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317 Identity and Immortality

317 Identity and Immortality

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Published by Mary Lanser

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Mary Lanser on Jul 09, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Phil 317 Teaching notes (excerpt)
Identity and Immortality (John Perry and Thomas Aquinas)
Phil 317 – Tobias Hoffmann
Immortality and Personal Identity: John Perry
Concerning life after death, there are two possible strategies:
To argue that one can prove that life after death is
a fact 
To argue that one can prove that life after death is
, i.e. conceivable (not contra-dictory).In his book
A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality 
(Indianapolis, 1978) John Perry at-tempts merely to prove that life after death is possible. To this goal, he mostly discusses iden-tity:
if identity after death is impossible, then individual survival is surely impossible;
if identity after death is possible, then survival seems not impossible.The different views of whether or how life after death is possible depend on the views of human nature: What is the human being or the human person? …(1) …
Essentially only a soul/mind (i.e. the definition of a human being would be: “thehuman being is a soul” and one would say of oneself: “I am my soul”).
The body  would be considered incidental to the human being.(2) …
Essentially only a body (one would say of oneself: “I am my body”).
Mental activi-ties (thinking, wishing, willing etc.) would be considered to be purely material pheno-mena. (Materialists who consider mental activities to be the defining features of hu-man beings may argue that the human person is essentially a brain and its activities.)(3) …
Essentially soul/mind and body: the soul informs the body; they are not two sub-stances, but they together form one substance. What do these views imply regarding survival?Re (1)
survival may not be hard to account for, but the relation of the invisible soul to the visible body is unclear.Re (2)
survival would mean that the body would have to be reconstituted—but how coulda replica of my disintegrated body be really me?Re (3)
the soul would guarantee identity, and the body could be reconstituted by divinepower.
Survival and identity
Outline of Perry’s book:1. (First night) Identity is grounded upon the mind/soul. The soul does not die.2. (Second night) Identity is founded upon memory.3. (Third night) Identity is not in the body, but in the brain. (This is discussed independ-ently of the problem of survival after death.)
Phil 317 Teaching notes (excerpt)
 2The setting: Miller, a chaplain, is challenged to show to Weirob, a dying philosophy teacher,the
of life after death. Cohen, a former student of Weirob, enters the discussiontowards the end. The discussion turns on identity.
 Weirob holds that identity is founded upon the body alone (= her view throughout).
Miller first argues that it is founded upon the mind/soul. (First night)
Miller then argues that it is founded upon memory. (Second night)
Cohen argues that identity is rooted in the brain. (Third night)
The importance of identity for immortality 
Real survival implies anticipation and memory, i.e. identity 
, survivalof the individual, not of the species or of “being.”Example: a burned box of Kleenex is replaced by a similar one. But similarity is not sufficient to account for identity.
Identity as grounded in an immaterial soul? 
Miller suggests that the identity of the person is guaranteed by an immortal soul (p.
6, 2
¶). Weirob: This means that I am not really this body, but a soul or mind or spirit? (p.
7, 2
Could the same soul be in different bodies? In this case, would it still be the same person?(p.
could the same body be inhabited by different souls? (p.
seeing only my body, how do you know that I am the same aslast week? (p.
8)Miller: “Same body, same self” (p. 8) Weirob:
“Same body, same self” implies “different body, different person”
since this body willbe destroyed, there is no possibility of keeping the identity, even if there will be a newbody 
no survival. (p
How do you establish the principle “same body, same self” in thefirst place? You don’t see the soul.(Analogy: candy with swirl on top suggests that there is caramel inside—How do youcome to know this?—By induction.—But the soul is invisible
the correlation “samebody, same soul” cannot be discovered by induction, pp. 10–11)
Judgments about identity are judgments about souls, but there is no way to observesameness of soul (pp.
 Why is the hypothesis of merging with being not a comfortingperspective?
Perry, 3, last ¶
– p.
4, l.
How can there be identity when the body ceases to exist?— What is the foundation for identity?
Perry, 5, 3
¶ – 2
last line of p.
8, 3
¶ ff.p. 11, 3
last ¶
Phil 317 Teaching notes (excerpt)
 3Miller (new attempt): “Same psychological characteristics, same self” (p. 12) Weirob:“Just because you judge as to personal identity by reference to similar states of mind, it doesnot follow that the mind, or soul, is the same in each case.” (p.
14)In other words: personal identity can be accounted for without positing an identical soul.Example: you recognize a river without that the water is identical to when you last saw it (“Blue River”, pp. 13–14).How do we know that there is just a single soul which would guaran-tee our identity from this life to the next?
Sameness of body?—We cannot establish the correlation body – soul.
Sameness of thoughts?—Thoughts are a constant flux.
Identity as founded upon memory? (“Second night”) 
Miller:The person has no one substance underlying it, but “person-stages,” flows of thoughts andfeelings (p. 25).The identity is guaranteed by a unified memory (p.
26). Weirob:Then how do you distinguish ‘actually remembering’ from ‘seeming to remember’? (Foolsthink they are Napoleon and pretend to remember the battle at Waterloo) (p. 27).Summary of the position that identity is founded upon memory: inheaven there would be a person with the same memory content of the earthly person.Criticism:
This “heavenly imposter” would only 
to remember, not 
remember my thoughts (p.
(New point): Two such persons could be created. Which one is me? (p.
Identity as grounded in the brain? (“Third night”) 
This does not solve the problem of life after death, but of a different kind of survival:through brain transplantation! A novel by Barbara Harris,
Who is Julia? 
(New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1972):
Two women die:
 Julia has a healthy brain but a destroyed body 
Mary Frances has as a healthy body but a destroyed brain
 A brain surgeon transplants Julia’s brain into Mary Frances’ body.
A person cannot be identified with the body (against Weirob), because Julia had two bod-ies (p.
p. 17, 1
line – end of ¶p. 29, last ¶ – p.
Is it Julia who survives?Is Mary Frances still Mary Frances or Julia?Is the survivor the brain donor or the body donor?

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