Disembodied Existence After Death Is Entirely Possible
Lauren Cole ‘A disembodied existence after death is entirely possible’ Discuss. Plato takes a dualist view and therefore believes that a disembodied existence is entirely possible and the soul is distinct from the body. At our death, the soul is set free from the body where it has been ‘imprisoned’ and it is now able to achieve its ultimate goal and reach the world of the forms. The soul is the only immortal part of the body and survived the world of the forms before it came entrapped in the body, thus when we learn we are simply recalling what our soul knew before.
Plato holds a negative view of the body as it distracts the soul from seeking the forms with its trivial worldly desires such as sex. If we want to be true philosophers we need to avoid distractions and concentrate on gaining knowledge of the forms. In order to further explain this Plato uses the chariot analogy in which the mind and body are out of control horses and the soul is being driven by the in the chariot so needs to reign them in and control them.
The soul outside of the body is simple and without parts yet the soul inside the body is complex and has different aspects such as reason, spirit and desire. Peter Geach disagreed with Plato and questioned what is can mean for the disembodied soul to see the forms, given that seeing is a process linked to the body and the bodies’ senses. Plato has two main arguments to prove the existence of the soul; the first is the argument from knowledge which argues that learning is simply remembering what the soul has previously known in the world of the forms.
We just need to remember it, and this shows that things exist before we learn them for example; gravity existed before we knew it. However, many people argue that learning is not a matter of remembering, but instead is a matter of acquiring new knowledge. The second is the argument for opposites in which Plato argued that the physical world consists of opposites such as big and small, light and dark, sleeping and waking. The opposite of living would be death, yet for death to be an actual thing and not just nothing, the soul must exist.
Aristotle believed that the soul in the form and shape of the body and is a substance like matter because matter can be given a form and be many different things, but what gives matter its function is its form. By suggesting this, Aristotle means that; the soul gives shape to the matter which is the body and the soul is the principle of life or activity of the body. Aristotle argued that there is a kind of hierarchy of faculties in the soul and suggested that the faculties are nutrition, perception, desire, locomotion and intellect.
Plants have the faculty of nutrition, they obtain food and this is what keeps them alive however, animals not only have this capacity but also other capacities such as perception and desire. The faculty of intellect distinguishes humans on the hierarchy. Thus he believes that the soul is ‘the cause and principle of the living body’ and therefore it cannot survive after death as the Form of the body is inseparable from the body. However, confusion has been caused as Aristotle did suggest in his writings that intellectual thought could possibly be separated from the soul and be eternal.
The identity theory claims that mental activities are centred in the brain and this is supported by scientific research surrounding the modification of mood, character and behaviour by drugs. If drugs affect our character surely this suggests mental activity is not linked to an immortal soul or a separate identity, but to the brain. Hence, when physical life ends, mental activity ends and we cease to exist and have knowledge. This theory has been criticized by T.
Davis who argues that identity theory has been concurring how ‘intentionality’ can be explained. Brain activity does consist of nerves functioning in the brain and when you make a decision you form an intention, yet neural activity has no intentionality, therefore perhaps a soul or other entity controls our intentionality. Davis also points out that mental events are private and have no physical location as they are very personal to the individual.
Although Richard Dawkins was a strict atheist he believed in a disembodied existence after death for other reasons, arguing that individuals cannot survive death completely, but do continue to live through memories and genes. He points out that genes do not have any direction although they are ‘potentially immortal’ as they are ‘the basic unit of natural selection’. For those that do not believe in religious teachings, Dawkins theory is convincing as we remember those that have died through many generations and their genes have also been passed down through their family.