Belief in life after death, Identification

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Last updated: April 1, 2019

a) What philosophical problems are raised by the religious belief in “life after death?”A major problem within the issues of life after death involves the awareness of who one may be after death, and to what extent may one be recognisable after death. The problem arises as one begins realise that the physical body can surely no longer be inhabited after decomposition, also potentially scarred, or ridden with illness and disease etc. It may not be functioning, or even recognisable. One must also consider that if one is to be physically resurrected, whether the body could survive eternal life -or in fact any conditions other than that of earth.Certain things need to remain to make someone identifiable; looks, personalityThe question of what constitutes as personhood is also a person; what forms an individual? Which traits are needed to be identified? The obvious answer is physical appearances, as one tends to recognise someone through distinguishing features.

However, it is hard to understand what can be meant by the same body as we change so much throughout our lives through both physical growth, change of shape and size, hair colour etc. Even our very cells change.There are suggestions of gaining new bodies which reflect ones’ inner nature; but one may question whether a physical body can ever reflect all the mental states, emotions and characteristics which form a person.

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There is of course the argument that appearances often help to form personality; some individuals’ lives often revolve around body and image. Personality is often formed by obsession with one’s own body, and reactions towards it from other people. One could argue that nature is not in fact a product of our appearance, and therefore the physical body is required for identification purposes.The ‘Replica Theory’ begins to address the problem of identity through the suggestion of an exact replica of the individual will appear with the same memories and attributes.

However, the theory which originated with John Hick is flawed. One may question at what stage in life the replica is taken from, if death is not the prime. One may also question whether the complete restoration of memory is appropriate if confabulation or repression has occurred. It is clear that memories do not necessarily form character, as even when an individual suffers from acute memory loss, it does not necessarily mean that the personality has changed.

The problem of the physical body not being proof of identity is also a major issue. It again, raises the question of what constitutes personhood. One may consider that if somehow, one were to ‘switch’ bodies with another, it would be almost impossible to live a life as that person, with character traits and personalities being completely different. The fictional story of the prince and the cobbler is often quoted when referring to this dilemma. This theory is supported by Terrace Penelhum, who also questioned what criteria was required to form a person.b) How far are such problems capable of being solved?The problems of identification within life after death have varying potential solutions. There is a theory that our bodies are not needed after death; and the individual should not be focused on so heavily. One may consider that within religious belief, the striving is to become closer to God, and form a unity.

One could consider that it is not just sense experience which makes a person, but also how one acts towards experience which contributes to the formation of character. This belief relating to the psychology of the individual was supported by Immanuel Kant.It is arguable that it is within God’s power to recreate a perfect body which represents a person at their prime.

Or it may be that our bodies will in fact be reflective of inner nature in a way that mere mortals cannot understand. Others argue that it is within God’s power to ensure that others will recognise us in a way that may be beyond our comprehension in this lifetime.Belief in life after death; What kind of life?a) What philosophical problems are raised by the religious belief in “life after death?”The problems regarding life after death with the kind of life that is to be lead, can be seen in the concepts of Heaven and Hell. The notions of appear inconsistent with the traditional teachings. Another major problem lies in applying the normal concepts of personal life to a post-mortem being.

The belief within Christianity tends to hold that man is a psycho-physical unity, although this is questionable given the beliefs regarding resurrection.Considering the kind of life to be that of a physical one, is suggested within the New Testament, which claimed that Jesus’ body had earthly resemblance (Luke 24: 39) yet was not always recognisable (Luke (24: 13-32). It could also pass through matter and disappear. But if Christians are resurrected within this physical state and environment, such problems arise as whether they will have to queue to see Jesus. One may also question where this physical existence may lie.The notion of the disembodied soul surviving tends to raise more questions than the doctrine of the resurrected body.

When one considers the need for a physical body within existence it seems to be an unlikely suggestion. Humans generally find it an extremely hard task to adapt to life without a limb or use of any part of the body. The disembodied soul would surely be unlikely to be able to physically function in any way.Within the belief that there is physical existence after death lies a theory that the kind of life will be on earth. After judgement day, earth will become Heaven and those who deserve it, shall remain. However, the mere suggestion of this theory begins to present itself with problems. Despite answering the question of where Heaven should be if in a physical state, it cannot possibly function on earth.

If Heaven is to be an existence of perfection, utopia and peace then it cannot be on earth, which is built upon imperfection and chaos. Earth is also a tiny part of the universe; easily compared to the size of a microorganism to an entire continent or perhaps more. The universe may go on for eternity, and one may question how could Heaven be such a tiny place in comparison.

If God is the traditional figure of classical theism, then His kingdom would surely not be an insignificant part of the universe. The question also lies within where the dead will exist before resurrection.The belief that the kind of life one may experience after death may be fashioned from one’s desires is also questionable. A body revealing one’s inner nature and a surrounding world of personal needs and desires sounds appropriate for a heavenly existence after death.

However, one may consider that character traits which need to be suppressed may in fact be exposed. If the after-life does in fact consist of mental worlds created by our desires, one may also argue that that many will live in isolation with no communication. John Hick follows this theory and questions whether this can really be ‘living’.b) How far are such problems capable of being solved?A dualist view may have to be adopted in order to explain the time between death and resurrection which means that the mind/ soul must be existing somewhere before being reincarnated in a body. An alternative argument is that one could suggest the individual may live in the mind of God until resurrection. This belief is held by Hartston, which may be taken a stage further as one could counter-argue that life after death could then just be in the mind of god and nothing else is needed.

The problems regarding Jesus’ resurrection relating to others could be solved through the consideration of Jesus being a divine being; and his resurrection is the only one that humanity has witnessed. One cannot predict the way that a mere mortal will be resurrected. The attributes belonging to Jesus’ resurrection may not apply.

Psychic evidence seems to show that people may be able to function ‘out of body’. Spirits are alleged to be able communicate through mouths of mediums, suggesting that the soul may not need to be in the body and can inhabit others for short periods of time.Regarding the world created by desires of the individual, existing in mental states, one could argue that common shared world could exist of meal images. This would mean that each would have a contribution towards this after life, but not have it exclusively for them.

The theory, by John Hick fits with his Theodicy of soul making but it must be considered that desires vary to an extreme, and one persons’ single desire may be another’s hell. This ‘Heaven’ would be constantly changing with new arrivals.

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