Mind–body Dualism

Mind–body Dualism

What is Dualism?

Dualism is a philosophical view that there are two irreducible, heterogeneous principles or kinds of things. Dualism is often applied to the mind and the body (or the brain), which are seen as distinct and separable from each other. Dualism can also refer to the idea that there is a separate realm or being above and beyond the world, as opposed to monism, which holds that the ultimate principle is inside the world.

Dualism has been a major topic of debate in philosophy, religion, science, and psychology for centuries. Some of the questions that dualism raises are:

- What is the nature and origin of the mind and the body?
- How do they interact and influence each other?
- Are they both equally real and valuable, or is one superior or more fundamental than the other?
- What are the implications of dualism for ethics, morality, free will, personal identity, and human dignity?

In this article, we will explore some of the different types and aspects of dualism, as well as some of the arguments for and against it.

Types of Dualism

There are many ways to classify dualism, depending on the criteria and perspective used. Here are some of the most common types of dualism:

Epistemological Dualism

Epistemological dualism is the view that there are two different ways of knowing or accessing reality: rational and empirical. Rational knowledge is based on logic, reason, and intuition, while empirical knowledge is based on observation, experience, and evidence. Epistemological dualists claim that both kinds of knowledge are valid and necessary, but they may differ in their scope, reliability, and certainty.

One of the most influential epistemological dualists was René Descartes (1596-1650), who argued that there are two distinct substances: res cogitans (thinking substance) and res extensa (extended substance). He claimed that we can know our own thoughts with certainty through rational introspection, but we can only know the external world through our senses, which may be deceived or mistaken.

Metaphysical Dualism

Metaphysical dualism is the view that there are two distinct kinds of reality or existence: material and immaterial. Material reality consists of physical objects, events, and processes that obey natural laws and can be measured by science. Immaterial reality consists of non-physical entities, such as souls, spirits, gods, ideas, values, or meanings that transcend natural laws and cannot be reduced to matter.

One of the most prominent metaphysical dualists was Plato (c. 427-347 BCE), who proposed that there are two realms: the sensible world and the intelligible world. The sensible world is the world of appearances, change, and imperfection that we perceive through our senses. The intelligible world is the world of forms, ideas, and perfection that we access through our reason. Plato believed that the forms are the true reality and the source of all knowledge and goodness.

Ethical Dualism

Ethical dualism is the view that there are two opposing moral principles or values: good and evil. Good and evil are seen as absolute, universal, and irreconcilable categories that determine the rightness or wrongness of actions and outcomes. Ethical dualists claim that there is a clear distinction between good and evil, and that we have a duty to choose good over evil.

One of the most influential ethical dualists was Zoroaster (c. 1500-1000 BCE), who founded Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest monotheistic religions. He taught that there are two cosmic forces: Ahura Mazda (the Wise Lord) and Angra Mainyu (the Destructive Spirit). Ahura Mazda represents truth, light, order, and justice, while Angra Mainyu represents falsehood, darkness, chaos, and injustice. Zoroaster believed that humans have free will to choose between these forces, and that their choices will affect their fate in this life


(1) Dualism | Mind-Body, Mind-Matter, Cartesian | Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/dualism-philosophy.
(2) Dualism - Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism.
(3) Dualism | Definition, Religion, Examples, Significance, & Facts. https://www.britannica.com/topic/dualism-religion.
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