Mind-Body Dualism vs Physicalism



9 Questions

What is the central claim of Cartesian dualism?

What is the argument from personal identity for dualism?

What is the argument from brain damage against dualism?

What is the zombie argument?

What is property dualism?

What is the argument from simplicity against dualism?

What is the argument from physics against dualism?

What is the argument from reason for dualism?

What is the interaction problem?


Mind-Body Dualism: A Philosophical Theory

  • Mind-body dualism is a philosophy of mind that posits the separation of mind and body as distinct entities.

  • The theory encompasses different views on the relationship between mind and matter, and is contrasted with other positions such as physicalism and enactivism.

  • Aristotle proposed a hierarchical arrangement of multiple souls, with the intellective part of the mind being immortal and perpetual.

  • Plato believed in metempsychosis, the migration of the soul to a new physical body.

  • René Descartes formulated the mind-body problem, identifying the mind as a nonphysical substance distinct from the brain.

  • Substance dualism, or Cartesian dualism, argues that there are two kinds of foundation: mental and physical, and that the mental can exist outside of the body.

  • Property dualism asserts that consciousness may be irreducible to neurobiology and physics, and that mental properties emerge when matter is organized in the appropriate way.

  • Epiphenomenalism is a form of property dualism that asserts that mental phenomena cause nothing further and are causal dead-ends.

  • Predicate dualism asserts that the predicates used to describe mental events cannot be reduced to physical predicates of natural languages.

  • Interactionism is the view that mental states causally interact with physical states.

  • Non-reductive physicalism asserts that all mental states may be causally reducible to physical states where mental properties map to physical properties and vice versa.

  • Occasionalism is a doctrine about causation that says that created substances cannot be efficient causes of events, and all events are caused directly by God itself.Summary Title: The History of Dualism in Philosophy

  • Aristotle believed that the mind can assume any form being contemplated or experienced, and it was unique in its ability to become a blank slate, having no essential form.

  • Neoplatonism and the philosophy of Aristotle via scholasticism had a considerable influence on Christianity.

  • In the scholastic tradition of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the soul is the substantial form of a human being.

  • René Descartes believed that the mind was a "thinking thing" and an immaterial substance, while the body was "the thing that exists" and a material substance.

  • The central claim of Cartesian dualism is that the immaterial mind and the material body, while being ontologically distinct substances, causally interact.

  • Naturalistic dualism proposes that an explanatory gap between objective and subjective experience cannot be bridged by reductionism.

  • Epiphenomenalism argues that mental states do not play a role in physical states.

  • The subjective argument holds that mental events have a certain subjective quality to them, whereas physical ones seem not to.

  • The zombie argument is based on a thought experiment proposed by David Chalmers over the issue of qualia or the hard problem of consciousness.

  • Howard Robinson argues that, if predicate dualism is correct, then there are "special sciences" that are irreducible to physics.

  • Psychology and cognitive science operate on the assumption that the mind has a physical basis.

  • There is ongoing debate as to whether dualism is a valid theory in philosophy.Arguments for and against Dualism

Arguments for dualism:

  • The argument from personal identity, which states that personal identity is not reducible to physical matter alone, and that there must be some non-physical aspect to personal identity.
  • The argument from reason, which states that if naturalism is true and all thoughts are the effect of physical causes, then there is no way of knowing anything except by a fluke.
  • Cartesian arguments, which include the modal argument and the indivisibility argument.

Arguments against dualism:

  • Arguments from causal interaction, which state that dualism cannot explain how the physical brain and the non-physical mind interact.
  • Arguments from physics, which state that any action of a non-physical mind on the brain would violate physical laws, such as the conservation of energy.
  • The argument from brain damage, which points out that every time the brain is injured, the mind is also injured, suggesting that the mind is not a separate substance from the brain.

Replies to objections:

  • Replies to the argument from causal interaction include the possibility that the mind may influence the distribution of energy without altering its quantity, or that the human body is not causally closed.

  • Replies to the argument from physics include the possibility that the interaction taking place in the human body may not be described by classical mechanics, or that the interaction may involve currently unknown scientific processes.

  • Replies to the argument from brain damage include property dualism and emergent dualism, which assert that the mind is a property or substance that emerges from the appropriate arrangement of physical matter.Arguments Against Dualism in Philosophy of Mind

  • Dualism is challenged by the idea that the mind and brain are intimately connected, and that damage to the brain can cause mental deterioration.

  • Neuroscientists have manipulated specific areas of the brain in controlled conditions and obtained the same results in measures of mental state and abilities.

  • The postulation of a non-physical mind would seem superfluous since nothing outside the domain of the physical is added later on in the course of development.

  • The decisions that a person makes can be detected up to 10 seconds in advance by means of scanning their brain activity, providing strong evidence that cognitive processes have a physical basis in the brain.

  • The argument from simplicity claims that it is unnecessary to believe in the existence of two ontologically distinct entities (mind and brain), when it seems possible to explain the same events and properties in terms of one.

  • Occam's razor cannot consistently be appealed to by a physicalist or materialist as a justification of mental states or events since it is not a physical entity.

  • If one applies Occam's Razor unrestrictedly, then it recommends monism until pluralism either receives more support or is disproved.

  • If one applies Occam's Razor only concretely, then it may not be used on abstract concepts.

  • Dualism is criticized for being unfalsifiable and unverifiable, which makes it a weak scientific theory.

  • The idea of substance dualism is challenged by the fact that there is no empirical evidence to support the existence of an immaterial substance that interacts with the physical world.

  • The interaction problem suggests that if the mind and brain are two distinct substances, then it is difficult to explain how they interact with each other.

  • Dualism is also criticized for being incompatible with modern science, which has shown that the universe is a unified, physical system.


Do you know the difference between mind-body dualism and physicalism? Test your knowledge of the philosophical theories surrounding the mind and body with this quiz. From Aristotle's hierarchical arrangement of souls to René Descartes' formulation of the mind-body problem, explore the various views on the relationship between mind and matter. Learn about substance dualism, property dualism, and epiphenomenalism, and discover arguments for and against dualism. Challenge yourself with this quiz and see how much you

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