Religion and materialistmetaphysics

Udo Thiel

in Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment Britain

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199227044
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739309 | DOI:
Religion and materialistmetaphysics

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For materialists the issue of the afterlife relates entirely to the resurrection of the body. But as Joseph Priestley noted, after death ‘the body putrefies, and the parts that composed it are dispersed’, so where ‘can be the propriety of rewards and punishments, if the man that rises again be not identically the same with the man that acted and died?’ Materialists in attempting to respond to this question take into account a variety of previous accounts of the resurrection and of bodily identity (e.g. Locke, Bonnet, Watts). The chapter explores a development of materialist thought on this issue from William Coward, Joseph Priestley to his follower Thomas Cooper. In the end, the development of materialist thought in Britain results in a denial of numerical bodily identity at the resurrection, combined with the claim that such identity is not even required for a plausible account of the afterlife.

Keywords: resurrection; bodily identity; afterlife; materialism; Joseph Priestley; William Coward; Charles Bonnet; John Locke; Thomas Cooper; Isaac Watts

Chapter.  12503 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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