The blog of Dr Glenn Andrew Peoples on Theology, Philosophy, and Social Issues

Bill Hasker and Black Holes


I’m working on a paper on William Hasker’s Emergent Dualism and his model of how the mind survives the death of the body. This blog entry isn’t so much about whether he’s right or not, but about an astronomical claim that he refers to.

As a parallel to his claim that the mind survives the death of the body, he appeals to his claim that in a black hole, the matter that possesses the intense gravity literally ceases to exist, and the gravity field continues to exist with literally no matter at its centre.

Every astronomy resource I can locate indicates that this is false, and that the matter at the centre of a black hole continues to exist, or that if it were to dissipate, the black hole would evaporate. I don’t suppose anyone knows of any source that suggests the contrary, do they?


Is there an echo in here?


Converse with the scholars


  1. Hasker is usually wrong about scientific claims, and in this case he is also.

  2. William Hasker

    With regard to the claim in question, I quoted Roger Penrose and Kip Thorne (see The Emergent Self, p. 232). If they are wrong, then the idea does not hold up; my view of the mind loses nothing but a neat illustration. Thorne also states that Mael Malvin has proved that a sufficiently intense magnetic field can hold itself together by gravity even if its generating magnet has been removed. I make no claims about these matters on my own account; those who wish to refute Penrose and Thorne are welcome to do so.

    William Hasker

  3. Glenn

    In spite of my frequent disagreement, it’s fair to say that I’m quite an admirer of your work, so it’s a pleasure to have you drop by, Dr Hasker.

    I haven’t turned my attention to the example of magnetic fields, so i can’t comment on that yet. However, I have to respectfully disagree with your view that losing the examples you provide is nothing more than the loss of neat illustrations. To someone unsympathetic to your view of post-mortem survival, perhaps the major objection is going to be that since the soul/mind (call it what we will) is emergent, it requires a body, and hence would “die” when the body died. It seems to me that the whole point of these “neat examples” is to assure the skeptic (and perhaps comfort the ally) that really this isn’t such a strange thought after all, because it works in other contexts. But if it really doesn’t wok in other contexts at all, then your position is left requiring something that the skeptic is within his rights finding metaphysically outlandish.

    I’m not saying that no metaphysically outlandish claim is true. But you reject a physicalist conception of life after death precisely because it IS metaphysically outlandish. All I’m suggesting is that the examples you provide to get your own position off the same hook might not do the job as well as you might have hoped.

  4. William Hasker

    Well, I do like the examples, and perhaps they do have some persuasive value. But the examples aren’t essential to my central claim, which is that the idea of the continued existence of the emergent mind unembodied is logially coherent. And my objection to materialist theories of survival is not just that they are outlandish, but that they are (so far as I can see) logically incoherent.

  5. Glenn

    It’s actually not clear that an emergent view that claims immediate postmortem survival is logically coherent at all, in my view. It seems to me that the very concept of emergence demands some body that the mind is emergent from. In other words, a disembodied “emergent” mind is like the sound of a guitar being played with no guitar. It looks to me like what your position ends up doing is – at the moment of death – exchanging an emergent view of the mind for a traditional dualist view of the mind (or at least drawing on traditional dualist intuitions). Now, that might be logically coherent, but as far as I can tell you don’t claim that the mind changes in this way at death, you seem to say the mind is the same sort of thing it was before death. And that isn’t coherent.

    In other words, unless the examples work, there’s nothing to work against the prim facie appearance of incoherence. And there really IS an appearance of incoherence. I don’t share your assessment of physicalism, but that would be to drag in another debate here, so I won’t pursue that.
    Incidentally, would you be interested in looking over a draft of the paper when it’s a bit more complete than it is now? I’m sure your comments couldn’t fail to be helpful. And on another note, I’m curious to know (purely for promotional reasons) how you tracked this blog down.

  6. William Hasker

    Well, the transition to something like “traditional dualism” occurs much earlier than you seem to be thinking. On my view, the mind/soul/self is an emergent substance, ontologically distinct from the physical stuff which generates it. If that doesn’t sound like “emergence” to you, I suppose you are welcome to make up another word for it. But the term “emergence” is flexible enough to encompass this, in my view.
    In response to your questions: The blog was called to my attention by my friend, Victor Reppert. And yes, I would be happy to have a look at your paper.

  7. Glenn

    Thanks – I appreciate that, and I’ll be in touch shortly (relatively speaking). So Victor Reppert knows of this blog too? I’m, a big fan of his work on C. S. Lewis and his “dangerous idea.” And yes, I did realise that you see the soul as ontologically distinct from the organism that generates it. When I referred to “traditional” dualism, I mean the view that the soul is not at all dependent on anything physical for its ongoing existence, not simply that it is distinct from it. The idea of emergence seems to require such a dependence (which I have no real  problem with), and what I meant is that your view switches over to traditional dualism at death, the concept of emergence vanishing.

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