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Mind and Body Debate

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a) Examine the claim that the mind/soul can survive the death of the body (18)

The soul is a defining essence that runs through one or more lives said to be an eternal part of a person that makes them individual. The body is the physical part of a person, which is alive when they are alive.

It is debated whether anything can survive the death of the body and many different religions have different beliefs on this matter. Christians believe that the soul is the part of God that remains with a person eternally therefore; the soul survives the death of the body and remains with the person forever. However Buddhists believe that once a personal dies they are re-entered into the cycle of samsara unless you attain enlightenment, your karma stays with you and is carried on in each life, not a soul or the same body.

An embodied existence is a soft materialist view where the body is representation in a material form, something that is a whole; the mind cannot survive without the body. A disembodied existence is a dualistic view where life after death may be disembodied (separate from the body) the soul and body are separate. The soul is the spiritual, emotional part of a human being regarded as immortal or sometimes is believed to survive death and makes a person who they are and how they act. Each religion has a variety of beliefs on what they believe a soul to be.

Dualism is the beliefs that refers to the mind and body as two separate things and that the soul survives the death of the body. Plato was a dualist and had a dual view of the world, the world of the forms and the material world, the soul belongs to the eternal work of the forms and needs to escape the material traps of the body because it is a dull reflection of the forms. Plato suggested that the spiritual world is the world of truth, the world of the perfect forms that are eternal, unchanging universal truths. The soul belongs to the world of the forms, having three main aspects, reason, emotional and appetite. Reason allows us to gain knowledge and understand the forms as well as distinguishing right from wrong. Emotional allows love, which can inspire us and keeps us in check so we don’t become reckless, appetite, nourishes the physical needs of the body and this has to bee regulated due to the danger of hedonism.

Descartes was also a famous dualist due to his contribution to the mind and body debate and his theory that is often known as ‘Cartesian dualism’. He makes a distinction between the minds being a non-corporeal substance that is distinct from the physical substance of the body. Every substance has a property and the minds essence is to think, it is the place where feelings, sensation and thoughts are known but only to the person experiencing them. The mind and body interact with one another, the mind can cause things to occur in the body and the body in the mind. However the mind is separate to the body and can survive the death of the body. Descartes also believed the mind is that only thing that can prove we exist, ‘I think therefore I am’.

Both Ward and Swinburne argue for the immorality of the soul from a Christian perspective arguing that humans are more than just physical objects. Swinburne argues that our identities cannot be located in our bodies but that we are so complex that there must be a God involved in our existence and that our soul corresponds to God. Ward argues that in order to progress as moral human beings we need to recognize the soul as coming from God, this is what makes us different from other animals and gives us our main, ultimate purpose in life. However there are many issues and problems with the dualist approach as no one fully explains where the mind goes and what happens to it, where is the soul from, how the mind and body actually interact with one another and where is the proof of Plato and Descartes points.

Materialism is the opposing argument to dualism. Hard materialism suggests that we are nothing more than animals and a product of evolution and there is no survival after death. Ryle believes in the concept of the mind, he particularly criticized Descartes and said that Descartes presents the idea of ‘the ghost in the machine’. The ghost represents the mind and the body, the machine, for Ryle there is no distinction between mind and body but it is a category mistake. Ryle used the example of team sprit; it is not a separate essence but is a physical feeling and something that the teams create. Modern materialists like Dawkins suggests that no part of the person is non-physical, consciousness cannot be separated from the brain because for the materialist nothing exists but matter. Humans are survival machines and have souls, which are separate from other species and our survival is a result of our ‘selfish’ gene. Humans are not a special creation from God but a mixture of chemicals, there is not a part of a person that is non-physical. Dawkins suggests that there can be no life after death once the brain dies someone’s consciousness also ends.

Soft materialism accepts there can be a distinction between body and soul but they’re fully dependent upon one another. Any life after death would need to be psychophysical such as the Egyptian and Christian ideas where the life was thought to be physical. Aristotle supports the idea that the mind and body are part of the same entity and one cannot survive without the others, they are inseparable. Aristotle said that there is a soul ‘anima’. The anima or soul is the essence of life, therefore animals and plants have a soul, all living things have a soul. The function of soul is to give the potential of rational thought and activity ideally leading to life of virtue. Although Aristotle believes we have a soul he didn’t believe we could survive the death of the body. There was no life after death it would have to be physical, as one cannot live without each other.

b) Evaluate the claim that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest survival of the soul after death (12)

There are many different pieces of evidence for theories on immorality of the soul should such as near death experiences, ghosts, sprits and parapsychology.

In many cases, NDE is used as proof for life after death, many people have provided testimonies on there experiences in the 1960s Dr Raymond Moody complied research on the most common outcomes of NDE. Which is a feeling of being outside the body and floating above it. The dead person is able to observe what is happening. Parapsychology includes such things as ghosts, spirits, mediums and angel. Many people will claim that they don’t believe in a religious theory of the after life but that they do believe in ghosts or a presence of some kind. This implies that there is immortality of the soul, or at least for a period of time. It also implies that the world of the dead can interact with the living, this raises the questions about what the afterlife is like and where it is. Reports about NDE, ghosts and spirits in the world are very varied yet vast, once again ranging from many different cultures and they can be taken very seriously as evidence or simply as a deception of the senses and an over active imagination. Parapsychology is the study of the spiritual realm (beyond the physical body) Followers of this claim that there is a spirit world where people go to after death and that the deceased can be communicated with alongside experts, which suggest that there can be survival of the soul after death if you can interact and have these experiences.

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