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Descartes' Mistake: How Afterlife Beliefs Challenge the Assumption that Humans are Intuitive Cartesian Substance Dualists

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This article presents arguments and evidence that run counter to the widespread assumption among scholars that humans are intuitive Cartesian substance dualists. With regard to afterlife beliefs, the hypothesis of Cartesian substance dualism as the intuitive folk position fails to have the explanatory power with which its proponents endow it. It is argued that the embedded corollary assumptions of the intuitive Cartesian substance dualist position (that the mind and body are different substances, that the mind and soul are intensionally identical, and that the mind is the sole source of identity) are not compatible with cultural representations such as mythologies, funerary rites, iconography and doctrine as well as empirical evidence concerning intuitive folk reasoning about the mind and body concerning the afterlife. Finally, the article suggests an alternative and more parsimonious explanation for understanding intuitive folk representations of the afterlife.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Cognition and Culture, Queen's University Belfast, 2 Fitzwilliam Street, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK

10.1163/156853708X358236
/content/journals/10.1163/156853708x358236
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/content/journals/10.1163/156853708x358236
2008-08-01
2016-12-02

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