Re: Monism Vs. Dualism

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Thu Jun 06 1996 - 21:33:50 BST

> Date: Thu, 6 Jun 1996 15:06:26 +0100 (BST)
> From: "Lewis L.M." <>
> Stevan, noted your plea for reassurance that you weren't wading through
> all the practice answers for no good reason - it is proving very
> helpful but even at this late stage I am still having inexplicable
> difficulty with Q.68 - What are Monism and Dualism? I would be greatful
> if you could find time to rattle off a VERY kid-sib explanation!
> Lewis M. Lewis

It's all about how to relate mind to matter: Are they somehow the SAME
kind of thing? In that case there is just ONE kind of thing, and you are
a monist.

Or are they two different kinds of things? In that case you are a

What is matter? It's that hard and soft and liquid and gaseous stuff all
around, including the tiny bits, like electrons and phtons, and the huge
ones, like stars. "Matter" includes all the physical forces, like
electromagnetism, gravity, and of course properties like mass, momentum,
etc. Matter is not the problem.

What is mind? Feelings. We all know what it's like to have feelings:
pain, fear, seeing yellow, understanding English, knowing that
2 + 2 = 4, wanting a glass of water, flexing a finger: For all these
things, there's something they FEEL LIKE, and having a mind is just
having those feelings, often also called consciousness, awareness,

The mind/body or mind/matter problem is: What are feelings? If you are a
monist you think feelings are some kind of matter (perhaps like
magnetism?); if you are a dualist, you think feelings are something

Both dualism and monism come in different flavours. One form of dualism
thinks mind can influence matter (movement vs telekinesis); other kinds
of dualists just accept that feelings exist, but don't think they have
any independent causal power. This is where Libet and mental timing come

Computationalism is a form of monism: Mental states are really just
computational states (and, as we know that computational states are
independent of their physical implementation, the way software is
independent of hardware, the mind/body problem is really just a special
case of the independence of software from hardware: this is where Searle
and the symbol grounding problem would come it).

How does this all fit with reverse engineering?

Clearer now? I hope you now have a few things to think about and connect

Chrs, S

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