Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A metaphysical argument for survivalism

Corruptionist Thomists think that after death and before the resurrection, our souls exist in a disembodied state and have mental states, but we do not exist. For we are not our souls. Survivalist Thomists think we continue to exist between death and the resurrection. They agree that we are not our souls, but tend to think that in the disembodied we have our souls as proper parts.

Here is a metaphysical argument against corruptionism and for survivalism.

  1. An accident that has a subject is a part of that subject.

  2. There are mental state accidents in the disembodied state.

  3. All mental state accidents in the disembodied state have a subject.

  4. The soul does not have accidents as parts.

  5. Therefore, the mental state accidents in the disembodied state have something other than the soul as their subject.

  6. The only two candidates for a subject of mental state accidents are the soul and the person.

  7. Therefore, the mental state accidents in the disembodied state have the person as their subject.

  8. Therefore, the person exists in the disembodied state.

(This argument is a way of turning Jeremy Skrzypek’s accident-based defense of survivalism into a positive argument for survivalism. Maybe Skrzypek has already done this, too.)

The argument is slightly complicated by the fact that Thomists accept the possibility of subjectless accidents existing miraculously (in the Eucharist). Nonetheless, I do not know of any Thomists who think the disembodied state is such a miracle. Given that Thomists generally think that the survival of the soul after death is not itself miraculous, they are unlikely to require the miracle of subjectless accidents in that case, and hence will accept premise 3.

Premise 2 is common ground between survivalists and corruptionists, as both agree that there is suffering in hell and purgatory and joy in heaven even in the disembodied state.

I think the controversial premises are 1 and 4. I myself am inclined to deny the conjunction of the two premises (even though I think survivalism is true for other reasons).

Premise 1 is a core assumption of compositional metaphysics, and compositional metaphysics is one of the main attractions of Thomism.

One reason to accept premise 4 is that the soul is the form of the human being, and one of the main tasks for forms in Aristotelian metaphysics is to unify complex objects. But if forms are themselves complex, then they are also in need of unification, and we are off on a regress. So forms should be simple, and in particular should not have accidents as parts.

Another reason to accept 4 is that if the soul or form has mental state accidents as parts, it becomes very mysterious what else the form is made of besides these accidents. Perhaps there is the esse or act of being. But it seems wrong to think of the form as made of accidents and esse. (I myself reject the idea that objects are “made of” their parts. But the intuition is a common one.)

1 comment:

Alexander R Pruss said...

Skrzypek says that Aquinas embraces the view that the soul is complex, consisting of accidents, essence and esse. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ejop.12611?af=R
This seems problematic to me.