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What Happens When We Die: What We Are and What We Will Become

Lynne Rudder Baker and Dean Zimmerman

Opening Statements

Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at University of Massachusetts
Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University / Director of Rutgers Center for the Philosophy of Religion
April 29, 2017

I – A Materialist Model of Christian Resurrection: Lynne Rudder Baker’s Opening Statement

To the title question, my honest answer is “I don’t know; I don’t believe that anyone does.” Maybe the screen just goes blank—full stop. But I hope and trust that things go otherwise.

Here I shall propose a materialist model of Christian resurrection; it is materialist in that it does not countenance any immaterial entities, like souls. This model does not involve a thoroughgoing materialism, because it regards God as a wholly immaterial and transcendent being. With the presupposition that any event of resurrection requires a miracle by God, the proposed model makes three claims: (i) A resurrected entity is the same person who lived on earth; (ii) Resurrection is bodily, but a resurrection body (a “spiritual” body) is not the same body that was on earth; (iii) No finite person has an immaterial soul. I’ll summarize these three claims like this: “same person, different body, no soul.”

This model is based on applying to persons the comprehensive account of the material world that I call ‘the constitution view’ (Baker 2000, 2007, 2013a). By ‘person,’ I mean ‘finite person’ unless I specify otherwise. The conclusion that I’ll argue for is this: If the constitution view of persons is correct, then the model provides a relatively plausible way to understand how God can resurrect material people.1 I’ll consider the three elements of the model sequentially.

Sameness of Person

I take it to be a central feature of the Christian doctrine of resurrection that, at least for the saved, the very same person who starts out in the natural world ends up in an afterlife as a resurrected person. More precisely, if x is a resurrected person, then there is a y and a time t such that y is an earthly person at t, and x = y. (Since heaven may be an eternal realm with no time, I’ll not attribute temporal location to a resurrected person.) I take ‘sameness of person’ to be part of the Christian doctrine of resurrection. But what is a person?

Two of a person’s essential properties are important, and importantly different: embodiment and a first-person perspective. A person is essentially embodied in that she cannot exist disembodied. Essential embodiment does not imply that a person must always be constituted by the same body that she is born with, or even that she is constituted by a body that is continuous with the body that she was constituted by when she was born. Embodiment implies only that she must always be constituted by some body or other that supports her first-person perspective. So, it is not part of a person’s essence to have the body that she has. Essential embodiment only implies that whenever the person exists, she is constituted by some body or other that can furnish whatever mechanisms needed to underwrite a first-person perspective.

Indeed, we have empirical evidence, in the here and now, that organs in a human body can be modified (and made to function properly) with all manner of artificial parts—cochlear implants, mind-brain interfaces, artificial hearts and other organs (soon an artificial eye), prosthetic limbs, neural implants and on and on. Even now, paralyzed people who have mind-brain interfaces are not simply constituted by a human organism, but by a human organism and nonorganic prosthetic devices. At some point, there could be enough nonorganic devices that support a person’s mental and behavioral functioning that we should say that her body is no longer organic. Yet, she would still exist. I take these considerations to show that the same person can be constituted by different bodies at different times.2 So, according to the constitution view, the persistence condition of persons does not require “same person → same body.”

The other essential property that I am calling attention to is the person’s essence, which furnishes her persistence condition: exemplifying a first-person perspective. The essence of a person—what I call her ‘primary-kind property’—has two stages. The first stage, the rudimentary stage, is an in-hand3 capacity for consciousness and intentionality. The second stage, the robust stage, is acquired as a person learns a natural language. The robust stage is an in-hand capacity to conceive of oneself as oneself in the first person. A person who asserts or thinks to herself, “I wonder how I’ll die” exercises a robust first-person perspective. The second occurrence of ‘I’ in such a complex linguistic or psychological sentence is conclusive evidence that the person has a robust first-person perspective.4 So, a person has a first-person perspective, rudimentary or robust, at every moment that she exists. In that case, she must come into existence with consciousness and intentionality. How can this be?

