What is a critical analysis of parallelism in philosophy?

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In philosophy, parallelism is the name given to an attempt to account for the parallel interaction between mind and body. Proponents of parallelism argue that there is no causal interaction between mind and body. Instead, they perform their own specific functions in tandem with each other.

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In philosophy, parallelism is a theory devised to solve the long-standing mind/body problem. Briefly put, the mind/body problem states that it is impossible to give a plausible account of the causal interaction between mind and body, given that they are such radically different substances. One is mental, and the other is physical. Causation only takes place between physical objects in space, so how is it possible for the mind, which isn't a physical object, to cause movements in the body?

Parallelism tries to get around this problem by arguing that mental and bodily events are perfectly coordinated without any causal interaction between them. In his philosophical masterpiece The Ethics, the rationalist philosopher Spinoza held that there was only one substance, God (or Nature), of which mind and matter were two attributes. They are two different but related ways of comprehending the same reality.

The mind and the body are therefore simply two sides of the same coin; they do not causally interact but instead parallel one another. For Spinoza, whatever happens in the body always occurs in tandem with the contents of our mind, and vice versa.

Spinoza's is only one of the many attempts to deal with the mind/body problem using parallelism. But all of such efforts share the same common notion: that mind and body are related in a non-causal manner. This approach has been criticized on the grounds that the constant correlation posited by parallelism lacks scientific veracity.

Science deals with empirical procedures that, in order to account for the interaction between two phenomena, operate on the assumption of some kind of cause taking place. Parallelism, because it deals with the mind, avoids this procedure, avowing instead that a constant correlation between mind and body is all that can reasonably be established.

Yet, this has been criticized as an example of question-begging, assuming something that needs to be proved. And if something cannot be proved, so the critics of parallelism claim, then it has no validity. If we are to account for the relationship between mind and body, critics argue, then we need to treat the mind as if it were a species of matter. Such a materialistic conception of the mind, whatever its shortcomings—is the mind really material?—does at least have the benefit of allowing us to establish a possible causal connection between mind and body.

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Provide a critical analysis on parallelism in philosophy.

Parallelism can be seen as one of many attempts throughout the history of philosophy to answer the so-called mind-body problem: how is it possible for there to be any kind of meaningful interaction between mental and physical states? The two deal with entirely different things, the mind with thoughts and the body with physical movement. And yet somehow there appears to be some kind of correspondence between mind and body. They may be different, but they are not entirely separate.

Parallelism attempts to answer the mind-body problem by arguing that there is a harmony between mind and body. This isn’t the same thing as saying that the mind and body causally interact. In other words, the mind cannot cause the movements of the body, nor can the body cause thoughts in the mind. Properly speaking, causation only relates to physical objects, so this rules out the mind as having any causal influence. Instead, so the argument runs, the mind and body operate on parallel lines, giving the false impression that there’s causal interaction between them.

That the mind and body should appear to interact in the way that they do is entirely down to the pre-established harmony of creation set in place by God. Everything in God’s creation is harmonious, including mind and body. The philosopher Leibniz held that God had arranged the universe to look as if there was some kind of interaction, as a way of proving order and stability to the creation.

Outside theism, then, parallelism has no real meaning. It was a way for theists in the Age of Reason, theists such as Leibniz, to reconcile their belief in God with the existence of a physical universe that was becoming increasingly amenable to causal explanation.

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