thinks this “theologically awkward38”.
      • Despite some resemblance to the Ascension, this is bad science fiction rather than good theology39.
      • It requires systematic deception on God’s part, analogous to a magician’s sleight of hand. While all accounts of life after death conflict with appearances, this one is “particularly egregious40”.
  4. The Psychological-Duplication41 Model
    • Olson thinks the argument so far may be deemed contentious as it assumes that survival must be achieved in a brute physical sense, needing material continuity. In particular, you cannot survive the instantaneous replacement of all your matter; at least some of your matter must go with you. This entails body-snatching.
    • A more popular view is that a future being is you in virtue of inheriting some of your psychological properties.
    • So, according to this view, all God needs to do to get you to the next world is cause a unique person to appear whose mental states relate to yours in the right way (just like you were at the last42 moment of your this-worldly existence).
    • This is possible even if you43 have been totally destroyed – so (on this view) the irreversibility principle is false (as it implies the wrong view of our identity over time).
  5. Immanent Causation
    • However, Olson claims that even if we are psychological beings with psychological persistence criteria, any future-world being that is neither physically nor causally continuous with you, however intrinsically identical his psychological states might be to yours, would not be you.
    • Firstly, there is no real psychological continuity in this case. The next-world being hasn’t got his memories from you – they have been created out of nothing by God – so are not even quasi-memories44 (see "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Personal Identity: a Materialist Account", pp. 81-6).
    • Olson doubts that the resurrected being could have beliefs at all, because they would have no content45 – not about cows etc. – because they haven’t arisen from first-hand perceptions or second-hand learning.
    • Olson’s key claim is that for you to (psychologically) exist in the future there has to be a causal connection between your states then and now – not an accidental46 resemblance, nor just causal relevance47, but you causing yourself to continue existing. External forces can help (doctors, etc) but can’t do the whole job.
    • ”A person48 is a self-sustaining49 being”.
    • Immanent Causation” is where something causes itself to continue existing50 in a way that doesn’t go entirely outside itself.
    • Transeunt Causation” is where a thing affects something else.
    • Olson importantly illustrates the distinction by an example. If I at some time believe X51, then my continuing to do so at a later time is usually an example of immanent causation. A counter-example is where I teach you X (an example of transeunt52 causation), then utterly forget X, and you then teach me X. My later belief that X is transeuntly caused by my earlier belief, because the causal chain passes (wholly53) outside me.
    • We are referred to "Zimmerman (Dean) - Immanent Causation" for a helpful (and more precise) but demanding account of immanent causation, the requirement for which constrains our persistence54.
    • God’s ex nihilo creation of a next-worldly psychological duplicate55 of you would be effective even if you had never existed56. This is a reduction ad absurdum of such a (re-)creation being identical to “you”.
    • Olson seems to allow that re-assembly would involve immanent causation – your identity would be mediated by your parts – so potentially identity-preserving57.
    • While in God’s recreation of you your this-worldly state does have some causal bearing on the next-worldly being, because it causes God to model that being on you, it is insufficient for identity preservation because the causation is not immanent, in that all the causal links between the two beings run outside58 you.
    • Olson claims that the argument above has nothing to do with people per se, but applies to cats and toothbrushes59.
    • Consequently a next-worldly being can be you, on the psychological view, only if its mental states are immanently caused by yours. This is true in this world as well. Psychological duplication60 won’t do.
    • How could this immanent causation of the maintenance of your psychology be achieved? Olson thinks it requires your brain, or at least something derived from your brain61 by the gradual replacement of parts. He claims that at each stage of such a transformation, there has to be an organ capable of thinking and being conscious, and retaining some of the physical structure underlying your mental properties.
    • So, even on the psychological view, there has to be a continuous space-time path from this world to the next – and if you are material, this requires some of your matter accompanying you, and we are again left with either body-snatching or Platonism (denying that you are physical).
  6. Some Consequences
    • Olson thinks the only alternative to the two main rival accounts of PI (namely brute-physicalism and psychological continuity) is anticriterialism – whereby no continuity of any sort (nor any other conditions) are both necessary and sufficient for our identity over time.
    • We are referred to "Merricks (Trenton) - How to Live Forever Without Saving Your Soul: Physicalism and Immortality".
    • Olson states “No one denies62 that any condition is necessary for us to persist, apart from our persistence itself. Anticriterialists merely deny that any nontrivial63 set of conditions is both necessary and jointly sufficient. No anticriterialist thinks you could become a poached egg64”. I have difficulty construing this passage. I now think I understand65 what the first sentence means. I certainly understand the other two: and the second is repetitious; and I can well believe the third, but I don’t see very clearly how it follows from anything previously said.
    • Basically, Olson’s point is that even anticriterialists think that immanent causation is necessary66 for our persistence.
    • Olson makes an important (if contentious) point that immanent causation doesn’t require spatiotemporal continuity. We can have temporary inexistence67 – as when a watchmaker takes a watch apart for cleaning – because the bits preserve the watch’s structure, so that the persistence is largely maintained within the watch’s parts themselves, and the watch thereby largely causes itself to persist.
    • Olson thinks that the reason we cannot be disassembled and reassembled is that we are harder to take apart – violence would be done to our bits – but if this could take place, then he sees no reason – as far as the principle of immanent causation is concerned – why we should not allow of intermittent existence.
    • Olson further allows that if a watch – or a person – were reduced even to a scattered collection of elementary particles – and thus (he says) were totally destroyed – then if they were reassembled by God there would be sufficient immanent causation to ensure identity68.
    • There would be some immanent causation even if only one atom were taken from the former to later person – but Olson doubts that this would be sufficient to ensure the persistence of the person. He’s not sure just how much69 – or of what kind – of immanent causation is required for persistence, but he thinks “a high degree”.
    • He says that it would be “entirely God’s70 act” that made the watch (or person) that had been totally destroyed back into a watch (or person) on reassembly. But he also says (or seems to say) that it is reasonable to say that the original object returned. God is not doing all the work, as he would if he was to (re-)create the person ex nihilo.
    • Olson ends this section on an enigma – he says that no one would say that you would be restored if only one of your atoms survived, but then he says that “If God could restore you to being after your atoms were scattered randomly, he could surely restore you after they were annihilated”. I don’t know what the argument71 is supposed to be here, or how the last sentence connects to the “one atom” case.
  7. In Defence of Immanent Causation
    • Olson will try to demonstrate the reasonableness of the principle of Immanent Causation, but thinks it’ll be similar to trying to demonstrate the principle of non-contradiction. Some philosophers doubt both principles, but any attempted proof is likely to have premises less certain than the conclusion. All he can do is try to show that what follows from the denial of the principle is more repugnant than the principle itself.
    • Without the principle, without some continuity of stuff, … what’s the difference between rebuilding a real historical artefact and building a replica?
    • God’s decree72 isn’t sufficient on its own. For God to cause a tree to exist, atoms have to be arranged arboreally73. So, conditions apart from God’s decree apply to my persistence. I couldn’t be a poached egg or a silly song tomorrow even if God decreed it, because there are necessary conditions for identity over time.
    • Maybe human beings are different to ordinary objects by way of persistence. We might be like shadows, for which later states are in no way caused by earlier states74. Hopeless75, Olson thinks.
    • The only possibility is the doctrine of “space-time plenitude” allied to four-dimensionalism76 – that every – however disconnected – region of non-empty spacetime contains a material thing. Then, I might be the logical sum of me in this world and “me” in the next, despite the lack of imminent causation.
    • Olson asks how this model would apply to re-created historical artefacts. It would go like this: there would be two objects – the original, and the recreation, both 4-dimensional objects, the latter including the former as a proper part. Whether we have recreated (say) the Colossus of Rhodes would depend on what the name77 “Colossus of Rhodes” refers to.
    • In response, Olson (effectively) says that our names and terms are governed by common-sense usage – my desk cannot mean “desk + bits of floor”, because part of the meaning of the term “desk” is that it is self-contained and movable. So (the analogy goes) part of the meaning of the term “person” is of a self-perpetuating being, if there are any, and Olson thinks 4-dimensionalism has to admit there are lots78 of candidates.
    • Olson claims that anyone who denies the immanent-causation requirement would have to give an account of how it could be false (just as would someone who denied the law of non-contradiction).
    • He also claims not to know anyone who accepts the “plenitude79” account of life after death.
  8. The Ontic-Leap Model
    • Olson originally made two claims about persistence:-
      1. Immanent-causation (dealt with immediately above), and
      2. The Irreversibility Principle.
      So, what about the second claim?
    • It is independent of the first principle, because a completely scattered object80 would still have some81 immanent causation between states on account of the (scattered) atoms.
    • For a reason to doubt the irreversibility principle, Olson considers “action at a distance82”. So, it is conceivable that something perishing now might cause something remote to happen a year later – namely causing itself to re-exist. While this would violate the irreversibility principle, it would satisfy the immanent-causation principle.
    • Olson claims that Zimmerman’s “Falling Elevator model” has such a state of affairs: on Olson’s account of one proposal, God endows each of your atoms with the power to leap83 to the next world, by “causing (itself) to exist” there, where they arrive in the same arrangement as in this one. Nothing that happens in the “interregnum” causes this to happen, so we have immanent causation84.
    • Olson points out that “causation is no a priori science85”.
    • Olson now explicitly points out that there’s no simple “leaping” to the next world, with God providing a simulacrum-corpse, but that each atom causes itself both to continue existing in this world and to start existing in the next. He points out that both these atoms cannot be the original (two things cannot be one thing). Zimmerman’s view is that the this-worldly atom is the original86, on account of spatio-temporal continuity. But, despite the other-worldly body being composed entirely of new atoms, Zimmerman (says Olson) still claims that the immanent causation is sufficient for you to continue to exist in the new world. Our corpse isn’t you, but is, without deception, still “your remains”.
    • Olson notes Hershenov’s remark (in "Hershenov (David) - Van Inwagen, Zimmerman, and the Materialist Conception of Resurrection") that this implies you can continue to exist without material continuity – you come to be composed instantaneously of new87 atoms not assimilated88 by your normal life-processes.
  9. The Divine-Command Model
    • Olson call’s Zimmerman’s proposal the “Ontic Leap” model, rather than the “Falling Elevator” model. While it avoids body snatching and immaterial souls, it still looks impossible
    • Olson’s main worry appears to be how the atoms would know where to go.
    • He denies that he has any principled objection to causation across spatiotemporal gaps, or individual atoms causing themselves to exist thusly. His worry is about objects so doing89.
    • Olson denies that any natural90 process could get the atoms all there at the same place and time in the correct configuration so as to form a human being – as distinct from some random cloud.
    • And, even if this transfer of the whole body were possible, it wouldn’t be you, because the atoms’ next-worldly arrangement wouldn’t have been immanently caused by their this-worldly arrangement91. Olson thinks that any humanoid relationship of the other-worldly atoms would be pure chance – and hence extremely unlikely to occur, and unsuccessful in preserving identity even if it did.
    • Zimmerman tweaks the model to escape this. There is a divine command for a person “intrinsically just like92” the pre-mortem person, and this person is that person resurrected, because the divine command isn’t sufficient to bring the resurrection about, leaving enough immanent causation to preserve identity. The transfer only works in conjunction with the pre-mortem state of the resurrected person – of which (Olson claims) God might be ignorant93.
    • In this “Divine Command Model”, the divine fiat, combined with your atoms’ this-worldly existence and configuration, is sufficient. It doesn’t require backwards causation, as the atoms in this world don’t have to do anything in response to a then future divine command, beyond what they normally do to self-propagate94.
    • So, on this model, what has been totally destroyed can appear later.
  10. Worries
    • Olson has four remarks to make on the Divine-Command model (and says they equally apply to the Ontic-Leap and Psychological-Duplication95 models. If Olson had96 to believe in life after death, he’d prefer to go with body-snatching or immaterial souls than the Divine-Command (and related) models:-
      • 1. Rejection of the Irreversibility Principle: His first reason is that the Divine-Command model repudiates the Irreversibility Principle. Anything that has ceased to exist – from the Colossus of Rhodes to the Trojan War97 to the meteorite that caused the Cretaceous extinction – could be restored, given98 a being with sufficient power.
      • 2. Adoption of “Best Candidate” Theories: These models require a “best candidate99” theory of identity over time. Olson rehearses the usual objections. For all the model says, God could create a resurrected “you” while you are still alive, and because there can only be one of “you” at a time, one would not be you – and it would be absurd100 to say that the this-worldly you ceased to exist just because an allegedly better candidate came along. In any case, the this-worldly “you” is the better candidate, enjoying, as it does, spatio-temporal continuity. Consequently, God has to choose his moment carefully, at the very moment101 of your death. Then, as Zimmerman claims, the next-worldly being is a better candidate for being you than your corpse102.
    • Olson says there are no knock-down arguments against Best Candidate theories, but rehearses the “bungled duplication”103 argument beloved of those who deny that identity is preserved in teletransportation104, whereby at the moment of death, two candidates are produced, neither of which can be you as neither is the best. Olson says “it gets worse”, and then describes what appears to be the production of a third candidate after the first two, and asks which is now the best candidate. He doesn’t think there are any principled answers to such questions.
      • 3. No moment of Death?: We’ve seen that, to avoid the next-worldly individual being rejected as not the best candidate, it needs to be created at the moment of your death. But there’s no such moment. Body-snatching is more flexible, as you could be snatched just before105 you expired.
      • 4. We don’t become Corpses: The theory (to avoid duplicates)106 means that we cease to exist at death rather than becoming corpses. If we did become corpses, God would have to wait until the corpse ceased to exist – whenever that might be – when you were badly decomposed. In such cases there could be no psychological continuity, even were you restored, so there’s no interesting life after death for you. Olson cites "Feldman (Fred) - The Termination Thesis" in support107.
  11. The Four-Dimensional Divine-Command Model
    • Olson thinks that “the principle of space-time plenitude”, mentioned earlier108, which converts troubling metaphysical problems into “relatively harmless semantic ones”.
    • Best Candidate Issues: So, if God were to create two next-worldly persons appropriately causally connected to you, they would share their this-worldly parts with you but not their next-worldly parts. The pronoun “you” uttered in this world applies ambiguously to both. He cites "Lewis (David) - Survival and Identity". We use your name to apply to the most worthy candidate in the next work, but this is a semantic issue with no bearing on identity.
    • Moment of Death Issues: Similarly, plenitude helps with the question whether there is a last moment of your this-worldly existence. There is a vast number of candidates for being you – in the sense of the referent of your name, all as good as one another and differing only marginally in their temporal duration. Some will have a last moment of their this-worldly existence, and some won’t. All the Divine-Command model requires is that our personal pronouns refer to beings that do, which Olson thinks ought to be possible109.
    • Corpse Issues: there are candidates110 for being persons that cease at death and others that persist as corpses. Our pronouns must refer to the former.
    • The Irreversibility Principle: if every filled space-time region contains an object, then many survive total destruction111. We just don’t use words to refer to such things. Olson tries to frighten us by saying this is a contingent matter that could change. He closes with a remark I must quote in full, as I don’t understand it: “If there actually is a next world containing beings like ourselves that are immanently causally connected to us, it may be that believers in life after death already do refer to beings that leap to the next world when they say “I” and “we”. What they take the principle112 to mean would then be false.”
    • Olson thinks that Plenitude is a high price to pay for such advantages113.


