Theologian: William Hasker (Contemporary)
General summary of his theology: Hasker is an open theist and has focused his research in two major areas: omniscience and the mind-body problem. In this post I’m only going to focus on the latter. Whatever theory we adopt about mind and body, and their interaction, there is still mystery (whether it be physical, immaterial, or a combination of the sort). The issue of one of transcendence: how can an embodied being such as humans, transcend their physicality and have mind-like awareness of oneself (when the body is not a mind)? Hasker says it is not enough to choose theory M (say, materialism) over D (say, dualism) simply by showing that dualism has seemingly insurmountable problems. One should take the speck out of one’s eye first: one must examine objections to M, too, for these may be even more severe than those against D. A healthy reminder that having reasons against ~p is not the same as having reasons in favor of p. [Epistemic principle here: just because P and Q are logically not co-possible; and you have (non-decisive) evidence against P; it doesn’t follow that you have (decisive, or even non-decisive, perhaps) evidence for Q (cf. Islam and Buddhism, say)].
He makes a distinction between the two properties. Physical properties: a property or attribute which can characterize an ordinary physical object, whether or not that object is thought of as being alive or as being possessed of mind, awareness or consciousness. Mental properties: a property or attribute which can only characterize an entity which is possessed of some kind of consciousness or awareness So, the mind-body problem: how are we best, or at all, able to explain the fact [which seems undeniably true] that human beings have both physical and mental properties? Hasker adopts a model called emergentism. Emergentism suggests that the mind results from the aggregate brain activity. The mind is produced by the human brain and is not a separate element added to the brain from outside, which agrees with materialism. The mind is distinct from the brain and its activities are not completely explainable in terms of brain function, which agrees with dualism.
A critique of Hasker’s position: Hasker’s position is a very interesting one. Whenever I lecture on the mind-body problem I have difficulty critiquing it. I’m a bit of a Cartesian dualist. I believe that we are primarily an immaterial mind and we occupy a body. This is certainly more idealistic than physicalism. To give a comparison, my position is halfway to one pole on the spectrum while Hasker is halfway on the other side of the spectrum. I find this view quite attractive to be honest. My main point of attraction is the scientific aspect persuading my philosophy–a sort of quantum consciousness. My primary objection is theological. I am a Cartesian because of how I understand the future resurrection. I wouldn’t necessarily discourage this view and I believe it’s certainly a viable option.