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Dualism and Physicalism

Running Head: DUALISM VERSUS PHYSICALISM 1
Dualism versus Physicalism
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DUALISM VERSUS PHYSICALISM 2
Introduction
The debate on whether the intelligence or conscious form, mind, in people is a physical
phenomenon or one that is immaterial is found in various fields of study. The debate pertains to
both meta-physics and psychology. The most common of positions concerning the issue are
dualism and physicalism. This paper will explain both the concepts of dualism and physicalism.
Dualism on its part holds that the soul or mind is made up of an immaterial substance. According
to dualists, this immaterial substance cannot be located in space and time, and indeed transcends
space and time. This view holds that the purpose of brain is only to act as an antenna that connects
the body of a person to the immaterial mind (Pratt, 2017). The implication of this is that destruction
of the body or the brain does not lead to destruction of the mind.
On the contrary, the physicalists oppose the view that the mind is an immaterial substance
and instead advance the concept that the mind is a physical phenomenon. In this sense, the mind
is composed of physical objects which are the cells of the brain or neurons, which are then made
up of atoms at the smallest level. This view holds that the mind and the brain are synonymous with
the mind being a product of the connections between neurons (Pratt, 2017). The implication of this
view is that destruction of the body and/or the brain leads to destruction of the mind as well. In
this essay, I am going to show that dualism is a more flawed view than physicalism, but this does
not mean physicalism is error-free. As my arguments will show, this view comes from both
psychology and philosophy.
If the soul or mind were immaterial, where is it located? It cannot be in the universe because
all things in the universe are governed by physical law and are bound by space and time. The
argument by dualists that the mind is like gravity is only logical but impossible scientifically. This
argument would then call for complicated arguments. In addition, if such substances exist, how do
DUALISM VERSUS PHYSICALISM 3
they interact with the body and what rules govern this interaction? It is clear that dualism does not
qualify in explaining the state of the mind because it is very complicated and itself leads to more
complications.
Although the issue of dualism versus physicalism is considered to be a philosophical one,
it has a psychological dimension to it. The argument of psychology is in support of physicalism.
It looks at how drugs affect the brain. Ritalin and cocaine are identical in terms of chemical
characteristics and have effects on the neuron neurotransmitters, increasing dopaminergic feelings
(Koerner, 2017). This occurs physically. The drug is physical, with molecules and it affects the
neurotransmitters which are made up of atoms. This purely physical process has effects on the
soul/mind. If as the dualists claim, the soul/mind is immaterial, it could not be affected by this
physical process. Nothing immaterial can be affected by physical phenomenon, because
immaterial things are above the laws that govern physical things.
In conclusion, my arguments in this essay show that dualism is flawed more than
physicalism is, although this is not to say that there are no faults to physicalism. My arguments are
more scientific than philosophical. Science should be considered as a party to contribute in this
debate. It goes without saying that this debate has come about as a result of lack of knowledge on
this issue. It is worth noting that physicalism has its own flaws. My aim for the essay was to show
that dualism has more problems than physicalism.
DUALISM VERSUS PHYSICALISM 4
References
Koerner, B. (2017). Is Ritalin "chemically similar" to cocaine?. Slate Magazine. Retrieved 27
November 2017, from
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2003/01/is_ritalin_chemically
_similar_to_cocaine.html
Pratt, B. (2017). What Are the Key Concepts In the Physicalism/Dualism Debate?. Tough
Questions Answered. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from
http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2012/03/14/what-are-the-key-concepts-in-the-
physicalismdualism-debate/

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