OCR Guidelines

Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581

Life and Death; The Soul


Suggested teaching time: 15 hours

Topic outline:

  1. Introduction: Who am I?
  2. Distinctions between body and soul as expressed in the thinking of Plato
  3. The thinking of Aristotle
  4. The thinking of Richard Dawkins
  5. Other concepts of the body/soul distinction – critical discussion, their strengths and weaknesses
  6. Distinctions between body and soul in the thinking of John Hick
  7. Different views of life after death: resurrection, the concepts of heaven and hell
  8. Different views of life after death; reincarnation
  9. Questions surrounding the nature of disembodied existence
  10. The relationship between the afterlife and the problem of evil
  11. Consolidation/Exam practice

Suggested teaching and homework activities:

  1. Introduce topic via a series of puzzles. Where would I be if I had a brain transplant, soul transplant, etc? – Outline possible positions on personal identity: We are our bodies, our brains, a soul, our memories, etc.
  2. Explain Plato’s dualistic view of human beings. Link in with Plato’s other ideas from AS. – Students to list contrasts between body and soul. Working in pairs, they are to write a dialogue between someone who agrees with Plato’s ideas and someone who is sceptical. This should include strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Issue resources on Aristotle; students to compare and contrast with Plato following structured outline. – Key questions include what he means by “soul”, whether the soul is separate, and what happens after death.
  4. Introduce Dawkins’ view that the soul is a mythological concept to explain consciousness. – Research activity: web-based research project to explore thinking of Richard Dawkins.
  5. Working in small groups, students to research and present a different concept of the body and soul distinction such as Descartes’ dualism, behaviourism, identity theories and functionalism. – Students work with carded arguments for and against belief in a soul. Write argument in your own words and suggest a possible response.
  6. Introduce John Hick’s replica theory, which seeks to establish that life after death is possible even if we do not have souls. Students to comment on whether it is logically possible and whether it would be the same person. – Students in pairs to examine extracts of John Hick’s writing. Does he believe in souls? What elements of Plato and Dawkins would he agree with?
  7. Brainstorm knowledge of religious view of the afterlife. In terms of Christianity, what does the Bible actually say? What do different churches teach? How much have artists and writers influenced our consciousness? – Research project to address the above issues. Structured guidance issued. – Students to feed back to class.
  8. Stimulus: present a case study of someone who remembers a past life. Is this really possible? – Present the idea of reincarnation as understood in Hinduism. To what extent does this resemble the ideas of Plato? – Assess strengths and weaknesses. Is this a more coherent view of life after death? What problems might there be?
  9. Students to generate arguments for and against life after death using resources available. – Research some of these issues, particularly near-death experiences. – Prepare a speech for the class debate on life after death. – Hold debate; students to write up key ideas.
  10. Briefly revise the theodicies. How do they use life after death to compensate for the evils of this world? – Discuss whether there has to be life after death in order to compensate for the evils in this world. Does resurrection or reincarnation provide a better response to evil?
  11. Students in groups to compile mind maps or flow diagrams to answer a past question. – Students then share these answers with others.

Suggested resources:

  1. Philosophy Gym (Stephen Law) has several chapters on personal identity, as does the chapter “Where am I?” in the same author’s Philosophy Files.
  2. Foundations for the Study of Religion (Libby Ahluwalia) – Beginner’s Guide to Ideas (Raeper & Smith)
  3. Foundations for the Study of Religion (Libby Ahluwalia) – Beginner’s Guide to Ideas (Raeper & Smith)
  4. Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene – www.colfox.dorset.sch.uk/alevelre/richard_dawkins1
  5. Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole) – Reason and Religious Belief (Peterson et al)
  6. Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole) – Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate) – Death and Eternal Life (John Hick)
  7. OHT slides or PowerPoint images of paintings that depict heaven and hell – www.biblegateway.com – Philosophy of Religion (John Hick) – The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy & Julie Arliss)
  8. Philosophy of Religion (John Hick) contains a useful chapter on this topic – Websites on past lives – The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss)
  9. Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole) – Reason and Religious Belief (Peterson et al) – www.iands.org – The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss) has some excellent case studies on NDEs.
  10. Student AS notes.

Points to note:

  1. Aristotle is a popular thinker. Property dualists, materialists and functionalists all claim a link to his thinking.
  2. Behaviourism, identity theories and functionalism are all types of materialism. Identity theory teaches that the mind is just the brain. Behaviourism and functionalism argue that the mind is what the brain does. (Philosophy, the Basics by Warburton may be helpful for teachers new to this area of philosophy.)
  3. Hick’s view is complex. A key part of our identity is the physical as evidenced by brain science, etc. However Hick finds paranormal phenomena interesting and suggests that we may be more than physical. The replica theory seeks to show that even if we are entirely physical, life after death is not impossible.
  4. There is no requirement to study Christianity. Other theistic faiths may be studied. If students wish to research their own faith position, this may provide interesting material.
  5. Check out past lives websites in advance, as material changes rapidly and there is some odd and unhelpful material on this topic.








Past Questions

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