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Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? (Current Issues in Theology)

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ISBN-13: 978-0521676762
ISBN-10: 0521676762
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Frequently Bought Together

Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? (Current Issues in Theology) + Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible (Studies in Theological Interpretation) + Minds, Brains, Souls and Gods: A Conversation on Faith, Psychology and Neuroscience
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Editorial Reviews


"When this book turns from dealing with our inward, metaphysical relationship to God and addresses instead God's dealings with us, Murphy offers fsome useful reminders. She suggests that physicalists anthroplogy 'requires Christians to pay adequate attention to incarnation--if humans are purely physical, then there is no getting around the scandal of enfleshment' (25)...These statements ring true for believers who understand teh importance of our Lord's incarnation, our own resurrection to life on the Last Day, and the very tangible means of grace that sustain us between those two great physical events." - Carol Geisler

"Elegantly written volume, her book provides an eloquent and valuable stimulus to further theological research on this topic"
Matthew Levering, Ph.D., The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Book Description

Are humans composed of a body and a nonmaterial mind or soul, or are we purely physical beings? In this clear and concise book, Nancey Murphy argues for a physicalist account, but one that does not diminish traditional views of humans as rational, moral, and capable of relating to God.

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Product Details

  • Series: Current Issues in Theology (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 166 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (February 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521676762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521676762
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By wolvie05 VINE VOICE on June 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
What conception should Christians hold about human nature? It is safe to say that most Christians think of the human person in terms of a body 'animated' by a soul which detaches from the body at death. There are a variety of theological and scriptural reasons for thinking this, but then again it is not the only option consistent with Christian belief. In her book Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? Nancey Murphy makes a compelling case for a nonreductive physicalist account of human nature, which in her words is the thesis that "first, that we are our bodies-there is no additional metaphysical element such as a mind or soul or spirit. But, second, this 'physicalist' position need not deny that we are intelligent, moral, and spiritual" (p. ix). There are a variety of reasons for adopting this position, including the fact that there is no specific Biblical stance on the subject anyway, recent advances in cognitive neuroscience and the importance in Christian spirituality of recognizing our embodied, social and relational aspects. With regard to this last reason, theologian John Garvey pointed out recently that:

"We find it hard, especially in a culture that stresses individualism, to accept the idea that the self exists only in relationship. In fact, who we are is formed by the family we are born into, the language we learn, the culture we are immersed in. Finally, we are, we exist, because we are loved by God, who wills us to be. Even within the Trinity, the persons exist separately only in relation to one another. The moment we think that our being is in any way independent of relationship, we fall into the trap Genesis warned us about: We want to be like Gods.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Mullins on September 17, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book Murphy provides an excellent concise statement of the Christian Physicalist position. In fact I would say it is one of the clearest statements on the subject that I have read. Her arguments are strong and clear for the most part. There are only a few down sides that I can find with this book.

1) I found her Biblical arguments to be very thin. Part of that is due to the length of this book. It would be hard to give an exhaustive survey of Biblical anthropology in such a limited space.

2) Her account of Nonreductive Physicalism ultimately fails. She notes in the introduction that she herself is not satisfied with her arguments for this position.

3) If you have read her other works then you will not find many new things here. There is a lot of repeat material taken from some of her other writings which she also admits in several footnotes.

I am not convinced that dualism is false after reading this book, but I will admit that I became convinced of the defensibility of the Christian Physicalist position. Murphy's clarity and fairness in her arguments make this book worth reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Edgar Foster on December 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
I used Murphy's Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies for two classes this past semester. I then had my classes to compose reviews that outlined their basic impressions of this book. Certain remarks were common in these reviews. I will list some of these comments in this review of the book. First, let me say that I was surprised at how many students recommended this book for future courses. Nancey Murphy explicitly advocates and offers arguments for a thoroughgoing form of non-reductive physicalism. She does not denigrate opposing positions, but her view of the body and soul is not the popular or traditional religious view of the body or soul. Murphy ultimately contends that we ARE spirited bodies (i.e. we do not have souls, but we are purely physical). Now I thought that my students (attending a Lutheran university) would immediately say that this book should not be used in future courses at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Boy, was I mistaken!

Along with their enthusiastic recommendations for using Murphy's book, whether they hated or loved it or felt lukewarm about it, some oft-heard criticisms regarding the text were as follows:

Murphy's work is too detailed for those who are just beginning to undertake a study of philosophy or theology. Moreover, it is too redundant, inconsistent, and unclear at points. The least favorite part of the book (for the professor and students) was the information-engineering diagrams that Murphy included on pages 86, 89, and 101. These diagrams were supposed to shed light on non-reductive physicalism. Unfortunately, they left most students scratching their heads and wonder what was the point of the diagrams. Even I had to read those pages three times to understand what each thing stood for in the diagrams.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By SJ Cowan on July 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In "Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?" Nancey Murphy investigates the question of whether humans are purely physical beings, or whether a metaphysical component is essential to our humanness (146). Using theology, neuroscience, and philosophy, she argues that moral and religious experiences are made possible by the complexity of cultural and neurological systems (6). Her thesis unfolds in three claims: first, neither the Bible nor tradition provides a normative account of human nature (23); second, we are our bodies--not hybrids of matter and something else (ix, 69); third, non-reductive physicalism does not deny our capacity for intelligence, morality, and spirituality (121). Murphy, writing in a conversational tone, concludes that Christians have much to gain by recognizing their kinship with the physical world: embodied selfhood is not an obstacle to a relationship with God, but is what enables one (6, 55, 147). Murphy gives theologians an entrance into a discussion between neuroscientists and philosophers of mind (most of whom are physicalists) concerning morality, free will, and religious awareness.

The book has only four chapters. In Chapter One, Murphy begins by tracing the history of theological positions that have influenced Christian views of anthropology, and demonstrates that dualism is not theologically necessary. In Chapter Two, Murphy highlights three instances where Western science contradicts dualism: modern physics, the Darwinian revolution, and contemporary neuroscience. Having built a theological and scientific case against dualism, Murphy develops her own position: non-reductive physicalism. The argument of Chapter Three is two-pronged--it first involves arguing against causal reductionism, and second building a case for a complex organism's self-direction.
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