Embodiment theories

More recently, GSR scholars have begun to question the explanatory power of the theory of folk-dualism. Some theorists propose a more nuanced account, and others outright reject the claim that people are intuitively represented as disembodied in the afterlife. We review these theories below.

Embodiment in the afterlife in some contexts

Religious studies scholar Istvan Czachesz argues that people are mind-body dualists by default. Yet in some theological representations of the afterlife, at least, the person is depicted as physically embodied and occupying the same body, especially when it emphasizes core tenets. For instance, in depictions of the afterlife, such as the Apocalypse of Peter, the same physical body is described in the resurrection as in life because it meshed with the idea that bodies contribute towards sin and are tormented in hell. In other words, the concept of punishment was more easily imagined as happening to the same person. Thus, people were able to accept that the body continued.18 Of course, CSR makes the distinction between theological versions of the afterlife, and commonly held folk-representations of the afterlife, and seeks to explain mainly the latter. Yet, in some circumstances, such as thinking about our deceased loved one doing something in the afterlife or the possibility of punishment, we are more likely to evoke the idea of a physical body.

In my own research, I attempted to nuance the discussion concerning the role of the body in the afterlife. I found that even though people espoused a view of reincarnation where the deceased person was reborn into a new body when deciding who had been reborn as whom, they regarded distinctive physical similarities between a living and dead person as evidence that they were the same person. I proposed that even though people hold an explicit concept of reincarnation as entailing a new physical body when stakes on correct identification are high, people implicitly revert to habitual and reliable strategies they use every day to identify others. Namely, by their physical continuity, and especially, by distinctive physical features.19 Thus, intuitive conceptions about the afterlife may be more easily overridden by other considerations and be more context-dependent than researchers have acknowledged.

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