In-Page Footnotes ("Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death")

Footnotes 8, 16: Presumably this ought to be "Zimmerman (Dean) - Bodily Resurrection: The Falling Elevator Model Revisited", though only Zimmerman’s earlier paper is cited in the Bibliography.

Footnotes 9, 17: Is this necessarily a fatal objection? 4-dimensionalism offers attractive solutions to many conundrums concerning fission.

Footnote 14:
  • This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (21/04/2018 20:05:17).
  • Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
Footnote 19:
  • Is non-biological “life” possible?
  • Presumably “conscious existence” is all that is needed?
Footnote 20: This is an important point for Olson – an Animalist – who claims that psychology is irrelevant to our survival (though it is essential if our survival is to matter to us).

Footnote 21: No doubt Olson – like the Christian Materialists (I suppose) – thinks that we are essentially material beings, so ‘the world to come’ must itself be material if we (rather than our counterparts) are to exist in it.

Footnote 22: Olson does consider Van Inwagen’s “body snatching” case ("Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection") – which is essentially the same case, except that it’s God that does all the work. So, God (essentially) “freezes” the body and removes it to the world to come, where it’s repaired and enhanced so as to be suitable for eternal life. I suppose the point is that we can only ever do half the work – we can’t get the resurrected & patched-up corpse to the next world.

Footnote 23: But, see "Chisholm (Roderick) - Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from 'Is There a Mind-Body Problem?'", Click here for Note, which considers whether there’s some small but indestructible physical part of you that might survive whatever else might befall you – and which preserves your identity so that you are not – contrary to appearances – totally destroyed. Even so, can we say that this hypothetical identity-preserving remnant “retains any personal features”?

Footnote 24: I’m not sure I like this analogy. A novel (it seems to me) is an abstract object that can appear in various forms – eg. as a manuscript, printed book, eBook, and so on. I’d prefer something more like a television, which is essentially of a particular physical form. Anyway, we’re talking about different tokens of a particular type. That said – while what I’ve just said is true of artefacts – the “novel” approach might have greater application to us, where the resurrected person might (it may be supposed) be of a different type to the pre-resurrected exemplar. Even so we would not have identity.

Footnote 25: Property ownership features heavily in the philosophy of the persistence of artefacts (Click here for Note).

Footnote 26: This is disputed by, I think, "Jubien (Michael) - Contemporary Metaphysics" (or maybe some other philosophers, who believe in the existence of scattered objects and ontological plenitude – whereby any – maybe discontinuous – region of space-time contains an object that just is its contents).

Footnote 27: As with the Ship of Theseus (Click here for Note).

Footnote 28: But artefacts are often seen as special cases, in which convention might play a part in questions of persistence. Maybe, however, we can say that – if artefacts cannot survive total destruction – then surely we cannot – as our persistence conditions are stricter than those of artefacts.

Footnote 29: What might “non-ordinary” things be? Presumably, if we allow scattered objects into our ontology, these might survive further scattering.

Footnote 30: Presumably, as this is only a “principle”, it is one that we might take or leave? Why should we accept it (as both Olson and I think we should)? The argument has, I suppose, just been given – though it’s more gesturing towards our intuitions than arguing for them. It probably has to do with ontological parsimony – which denies the existence of scattered objects and other oddities. If we allow the existence of scattered objects, it seems that an object could become scattered and then be reassembled – like a dismantled bicycle. But even if we accept this view, there are well-known objections (“cannibalism”) based on the non-unique ownership over time of the constituent parts of this object.

Footnote 31: I’m not sure I’ve come across this term “intrinsically identical” before. Olson presumably means (near-) exact similarity.

Footnote 32: This (“characteristic”) is an important adjective – because any post-mortem survival – other than the uninteresting resuscitation case – cannot be predicated on our identity to one of our temporal stages (early ones would miss off important then future experiences, and later ones would be too physically moribund, in most cases).

Footnote 34: So a hylomorphic account of the soul – whereby the soul is the form of the body, but cannot exist independently – is not relevant in this case – though it may help with resurrection if the hylomorphic soul (see Click here for Note) is portable across bodies. Maybe at root this is Baker’s (Lynne Rudder Baker) case; the First Person Perspective (Click here for Note) is the form of the body – that without which no body would be mine? I see there’s a paper on the topic - "Quitterer (Josef) - Hylomorphism and the Constitution View".

Footnote 35: Presumably "Olson (Eric) - What Are We? Souls" is a good place to find Olson’s latest reasons for rejecting the “soul view” of personal identity?

Footnote 36: Well, repair is the minimum required. Popular Christian accounts of resurrection seem to presuppose that the “you” in the next world is you in your prime, but with later experiences somehow added back in (and maybe with dreadful ones expunged or tempered somehow). The same applies to the body. Could this reconstruction be performed gradually, using immanent causation? The Christian hope – “glorification” – requires some transformation more radical even than mere repair. There are further identity-preserving issues with this notion, almost akin to metamorphosis (Click here for Note).

Footnote 37: Again, this assumes that the next world is a part of this world. But this almost seems forced if there’s supposed to be a link between this very body and that in the next world. Maybe some story can be made up to account for a more radical discontinuity between the two worlds that still allows our physical passage from one to the other.

Footnote 38: But Olson doesn’t say wherein this “theological awkwardness” lies.

Footnote 39: Olson doesn’t really justify this claim – saying that “why this is so is a nice question”. Maybe the following text (systematic deception) is the reason.

Footnote 40: But, it seems, Zimmerman must have an answer to this. Maybe so; but a creationist-style rebuttal of the charge of systematic deception – namely that the fossils are not systematically deceiving because God has told us (in Genesis, according to a literalist interpretation) how creation was accomplished – doesn’t apply in this case, as the Bible is entirely silent on the matter of body snatching.

