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Dualism Essay Research Paper Dualism

Dualism Essay, Research Paper


I believe that the popular or “ghost in the machine” form of

substance dualism best solves the mind body problem. My views in this area have

been influenced by my twelve years of Catholic education. The soul, or mind,

depending on your level of belief, was a complete and separate entity and was

the center of a human being. The body was an ambulatory device that the soul

directed. The idea that the mind is a separate entity and that it is

independent of the physical body is the central point of substance dualism.

Churchland explains that substance dualism claims that the mind is

a distinct nonphysical thing, a complete nonphysical entity that is independent

of any physical body to which it is temporarily attached. Any and all mental

states and activities, as well as physical ones, originate from this unique

entity. Substance dualism states that the real essence of you has nothing to do

with your physical body, but rather from the distinct nonphysical entity of the

mind. The mind is in constant interaction with the body. The body’s sense

organs create experiences in the mind. The desires and decisions of the mind

cause the body to act in certain ways. This is what makes each mind’s body its


The popular or “ghost in the machine” form of substance dualism

states that a person is a “ghost in a machine”, the ghost being the mind or

spirit and the machine is the body. Within this description, the mind/spirit

controls the body and is in intimate contact with the brain. The brain would be

the nexus between the mind and body.

The popular form of substance dualism was adopted after the

difficulties of Cartesian dualism could not be overcome. Rene Descartes stated

that the nonphysical and the physical could not interact. this became a problem

in dualism since the nonphysical mind needed to interact with the physical body.

These difficulties provided a motive for the move to popular substance dualism.

The first major argument for substance dualism is religion. Each

of the major religions place belief in life after death; that there is an

immortal soul that will survive death. This very closely resembles substance

dualism. The mind can be substituted for the immortal soul. In fact the two

are almost interchangeable. This argument is primarily the basis for my own

belief in substance dualism. My personal experiences as a religion student give

me insight into this argument.

The second major argument for substance dualism is irreducibility.

this points to a variety of mental phenomena that no physical explanation could

account for what is going on. An example would be the quality and meaningful

content of human thoughts and beliefs. These things cannot be reduced to purely

physical terms, hence irreducibility. This is also another good argument that I

can understand from personal experiences. I cannot reduce my reactions and

feelings toward how a steak tastes to a mathematical equation. This is the same


The final argument for substance dualism is parapsychological

phenomena. Mental powers such as telepathy, precognition, telekinesis, and

clairvoyance are all near impossible to explain within the boundaries of physics

and psychology. These phenomena reflect the nonphysical and supernatural nature

that dualism gives to the mind. Because I believe in these phenomena, it seems

logical to me that parapsychology is an excellent argument for substance dualism.

These arguments give a good basis for a philosopher to believe in

substance dualism. However there are also serious arguments against it

The first major argument against dualism is simplicity.

Materialists state that because their view is simpler (they only believe in one

thing- that which is physical) it is more rational to subscribe to their view.

The materialist point of view is also easier to prove because there is no doubt

that physical matter exists, while nonphysical matter is currently a hypothesis.

This argument seems very illogical to me. Philosophical views should be chosen

because one makes more sense to you, not because one has a smaller number of

ideas within it.

The second major argument against substance dualism is explanatory

impotence. Materialists can explain anything physical through scientific study,

whereas dualists can explain nothing because no theory has ever been formulated.

Churchland says, “…dualism is less a theory of mind than it is an empty space

waiting for a genuine theory of mind to be put in”. I see one flaw with the

materialist theory here. The mind in the dualist theory may use a form of

energy transfer not yet discovered by science. Centuries ago, undiscovered

forms of science were refuted and called “magic”. In the future, The mind may

become completely understood by science.

The third argument against substance dualism is neural dependence.

That the mental capacities depend on the brain’s neural activities. The

materialists show that the mind is altered when the brain is altered by drugs or

injuries. I would explain this by saying that since the mind is a separate

nonphysical entity and cannot interact with physical matter, it needs a focal

point to control the body from. This focal point is the brain. The mind and

the brain are so intimately intertwined any disruption of the brain will affect

the mind.

The Final argument against substance dualism is evolutionary

history. The materialist states that human beings have been incrementally built

up from simpler physical creatures. This is evolution. Because this is a pure

physical process and the simpler creatures we were constructed from had no

nonphysical mind, there is no way to account for our mind. This is a difficult

argument to win. The only rebuttal I can give is that because we are a pinnacle

of evolution, we developed the nonphysical mind along with free-will and our

level of intelligence. This may be an extremely arrogant and proud view, but it

is the only one I can think of.

I believe that the strength of dualism’s positive arguments

outweighs is detractions.

Works Cited

Churchland, Paul M. Matter and Consciousness. Massachusetts: The MIT Press,


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