A person does not come into existence until a human organism (perhaps a fetus near birth), develops the ability to support consciousness and intentionality.5 The person constituted by the organism then has a second-order remote capacity to develop a capacity to be able to conceive of herself as herself in the first person.

Many animals (essentially organisms) also have rudimentary first-person perspectives, but they are not persons.6 Why not? There are at least three reasons, which distinguish human infants with a rudimentary first-person perspective (persons) from animals also with a rudimentary first-person perspective (not persons): (i) An animal has only a rudimentary first-person perspective, and that only contingently, but a person has a first-person perspective, rudimentary or robust, essentially; (ii) An animal never goes on to develop a robust first-person perspective, but a person typically does; and (iii) An animal (including an organism that constitutes a person) has biological persistence conditions, but a person has first-personal persistence conditions determined by her first-person perspective. (An entity’s persistence conditions set boundaries on the circumstances that the entity can survive.)

Metaphysically speaking, the essence of a person is a first-person perspective—a dispositional property in both rudimentary and robust stages. A mark of a dispositional property—having consciousness, having intentionality, having an (in-hand) ability to conceive of oneself as oneself in the first person—is that it is exemplified even when it is not being manifested. A person exemplifies a first-person perspective essentially, and manifests it in different ways on different occasions. The first-person perspective is manifested throughout one’s life in characteristically human activities—from making contracts to celebrating one’s anniversaries to pursuing fame by entering beauty contests to seeking forgiveness.

On the constitution view, the persistence condition for persons over time is sameness of exemplification of first-person perspective. I do not believe that there are any nontrivial sufficient conditions for sameness of exemplification of first-person perspective.7 The conditions for transtemporal personal identity are trivial, because sameness of exemplification of first-person perspective presupposes the sameness of person. This is not surprising, inasmuch as an exemplification of any property requires an object (or objects), a property (or properties), and a time (or times)—schematically, a’s exemplifying F at t. So, sameness of exemplification presupposes sameness of exemplifier—i.e., sameness of exemplification of first-person perspective presupposes sameness of person.

In order to be informative, conditions for transtemporal personal identity would have to formulate persistence in nonpersonal terms, or in terms of distinct shorter-lived objects.8 If we had such informative sufficient conditions, persons would reduce to them and hence would not be basic entities.

However, on my view, persons are basic entities: that is, being a person does not consist in satisfying nonpersonal or subpersonal conditions, such as psychological or physical continuity. (Support for this view comes from the fact that all of the various proposed informative conditions are in one way or another defective, and we have no reason to believe that the future will be different.) If I am right that being a person does not consist in satisfying some nonpersonal or subpersonal conditions, then any correct account of personal identity over time must be uninformative; otherwise it would be reductive.9

We do have persistence conditions for persons, even if they are uninformative. Person x is identical with person y, either on earth or in the resurrection, if and only if x and y are the same exemplifier of a first-person perspective (rudimentary or robust or both) throughout their existence.

Van Inwagen wonders how God “can cause the future person and me to have the same first-person perspective without there being any physical continuity between us.”10 That worry has a straightforward answer. God does not “cause the future person and me to have the same first-person perspective” at all. The connection between any person at any time and her first-person perspective is necessary; so if there is a person, there is already an exemplification of the first-person perspective, and some body or other.

In the resurrection, God makes two contributions: He freely decrees a particular person to exist (and hence that her first-person perspective be exemplified), and he freely decrees a certain body to constitute that person. I conclude that, by a miracle, the same person who died can be resurrected.11

Distinctness of Bodies

Not only does biotechnology provide empirical data to believe that the same person can be constituted by different bodies, but there are also Biblical reasons to think that, in fact, resurrection bodies are not identical to earthly bodies.12 So, let’s turn to Scripture.