Footnote 42: This might be a very poor psychological state, which we might not want to continue. But, having got that far, it might be possible gradually to improve that state into one worth having.

Footnote 43: Surely, referring to this material being that is totally destroyed as “you” – “even if you have been totally destroyed” – is prejudicial to the psychological view? Indeed, on this account of personal identity, could you ever be totally destroyed? You might “intermit” – maybe forever – but you are never beyond the logical possibility of reconstruction, on this view.

Footnote 44: Click here for Note, though I’ve written nothing on this yet.

Footnote 45: This is difficult. Olson’s contention implies that computers cannot have “programmed in” beliefs; they only have beliefs only if they arise in the normal way by causal interaction with the world. But how does this impact on our alleged innate beliefs – eg. knowledge of universal grammar, or folk physics? Maybe there’s something on this in "Dennett (Daniel) - Content and Consciousness: An Analysis of Mental Phenomena"? Or "Putnam (Hilary) - Brains in a Vat"? I think this point of Olson’s is too technical to be relied on.

Footnote 46: The connection wouldn’t be accidental, being specifically intended by God. So, is Olson’s point, while true, relevant?

Footnote 47: So, in this case, the earlier states are relevant to God’s creation of the later states; but this is insufficient (says Olson) to provide identity.

Footnote 48: What does Olson mean by “Person”, and does it matter in this context? Olson thinks of us as human animals, but in this context he’s discussing the psychological view, so may not be relying on us being organisms.

Footnote 49: Several points here:
  • Christians would deny that we are self-sustaining – but again, Olson allows outside assistance provided it doesn’t do the whole job; and Christian “free will” theorists ought to agree.
  • In any case, even a life-support machine needs some cooperation from the patient, or the patient is dead.
  • A key point is that some entities – organisms for instance – are self-sustaining, and so their future states must be caused, at least in part, by their earlier states if they are to stay the same entity, while others – artefacts for instance – do not have this requirement as they have no internal developmental processes.
Footnote 50: Olson adds “or to have a certain property”. This is important because causation, whether immanent or transeunt, applies to matters other than existence.

Footnote 51: Olson’s example is “that 5 is odd”.

Footnote 52: Though, if I wanted to know that X, and sought you out to explain to me why X, my coming to know X would be immanently caused? Maybe not – at least my later belief is only transeuntly caused by my earlier belief. The immanent cause of my later belief is my current desire to know X.

Footnote 53: Olson doesn’t say this explicitly here, but presumably if you merely remind me that X, my subsequent belief is immanently caused by my earlier belief, as the causation is not entirely outside myself. No doubt the distinction between immanent and transeunt causation is beset by problems with causation generally – for instance by the challenges of Hume and Goodman. I need to supply links to these discussions, but currently can only easily find the following: Click here for Note.

Footnote 54: How does this discussion relate to my “lack of forward psychological continuity” idea (Click here for Note)? That is, the re-created being would think itself “you”, mistakenly, but nothing in your experience would be of being that later individual? Presumably your psychological states are propagated as brain states, and cannot be propagated outside that infrastructure, or some other structure by immanent causation (I’m not sure about this admission – it would not include data backups and restores, as these are prone to reduplication objections - Click here for Note).

Footnote 56: Outside of God’s “imagination”, presumably.

Footnote 57: Though not if you’d been totally destroyed … the remaining parts being too small, and / or too scattered?

Footnote 58: Maybe a theist could argue that you don’t in fact self-propagate even in this world – since you require continual sustaining by God. But on this view all of physics is the intimate and explicit consequence of God’s will; and there would seem to be theological objections to this view – it would seem to make God directly responsible for evil, we would have no free will at all, and so on.

Footnote 59: I agree that the persistence of all organisms requires immanent causation, but there may be cases where this is not so for artefacts. This is where an artefact is repaired by the incorporation of new matter outside of the artefact’s control, as in the maintenance of a house, or the replacement of the brush in an (electronic) toothbrush. But maybe we still have some immanent causation – mediated by the bulk of the artefact’s matter, which must be retained (at least in the short term) for the artefact to remain the same thing throughout the maintenance process. The old conundrum Ship of Theseus (Click here for Note) bears on this topic.

Footnote 61: This is another key claim. Of course, Olson isn’t claiming that you are your brain (Click here for Note) – he’s only saying that even if we adopt the psychological view, we still can’t get to where we want if our psychology is mediated by our brains. He says the alternative is Platonism, though maybe Cartesian Dualism (Click here for Note, eventually) is sufficient.

Footnote 62: I could understand what this meant if instead of “denies” we had “claims”, but then is it true?

Footnote 63: So, “persistence itself” won’t do.

Footnote 64: So, the anticriterialist thinks that some criteria are necessary – presumably metamorphosis (Click here for Note) – change of primary kind – destroys identity.

Footnote 65: I think what he means is “some”, rather than “any”. So some condition is necessary for persistence – for instance maintenance of primary kind, even though this is not sufficient (even when augmented, say the anticriterialists).

Footnote 66: They just deny that this condition is sufficient, even if augmented

Footnote 67: This possibility is contentious. Better might be to allow that the watch becomes a scattered object (Click here for Note) – but still an existent one – during the time of its disassembly.

Footnote 68: Olson doesn’t explicitly say this – so I may have misunderstood him. I’ve a feeling that we have some sort of reductio argument going on here that I’ve not spotted, as this seems to contradict the Irreversibility Principle.

Footnote 69: Is this ignorance, or vagueness – or both!

Footnote 70: This is clearly the case – the inexistent, or completely scattered object does come back together only by God’s act, not some natural process under its own control. This is interesting, because – clearly – the reassembled watch only comes back together under the watchmaker’s control. Earlier, Olson had argued that an object cannot survive total destruction – so I don’t know what he’s getting at here.

Footnote 71: Is this an argument – or a presentation of intuitions? Do people’s intuitions differ?

Footnote 72: Maybe there’s something in the reading-list from Peter Vardy’s Heythrop lecture on Divine Omnipotence (Click here for Note) that might be helpful here.

Footnote 73: Not just any arrangement of atoms is a tree.

Footnote 74: Are shadows epiphenomena of (pairs of, or maybe triplets of) bodies (a light-source, an opaque body and a third body on which the shadow is cast)?

Footnote 75: Though he doesn’t explicitly say why.

Footnote 76: For four-dimensionalism (perdurantism) – Click here for Note. Maybe also see Michael Jubien, either of the different, though identically-titled – "Jubien (Michael) - Things and Their Parts" or "Jubien (Michael) - Things and Their Parts". This connection to 4-dimensionalism is very important.

Footnote 77: This is difficult. In 4-dimensionalism, presumably, a name applies to the career of an object up to and including the time of the name’s usage, but it might be thought of more open-endedly as including its future career. 4-dimensionalists have to recommend the revision of how our terms and names refer, because no 4-dimensional object is “wholly present” at any particular time.

Footnote 78: Why there are lots of candidates (ie. self-perpetuating candidates for being you or me) isn’t explained, but presumably has to do with the vague boundaries of physical objects (at a time). This non-uniqueness has other issues – just why should I be the logical sum of my pre-mortem part and “my” post-mortem part – rather than yours – if there’s no constraint on which 4-dimensional parts “match up”? Olson doesn’t say – so presumably it would be “divine decree”.

Footnote 79: He refers to the model as “Quinean”. Jubien’s examples include “Q” – presumably also referring to Quine (see W.V. Quine) – though I don’t know why.

Footnote 81: OK – individual atoms immanently cause the continued existence of one another, and so the aggregate does likewise; but the structure of the first aggregate does not immanently cause the structure of the second (which is brought about externally by the destroying angel, or whatever). It is structure that is all important for organisms – more so than the matter, which is gradually replaced. Also for crystals, else a lump of graphite and an ensuing artificial diamond could be identical.

Footnote 82: I’d thought he was thinking of the EPR paradox, but maybe he’s just thinking of something like gravitation.

Footnote 83: This makes it sound as though each atom leaves this world, but it is not necessarily the case. Using a 4-D account of persistence, the 4-D worms of the “this worldly” and “next-worldly” atoms simply share stages.

Footnote 84: I have several worries about this proposal (assuming it’s an accurate rendition of Zimmerman’s), but I don’t think any of them are well-founded, for reasons given below:-
  • Is this Zimmerman’s latest proposal (in "Zimmerman (Dean) - Bodily Resurrection: The Falling Elevator Model Revisited")?
  • Doesn’t this proposal fall foul of the old “cannibalism” objection to bodily resurrection? Olson says that the atoms “cause themselves” to exist in the next world. But they carry on their careers in this world, and may form part of another “to be resurrected” body. I suppose it depends on what’s proposed. Maybe there is (or can be) some form of hybrid with the “body snatching” case, whereby rather than the body being replaced by a simulacrum, the individual atoms are – or maybe only the re-used ones are.
  • The superficial problem is that the very same atom cannot cause itself to exist in two contemporary bodies in the next world. However, the Omniscient Mind would know that an atom had been already utilised in another body, and would be able to swap it out. We might be left with a bit of deception, but not as much as with the original “body-snatching” case.
  • But, this worry is to fail to appreciate the power of four-dimensionalism whereby the atom fissions on the death of its body: that is, there had always been two co-located atoms (or atom-stages), but one of them hops off to the next world, either at death, or when needed to form part of the newly-resurrected body. If this atom (in the form of a this-worldly stage) finds itself in another to-be-resurrected body, it simply fissions again, and it was always the case that there were three coincident atoms sharing stages in our original corpse-to-be.
Footnote 85: That means that we cannot prognosticate on how causation works. It would be an empirical matter whether Zimmerman’s proposals actually happen.

Footnote 86: So, Zimmerman seems to want to do without 4-dimensionalism. Many philosophers (probably including Olson and Zimmerman) think accepting 4-D is too high a price to pay for solving the problems of fission. But, if we’re investigating the metaphysical possibility of resurrection, we might be willing to pay it – or at least note (as Olson does) that 4-D is a required prerequisite (at least for this account of resurrection).

Footnote 87: This is similar to teletransportation (Click here for Note), and suffers from the same objections – bungled repetition could lead to two resurrected bodies. Again, this problem can be solved by 4-D, but not otherwise.

Footnote 88: This is important, and the key to why organisms (Click here for Note) continue to be the same existent despite a turnover of matter.

