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Philosophy of Mind .Info

Substance Dualism

Property Dualism

Substance Monism

Mind-Body Interaction

Personal Identity


Philosophy of Mind

Substance Dualism

Arguments for Dualism

Mind-Body Interaction

The Problem of Other Minds

Substance Dualism

Substance dualism is the view that the universe contains two fundamental types of entity: mental and physical. Those who view themselves as immaterial minds housed in physical bodies are thus substance dualists. This view is often called “Cartesian dualism” after Descartes, the philosopher best known for advocating it. It seen by some as old-fashioned and naive, and is often associated with religious world-views. Typically, it involves the following components:

The Mental is Private

Dualism holds that each of us has an immaterial mind or soul that exists in a non-physical realm. The physical world is in principle equally observable to all of us, but the mental is not. One of the most striking characteristics of dualism is therefore that the mental is private, that though each of us has access to our own mind through introspection, no one can directly observe anyone else’s mind. This position contrasts with that of substance monism, according to which minds are part of the physical, public world, and so could, in principle, be equally accessible to everyone.

Priveleged Access

Information that reaches us through our senses is notoriously fallible; though the world may appear to us to be a certain way, it may well be other than it appears to be. Our senses can lead us to make mistakes in describing the world.

Our knowledge of our own minds, however, is not like that; instead it is infallible. If I introspect and judge myself to be happy, or frightened, or to disbelieve a certain proposition, then my judgement will always be correct. This is because we have priveleged access to our own minds.

The Mental is Irreducible

Finally, and most fundamentally of all, substance dualism holds that the mental is irreducible, that it cannot be fully explained in purely non-mental terms. Dualists thus reject attempts to identify the mental with certain characteristics of the physical world, such as brain-states, or behaviour. There is more to mentality, says the dualist, than physicality, and so any attempt at a reductive definition of mind is doomed to failure.

Problems With Dualism

Dualism, though perhaps a common sense theory, faces some problems. Among these are the mind-body problem and the problem of other minds.


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