Much of what Scripture says about resurrection bodies is metaphorical, but the metaphors support the idea that a resurrection body is distinct from an earthly body. Consider the following passages. First, I Cor. 15: What you sow is a seed or a bare kernel, but the seed is not the body that is to be; “I tell you this, brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”13 Then: “we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”14 Our bodies are said to be sown in corruption, and raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a physical body, raised a “spiritual” body. But what is a ‘spiritual body’?15 Consider now II Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

These metaphors suggest that resurrection bodies are distinct from earthly bodies.A house made by hands logically cannot be identical to a house not made by hands. Nor can (a body of) flesh and blood that is corruptible inherit the kingdom of God. And perishability/imperishability (or corruptibility/incorruptibility) are persistence conditions, essential to the bodies that have them. So, if earthly bodies are perishable, but resurrection bodies are not, the two bodies cannot be identical.

Someone may object that the same body could be perishable until time t, say at death, and then, by a miracle, become imperishable for eternity. No doubt, by a miracle, this could happen, but it does not follow that there is just one body—a body that changes from perishable to imperishable. Such a change would be a substantial change, rather like the change of Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. Neither Lot’s wife nor her body could have been identical to a pillar of salt: a pillar of salt is essentially different from a human person and a human body. So, if the earthly body is perishable, and the resurrection body is not, these are two, fundamentally different kinds of bodies.

Many Christians take it that Jesus’s resurrection on the third day after he died is the model for all resurrection. What about the empty tomb, they ask? God could have raised Jesus and at the same time made a substantial change in his body, so that his resurrection body was distinct from his earthly body. In that case, the tomb would have been empty, and his resurrection body would have been a different body from his earthly body. In the stories of his resurrection appearances, Jesus still had his wounds, and he ate meals. But he also walked through walls and was initially unrecognized by his close associates. These latter events could not have occurred if he still was constituted by his mortal body. And as we have seen, biotechnology gives us reason to think that a person may come to be constituted by an inorganic body, which would be a substantially different body from our ordinary organic bodies. If the stories of the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances are evidence, they are evidence that, after death, Jesus had a body, not that he had the same body that constituted him at birth, or even that he had a body that was spatially and temporally continuous with his infant body.

Consideration of the Biblical descriptions of the differences between earthly bodies and “glorified” or “spiritual” bodies, with their incompatible persistence conditions, leads to denial of the identity of earthly and resurrection bodies.

No Souls

Finally, no person has a substantial immaterial soul. I have argued both for sameness of person on earth and in the resurrection, and, for difference of body on earth and in the resurrection. And this without any appeal to, or presupposition of, a substantial immaterial soul.14 With the idea of the rudimentary and robust first-person perspectives on hand, we have an entity with consciousness, self-consciousness, and language. The idea of an immaterial soul is just gratuitous—and, to me, incomprehensible. The constitution view has in its account all that is needed for persons—the first-person perspective (rudimentary and robust) as primary-kind property, and, essential embodiment for whatever mechanisms (or analogues of mechanisms) are required for the first-person perspective. These properties account for personal identity both at a time and across time. There is no work left for a soul to do.

In conclusion, I offer my constitution view of persons as backing for a Christian view of resurrection as sameness of person, difference of body, no soul.


God can bring about resurrection on this materialist model simply by willing it. On a traditional view, God knows all contingent truths by willing them. Whether or not a particular person exists is contingent, as is what body constitutes her. So, there are no metaphysical constraints on God’s willing a person to be resurrected. What is not contingent is that the person have a first-person perspective. God knows by his natural knowledge that anyone He resurrects has a first-person perspective. So if God wills Smith, say, to be resurrected, He thereby wills that the first-person perspective continue to be exemplified by Smith. Finally, the negative element of the model—no souls—requires nothing from God, because souls are just otiose. In the resurrection, as on earth, what we care about are whole embodied persons.