Footnote 89: And, presumably, the co-ordination so required to ensure they all arrive in the same place and configuration.

Footnote 90: He doesn’t actually use the term “natural”; but the point of invoking immanent causation is that “God doesn’t do all the work”, but some significant amount is performed by the atoms themselves. Presumably, if God was responsible for all the arrangement of the atoms, this wouldn’t be enough for the right amount of immanent causation (rather than transeunt causation), and so insufficient for persistence.

Footnote 91: But transeuntly, by an external agency – God – as just noted. However, I’m not sure this is the right objection to make. Maybe, as we’re inventing new laws of physics, such a law that got an atom to the next world could have a location built into it – why would the location have to be random? And there could be a mapping of locations such that there was topological continuity (in the analytic sense) between this- and next-worldly locations.

Footnote 92: Ie. Qualitatively identical to.

Footnote 93: Leaving aside questions of divine omniscience, how can the divine fiat achieve its goal in ignorance of knowledge of the required configuration of atoms? I suppose God could tell an angel to do the deed, and the angel would find out, but then the effective agent wouldn’t be in ignorance.

Footnote 94: Is this so? If they are supposed to immanently cause the existence of the future person – in conjunction with the divine command which they obey – don’t they do something? And, if they do this something when commanded (to avoid backwards causation) – when the atoms are scattered and may belong to other bodies, how is the situation to be viewed? That the atoms cause their own future existence “somewhere”, but that God ordains the “where”?

Footnote 96: So, presumably, Olson doesn’t believe in life after death (good animalist that he is).

Footnote 97: This is the second time that Olson has referred to an event being restored (the earlier was a fire), but it’s not spelled out just what would be restored.

Footnote 98: Presumably that’s what most (religious) people imagine. So, it requires argument, rather than prejudice or an intuition, to overthrow it.

Footnote 99: Otherwise known as “Closest Continuer” theories – Click here for Note.

Footnote 100: This is pointed out by Wiggins – the “only x and y” objection to closest continuer theories of persistence.

Footnote 101: Such a moment might not exist, unless Williamson’s epistemic account of vagueness is correct.

Footnote 102: Olson doesn’t give Zimmerman’s reasons – since it is alive? Or because a corpse isn’t an organism, and has different persistence conditions to you (Click here for Note), so cannot be you – as is often said?

Footnote 104: As I do (at least in the absence of 4-D) – Click here for Note, as remarked earlier.

Footnote 105: But not just after, as then – if the corpse is not you – then you have ceased to exist. The same objection applies to post-mortem Divine-Command theories (if there are any).

Footnote 107: But doesn’t Olson accept that we will not be corpses (as our being co-resident with our “corpse to be” undermines Olson’s main argument for animalism – that there is only one thing – the animal – thinking our thoughts – so there cannot be another – the person – doing so as well)? Is this “worry” just for non-animalists? I need to re-read "Olson (Eric) - Animalism and the Corpse Problem".

Footnote 108: In section 7.

Footnote 109:
  • I don’t fully understand what Olson’s getting at here. Perdurantism completely cuts through the issue of duplicates, so it’s no longer important that God chooses the precise moment of death for the “transfer”. Taken too early, the next-worldly person might miss off some experiences of the this-worldly you that dies, but this might not matter – though it would if the this-worldly remnant lived on too long, experienced much, and was not resurrected. But a few moments might not be significant.
  • I‘ve not got my head around the necessary fission of the first-person-perspective (Click here for Note) that’s a consequence of fission (Click here for Note). Both fission-products are equally “you”, and you would experience the future lives of both, but incommunicably (other than as then two separate persons).
Footnote 110: Bearing in mind that Olson is considering space-time plenitude here, whereby any region of space-time contains a “thing”. Do such 4-D objects have persistence conditions, or do they just timelessly exist?

Footnote 111: I find such statement difficult to construe. Presumably what is meant is that an object just is the contents of a space-time region, and one such might be of a bomb and its bits post-explosion.

Footnote 112: What principle? The Irreversibility Principle? What do they take it to mean, why do they care, and why would it be false?

Footnote 113: But doesn’t explain why. If it meant life after death, it might be worth it, but that’s not what the “high price” means. It has the import of “making a mess of whatever else we believe”.

"Quitterer (Josef) - Hylomorphism and the Constitution View"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    By analyzing the problems which bodily resurrection poses for the Constitution View2 of persons, Quitterer concludes that Hylomorphism3 encounters similar problems. He proposes reformulating the Scholastic concept of the soul as the basic capacity for everything that goes into a human being's life, including the capacity to have a first-person perspective4. He argues that the advantage of this approach over the Constitution View5 lies in the fact that the explanation proffered by the soul embraces both mental and bodily functions. Thus, within a Hylomorphic6 framework, it belongs to the inner logic of the concept of the soul to guarantee not only the survival of a first-person perspective7 but the resurrection of the body as well.


In-Page Footnotes ("Quitterer (Josef) - Hylomorphism and the Constitution View")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Russell (Robert John) - Scientific Insights into the Problem of Personal Identity in the Context of a Christian Theology of Resurrection and Eschatology"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    Russell asks how the belief in individual eschatology affects our understanding of' the eschatological transformation of all reality. If bodily resurrection means Transformation (and not resuscitation or spiritual flight), and if transformation includes elements of continuity against a deeper background of discontinuity at the matter side of creation, then there must be some elements of continuity and discontinuity in reality as we now know it. Russell presents possible models of continuity and eschatological transformation of the cosmos by taking into consideration cosmological conceptions of space-time on the one hand and theological models on the other hand.


In-Page Footnotes ("Russell (Robert John) - Scientific Insights into the Problem of Personal Identity in the Context of a Christian Theology of Resurrection and Eschatology")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Schartl (Thomas) - Bodily Resurrection: When Metaphysics Needs Phenomenology"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    This paper combines the analytic debates on the metaphysics of resurrection with insights from phenomenology. Schartl argues that phenomenology helps to develop a clearer notion of the raised "spiritual body" following the notion of "natural body": A natural body is not understood primarily as an object describable entirely by science but as the object of our direct perception and our primary experience. The point is that the human person has to be "embodied" in order to exist but it is not necessary for it to be physically embodied. Finally, Schartl indicates how his combination of analytic metaphysics and phenomenology might contribute to an amended version of the "resurrection in death" theology as well.


In-Page Footnotes ("Schartl (Thomas) - Bodily Resurrection: When Metaphysics Needs Phenomenology")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Tapp (Christian) - Joseph Ratzinger on Resurrection Identity"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    Tapp elaborates cornerstones for a Christian understanding of eschatology. He does so by analyzing the scholarly work on eschatology of the current pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Benedict XVI. He emphasizes the following points:-
    1. the resurrected body is transformed but is somehow identical to our natural body; resurrection thus means fulfillment and perfection for the material aspects of the world;
    2. the traditional scholastic concept of the "human soul" is valuable for systematic theological discourse if "purified" from strong dualist commitments;
    3. the ultimate fulfilment of man is dialogical and relational both to other human beings and to God.
    Thus, Christian eschatology essentially has a communitarian aspect.


In-Page Footnotes ("Tapp (Christian) - Joseph Ratzinger on Resurrection Identity")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Wandinger (Nikolaus) - The Rationale behind Purgatory"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    According to Wandinger's approach, on the "day of wrath" the prosecution's part is played by the victims of evil actions themselves. Extrapolating from human interaction as we know it, it seems very likely that the encounter of victims and culprits will result in mutual accusations. If heaven is the harmonious community between God and all the humans saved, then only those who have ended their mutual accusation can enter into it. Wandinger asks which features of the human person are essential to such an interpretation of purgatory and the salvific actions of God. He points at the importance of being embodied, enjoying a first-person-perspective, having certain standards of rationality, and the ability of human and divine persons to enter into relationships.


In-Page Footnotes ("Wandinger (Nikolaus) - The Rationale behind Purgatory")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser

"Zimmerman (Dean) - Bodily Resurrection: The Falling Elevator Model Revisited"

Source: Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010

    Zimmerman's falling elevator model is widely discussed within the metaphysics of resurrection. In this paper Zimmerman explains in detail his attitude towards the model, including his thought about human organisms. Then he responds to objections raised against the model by William Hasker, David Hershenov, and Eric Olson. He argues that the model is still one way in which God could accomplish that the resurrected body represents a continued life of the earthly body despite the criticisms raised.

Full Text
  1. The resurrection of the dead would doubtless be a miraculous event. But some have claimed that not even a miracle would suffice. Given certain conceptions of the body that is to be resurrected, it can seem flat out contradictory to claim that human bodies have a destiny beyond the accidents and diseases that at least appear to end our earthly lives.
  2. More than thirty years ago, Peter van Inwagen wrote a paper that became the focus for much subsequent discussion of the doctrine of resurrection2. Van Inwagen did two things: he made a particularly clear case for the impossibility of resurrection; and then he told a story intended to show a way in which God could, after all, succeed in resurrecting every human body that has ever died. The story involved a kind of secret policy of "body-snatching" on God's part: God surreptitiously takes (at least a large part of) each body just as it dies. Elsewhere, out of sight, these bodies are kept alive, healed, and in other ways improved, to prepare them for the New Creation.
  3. However useful the story might be as a way to show that the appearance of complete biological death is compatible with the resurrection of these very bodies, there is a downside to supposing the story is true. Large chunks of matter do not seem to disappear whenever a human being dies. If God actually used this method, He would be in the business of replacing our living bodies with dead simulacra, made of entirely new (or at least different, imported) material, at the last possible moment; and that would involve God in a sort of massive, systematic deception — roughly on the same scale as creating a "young earth" but hiding fake dinosaur bones in the ground to make it look as though our planet has an ancient and interesting history.
  4. Just how unseemly would it be for God to follow this policy of deception? I can imagine that God has reason to conceal, to some extent, the facts about our ultimate destinies — including whether bodily resurrection occurs. Perhaps our freedom to choose among morally weighty alternatives depends upon a failure to see, with complete clarity, all the ramifications of our choices3? A failure to know, with certainty, what happens at death might be a crucial part of the strategy God uses to shield us from some of the relevant facts. One way to hide the facts about the afterlife4 would be to deliberately deceive us about something — for example, by surreptitiously stealing our bodies at death5. Still, it would be nice to be able to see a way in which the resurrection could happen that did not involve quite so much trickery. It was in this context that I developed what I called "the Falling Elevator Model" of survival for living organisms, and offered it to van Inwagen as an alternative to his original model6.
  5. The Falling Elevator Model is so-called because it involves a last-second jump that saves us from what looks like certain death — a strategy sometimes used by cartoon characters when an elevator cable breaks and they are hurtling toward the subbasement. Reaction to the proposal was mixed. Hud Hudson and Kevin Corcoran said: "That's so crazy, it just might work!", making good use of it in their very different versions of Christian materialism7. Others thought it was merely crazy, and have criticized it from various perspectives. I begin by describing what the model was originally intended to do, and also what I hope the model can do. The bulk of the paper consists of responses to a series of important criticisms leveled against Falling-Elevator-style resurrection by William Hasker, David Hershenov, and Eric Olson.

