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Olson - Immanent Causation and Life After Death

(Text as at 21/04/2018 20:05:17)

(For earlier versions of this Note, see the table at the end)

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

Author’s Abstract


Sections
  1. Life After Death
  2. The Irreversibility Principle
  3. Souls and Body-Snatching
  4. The Psychological-Duplication 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

Notes
  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 biologically3 – but ‘survival’ as a corpse won’t do. Consciousness – and psychological continuity pre/post-mortem – while not necessary4 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’. Wherever5 this is, it is spatiotemporally removed6 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 none7 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 copy8 of a novel”,
      • a replica,
      • modern Greeks couldn’t ask for their Colossus back9.
    • Also,
      • after the original Colossus had been destroyed, there would be nothing that could be pointed to as the Colossus, only ‘radically transformed10’.
      • maybe if there were parts that could be reassembled11, 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 general12. 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 “ordinary13 things”.
    • Applied to us, the principle14 implies that we cease to exist when totally destroyed, if not sooner. God might bring something back that is ‘intrinsically identical15’ 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 characteristic16 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 soul17 is radically independent18 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 rehearse19 – 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 repair20 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-time21 path is needed from this world to the next. Olson thinks this “theologically awkward22”.
      • Despite some resemblance to the Ascension, this is bad science fiction rather than good theology23.
      • 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 egregious24”.
  4. The Psychological-Duplication 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 last25 moment of your this-worldly existence).
    • This is possible even if you26 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-memories27 (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 content28 – 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 accidental29 resemblance, nor just causal relevance30, but you causing yourself to continue existing. External forces can help (doctors, etc) but can’t do the whole job.
    • ”A person31 is a self-sustaining32 being”.
    • Immanent Causation” is where something causes itself to continue existing33 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 X34, 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 transeunt35 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 (wholly36) 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 persistence37.
    • God’s ex nihilo creation of a next-worldly psychological duplicate of you would be effective even if you had never existed38. 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-preserving39.
    • 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 outside40 you.
    • Olson claims that the argument above has nothing to do with people per se, but applies to cats and toothbrushes41.
    • 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 duplication 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 brain42 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 denies43 that any condition is necessary for us to persist, apart from our persistence itself. Anticriterialists merely deny that any nontrivial44 set of conditions is both necessary and jointly sufficient. No anticriterialist thinks you could become a poached egg45”. I have difficulty construing this passage. I now think I understand46 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 necessary47 for our persistence.
    • Olson makes an important (if contentious) point that immanent causation doesn’t require spatiotemporal continuity. We can have temporary inexistence48 – 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 identity49.
    • 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 much50 – 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’s51 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 argument52 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 decree53 isn’t sufficient on its own. For God to cause a tree to exist, atoms have to be arranged arboreally54. 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 states55. Hopeless56, Olson thinks.
    • The only possibility is the doctrine of “space-time plenitude” allied to four-dimensionalism57 – 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 name58 “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 lots59 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 “plenitude60” 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 object would still have some61 immanent causation between states on account of the (scattered) atoms.
    • For a reason to doubt the irreversibility principle, Olson considers “action at a distance62”. 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 leap63 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 causation64.
    • Olson points out that “causation is no a priori science65”.
    • 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 original66, 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 new67 atoms not assimilated68 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 doing69.
    • Olson denies that any natural70 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 arrangement71. 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 like72” 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 ignorant73.
    • 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-propagate74.
    • 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-Duplication models. If Olson had75 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 War76 to the meteorite that caused the Cretaceous extinction – could be restored, given77 a being with sufficient power.
      • 2. Adoption of “Best Candidate” Theories: These models require a “best candidate78” 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 absurd79 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 moment80 of your death. Then, as Zimmerman claims, the next-worldly being is a better candidate for being you than your corpse81.
    • Olson says there are no knock-down arguments against Best Candidate theories, but rehearses the “bungled duplication” argument beloved of those who deny that identity is preserved in teletransportation82, 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 before83 you expired.
      • 4. We don’t become Corpses: The theory (to avoid duplicates) 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 support84.
  11. The Four-Dimensional Divine-Command Model
    • Olson thinks that “the principle of space-time plenitude”, mentioned earlier85, 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 possible86.
    • Corpse Issues: there are candidates87 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 destruction88. 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 principle89 to mean would then be false.”
    • Olson thinks that Plenitude is a high price to pay for such advantages90.