II – How Could Anyone Be a Dualist?: Dean Zimmerman’s Opening Statement

In theological circles, “dualism” is a dirty word. “Dualist” works sort of like “reactionary.” To be a reactionary isn’t merely to be a political conservative; it is to be a knee-jerk conservative — someone who resists even reasonable, moderate reforms. Likewise, to be a dualist isn’t just to be someone who draws a distinction between two things; it is to be someone who draws a sharp distinction where there isn’t one, someone who divides the world into two very different categories when these categories don’t apply or are not exhaustive. So, when “dualism” is used as a term for a view about the nature of human beings, it nowadays often means: “an extreme Platonistic division between body and soul that is scientifically untenable, alien to Biblical religion, and morally pernicious.” The Platonizing dualists for whom this label is reserved think that the soul is naturally immortal. They hold that it is better off without the body, which only drags it down into sin and clouds its ability to think. They expect that, after death, we live on as souls in heaven, happy forever in a disembodied state (a heresy according to every major strand of the Christian tradition, all of which emphasize the resurrection of our bodies as a crucial part of the life of the world to come).

If “dualism” is freighted with all of this Platonistic meaning, I am not a dualist. I do draw a distinction between soul and body; but I do not think souls are naturally immortal, that they are better off without bodies, or that — in the absence of a miracle — they can think without brains. Like Paul, other New Testament authors, and indeed Jesus as depicted in the Gospels, I expect that a person exists in a disembodied form after death. But, like them, I deny that this is the natural, permanent state for which we were made. Rather, death is only really defeated by the resurrection, the reunion of soul and body. I do not believe that such a view of persons is refuted by the discovery that thinking and personality are radically dependent upon the brain; nor do I believe that those who hold this sort of view will inevitably be led to denigrate our bodily life or to destroy the fragile eco-system of our planet.

Philosophers often use the word “dualism” without all this Platonistic freight. So, when talking with other philosophers, I can call myself a dualist without fear of misunderstanding. But in other contexts defending my view as a kind of dualism is like trying to defend universal healthcare on Fox News under the label “socialized medicine.” Socialized medicine is socialism, which is communism, which is atheism, which is evil. Unfortunately it is hard to come up with a snappy alternative label in the case of dualism. Some who hold views similar to my own have tried to soften the blow with modifiers. The philosopher William Hasker talks of “emergent dualism”; the biblical scholar John Cooper talks of “holistic dualism.” For reasons Hasker has given (described momentarily), someone who regards the soul as the conscious part of a human being really should extend the honor to the other conscious creatures with brains like ours; in other words, there are human souls and animal souls. It is tempting to call this view “animism,” though the expression might suggest souls for trees and springs and rivers as well — and that, I expect, would be going too far. So I shall accept the label “dualism”, but jettison the excess baggage that is often attached to the word when used in theological disputes.

I begin by describing the kind of dualism I find most believable, and saying why I do not think it is just obviously false. Then I explain why traditional Christian views about what happens to us when we die seem to me to require a dualism along these lines.

Emergent Dualism vs. Standard Materialism

Dualism, as I shall be using the term, is the doctrine that no thinking human person is composed of the kinds of physical stuff that make up rocks and trees and the bodies of animals. Persons have thoughts and feelings and sensations, but we have little in common with either the physical objects that surround us or with their fundamental constituents (electrons, quarks, and so on). More familiarly, dualism is the doctrine that human beings have — or, much better, are — souls. Materialism, for my purposes, is the thesis that each human person is an object made entirely out of the kinds of physical stuff that make up rocks, trees, and other non-sentient things.

There have been many different views among dualists about the relations of souls to bodies; are souls completely dependent upon bodies, just along for the ride? Or are they completely independent, much better off when they leave their bodies behind? If souls are not particularly dependent upon bodies for their existence or sentience, do they have to be specially created each time a viable organism appears? And does God do this for animals too, or just for us? Are souls completely “outside of space,” not spatially related to locations in our space? If so, how can they interact with things here — in virtue of what relations between souls and bodies does my soul get hooked up with my body and not with yours?

