In my last post, I argued that Johnston’s argument seemed to depend upon the assumption that two bodies composed of precisely the same particles at Time 1 and Time 2 in earthly lives are distinct. But that assumption is not required; nor is it accepted by those who would advocate resurrection of the same body by reassembly. So the resurrection does not violate the Necessity of Distinctness. Now, does Johnston have a better version of the argument? Perhaps Johnston is thinking of a particular ‘body’ not as a mass of particular particles but as a Living Body – an entity which exists from the conception of an organism to its death. We will call this the Living Body Version of the argument.
A particular body is a living entity which survives gradual (even if total) changes in its parts. So, when I speak of Johnston’s body, I’m referring to a particular living entity which was first organised in Australia, grew larger over time, sat through many philosophy lectures and later moved to Princeton. Running Johnston’s argument with this in mind suggests the following: the body of Isaac is really distinct from Abraham because – though they are composed of the same particles in 1865 and 1665 respectively – they have had divergent histories. But, the Auxiliary Principle (upon which the resurrection supposedly depends) then entails that these two bodies can become numerically one. And, since that is impossible, the Auxiliary Principle must be rejected. However, is this version of the problem really insuperable? I do not think so. The Auxiliary Principle states:
Necessarily, if at some time t after the death of a body x a body y comes together out of simple elements in such a way as to reproduce x’s perimortem state then y is numerically the same body as x; that is, y is the very body x come back into existence.
It is very significant here that the reassembly of particles outlined in the Auxiliary Principle is presumed to be a sufficient condition for the identity of x to y. But, if we the defender of the resurrection wishes to affirm the Living Body Version of resurrection, then it seems to me that she need not claim reassembly is a sufficient condition for identity. Rather, reassembly can be construed as (it seems to me) merely a necessary condition for resurrection. (Or, perhaps it is a necessary condition that a significant but not necessarily total material continuity between x and y be realised.) However, the believer in the resurrection of the same body may claim that – should the body z be raised as a body which is composed of the same particles as x and y at their death – there may be some other condition which makes it the case that z is the same living body as only x or only y but not both. Now, the believer in resurrection may not know what that condition is. But I’m not at all clear that we can charge the believer in resurrection with violating the necessity of distinctness on that grounds.
I believe that the sense of ‘body’ in discussions of the resurrection elides between ‘mass of particles’ and body as a ‘living body’ which changes its parts across time. If someone affirms that the same body rises in the mass of particles sense, then she is not speaking incoherently for the reasons I put forth in the last post: the violation of the Necessity of Distinctness depends upon assuming that Abraham’s body and Isaac’s body are distinct in their perimortem instantiations. But the defender of the possibility of resurrection need not assume that – indeed, that’s what’s up for debate. [Here, it is true that, if we did have a case of totally overlapping matter, this would create a problem for the actual resurrection of Abraham and Isaac’s living bodies. However, what’s at stake is the metaphysical possibility of resurrection, which cannot be disproved by such a consideration. That is, such a case would not show resurrection impossible generally – it would only show resurrection impossible in the particular case of Abraham and Isaac.] Alternatively, if someone affirms that the same body rises in the ‘living body’ sense, then she is not necessarily speaking incoherently because she need not say reassembly is a sufficient condition for resurrection. Johnston may respond here that we are not clear on what the sufficient condition is for a reassembled body to be the same. Therefore, the defender of resurrection does not really know that the resurrection is possible. This I think is correct. However, I don’t see why this in itself should render belief in resurrection unreasonable or deeply problematic. For the question of the persistence conditions of the Living Body is a notoriously difficult one – even when resurrection is not involved.