Catholic Hylomorphism, Disembodied Consciousness, and Temporary Bodies

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 91:171-183 (2017)
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Abstract

This paper considers the possibility of a disembodied conscious soul, arguing that a great deal of current research converges in a direction that denies the possibility of a bodiless consciousness for human beings. Contemporary attacks on Cartesianism also serve as attacks on the view of some hylomorphist Catholics, such as Thomas Aquinas, that there can be a disembodied consciousness between death and resurrection, a view that violates the Catechism of the Catholic Church. However, there may be a way out for the Catholic hylomorphist which was suggested by Dante—the possibility of a temporary body. The first section of the paper will summarize the contemporary attack against both the Cartesian soul and physicalist systems that reduce the mind to the brain. The alternative position proposed is that the human being is a psychosomatic unity at the level of the organism as a whole, and that both mind-body and brain-body dualism should be avoided. Such a position, I will argue, supports the notion that a disembodied soul, including a disembodied consciousness, is not possible for human beings. Finally, I will discuss Dante’s views on temporary bodies and explore three ways of understanding a temporary body, any of which can preserve a conscious intermediate state between death and resurrection.

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