Interactionism a branch of dualism is one of the widely known methods of dealing with the mind-body problem which has remained a subject of discussion for many philosophers. People understand the concept of the mind-body problem in different ways. However, this concept entails how the mind relates to physical events and the reasons why it happens that way. Interactionism holds that the mind and the brain are two different things although they exert causal effects on each other. On the contrary, the philosophy of physicalism often interchanged with materialism argues that the mind and brain is one and the same thing (Rodenburg, 2015). Dualism is not the only way that can be used in thinking, but it emerges to be not only the most reliable but also a legitimate approach to understanding one’s surrounding as compared to other approaches like materialism.
The approach presents a powerful tool of connecting physical events with the mind. Substance dualists argue that the nature of man is composed of two essential substances which are the mental and physical substances. Lycan says that “according to Cartesian dualism, minds are purely spiritual and radically non-spatial, having neither size nor location” (Lycan, 47). Descartes through the substance dualism attempted to establish that there is a difference between the physical and mental. Some of the reasons why interactionism and generally dualism should be used as an approach to thinking are discussed below. Moreover, the paper also offers responses to criticisms raised against dualism.
Religion is one of the major arguments for dualism. Most of the conventional religions believe that there is life after death. Their beliefs suggest that there is an immortal soul that will not die. The religious belief is similar to dualism as the immortal soul can be viewed as a substitute for the mind. Plato believed that human bodies were replications of the eternal forms since they are prisons for the souls. Once an individual dies, the body decomposes as it is made of material whereas the soul which is immortal does not decoseay; hence the body and the mind is two different things. According to Descartes “bodies were machines, and just as we have to pull levers, or push buttons, in order for a machine to do something that is not part of its determined process, minds have to pull something like levers in order to interfere with the deterministic behavior of bodies” (Szubka & Warner, 1994). For this reason, Plato’s argument is accepted in Christianity.
Irreducibility is also an argument for dualism as it brings out several mental phenomena that cannot be accounted for by physical explanations. For instance, it is possible to physically explain the quality and meaningfulness of human thoughts or beliefs. Irreducibility comes in as it is difficult to transform these aspects into pure physical terms. If dualism were meaningless, then it would be possible to reduce mental states to physical objects and vice versa (Szubka & Warner, 1994). For example, whenever people felt angered it would be possible to convert the anger into a concrete object which is not true and thus dualism holds.
Another argument for dualism is the parapsychological phenomena. According to this phenomenon, it is difficult to explain mental powers such as telekinesis, clairvoyance, telepathy, and precognition purely from physical descriptions. Moreover, dualism gives the mind a nonphysical and supernatural nature. Parapsychology is, therefore, a significant argument for dualism. Despite the existence of these arguments for dualism, it also has counter-arguments. The simplicity argument argues that people should choose the simpler theory if all other things are equal. Materialists have debated that their concept is more practical as they only believe in the physical. Further, they argue the idea of materialism is more comfortable to prove, and the existence of material things is beyond doubts, unlike nonphysical things which are only imaginary. However, this argument is illogical as it would be more appropriate to use philosophical approaches that make more sense but not those with fewer concepts.
Dualism has also been argued against from the explanatory impotence. Whereas materialists can give detailed descriptions of all physical matters through scientific research, dualists are not in a position to explain anything since they do not have formulated theories. Churchland goes ahead to say that, “…dualism is less a theory of mind that it is an empty space waiting for a genuine theory of mind to be put in” (Szubka & Warner, 1994). In this case, the materialists reasoning is flawed because the mind referred to by the dualists may use forms of energy transfer that scientists are yet to discover. In the past centuries, unknown forms of science were disapproved and termed to be magic. Similarly, the mind may be clearly understood by science in the future.
Dualism has also been argued against neural dependence where mental capabilities are considered to be depended on the brain’s neural functions (Szubka & Warner, 1994). The materialists support their argument by saying that brain functioning is affected by injuries or drugs. In response to this claim, the materialists need to understand that the mind is an independent and nonphysical part which can only interact with physical matter through the brain which acts as its focal point. The brain and the mind are closely related, and any interference with the brain will also affect the mind.
The mind is a nonphysical entity that continually interacts with the physical brain. In other words, the mind and the body are two different things. The interaction between the two is immediate eliminating the need for intermediate causal description. As seen from the religion point of view, the irreducibility, and the parapsychological phenomenon, the mind, and the body cannot be regardedto as the same thing. The arguments raised against dualism include the simplicity argument, the explanatory impotence, and neural dependence and have several flaws as observed in their counter-arguments. Therefore, duality emerges to be a reliable and legitimate approach to understanding one’s surrounding as compared to other approaches like materialism.
Rodenburg, J. (2015). Substance dualism vs. physicalism. Retrieved from https://wjrodenburg.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/substance-dualism-vs-physicalism/comment-page-1/
Szubka, T., & Warner, R. (Eds.). (1994). The Mind-body Problem: A Guide to the Current Debate. Blackwell.
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