Dualism: the theory that mind and body are separate realities (quotes)

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Dualism is the theory that mind and body are separate

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Dualist is the theory that mind and body exist as separate realities

  • According to substance dualism, both soul and body supposedly exist objectively, outside mind. Bernard Kastrup
  • Dualism: The idea that mind (including consciousness) and brain belong to two separate realms of reality.  Amit Goswami
  • Centuries ago, Descartes portrayed mind and body as separate realities. That dualistic schism still pervades our view of ourselves.  Amit Goswami
  • I can doubt everything, even my body, but I cannot doubt that I think. I cannot doubt the existence of my thinking mind, but I can doubt the body. Obviously, mind and body must be different things. Descartes
  • For something to be non-physical, it must literally be outside the realm of physics; that is, not in space at all and undetectable in principle by the instruments of physics.  Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Typically humans are characterized as having both a mind (nonphysical) and body/brain (physical). This is known as dualism.  Dualism is the view that the mind and body both exist as separate entities.  Saul McLeod
  • Dualists in the philosophy of mind emphasize the radical difference between mind and matter. They all deny that the mind is the same as the brain, and some deny that the mind is wholly a product of the brain. Scott Calef
  • This mechanistic dualism is often called Cartesian dualism, after Descartes (Des Cartes). It saw the human mind as essentially immaterial and disembodied, and bodies as machines made of unconscious matter.  Rupert Sheldrake
  • This is mind/body dualism, perhaps the most important of all great dualisms. If the mind (or soul) is a substance different from matter, it could have its own laws different from the laws of nature for material bodies. Bob Doyle
  • The most famous philosophical work of René Descartes is the Meditations on First Philosophy (1641). In the Sixth Meditation, Descartes calls the mind a thing that thinks and not an extended thing. He defines the body as an extended thing and not a thing that thinks. Scott Calef
  • Cartesian dualism holds that the mind is a nonphysical substance, the seat of consciousness and intelligence, and is not identical with physical states of the brain or body. It is suggested that although the two worlds do interact, each retains some measure of autonomy. Bob Doyle
  • In his Meditationes de Prima Philosophia (1641),  argued that there was a total and absolute distinction between mental and material substance. The defining characteristic of matter was to occupy space; the defining characteristic of mind was to be conscious or, in a broad sense of the term, to think.  Encyclopaedia Britannica
  • Dualism describes mind and matter as two distinct categories of being. There are mental states, such as conscious thoughts, and there are physical objects, such as brains. They are different and they coexist in the universe. Warner J. Wallace
  • Substance dualism, or Cartesian dualism, most famously defended by René Descartes, argues that there are two kinds of foundation: mental and physical. This philosophy states that the mental can exist outside of the body, and the body cannot think. Substance dualism is important historically for having given rise to much thought regarding the famous mind–body problem. Howard Robinson
  • The traditional alternative to materialism is dualism, the doctrine that minds and brains are radically different: minds are immaterial and brains are material; minds are outside time and space, matter is inside time and space. Dualism makes better sense of our experience but makes no sense in terms of mechanistic science, which is why materialists reject it so vehemently. Rupert Sheldrake
  • In the philosophy of mind, mind–body dualism denotes either the view that mental phenomena are non-physical, or that the mind and body are distinct and separable. Thus, it encompasses a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, as well as between subject and object, and is contrasted with other positions, such as physicalism and enactivism, in the mind–body problem.  Tim Crane
  • Fundamental property dualism holds that conscious properties are basic properties of the universe similar to physical properties like electromagnetic charge, mass and space-time. According to Chalmers, these properties can interact with other properties such as physical properties, but like fundamental physical properties, conscious properties are their own distinct fundamental entities. Wikipedia (Consciousness)
  • Realism grew out of our everyday perceptions. In our everyday experiences of the world, evidence abounds that things are material and separate from each other and from us. Of course, mental experiences do not fit neatly into such a formulation. Mental experiences, such as thought, do not seem to be material, so we have developed a dualistic philosophy that relegates mind and body to separate domains.  Amit Goswami
  • The mind and body problem concerns the extent to which the mind and the body are separate or the same thing. The mind is about mental processes, thought and consciousness. The body is about the physical aspects of the brain-neurons and how the brain is structured. Is the mind part of the body, or the body part of the mind? If they are distinct, then how do they interact? And which of the two is in charge?  Saul McLeod
  • Dualism supposes that there two ontologically distinct entities, mind and body. The distinction may arise from body and mind being composed of distinct substances (substance dualism) or from the same substance but with distinct functions (function dualism). The dualistic concept can be traced back to Zoroastrianism at around 1000 BC, and is involved heavily in parts of Buddhist philosophy as well as in modern religious beliefs. John G. Taylor
  • There is a great difference between a mind and a body, because the body, by its very nature, is something divisible, whereas the mind is plainly indivisible. . . insofar as I am only a thing that thinks, I cannot distinguish any parts in me. . . . Although the whole mind seems to be united to the whole body, nevertheless, were a foot or an arm or any other bodily part amputated, I know that nothing would be taken away from the mind. . . Rene Descartes
  • Mind-body dualism, in its original and most radical formulation, the philosophical view that mind and body (or matter) are fundamentally distinct kinds of substances or natures. That version, now often called substance dualism, implies that mind and body not only differ in meaning but refer to different kinds of entities. Thus, a mind-body (substance) dualist would oppose any theory that identifies mind with the brain, conceived as a physical mechanism. Brian Duignan
  • In the philosophy of mind, dualism is the theory that the mental and the physical – or mind and body or mind and brain – are, in some sense, radically different kinds of thing. Because common sense tells us that there are physical bodies, and because there is intellectual pressure towards producing a unified view of the world, one could say that materialist monism is the ‘default option’. Discussion about dualism, therefore, tends to start from the assumption of the reality of the physical world, and then to consider arguments for why the mind cannot be treated as simply part of that world. Robinson
  • Substance dualists typically argue that the mind and the body are composed of different substances and that the mind is a thinking thing that lacks the usual attributes of physical objects: size, shape, location, solidity, motion, adherence to the laws of physics, and so on. Substance dualists fall into several camps depending upon how they think mind and body are related. Interactionists believe that minds and bodies causally affect one another. Occasionalists and parallelists, generally motivated by a concern to preserve the integrity of physical science, deny this, ultimately attributing all apparent interaction to God. Epiphenomenalists offer a compromise theory, asserting that bodily events can have mental events as effects while denying that the reverse is true, avoiding any threat to the scientific law of conservation of energy at the expense of the common sense notion that we act for reasons. Scott Calef
  • The modern problem of the relationship of mind to body stems from the thought of the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, who gave dualism its classical formulation. Beginning from his famous dictum cogito, ergo sum (Latin: “I think, therefore I am”), Descartes developed a theory of mind as an immaterial, nonextended substance that engages in various activities or undergoes various states such as rational thought, imagining, feeling (sensation), and willing. Matter, or extended substance, conforms to the laws of physics in mechanistic fashion, with the important exception of the human body, which Descartes believed is causally affected by the human mind and which causally produces certain mental events. For example, willing the arm to be raised causes it to be raised, whereas being hit by a hammer on the finger causes the mind to feel pain. This part of Descartes’s dualistic theory, known as interactionism, raises one of the chief problems faced by Descartes and his followers: the question of how this causal interaction is possible. Brian Duignan
  • Mind and matter certainly seem to be very different creatures. The mind thinks, it isn’t located in space, it’s concerned with values, it has free will, it’s driven by purpose, it’s private, and everything we personally know is through the mind’s direct, conscious experience. By contrast, as far as we know matter doesn’t think; it’s localized in space; it’s value-free, determined, purposeless, objective; and all knowledge about it is inferred by our mind. So how can we have two such different things in the world? After five or six thousand years of mulling over this question, philosophers have come up with three general possibilities: dualism, materialistic monism, and transcendental monism.  Dualism says that mind and matter are both primary: neither causes the other; they both just exist. Matter-energy questions are studied with the cur rent tools of science, but mind-spirit knowledge must be explored in ways more appropriate to it. They are two complementary kinds of knowledge, and two quite different kinds of basic components in the universe. This position is held by some philosophers and scientists. Materialistic monism says that matter causes mind, that the mind is essentially a function of the activity of matter in the brain. The basic stuff of the universe is matter and energy. We learn about reality from studying the measurable world. Whatever we learn about the nature of the mind must ultimately be explained as the operation of the physical brain. This is a popular opinion among neuroscientists. Transcendental monism says that the mind is primary, and in some sense causes matter. The ultimate stuff of the universe is consciousness. The physical world is to the greater mind as a dream is to the individual mind. Consciousness is not the end-product of material evolution; rather consciousness was here first. This idea is popular with those who are attracted to Eastern philosophical views.  Dean I. Radin
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Dualism as a theory was popularised by René Descartes

