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Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment BritainNew Case Studies$
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Ruth Savage

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199227044

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199227044.001.0001

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Religion and materialistmetaphysics

Religion and materialistmetaphysics

Some aspects of the debate about the resurrection of the body in eighteenth-century Britain

Chapter:
(p.90) 5 Religion and materialistmetaphysics
Source:
Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment Britain
Author(s):

Udo Thiel

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199227044.003.0006

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

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