It would fly in the face of experience to claim that my ability to think is not radically dependent upon the proper functioning of my brain. And it would also seem best to regard human beings as ontologically continuous with the rest of the sentient animal kingdom. All of this can be preserved by Hasker’s emergent dualism, according to which organisms having sufficiently complex nervous systems to generate consciousness automatically also generate a nonphysical substance located somewhere within the nervous system to be the subject of that consciousness — a substance which remains radically, but not completely, dependent upon the brain for most of its operations and for its continued existence (barring a miracle).

Souls, on this view, are “naturally emergent substances”: Given a certain microphysical structure — the kind found in the brains of sentient organisms — there must be a thinker associated with that structure. But the “must” here has only the force of natural law. It’s just part of the way things work. Since laws of nature could have been different, there are possible worlds with soulless zombies that are just like us physically. Assuming that souls do in fact interact with the brains that generate them, these zombies would not behave like us, since their brains wouldn’t be receiving whatever input ours normally receive from souls. Perhaps, cut off from souls, animals with brains like ours wouldn’t be able to do much of anything; perhaps they would be like the zombies of horror movies — still able to move around in search of food…for example, human brains!

Souls, on this account, have no parts in common with our bodies, so they are nonphysical in the sense of “not made out of the things physics now studies.” But, they could be spatially located for all that. They may even, as W. D. Hart suggests in The Engines of the Soul, be the possessors of a kind of “psychic energy,” interacting with the body by the usual method: transfer of energy. Hart’s notion of psychic energy is (among other things) a function of degrees of belief; it takes more energy to sustain a belief with a greater degree of conviction. Of course what Hart gives us is a just-so story, and I wouldn’t want to be committed to the details (and I don’t see why all causation has to be a matter of the transfer of energy continuously through space, as Hart assumes). Still, one can see how to pair a body with the appropriate soul — a brain interacts with the soul it generates inside of itself, a soul affects the brain in which it is located. And, as Hart shows, one can even imagine mechanisms for such interaction.

When assessing the plausibility of this sort of dualism, one must compare it to the best available materialist alternatives. There are forms of materialism that are stranger than the sort of dualism I have described. For instance, Descartes talked about madmen who believed they were made of glass — a materialistic doctrine with nothing to be said for it! Roderick Chisholm, no madman himself, once half-seriously defended the thesis that he was a tiny physical particle lodged somewhere in his brain. More popular, of course, are versions of what I’ll call “Standard Materialism”: a human person is identical with a familiar physical object that everyone already believed in, one that includes at least the parts of the body that are most crucially implicated in thought and personality. This leaves us with just a few candidates: the whole organism, the whole nervous system, the brain, the cerebrum, maybe one hemisphere. Standard materialism, then, will be the thesis that each human person, including myself, is one of these standard candidates. If there are problems with standard materialism, the only versions of materialism left are strange, hard to believe, and a modest dualism like Hasker’s begins to look like a viable alternative.

And standard materialism does have problems. Organisms and brains are vague things, not unlike rivers or clouds when one looks closely. They are buzzing with activity, constantly losing and gaining bits of matter by means of continuous processes — as when proteins pull molecules into cells to put them to work. Before the molecule is captured by the cell, it is not part of the body; once inside the cell it surely is; but exactly when does it become a part? Choosing a precise instant would be as phony as saying that there is a precise instant when a molecule of H2O joins a cloud, or leaves the Mississippi River to enter the Gulf of Mexico. These are matters for stipulation, and many choices are admissible. But if the stipulations are to work, there must already be all sorts of candidate objects, some including borderline molecules and some not, all of them ready to be picked out by our decisions. So long as we don’t care to become more precise, we speak indiscriminately about the whole host; and what we say about their current local properties — their sizes, shapes, weights, colors, and so on — is true so long as it’s true of each of them.

