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CARTESIAN DUALISM, HYLOMORPHISM,

EMERGENTISM AND THE SURVIVAL OF THE SELF


In keeping with one of the finest philosophical-theological defenses for Substance
DualismSoul, Body and Life Everlasting by John Cooperit is my contention that a form of
substance dualism fares better than the alternatives regarding the survival of the self. From
certain perspectives the idea of the surviving self is not assumed, as in the case of reductive
physicalism and many forms of non-reductive physicalism. Considering its naturalistic
framework this is an obvious assumption to make. On the other hand, those who are inclined to
make sense of religious commitments to the intermediate state and the afterlife find
themselves in need of reasons for the conviction that the self will survive its departure and
detachment from the body. On the basis of these assumptions from Special Revelation and/or
church tradition, in addition to empirical evidence from Near Death Experiences, the surviving
self is a justified belief (for thoughtful cases supporting NDEs see Moreland and Habermass
Beyond Death, and Dsouzas work on the afterlife). My intention is not to offer further support
and argumentation in favor of these assumptions, but to make a case for a form of substance
dualism as a coherent accounting of these assumptions, thus offering grounding for these
realities. This then is a modest argument for an in-house debate among those who share similar
religious commitments (a helpful work on these and related issues is Soul, Body and Survival:
Essays on the Metaphysics of Human Persons Ed. By Kevin Corcoran).
I will, first, offer a description of three construals of the mind/body relationship. Second,
I will offer reasons for doubting hylomorphism and emergentism as potential grounds for the
surviving self. Third, I will offer positive arguments in favor of substance dualism.
First, I begin with substance dualism, often referred to as Cartesian dualism. Without
assuming some of the baggage often portrayed with an extreme Cartesian dualism, often
associated with Descartes, I assume a more modified Cartesian substance dualism. Cartesian
substance dualism holds to a distinction between an immaterial thing (i.e. soul) and a material
thingthe body. The relationship between the soul and the body is one of external relation.
Personal identity actually inheres in the soul, strictly speaking, yet loosely with the body. Thus,
this view is commensurate with a simple view of personhood not a bodily/brain view or
memory/character continuity view. It contends that the self is to be identified with the soul,
which has certain essential characteristics: it has an absolute nature, the soul is characterized by
subjectivity, the soul has first-person authority, it is non-compositional, it is not reductive to
other parts or faculties of the person, it is enduring and independent. Yet it also contends that the
body and soul are deeply united, although not one metaphysical thing or substance. This is very

similar if not the same as Taliaferros integrative dualism. As may be assumed from the
previous tenets of the position it also states that the soul can exist on its own. Therefore by its
definition, a modified Cartesian substance dualism allows for the surviving self.
Second, hylomorphism is a kind of mediating position between substance dualism and
emergentist dualism. Hylomorphism is historically attributed to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.
Both Aristotle and Aquinas held to similar positions. Aquinas, coming from a Christian
background and attempting to uphold distinctly Christian doctrines, held to the possibility of the
intermediate state and the possibility of the surviving self while Aristotle did not (so it seems).
Hylomorphism is the view that the soul is the form of the body. The two are so integrally
related, and in a sense inseparable. Personhood is the unity of body and soul. Personal identity
inheres in the composite unity of both body and soul, not strictly the soul that is contingently and
externally related to the body (as in Cartesian substance dualism). Matter individuates
personhood. Thus, the form and body are metaphysically and epistemically inseperable. It is
debatable whether this is a form of monism or dualism (consider Stump on Aquinas and nonreductive materialism; Leftows Souls Dipped in Dust). In the least it is plausibly a kind of
compound/complex dualism.
Third, emergentism is a popular view with many differing developments of it. There are
some who contend for a kind of emerging individual self/soul from the interaction of both
immaterial stuff and material stuff (plausibly true of hylomorphism) and the view that the
self/soul emerges from a very complex arrangement of material properties that just happen to be
in the proper order to serve as the basis of a new emerging thing. A brief aside, there is a great
deal of discussion on emergentism. There is what is called fractal or structural properties that
emerge from the subvenient base of matter. Then there are emerging properties that are distinct
from and non-analogous to other physical properties in the world. The most extreme and
unlikely is the emergent self. There are various positions of emergent selves, such as Haskers
emergent dualism, Oconnors emergentism and Claytons emergentist monist view of the self. I
will stick with Haskers emergent dualism. For much of the arguments given below will apply to
the other versions of emergentism. Hasker, in The Emergent Self, holds to a view of the self that
is dualist in nature, thus keeping with similar dualist intuitions, yet emerging from subvenient
base of material/physical properties. It keeps with dualist intuitions, such as: unification of
mental states, freedom of will, first-person authority, subjectivity and many other similar
notions. Yet, he is not convinced by other forms of dualism, in fact, he spends a chapter
criticizing other forms of dualism. He says that dualism must account for the present state of
science, neurology and cognitive science that seem to indicate that the physical and chemical
states account for and tell us a great deal about human persons. Hasker is convinced of the fact
that emergent dualism has all the positives of dualism, without the baggage, and with a
dependence upon its subvenient base of matter. He likens his position to a magnet that creates a
magnetic field. He argues that it is analogous to the emerging self for with a magnet we have the
pre-existing and subvenient base that gives way to an emerging magnetic force field that extends