  • Dualism is closely associated with the thought of René Descartes (1641), which holds that the mind is a nonphysical—and therefore, non-spatial—substance. Descartes clearly identified the mind with consciousness and self-awareness and distinguished this from the brain as the seat of intelligence. Hence, he was the first to formulate the mind–body problem in the form in which it exists today.  Dualism is contrasted with various kinds of monism.  Howard Robinson
  • The French philosopher René Descartes is often credited with discovering the mind-body problem, a mystery that haunts philosophers to this day. Jonathan Westphal
  • In the first place, Descartes stands for the most explicit and uncompromising dualism between mind and matter. James Mark Baldwin
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Dualism is one of the theories devised to explain the mind body problem

  • The dualist-materialist dialectic has lasted for centuries. The soul-body or mind-brain problem has refused to go away. Rupert Sheldrake
  • In this corner stands us, the living—the perceivers of it all. And in the other corner lurks the entire dumb universe, slamming into itself via random processes. Robert Lanza
  • We all share an overwhelming intuition that our mind is separate from our body. There is also the conflicting intuition that mind and body are the same—as when we are in bodily pain. Additionally, we intuit that we have a self separate from the world, an individual self that is conscious of what is going on in our minds and bodies, a self that wills (freely?) some of the actions of the body. Amit Goswami
  • Transcendental monism doesn’t offer much insight into the problem because it explains the mystery of mind and matter by referring back to the mystery of mind. So, after thousands of years of the best minds thinking about what a mind is, we have the concepts of dualism, which doesn’t make much sense, materialistic monism, which doesn’t fit our personal experience, and transcendental monism, which has a problem of circular reasoning. Dean I. Radin
  • In our enthusiasm to find a scientifically acceptable alternative to dualism, some of us have gone too far the other way, adopting a stark reductionism. Understanding the mind is not just a matter of understanding the brain. But then, what is it a matter of? Many alternatives to the mind=brain equation seem counterintuitive or spooky. Some suggest that the mind extends beyond the brain to encompass the whole body, or even parts of the environment, or that the mind is not subject to the laws of physics. Dean I. Radin
  • The philosophers of the mind-body problem examine these intuitions. First, there are philosophers who posit that our intuition of a mind (and consciousness) separate from the body is right. These are the dualists. Others deny dualism; they are the monists. There are two schools of monists. One school, the material monists, feels that body is primary and that mind and consciousness are but epiphenomena of the body. The second school, the monistic idealists, posits the primacy of consciousness, with mind and body being epiphenomena of consciousness. Amit Goswami
  • The mind-body problem exists because we naturally want to include the mental life of conscious organisms in a comprehensive scientific understanding of the world. On the one hand it seems obvious that everything that happens in the mind depends on, or is, something that happens in the brain. On the other hand the defining features of mental states and events, features like their intentionality, their subjectivity and their conscious experiential quality, seem not to be comprehensible simply in terms of the physical operation of the organism. This is not just because we have not yet accumulated enough empirical information: the problem is theoretical. We cannot at present imagine an explanation of colour perception, for example, which would do for that phenomenon what chemistry has done for combustion–an explanation which would tell us in physical terms, and without residue, what the experience of colour perception is. Philosophical analyses of the distinguishing features of the mental that are designed to get us over this hurdle generally involve implausible forms of reductionism, behaviouristic in inspiration. The question is whether there is another way of bringing mental phenomena into a unified conception of objective reality. T Nagel
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Mind and body are distinct in that the body is divisible and material while the mind is indivisible and immaterial

  • Frenchman René Descartes (1596–1650) said there were two radically different kinds of stuff in the universe. The first, consisting of physical, or extended, substance (res extensa), has length, breadth, and depth, and can therefore be measured and divided. The second, or purely mental substance (res cogitans), is both intangible and indivisible. The outside world, including the human body, belongs to the first category, while the internal world of the mind belongs to the second. David Darling
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Mind and body are distinct in that mind has no spatial dimension while the body does

  • Mind is consciousness, which has no extension or spatial dimension, and matter is not conscious, since it is completely defined by its spatial dimensions and location. Since mind lacks a location and spatial dimensions, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia is arguing, it cannot make contact with matter. Here we have the mind-body problem going at full throttle. Jonathan Westphal
  • It is the nature of bodies to be in space, and the nature of minds not to be in space, Descartes claims. For the two to interact, what is not in space must act on what is in space. Action on a body takes place at a position in space, however, where the body is. Apparently Descartes did not see this problem. It was, however, clearly stated by two of his critics, the philosophers Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and Pierre Gassendi. They pointed out that if the soul is to affect the body, it must make contact with the body, and to do that it must be in space and have extension. In that case, the soul is physical, by Descartes’s own criterion. Jonathan Westphal
  • What is characteristic of a mind, Descartes claims, is that it is conscious, not that it has shape or consists of physical matter. Unlike the brain, which has physical characteristics and occupies space, it does not seem to make sense to attach spatial descriptions to it. In short, our bodies are certainly in space, and our minds are not, in the very straightforward sense that the assignation of linear dimensions and locations to them or to their contents and activities is unintelligible. That this straightforward test of physicality has survived all the philosophical changes of opinion since Descartes, almost unscathed, is remarkable. Jonathan Westphal
  • According to Descartes, matter is essentially spatial, and it has the characteristic properties of linear dimensionality. Things in space have a position, at least, and a height, a depth, and a length, or one or more of these. Mental entities, on the other hand, do not have these characteristics. We cannot say that a mind is a two-by-two-by-two-inch cube or a sphere with a two-inch radius, for example, located in a position in space inside the skull. This is not because it has some other shape in space, but because it is not characterized by space at all. Jonathan Westphal
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More ways in which brains and mind are distinct

