Re: Monism Vs. Dualism

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Tue Jun 04 1996 - 20:59:35 BST

> From: "Walker-Hall, James" <>
> Date: Fri, 24 May 1996 13:58:02 GMT
> 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 etc.

What is your answer?

> 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.

This is a form of dualism; this detail, not discussed in the course,
does not relate to the course unless you discuss the problem of
causality and will. Don't just name or list things: give concepts
kid-sib could understand.

> 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.

Again, this is just definition, not related to the issues raised in the

> 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?)

These old philosophical stereotypes unfortunately do not show new
insight or understanding.

> 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.

You have obviously done a little reading about the definition of monism
and dualism, but they were already defined in lectures, so what is
needed here is some integration with issues in the course, such as the
mind/body problem, computationalism, causality, reverse engineering,

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