The Original Setting: van Inwagen's Materialist Metaphysics
  1. I shall assume, throughout this paper, that the body to be resurrected is a living organism belonging to the species homo sapiens. For van Inwagen, there is a special urgency to the question whether such things survive the (apparent) deaths to which organisms are prone; for he believes that human persons simply are organisms, and can survive nothing that an organism cannot survive8. So the body-snatching model of how my body could escape its apparent demise is, from van Inwagen's point of view, a model of how I could survive apparent death. When he wrote "The Possibility of Resurrection", van Inwagen thought that there is no other way in which God could ensure that a dying human body be resurrected. But that was many years ago, when he was still just exploring the possibility of various Christian doctrines, and had not yet been convinced of their truth. For his purposes then, it was interesting to note that the body-snatching model established at least the possibility of the rejuvenation of these very bodies. But, for some time now, he has been open to the idea that there may be other ways to "accomplish the Resurrection of the Dead ... ways I am unable even to form an idea of because I lack the conceptual resources to do so9."
  2. Before sketching the proposal, I echo van Inwagen's remark: I believe that there are ways besides the Falling Elevator Model by means of which God could accomplish the resurrection of these very bodies, short of outright body-snatching. I have no confidence whatsoever that the way I suggest is anything close to what actually happens. As in St. Paul's day, skeptics ask: "How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" (1Cor 15:35). What I offer is a “just-so" story intended to undermine the claim that the resurrection is simply impossible without massive deception on God's part. To the extent that the story works, it does so by stretching the imaginations of those who think there is no way it could be done. The fine details do not represent my own speculations about the mechanism God actually employs; so I can afford to be flippant, at various points. Anyone who takes me too seriously will deserve the response St. Paul gave to the resurrection-skeptics of his era: "Thou fool! ... ".

A Sketch of the Model
  1. Here are the bare bones of the Falling Elevator Model. I adopt van Inwagen's useful terminology, and take on board as many of his metaphysical assumptions as possible: whenever some matter constitutes an organism, there is a special kind of event, a Life, that occurs to the matter and that continues for as long as that organism exists. As bits of the matter are replaced by new material, the things participating in this Life change; but so long as the Life goes on, the organism continues to exist, no matter how much material change there has been. An essential feature of the Life of an organism is that it displays a kind of "self-maintenance", earlier stages in a Life tending naturally to cause later stages that closely resemble the earlier ones in crucial ways. Because of the self-perpetuating nature of its Life, an organism displays a distinctive sort of "immanent causation10", its later stages causally dependent upon earlier stages. For an organism, the immanent causal dependencies must be direct — they cannot, for instance, pass through the computer banks of a teleportation11 device or a blueprint in God's mind. Some philosophers (though not van Inwagen) believe there are kinds of objects that can survive such episodes; according to many psychological continuity12 accounts of personal identity, for example, a person could be teletransported. Still, it sounds odd, at least, to say that the very same organism could be torn to bits by the teletransporter, only to reappear elsewhere when the device assembles a living body using new materials based on the same pattern. Van Inwagen thinks each of us just is an organism; whether or not that is so, I do not doubt that my body is just an organism; so, if this very body is to show up subsequent to (what appears to be) my death, its resurrection cannot be achieved simply by God's performing the function of a teletransporter — that is, using what He knows about the state of my body at death as a blueprint for assembling one that exactly resembles it. Such a body would not continue the Life of this one; it would be a new organism, a mere duplicate13.
  2. The Falling Elevator Model is a way to allow the Life of a dying organism to go one way, while the dead matter goes another way. The trick is to posit immanent-causal connections that "jump" from the matter as it is dying, connecting the Life to some other location where the crucial organic structure of the organism is preserved. Immanent causation14 is not peculiar to organisms; all ordinary physical objects in which we take an interest are the kinds of things that exhibit causal dependencies of later stages upon earlier stages. This includes boring objects, like hunks of dead matter. If a pile of matter persists throughout a period of time, the existence and properties of the later stages of the matter must be partly causally dependent upon the existence and nature of the earlier stages. Since each bit of matter in my body is supposed to stay behind when I die, to be buried (or devoured or ...), there must also be immanent causal connections between the matter in the dying body and the dead material left behind — on pain of body-snatching. So every portion of the matter in my body undergoes something like fission at the time of my death. Consider just the atoms in my body; and pretend that my body consists entirely of atoms (and the parts of atoms). The Falling Elevator Model affirms that, at the moment of my death, God allows each atom to continue to immanently cause later stages in the "life" or history of an atom, right where it is then located, as it normally would do; but that God also gives each atom the miraculous power to produce an exact duplicate15 at a certain distance in space or time (or both), at an unspecified location I shall call "the next world". The local, normal, immanent-causal process linking each atom to an atom within the corpse16 is sufficient to secure their identities; no atom ceases to exist merely because it exercised this miraculous "budding" power to produce new matter in a distant location. Still, the arrangement of atoms that appears at a distance is directly immanent-causally connected to my body at the time of my death; and there are no other arrangements of living matter produced by my dying body that are candidates for continuing my Life. The atoms do something that resembles fissioning — though what they really do is more like "budding", producing exactly similar offspring in the next world — while the organism does not fission. My body's Life does not divide, but goes in one direction only, carrying my body with it to a new location.

My Stake in the Falling Elevator Model
  1. The Falling Elevator Model was originally developed as a sort of "five-finger exercise", an attempt to see whether I could come up with a way to make sense of the resurrection within constraints that made it extremely (and, by my lights, needlessly) difficult. I do not share van Inwagen's conviction that we are mere organisms. I do not claim to know what kind of thing we actually are, but I suspect that we may well be immaterial thinking things, generated by brains (and, in turn, able to think by means of complex interactions with brains17). There are philosophical arguments I accept that make such a position a live option; in fact, I believe they show it to have many advantages over the most popular versions of materialism18. And I find a dualist conception of human persons strongly favored by central theological traditions within Christianity — traditions to which I try to be as faithful as I can19. Given such a dualism, it is much easier to see how God could insure our survival. Even if souls are generated and sustained by neural activity, and so are not naturally immortal, they might nevertheless be preserved by God in an unnatural state, awaiting reunion with the (or a) body. Given the strong dualistic inclinations human beings largely share (inclinations that seem to go further back than the origins of today's major religions), one could hardly accuse God of massive deception if our survival of death20 were managed in this way. It is just the sort of thing that we, left to ourselves, tend to believe anyway!
  2. Still, I regard the Falling Elevator Model as more than an abstract exercise in van Inwagian metaphysics. Christian dualists must insist that disembodiment is at best a truncated, incomplete form of existence for human persons; we await the resurrection of the body and a renewal of the entire cosmos. And we are typically instructed to believe in the resurrection of this very body, a body that, to all appearances, shall one day decay in the grave (or be devoured by sharks or cannibals, or blown to smithereens at the center of a nuclear explosion, or subjected to one of the many other interesting fates frequently encountered in the literature on resurrection). So even a Christian dualist can have some motivation to believe in the resurrection of bodies that, to all appearances, are utterly destroyed.
  3. Not all philosophers have been as receptive as Corcoran and Hudson to the possibility of resurrection by a perfectly timed leap out of the various Falling Elevators awaiting us at the ends of our earthly lives21. In particular, Hasker, Hershenov, and Olson have raised important objections, to which I now turn.