  • Our brains, as physical entities, can be weighed, measured for length or width, and calculated for mass. Our brains and central nervous systems, as physical entities, can be described thoroughly using terms from chemistry or physics. This is not possible for mental entities such as desires, sensations, emotions, or wills, however. These entities cannot be measured or analyzed using the processes appropriate for physical objects. Warner J. Wallace
  • One aspect of mental states stands above others in distinguishing them from physical states. Philosophers refer to this as intentionality. Most mental states are directed; they are about something other than themselves. Warner J. Wallace
  • Our common sense repeatedly confirms this truth: physical entities and states can be described objectively and impersonally, but the exclusively personal, subjective nature of mental states distinguishes them from anything physical. Warner J. Wallace
    if our thoughts are nothing more than physical, material states, none of us would have the freedom to think rationally. Physical brains are subject to the laws of physics; mental states are subject to the laws of logic. Warner J. Wallace
  • Some scientists and philosophers believe the brain and the mind are one and the same. According to this approach, mental states such as anger or pain are identical to brain states; they are nothing more than physical, neurological activities in the brain. Warner J. Wallace
  • While physical states can be publicly known, mental states are only privately known. This characteristic of the mind is not shared with the brain; the properties of the brain and the mind are not identical. Warner J. Wallace
  • You can be incorrect about physical entities, but you have immediate access to your thoughts, and as a result, what you believe about your beliefs is indisputable. Warner J. Wallace
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Some dualists make allowance for the mind and body interacting…

  • Descartes held to a form of interactionism, believing that mental events can sometimes cause bodily events and that bodily events can sometimes cause mental events. Scott Calef
  • Descartes stated explicitly that he was not in his body as a pilot is in a ship but was “more intimately” bound up with it. Mind could affect body and vice versa because mind and body had a specially close relationship, which was particularly evident in the aspects of conscious life that have to do with sensation, imagination, and emotion as opposed to pure thought.  Enccyclopaedia Britannica
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…for example, through pineal gland (the physical seat of the soul) as expounded by Descartes…

  • Although the soul is joined to the whole body, there is yet in the body a certain part in which it seems to exercise its functions more specifically than in all the others. . . I seem to find evidence that the part of the body in which the soul exercises its functions immediately is. . . solely the innermost part of the brain, namely, a certain very small gland. Rene Descartes
  • Descartes argued that the mind interacts with the body at the pineal gland. This form of dualism or duality proposes that the mind controls the body, but that the body can also influence the otherwise rational mind, such as when people act out of passion. Most of the previous accounts of the relationship between mind and body had been uni-directional. Saul McLeod
  • One of the dualist’s main problems is to come up with a mechanism – any mechanism – by which the soul and the brain can interact. This is like Plato’s dilemma in trying to link Forms with particulars. It is the actual coupling that is the tricky aspect. If the soul is immaterial and the brain is made of ordinary matter, then how can the two possibly establish contact and influence each other? Descartes had an ingenious answer to this. He accepted the earlier discovery by William Harvey, physician to Elizabeth the First, about the circulation of the blood but rejected Harvey’s idea that the heart was a pump. Instead he went along with Aristotle’s belief that the heart was like a hearth where the blood was heated. This heating produced a vapor (the so-called “animal spirits”) that dilated the brain and put it in a state ready to receive impressions from the senses and the soul. For his organ of interaction – the physical seat of the soul – Descartes chose the pineal gland. This tiny structure, he concluded, was ideally placed (at the base of the skull) to be able to regulate the flow of vapor to and from the brain. David Darling
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…or through the brain as a receiver of consciousness

  • Ian Stevenson declared himself to be a proponent of interactional dualism, an idea about the mind that has an ancient history. Two of its most lustrous recent proponents were William James, the father of American psychology, and the philosopher Henri-Louis Bergson. The main idea of interactional dualism is that the brain and consciousness interact but are not the same. The brain processes sensory stimuli and affects the content of consciousness, like a transmitter or receiver, but it does not “make” consciousness. How mind and brain actually interface with one another remains a mystery and, said Stevenson, “is part of the agenda for future research; but that is equally true of the claims confidently made by many neuroscientists who assert that minds are reducible to brain activity.” Larry Dossey
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Types of dualism

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There are several types of dualism

  • There are numerous varieties of dualism: interactionism (where mind and body interact in a manner as yet completely unknown to achieve the apparent effects of mind on body and vice versa which were mentioned earlier), epiphenomenalism (where the mind is purely a pale shadow of the body, so an epiphenomenon, having no independent powers but being completely subservient to the actions of the body), parallelism (where the mind and body run along completely parallel tracks, again in a completely unknown manner, but leading miraculously to the synchrony between inner experiences and related bodily actions we observe in ourselves and others), and occasionalism (where mind and body occasionally hook up so as to produce the effects of mind on body or vice versa again as we experience, so being a limited form of parallelism). John G. Taylor
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Property idealism is the most popular form of modern dualism

  • The main and most popular form of dualism today is called property dualism. Substance dualism has largely fallen out of favor at least in most philosophical circles. Property dualism, on the other hand, is a more modest version of dualism and it holds that there are mental properties (that is, characteristics or aspects of things) that are neither identical with nor reducible to physical properties. There are actually several different kinds of property dualism, but what they have in common is the idea that conscious properties, such as the color qualia involved in a conscious experience of a visual perception, cannot be explained in purely physical terms and, thus, are not themselves to be identified with any brain state or process. Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
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Dualism makes allowance for souls and life after death

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Dualism makes allowance for a belief in the soul

  • According to substance dualism, both soul and body supposedly exist objectively, outside mind. Bernard Kastrup
  • Substance dualism is the notion that, apart from matter, there is also an immortal soul that interacts with matter in mysterious ways. Matter and soul are seen to be different and separate types of ‘stuff,’ irreducible to one another. Bernard Kastrup
  • Mind is consciousness, which has no extension or spatial dimension, and matter is not conscious, since it is completely defined by its spatial dimensions and location. Since mind lacks a location and spatial dimensions, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia is arguing, it cannot make contact with matter. Here we have the mind-body problem going at full throttle. Jonathan Westphal
  • Soul, in religion and philosophy, the immaterial aspect or essence of a human being, that which confers individuality and humanity, often considered to be synonymous with the mind or the self. In theology, the soul is further defined as that part of the individual which partakes of divinity and often is considered to survive the death of the body. Encyclopaedia Britannica
  • We may treat of the Soul as in the body – whether it be set above it or actually within it – since the association of the two constitutes the one thing called the living organism, the Animate. Now from this relation, from the Soul using the body as an instrument, it does not follow that the Soul must share the body’s experiences: a man does not himself feel all the experiences of the tools with which he is working. Plotinus
  • According to Descartes, matter is essentially spatial, and it has the characteristic properties of linear dimensionality. Things in space have a position, at least, and a height, a depth, and a length, or one or more of these. Mental entities, on the other hand, do not have these characteristics. We cannot say that a mind is a two-by-two-by-two-inch cube or a sphere with a two-inch radius, for example, located in a position in space inside the skull. This is not because it has some other shape in space, but because it is not characterized by space at all. Jonathan Westphal
  • One form of dualism is soul dualism, in which the soul is a part of the total human experience but continues after the death of the body. Such a feature was strongly represented in Ancient Egyptian religions, where the soul was considered as composed of several components, some of which died with the death of the body, others of which continued after the body’s death. It is also a commonly held modern religious belief. Important names associated with dualism are Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Bishop Berkeley, Kant, Hegel and Bertrand Russell amongst many others. John G. Taylor
  • What is characteristic of a mind, Descartes claims, is that it is conscious, not that it has shape or consists of physical matter. Unlike the brain, which has physical characteristics and occupies space, it does not seem to make sense to attach spatial descriptions to it. In short, our bodies are certainly in space, and our minds are not, in the very straightforward sense that the assignation of linear dimensions and locations to them or to their contents and activities is unintelligible. That this straightforward test of physicality has survived all the philosophical changes of opinion since Descartes, almost unscathed, is remarkable. Jonathan Westphal
  • It is the nature of bodies to be in space, and the nature of minds not to be in space, Descartes claims. For the two to interact, what is not in space must act on what is in space. Action on a body takes place at a position in space, however, where the body is. Apparently Descartes did not see this problem. It was, however, clearly stated by two of his critics, the philosophers Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and Pierre Gassendi. They pointed out that if the soul is to affect the body, it must make contact with the body, and to do that it must be in space and have extension. In that case, the soul is physical, by Descartes’s own criterion. Jonathan Westphal
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Dualism makes allowance for a belief in life after death

