The possibility of resurrection
Say next week I am utterly destroyed, body and mind. There is no immortal trace of me that survives the destruction (at least in the short term). Could God, even so, raise me up at the last day? Certainly in the distant future he could make a person who was like me in various respects, but could he ensure that the person he made then was really me? Here’s a story about how this might be, given three controversial premises.
The concept person is an ethical concept. To be the same person as X is, roughly, to be responsible for X’s actions, to have a special stake in what happens to X, to have special obligations and rights in how you treat X.
Ethical value is grounded in God’s evaluative attitudes. In broad strokes, to be good is to be loved by God. More complicated ethical concepts similarly come down to God’s attitudes in suitably complicated ways.
These two imply that for X and Y to be the same person amounts to God having the right evaluative attitudes—for short, it amounts to God regarding X and Y as the same person. Then the final premise is that God’s attitudes are not unduly constrained:
- It is possible for God to regard X and Y as the same person, even if X is destroyed long before Y is created.
It’s clear how the conclusion follows.
You can count me among the skeptics of the second premise, but I think there’s something interesting here even if we give it up. If personhood is answerable to questions of value, then it isn’t clear why traditional metaphysical issues like physical or causal continuity would be relevant to survival. If those connections are severed, then the conceptual obstacles to resurrection seem much less threatening.
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