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Research Graduate School of Philosophy PhD ceremonies

Resurrection and bodily identity

Critical responses to Locke's theory of personal identity
PhD ceremony:A. (Anita) van der Bos
When:May 15, 2023
Supervisor:A. (Andrea) Sangiacomo, Dr
Co-supervisor:dr. H.T. (Han Thomas) Adriaenssen
Where:Academy building RUG
Resurrection and bodily identity

In the early modern period there was a widespread belief in the resurrection. This belief is not only theologically interesting, but also philosophically. A common conception was that at the resurrection humans need to receive the same body they had during life. But what does “sameness of body” mean? It is very problematic to establish sameness of body both during life and after death. After all, the body changes all the time and after death there will be nothing left of it. The British philosopher John Locke made matters worse by stating that Scripture says nothing about the resurrection of the same body. He argued that what is resurrected is not the same body, but the same person. Locke’s position was provoking and resulted in a wave of critical responses. In this thesis I will research what Locke’s contemporaries took issue with and what puzzled them. It is not just that Locke’s new terms “person” and “personal identity” were confusing for his contemporaries, but Locke’s own thinking about these is muddled as well. Miscommunication between critics and defenders of Locke ran rampant. Although people were talking past one another, some of Locke’s contemporaries understood him better than others.