Dualism (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
This term dualism is used to describe any system in which there are two realities. The term is sometimes used to express the existence of two gods or the existence of God and the cosmos, but its most common usage is in the philosophy of human nature. A dualist holds that a human person is constituted by a body and what may be called a mind or soul or consciousness. Some dualists hold that persons are nonphysical concrete subjects who are embodied contingently. That is, a person may survive the destruction of his or her body, or one's body may continue to exist (as a corpse) after one has ceased to be. The greatest competing philosophy of human nature is materialism. While representatives of dualism in contemporary philosophy are in the minority, dualism is not easily uprooted philosophically, religiously, or culturally.
On the philosophical front, materialists often have difficulty capturing the evident existence of consciousness or felt experiences. Human thinking, sensing, and feeling appear to be different in kind from brain processes and other bodily activity. At a minimum, there is a profound causal relation between the two (one's thinking is contingent on neurological events), and yet a causal relation is not the same thing as identity. The mental and physical may be causally interdependent without being identical. Since 1980, a range of philosophers who are materialists either in their convictions or inclinations (e.g., Thomas Nagel, Colin McGinn, Jaegwon Kim, and John Pollock), have insisted that there are serious problems with identifying consciousness with physical states and processes.
A shift in contemporary science has also bolstered the case for dualism. So long as a strictly deterministic physical science dominated the view of nature, it appeared that something nonphysical (states of consciousness or the soul) would have no causal role in explaining events in the world. This would render a dualist account of action absurd. But quantum mechanics has advanced an indeterminist view of the cosmos, and it is more difficult to rule out dualism.
From a religious point of view, dualism is in play with most but not all traditions that acknowledge an afterlife. Some religions believe in a resurrection of the dead in which a person survives death by their material body being either reconstituted or re-created. But even these religions often preserve some immaterial locus or referent to secure a person's identity; in between physical death and resurrection a person might still be thought of as present to God. Virtually all religions that include a belief in reincarnation allow that there is some immaterial aspect to a person's or a soul's identity. If persons are identical with their bodies, then what happens to persons and bodies are the very same; dualism allows persons and souls to share a different fate from their bodies.
Dualism also receives some support from cultures that routinely adopt different methods for studying and talking about persons as opposed to studying and talking about their bodies. Consider a modest example in English: It can make sense to say that someone is in class but that his or her mind is far away.
History of the concept
Historically, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (42847 B.C.E.) was a key advocate of a form of dualism. Dualism is integral to his case for the immortality of the soul, as expressed in the Phaedrus, Phaedo, and Republic. Plato posited not just a postmortem existence but life before material embodiment (prenatal existence). Plato thought of a person's material embodiment as good but also as something that impedes the soul's longing for the good, the true, and the beautiful. Compared with the beauty and glory of disembodied life, material existence can be like a prison. The early Christian leader Augustine of Hippo (35430 C.E.) developed a Platonic form of Christianity, rejecting some of Plato's beliefs (Augustine rejected pre-natal existence, as well as Plato's view of the divine as a finite reality) but preserving his dualism and the centrality of the good.
Some Platonic Christians in the medieval period speculated that God creates a host of various forms of intelligence in either embodied or disembodied form. This formed part of the principle of plentitude in medieval thought. The philosopher Thomas Aquinas (1225274) preserved much of the Platonic, Augustinian tradition but he more firmly insisted that human beings are comprised of matter and form. He still allowed that a person's soul persists after death, so Aquinas's reservations about radical dualism were limited.
Modern philosophy in Europe focussed on three philosophies of human nature. Dualism was championed by René Descartes (1596650); Cartesian dualism was advanced based on the conceivability of the self without the body. Thomas Hobbes (1588679) was very much on the other side. According to Hobbes, only matter exists and the very notion of there being something immaterial was nonsense. Hobbes insisted that even God is a material reality. A third position was championed by George Berkeley (1685753) who held that matter was not a fundamental, mind-independent reality. The cosmos is made up of minds and their sensory experiences. Berkeley's thesis that only minds and their states and activities exist is called idealism. In the eighteenth century it was possible to see dualism as a mediating, moderate choice between the extremes of materialism and idealism.
Many contemporary Christian theologians see dualism as part of an undesirable body-hatred; dualism is accused of foisting on people an excessively fragmented view of embodiment. Moreover, dualism is thought to reflect a vain attempt by humans to distinguish themselves from the rest of creation. These objections all seem answerable. There is no necessity for dualists to see embodiment in negative terms. And while a person's psychological and physical life can be fragmented, there is no need for dualism to regard human embodiment as always laden with bifurcation. Dualists may see the embodied person as a functional unity. As for the question of human pride, Descartes famously denied nonhuman animals were like humans in possessing (or being) minds. Descartes read nature in mechanical terms while he tried to secure an exception for human life. But most contemporary dualists see the emergence of consciousness as something involving nonhuman animal life; people share with some nonhumans in having experiences and possessing psychological abilities. Dualists tend to see the emergence of consciousness as something that prevails throughout the animal world and not something limited exclusively to human beings.