I find it hard to believe that I am a vague object, for which there are many equally good candidates. Each must be conscious, if each is as good a candidate for being me as the others. Now, if consciousness were just a certain kind of computation, it would be plausible to suppose that the host of objects located in the vicinity of my brain would all be conscious; after all, each has the brain as a part, and if it is essentially a computer they will be running the same program in virtue of sharing the same processor. But if consciousness is something more, a new and fundamental feature of the world that can’t be identified with any extrinsically specifiable physical process, then there is no reason to think that the laws of consciousness-generation will pick out exactly the candidates we are interested in — just those clouds of particles that are the size and shape of an organism or even a brain. So the materialist who admits that consciousness is something special, something that cannot be reduced to a physical process, should not expect any standard sort of materialism to be true.

Is consciousness so special? Almost all philosophers used to think so, and quite a few contemporary philosophers of mind still do. Believers in a God who can know what our experiences are like should agree. To know what colors and smells are like, one must be able to have some kinds of sensory experiences; so God can have experiences like ours and no doubt many others we could never have. In that case, conscious experiences can be shared by us and a mind that is not made of matter or any other kind of stuff. Having these conscious experiences cannot, then, be a matter of having an inner computer running a certain program; it is some further feature of minds.

A materialist who admits that consciousness is not reducible to some computational or chemical or biological process must suppose that, when brains are sufficiently complex, consciousness “emerges,” attaching itself to some object or other that is made entirely of physical stuff. It would be quaint to suppose that the laws of nature governing this new aspect of the world are careful to select objects of sizes and shapes that interest us; but what objects should they pick? Parts of the brain are the best candidates — being closest to the causes of consciousness — but which parts? Since different parts are implicated in different sense modalities and different kinds of conscious thinking, the best bet might be: many different parts at different times. Whatever choice the materialist makes, it should not be one of the standard candidates; and a rival, dualistic hypothesis belongs on the table: the idea that, with new properties there comes a new subject for those properties.

Dualism and Disembodiment

If this were the most that could be said for dualism, one should probably simply settle for what George Graham calls “Strong Ontic Ignorance”: the view that we can’t know exactly what kind of thing we are. But Christians (at least many of us) have special reasons to believe in the possibility of our own disembodied existence; and this should tip the balance, for us, in favor of dualism. In my own case, although I would not claim to know that dualism is true, I do have beliefs about the afterlife that I take to be reasonable; and, if they are true, dualism must be true as well.

Christians differ in their attitudes toward the authority of scripture; they endorse different hermeneutical methods, and adhere to different creeds and theological traditions. Some theologians regard a personal creator God, an empty tomb, and the general resurrection of the dead as primitive elements of the faith that can be discarded without touching the heart of the Christian gospel. They will be unmoved by the considerations I am about to raise.

It matters to me what Jesus and the writers of the New Testament believed about the nature of human persons and their post-mortem destinies. Why? Because it is relevant to the question of what they meant when teaching the earliest Christ-followers about life after death. John Cooper makes a powerful case for the conclusion that the earliest Christians accepted a kind of animistic body-soul dualism — a view that was well-established among the most pious Jewish sects in the intertestamental period. Cooper argues that the New Testament writers make this dualism explicit in the gospels and epistles, and that it shows up when important theological points are being made; so it cannot be easily brushed aside as window dressing. Even some of the biblical scholars most famous for emphasizing the distance between Jewish conceptions of persons and the Platonistic idea of a naturally immortal soul, such as Oscar Cullman and N. T. Wright, admit that Christ himself and the earliest Christians taught that the dead continue to exist. They are disembodied, to be sure, but they remain in some sense conscious of or present to God, awaiting reunion with a resurrected body at the end of the age. And that is enough for my purposes.

