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Body and Soul: Human Nature and the Crisis in Ethics [Paperback]

J. P. Moreland , Scott B. Rae
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Inter-Varsity Press,US (1 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830815775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830815777
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.1 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,452,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Careful treatment, dubious success 7 April 2010
This book is presumably addressed mainly to Christians who want to hold a philosophically valid view of the body-soul relationship that is compatible with biblical revelation, and who are concerned about the ethical implications.

The first part "Metaphysical Reflections on Human Personhood" presents detailed and sometimes complex arguments for a form of Thomistic substance dualism. The review of the literature is thorough and I was impressed that the authors make every effort to be fair to the positions that they disagree with. There are discussions of biblical interpretation, but the main thrust is philosophical. One of the authors' main concerns is to show the inadequacy of the Christian complementarian approach (Jeeves, Murphy, Peacocke, MacKay etc.) which in their opinion accepts too many of the assumptions of atheistic naturalism. In opposition to the property dualism of the Christian complementarians, the authors propose Thomistic substance dualism. My problem with this is that, despite the authors' considerable efforts, I don't think their version of substance dualism is clearly explicated, and in particular its difference with respect to property dualism/complementarianism is not sufficiently sharp. As the authors mention, there is currently debate as to whether Thomistic dualism is really substance dualism, and they fail to deal with this sufficiently with respect to their own version.