  • What I have said is sufficient to show clearly enough that the extinction of the mind does not follow from the corruption of the body, and also to give men the hope of another life after death. Rene Descartes
  • Do we, as Descartes maintained, have a soul that is distinct and separate from the brain? If so, then corporeal death may not be the end but simply a phase transition, a metamorphic event in which we break free of materiality as a prelude to moving on. Or, are the soul and the mind truly ephemeral – artifacts of the living brain, doomed to die when the brain dies? David Darling
  • Substance dualism is closer to reality than naïve materialism: it correctly predicts that consciousness does not end upon physical death and even provides a metaphorical framework for understanding an enduring ‘personal unconscious’ in the form of an invisible ‘soul.’   Bernardo Kastrup
  • There is also the clear link between dualism and a belief in immortality, and hence a more theistic perspective than one tends to find among materialists. Indeed, belief in dualism is often explicitly theologically motivated. If the conscious mind is not physical, it seems more plausible to believe in the possibility of life after bodily death.  On the other hand, if conscious mental activity is identical with brain activity, then it would seem that when all brain activity ceases, so do all conscious experiences and thus no immortality. After all, what do many people believe continues after bodily death? Presumably, one’s own conscious thoughts, memories, experiences, beliefs, and so on. Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Somewhat related to the issue of immortality, the existence of near death experiences is also used as some evidence for dualism and immortality. Such patients experience a peaceful moving toward a light through a tunnel like structure, or are able to see doctors working on their bodies while hovering over them in an emergency room (sometimes akin to what is called an “out of body experience”). In response, materialists will point out that such experiences can be artificially induced in various experimental situations, and that starving the brain of oxygen is known to cause hallucinations. Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
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For this reason, dualism is the paradigm of several western religions

  • Modern Western society seems to have converged to a highly polarized metaphysical dichotomy: while materialism is the dominant paradigm as far as its deep influence in society’s values and organization, substance dualism is seen as the only mainstream alternative in the form of religious or spiritual worldviews. Bernardo Kastrup
  • In the Judeo-Christian tradition, duality is central to the perception of reality. The basics of life and the cosmos involve relationships—often encompassing tension or conflict—between the individual versus nature or the individual self and its relationship to a deity that is separate. Robert Lanza
  • Substance dualism is a philosophical position compatible with most theologies which claim that immortal souls occupy an independent realm of existence distinct from that of the physical world. W. D. Hart
  • When Descartes divided the world into matter and mind, he intended a tacit agreement not to attack religion, which would reign supreme in matters of the mind, in exchange for science’s supremacy over matter. For more than two hundred years, the agreement held. Eventually the success of science in predicting and controlling the environment prompted scientists to question the validity of any religious teaching. In particular, scientists began to challenge the mind, or spirit, side of Cartesian dualism. Amit Goswami
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Problems with dualism

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Many believe dualism is mistaken as a theory…

  • Dualism’s mistake is to argue that since minds, thoughts and feelings are not identical with any particular physical things, they must be non-physical things. Julian Baggini
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…or that it is a form of “giving up”

  • I adopt the apparently dogmatic rule that dualism is to be avoided at all costs. It is not that I think I can give a knock-down proof that dualism, in all its forms, is false or incoherent, but that, given the way that dualism wallows in mystery, accepting dualism is giving up. Daniel Dennett
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A major problem with dualism is explaining how mind and body interact…