Bibliography



In-Page Footnotes:

Footnote 1: 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.

Footnote 2: Is this necessarily a fatal objection? 4-dimensionalism offers attractive solutions to many conundrums concerning fission.

Footnote 3: Footnote 4: 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 5: 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 6: 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 7: 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 8: 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 9: Property ownership features heavily in the philosophy of the persistence of artefacts (Click here for Note).

Footnote 10: 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 11: As with the Ship of Theseus (Click here for Note).

Footnote 12: 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 13: What might “non-ordinary” things be? Presumably, if we allow scattered objects into our ontology, these might survive further scattering.

Footnote 14: 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 15: I’m not sure I’ve come across this term “intrinsically identical” before. Olson presumably means (near-) exact similarity.

Footnote 16: 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 18: 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 19: 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 20: 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 21: 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 22: But Olson doesn’t say wherein this “theological awkwardness” lies.

Footnote 23: 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 24: 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 25: 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 26: 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 27: Click here for Note, though I’ve written nothing on this yet.

Footnote 28: 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 29: The connection wouldn’t be accidental, being specifically intended by God. So, is Olson’s point, while true, relevant?

Footnote 30: 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 31: 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 32: Several points here: Footnote 33: Olson adds “or to have a certain property”. This is important because causation, whether immanent or transeunt, applies to matters other than existence.

Footnote 34: Olson’s example is “that 5 is odd”.

Footnote 35: 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 36: 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 37: 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 38: Outside of God’s “imagination”, presumably.

Footnote 39: Though not if you’d been totally destroyed … the remaining parts being too small, and / or too scattered?

Footnote 40: 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 41: 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 42: 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 43: I could understand what this meant if instead of “denies” we had “claims”, but then is it true?

Footnote 44: So, “persistence itself” won’t do.

Footnote 45: So, the anticriterialist thinks that some criteria are necessary – presumably metamorphosis (Click here for Note) – change of primary kind – destroys identity.

Footnote 46: 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 47: They just deny that this condition is sufficient, even if augmented

Footnote 48: 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 49: 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 50: Is this ignorance, or vagueness – or both!

Footnote 51: 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 52: Is this an argument – or a presentation of intuitions? Do people’s intuitions differ?

Footnote 53: 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 54: Not just any arrangement of atoms is a tree.

Footnote 55: 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 56: Though he doesn’t explicitly say why.

Footnote 57: 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 58: 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 59: 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 60: 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 61: 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 62: I’d thought he was thinking of the EPR paradox, but maybe he’s just thinking of something like gravitation.

Footnote 63: 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 64: 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:- Footnote 65: That means that we cannot prognosticate on how causation works. It would be an empirical matter whether Zimmerman’s proposals actually happen.

Footnote 66: 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 67: 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 68: 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 69: And, presumably, the co-ordination so required to ensure they all arrive in the same place and configuration.

Footnote 70: 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 71: 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 72: Ie. Qualitatively identical to.

Footnote 73: 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 74: 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 75: So, presumably, Olson doesn’t believe in life after death (good animalist that he is).

Footnote 76: 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 77: Presumably that’s what most (religious) people imagine. So, it requires argument, rather than prejudice or an intuition, to overthrow it.

Footnote 78: Otherwise known as “Closest Continuer” theories – Click here for Note.

Footnote 79: This is pointed out by Wiggins – the “only x and y” objection to closest continuer theories of persistence.

Footnote 80: Such a moment might not exist, unless Williamson’s epistemic account of vagueness is correct.

Footnote 81: 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 82: As I do (at least in the absence of 4-D) – Click here for Note, as remarked earlier.

Footnote 83: 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 84: 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 85: In section 7.

Footnote 86: Footnote 87: 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 88: 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 89: What principle? The Irreversibility Principle? What do they take it to mean, why do they care, and why would it be false?

Footnote 90: 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”.


