“Alvin Plantinga on YouTube: A Modal Argument for Dualism” is an excellent post on the classic discussion surrounding whether humans are merely material beings or material and immaterial. See especially the question asked of Alvin Plantinga, embedded below. For those who may not know, it is no overstatement to say Plantinga is one of the most influential Christian philosophers in the world today. He is retiring after a distinguished career at Notre Dame.

See also my post “Metaphysics and Me”.


  1. Paul,

    I like this a lot. I think it shows a couple of things. 1) A good argument against Christian materialism and, 2) How hard it is for a trained scientist to appreciate a modal argument. He seems genuinely intrigued at the end that Plantinga finds this argument persuasive.

  2. As I understand Plantinga, he is saying…

    1. If all that I am is a material object, then I would have to be my body.
    2. But it is possible that I exist even if my body does not (e.g., the essential “I” migrating to a beetle body).
    3. It follows, therefore, that if it’s possible that I exist when my body does not, then there is something true of me that is not true of my body, namely existence sans a body.
    4. Thus, if there is a one property true of me that is not true of my body, necessarily I am not my body.

    The strength of Plantinga’s argument seems to be epistemic based upon modal logic. If I can conceive, without contradiction, a property that I have which my body does not, then the sheer possibility of this conception pushes me toward certainty. Since it is not contradictory to conceive of my existence without a body, then it is not logically necessary to maintain I am merely a material object. I wonder if he’s deploying the ontological argument here.

    And so, Plato was correct “I am not my body?” Hum…Of course, if a strict dualism is tenuous (as Aristotle went on to contend), then Plantinga’s argument is significantly weakened.

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