Hasker and the Necessity of Identity
  1. Hasker's arguments against the Falling Elevator Model are complicated. But the general strategy is this: he points out that the Falling Elevator Model must include a "closest continuer22" account of the persistence conditions23 of organisms. But any closest continuer24 theory will, he argues, do one of two things: either require the denial of the necessity of identity; or else lead to "other assumptions that are at least equally problematic". For details about these "other assumptions," he directs the reader's attention to Harold Noonan's book, Personal Identity25. My original paper had included an argument to the effect that, however much one might dislike the closest continuer26 theory, a materialist of van Inwagen's stripe must accept it in order to deal with cases of fissioning organisms. But Hasker disputes this claim as well; he offers van Inwagen a way to deny that the purported stories about fissioning (human) organisms represent cases in which the presence of a competitor makes a difference.
  2. My reply to Hasker has three parts:
    • (i) I explain why the Falling Elevator Model requires a closest continuer27 theory, and explicate the "only x and y28" principle that is violated by such a theory;
    • (ii) I rebut Hasker's argument that a van Inwagen-style materialism can hold onto the "only x and y29" principle; and
    • (iii) I argue that rejection of an "only x and y30" principle is not nearly so problematic for materialists as Hasker makes it seem.
  3. Hasker describes the commitments of the closest continuer31 theorist in this way: "The question to be asked is whether it is consistent with the actual history of the surviving individual that there should be an ‘equal claimant' to identity with the person in the past32." Hasker's terminology is informal, but the intent is pretty clear. He is considering merely possible cases, so talk of "the actual history of the surviving individual" is shorthand for "the history of the individual in a world where it survives" from one time to another. According to Hasker, it could not be the case that that very same history occurs in some other possible world in which the presence of another individual makes a difference to the survival of the original individual. This thesis about persistence conditions33 is sometimes called "the only x and y34 principle", and can be tidied up a bit in this way:
      (OXY) There are no possible individuals x and y such that: (i) x persists from t to t* in some world w, (ii) y does not exist in w, (iii) the event which is the history of x between t and t* in w ("the actual history of x") could have occurred in a world w* in which y also existed, and (iv) because of y's presence in w*, x does not persist from t to t* in w*, but stops existing at some time between the two.
  4. As Harold Noonan has pointed out, if a principle like (OXY) is meant to rule out closest continuer35 theories, "the event which is the history of x between t and t*" must be carefully parsed. Closest continuer36 theorists want to say that events just like those that happen within the region occupied by a human organism throughout some period could have occurred, but have failed to constitute the life of a single individual simply because of things that happen elsewhere. If the event which is a particular organism's life essentially involves that organism, or essentially involves the absence of certain events elsewhere, then (OXY) can happily be accepted by the closest continuer37 theorist. (OXY) is only equivalent to the denial of a closest continuer38 theory if "history of x between t and t* in w" is understood in such a way that (1) it is not an event that could only happen to x, and (2) it does not imply anything about events outside of the region occupied by x between t and t*. Noonan respects (1) by stating his version of the principle in terms of the "hunks of matter" that constitute x throughout the period; and he respects (2) by appealing to the notion of "mere Cambridge changes". Some events happening to the hunks of matter constituting x will be extrinsic events ("mere Cambridge changes", like coming within five feet of a burning barn); but other events will he intrinsic to the matter — consisting only in what is going on within the region occupied by the matter. The same history that happens to x from t to t* in w will occur in w*, so long as the series of hunks of matter that constitute x during that period occupy the same regions from t to t* and undergo events intrinsically just like their counterparts in w39.
  5. There is good reason to think the Falling Elevator Model will require denial of (OXY). Imagine a world w1, just like the actual world except that, many years ago, God secretly caused my atoms to "bud", generating duplicates40 in the next world in just the way the Falling Elevator Model recommends that God do at my death – but in w1, I am not about to die, and the atoms in my body carry on with their terrestrial biological activities in the same way they did in the actual world. Since this budding happened during the middle of my childhood, in w1 a child appeared in the afterlife41 who remembers — or seems to remember — my childhood. On the face of it, the mere occurrence of this budding event should not have killed me as a child; I should have been able to survive having my atoms cause duplicates42 to appear far away in this manner, so long as the atoms in my body did not themselves do anything unusual, then and there. If I would not have survived this unnoticed childhood budding of my atoms, it could only have been because my survival is incompatible with one stage in my Life producing competing stages (even when one of the competitors is far away in space-time). But, in that case, (OXY) would be violated straightaway: for in w1 there is a history involving hunks of matter undergoing events that are intrinsically just like the events in my actual history; but in w1 I would be replaced by a duplicate43 at the undetectable point of budding merely because of something that happens outside the region in which that history occurs.
  6. Suppose, then, that in w1 I survive this childhood budding of my atoms. Now imagine a world w2 in which the budding occurs simultaneously with the destruction of my earthly atoms. The Falling Elevator Model implies that Zimmerman himself would thereby have leapt to the next world. But the same history that, in w2, constitutes a single person — childhood me and then the resurrected me — occurs in w1 and fails to constitute a single person. So, on this supposition, too, (OXY) is violated. Whatever one says about what happens in a childhood "budding", the Falling Elevator defender winds up affirming a closest continuer44 account of my persistence conditions45: whether certain intrinsically similar events constitute the Life of a single person can depend upon events that happen outside of the places where the events in that Life actually occur.
  7. The argument is not airtight; some materialists can embrace the Falling Elevator Model without commitment to a closest continuer46 theory. Hud Hudson, in his ingenious use of the Falling Elevator story, shows how to avoid the closest continuer47 account of personal identity by tearing a page from David Lewis's book: cases of fission can be regarded as cases in which there were two things all along, sharing temporal parts prior to, but not after, the fission event. In the case of the childhood budding followed by my normal life and eventual resurrection, the child and I shared our childhood temporal parts; then, in the next world, we ceased to overlap. Whether or not a person had been allowed to continue in the time and place at which budding occurred, pre-budding stages plus child-like stages that appear in the next world would have constituted a single person; and (OXY) is not violated.
  8. Van Inwagen (like many other Christian materialists, including Peter Geach, Trenton Merricks, Kevin Corcoran, Lynn Rudder Baker, and Michael Rea) rejects the metaphysics of temporal parts that allows Hudson to sidestep the threat to (OXY) posed by childhood budding. I had argued that, whether or not van Inwagen accepts the Falling Elevator Model, the fact that organisms can undergo fission will force him to reject (OXY) and accept a closest continuer48 account of personal identity; so, for him, my Falling Elevator Model comes at no cost. Hasker, however, denies that my argument goes through; van Inwagen can, he says, affirm (OXY) in the face of the fission of a human-like creature.
  9. Here is why I thought van Inwagen would be forced to deny (OXY). The principle is hard to credit when applied to many actual organisms, such as bushes and certain worms, in which there can be symmetrical duplication49 of major organs, or diffuse, divisible, life-sustaining systems. When half of a bush (including half the roots) is pruned away, what is left is also a bush. One is tempted to say it is the original bush. But had the two halves simply been separated to make two different bushes, at most one can be identical with the original. Given their equal claims to be the original bush, and the implausibility of supposing there are "brute facts" about bush identity, the thing to say is that division in half, for a symmetrical organism, destroys it. The materialist who accepts (OXY), however, cannot say: if half the bush is kept alive, the original bush is destroyed; but if the same half had been removed and simultaneously killed, the original bush would have survived. For roughly symmetrical organisms that can live through large-scale loss of parts, the only principled way to draw the line would be: removing half the matter kills the organism, but less than half does not.
  10. Human beings are not perfectly symmetrical, of course. The cerebrum50 shows a surprising amount of symmetry, and we do seem able to survive with either hemisphere. Unlike the cerebrum51, the brain stem is not divisible into two potentially independently functioning halves, nor is the heart. Nevertheless, our failures of symmetry would seem to be biological accidents, given duplication52 in so many other organs. If humans can have symmetrical brain hemispheres, human-like creatures could have symmetrical and divisible organs and systems along an entire plane of symmetry. What should the proponent of (OXY) say about creatures like us, but with divisible brain stems, hearts, and so on? Could such a creature lose half its matter, yet survive? Van Inwagen says it could not53. I argued that it is implausible for the materialist to take this line54. I will not repeat my objections here, because Hasker agrees: van Inwagen should have said that such a creature could survive the destruction of half its parts at once55. He offers van Inwagen a different response.
  11. Hasker's discussion involves Mark, a human-like creature whose cerebrum56, brain stem, and so on are neatly divisible. Hasker thinks he has found a way for van Inwagen to maintain that:
    • (a) Mark could survive the destruction of half of his matter,
    • (b) fission along the same plane would result in Mark's death, and
    • (c) (OXY) is true.
    In the case in which half of Mark's cells are destroyed, Hasker claims that it is not "consistent with the actual history" of Mark that an "equal claimant" should have existed. The destruction of half of Mark's cells — the ones which, had they been carefully removed, would have constituted an equal claimant—is "an event in Mark's own life57".
  12. If this is to represent a way to save (OXY), the claim must be that the events undergone by the series of hunks of matter constituting Mark, in the world that includes destruction of half of his matter, cannot be paired up with intrinsically similar events undergone by a similar series of hunks of matter in a world where Mark undergoes fission. But I do not see why this must be so. Compare two surgeries: in one, an organ is cut away from a living body and simultaneously destroyed; in another, the organ is cut away in the same fashion but preserved for transplantation58 into another body. There need be no difference between the two surgeries, from the point of view of the hunks of matter constituting the patient's body before, during, and after the surgery; intrinsically, the events within the body of the patient will "look" exactly the same. Similarly, when considering just the region occupied by Mark's body, and the events that go on within it when half of its matter is cut away and simultaneously killed, I cannot see why a region just like that could not contain exactly similar matter undergoing exactly similar events, when the departing organs are cut away and preserved alive. It sounds as though Hasker is saying that the otherwise similar events occurring in the world where fission occurs would differ simply because, in that world, they would not happen to Mark. But allowing happening to Mark to count as something that is required for the same history to occur in the two worlds would trivialize (OXY), turning it into something a closest continuer59 theorist could easily accept.
  13. So Hasker has not provided a way for a van Inwagian materialist to avoid the closest continuer60 theory. But is Hasker right to think that a materialism committed to the closest continuer61 theory is utterly untenable?
  14. At some points Hasker seems to argue in this way: if a closest continuer62 theory of identity over time is accepted, one should have to admit that identity is contingent. But that is unacceptable.
      An "identity relation" that is merely contingent is not identity, and to accept a closest continuer63 theory for the persistence of persons is in effect to admit that no person is identical with a person that existed at an earlier period of her own life. And this is a price none of us should be willing to pay64=32.
  15. However, in a footnote to this sentence, Hasker grants that "there can be a version of the closest continuer65 theory that avoids making identity a contingent relation," but one that leads to "assumptions that are at least equally problematic."
  16. I agree that, if the closest continuer66 account leads to denial of the necessity of identity, it should be rejected. There is a familiar, plausible argument against contingent identities. Actual identity requires sharing all properties. And it is hard to deny that, for every x, necessarily, x is identical to x. But then Jones will have the property of being necessarily identical to Jones, Smith the property of being necessarily identical to Smith, and so on. Smith, then, could not be Jones without being necessarily identical to Jones; and so contingent identity67 is ruled out. There are ways to escape this line of reasoning, but Hasker and I accept it.
  17. Why think the closest continuer68 theory leads to denial of the necessity of identity? Consider the incidence of childhood budding described above — the example in which I survive and grow old, to meet my childhood offshoot in the next world who is not identical with me. It would be tempting, were I a materialist advocate of the Falling Elevator story, to imagine meeting the child and saying: "Had things gone differently — for example, had my matter been destroyed at the point of fission — I would have been identical with you. But, as it turns out, I am not identical with you." Most of Hasker's discussion of the Falling Elevator Model presumes that its advocate will have to accept the truth of some contingent identity69 statement along these lines70. But there is a simple way out for the materialist (a way out that Hasker recognizes, but only in footnotes71). Instead of saying that I could have been identical to the child, I should have said:
      Had my matter been destroyed at the point of budding, the matter which was caused to appear in the next world by the budding of the particles would have constituted me, and not this child. In those circumstances, this child would not have existed72.
  18. Though the child would not have existed, events would have occurred that are exactly like those that constituted the child's Life; a consequence some might find odd, but the closest continuer73 theorist is stuck with it.
  19. Hasker does not worry about this alternative to contingent identity74, because he believes Noonan has shown it to be "at least equally problematic75." Noonan's problems for the view, however, do not seem to me to be nearly as bad as denying the necessity of identity. His discussion is subtle and extensive, but the main sort of troubling consequence is just this: the next-worldly child could rightly say to me, "Had your matter been destroyed at the time my matter was generated, I would never have existed, and you would now be composed of the matter that is, instead, constituting me." But how bad is this? Not nearly so dire as rejecting the necessity of identity. Yes, it is a violation of (OXY). But that alone should hardly shock the materialist. Those who reject (OXY) can point out that there is plenty of reason to doubt whether the presence of a single organism in a region throughout a period is ever an entirely intrinsic matter. Whether some matter constitutes a thing of a certain kind depends upon whether there is more matter attached to it. Let "Baldy" be the part of my body that does not include my hair. Baldy is not the whole organism; the whole organism includes at least the living parts of my hair. But if all my hair could die, and the rest of my body remain the same for any period of time, then something intrinsically just like Baldy could be an entire organism. Such examples are enough to overthrow (OXY) already; so, if Noonan's principle really isolates the most problematic commitment of closest continuer76 theories, it is a commitment that arises in very simple situations of the gain and loss of parts.
  20. It still seems to me, then, that the best option for the materialist who opposes temporal parts is: Learn to live with the closest continuer77 theory. Once one has done that, there should be no problems making use of the Falling Elevator Model — at least, none coming from violation of (OXY) and recognition of the relevance of "equal claimants" in the next world.

