The Dualist Project and the Remote-Control Objection

Keywords: Swinburne, personal identity, immortality


Substance dualism says that all thinking beings are immaterial. This sits awkwardly with the fact that thinking requires an intact brain. Many dualists say that bodily activity is causally necessary for thinking. But if a material thing can cause thinking, why can’t it think? No argument for dualism, however convincing, answers this question, leaving dualists with more to explain than their opponents.

Author Biography

Eric T. Olson

Eric T. Olson, Professor of Philosophy, UK


Descartes, René. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Vol. 2. Edited and translated by John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch. Cambridge: CUP, 1985.

Hasker, William. “Souls Beastly and Human.” In The Soul Hypothesis, edited by Mark C. Baker and Stewart Goetz. New York: Continuum, 2011.

Olson, Eric T. “A Compound of Two Substances.” In Soul, Body, and Survival, edited by Kevin Corcoran. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

Olson, Eric T. “Swinburne’s brain transplants.” Philosophia Christi 20 (2018): 21–29.

Swinburne, Richard. “Personal Identity: The Dualist Theory.” In Personal Identity, edited by Sydney Shoemaker and Richard Swinburne. Oxford: Blackwell, 1984.

Swinburne, Richard. The Evolution of the Soul. Revised edition. Oxford: OUP, 1997.

Swinburne, Richard. “The Argument to the Soul from Partial Brain Transplants.” Philosophia Christi 20 (2018): 13–19.

Swinburne, Richard. Are We Bodies or Souls? Oxford: OUP, 2019.

Van Inwagen, Peter. Metaphysics. 4th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2014.