Strengths And Weaknesses Of Dualism

QUESTION: What are the strengths and weaknesses of dualism?

ANSWER:

When we ask the question, “What are the strengths and weaknesses of dualism,” we are really asking what are the evidences for and against dualism.

Dualism was a concept coined, but not originated, by Rene Descartes. The concept was that our mind is more than just our physical brain. He did not originate the concept because the Bible teaches that we are more than our body and brains. It teaches that we have a separate mind, spirit, or soul.

If we believe that the world is not limited to materialism and just believe in the possibility of the supernatural, the rational and scientific evidence for mind/brain dualism is very strong. However, if we reject the possibility of the supernatural, that preconception alone is the strongest evidence against dualism.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Dualism - Rational and scientific evidence for dualism:
One argument is that the mental and physical realms have very different properties. Mental events have subjective qualities such as what does it feel like, what does it look like or what does it sound like. Sensations like these really cannot be reduced to something physical.

The existence of the science of psychology implies the existence of the mind. The psychology of materials is not rational. Likewise the existence of the science of meteorology presupposes a mind that cares about the weather.

There is no place in the brain where electric stimulation can cause a person to believe or decide. Although our thoughts can be true or false our brain states cannot be true or false. Nobody can tell what we are thinking by measuring brain waves. We must be asked what we are thinking.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Dualism - Rational and scientific evidence against dualism:
One argument is the lack of any rational understanding of how any possible interaction could possibly take place between the brain and the mind. This argument depends upon the presumption that the supernatural or another realm or dimension does not exist that could account for the interaction.

Another argument is based upon what happens when the brain is damaged. When damage occurs from physical trauma, drug abuse, or pathological diseases our mental powers are always compromised. The argument holds that if the brain and the mind were actually separate, our mental powers would not be comprised. This is a pretty good argument. However, it also depends upon the presumption that the supernatural does not exist and that God does not have a reason for letting our brain limit our mental function while we are living.

Conclusion:

The arguments for the existence or a brain/mind dualism are strong. Some arguments can be made to refute the strong affirmative evidence, but they are dependent upon an anti-supernatural presumption.

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