Hershenov and the Assimilation Principle
  1. The Falling Elevator Model implies that an organism can lose all of its tiniest parts at once, replacing them with entirely new matter. David Hershenov argues that this is not possible78. In the normal course of things, new matter is assimilated by a body gradually. "There is an overlap of the new and the old, and this enables the new particles to be assimilated into the individual's body." Hershenov claims that this is essential to assimilation; new parts can only be taken on board in the presence of many old parts. And so, "when every part of the body fissions, as Zimmerman postulates, there is no assimilation of new particles and cells to earlier ones79." Thus the resurrected body is a duplicate80, constituted by brand new matter that never had a chance to become part of my body.
  2. The exact formulation of Hershenov's assimilation principle is important. I might be able to accept an assimilation principle that merely rules out the possibility of an organism's losing all of its proper parts at the same time. Suppose that, as a matter of necessity, whenever a living thing dies, there are some proper parts that also cease to exist (for example, cells or organs that perish along with the organism). I am not at all sure whether this is true. But if it were, then, so long as the resurrection jump works for the organism as a whole, it ought to succeed in bringing these proper parts into the next world as well. And therefore, whenever a living thing survives death by means of the falling elevator method, some proper parts of it will also survive. Hershenov's assimilation principle is clearly meant to require much more than just some continuity of proper parts whenever new parts are acquired. In the normal case, he says:
      new particles ... get caught up in life processes with some old particles while other particles that were already part of the organism are exhaled, excreted, and perspired. There is an overlap of the new and the old [particles], and this enables the new particles to be assimilated into the individual's body.... [But] when every part of the body fissions, as Zimmerman postulates, there is no assimilation of new particles and cells to earlier ones81.
  3. A crucial advantage of the Falling Elevator story is that, at some level of scale, the matter in my body stays in this world. Whatever is involved when any hunk of matter "stays put" in the ordinary way, that same sort of (boring) process happens in the space-time region occupied by my body at death and my corpse82 afterwards. Now, it is a vexed question how (and, indeed, whether) ordinary matter persists through time, especially at the subatomic level. Hershenov's talk of "particles" suggests that he is accepting a presupposition of my original account: ultimately, every physical object is completely decomposable into a set of partless particles. I, in turn, made this assumption because it is part of van Inwagen's metaphysics of composite objects. Personally, I should rather leave it an open question whether we are made of persisting simples — a question to be settled, if it can be settled at all, by physics. The assumption of ultimate simple parts is problematic because the most fundamental description of physical systems may well be hard to interpret in terms of spatially restricted, minimal parts. I know of no compelling argument for the impossibility of infinitely divisible homogeneous matter, for example; so I suppose the metaphysician has no business ruling it out as impossible. This should not stop us talking about parts and wholes, but it might undermine the idea that there is some bottom level of simplest parts. So I shall try to develop an assimilation principle that does not presuppose that every physical object is decomposable without remainder into simple particles.
  4. The notion "decomposition without remainder" is useful in articulating assimilation principles:
      (D) x is decomposable without remainder into the objects in S =df every member of S is a part of x, and every part of x has at least one part in common with some member of S.
  5. Here is a first stab at an assimilation principle that would undermine the Falling Elevator Model.
      (AP1) If x persists through some finite period leading up to, but not including, t, then, if x exists at t, it is not then completely decomposable without remainder into a set of things none of which was part of x before t.
  6. This first stab is not so good, because it does not say enough about the scale of the parts in the complete decomposition. Some metaphysicians believe there are such things as mere hunks of matter — for example, the matter now making up the top half of my body and the matter now making up the bottom half. If there are such things, they are the kind of thing that cannot gain or lose any bits of matter; it is a truism that, if some of the matter in my body is taken away or some new matter added, I am no longer constituted by exactly the same matter — but rather by just some of the matter, or by some new portion of matter that includes the old matter as a part. So take two hunks of matter a and b that together make up all of my body prior to some time t; and add some atoms to a to produce a* and to b to yield b*. At t there is a set of things, namely the set containing just a* and b*, which is a complete decomposition of my body at t. Yet neither of the two was part of my body prior to t. So (AP1) implies that I cannot survive this; but there really should be no problem with assimilating the two atoms that were added to a and b — there are plenty of other parts that were parts of my body before t and that remain parts of it at t.
  7. Here is a better proposal:
      (AP2) If x persists through some finite period leading up to, but not including, t, then, if x exists at t, every set S into which x is decomposable without remainder at t has members with parts that were parts of x before t.
  8. This second assimilation principle seems to me what Hershenov wants and needs. But it is not obviously true; and there is reason to suspect that it is actually violated by objects in our world. At sufficiently small scales, the particles composing the atoms in our bodies behave oddly. Electrons, protons, and neutrons are all fermions, obeying surprising statistical laws that ought to undermine our confidence in their persistence through time. Indistinguishable fermions caught up in the same quantum-mechanical system — for example, all the protons in my body — do not seem "trackable" over time. When plotting the probability of such a system evolving in various ways, one must ignore potential differences in its future states that involve nothing more than the permutation of indistinguishable particles — for example, permutations in which two protons switch places. Why do nature's laws fail to distinguish between circumstance A, in which this proton shows up there and that proton shows up here, and circumstance B, in which that proton shows up there and this proton shows up here? Some say: the best explanation is that the imagined difference between A and B does not exist — these are not two distinct states of the system. If the two protons really persisted over time, A and B would be distinct states; and so the protons do not really persist83.
  9. Since our bodies are interacting with other systems consisting of additional Indistinguishable electrons, protons, and neutrons, one cannot accept this conclusion and straightforwardly affirm that most of the neutrons, protons, and electrons in my body right now were also present in my body moments ago — at least, not if that means they were definitely not present in the other physical objects surrounding me moments ago. At this subatomic level, there seems to be a set S that qualifies as a complete decomposition, without remainder, of my body at t; despite the fact that no members of it are identical with parts of my body prior to t – at least, no members of it are determinately identical with indistinguishable particles constituting my body at earlier times. On this explanation of the puzzling quantum statistics, (AP2) is at least not determinately true.
  10. There are alternative explanations of the strange statistics of subatomic particles. Bohm's version of quantum theory84, for example, renders identity of particles through time unproblematic but unknowable. Even without Bohmianism, the statistics may not rule out the possibility of undetectable identity-facts85. Still, why gamble on an assimilation principle that requires the falsehood of an attractive explanation of this strange feature of quantum statistics? My resurrection model is in the clear if the true assimilation principle (whatever it might be) allows for a thing to persist throughout a time leading up to t, despite the fact that, at t, it is completely decomposable into tiny parts, none of which existed prior to t nor had parts that existed prior to t86.
  11. To sum up my response to Hershenov: the Falling Elevator Model may be consistent with a weak assimilation principle for living things, according to which they cannot lose all their proper parts at once — so long as death, for such things, always involves the simultaneous loss of proper parts that could, themselves, survive by the same mechanism. The model will not work if (AP2) is true; but that principle is arguably too strong, probably inconsistent with the persistence of actual living things. What Hershenov needs is an intermediate assimilation principle, one that is weaker than (AP2), but still inconsistent with the resurrection jump. If there is a true principle of this sort, then I expect Hershenov will find it, if anyone can. However, it is not clearly articulated in Hershenov's criticisms so far, which suggest something more like (AP2).

