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

Episode 032: In Search of the Soul, Part 4


Here’s the fourth installment on my series on the mind-body problem.

In this episode I look at the argument against physicalism from the afterlife. Here, some dualists argue that if physicalism were true, then the resurrection of the dead would be logically impossible. Their argument is:


  1. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead entails that people will be raised back to life who are the same people who died long ago. In other words, they will have the same identity.
  2. Sameness of identity requires unbroken metaphysical continuity (that is, the continued, uninterrupted or “non-gappy” existence of whatever thing the functioning person is, whether a physical thing or an immaterial mind).
  3. In physicalism, it is logically impossible for there to be unbroken metaphysical continuity between a physical person who died a hundred years ago and a person who will be raised to life in the future.
  4. Therefore if physicalism is true, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is logically impossible. Stated differently, a physicalist cannot consistently believe in the resurrection of the dead.

How might a physicalist respond to this line of argument? Listen to find out. As promised in the episode, here are a few pieces of work by Trenton Merricks that relate to some of the material I cover:

“How to Live Forever Without Saving your Soul,” in Kevin Corcoran (ed.) Soul, Body, and Survival: Essays on the Metaphysics of Human Persons (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), 183-200

“There Are No Criteria of Identity Over Time,” Noûs 32:1 (1998), 106-124.

“The Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting” in Michael J. Murray (ed.), Reason for the Hope Within (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 261-286.

Enjoy. 🙂

Glenn Peoples

UPDATE: Here the whole series, now that it is complete:

Part 1 

Part 2 

Part 3 

Part 4 

Part 5 



Doctor Living Stone, I Presume!


Humble self-promotion?


  1. Kenneth

    OK, this is getting ridiculous. You clearly need to be teaching at my college. This is way better quality than what we are getting taught now in philosophy of religion! We were told that this is a fatal blow to the resurrection and that there are no serious answers!

  2. I haven’t begun my studies yet, so I don’t need to echo Kenneth’s wish. My question is: Where do you teach, Glenn? I’ll come and study there!

  3. Dave

    Couldn’t we say that the person who dies is kind of like the person who goes into a coma? The person who goes into a coma loses all consciousness; the person who comes out of the coma revives consciousness. Assuming that there is no amnesia, the person who awakes from a coma picks up where they left off. In other words, there is a “gap” in consciousness.

    In the same way, God could merely revive the consciousness of a person who has died. This, of course, would require him to miraculously preserve the consciousness and all the associated psychological qualities and imbue the resurrected physical body with those qualities.

    The consciousness and its qualities we might call the soul, and this would be more in keeping with the shades of meaning the word “psuche” has in Greek.

    If God imbues the body with the preserved consciousness, then perhaps he may be able to sustain it between death and the resurrection, providing us with a way to interpret certain passages (i.e., the “souls under the altar” in REvelation) in more traditional ways, and yet maintain that man is not inherently immortal and that resurrection is the only hope for eternal life.

    I think in doing so, we would be better approximating a “Jewish” understanding of human nature as opposed to a “Hellenic” one. The Jewish view of the soul, as gleaned from the copious intertestamental evidence, is that a conscious soul exists BECAUSE the body will be raised in the future, as NT Wright has pointed out in numerous works.

    This stands in direct opposition to the Hellenic view, in which the soul is eternal and immortal of itself.

    That is why it makes sense for the Jewish intertestamental literature, by and large, to propose a conscious intermediate state and yet espouse annihilationist views about the fate of the wicked (despite what traditionalists will say, most intertestamental, when translated and interpreted correctly, is strongly annihilationist.)

  4. Dave, the complexity would arise in asking how God could preserve the consciousness if the consciousness isn’t a “something” that can be removed from a body. If it is such a thing, then some form of dualism is true.

    Kenneth and Richard, you’re very kind, but I actually don’t teach anywhere. Nobody will hire me!

  5. Ciaron

    Glenn, you touched on the point ‘ownership’ of atoms/molecules etc; after becoming lunch for a cannabal. My question is: what is the likelyhood of God resurecting the cannabal, in as much as the cannabal has not heard the good news and repented, and what is God’s plan for other peoples who have not discovered the gospel due to time and/or distance, what I would term: “no fault of their own”?

  6. Ciaron, to be perfectly honest I don’t know if I could say for certain what I think about the perennial question of the “scope of salvation.” But even if the cannibal is lost, he would still be resurrected, as the New Testament is pretty clear that the lost and the saved will all one day be raised.

  7. Ciaron

    Ah, true. I was confusing resurrection with salvation. My bad.

  8. Nick

    In regards to the podcasts what one of the sources you talk about gives time to the idea of memory in some detail? From your discussion you mention the ideas that can get around ‘gap like’ existence in time for physicalists. That is if I have not missed something. So there would be no problem for the continuation of the memory of the individual. If we are only matter then the decay of the brain means the loss of memory. As I see this without the memory one would not be certain about personal identity, past life events, moral violations etc. For those memories to be authentic then they can not totally destroyed. Is a physicalist proposing that one will just go from the non-consciencious of death to the new – conscientiousness of the resurrection? So, the experience would like (this is a crude example) passing into a sleep like state to a waking state? I would be interested to hear your comments. Liked the series very much. I have more questions for later on.

  9. Nick

    Is there any obvious problems for these issues when related to the intellectually handicapped? If the mind is a product of the body then physicalism would bring forth the same mind state. Yes? But perhaps restored. Dualism if I understand it would require a Jekyll and Hyde type of arrangement before hand, and then an integration of the two. I think they would have to accept that the meta-pyhiscal mind is also showing this trait or can not be functioning properly. If it was meta-physical would it not be more pure or less handicapped so to speak? The brain is damaged for these people this is known scientifically and the expressed mind is clear indication of this. It would also give weight to the mind being physical. I am assuming that God would reassemble them as intending to be. Like Christ’s body. Would there not be a problem of personal awareness and identity. Their identity would be in a way retarded and the awareness would also be fresh and new in a way their MIND had never known.
    I guess I am curious about the notion of mind and identity.
    I see above other wish you were teaching I would of been very interested in learning of philosophy when I was at Laidlaw. It would be very helpful to sort out important concepts. I feel I have been given a single sided minted coin.

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