For the possibility of an intermediate, disembodied state requires a dualism — right now — of person and body; at least, it requires this, given some plausible assumptions about what kinds of changes things can undergo. If, right now, materialism were true of me, then my suddenly becoming disembodied — suddenly losing all my material parts, and becoming entirely nonphysical — would require that something could lose all of its parts at once and continue to exist made of other stuff. As Richard Swinburne points out in his defense of dualism, this hardly seems possible. Imagine an entirely physical thing that loses all its parts at once; the subatomic particles constituting it all suddenly wink out of existence, say. Now suppose that the instant these parts disappear, there comes to exist a thing that is in many respects very similar to it but made of some completely different substance. What one has just imagined is the replacement of one thing by another, not the persistence of the original thing. Adding consciousness to the two things will not make it any easier to suppose there is just one thing that persists through the change, even if they are mentally very similar.

The conclusion is straightforward: in order for me to continue to exist in a disembodied state, something that exists after my disembodiment must already be around, and it must at least be a part of me. Furthermore, since, when I am disembodied, that thing is going to be all of me, it is then going to have to be identical with me. And the following is a philosophical truism, something that is pretty obvious when you think about it: once you’re identical with a thing, you’re always identical to it. That’s just the way identity works. If Pastor “Jack” Gibson of San Francisco is identical to Jack the Ripper, then whatever’s true of Gibson must be true of the Ripper. If Jack the Ripper dies, so does Jack Gibson, and vice versa. So if I will be identical with a nonphysical thing that survives my body’s destruction, I am already identical with it. Strictly speaking, then, this gross physical body is not even a part of me, though it may be essential to my origin, and physically necessary for my ability to think and feel, at least as things are now.

Of course some Christian scholars, sometimes precisely to avoid this sort of result, are skeptical about whether human beings exist during a period intermediate between death and resurrection. But when I find the doctrine clearly affirmed in places where the New Testament writers are trying to convey deep theological truths, I am reluctant to give it up — barring powerful scientific or philosophical arguments against it. And, so far, I haven’t found such arguments overwhelming. Most are aimed at highly Platonistic views, according to which souls are outside of space, naturally immortal, or able to think better without brains than with them. None of those doctrines seem at all relevant to the things that make dualism attractive to me. Other arguments proceed in this fashion: There is no obstacle to attributing consciousness to physical objects we are already familiar with, such as organisms or brains; therefore there is no reason to suppose that some peculiar new entity is the locus of consciousness. But organisms and brains are vague, and our interest in them is parochial; we should not suppose that the phenomenon of consciousness is bestowed upon them, for reasons I mentioned. Human persons are either peculiar physical objects, or something entirely new in the world — something that appears whenever consciousness does. The latter hypothesis has this going for it: it is required by a doctrine that seems to me to be central to Christianity. So I remain strongly inclined towards dualism.


Baker, Lynne Rudder. 2000. Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 2005. “Death and the Afterlife.” In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind, edited by William J. Wainwright, 366–91. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

———. 2007. The Metaphysics of Everyday Life: An Essay in Practical Realism. Cambridge University Press.

———. 2011. “Christian Materialism in an Age of Science.” In International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion 70: 47–59.

———. 2012. “Personal Identity: A Not-So-Simple Simple View.” In Personal Identity: Complex or Simple?, edited by Matthias Stephan and Georg Gasser. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 2013a. Naturalism and the First-Person Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

———. 2013b. “Three-Dimensionalism Rescued: A Brief Reply to Michael Della Rocca.” In Journal of Philosophy 110 (3): 166–70.

Cooper, John W. 1989. Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Della Rocca, Michael. 2011. “Primitive Persistence and the Impasse Between Three-Dimensionalism and Four-Dimensionalism.” In Journal of Philosophy 108 (11): 591–616.

Van Inwagen, Peter. 2006. “I Look for the Resurrection of the Dead and the Life of the World to Come.” unpublished–Online pdf.

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