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You're a Dime a Dozen

You're a Dime a Dozen
September 26th, 2017

What, to Jehovah's Witnesses, makes you the self-same person that you were yesterday and will be tomorrow? In virtue of what do they say that the person who died will really be the self-same person who will be raised up? Are their answers plausible?

To them, it can't be by being composed of some of the matter that they were composed of before, or having the same physical properties; they maintain that the 144,000 will become immaterial, spirit beings, yet will be the exact same persons who previously had died. Instead, what makes you (numerically identical to) yourself is that you have the specific psychological properties - memories, personality, likes, dislikes and such - that you have. The three following quotes from their publications are representative of their philosophical anthropology:
We could put it another way: God has a record or transcription of the life pattern, which transcription falls under his judgment as giving that person or personality a right to a resurrection. Not that anyone in himself deserves a resurrection. No, but in God’s mercy and through the provision of the ransom sacrifice of his Son he judges these ones as deserving. - Watchtower May 1st, 1954 (p. 280) 
Those resurrected will not experience a resurrection of the aforetime human body, for God gives the ones resurrected to earth a fleshly body to suit his purpose, but it is the personality that is resurrected, the soul—you. - Watchtower September 1st, 1967 (p. 523) 
When they come back will they be the same persons? Will we know them? Yes! Even man can indefinitely preserve pictures and voices on magnetic tape for later use on television. God can do even more than that. At resurrection time he can provide each one with a suitable body, just as he did in creating the first man, and then reimplant in the brain the exact memories of all that the person leaned and experienced during his former life. Thus in the resurrection that person will come forth with the same personality that he had at death, just as the resurrected Jesus retained his own personality. - Watchtower March 1st, 1969 (p. 135)
Again, to a Witness, what makes you (numerically identical to) yourself is that you have the specific memories and personality that you have; having such properties is sufficient for you to exist.[1] They might not phrase it quite like this, but this captures their view accurately. Additionally, Witnesses view physical death as annihilation - a complete going out of existence. (The saying that ''the dead are in God's memory' - common among Witnesses - is figurative and isn't meant to imply that any part of the person still exists after death.)

It would seem that, as a Witness, the resurrection is quite easy to understand. God knows you inside and out, and can easily create a being that is qualitatively identical to you (one that possesses the same memories, personality and psychological properties that you have). For Him who made the Cosmos it is a trivial thing to create such a being. So, you don't have anything to worry about should you die: God could recreate you (by creating this qualitatively identical being) whenever he wants.

Let's say, though, that for fun God created this Qualitatively Identical being right now (while you are still alive, that is). Would it be you? Obviously not, even though it would share all the memories you had until the instant it was created. It would have the same personality, likes and dislikes as you did, yet it would not be you.[2] (We could also ask what follows if, should you die, God were to create two beings that are qualitatively identical to you at the resurrection.)

Most people would see the absurdity in saying that you are numerically identical to two people, and Witnesses are no exception. So I don't think they'll bite the bullet and say that you're both people. Perhaps they'll qualify their criterion of personal (numerical) identity: having the psychological properties that you do are sufficient for to exist, provided you're the only (or first) person to instantiate them.

However, this response is ad hoc. Is there any independent reason to motivate this claim? I don't see any. Further, it just doesn't seem reasonable to maintain that whether you are (numerically identical to) yourself has anything to do with whether there is another being that is qualitatively identical to you in existence or not. Other "external" concerns like what room I'm in, or whether my father is alive don't make me numerically identical (or not identical) to myself, why should it be different if there was another human being that shared my memories and interests?

The only remaining way one could cling to this standard of personal identity is to say that it just isn't logically possible for God to raise the dead - which, if the psychological continuity view is correct, is what this discussion indicates. (God can't make 2+2=5 or destroy himself, since these things are not logically possible; however, this doesn't take away from God's omnipotence.) This, needless to say, is an unacceptable conclusion. The only way I can see to avoid it is to maintain that there is an immaterial part of the human that survives separation from (and the destruction of) the body.[3] (Pagan, I know!) What do you think?

[1] I'll write another post about other philosophical objections to their view of the nature of the human person. Therein, I'll explore whether Witnesses are committed to the proposition that psychological continuity is also a necessary condition for you to exist. (Whether it is or not is beside the point in this post, though.) Another concern I have is that it doesn't seem that a psychological continuity approach to personal identity can work, because it can't ground strict identity from conception till death.

[2] The thought experiment doesn't depend on whether God would ever create a being that is qualitatively identical to while you already exist, only on the fact that such an occurrence seems logically possible. So, it simply wont do to say that 'it would never happen.'

[3] I don't think that it is enough to say that the being that would be created at the resurrection would be you if it had your memories and such and was composed of some of the matter that composed you during your life. (As noted before, a Witness couldn't maintain that.) Since there is more than enough matter that fits this description to create several human beings. And the problem of multiple yous would just pop up again. (Now, maybe your resurrection body, in order to be yours does need to be composed of some of the matter that once composed you during your life, I'm not sure. But there can only be one you, since you have but one spirit that animates your body.)

Catholic Answers makes the point succinctly:
The Jehovah's Witness claims that the soul ceases to exist at death and then is re-created by God at the resurrection. If their theory were true and there were no soul which survives death, it is difficult to see why the re-created "you" is not just a copy of you. It may have all your memories, but it is hard to see why it is not just a copy. If God had created this copy while you still existed, the fact it is a copy rather than the real you would be obvious. 

This post first appeared on Witness Seeking Orthodoxy, please read the originial post: here

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You're a Dime a Dozen


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