Post Author: Bill Pratt
Yes, it can, and I will be following the arguments of philosopher J. P. Moreland through several blog posts on this topic. The source for this material is a book called Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality, which was co-authored by Moreland and Gary Habermas.
So how does Moreland introduce this important topic? He first introduces us to the two major philosophical camps that have formed around the debate:
Is a human being just composed of matter – a body, a brain, and a central nervous system – or does a person also have an immaterial component called a mind or soul? Physicalists claim we are only material beings; dualists claim we are composed of both body and soul. This is a fundamental difference.
What are the practical implications of these two points of view for life after death?
If we are simply material beings, then when our bodies die, we die because we are our bodies, nothing more, nothing less. On the other hand, if dualism is true, then we are both bodies and souls. In this case, with the destruction of the former, it could be true that we continue to exist in a disembodied state indefinitely, or, according to Christianity, while awaiting a new, resurrected body.
Since the soul is something that we cannot see, some people doubt that a rational case can be made for it. They believe that the only way to believe in the existence of the soul is through blind faith or appeal to revelation. This viewpoint has even crept into the church. What ideas have entered our culture to make us think this way about the soul?
Moreland concurs with the philosopher John Hick that strict empiricism and scientism are at the root of our modern skepticism of the existence of the soul. Strict empiricism is the idea that “something can be a proper object of knowledge if and only if it can be verified with one or more of the five senses. Seeing is believing, and since the soul appears to be embarrassingly invisible, then we must remain agnostic about its existence.”
Scientism is the belief that “science is the measure of all things. A belief is true and reasonable only if it can be tested scientifically – observed, measured, quantified, and so forth. But here again, the soul does not appear to be an entity that the so-called ideal sciences, physics and chemistry, can quantify and measure.”
But, Moreland argues, in spite of “the cultural bias toward empiricism and scientism, we believe a very strong case can be made for dualism.” Indeed, a strong rational case can be made for the existence of the immaterial soul.
In subsequent blog posts, we will explore Moreland’s arguments for dualism and against physicalism. I hope you’ll stay with me while we dig into this important topic.