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Life After Death: Nevitt’s Survivalism vs. Oderberg’s Survivalism

Introduction

Different religions have unique views on what happens to people after physical death. The nature of immortality of the human soul is an intriguing topic in the philosophy of religion, and numerous scholars have addressed this question, including Saint Thomas Aquinas. As a renowned philosopher and Catholic priest, Saint Thomas contemplated the concept of life after death and immortality in many of his writings. Moreover, his views on the topic are highly contested among modern theorists. This paper will examine the articles of two such thinkers, specifically, Turner C. Nevitt’s Survivalism, Corruptionism, and Intermittent Existence in Aquinas and David S. Oderberg’s Survivalism, Corruptionism, and Mereology. The paper aims to compare and contrast the two works and the authors’ philosophical approaches to the topic.

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Summary of Nevitt’s Survivalism, Corruptionism, and Intermittent Existence in Aquinas

Nevitt’s examines the views of corruptionists and survivalists on Aquinas and his beliefs on the status of human beings after death and before the resurrection. The purpose of the paper is to argue in support of corruptionism and prove that Saint Thomas Aquinas believed in the possibility of intermittent existence through the analysis of his numerous texts (Nevitt 2). The author addresses the issue by first providing a detailed background for the debate between corruptionists and survivalists, outlining the beliefs of each group and their view on Aquinas. Thus, he notes that corruptionists have faith in his words, “I am not my soul,” arguing that a soul is only a part of one’s being (Nevitt 2-3). Meanwhile, survivalists assume that if Aquinas believed that a human soul continues to exist after death, so does the human being as a whole (Nevitt 1). The author assesses the texts of Saint Thomas to which both groups refer to in their debate to establish whether the philosopher supports the concept of intermittent existence is valid. Overall, Nevitt concludes that none of Aquinas’s works explicitly address the fallacy of intermittent existence, thus, endorsing its possibility.

Summary of Oderberg’s Survivalism, Corruptionism, and Mereology

Oderberg examines the discussion between corruptionists and survivalists and their views on Aquinas, arguing in defence of the latter. He refers to the philosophical principle of mereology, the study of how parts of a whole relate to each other and the whole (Oderberg 3). Specifically, the author investigates the weak supplementation principle that argues that no object can have a part that is not complemented by another part (Oderberg 3). Thus, the principle claims that a whole cannot consist of a single element. Throughout his article, Oderberg discusses mereology and explores how Saint Thomas viewed it in his works and how corruptionists and survivalists see it. Moreover, the author argues that Aquinas does not unequivocally show support for mereology and the weak supplementation principle and contends the tenet itself should be rejected as false. Oderberg concludes that although mereology and weak supplementation can be viewed as supporting arguments for corruptionism, Aquinas is unlikely to have subscribed to them. Furthermore, as mereology is dismissed on independent grounds as implausible in the given context, survivalism becomes a more compelling point of view.

Comparison of Nevitt and Oderberg

While the articles by Nevitt and Oderberg examine the same subject matter, their approach to the topic, assumptions, and substantive proposals are somewhat different. Both authors implement distinct methodology when discussing life after physical death and the existence of the human being before the resurrection. Thus, Nevitt relies primarily on the review of the texts of Saint Thomas, distinguishing between the works and excerpts referred to by corruptionists and survivalists. Nevitt analytically analyses Aquinas’s works, using them as evidence in his research, and comes to a conclusion by disputing the claims and interpretations of texts cited by survivalists. His main argument comes from Aquinas’s Quaestiones de Quolibet (QQ) IV, where the philosopher argues that God can restore a being that has been reduced to nothing since it is in His power (Nevitt 4). In the resurrection, the human being is restored as a whole, with their immortal soul reunited with the body that ceased to exist after death. Thus, Nevitt verifies that Saint Thomas endorsed the idea of the possibility of intermittent existence.

In contrast, Oderberg addresses the issue through the prism of mereology and searches for evidence that Saint Thomas subscribed to it in his texts. He also discusses how corruptionists and survivalists see mereology and disputes that the weak supplementation principle should not be dependent on as it is defective. Unlike Nevitt, Oderberg relies less on textual evidence from Aquinas and spends more time investigating the weak supplementation principle. He notes that corruptionists must support the principle as they believe the human being is composed of the person and the soul, two parts reunited in the resurrection (Oderberg 10). Meanwhile, survivalists believe the soul is the person, arguing that the human being is one proper part, a supposition that contradicts the tenet (Oderberg 10). To prove that one group is correct and the other is not, Oderberg chose to address the philosophical principle itself and confirm that it is imperfect, supporting the survivalists. Thus, Oderberg relies on the works of philosophers contemplating mereology, whereas Nevitt relies primarily on the texts of Saint Thomas.

When comparing the articles, it should also be observed that Nevitt defends the concept of corruptionism against a specific claim, while Oderberg argues for survivalism. However, both authors note that the other perspective on life after physical death has merits and should not be discounted. Furthermore, Nevitt explicitly states that he does not aim to prove one theory over the other but appreciate that Aquinas does not deny intermittent existence, the reasoning often used by survivalists (Nevitt 2). Thus, Nevitt contends for more explicit evidence to be used in the debate between corruptionists and survivalists rather than a specific group. Likewise, Oderberg disputes the arguments used against survivalism, stating that they “do not themselves stand up to detailed scrutiny” (24). Although the author declares that he believes Aquinas was a survivalist, his primary objective was to disprove the exploitation of weak supplementation (Oderberg 23). Overall, both authors defend different points of view by disputing a specific argument.

Conclusion

In summary, Nevitt’s Survivalism, Corruptionism, and Intermittent Existence in Aquinas and Oderberg’s Survivalism, Corruptionism, and Mereology are two of the papers examining the discourse between corruptionists and survivalists. Both texts address Saint Thomas Aquinas, and his works as the Italian philosopher is central to the discussion. Nevitt and Oderberg argue against specific reasoning, with the former stating that the concept of intermittent existence is endorsed by Aquinas and the latter disputing the use of weak supplementation and mereology in the debate.

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Works Cited

Nevitt, Turner C. “Survivalism, Corruptionism, and Intermittent Existence in Aquinas.” History of Philosophy Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1-19.

Oderberg, David S. “Survivalism, Corruptionism, and Mereology.” European Journal for Philosophy of Religion, vol. 4, no. 4, 2012, pp. 1-26.

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StudyCorgi. "Life After Death: Nevitt’s Survivalism vs. Oderberg’s Survivalism." November 5, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/life-after-death-nevitts-survivalism-vs-oderbergs-survivalism/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Life After Death: Nevitt’s Survivalism vs. Oderberg’s Survivalism." November 5, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/life-after-death-nevitts-survivalism-vs-oderbergs-survivalism/.

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