Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cartesian Dualism and the Resurrection

Descartes, Resurrection and the Afterlife

Rene Descartes insists that a substance either has mental or physical properties (e.g., being in pain OR having a certain mass/weight), but not both.

What kind of dualism is Descartes espousing? The technical name for this philosophy is substance dualism: he argues for two categories--res extensa (extended substance) and res cogitans (thinking substance). The French thinker says that he is the latter rather than the former; that is to say, he's not absolutely identical with his body, but he is identical with his soul (mind).

So Descartes allows for the possibility of disembodied existence as a thinking thing. Yet there are questions that can be asked concerning resurrection when it's understood within a dualist framework. For example, does substance dualism satisfactorily account for a resurrection of the body? Physicalist acounts of the resurrection are often heavily critiqued or discounted, but I wonder if dualism (especially of a Cartesian kind) fares any better.

How can the resurrection body be numerically identical with the body that preceded it, since at death, all bodies--with the exception of Christ's body--undergo corruption? That question is difficult to answer using Cartesianism, although hylomorphic/hylemorphic dualism thinks it can provide a plausible answer to the question. But I've seen hylemorphic/hylomorphic accounts that appeal to divine miracles in order to account for an absolute identity between the pre and post-resurrection body. Are such approaches satisfactory explanations of the resurrection?

Scripture does not deal with, nor does it answer these kinds of questions. We're just assured that the resurrection will happen (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; Revelation 20:4-6).

No comments: