Give an account of the teachings of materialism and dualism with regard to life after death.

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Give an account of the teachings of materialism and dualism with regard to life after death. [35]

There are countless philosophical and religious theories regarding life after death, the foremost of which are materialism and dualism. Materialism is the belief that body and soul are inseparable and is commonly held by atheists, whereas dualism is the belief that the soul and body are separate entities and is common in religious thought. In examining these different views, a good place to start is materialism.

Materialism rejects the possibility of life after death, and denies the existence of a soul. There is not separate identification of mind and body; everything is purely physical, even our behaviour and thoughts. This view finds its roots in Darwinian theory and is highlighted today most strongly by Richard Dawkins in his books, such as Climbing Mount Improbable. He holds to biological materialism. This view holds that all life, including humans, find their sum total in their DNA. Thus death is the end because it is the end of the body.

Another key scholar in this field is Gilbert Ryle, who understands mental phenomena as simply ways of describing certain aspects of physical behaviour. In his book The Concept of the Mind, he argued that the idea of the soul, which he described as "The ghost in the machine" was “a category mistake". He argued that dualism causes people to view the soul as something identifiably separate within a person, which he said was an incorrect use of language. He used the analogy of someone watching a cricket game and asking where the team spirit was; it simply doesn’t make sense.
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Furthermore, a distinction should be made between hard and soft materialism. Soft materialists believe that people are not divided as in dualism, but they do not believe that a person is simply a sum total of genes. Unlike the hard materialism of Dawkins and Ryle, soft materialists believe in life after death. An example of a soft materialist is Hick. Hick’s form of materialism has been referred to as the ‘replica theory.’ For Hick a person is a psycho physical unity, meaning that they are more than just mental processes. He believes that after death you live on ...

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