A philosophical archive for the constructive study of substance dualism: www.newdualism.org.
Why this Website?
Unified TheoriesIn this scientific age, we have been lead to believe of the virtues of unified theories, in which all observed things in the world follow from one set of scientific laws of nature. This virtue would be clearly obtained if all the world, and all of everything in it, were composed of one kind of substance, since there should then be a unified set of laws for the behaviour of this thing. This is monism, in which there are no two different kinds of existing things.
Is it TRUE that there is just one existing substance?
Many philosophers, and many scientists in the philosophy of their everyday life, do not believe that there is just one existing substance.
So we ask the obvious question: is dualism true: that there are are
two (or more) existing substances?
Rene Descartes, in
Meditations, is the best known exponent of the theory of
From his own speculation, he developed what is now called Cartesian Dualism. This is explained separately, but the basic idea is that mental substances were not extended in space, and that material substances were composed of pure extension in space. Minds, though unextended, were thought to exist at specific places, namely, Descartes thought, in the human pineal gland.
Physicists now longer believe that substances in nature are so simply characterised as this, but Cartesian Dualism has become the most widely known formulation of dualism. Widely known, and these days, widely despised!
Robert Bolton points out:
'Cartesianism' as a doctrine has taken on a life of its own as a position that few people want to defend.
Very often it is misrepresented. For example, very many ills of modern thought and practice are attributed to the separation of body and mind that resulted from this particular conception. Animals, for example, were not thought to have mentality, but to be like machines. Affections in the body, for another example, were not allowed to be related to mentality as such. However, Descartes believed that 'affections in the body' were just that: in the body and not in the mind.
More discussion on the Descartes legend, and what he actually said.
Non-Cartesian Dualism: the challenge here!
The challenge discussed at this website is to develop a Non-Cartesian Dualism.
We can begin by acknowledging that complete theory of dualism should show how dual substances may be intertwined and contiguous at many levels and at many scales. Just by analogy with the blue and green in the logo above, which are intertwined and contiguous at all scales. What makes this a dualism is the the blue and green are not continuous with other, but contiguous. We surely know, for example, that the mental processes are related to more activities in the human body than just in the pineal gland.
How is dualism possible?
Our challenge requires us to show how dualism is possible. What coherent theory of dualism & interactions can be formulated? Only then can we discuss which theory is compatible with empirical evidence and other constraints!
As well as imagining how dualism is possible, we really need to know when, where, and why too. A good theory should have the potential of answering all these questions.
I.J. Thompson, 10 Jan 04