Wednesday, June 15, 2005

On the neurophysiological argument

The dialogue concerning the case against the future life is interesting. I would say that the neurological dependence argument is interesting and if we were considering only the data there I might be inclined to be a materialist, but absent any good physicalist responses to issues like the unity of consciousness, intentionality, the role of truth in a materialist world, mental causation, the psychological role of the laws of logic, the weakness of Darwinian arguments for the reliability of our mental lives if materialism is true, the problems connected with indexicals and the first person, the persistent failure of materialists to explain consciousness without explaining it away, I don't think the neurophysiological argument gives us good grounds, on the whole, to accept materialism.

As for the problem of survival, couldn't a Christian claim something like this: that there is a soul, that its mental states require the existence of a close relationship to the body, that it continues to exist into the next life, where it is re-embodied with all the "information" from its earthly life to count as the person who lived on earth? The soul is the continuer from the earthly life to the future life, but the embodiment-dependent mental life is guaranteed by the strucural similarity of the future embodiment to the earthly embodiment. The Christian is committed to the resurrection of the body and not the immortality of the soul, but the view I am suggesting says that we still need the soul to solve personal identity problems, even though it cannot function in a disembodied state. Although, I suppose God could "plug in" the information the soul received from its body on earth without actually providing a body.


Steven Carr said...

It is intriguing that the 'information' can be 'reembodied' and that this would count as the person who lived on earth.

With this model, Victor could today meet the resurrected Victor, as the information could be reembodied in a new body without having to destroy Victor's present body.

Clearly such a being would not be the Victor who lives on Earth. It would be a clone.

Some Jews have 'solved' the problem of this discontinuity between the destroyed person and the recreated person by positing a tiny bone in the body which can never be destroyed.

From that, God can recreate the person.

Victor's 'soul' seems to be playing the role of this bone. It is just there as an ad hoc solution of 'personal identity' problems.

Dennis Monokroussos said...

If I understand Victor's view correctly, it's not at all like the Jewish view, because while no one is inclined to think that particular bone is you, the soul, which is the seat of consciousness, is a far more plausible candidate - both pre- and post-philosophically.

I should add, perhaps as a clarification of what I understand his view to be, that it's not the information that makes the person. A soul without any mental content is barren, but it's still either the person or an essential component of the person. Unlike the "bone" theory of identity, it's not just some arbitrary metaphysical pin cushion, unimportant in itself, within which to stick everything that really counts.

Finally, it's a pity that such a view seems "intriguing" and needs to be clarified. I don't say that either to disparage Victor or Steven, but out of regret that what is essentially Aquinas's view seems unfamiliar. It seems that both friends and enemies of dualism tend to be overly focused on Descartes' model and insufficiently aware of alternative versions - even when they're older and at least prima facie better reflect both common sense and the major western monotheistic traditions.

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