outward from the base, thus causing a new thing. Having offered a very brief exposition of the
positions, I will move on to offer a critique of the last two positions and their sufficiency in
grounding a surviving self.
Hylomorphism has two problems undermining it as a prospect for a surviving self. First,
assuming it is a compound/complex form of dualism there is a problem with supporting the
intermediate state and NDEs. The question that immediately arises is what is it that is
surviving in the intermediate state and NDEs? Is it a shadow of the self? Is it a part of the
self? Is it a faculty of the self? In the end this position is confronted with the problem of the self
actually surviving, and left with the possibility of a partial self. Second, there is the problem of a
partial self. What is it for a partial self to survive? What does it mean for a partial self to
survive? Is it even possible? It seems to cut against common sense assumptions about
personhood. Furthermore, it seems to cut against an intuition of the self/soul being a simple
thing. Even the positing of the partial self seems to presuppose the self in question. For
example, when we speak of a person who has lost his or her limbs we still assume the
person/self/soul is there. We do not conceive of the person with the limbs as being a wholly
different person from the person without the limbs. Instead we assume the person is still the
same person, to suggest otherwise would be absurd. The same goes for the person during the
intermediate state or NDE. We do not in these circumstances assume that the person is a
different person/self/soul, but instead we assume that there is a referent to the person that once
existed, yet with a body. At the end of the day, Aquinas was confronted with accepting a position
that is, seemingly, incommensurate with his proposed hylomorphism. He was confronted with
synthesizing hylomorphism with the possibility of survival. Thus, Aquinas opted for a more
Platonic/Augustinian view of the self/soul (similar to the position on substance dualism listed
above; see The Afterlife of the Platonic Soul). In the end the hylomorphist is left with some
insurmountable difficulties in accounting for the intermediate state and NDE.
Possibly, emergent dualism fares better. First, on emergent dualist construal the emergent
self is intricately and intimately tied to its material base. In fact it is dependent upon its material
base for its existence. Without the physical base in place it is difficult to see how the self could
survive detachment from its physical base. I would suggest it is not only difficult, but it is
impossible without divine intervention. Yet, even with divine intervention it seems an odd
position. Second, if this does require divine intervention (as Hasker seems to assume that it
does), then it seems odd to think that the self was not prior to the body in the first place. In the
least, it is a very unnatural position that is difficult to square with the idea of a surviving self in
the intermediate state and NDE. In the end, it seems the emergent dualism fares even worse
than hylomorphism (after reading The Possibility of Survival in The Emergent Self I think the
reader will be even more convinced of emergent dualisms prospects for survival).
So one is left with some form of substance dualism. I am not concluding with a last
man standing argument for my arguments are not an attempt to be conclusive regarding

hylomorphism and emergent dualism, but simply demonstrate their implausibility. There are a
few reasons in favor of a kind of substance dualism. First, as shown above, it seems that one
natural precondition for the surviving self is a simple self. Second, the nature of the self is such
that it is independent in some sense. Third, the position of substance dualism is naturally tied to
the kind of self that can conceive of modal possibilities like existing apart from the body. A
modal argument can further buttress a substance dualist position that would not be epistemically
possible on the metaphysical basis of the other two positions. Assuming a version of the modal
argument is valid then this would, I believe, offer further support, but this is the topic of another
paper. Therefore, a modified Cartesian Substance dualism is a nice fit with the assumption of the
intermediate state and NDE. The intermediate state and NDE offer sufficient evidence to
support the fact that the self/soul exists apart from the body. The common sense intuition of the
self/soul being simple necessarily rules out or creates a great deal of trouble for the
hylomorphist. Emergentist will have difficulty on his own system accounting for the souls
independence when it is so intimately tied to its body. In the end the Cartesian substance dualist
naturally coheres with the evidences given regarding the survival of the self/soul. At the very
least it fares better than hylomorphism and emergent dualism concerning its prospects for
survival. I think this is, at least, worth considering by theists or those religiously inclined that
hold to the intermediate state, the afterlife and NDE.