Re: [asa] Corcoran article on the soul (a Christian materialist perspective)

From: dfsiemensjr <>
Date: Thu Sep 24 2009 - 22:43:02 EDT

Let me come at things from a different angle, assuming
physicalism/materialism. This gives me two basic possibilities, actions
are either causally determined or indeterminate. The latter would be the
product of quantum events, supposing them to be indeterminate. In this
case, my actions are the product of whatever quantum event or collection
of such events is triggered, presumably in my brain, but possibly related
to brain activity through neural connections. This is not something I can
control, so I cannot be responsible for whatever I do. It makes no
difference whether I think I'm acting or think I'm not, it is out of my

What if all brain activity is determined causally. It may be through
simple causation or through more complex deterministic chaos, where
matters are nonlinear and not specifically predictable. Then my actions
are simply the product of the causal connections, so that I cannot do
otherwise. One may combine such factors or add conditions, such as social
conditioning, fear of such consequences as the threat of incarceration or
financial penalty, social pressures of other sorts, etc. It matters not
how they add up, I may think I'm responsible, but I am simply
conditioned. If indeterminism is added to determinism, so that a quantum
event is modified by conditioning, the combination does not make me

The only way I can be morally responsible is that I make the difference
in outcome. My choice may be limited, by only through self-determination
can there be a moral situation. I have not encountered a rebuttal to my
claim that neither strict deterministic or indeterministic factors can
produce a self independent enough to be morally responsible. It takes
self-determination, with a self. One may here note the power of coercion.
Almost anything a person does with a gun to their head will be forgiven.
But the individual may refuse: "You can shoot me, but I won't do that!"
Dave (ASA)

On Thu, 24 Sep 2009 18:52:26 -0400 Schwarzwald <>
Heya Murray,

Let me be clear. If Corcoran wants to make the case for the resurrection
and Christianity being true even on a monistic view of human souls, more
power to him - though it's worth realizing there's more monism in play
than physicalism. I certainly have no objection to stressing the role of
resurrection (indeed, that comes part and parcel with thomistic views -
"I" require a body to exist. What exists sans body is not me, but a
"part" of me.) Frankly, I'd have no immediate argument with all manner of
views, certainly not with presenting such. Even someone with the views
of, say, Frank Tipler can be interesting to ponder by my measure.

But I think that if he wanted to make the case for that sort of
physicalist viewpoint, he should have done exactly that. Not compare his
view to a sloppy, butchered generic 'soul' - as if Descartes and Aquinas,
etc, had pretty much the same metaphysics, rather than drastically
different views about both soul AND matter. If there's not enough space
to do it justice, set it aside.

(That said, it's not as if physicalism/materialism is the best option on
the table. It has serious, potentially self-refuting, problems of its
own, particularly on the subject of mind, and even in some aspects of
science. But I have no problem with the case being made for it from a
Christian viewpoint.)

On Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 6:28 PM, Murray Hogg <>

Hi Schwarzwald,

As sort of an aside - I'm always tremendously bemused by contemporary
thinkers who argue that we ought to accept such-and-such revision of
Christian doctrine on the basis that it will invoke greater impetus to
social concern. One suspects less emphasis on theology and more on church
history is in order...

As for the rest, I'd cut Corcoran a little slack if only for the reason
that Christianity Today isn't really the place to make the sort of
nuanced arguments that Corcoran's position requires. Presumably he could
give a more developed articulation of his position given space to do so
in an appropriate forum.

Anyhoo, my basic point was simply to show that there are different ways
of articulating the mind/body issue and its theological implications and
that an assumption of monism/materialism needn't lead us to reject the
central tenets of the faith.
As respects the post-mortem continuity of the soul - I think there are
some really interesting issues lurking which I don't have time to enter
into now. I will, however, have to get around to articulating them when I
get the time.


Schwarzwald wrote:

Heya Murray,

At a glance, I have to admit I'm not impressed with Corcoran's article.
He seems to treat emergent dualism, thomism, and cartesian dualism (not a
complete list by a longshot) as all basically saying the same thing on
the grounds that they all make reference to a soul. To say that's an
oversimplification would be an understatement - it's flat out false. He
then spends the rest of the article responding entirely to a crude
Cartesian conception using some pretty weak reasoning, ultimately shored
up by an appeal that we'll all take social work and charity more
seriously if we take on his view of persons. (Christians didn't take such
things seriously before?)

That said, I agree that emphasis on bodily resurrection is tremendously

On Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 6:20 PM, Murray Hogg <
<>> wrote:

   The following article by Calvin College professor, Kevin Corcoran,
   has been kicking around my archives for a while - I just stumbled
   across it by accident when looking for something else.
   It brings an interesting perspective to bear on the issues discussed
   in the mind/soul/body thread;


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Received on Thu Sep 24 22:47:08 2009

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