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Philosophy of Mind .Info

Substance Dualism

Property Dualism

Substance Monism

Mind-Body Interaction

Personal Identity


Philosophy of Mind

Substance Dualism

Mind-Body Interaction




The Problem of Mind-Body Interaction

The problem of mind-body interaction is a problem faced by adherents of substance dualism. If, as dualists claim, the mind and the body are two distinct substances, then the question arises as to how the two interact. Answering this difficult question is the problem.

It appears both that mental events cause physical events and that physical events cause mental events. My beliefs and desires, for example, which are mental states, cause me to act in certain ways. Similarly, what happens to my physical body often has an effect on how I think and feel. This common sense view is called interactionism.

Problems with interactionism have led some to resort to epiphenomenalism. Epiphenomenalism holds that mind-body interaction only occurs in one direction: from the physical to the mental. According to epiphenomenalists, physical events give rise to mental events, but not vice versa.

Epiphenomenalism may avoid some of the problems of dualism, but it does not avoid all of them. To avoid all of the problems, it seems, one must take a further step and endorse parallelism, denying that the mind and the body interact at all. The cost of parallelism, though, is arguably too high for the benefits that it offers. Interactionism, despite its difficulties, is the most plausible theory of mind-body interaction available to the dualist.


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