Isit Possible for you to survive the Death and Destruction of yourBody?
Ancienthistory and archeological discoveries show that human beings havebeen burying or disposing their dead with significant dignity.Although communities living in different parts of the world professdifferent faiths and reverence for deities, their practices indicatethat they do notbecome obsolete after the physical demise. Interestingly, it is clearthat one does not have to believe in God to have hope for survivalafter death. A continued existence takes the form of the effects ofone`s actions, memories, and the progenies left behind. Miller’stheory of personal identity is perfectly compatible with our beingable to recognize people here on earth.
ThePersonal Identity Theory in the First Night
Millerstruggles to convince Weirob on the possibility of life after deathby using the personal identity theory. In a dialogue between Weirob,Miller and Cohen, several theories are used to explain how one cansurvive the physical death. Weirob is about to die after sufferingfatal injuries. As a philosopher, she wants Miller to convince her onthe possibility of a continued existence after her physical bodyrots. As a scholar, she knows that some of arguments towards thetopic cannot hold and she only wants some conviction that can alterher thinking. She informs Miller, “I mean possible only in theweakest sense—of being conceivable, given the unavoidable facts”(Perry 1).
Accordingto Miller, the body and the soul are separable. He points out, “Thetwo are intimately related but not identical” (Perry 3). He usesthe traditional Greek mythology that assumed the body to be a prisonfor the soul. During death, the spirit escapes from the prison. Whenthe body rots, the soul continues to exist. The theory also usesDescartes reasoning as a premise. According to the Greek philosopher,there is a clear distinction between the flesh and the spirit.Miller’s theory also illustrates that a person’s attitude,belief, memories and prejudices are observable (Perry 3). They arecritical in determining the correlation between the body and thesoul.
Thetheory also holds that the claim that there is a rift between beingidentical and having similar characteristics. The argumentdemonstrates the difference between numerical and qualitativeidentity. According to him, “The soul or mind is just that which isresponsible for one’s character, memory, belief. These are aspectsof the mind, just as one’s height, weight, and appearance areaspects of the body” (Perry 6).The theory further claims that thesoul can see, touch and smell but it is intangible. Therefore, deathis the best example to show the distinction between it and thephysical frame. After the destruction of cells, the body cannotperceive any stimulus in the environment. The demise of the spiritrenders the body useless. The soul propagates and it continues tolive. An individual is determined by the spirit and not the body(Perry 2). When the flesh rots and turns into humus, the controllingpower continues into another life.
Weirob’sObjection to Miller’s Theory
Asa philosopher, Weirob is skeptical of the claims made the religiousscholar. She objects Miller’s theory as being inconsistent withrecognizing people here on earth. First, she faults theinseparability of the body from the soul. She holds that when onedies, all the processes cease and there is no way the attributescannot be found in another place bearing similar characteristics(Perry 3). She uses the example of a Kleenex box. When burnt toashes, it is practically impossible to find the same box in anotherplace unless another one with similar physical appearance. Weirobindicates that it is illogical to believe that after her death, therewould be another individual with the same feelings, experiences, andanticipations. She says that “Isn’t it just this body, the sameobject that is overweight, injured, and lying in bed?—and whichwill be buried and not be conscious in a day or a week at the most?”(3). She holds that if she is to survive after her demise, thereshould not be another individual identified as herself apart from theone who lay on the bed. According to her, identical isinterchangeably used to mean similar. For example, in the case oftwins, it is possible for them to have similar physicalcharacteristics. However, when using individuality as the conditionof memory, it is undeniably wrong to claim that the two children havesimilar experiences, thoughts, and motives.
Secondly,Weirob provides that philosophers cannot always associate an identitywith appearance. Therefore, it would be impossible to recognizepeople by their souls. According to her, the body harbors variousphysical attributes with which it is identified. For example, one isdescribed as tall, obese, dark or short. Although they have similarphysical characteristics, they have varied experiences. Weirob givesthe example of a river that is associated with the blue color. Whenone has a glimpse of the hue, he/she associates it with a river.Nonetheless, the water that one sees on a given day in river movesdownstream and space is occupied by another wave. Moreover, it wouldbe incorrect to infer thatone can see the same water for two days. Inaddition, Weirob observes that since the soul is immaterial andcannot be seen, it can be difficult to conclude that a person has thesame spirit with another individual that one may have met previously(Perry 3). Assuming that people are identical to their souls posesthe problem of accessibility.
Inconsistenciesin Weirob’s Argument
Althoughthe claims have a philosophical reasoning, they are inconsistent andunconvincing in various ways. According to Weirob, if a person isdefined by the soul, the judgment directed towards personal identityis groundless. She says: “Such judgments concerning the soul aretotally mysterious, and that if our knowledge of sameness of personsconsisted in knowledge of sameness of immaterial soul, it too wouldbe totally mysterious” (Perry 4). She concludes that if suchdeterminants hold, then human beings do not intricately relate tosouls. Weirob gets it wrong because the judgments of personalidentity are possible to make since there is a concrete relationshipbetween a specific soul existing in a body. Without the spirit, thecharacteristics depicted by an individual would not be present. Also,drawing from John Locke’s argument, the body only survives whenthere is a soul in it. Locke likens the spirit to blood. The fleshwill continue functioning provided there is enough blood in thesystem. When it is inadequate, transfusion is a viable option toreinstate the function of the processes. Although it is foreign tothe body, the added blood does not change the individuality.Similarly, the body needs the soul to function mentally. Nonetheless,it does require a specific spirit to carry out the activities. Theindividual remains unchanged regardless of the soul in it. Being thesame person repeatedly does not dictate keeping a specific soul.
Weirob’sargument is rather weak and can only hold when discussing objectswithout a soul. The claim that a burnt Kleenex box cannot beretrieved is correct. However, it is worth noting that the objectdoes not have a soul. Miller describes identity as the soul that isnot tangible (Perry 2). It also explains why the box does not havethe human attributes of smell, sight, and hearing. Its identitycannot exist beyond the ashes. The theory is perfectly compatible forhuman beings with a soul since it is possible to recognize themregardless of their present setting. The rationale for this is thatthe attributes that people harbor are triggered by the spirit.
Contraryto Weirob’s reasoning, human beings have a soul that determinestheir identity. Their experiences and aspirations controlled by thesoul. It is possible to make out an individual from a group using theprinciple explained by miller that, “Wherever we have the same bodywe have the same soul” (Perry 5). When the spirit leaves the body,the frame becomes functionless. Just like boxes, human beings canhave similar physical appearances, but their spirits make themunique. While a box cannot survive burning, an individual`s identity(soul) can propagate into another form and be present in a differentsetting.
Inconclusion, the theory of personal identity is consistent with ourability to recognize people here on earth. The spirit gives one anidentity. It controls feelings and aspirations, and it explains whythe body rots after the departure of the soul. The personal identitytheory as proposed by Miller indicates that the correlation betweenthe body and the spirit is the result of specific characteristicsharbored by individuals. It is possible for an individual to surviveafter death. The separable nature of the body from the soul enablesthe spirit to escape from the physical frame. Conversely, Weirobargues that identity and appearance cannot be associated. After thebody dies, it cannot be found in another place with similar physicalattributes. However, it is worth noting that objects do not have asoul, and they cannot, therefore, propagate to another life.
Perry,John. Adialogue on personal identity and immortality.Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1978.