Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The metaphysics of resurrection

There are different models of resurrection. I don't mean the resurrection of Christ, in particular. I mean the more radical case of resurrecting someone whose body completely disintegrated. 

One model is replication. God creates a new body that duplicates your old body. The new body is discontinuous with the old body, although it's indistinguishable in the sense of being an exact copy of the original. (Of course, on any model, the resurrection body will be somewhat different because it lacks the same susceptibility to disease and senescence.)

This raises questions regarding personal identity. Is it the same you? 

Since I'm a Cartesian dualist, I think the soul contains the core person rather than his body. That's not to deny the formative influence of embodied experience, which conditions our outlook. But that's imprinted on the soul (as it were). We take that with us when we die. 

If the soul is immortal, then there's no gap between death and resurrection at that level. The person enjoys continuous existence. Resurrection reembodies the soul. The same soul is transferred to a new duplicate body. 

There are, however, Christian physicalists (I use "Christian" advisedly in this context) who don't have that fallback. For them, brain death cancels out consciousness. On that view, there's a complete gap between death and resurrection. An interval during which you cease to exist.

Even if God recreates your body, the question is whether that's the same you. Due to the break in personal identity, is this still the original you, or is this a copy of you–a doppelgänger? Were you restored to life, or is the original you gone forever, while you were replaced by someone else with the same memories? 

That's eerie, like those body-snatcher scenarios. Since I'm not a Christian physicalist, that's not my problem. But to be fair, I'm not sure that's an insuperable problem for Christian physicalism. If God stores your memories (in his own mind) during the hiatus, then uploads your memories to the new brain, is that still you? Perhaps. 

But I think there's actually more to personal identity, even at a psychological level, than memory. A mind is more than its memories. A mind includes innate character traits, liquid IQ, &c. So a physicalist model of the resurrection requires God to recreate the whole package. 

No comments:

Post a Comment