Many traditional(philosophical and empirical ) arguments for life after death are based on substance dualism. What is substance dualism? is it necessarily required for either in a life after death or arguments for life after death? Explain.

attempt: Substance dualism argues that there are 2 independent substances. The physical and mental . Where the soul or mind are the main thing, and are mental substances that cannot be destroyed and lives independently from the physical body. Many religious people believe in dualism since the soul is supposed to live out the body. It would be required to believe in a life after death if people believe in dualism. However, dualism can be viewed as irrational since the mind is independent of the body, so how would the mind be able to control the body. And that they have to both exists in order for it to be true.

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1 Answer 1


Substance dualism is the belief that the mind and the body (especially the brain) are ontologically separate: they are made of different substances, and possibly they occupy different realms all together (See Platonism).

I don't have a better reference for you, but in this lecture, John Searle mentions the fact that substance dualism was a later addition to Christianity, and early Christians believed only in bodily resurrection. God is all powerful and doesn't need two substances, he can resurrect people in the afterlife even if they are only constituted of material substance. The idea that physicalism and the monotheistic religions are contradictory is relatively recent. See here and here as well for discussions. Moreover several Christian thinkers were Aristoteleans, so they presumably believed in body-soul hylomorphism, i.e. the soul as form, not as independent substance. That being said many dualists are primarily motivated by their religious beliefs.

Islamic scripture, on the other hand, mentions explicitly that God created people from clay and then blew souls into them. Presumably this is unambiguous substance dualism. From the Quran:

"(It is He) Who made good everything that He has created, and He began the creation of man from dust. Then He made his progeny of an extract of water held in light estimation. Then He made him complete and breathed into him of His spirit, and made for you the ears and the eyes and the hearts; little is it that you give thanks. (32:7-9)"

I have read that some branches of Judaism are strictly materialistic with no afterlife at all, and so they have no need for any form of dualism in their beliefs.

Buddhism (and presumably other Karmic religions), have the concept of reincarnation independent of an all powerful deity, so presumably some form of dualism is necessary for this to work at all. However I have no idea how they reconcile this with their bundle theory of the self, the doctrine of anatta, and the belief in impermanence.

Conversely, there's nothing inherently contradictory about and atheist being a substance dualist, even though most atheists are materialists.

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