Philosophy exam question

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  • Created by: Bridie
  • Created on: 03-05-11 20:09

Examine beliefs about life after death and beyond, both religious and non religious (45 marks)

For some people death is seen as the end of all living existence with no afterlife. On the other hand some people see death as the end of the present being but gives a rite of passage allowing certain elements of the person to pass through leaving their physical body behind. This afterlife is viewed as a spiritual world in comparison to life on earth which is physical. These contrasting views have made apparent that it's coherent to believe in; the existence of God, an immortality of a soul and therefore a chance of survival after death, or that it is simply incoherent.

The body and mind sparks non-religious and religious theories; are our body and soul two seperate realities, or are we one complex, integrated psycho-physical system? There are two main theories of human nature that have implications for meaningful survival after death, or not. These are called Dualism and Materialism.

Materialism, also known as Monism is the theory that our minds are inseperable from our bodies. Apart from John Hick, materialists reject the idea that there is a living, physical body called the "soul" and that when the body dies, the whole person ceases to exist. John Hick was a materialist however he believed it was logical to trust God as an all-powerful being who could re-create us. This lead to Hick to create his famous Replica theory. He argued that there is only one way a person could survive death and this survival would involve the resurrection of the body resulting from God creating an exact replica. This theory raises the question of personal identity and how would it be possible for a person to be complete with all their memories and characteristics, as Hick believed. Hick tried to solve the problem with the series of thought experiments, to prove that the "I" that existed in this world is the same "I" as resurrected in the next; by using the example of a man who suddenly vanished, but at the exact time the same man appears in a completely different country. Hick's theory is compatible with Christianity and it's understanding of resurrection; St Paul taught these same principles by teaching that after death the body will be raised, but it will be transformed into a spiritual body.

A more scientific, materialistic approach to life after death comes from ideas suggested by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins rejects any concept of an immortal soul. For Dawkins the human animal is nothing more than the sum total of unique DNA. In his book, "The Selfish Gene" he argued that in nature, the battle for survival is not between each species of plant and animal, but between the genes that encode the very nature and operation of each entity. Therefore Dawkins opts for science over religion, which appears to Dawkins as logical. This led Dawkins to say that people have tried to find meanings of life, including following a religious doctrine that teaches the apparent


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