‘A Compound Wholly Mortal’1: Locke and Newton on the Metaphysics of (Personal) Immortality

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 19 (2):241-264 (2011)
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In this paper I consider a cluster of positions which depart from the immortalist and dualist anthropologies of Rene Descartes and Henry More. In particular, I argue that John Locke and Isaac Newton are attracted to a monistic mind-body metaphysics, which while resisting neat characterization, occupies a conceptual space distinct from the dualism of the immortalists, on the one hand, and thoroughgoing materialism of Thomas Hobbes, on the other. They propound a sort of property monism: mind and body are distinct, with distinct characteristics and functions, but are, nevertheless, ontologically interdependent. Consciousness ? the locus of personhood, and thus, a necessary condition for personal immortality ? is an embodied phenomenon; its preservation requires the life and proper functioning of the body. Dying with the dissolution of his body, then, man is a compound wholly mortal. Nevertheless, both Locke and Newton accepted the possibility of personal immortality; with Hobbes, both looked to the Biblical promise of bodily resurrection. For with the re-vitalization of the body ? and a subsequent restoration of consciousness and memory ? personal identity is preserved, even beyond the grave



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Liam P. Dempsey
Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Citations of this work

Materialism in late Enlightenment Germany: a neglected tradition reconsidered.Falk Wunderlich - 2016 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 24 (5):940-962.
John Locke, ‘Hobbist’: of sleeping souls and thinking matter.Liam P. Dempsey - 2017 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (4):454-476.

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References found in this work

Descartes' physiology and its relation to his psychology.Gary Hatfield - 1992 - In John Cottingham (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes. Cambridge University Press. pp. 335--370.
.Donald Rutherford - 1993 - Penn St Univ Pr.
Newton's metaphysics.Howard Stein - 2002 - In The Cambridge Companion to Newton. Cambridge University Press. pp. 256--307.

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