The Law of Identity & the Human Soul

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

April 11, 2016

Do humans survive the death of their bodies? As a pastor, I have officiated several funerals over the past few years and I have attended many recently. This topic is always sure to come up while talking to the surviving relatives. Questions such as these are regularly asked: Will we see our loved one again? Although the body of our loved one has died, does their soul continue to exist?

The vast majority of humanity has believed in the soul throughout the centuries; however, many advocates of scientism (the presupposition that science is the only way to know reality) have caused much doubt regarding the existence of the soul today. It is important to remember that if the human soul does exist, it is something that, like God, cannot be discovered by science. The scientific method is only applicable to things in the natural universe, and science is impotent to test, discover, or explain things such as the laws of logic, mathematics, self-introspection, objective morality, the order of science itself, and anything outside of or transcending the natural universe. [1] These kinds of things would be other than nature and this is what philosophers refer to as “supernatural.”

I have come to the conclusion that after examining all of the data, we can confidently proclaim the human soul does exist. In fact, The Freethinking Argument deductively proves that not only do humans possess libertarian free will and that naturalism is false, but it also proves that the human soul does exist! This counts as evidence demonstrating the existence of the soul; however, I am often asked for more, and independent, evidence.

The Logical Law of Identity

There are other reasons to think we are more than just bodies and brains. JP Moreland provides a powerful philosophical case regarding the logical law of identity. He says, “If I have the property of being possibly disembodied, but my body does not have the property of being possibly disembodied, it logically follows that I am not my body.”[2]  That is to say, if it is not logically incoherent to conceive of the idea that I could exist apart from my body, then it logically follows that I am something other than my body.

According to the laws of logic, there is a property that I have that my body does not, and therefore, my body and I are not identical. My body and I are not the same thing. That is to say, I am not my body.[3]   This thing that I call, “I,” is something other than my body (or brain) and it is what I refer to as the soul.

To illustrate, think about this: suppose water is H2O and they are identical. Is there anything that could possibly happen to water that could not happen to H2O? No. Whatever temperature forces water to boil, will necessarily force H2O to boil, because they are identical.[4]

Here is the point: even if life after death is false, I am at least possibly the kind of thing that logically could exist after my body dies. It is not a logically incoherent concept. Therefore, if I am the kind of thing that could (at least possibly) exist disembodied, then, logically, I cannot be my brain or body.

Moreover, I am possibly disembrainable (after all, near-death experiences could possibly be true), but my brain is not possibly disembrainable. This proves I am not my brain because there is something true of me which is not true of my brain. Namely, I am the sort of thing that could survive death (even if I do not), but the brain cannot logically survive its destruction. Moreland provides a deductive syllogism to summarize his case:[5]   

  1. The law of identity is true: If x is identical to y, then whatever is true of x is true of y and vice versa.
  2. I can strongly conceive of myself as existing disembodied.
  3. If I can strongly conceive of some state of affairs S that S possibly obtains, then I have good grounds for believing that S is possible.
  4. Therefore, I have good grounds for believing of myself that it is possible for me to exist and be disembodied.
  5. If some entity x is such that it is possible for x to exist without y, then (i) x is not identical to y, and (ii) y is not essential to x.
  6. My body (or brain) is not such that it is possible to exist disembodied, i.e., my body (or brain) is essentially physical.
  7. Therefore, I have good grounds for believing of myself that I am not identical to my body (or brain) and that my physical body is not essential to me.

Conclusion

It makes sense to conclude, along with the Nobel Prize winning neurologist, Sir John Eccles, that I am a soul who uses a body and brain. This argument for the existence of the soul, along with the Freethinking Argument (and others), provides good reason to conclude that the Apostle Paul knew what he was talking about: “…  we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). 

Do we survive the death of our bodies? You better believe it!

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton


NOTES

[1] William Lane Craig in debate vs. Peter Atkins, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U_NS9WsJ08 (Accessed 9-11-12)

[2] JP Moreland “In Defense of the Soul,” Biola University lecture on CD

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] J.P. Moreland’s syllogism is found in, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 125-26

Randy Everist provides a detailed defense of this argument here and here. Be sure to check it out!

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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