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Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics


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While most people throughout history have believed that we are both physical and spiritual beings, the rise of science has called into question the existence of the soul. Many now argue that neurophysiology demonstrates the radical dependence, indeed, identity, between mind and brain. Advances in genetics and in mapping human DNA, some say, show there is no need for the hypothesis of body-soul dualism. Even many Christian intellectuals have come to view the soul as a false Greek concept that is outdated and unbiblical.

Concurrent with the demise of dualism has been the rise of advanced medical technologies that have brought to the fore difficult issues at both edges of life. Central to questions about abortion, fetal research, reproductive techologies, cloning and euthanasia is our understanding of the nature of human personhood, the reality of life after death and the value of ethical or religious knowledge as compared to scientific knowledge.

In this careful treatment, J. P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae argue that the rise of these problems alongside the demise of Christian dualism is no coincidence. They therefore employ a theological realism to meet these pressing issues, and to present a reasonable and biblical depiction of human nature as it impinges upon critical ethical concerns.

This vigorous philosophical and ethical defense of human nature as body and soul, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees, will be for all a touchstone for debate and discussion for years to come.

  • Develops a view of the soul’s relationship to the body
  • Presents three basic arguments for substance dualism
  • Applies metaphysical conclusions to the complex world of bioethics and biotechnology

Part 1: Metaphysical Reflections on Human Personhood

  • Establishing a Framework for Approaching Human Personhood
  • Human Persons as Substances or Property-Things
  • Human Persons in Naturalist Complementarian Perspectives
  • Substance Dualism the Human Person: Free Agency
  • Substance Dualism the Human Person: Personal Identity
  • Substance Dualism the Body: Heredity, DNA the Soul

Part 2: Ethical Reflections on Human Personhood

  • The Moral Metaphysical Status of the Unborn: Abortion Fetal Research
  • Reproductive Techologies in Substance-Dualist Perspective
  • Genetic Technologies Human Cloning
  • Euthanasia, Physician-Assisted Suicide Care of Persons at the End of Life
In an age when some educated Christians are selling out the soul for a mess of materialistic pottage, Moreland and Rae’s Body Soul is a significant restatement and cogent defense of the historic Christian teaching about human nature and responsibility. In contrast to typical antidualistic arguments, this book is grounded in the best exegesis of all the relevant biblical material and well-informed by the grand theological tradition before it proceeds to the metaphysics and sciences of human nature. Indeed, its properly ordered, multidisciplinary methodology is a crucial strength of the book. It first elaborates a detailed and philosophically sophisticated body-soul dualism that at the same time emphasizes the unity and functional holism of human existence. It then builds a formidable case that the traditional view of persons as substantial souls is necessary for a robust Christian understanding of moral responsibility and our obligation toward the unborn, the dying, reproductive technology and genetic engineering. Moreland and Rae defend dualism not so much to reassure us about what happens when we die as to guide us in how we should live. I welcome this timely and substantial volume.

—John W. Cooper, Professor of Philosophical Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary

In a parched philosophical landscape dominated by reductive materialism, Body & Soul by J.P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae is heaven-sent rain. This is the most powerful and persuasive case for substance dualism that I know. But it’s much more than that. In addition to its cogent metaphysical psychology, Body & Soul develops—in a unique and impressively rigorous way—the moral implications of the view that the human spirit is irreducibly real. No one interested in the philosophy of mind or in contemporary bioethics can afford to miss this trenchant and timely book.

—Ronald K. Tacelli SJ, Boston College

It is very good to see a version of dualism (constant with Christian tradition) not merely developed and defended but applied to most of the central issues of medical ethics which are pressing today—such as abortion, cloning, use of fetal tissue and physician-assisted suicide. The authors show convincingly how many of their views about medical ethics follow directly from their version of dualism.

—Richard Swinburne, professor of philosophy of religion, Oxford University

  • Title: Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics
  • Authors: J. P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae
  • Publisher: IVP
  • Publication Date: 2000
  • Pages: 384
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Topic: Philosophy

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

J. P. Moreland (PhD, University of Southern California) is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, California. He is the author, coauthor, or contributor to over ninety-five books, including Does God Exist?, Universals, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, Consciousness and the Existence of God, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, In Search of a Confident Faith, Love Your God With All Your Mind, The God Question, and Debating Christian Theism.

Scott B. Rae (PhD, University of Southern California) is professor of biblical studies and Christian ethics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, California. He is also the author of Embryo Research and Experimentation (Crossroads) and Brave New Families: Biblical Ethics and Reproductive Technologies (Baker).


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  1. Steve Thomas

    Steve Thomas


    I bought the hardcopy years ago, referred to it often, and used it for some papers in the BIOLA M.A. in Christian Apologetics. It is an excellent, readable, yet deep introduction to the philosophy of the soul, emphasizing a Thomistic point of view and going into the implications for ethics. Highly recommended!


Digital list price: $25.99
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