The possibility of resurrection by reassembly

Abstract

It is widely held that the classic reassembly model of resurrection faces intractable problems. (1) What happens to someone if God assembles two individuals at the resurrection which are equally good candidates for being the original person? (2) If two or more people, such as a cannibal and the cannibal’s victim, were composed of the same particles at their respective deaths, can they both be resurrected? If they can, who gets the shared particles? (3) And would an attempt to reassemble a long-gone individual result in a genuine resurrection, or merely an intrinsic duplicate of the original person? In this paper, I argue that the first of these problems has, in effect, been solved by defenders of a rival view; I propose a novel solution to the second problem; and I show that the third can be solved by upgrading the naïve reassembly model to a novel variety of reassembly model.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Olson (2015) dubs these alternatives preservation and radical resurrection, respectively.

  2. 2.

    These include reassembly models (e.g. Hershenov 2002; Davis 2010; Davis and Yang 2017) a body-snatching model (van Inwagen 1978) an anti-criterialist model (Merricks 2001, 2009), constitution models (Baker 2005, 2007; Corcoran 1998) fission models (Corcoran 1998, 2001; Dougherty 2014; Hudson 2001; O’Connor and Jacobs 2010; Zimmerman 1999, 2010), multi- and scattered location models (Hudson 2010), a hyper-time model (Hudson 2017), and Thomistic models (e.g. Stump 2003, ch. 6).

  3. 3.

    I borrow this term from Hudson (2001).

  4. 4.

    Thanks to Mark Murphy for pressing me to consider this objection.

  5. 5.

    See also Olson (2010, 2015).

  6. 6.

    For dissenting voices, see van Inwagen (1990) and Hasker (1999).

  7. 7.

    This suggestion mirrors Jacobs and O’Connor’s own application of their emergent particularities view to Zimmerman’s fission model.

  8. 8.

    The discussion in this section benefitted from helpful comments by Mark Murphy and various referees.

  9. 9.

    Davis (2001) cites Augustine’s suggestion that shared atoms go to whoever had them first (while new atoms are presumably substituted for them elsewhere), and he suggests that this and “lots of other policies [for what to do about shared atoms] seem possible” (236). This idea presupposes that some but not all particles that composed a person at the time of death are needed for resurrection.

  10. 10.

    This possibility was brought to my attention by Cody Gilmore and independently by Joshua Spencer.

  11. 11.

    Though I hesitate to read such details into the passage, one might think 1 Thessalonians 4:16 suggests that at least all who died ‘in Christ’ will be resurrected at roughly the same time.

  12. 12.

    Hudson (2005) adds the condition that the object does not also occupy the fusion of those disjoint regions. This allows him to distinguish multilocation from a similar relation he calls ‘entension.’

  13. 13.

    For an overview of this literature and an extensive bibliography, see Gilmore (2014).

  14. 14.

    One can think of this as a theological gloss on recombination arguments that appear in the literature.

  15. 15.

    Craig (2012) holds this view.

  16. 16.

    Incidentally, I take it Hudson is aware of, and probably unbothered by, this fact.

  17. 17.

    In fairness, Hudson himself is not an A-theorist.

  18. 18.

    I borrow this term from Wasserman (2018).

  19. 19.

    And if Hudson added such causal connections to his story it would end up being either a version of Zimmerman’s fission model where a premortem individual jumps to the afterlife at the moment of her death, or, with a few more tweaks, it would be a version of the ‘upgraded’ reassembly model I develop in the next section. Below I argue that the upgraded reassembly model is better than Zimmerman’s fission model, so, if I am right about this, the best way of adding identity-preserving causal connections to Hudson’s story would transform his model into precisely the model I defend in this paper.

  20. 20.

    The notion of personal time comes from Lewis (1976).

  21. 21.

    I prefer to cast causal powers as immanent, irreducibly modal properties (see, e.g., Jacobs 2017), but the reader is invited to substitute her own preferred view.

  22. 22.

    The kernel of this idea was brought to my attention by Joshua Spencer, who attributed it to Hud Hudson. The thought was basically that human bodies could, at some point after decomposition, and presumably with some kind of divine aid, automatically reassemble. I have not seen the idea of resurrection by automatic reassembly in print, much less developed in any detail, so I have undertaken to develop it here.

  23. 23.

    For example, Olson (2010) expresses skepticism about the momentum-like properties that resurrection powers would require to ensure that particles which appear or assemble on Resurrection Day do so in an appropriate (and highly specific) arrangement. Zimmerman (1999) acknowledges that some will worry that resurrection powers must be essential to whatever has them, so God cannot simply confer them on objects at a convenient moment (cf. O’Connor and Jacobs 2010, 79).

  24. 24.

    A fan of resurrection powers might push back by highlighting a different respect in which resurrection powers appear more economical than a backtracking decree. A backtracking decree requires a divine intervention in the natural order, whereas the resurrection powers theorist can get by without such an intervention by proposing that resurrection powers are natural to organisms like us (cf. O’Connor and Jacobs 2010). But the traditional picture of resurrection is that of a miracle God performs at the eschaton. An account of resurrection as a natural outworking of natural powers fits ill with this traditional picture, and so seems inadvisable.

  25. 25.

    The term is Hudson’s (2001); the idea is Zimmerman’s (1999).

  26. 26.

    Cf. Olson’s (2010) discussion of immanent causal connections, and how a non-backtracking divine intervention disrupts such connections.

  27. 27.

    One might go a step farther and endorse Robert Adams’ proposal that “the most fundamental natural faculty of any created substance is its liability to be affected by God” (Hughes and Adams 1992, p. 224). Thanks to a referee for bringing my attention to this.

  28. 28.

    There is precedent in the literature for appealing to hyperspace to explain how God performs certain miracles. See the final chapter of Hudson (2005).

  29. 29.

    Cf. Dougherty (2014, 166–178).

  30. 30.

    Thanks to a referee for this objection.

  31. 31.

    Hughes and Adams (1992). Cf. Gasser and Quitterer (2015).

  32. 32.

    See Olson (2015) for worries of this sort.

  33. 33.

    For discussion of this concern, see Baker (2007), Corcoran (2001), Dougherty (2014), and Hudson (2001). Corcoran attributes the objection to William Hasker.

  34. 34.

    Hasker (2011) sees in Zimmerman’s model even greater and more unfortunate similarities to the uncommonsensical element of van Inwagen’s view.

  35. 35.

    My thanks to Mark Murphy and to various referees for many helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. Thanks especially to Mark Murphy for a suggestion about how to frame the article, and to the referees for pressing me on the details of the automatic reassembly model. Among other things, they helped me to see how best to characterize the basic idea behind the proposal, and to see the difficulties of developing a 'resurrection powers' version of the model. Finally, thanks to Joshua Spencer and Cody Gilmore for stimulating discussion of the metaphysics of resurrection.

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Mooney, J. The possibility of resurrection by reassembly. Int J Philos Relig 84, 273–288 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11153-018-9669-y

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Keywords

  • Resurrection
  • Afterlife
  • Reassembly
  • Materialism
  • Personal identity