See also AUGUSTINE; EMBODIMENT; MATERIALISM; MIND-BODY THEORIES; MIND-BRAIN INTERACTION; MONISM; PLATO; THOMAS AQUINAS
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Dualism (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
In the history of religion, dualism refers to the eighteenth-century doctrines that see God and the devil as two first principles, irreducible and coeternal. Christian Wolff (1734/1968) classified dogmatic philosophies into dualistic systems, which separated the soul from the body as distinct substances, and monistic systems, both groups being distinct from skepticism. In anthropology, epistemology, and ethics, a theory is dualistic when two irreducible principles can serve as a foundation for the theory.
From "A case of successful treatment by hypnotism" (1892-1893) to his last works, Sigmund Freud envisioned mental processes as resulting from underlying conflicts, fed by opposing forces: "Psychoanalysis early became aware that all mental occurrences must be regarded as built on the basis of an interplay of the forces of the elementary instincts" (1923a). In the first topographic subsystem, these forces arise from the sexual instincts in conflict with the ego, or self-preservation, instincts. Later Freud (1914c) said that they arise from the object libido in conflict with the ego libido, as well as from the pressure of the drives. In the second topographic subsystem (after 1920), they arise from the life and death drives. These forces structure the form and dynamics of the mental processes.
Although Freud emphasized the existence of two types of drives in his dualistic approach, he avoids the word "dualism." Originating in the body, effecting the association of body and mind, and causing physical changes (conversion) or other types of modifications (other defenses), the drives create a dualistic dynamic, though this is not sufficient for saying that psychoanalytic theory is dualistic.
As Freud's research evolved, the essential polarities and the role of instinctual dualism changed as well. When studying the transference neuroses, Freud postulated an "opposition between the 'sexual impulses' directed toward the object and other impulses that we can only identify imperfectly and temporarily designate with the name 'ego instincts' " Freud noted the concordance with the opposition between hunger and love. He added, "In the forefront of these instincts, we must recognize the instincts that serve for the preservation of the individual" (1920g). In the first topographic subsystem, these forces arising from instincts were like vectors applied to quasi points (unconscious representations). In this way they resembled the structures of classical physics (Freud, 1899a).
Freud's introduction, between 1911 and 1915, of narcissism, of the ego as agency, of transference (rather than phenomenological transfer), and of a series of correlative terms of considerable scope shows his dissatisfaction with the former dynamic system. Freud then insisted that antagonistic forces account for morphogenesis, stabilization, and the evolution (in modern terms, structural stability) of large irreducible structures such as the ego, the ego ideal, and certain identifications.
After a period of confusion when Freud replaced the dynamics of conflict with the opposition between object libido and ego, together with the pressure of the drive, Freud proposed the dualism of the life and death drives. A chiasma was introduced, since the sex drive, a disturbing toxic force in the first topographic subsystem, was now integrated in the life drive (germen), while the ego instincts (soma) were partially integrated in the death drive. The difficulty that this chiasma creates can be resolved by assuming that the new dualism, which is more comprehensive, resolves conflicts between tendencies with different degrees of stability. The ego affects its own immediate stability by conflicting with the expression of sexuality, which forces the ego to change. The sexual drive is directed, in the last instance, at the long-term structural stability of the species.
Drive dualism correlates with a number of conflicts. These include the polarities of mental life: the economic polarity of pleasure and unpleasure, the reality polarities of the ego and the outside world, the biological polarities of activity and passivity. This last pair introduces the polarities around which the contrasts between the sexes develop: active/passive, phallic/nonphallic, masculine/feminine. In ambivalence there is movement between love and hate, and ultimately between the life and death drives; or between the pleasure principle and the reality (formerly constancy) principle, and ultimately between the life and death drives.
The dualism of the life and death drives has often been rejected or poorly understood. It has been interpreted in an exclusively realist sense (Melanie Klein and the Paris school of psychosomatics) even though there was also a theoretical component. The repetition compulsion and death drive have been unilaterally interpreted as nondynamic structural formalisms. Freud's requirements for drive theory involve dynamically accounting for the simple stability that repetition implies (for example, in symptoms) while taking into account the structural stability (always deviating in the same way) that the majority of mental structures implement. "But," according to Freud (1920g), "in no region of psychology were we groping more in the dark [than in the case of the drives]." Only Gustav Fechner and his hypotheses of stability were of use to Freud. Contemporary dynamicists provide more refined instruments for plumbing the depths of Freudian drive dualism while respecting its preconditions.
See also: Ambivalence; Beyond the Pleasure Principle; Demand; Destrudo; Ego-instinct; Fusion/defusion of instincts; Libido; Life instinct (Eros); Monism; Psychology of Women. The, A Psychoanalytic Interpretation, The; Psychosomatic limit/boundary.
Freud, Sigmund. (1892-1893). A case of successful treatment by hypnotism. SE, 1: 115-128.
. (1899a). Screen memories. SE, 3: 299-322.
. (1914c). On narcissism: an introduction. SE, 14: 67-102.
. (1920g). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18: 1-64.
. (1923). The libido theory. SE, 18: 255-259.
Laplanche, Jean. (1970). Vie et mort en psychanalyse. Paris: Flammarion.
Wolff, Christian. (1968). Psychologia rationalis. Hildesheim, Germany: Olms. (Originally published 1734)