  • Dualism has difficulty in explaining mind-body interaction. Amit Goswami
  • How can mind effect matter if one is immaterial and the other material?  Anthony Lambert
  • The difficulty is not merely that mind and body are different. It is that they are different in such a way that their interaction is impossible. Jonathan Westphal
  • In the beginning, there was dualism. Descartes famously posited two kinds of substance, non-physical mind and material body. Leibniz differentiated mental and physical realms. But dualism faced a challenge—explaining how mind and body interact. Dean I. Radin
  • The strongest argument in favour of materialism is the failure of dualism to explain how immaterial minds work and how they interact with brains. The strongest argument in favour of dualism is the implausibility and self-contradictory nature of materialism. Rupert Sheldrake
  • The whole problem contained in such questions arises simply from a supposition that is false and cannot in any way be proved, namely that, if the soul and the body are two substances whose nature is different, this prevents them from being able to act on each other. Rene Descartes
  • Materialism’s biggest problem is that consciousness does exist. You are conscious now. The main opposing theory, dualism, accepts the reality of consciousness, but has no convincing explanation for its interaction with the body and the brain. Dualist-materialist arguments have gone on for centuries. Rupert Sheldrake
  • Our mind-body problem is not just a difficulty about how the mind and body are related and how they affect one another. It is also a difficulty about how they can be related and how they can affect one another. Their characteristic properties are very different, like oil and water, which simply won’t mix, given what they are. Jonathan Westphal
  • Since René Descartes divided reality into two separate realms—mind and matter—many people have tried to rationalize the causal potency of conscious minds within Cartesian dualism. Science, nevertheless, presents compelling reasons to doubt that a dualistic philosophy is tenable: In order for the worlds of mind and matter to interact, they must exchange energy, yet we know that the energy of the material world remains constant. Surely, then, there is only one reality. Amit Goswami
  • The shortcomings of dualism are well known. Notably, it cannot explain how a separate, non-material mind interacts with a material body. If there are such mind-body interactions, then there have to be exchanges of energy between the two domains. In myriad experiments, we find that the energy of the material universe by itself remains a constant (this is the law of conservation of energy). Neither has any evidence shown that energy is lost to or gained from the mental domain.  Amit Goswami
  • If mind and matter are fundamentally different, as dualism maintains, then how do they interact? How does spatially bound matter interact with something that is nonspatial? How does purposeless matter interact with purposeful mind, or value-free with value-laden? Also, why should everything we know be explainable in physical terms except for this one tiny piece of the universe in side our heads called the mind? And, “what sort of chemical process can lead to the springing into existence of something nonphysical? Dean I. Radin
  • Yet Dualism throws little light on how the two different worlds – of mind and matter – interact. In spite of the increasing understanding of matter at ever shorter distances there is no hint of a corresponding enlightenment about how mind is constructed and more particularly interacts with that miniscule matter. Numerous questions arise such as does mind act on each sub-atomic particle independently or is there some sort of global mind-to-matter interaction? What about action in the reverse direction – of matter on mind? These and many similar questions have no answers. John G. Taylor
  • The first problem with dualism is simply the issue of just how does or could such radically different substances causally interact. How something non-physical causally interacts with something physical, such as the brain? No such explanation is forthcoming or is perhaps even possible, according to materialists. Moreover, if causation involves a transfer of energy from cause to effect, then how is that possible if the mind is really non-physical?   Gilbert Ryle (1949) mockingly calls the Cartesian view about the nature of mind, a belief in the “ghost in the machine.” Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • I beg you to tell me how the human soul can determine the movement of the animal spirits in the body so as to perform voluntary acts—being as it is merely a conscious substance. For the determination of the movement seems always to come about from the moving body’s being propelled—to depend on the kind of impulse it gets from what it sets in motion, or again, on the nature and shape of this latter thing’s surface. Now the first two conditions involve contact, and the third involves that the impelling [thing] has extension; but you utterly exclude extension from your notion of soul, and contact seems to me incompatible with a thing’s being immaterial. Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia (in a letter to Rene Descartes
  • Our nonmaterial minds, therefore, should have no ability to influence our material bodies. Our common personal experiences tell us this is clearly not true, however. So how do those looking for explanations within the material universe resolve the apparent dilemma? They usually describe the mind as illusory or purely physical (material). Warner J. Wallace
  • One of the deepest and most lasting legacies of Descartes’ philosophy is his thesis that mind and body are really distinct—a thesis now called “mind-body dualism.” He reaches this conclusion by arguing that the nature of the mind (that is, a thinking, non-extended thing) is completely different from that of the body (that is, an extended, non-thinking thing), and therefore it is possible for one to exist without the other. This argument gives rise to the famous problem of mind-body causal interaction still debated today: how can the mind cause some of our bodily limbs to move (for example, raising one’s hand to ask a question), and how can the body’s sense organs cause sensations in the mind when their natures are completely different? Justin Skirry
  • Descartes’ proposal, in “The Passions of the Soul,” his final philosophical treatise, was that they interact through the pineal gland, which is, he writes, “the principal seat of the soul” and is moved this way and that by the soul so as to move the animal spirits or streams of air from the sacs next to it. He had his reasons for choosing this organ, as the pineal gland is small, light, not bilaterally doubled, and centrally located. Still, the whole idea is a nonstarter, because the pineal gland is as physical as any other part of the body. If there is a problem about how the mind can act on the body, the same problem will exist about how the mind can act on the pineal gland, even if there is a good story to tell about the hydraulics of the “pneumatic” (or nervous) system. Jonathan Westphal
  • What happens, if anything, for example, when we decide to do even such a simple thing as to lift up a cup and take a sip of coffee? The arm moves, but it is difficult to see how the thought or desire could make that happen. It is as though a ghost were to try to lift up a coffee cup. Its ghostly arm would, one supposes, simply pass through the cup without affecting it and without being able to cause it or the physical arm to go up in the air. It would be no less remarkable if merely by thinking about it from a few feet away we could cause an ATM to dispense cash. It is no use insisting that our minds are after all not physically connected to the ATM, and that is why it is impossible to affect the ATM’s output — for there is no sense in which they are physically connected to our bodies. Jonathan Westphal
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…since science does not allow for an energy exchange between them

  • Even as late as the seventeenth century, René Descartes declared that two totally different realms inhabited the cosmos: mind and matter. He had his own good logic for saying so, because in order for mind and matter to interact, there must be an energy exchange. And no one had ever observed any object’s energy either shrink or grow simply because it was being observed. Naturally, if our minds do not affect matter, the reverse must also be true. And if the universe’s total energy never changes (which is true), then it seems to leave no room for one or more separate consciousnesses to have any energy at all, which implies that consciousness doesn’t even exist. Robert Lanza
  • Cartesian dualism of mind and body violates the laws of conservation of energy and momentum that physics has established beyond doubt. How could mind possibly interact with the world without occasionally exchanging energy and momentum? But we always find the energy and momentum of objects in the physical world to be conserved, to remain exactly the same.  Amit Goswami
  • Secondly, assuming that some such energy transfer makes any sense at all, it is also then often alleged that interactionism is inconsistent with the scientifically well-established Conservation of Energy principle, which says that the total amount of energy in the universe, or any controlled part of it, remains constant. So any loss of energy in the cause must be passed along as a corresponding gain of energy in the effect, as in standard billiard ball examples. But if interactionism is true, then when mental events cause physical events, energy would literally come into the physical word. On the other hand, when bodily events cause mental events, energy would literally go out of the physical world. At the least, there is a very peculiar and unique notion of energy involved, unless one wished, even more radically, to deny the conservation principle itself.  Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
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Dualism doesn’t adequately explain what sort of thing a mental substance—an immaterial, thinking “stuff”—might be

  • Among other difficulties faced by substance dualism is the inherent obscurity in conceiving of what sort of thing a mental substance—an immaterial, thinking “stuff”—might be. Such criticisms have led some thinkers to abandon substance dualism in favour of various monistic theories, including the identity theory, according to which every mental state or event is identical to some physical (i.e., brain) state or event, and the dual-aspect theory, also called neutral monism, according to which mental and physical states and events constitute different aspects or properties of a single underlying substance, which is neither mental nor physical. Brian Duignan
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Dualism more shelves the problem of consciousness than solves it…

  • In order to do science, we’ve had to dismiss the mind. This was, in any case, the bargain that was made in the seventeenth century, when Descartes and Galileo deemed consciousness a subjective phenomenon unfit for empirical study. If the world was to be reducible to physical causation, then all mental experiences—intention, agency, purpose, meaning—must be secondary qualities, inexplicable within the framework of materialism. And so the world was divided in two: mind and matter. This dualistic solution helped to pave the way for the Enlightenment and the technological and scientific advances of the coming centuries. But an uneasiness has always hovered over the bargain, a suspicion that the problem was less solved than shelved. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Leibniz struggled to accept that perception could be explained through mechanical causes—he proposed that if there were a machine that could produce thought and feeling, and if it were large enough that a person could walk inside of it, as he could walk inside a mill, the observer would find nothing but inert gears and levers. “He would find only pieces working upon one another, but never would he find anything to explain Perception,” he wrote.  Meghan O’Gieblyn
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…seeing consciousness as almost ghostly

  • Consciousness was and still is perceived as almost ghostly— how could mere perception move a rock, let alone create a planet? Robert Lanza
  • The ‘rational soul’ of man was like an immaterial ghost in the machinery of the human body.  How could the rational soul possibly interact with the brain? Descartes speculated that their interaction occurred in the pineal gland.  He thought of the soul as like a little man inside the pineal gland controlling the plumbing of the brain. Rupert Sheldrake
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Dualism doesn’t explain adequately why brain damage has such an effect on the non-material mind

  • Third, some materialists might also use the well-known fact that brain damage (even to very specific areas of the brain) causes mental defects as a serious objection to interactionism (and thus as support for materialism). This has of course been known for many centuries, but the level of detailed knowledge has increased dramatically in recent years. Now a dualist might reply that such phenomena do not absolutely refute her metaphysical position since it could be replied that damage to the brain simply causes corresponding damage to the mind. However, this raises a host of other questions: Why not opt for the simpler explanation, i.e., that brain damage causes mental damage because mental processes simply are brain processes? If the non-physical mind is damaged when brain damage occurs, how does that leave one’s mind according to the dualist’s conception of an afterlife? Will the severe amnesic at the end of life on Earth retain such a deficit in the afterlife? If proper mental functioning still depends on proper brain functioning, then is dualism really in no better position to offer hope for immortality? Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
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Dualism does not marry with modern science which makes no allowance for the existence of the soul

  • Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning. Albert Einstein
  • Scientific materialism arose historically as a rejection of mechanistic dualism, which defined matter as unconscious and souls as immaterial. One important motive for this rejection was the elimination of souls and God. In short, materialists treated subjective experience as irrelevant; dualists accepted the reality of experience but were unable to explain how minds affect brains. Rupert Sheldrake
  • I have felt that the infatuation with the subject of conciousness both among neuroscientists and among the general public was an epistemological cop-out, which basically represented a reluctance to completely let go of the Cartesian dualism; that consciousness was soul in disguise; and that ‘like many recent converts we continue to honor the old gods in secret – the god of soul in the guise of consciousness. Elkhonon Goldberg
  • First and foremost, Science has discarded the belief, held true for thousands of years by many religions of the world – that there exists a spiritual entity called the soul, which transcends matter and is the real source of consciousness within all. Pulkit Mathur
  • In most respects, fields have replaced the souls of classical and medieval philosophy. Rupert Sheldrake
  • In the realm of science, all attempts to find any evidence of supernatural beings, of metaphysical concepts, as God, immortality, infinity, etc have thus far failed, and if we are honest, we must confess that in science there exists no God, no immortality, no soul or mind, as distinct from the body. Charles Proteus Steinmetz
  • In the seventeenth century, the mechanistic revolution abolished souls and purposes from nature, with the single exception of human minds. Rupert Sheldrake
  • It should be said that the old distinction between soul and body has evaporated quite as much because ‘matter’ has lost its solidity as mind has lost its spirituality. Psychology is just beginning to be scientific. In the present state of psychology belief in immortality can at any rate claim no support from science. Bertrand Russell
  • It would not be unfair to suggest that we have taken the scientific worldview he made possible to its very limits in the opposite direction: happiness is caused by endorphans, mother love is programmed by genes and triggered by chemicals; a full-page ad in my university’s magazine recently boasted a picture of a chromosome with the heading, This is your life. The soul has so shrunken from view that far from standing awestruck by its infinitude we have difficulty remembering that it exists: indeed, why speak of soul; mind or consciousness play no role in the electrochemical image of the human being which popular imagination and some scientists today present unchallenged. Eknath Easwaran
  • It’s this expandable capacity to represent reasons that we have that gives us a soul. But what’s it made of? It’s made of neurons. It’s made of lots of tiny robots. And we can actually explain the structure and operation of that kind of soul, whereas an eternal, immortal, immaterial soul is just a metaphysical rug under which you sweep your embarrassment for not having any explanation. Daniel Dennett
  • No one has ever touched a soul or has seen one in a test tube or has in any way come into relationship with it as he has with the other objects of his daily experience. Nevertheless to doubt its existence is to become a heretic and once might possibly even had led to the loss of one’s head. Even today a man holding a public position dare not question it. John B. Watson
  • The existence of the immortal in man is becoming increasingly discredited under the influence of the dominant schools of modern thought.’ The belief in the immortality of the soul is a dogma that is contradicted by the most solid, empirical truth. S. Wily
  • The hypothesis of the soul, on the other hand, has not once in all of human history been supported by good, solid scientific evidence. That’s pretty surprising when you think about it. For decades, and indeed centuries, most scientists had some sort of religious beliefs, and most of them believed in the soul. So a great deal of early science was dedicated to proving the soul’s existence, and discovering and exploring its nature. It wasn’t until after decades upon decades of fruitless research in this area that scientists finally gave it up as a bad job, and concluded, almost unanimously, that the reason they hadn’t found a soul was that there was no such thing. Greta Christina
  • The more materialistic science becomes, the more angels shall I paint. Their wings are my protest in favor of the immortality of the soul. Edward Burne-Jones
  • The philosopher stands at his desk in the lecture hall, and demonstrates away the soul of man, and with exact thought measures out his atoms and resolves him back to gas and air. Ouida
  • The soul-theory is a complete superfluity, so far as accounting for the actually verified facts of conscious experience goes. So far no one can be compelled to subscribe to it for definite scientific reasons. James
  • There are scientists who will tell you that spirit, because it can’t be measured, doesn’t exist. Bollocks. It does exist. Sam Allardyce
  • There is no place in the brain for your soul to be hiding. Sam Harris
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Some argue that dualism as a world-view alienates us from the outer world

  • A person functioning exclusively in the Cartesian mode may be free from manifest symptoms but cannot be considered mentally healthy. Such individuals typically lead ego-centred, competitive, goal-oriented lives. Over-preoccupied with their past and their future, they tend to have a limited awareness of the present and thus a limited ability to derive satisfaction from ordinary activities in everyday life. They concentrate on manipulating the external world and measure their living standard by the quantity of material possessions, while they become ever more alienated from their inner world and unable to appreciate the process of life. For people whose existence is dominated by this mode of experience no level of wealth, power, or fame will bring genuine satisfaction. Fritjof Capra
  • Here is where a duality is born: I versus the world, inside versus outside, ‘little me’ versus the rest. This is not a fundamental duality, in the sense that it does not entail different kinds of ‘stuff,’ like matter and soul. But it is a duality of mental attitude. When mind does not identify with parts of itself, it creates the entire illusion of an external world, which lies at the heart of realism, materialism and even substance dualism. Bernardo Kastrup
  • Everything happens as if the ego, like a soul, inhabited the body. A whirlpool that could look at itself and recognize its own boundaries would also fall prey to the same illusion of duality: it would see itself as separate from the rest of the stream, including other whirlpools seen at a distance but which clearly did not constitute its own platform and vantage point. Illusion as it may be, there is a strong sense in which this duality is true, even though not ultimately true. It is true in the sense that, on many levels, it provides an accurate metaphor for what is going on. Many things do happen as if we were conscious souls inhabiting physical bodies. Bernardo Kastrup
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Alternatives to dualism

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The most popular alternative to dualism is the theory of materialism…