Eric Olson and Discontinuous "Momentum"
  1. In this volume, Eric Olson raises an objection to the idea that tiny particles in my body could carry information about my body's structure into the next world across a spatiotemporal gap. His worry is "not an objection to remote causation87 in general, or to immanent causation88 across a spatiotemporal gap, or even to the idea that an atom might cause itself to reappear at a distant time and place without traversing any of the intervening locations89."
  2. It is rather that no such miraculous powers could work together to insure that the atoms appearing in the next world are properly arranged so as to constitute a body just like mine at death. Olson simplifies matters by considering the case of particles that cause themselves to appear at a location not continuous with their current position; but his worries would apply with at least as much force to the "budding" powers needed to implement the Falling Elevator Model:
      How could an object that perishes have the power to reappear at some particular distant location? How could it "find" that place? For an object to cause itself to reappear at a nonrandom location, it would need to have a property analogous to momentum. But the momentum an object has at a given time can only tell it where to be next. It can tell it what direction to move in and how fast. It can't tell it where to be at a time after the object has ceased to have that momentum. … [E]ven if your atoms could reliably find the next world, they could not possibly know where and when to reappear so that the result was a living human being, and not simply a cloud, widely dispersed across space and time. It might happen, perhaps, but it would be fantastically unlikely. It would be like some of the atoms released in an exploding star arranging themselves spontaneously into a living human being. And even if such an event were to get your atoms to the next world arranged as they are now, it wouldn't get you there, as the atoms' organic arrangement would not have been immanently caused by their thisworldly arrangement, but would be an artifact of chance.
  3. Olson grants the possibility of "immanent causation90 across a spatiotemporal gap"; but then why not grant the possibility of "a property analogous to momentum" that determines where the effect occurs? He seems to think that causation91 over a gap must be imprecise with respect to the location of the effect, because, during the gap, nothing has the momentum-like property. But I do not see why the momentum-like property needs to continue to be exemplified in order for it to succeed in "pointing to" a specific future location. I shall construct a number of momentum-like properties that could serve to explain why the new particles end up precisely where they do, retaining all of their spatial relations and relative states of motion.
  4. Were we inhabiting a Newtonian substantival space, the trick could easily be managed in any number of ways. Olson is willing to grant that "mnemic causation92" is possible — causal relations that hold between temporally distant events, and not in virtue of intervening processes. A temporally gappy causal relationship resembles a ticking time bomb; the cause occurs, and, after a certain interval has passed — long or short, precise or imprecise — the effect occurs. In Newtonian space-time, there are non-relative, precise facts about temporal distances between events; so there is no reason why the ticking time bomb of a mnemic causal relationship could not be perfectly precise. The atoms in my body could, for instance, cause the appearance of duplicate93 atoms precisely six billion years from the instant at which they are given this power. Again, assuming Newton's absolute space, the atoms could cause more than just the existence of duplicates94 somewhere in space at that precise time. Let every atom in my body, at my death, be given the power to cause a duplicate95 to appear at a precise temporal interval in exactly the same part of absolute space it then occupies, and in exactly the same state of motion relative to space. Of course God would have to insure that, in the next world, the parts of space we occupy at our deaths remain habitable, or else be prepared to whisk us out of harm's way as soon as we reappear. A speculative geography of the next world could no doubt be concocted so as to allow for our reappearance by this means, in suitable surroundings.
  5. Momentum-like properties can also be constructed in the Minkowskian space-time of Special Relativity, which includes universe-wide inertial frames that could be used to play the same role as substantival space in the Newtonian context. The Minkowskian manifold lacks Newton's frame-independent facts about the number of years or miles between spatiotemporally separated locations. But for every pair of locations, there are frame-relative facts about such distances; and one frame might be particularly relevant to the powers of atoms in a dying body, so that they duplicate96 themselves at a precise temporal distance (relative to that frame) in the same state of motion (relative to that frame). One version of this approach would make the same inertial frame relevant to all dying bodies. Perhaps God has already chosen a frame to be the "rest frame of the New Jerusalem", and our bodies are given the power to appear after a certain number of years, as years are measured by clocks in the New Jerusalem; and in the same state of motion they were in at death, relative to the rest frame to be occupied by the Holy City. Another possibility would be that the relevant frame for each body is determined by its own state of motion at death — for example, by its center of mass.
  6. In General Relativity, however, it becomes trickier to cook up spatial and temporal components of a momentum-like property that will do the job — a property that will send the duplicate97 particles to a particular place in the future, arranged so as to form a resuscitable body then, and arranged thus because of their current arrangement. The space-time of a General Relativistic universe not only lacks privileged sameness of place over time, it also lacks the sort of global inertial frames that I appealed to in the Minkowskian setting (at least, it has no such frames so long as it has any material contents at all). One possibility worth considering is that there is one "timer" that sets the same deadline for all instances of effects produced by mnemic causation98. The power to generate duplicate99 atoms could, for example, be a power to cause them to appear somewhere within a single future space-like slice — say, a slice in which a dramatic universe-wide event occurs as a massive overhaul of the created world. But how could the place and time of my death be matched up with a particular location within such a slice, in such a way that each of the atoms in my body is pointed toward an appropriate subregion of the new location, resulting in a duplication100 of my body's dying structure?
  7. One might be tempted to posit extra dimensions — beyond the four dimensions of a standard space-time manifold — in which paths link the locations of my particles at death to locations later on; these higher-dimensional paths could be constructed so as to insure that the later locations stand in the same geometrical relations as locations of particles in my dying body. But one might instead rethink the idea that individual atoms (or smaller particles) are given independent replicating powers. If each atom produces a duplicate101 atom based on an independent power, their powers need to be precisely coordinated, lest the atoms generate nothing more than a next-worldly cloud, just as Olson says. But suppose the miraculous powers to generate new matter are given, not directly to atoms or to the states of individual atoms, but to the quantum state of all the fermions and bosons in my body, say. In that case, their arrangement here and now causes two subsequent arrangements: a similar (but dead) arrangement of subatomic particles in a contiguous space-time region, and a similar (but rapidly reviving) arrangement triggered by the world-wide event which marks the beginning of the next world. The location at which the resurrected body appears could be an indeterministic matter; each human-shaped quantum system might stand an equal chance of showing up in a given region at the magic moment.

  1. I do not wish to rely upon the Falling Elevator Model as a mechanism for my survival. Like the Apostle Paul, I trust that one can be absent from the body yet present with the Lord, even before a general resurrection returns us all to a more natural, embodied state. But I should also like to say that, in the resurrection God secures the continued life of this very body. The Falling Elevator Model may not be the only way God could do so, short of body-snatching; but I still believe it to be one way, despite my critics102.


In-Page Footnotes ("Zimmerman (Dean) - Bodily Resurrection: The Falling Elevator Model Revisited")

Footnote 1: From the Introduction by Georg Gasser.

Footnote 2: See Peter van Inwagen, "The Possibility of Resurrection", International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 9 (1978): pp. 1 14-21, reprinted in Paul Edwards (ed.), Immortality (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1997), pp. 242-6.
… See "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection".

Footnote 3: Michael Murray, "Coercion and the Hiddenness of God", American Philosophical Quarterly, 30 (1993): pp. 27-38.

Footnote 5: This possibility is mentioned by van Inwagen; see his The Possibility of Resurrection and Other Essays in Christian Apologetics (Boulder, CO: Westview Press., 1998), p. 49.

Footnote 6: "Hare (R.M.) - The Structure of Ethics and Morals", Faith and Philosophy, 16 (1999): pp. 194-212. A shortened version appeared as Dean Zimmerman, "Materialism and Survival", in Eleonore Stump and Michael Murray (eds), Philosophy of Religion: The Big Questions (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1998), pp. 379-86.

Footnote 7: See Hud Hudson, A Materialist Metaphysics of the Human Person (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), ch. 7
… See "Hudson (Hud) - Nothing But Dust and Ashes",
and Kevin Corcoran, "Physical Persons and Postmortem Survival without Temporal Gaps", in Corcoran (ed.), Soul, Body, and Survival: Essays on the Metaphysics of Human Persons (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2001), pp. 201-17.
… See "Corcoran (Kevin) - Physical Persons and Postmortem Survival Without Temporal Gaps".

Footnote 8: For the details of van lnwagen's materialism, see Peter van Inwagen, Material Beings (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1990), esp. ch. 14.
… See "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings",
… Especially "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Identities of Material Objects".

Footnote 9: van Inwagen, Christian Apologetics, p. 50.

Footnote 17: William Hasker has done much to develop and defend such a view; see William Hasker, The Emergent Self (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999) and earlier writings.

Footnote 18: See Dean Zimmerman, "Material People", in Michael Loux and Dean Zimmerman Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 491-526,
… See "Zimmerman (Dean) - Material People"
and Dean Zimmerman, "From Property Dualism to Substance Dualism", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 85: (2010), pp. 119-50.

Footnote 19: See Dean Zimmerman, "Should a Christian Be a Mind-Body Dualist?", in M. Peterson and R. Van Arragon (eds), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion (Malden, MA: Basil Blackwell, 2004), pp. 315 27.
… See "Zimmerman (Dean) - Christians Should Affirm Mind-Body Dualism"

Footnote 21: In Zimmerman, "Falling Elevator", pp. 207-9, I anticipated objections from philosophers who doubt that ordinary matter could be given extraordinary causal powers allowing it to jump spatiotemporal gaps; for such philosophers, I proposed an alternative form of direct causal dependency that does not go by way of powers given to the bits of matter themselves, but depends upon a certain kind of divine decree.

Footnote 25: See Hasker, pp. 230-1, esp. p. 230, fn. 64, where he refers the reader to Harold Noonan, Personal Identity (London and New York: Routledge, 1989). See also Hasker, p. 220, fn. 40.
… See "Noonan (Harold) - Personal Identity"

Footnotes 32, 64: Hasker, p. 230.

Footnote 39: Noonan, pp. 153-4.
… See "Noonan (Harold) - Quasi-Memory"

Footnote 53: van Inwagen, Material Beings, pp. 202-12.
… See "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings"

Footnote 54: Zimmerman, "Falling Elevator", pp. 199-200.

Footnote 55: Hasker, p. 229, proposes that "we accept as data" that fission would end Mark's life, but destruction of half Mark's parts could result in his survival.

Footnote 57: Ibid., p. 230.

Footnote 70: Ibid., p. 221 and pp. 230-1.

Footnote 71: Ibid., p. 221, fn. 40, and p. 230, fn. 64.

Footnote 72: Noonan describes a couple of ways to maintain a closest continuer theory while holding onto the necessity of identity, including this one. See Noonan, pp. 157-8.
… See "Noonan (Harold) - Quasi-Memory"

Footnote 75: Hasker directs us to consult Noonan, ch. 7.
… See "Noonan (Harold) - The Reduplication Problem"?

Footnote 78: Hershenov raises another problem: "[s]ince the corpse is the same size as the being that was dying, if it is a result of fission, then half of its matter is new" (David Hershenov, ‘Van Inwagen, Zimmerman, and the Materialist Conception of Resurrection', Religious Studies, 38 (2002): pp. 451-69, p. 462).
… See "Hershenov (David) - Van Inwagen, Zimmerman, and the Materialist Conception of Resurrection"
But that is not true on the official, final version of my Model: all of the new matter is in the resurrected body, none of it in the corpse (Zimmerman, "Falling Elevator", p. 206). Hershenov's main objection has this version as its target.

Footnote 79: Ibid., p. 462.
… See "Hershenov (David) - Van Inwagen, Zimmerman, and the Materialist Conception of Resurrection"

Footnote 81: Ibid., pp. 462-3.
… See "Hershenov (David) - Van Inwagen, Zimmerman, and the Materialist Conception of Resurrection"

Footnote 83: For discussion, see Michael Redhead and Paul Teller, "Particle Labels & the Theory Of Indistinguishable Particles in Quantum Mechanics", British Journal of the Philosophy of Science , 43 (1992): pp. 201-18, and Nick Huggett, "Identity, Quantum Mechanics and Common Sense", The Monist, 80 (1997): pp. 118-30.

Footnote 85: See Simon Saunders, "Are Quantum Particles Objects?", Analysis, 66 (2006): pp.52-63.
… See "Saunders (Simon) - Are Quantum Particles Objects?"

Footnote 86: Note that, so long as there are facts of the matter about atom and molecule identity, the Falling Elevator Model still has a job to do: a mode of resurrection that does not leave the very atoms and molecules in my body behind, to compose a corpse, would still constitute body-snatching.

Footnote 89: Eric Olson's article in this volume (Chapter 3).
… See "Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death"

Footnote 102: I am grateful to David Hershenov for saving me from a serious mistake in my discussion of assimilation principles

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