To be really clear about the authors' body-soul (presumably mainly brain-soul) dualism, I would have liked more discussion of the brain part of the duo, but the only semi-serious foray into biology is limited to some general remarks about complexity-theorist Brian Goodwin's holistic ideas on organisms, without mention of his ideas on the brain.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, even though the first part is a bit heady! 29 Dec 2000
By Alan Keyes is awesome! - Published on
I am a few pages shy of finishing BODY AND SOUL. Part one argues for Thomistic Substance Dualism (differentiated from Cartesian Substance Dulaism), and it's written by J.P. Moreland.
Part two takes the arguments for substance dualism and demonstrates the logical implications substance dualism has regarding abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, etc.
The book is crucially important for anyone thinking through the bioethics of these issues.
As important and fascinating as the book is, there are some weakneses. The first thing that will strike the reader is that part one (Moreland) is far more difficult reading than part two (Rae).
Basically, part one assumes a more advanced philosophical background of the reader. This is not to say that a reasonably intelligent person with little background in philosophy cannot benefit, but it will take some work, re-reading certain paragraphs a few times, etc.
I think it would be a worthwhile assignment for Mr. Moreland to rewrite part one to get the hay down out of the loft, so us cows can get to it:-) Part one would also flow better into part two as a result.
It's interesting to note that Moreland, in a lecture I attended, did lay out the basic themes of the book in more user friendly language. I think his position is well articulated in the book, book it would be of greater benefit to many more if he would put out a version more like his lecture.
By the way, here is a VERY important piece of advice: The average reader will follow Moreland's reasoning MUCH better if you get a hold of his lectures on the same subject, or at least get a copy of a taped radio program in which he discussed the book (The web site for STAND TO REASON).
Just about anyone who is reasonably intelligent can follow part two of BODY AND SOUL more easily--FAR more easily. In part two, Rae does a good job of laying out conservative bioethics.
But the arguments that are the crucial background to Rae's bioethics are, again, found in part one which is, in many respects, the most important part of the book since so much in bioethics stands or falls on the substance dualism articulated therein.
A few crucially important premises put forth by Moreland in BODY AND SOUL:
The soul is the "driver" behind the DNA of a person. As I understand Moreland, this explains the apparent teleological purposing end for which the DNA strives. This "driver" soul makes more sense than a purposeless physicalism.
The brain/soul relation (the most fascinating aspect of the whole debate) is not problematic when properly understood. The effects of alzheimers/brain damage, etc., does not rule out the immaterial soul. The soul affects the body (Worry, thoughts, etc., which by definition are immaterial, affect physical health), just as much as the body affects the soul (brain damage affecting behavior, etc).
For instance, a car needs a properly functioning driver, as much as a driver needs a properly functioning car. Either can be damaged and affect the other.
A purely physicalist view of man cannot satisfactorily account for immaterial thoughts, feelings, etc., the way that substance dualism can. On this point Moreland provides a strong criticism of physicalist emergent properties.
Moreland believes that animals have souls, which is to say an immaterial reasoning self, but these souls are not necessarily immortal, and they are inferior to human souls. For instance, Animals think, but they don't think about thinking--philosophizing, as man does.
Moreland makes the important observation that Christians should not argue against animals having souls lest they inadvertantly (and wrongly) argue that a thinking animal need only be physical--the very physicalism that atheists often employ!
BODY AND SOUL is a crucial book because it will affect your views on many crucial questions. If you are someone who wants to advance in knowledge and challenge yourself in the logic of human nature and the implications which follow, BODY AND SOUL is a good start.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo! The existence of the soul defended! 3 Oct 2001
By Bruce H - Published on
This is one of the more difficult books that I have read recently. Sections of the book can be difficult and require focus; this is NOT beach reading.
The authors' intended audience:
"We have chosen to write the book at what we consider to be a fairly high academic level because we are convinced the view of a human person we affirm must be articulated and defended at that level for it to gain a hearing both within the Christian community and in the secular academic setting. Still, we hope a nonspecialist will be able to gain much from the pages that follow." (page 14)
There are one or two sections in the book that defend the existence of an immaterial soul from the Bible (against those Christian thinkers who deny it) however; this book is not primarily an explanation/analysis of Scripture. As the authors themselves state, 'In this work we have attempted to make a case for the view of a human person that is both consistent with biblical teaching and that makes philosophical sense.' (page 343)
To skeptics of the existence of the soul, to those who would argue that science has rendered the concept false, to those who argue that the concept of the immaterial soul is a foreign Greek concept that has nothing to do with the Bible, read this book. Moreland and Rae present a very strong case for the soul (their particular version of this: Thomistic substance dualism), they refute or significantly weaken most of the commonly offered critiques of their view and refute or critique the views that compete against theirs.
There are 521 footnotes spread over 345 pages of text; averaging roughly 50 footnotes per chapter. I really liked this aspect of the book; the authors would frequently refer to other relevant literature and refer the reader to investigate it if interested.
The book is divided into two sections:
Part 1: Metaphysical Reflections on Human Personhood (about 66% of the book)
Part 2: Ethical Reflections on Human Personhood
The Chapters:
1. Establishing a Framework for Approaching Human Personhood
2. Human Persons as Substances or Property-Things
3. Human Persons in Naturalistic & Complementarian Perspectives
4. Substance Dualism & the Human Person: Free Agency
5. Substance Dualism & the Human Person: Personal Identity
6. Substance Dualism & the Body: Heredity, DNA & the Soul
7. The Moral & Metaphysical Status of the Unborn: Abortion & Fetal Research
8. Reproductive Technologies in Substance-Dualist Perspective
9. Genetic Technologies & Human Cloning
10. Euthanasia, Physician-Assisted Suicide & the Care of Persons at the End of Life
Chapters 1-3 lay out all the necessary philosophical distinctions (this section is probably the most difficult to follow, but it is worth it. Many of the concepts used here come up again and again later in the book) to discuss personhood. The relevant philosophical options of personhood are laid out and explained
Chapters 4-5 constitute a defense of the substance dualism view; which basically says that in addition to physical bodies, human beings have a non-physical essence (i.e. soul). Chapter 4 argues that only substance dualism can make sense of the reality of human free will. Chapter 5 argues that the fact that you are the same person at ages 3, 10, 30, and 50 (this is the briefest way to attempt to explain their arguments) is only adequately explained by substance dualism. Taken together, the authors argue that only substance dualism can make sense of the moral and legal responsibility that we intuitively know we have.
Chapter 5 discusses the relationship of the soul to the body, specifically DNA. The authors persuasively argue that personhood is NOT reducible to DNA or the body; the authors discuss the Human Genome Project and other relevant scientific discoveries and experiments.
The Ethical Reflections section shows the implications of concluding that substance dualism is true. It is shown that many debates (especially abortion) surrounding life and death issues are, at their most basic level, based on one�s view of personhood.
My only disappointment was that the authors did not discuss how the view that the soul does not exist developed, who the originators of the idea were, the relevant philosophical ideas that led to this conclusion; basically some historical background would have been helpful.
All in all, this is a difficult book but it will improve and clarify your thinking not just in metaphysics but also in the raging moral debates of the 21st century.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly 30 Sep 2004
By Len Winters - Published on
Throughout Human History most people have believed that we are both physical and spiritual beings, that in fact the immaterial part of us can live on even when separated from our bodies by death. The rise of science, however, has called into question the existence of the soul. Concurrent with the demise of dualism has been the rise of advanced medical technologies that have brought to the fore difficult issues at both edges of life.