  • Hobbes argued that nothing existed but matter in motion; there was no such thing as mental substance, only material substance.  Encyclopaedia Britannica
  • The final step in the mechanistic revolution was to reduce two levels of explanation to one. Instead of a duality of matter and mind, there is only matter. This is the doctrine of materialism, which came to dominate scientific thinking in the second half of the nineteenth century. Rupert Sheldrake
  • Physicalism, at the other extreme, proposes that all of the Universe is composed of physical objects, and that even mind itself is created by some extremely subtle (and as yet unknown) mechanism of action between suitable physical components, most likely (according to modern ideas) situated in the brain. John G. Taylor
  • The principle of “nothing but–ism” is an inevitable consequence of the classical scientific worldview. It means that chemistry is nothing but physics, biology is nothing but chemistry, psychology is nothing but biology, and so on, up the line. This view is directly based on the assumptions of materialism, mechanism, and reductionism.  Dean I. Radin
  • The universe was widely regarded as objective (existing independent of the observer), made of matter (which included energy and fields), ruled by causal determinism, and limited by locality. When it was even considered at all, consciousness or the observer was assumed merely to be part of the physical matter-based cosmos, having somehow arisen from it. Robert Lanza
  • I am my brain, or at the very least my cerebral cortex. That’s the basis of monism, the idea that brain and mind are one substance. To say that the brain decided for me is to take a dualist approach based on the idea that the mind is some fundamentally different substance than the brain. Once I abandon the idea of dualism, the accusation of the brain deciding for me disappears. Joel Frohlich
  • Materialism is the belief that nothing exists apart from the material world (i.e. physical matter like the brain); materialist psychologists generally agree that consciousness (the mind) is the function of the brain. Mental processes can be identified with purely physical processes in the central nervous system, and that human beings are just complicated physiological organisms, no more than that. Dr. Saul McLeod
  • One of the most important features of nothing but–ism is that causation flows strictly “upward,” starting from physics. That is, chemistry is caused by physics, biology is caused by chemistry, and so on. This is why the mind is seen as nothing but a computer made of meat. All the action starts at fundamental physics, and by the time the activity reaches the mind, it has all been determined through the operations of physics, chemistry, molecular biology, anatomy, and so on. Dean I. Radin
  • There are two broad traditional and competing metaphysical views concerning the nature of the mind and conscious mental states: dualism and materialism. While there are many versions of each, the former generally holds that the conscious mind or a conscious mental state is non-physical in some sense. On the other hand, materialists hold that the mind is the brain, or, more accurately, that conscious mental activity is identical with neural activity.  Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  • Materialistic monism attempts to avoid the problems of dualism by assuming that experience is not made of spooky minds but of brains. In doing so, however, it creates another problem: if the mind is an evolved form of matter, then it presumably exists because it offers some survival value. But no one has the slightest idea what this survival value might be, because the brain as an organic computer seems to work perfectly well without requiring conscious awareness. We also know that a vast amount of mental processing and decision making goes on without conscious awareness.  Dean I. Radin
  • From around the time of the French Revolution (1789–99), militant materialists rejected this principle of dual magisteria, dismissing it as intellectually dishonest, or seeing it as a refuge for the feeble-minded. They recognised only one reality: the material world. The spiritual realm did not exist. Gods, angels and spirits were figments of the human imagination, and human minds were nothing but aspects or by-products of brain activity. There were no supernatural agencies that interfered with the mechanical course of nature. There was only one magisterium: the magisterium of science. Rupert Sheldrake
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…a theory that is most embraced by science

  • Remembering the harrowing travails of the likes of Galileo just a few decades earlier, Descartes figured that this assumption of material realism would let science proceed with the greatest safety and minimal interference from the Church. Let the Church have that other realm—of mind, consciousness, individual spirit, morality, societal rules, religious rituals, and whatever else they wanted—when it came to regulating personal behavior. It worked. Science and the Church now had their own fiefdoms. Robert Lanza
  • Scientific materialism arose historically as a rejection of mechanistic dualism, which defined matter as unconscious and souls as immaterial, as I discuss below. One important motive for this rejection was the elimination of souls and God. Rupert Sheldrake
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Some argue neither materialism nor dualism offer a solution

  • Dualism makes the problem insoluble; materialism denies the existence of any phenomenon to study, and hence of any problem. John Searle
  • The strongest argument in favour of materialism is the failure of dualism to explain how immaterial minds work and how they interact with brains. The strongest argument in favour of dualism is the implausibility and self-contradictory nature of materialism. Rupert Sheldrake
  • The strongest argument in favour of materialism materialism is the failure of dualism to explain how immaterial minds work and how they interact with brains. The strongest argument in favour of dualism is the implausibility and self-contradictory nature of materialism. Rupert Sheldrake
  • There are likewise serious problems for the physicalist approach: the Mind-Body problem still faces brain science and philosophy like a nemesis. The global principles being painfully gleaned for the brain do not seem to involve any solution to this problem. That is because neuroscience has not explicitly led to any idea as to how and where consciousness arises in the higher-order brain processing achieved by attention and guided by emotion and long-term memory. More particularly there is no handle at all provided by brain science on the neural components that could support the I at the core of one’s self-attribution. John G. Taylor
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Some argue panpsychism offers an attractive middle way between materialism and dualism

  • There are two basic views about consciousness: materialism and dualism. Materialists say that physical matter is all there is. Consciousness emerges (somehow, no one can explain just how) out of the physical brain. Dualists, on the other hand, argue that consciousness is something separate from matter. Neither viewpoint is totally satisfactory. Materialism can’t explain how matter produces consciousness; dualism can’t explain how immaterial consciousness interacts with matter. Panpsychism provides a way around this conundrum. Panpsychism is the idea that consciousness did not evolve to meet some survival need, nor did it emerge when brains became sufficiently complex. Instead it is inherent in matter — all matter. Avery Hurt
  • This solution avoids the ungainliness of dualism: panpsychism elegantly eliminates the need to explain how the mental emerges out of the physical and vice versa. Both coexist. Christoff Koch
  • Panpsychism, holds that all aspects of reality have some “psychological” properties apart from their physical properties. This type of property dualism suggests that the universe has consciousness at its base. Consciousness is a fundamental property of matter. Wikipedia
  • Panpsychism, holds that all aspects of reality have some “psychological” properties apart from their physical properties. This type of property dualism suggests that the universe has consciousness at its base. Consciousness is a fundamental property of matter. Wikipedia
  • Panpsychism is the view that mentality is fundamental and ubiquitous in the natural world. The view has a long and venerable history in philosophical traditions of both East and West, and has recently enjoyed a revival in analytic philosophy. For its proponents, panpsychism offers an attractive middle way between physicalism on the one hand and dualism on the other. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Aside from the fact that it just sounds a bit bizarre, the biggest problem for panpsychism is that it’s unclear how exactly our experience as human beings is supposed to be composed out of the consciousness of the particles that our brains are made up of. Even supposing that each of the particles that compose my brain has some primitive form of consciousness, how are all these distinct consciousnesses somehow blended together to produce the complex, unified experience that I enjoy? It therefore seems to me that the panpsychist’s proposed solution to the difficulties that dualism faces only raises further difficulties that are at least as daunting as those it’s meant to solve. Ben White
  • Galen Strawson shares the frustration of many contemporary philosophers with the seemingly intractable problems of materialism and dualism. He has come to the conclusion that there is only one way out. He argues that a consistent materialism must imply panpsychism, namely the idea that even atoms and molecules have a primitive kind of mentality or experience. (The Greek word pan means everywhere, and psyche means soul or mind.) Panpsychism does not mean that atoms are conscious in the sense that we are, but only that some aspects of mentality or experience are present in the simplest physical systems. More complex forms of mind or experience emerge in more complex systems. Rupert Sheldrake
  • For its proponents, panpsychism offers an attractive middle way between physicalism on the one hand and dualism on the other. The worry with dualism — the view that mind and matter are fundamentally different kinds of thing — is that it leaves us with a radically disunified picture of nature, and the deep difficulty of understanding how mind and brain interact. And whilst physicalism offers a simple and unified vision of the world, this is arguably at the cost of being unable to give a satisfactory account of the emergence of human and animal consciousness. Panpsychism, strange as it may sound on first hearing, promises a satisfying account of the human mind within a unified conception of nature. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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A more radical competing theory is idealism which believes that mind, not matter, is the ultimate reality

