Monism Vs. Dualism

From: Walker-Hall, James (
Date: Fri May 24 1996 - 14:58:02 BST

Question 68. What are monism and dualism?

In simple terms, monism is the belief that ultimately the mind and the
brain are the same thing, whereas dualists believe that the mind and
the brain are separate. Both approaches have theoretical and
philosophical implications. For example, if the brain is all there is
to us, then were does that leave religion and the concept of a soul

The argument is not just between the two extremes, as there are many
different stances that philosophers and psychologists adopt. For
example, Interactionists believe that although the mind and body are
separate, the body affects the mind just as the mind affects the body.
Psycho-parallelists believe that the workings of the mind simply
reflect the workings of the body, and vice-versa - mental and physical
events are just correlated, there is no causal power in either part.

Idealism can be classed as monism in the sense that it says that the
mental and the physical are not separate, but it is almost the reverse
of the typical monist approach in that it believes the physical is a
function of the mental. This concept almost seems a denial of physics,
but they claim for physical objects and events etc. to occur, they need
to exist in someones mind; they need to be perceived. (The tree in the
forest falls down with no-one around - does it make a noise?) The
typical monist approach is the extreme reductionist one which states
all that exists is the physical. Our mental experiences such as
thoughts and feelings can ultimately be explained by physical
processes, (neuron firing etc). Conciousness, and self awareness (2
things which seem to make people look for answers outside the physical)
are a bi-product of the biological process.

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