Monday, August 29, 2022

A Thomistic argument for the possibility of an afterlife for animals

  1. Accidents are more intimately dependent on substance than substantial forms on matter.

  2. If (1) is true and God can make accidents survive without the substance, then God can make forms survive without matter.

  3. If God can make forms survive without matter, then God can ensure life after death for animals by making their forms survive and restoring their matter.

  4. God can make accidents survive without the substance.

  5. So, God can ensure life after death for animals.

The most controversial claim here is (4), but that follows from the Thomistic account of the transsubstantiation.

Of course, there is a great gap between the possibility of an afterlife for an animal and its actuality. And the above argument works just as well for plants and fungi.


Walter Van den Acker said...


What is this argument supposed to show. According to classical theists, God is omnipotent, so why would God not be able to create an afterlife for animals?

William said...

Could God create an afterlife for my dog as a cat? If so, how was the form preserved? As a generic mammalian one? As some kind of nonspecific yet very specific haecceity?

Alexander R Pruss said...


I think you could have a form of a dog in a body just like a cat's. That would be a highly defective dog, incapable of many of the things the form of the dog specifies as things a dog should be able to do.


God can't do the logically impossible. One might think that if the body of an animal is completely destroyed, it is not logically possible for that animal to come back.

Walter Van den Acker said...


I der no reason you think that it would be logically impossible.

Walter Van den Acker said...

I meant 'see' of course.

Trevor Giroux said...

Dr Pruss, I’m not sure there is a problem here but isnt there something odd about the way accidents depend on their substances? It would seem that there is a point in priority where the substance has no accidents, but it seems odd to think of a dog for example existing without any of the features that make it a dog such as it’s size or it’s color or location. Maybe the only requirement for a dog to exist at its first moment is simply for its substantial form to exist and not to have any specific accidents?

Maxim said...

Isnt it metaphysically impossible that accident can exist without substance? As I understood in Thomism accidents is like in trope-theory.
And since God cannot do logical/metaphysical impossibilities

Alexander R Pruss said...

Aquinas thinks that accidents _normally_ depend on their substances, but that anything that a creature can do, God can do directly. So if I can sustain my paleness, God can sustain it directly.