Embodied Cognition and the Soul: Lessons from Cognitive Science and Christian Eschatology

Christian eschatology relies on certain claims about the afterlife which, according to many, require a dualist view of the soul. For example, if the soul does not live on after the death of the body, how is it possible to receive eternal reward or punishment? Even if, as Christian doctrine claims, there is a resurrection of the body, this does not explain continuity of identity between death and bodily resurrection. Given that the mind and soul are often used synonymously, it has equally been claimed that a non-dualist philosophy of mind threatens Christian doctrines of eternal salvation and redemption. However, Embodied Cognition is one such non-dualist paradigm in philosophy of mind which is gaining increasing support in the cognitive sciences. Embodied Cognition states that the mind is not a separate substance, but rather an emergent property of the body in its interaction with the environment. This talk begins with an exposition of the field of Embodied Cognition and its significance for Christian theology and eschatology in particular. It concludes by proposing that, although Embodied Cognition offers a challenge to substance dualist accounts of the mind, it is supportive of more traditional accounts of the soul, such as those of hylomorphism as it was appropriated from Aristotle through Thomas Aquinas.