Personal Identity and the Afterlife
by Steve W. Lemke
for the Student Theological Fellowship
of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Parfit and Persons
Peter Forrest in his recent book God without the Supernatural: A Defense of Scientific Theism, as its title suggests, attempts to present a version of theism in which appeal to the supernatural is not necessary.
Close Forrest raises many interesting issues in his book, one of which is his view of the afterlife. While he does not specifically refer to Derek Parfit’s groundbreaking book Reasons and Persons in his section on the afterlife, it is obvious that Forrest is
Peter Forrest, God without the Supernatural: A Defense of Scientific Theism, CornellStudies in the Philosophy of Religion, ed. William Alston (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,1996), 127. Forrest is perhaps best known as the theistic apologist who convinced naturalistDavid Armstrong that naturalism was conceptually incoherent.
building his approach around Parfit’s innovative theories regarding personal identity.
Close Parfit offers such a myriad of distinctions, arguments, and examples that space does not allow complete description of them all. After surveying the implications of Parfit's central argument about personal identity to Forrest's scientific theism, this paper will evaluate the contributions of Parfit and Forrest.
Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984). Forrest refers toParfit in relation to ethics, but he does not specifically address how Parfit's views of personalidentity would impact his own theistic presentation of the afterlife. Parfit's larger purpose is toexpress personal identity in indeterminate terms so that he can employ it as an argument againstS, the self-interest theory, which claims that persons should always do what is in their own self-interest, often foregoing immediate gains because of future negative consequences (whetherbecause of hedonism, moral law, or virtue ethics). If Parfit can weaken the link of personalidentity between now and the future, the future consequences will be of less import.
Parfit raises four interrelated questions about the nature of persons and personal identity:
Parfit, 202. Excellent overviews of the issues surrounding personal identity include C.Blakemore and S. Greenfield, Mindwaves (New York: Bas