In this careful and thoughtful treatment J. P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae argue that the rise of these problems alongside the demise of Christian dualism is no coincidence. They therefore employ a theological realism to meet these pressing issues and to present a reasonable and biblically accurate depiction of human nature.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Introduction to Thomistic Dualism 13 Jun 2002
By Kevin K. Winters - Published on
I first came in contact with this work as I was preparing a response/critique to James P. Moreland's chapter in _The New Mormon Challenge_ (titled "The Absurdities of Mormon Materialism"). It was suggested to me by one of Moreland's friends and associates, Carl Mosser, as a good introduction to Thomistic dualism (as opposed to the better-known Cartesian dualism). I am now thankful for Carl's suggestion and this work.
The Thomistic view of the soul is, in my mind, more advanced and more cogent than the Cartesian view of the soul. It differentiates between spirit/soul and mind, presenting the latter as a faculty of the soul and not it's very essence. It provides a better explanation of the mind-body (or soul-body) problem by asserting that the soul is the teleological foundation of the formation of the body (i.e., the soul directs the growth and development of the body). Further, this view emphasizes the need for a working brain that can also affect the spirit/mind for cognitive occurrences (this point is argued more vigorously in works outside of _Body and Soul_ by other authors, though Moreland hints at it in this work).
The only disappointment for me was Moreland's insistence on critiquing the reductionistic class of materialism. For me, personally, the reductionists have too many theoretical problems to be a viable solution. I would have enjoyed a further critique of the emergent view of mind that is quickly becoming more prominent in scientific circles (Robert Nadeau, one of the reductionists that Moreland cites, has altered his conceptions towards this view; see _The Non-Local Universe: The New Physics and Matters of the Mind_). Further, I wish Moreland (or anyone for that matter) would recognize panexperientialism as given by David Ray Griffin as a viable alternative to the dualist and physicalist perspectives (see Griffin's _Archetypal Process_ and _Unsnarling the World-Knot_; this is unlikely, even now, since process thought stands under very different metaphysical paradigms, immediately placing itself at odds with much philosophical thought in the last millennia). If anyone has any references of people who have referenced and critiqued this view I would be very appreciative (I can't give money, but my thanks will be sincere).
In line with the above: even though I am not a reductionist I still found some of Moreland's critiques unconvincing (this could be because I was reading my emergent/panexperientialist views into the reductionists' words). This does not mean that they are ineffective, only that I do not believe they hold the logical force that Moreland believes they do. One of the weaknesses of Moreland's words (at least in my opinion) is his bolstering of his own view as nearly impenetrable (he does make admissions, but they are few and not very pronounced) and the view of the materialists as fraught with problems. Both sides have difficulties that they must deal with, some which (admitted by some on both sides) may be unsolvable. Ultimately we probably could say, "Choose your poison."
Overall, I believe this is a wonderful book. I believe that Thomistic dualism is a vast improvement from Cartesian dualism and should be the focus of non-Christian critiques of dualism (and treated with more respect than many, unfortunately, are willing to give to Cartesian dualism).
Kevin Winters
P.S. This review comes strictly from reading Moreland's section of the book. Honestly, I cannot say anything, one way or another, on Rae's section.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent defense of substance dualism! 19 Jan 2010
By Alfredo Watkins - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Original review: This book written by JP Moreland and Scott Rae presents an excellent overview of substance dualism. It is essentially the philosophy of St.Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle presented in this book. The authors present many sound and convincing arguments for Christian dualism, as opposed to the materialistic 'property-thing' view of today. What I liked in the beginning was the biblical exegesis which presents dualism as being the theory most in accordance with Christianity. One thing I must warn though, is that the first half of the book is a little tough to read through. It took me a couple of times of re-reading the chapter and a few days to get through the first part. The second part of the book applies the notion of substance dualism to contemporary ethical problems. This is much easier and I was able to get through these chapters relatively quickly. Overall this is an excellent account of Thomistic substance dualism and helps shed light on the issues today, and illuminates our understanding of ourselves in human nature.

EDIT 8/29/10: Since writing this review I have studied more and more on the issue. To start, I still think that Moreland does a good job. His arguments for libertarian agency and against materialism/naturalism are still good. However, after reading some genuine Aristotelian thought I've come to realize that his position is NOT similar to theirs. In fact, Moreland's philosophy is more in the line of thinking of Descartes and Plato. While he does assert a person is not just their soul, he gives little explanation of this idea. He simply says that they are "intimately related." Moreland also fails to explain in a rigorous manner how causal interaction between the soul and body works. His idea of the soul is inherently un-Aristotelian. For example, he states that lower animals such as plants or worms have "less soul". Aside from the gospel-music jokes I could make about this statement, it shows a lack of background in the metaphysics of Aristotle. This is more similar to the Platonic concept of "seminal ideas" or the recent "vitalism".

While I still would recommend this book, for those interested in real Thomistic philosophy of mind, I would recommend David Oderberg's essay, "Hylomorphic Dualism". If you type in his name on google you can find his website where it is hosted for free. Oderberg also has a book out called "Real Essentialism" which presents in modern fashion the entire metaphysical background necessary in order to properly understand the Thomistic/Aristotelian viewpoint. Hylomorphic dualism has some benefits which Substance dualism lacks, can compete with property dualism, and is true to the ancient and traditional Christian teaching on the soul.
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