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02/07/2015 23:12:29 49216 Olson - Immanent Causation and Life After Death



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21/04/2018 20:05:17 None available None

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Artifacts Brain Causality Chisholm - Which Physical Thing Am I? Closest Continuer
Corpses Dualism First-Person Perspective Fission Hylomorphism
Metamorphosis Omnipotence Organisms Perdurantism Psychological Continuity - Forward
Quasi-Memory Reduplication Objections Scattered Objects Ship of Theseus Souls
Teletransportation        

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Summary of Note Links to this Page

Olson        

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Authors, Books & Papers Citing this Note

Author Title Medium Extra Links Read?
Olson (Eric) Life After Death and the Devastation of the Grave Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes
Todman (Theo) Thesis - Olson Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes



References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Chisholm (Roderick) Which Physical Thing Am I? An Excerpt from 'Is There a Mind-Body Problem?' Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Van Inwagen & Zimmerman - Metaphysics: The Big Questions Yes
Corcoran (Kevin), Ed. Soul, Body and Survival: Essays on the Metaphysics of Human Persons Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 18%
Dennett (Daniel) Content and Consciousness: An Analysis of Mental Phenomena Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Dennett (Daniel) - Content and Consciousness: An Analysis of Mental Phenomena 4%
Feldman (Fred) The Termination Thesis Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Midwest Studies In Philosophy, 2000, Vol. XXIV Issue 1, p98, 18p Yes
Gasser (Georg), Ed. Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 95%
Hershenov (David) Van Inwagen, Zimmerman, and the Materialist Conception of Resurrection Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Religious Studies, 38 pp. 1-19 (December 2002) 17%
Hudson (Hud) A Materialist Metaphysics of the Human Person Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Hudson (Hud) - A Materialist Metaphysics of the Human Person 3%
Jubien (Michael) Contemporary Metaphysics Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Jubien (Michael) - Contemporary Metaphysics 37%
Jubien (Michael) Ontology, Modality, and the Fallacy of Reference Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied No
Jubien (Michael) Things and Their Parts Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Jubien - Contemporary Metaphysics, 1997, Chapter 9 Yes
Jubien (Michael) Things and Their Parts Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Jubien - Ontology, Modality, and the Fallacy of Reference, 1993, Chapter 2 No
Lewis (David) Philosophical Papers Volume I Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied Yes
Lewis (David) Survival and Identity Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Lewis - Philosophical Papers Volume I, Part 1: Ontology, Chapter 5 Yes
Merricks (Trenton) How to Live Forever Without Saving Your Soul: Physicalism and Immortality Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Corcoran - Soul, Body and Survival, Chapter 11 No
Olson (Eric) Animalism and the Corpse Problem Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 82, No. 2, pp. 265-274; June 2004 Yes
Olson (Eric) Immanent Causation and Life After Death Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010 Yes
Olson (Eric) Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 13 (Olson) Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Low Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 24%
Olson (Eric) What are We? Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 57%
Olson (Eric) What Are We? Souls Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract What Are We? A Study in Personal Ontology, Chapter 7 (November 2007: Oxford University Press.) 38%
Putnam (Hilary) Brains in a Vat Paper - Cited Putnam - Reason, Truth and History No
Putnam (Hilary) Reason, Truth and History Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Bibliographical details to be supplied No
Quine (W.V.) Word & Object Book - Cited Low Quality Abstract Quine (W.V.) - Word & Object No
Quitterer (Josef) Hylomorphism and the Constitution View Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010 50%
Shoemaker (Sydney) Personal Identity: a Materialist Account Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Shoemaker & Swinburne - Personal Identity, 1984, pp. 67-132 33%
Shoemaker (Sydney) & Swinburne (Richard) Personal Identity Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 17%
Van Inwagen (Peter) The Possibility of Resurrection Paper - Cited Low Quality Abstract The International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Volume 9, 1978 33%
Van Inwagen (Peter) & Zimmerman (Dean) Metaphysics: The Big Questions Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 16%
Zimmerman (Dean) Bodily Resurrection: The Falling Elevator Model Revisited Paper - Cited High Quality Abstract Gasser (Georg) - Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? 2010 Yes
Zimmerman (Dean) Immanent Causation Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Philosophical Perspectives 1997; 11: 433-471 6%



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