  • Phenomenalism (also called Subjective Idealism) believes that physical objects and events are reducible to mental objects, properties, events. Ultimately, only mental objects (i.e. the mind) exist. Dr. Saul McLeod
  • Idealism, on the other hand, supposes in short that mind is all that exists, and the whole world is so composed. However there are numerous nuanced varieties of idealism, some brought forward to avoid the difficulties of other versions. The extreme version that all is mind is usually called subjective idealism or phenomenalism, whilst objective idealists propose that thought is the highest degree of reality. John G. Taylor
  • Centuries ago, Descartes portrayed mind and body as separate realities. That dualistic schism still pervades our view of ourselves. In this part, we shall show that a monism based on the primacy of matter is incapable of exorcising the demon of dualism. What does bridge the schism is idealist science—an application of quantum physics as interpreted in accordance with the philosophy of monistic idealism. Amit Goswami
  • Idealists, although they hold consciousness to be the primary reality and thus give value to our subjective, mental experiences, do not propose that consciousness is mind.  Material objects (such as a ball) and mental objects (such as the thought of a ball) are both objects in consciousness. In an experience there is also the subject, the experiencer. What is the nature of this experiencer? This is a question of utmost importance in monistic idealism.   Amit Goswami
  • Idealism holds that there are only immaterial mental substances, a view more common in the Eastern tradition. The most prominent Western proponent of idealism was 18th century empiricist George Berkeley. The idealist agrees with the substance dualist, however, that minds are non-physical, but then denies the existence of mind-independent physical substances altogether. Such a view faces a number of serious objections, and it also requires a belief in the existence of God. Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
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Some believe that idealism and dualism are complimentary theories

  • Substance dualism can ‘run on top’ of idealism as an easier-to-digest metaphor for idealist truths. Bernardo Kastrup
  • So, does substance dualism have no value at all? I actually believe it has, despite everything I said above. There is a sense in which substance dualism is closer to reality than naïve materialism: it correctly predicts that consciousness does not end upon physical death and even provides a metaphorical framework for understanding an enduring ‘personal unconscious’ in the form of an invisible ‘soul.’ Under materialism, there is room for neither of these things. Moreover – and I am quick to admit this – substance dualism is much more straightforward to grok than idealism. Bernardo Kastrup
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Other forms of dualism in western thought

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Other forms of dualism are popular in western thought…

  • I totally think we have a future on the planet. I just think that we have to get away from Western thinking, which is very much founded on dualisms. Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Nothing is born, nothing is destroyed. Away with your dualism, your likes and dislikes. Every single thing is just One Mind. When you have perceived this, you will have mounted the Chariot of the Buddhas. Huangbo Xiyun
  • …the habitual dualist’s solution to the problem of dualism: to solve the dilemma by chopping off one of the horns. Alan Watts
  • There is a radical dualism between the empirical nature of man and its moral nature. African Spir
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…such as inner and outer…

  • Modern secular thought has its own dualism: It treats only the physical world as knowable and testable, while locking everything else – mind, spirit, morality, meaning – into the realm of private, subjective feelings. The so-called fact/value split. Nancy Pearcey
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…male and female…

  • Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But in fact they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman. Margaret Fuller
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…God and us…

  • Like mind-body Cartesian dualism, the dualism of God and the world does not seem to hold up to scientific scrutiny.  As scientific data undermine religion, there is a tendency to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Amit Goswami
  • A dualism of king and subjects is intrinsically hierarchical and encourages hierarchical, dualistic thinking of the sort that has fueled many kinds of oppression, including (in addition to that of the nonhuman by the human) those arising from the cleavages of male/female, white/colored, rich/poor, Christian/non-Christian, and mind/body. The monarchical model encourages a way of thinking that is pervasive and pernicious, in a time when exactly the opposite is needed as a basic pattern. Sallie McFague
  • God, in relation to the soul, presumes a duality—the Object to be perceived, God; and the perceiver or experiencer, the soul. Paramahansa Yogananda
  • Prayer as a means to effect a private end is theft and meanness. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness. As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not beg. Ralph Waldo Emerson
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…me and you…

  • The existence in language of such terms as I and my, leads us into a dualistic trap. We think of ourselves as separate because we speak of ourselves in that way.  Amit Goswami
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…us and the world…

  • When the universe is severed into a subject vs. an object, into one state which sees vs. one state which is seen, something always gets left out. In this condition, the universe “will always partially elude itself.” No observing system can observe itself observing. The seer cannot see itself seeing. Every eye has a blind spot. And it is for precisely this reason that at the basis of all such dualistic attempts we find only: Uncertainty, Incompleteness!  Ken Wilber
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…good and evil…

  • God as energy is not moral as we generally understand that term. Categories of good and evil cannot be applied straightforwardly to energy. The worldview of moral dualism does not work in the world of energy. Flora A. Keshgegian
  • Those of us embedded in a worldview of moral dualism may well recoil from such ideas. We are so used to thinking in terms of putting everything into categories of good and evil, that if someone suggests that God is not good, then our immediate response is to think that makes God evil, and that just cannot be. Flora A. Keshgegian
  • Democrtitus, in the fifth century B.C. had declared that all the world was composed of only two elements: atoms and the void. This reduction of the myriad of forms to only two was the ultimate in dualistic reasoning. Christianity adopted dualism when it created the strict division between good and evil and heaven and hell. Leonard Shlain
  • Notice the essential dualism in the first premise: wrong and right (or evil and good). In contrast, the mystical journey consists in transcending all dualities, including the one of evil and good. Amit Goswami
  • Notice the essential dualism in the first premise: wrong and right (or evil and good). In contrast, the mystical journey consists in transcending all dualities, including the one of evil and good. Amit Goswami
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…feeling and thinking

  • Music is indivisible. The dualism of feeling and thinking must be resolved to a state of unity in which one thinks with the heart and feels with the brain. George Szell
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Transcending all dualisms is seen as a goal in many eastern spiritual traditions

  • Transcendence implies the surpassing of two things, and the consequent attainment of a third thing. But there are no ‘things’ in reality, of any kind whatever: there is only the thing-in-itself, its suchness, which is Reality, revealed when the illusory dualism of inexistent qualities is dissolved. Wei Wu Wei
  • Perhaps the most concise summary of enlightenment would be: transcending dualism . … Dualism is the conceptual division of the world into categories … human perception is by nature a dualistic phenomenon – which makes the quest for enlightenment an uphill struggle, to say the least. Douglas Hofstadter
  • Finally you come to a point where you almost know it all. You are very wise. You are very pure… except for the fact that you may well have gotten caught in the last trap… the desire to know it all and still be you, “the knower.” This is an impossibility. For all of the finite knowledge does not add up to the infinite. In order to take the final step, the knower must go. That is, you can only BE it all, but you can’t know it all. The goal is non-dualistic – as long as there is a “knower” and “known” you are in dualism. Ram Dass
  • Duality is the real root of our suffering and of all our conflicts. All our concepts and beliefs, no matter how profound they may seem, are like nets which trap us in dualism. When we discover our limits we have to try to overcome them, untying ourselves from whatever type of religious, political, or social conviction may contain us. We have to abandon such concepts as ‘enlightenment’, ‘the nature of the mind’, and so on, until we no longer neglect to integrate our knowledge with our actual existence. Namkhai Norbu
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