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Essay on Substance Dualism

Essay on Substance Dualism

Chapter 6 delves into the metaphysics of the mind. As one of the core areas of philosophy, metaphysics questions the reality of existence and the relationship between the physical and non-physical world. It is a complex aspect of philosophy that addresses issues beyond empirical science. The primary issues under metaphysics include the science of being, identity, time, abstract objects, and space. This paper will focus on the dualism relationship between the mind and the body.

The dualist position avers that the mental and physical are two distinctive substances. The dualist position emphasizes that the mind and the body interact with one another, but none of the two is a component of the other. The main argument is that although the mind and body complement one another, neither can shape or change the functioning of the other. As per the dualism position, the mental and brain functions cannot correlate since the two are not the same thing.

One of the main arguments under mind-body dualism centers on substance dualism. The substance dualism argument looks at the brain as the body, while the mind is the non-physical aspect of the relationship (Skirry, 2005). To that end, the experiences of the mind and the functions of the brain do not correlate. The theory is linked to one philosopher, Rene Descartes, who developed and defended it (Skirry, 2005). The primary argument by substance dualists is that the mind and the body are completely different. The mind lacks physical attributes such as motion, location, size, and shape and does not adhere to the basic laws of physics. Based on the argument, substance dualists are further divided into three different categories based on their argument about the mind and the body. The three categories that fall under substance dualists include interactionists, occasionalists, and parallelists.

First, the interactionism perspective avers that human communication and interaction are critical in shaping human experience and reality. Based on the interactionism perspective of substance dualism, it emerges that social reality is created. The position negates the common belief that reality is pre-determined by one’s past events and experiences. Interactionists believe that humans shape their social reality through communication and interaction (Calef, 2005). A real-life example of the application of social reality creation based on the interactionism perspective can be people’s everyday social habits. For instance, substance or alcohol consumption emanates from the company one keeps or the people they constantly communicate with. Based on that, an individual may fall into drug addiction by spending most of their time with people who consume drugs. Besides, children born and raised by addicted parents are likely to carry on with the habit into their adult life by observing and creating a social reality. This negates the argument that some individuals get addicted due to genetic inheritance because their parents were using it. The interactionism perspective of substance dualism completely disconnects one’s physical aspect (brain, genes) from the non-physical mind experiences.

Further, the interactionalism perspective of substance dualism delves into the significance of subjective interpretation. Interactionalism cements the assertion that people interpret their experiences subjectively (Calef, 2005). People undergo different experiences during interactions, but how these experiences influence their behavior depends on their mindset. For instance, when crime is reported to be increasing in a country, people will interpret such a claim subjectively based on their area of residence. On the one hand, some will agree with the assertion if they live in a crime-infested area and may have heard accounts from victims. On the other hand, those living in secure high-end residential areas will deny such reports even when statistics show that crime is on the rise. That indicates that the brain and the mind are distinct since the brain may connect with these assertions, but the mind denies them based on personal experiences.

Other perspectives of substance dualism are occasionalism and parallelism. On the one hand, parallelism avers that mental and physical events occur independently of each other, but there are distinctive realms between the two (Skirry, 2005). To that end, mental events shape other mental events, whereas physical events shape other physical events. On the other hand, occasionalism avers that there is a higher power that shapes mental and physical events. A good example that indicates the real-life implication of occasionalism may be explained better through theology. For instance, based on occasionalism, If an individual fails to secure a job, then one of the explanations could be that they are not praying enough or sacrificing enough for a higher being. Since occasionalism detaches one’s failures in the job market from a lack of job search skills, the dualism perspective that disconnects one’s physical form from the mental state stands.

