Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Immortality of the soul or resurrection of the body? : the problem of the self and its survival
Author: Munro, Gerald
ISNI:       0000 0004 2704 0360
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 1994
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Religious belief is full of ideas to which multitudes seem able to attach sense, but which philosophers say are unintelligible. The problem of the self and the belief in its survival after death are among the most widespread of these ideas. The main area of difficulty upon which philosophers have concentrated has to do with the so-called mind-body problem. Can the sort of existence envisaged after death be intelligibly described? Can the sort of being whose existence is predicated, even if properly called a self or person, be identified with any particular pre mortem person? My purpose is to explore the religious and philosophical foundations for a belief in an after-life, to examine the ways in which this belief has been given expression and to see whether it is tenable today. My programme of study focuses on the problem of the self and the question of life after death and, in particular, on those religious and philosophical beliefs associated with what has come to be known as pareschatology. Is life after death a real possibility? I seek to show that this is a substantial question and argue that the most serious scientific and philosophical objections to the idea of survival can be met; and that there are rational grounds which point to a basic teleological argument for the survival of the self after death. I hold that any theory which postulates the survival of death without a body of some kind is neither intelligible nor tenable. In addition, any theory which postulates some kind of physical continuity between this existence and the next is untenable, and that a more sophisticatedv ersion of what bodily resurrectionm eanst han has hitherto beenp resented, relies on some concept of body and mind (soul). It is one thing, however, to show that talk of life after death is not illogical, another to find convincing grounds for such a prospect. Traditional religious doctrines have become so attenuated as to be unable to supply any substantial support for the claims they make regarding life after death. I pay special attention therefore, to so-called neardeath experiences; as well as considering the experimental issues involved in psychical research and claimed memories of former lives. While the evidence of psychical research and its allied fields is not sufficient to prove personal survival, the best cases provided are suggestive of continued personal life after death. Distinguishing between man's ultimate state, the eschaton, and the period between death and the ultimate state, the pareschaton, I examine the ideas about the resurrection of the whole person, and the reincarnation of the deeper self (soul) in life after death. I find that they point to a convergencein conceptionso f the ultimate state; that is, in the Hindu 3 teaching concerning liberation - moksha, the Buddhist conception of nirvana, and the Christian mystical doctrine of the unitive state or the beatific vision. Arguments for life after death vary: the most widespread are those for the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. Either or both of these options can, to some extent, be found in almost all theoretical perspectives. The Introduction explains the standpoint from which the thesis is written - clarifying the relationship of the approach adopted to traditional theology, philosophical theology and the study of religions. It outlinest he shapeo f the argumentp resentedin the thesis. In Chapter One, the philosophical background to the concepts of self and personal identity is examined. The following questions are posed: can an intelligible content be given to the various accounts of life after death? Can a 'survivor be identical with a particular being who has passed through physical death? In Chapter Two, the religious background to these problems is considered. Within the Christian philosophical tradition, there is a debate of long standing about the relative merits of belief in the resurrection of the body and belief in the immortality of the soul. I give reasons for preferring the latter belief but contend that neither belief can offer a credible account of life after death. In Chapter Three, the philosophical problems of the self in disembodied existence and the criteria for personal survival are examined. To meet some of the difficulties identified in the notions, some of the concepts employed in non-Christian religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism are consideredin Chapter Four. In Chapter Five, we shall discuss an understanding of resurrection that makes us appeal to souls as identity guarantors. Resurrection is understood as the reconstitution of the bodily person, conceived of as a psychophysical unity. We shall examine whether such notions are philosophically coherent. In Chapter Six, an analysis of the Hindu Vedantic conception of reincarnation is undertaken. A Buddhist variant of this concept is also discussed. Notice is taken of the main features and problems common to both conceptions. Buddhism rejects the notion of an immortal soul but retains a belief in karma and rebirth. How these seemingly conflicting views may be reconciled is the subject of Chapters Seven and Eight. It is contended that the Buddhist doctrine of anatta enshrines a truth about the nature of the self which is in accord with modern physical science. I proceed to summarise the biblical teaching about man. Chapters Nine, Ten and Eleven present a vision of the after-life through an examination of parapsychological evidence. The Gospel narratives of Jesus' resurrection are examined to see how far these support my conclusions. Finally, I reach conclusions based on my analysis of the problem of the self in Reincarnationism and Christianity and seek to answer the question of whether the self can survive bodily death, and in what form.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available