Whereas the proponents of the body-mind substance dualism have valid arguments, the perspective faces a myriad of counterarguments. One of the primary arguments challenging substance dualism is the interaction problem. Substance dualism avers that the body and the mind are distinct substances that do not influence one another. Opponents of this assertion question how the distinct substances interact if they are not connected (Ravenscroft, 2018). For instance, if someone is nervous, they are likely to bite their nails in response. In that case, the mind is the one experiencing nervousness, and the brain directs one to bite their finger as a coping response. Another argument that weakens substance dualism is the problem of causal closure. Under this counterargument, there is a generally accepted principle of physical closure. To that end, if the mind is a non-physical aspect that interacts with the physical world as suggested by substance dualism, then the assertion violates the principle of physical closure (Ravenscroft, 2018). Another possible weakness of the substance dualism perspective is the problem of personal identity. This counterargument questions how people have managed to maintain personal identity, yet the mind and the body are distinct.

In summary, metaphysics of the mind, which is in lesson 6, investigates the principle of things, including causality, reality, being, time, and abstract objects. One of the central positions in this topic is the mind-body dualism. One prominent perspective of mind-body dualism is substance dualism, which avers that the mind and body are distinct and neither can reduce the other. The first argument under substance dualism is interactionism, which asserts that social reality is shaped by human interaction and communication. This perspective delinks any connection between the body and the mind. The other perspective of substance dualism is occasionalism, which connects events to a higher being/God, thus affirming that there is no connection between the brain and the mind. Finally, parallelism asserts that the mind and the body are distinct by claiming that physical forms influence each other while mental states also influence each other separately. However, some counterarguments challenge substance dualism, including the interaction problem, the problems of causal closure, and personal identity.


Calef, S. (2005). Dualism and mind. The encyclopedia of philosophy.

Ravenscroft, I. (2018). Why Reject Substance Dualism?. The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism, 267-282.

Skirry, J. (Ed.). (2005). Descartes and the metaphysics of human nature. A&C Black.


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Essay on Substance Dualism

Essay on Substance Dualism

You are to write an essay explaining and evaluating one of the major positions discussed in Lessons 4, 5, 6, or 7. The purpose of this assignment is for you to demonstrate your understanding of one of the central debates in epistemology or the philosophy of mind and to support your position on this issue.
Your essay must be 3-4 pages, double-spaced, in 12-point font.
I will be evaluating your essay based on the following criteria.
Regarding your content development, you will be graded based on the quality of your writing. I expect you to start with an introduction that motivates the project and plainly states your thesis. Then, finish with a conclusion that summarizes your evaluation of the position clearly and explores the implications or limitations of your assessment. In addition, your essay must have a clear and logical organizational plan as well, with ideas, sentences, and paragraphs building naturally in support of your thesis. To accomplish this, you must make sure your organizational plan is obvious to the reader, and you must use transitional words, phrases, and sentences to show how your sentences and paragraphs relate to each other and to your thesis.

Demonstrate your mastery of the relevant conventions of philosophical writing; you will need to provide a clear and complete explanation of the position you are discussing. In addition, you will also need to provide a clear and complete explanation of the relevant alternative views discussed in the lesson and draw a clear contrast between all of these views.
To demonstrate your understanding of the context and purpose of this assignment, you should provide a clear example that illustrates to the reader the relevance of this debate to our lives. Your example needs to be realistic, and you need to come up with it on your own. You will also need to explain how the example illustrates the position under discussion.
Concerning the appropriate use of sources and evidence, I expect you to explain and evaluate the relevant arguments or considerations from the lessons, both for and against the position under discussion, in detail and with clarity. In your evaluation of each argument, you will need to explain whether the premises are true, whether the reasoning is valid, and why you think so. Further, you will
need to consider and assess at least one possible objection to each argument and then provide a sufficiently compelling overall evaluation of the argument in light of this objection.
Finally, to demonstrate your control of syntax and mechanics, I expect you to skillfully communicate your meaning to the reader with clarity and virtually no grammatical mistakes. Overall, your essay must be clear, with well-developed paragraphs, complete and grammatical sentences, and words chosen for their precise meanings.

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