Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kinds of Monism and Kinds of Dualism

Sven went over a lot of different kinds of monism and dualism.  His main goal was to expose you to the variety of ways that people have historically solved the mind-body problem.  The details of the different views are not important for our purposes.  Still, I thought that some of you might want a little more explanation of the different categories!  Enjoy!

Monism vs. Dualism.  Dualists think that there are two basic kinds of substances or kinds of stuff that exist in the world (physical stuff and mental stuff).  Monists think that there is only one kind of thing.  Contemporary monists usually think that the one kind of thing is physical matter.  This theory is called Physicalism  There are, however, people who think that the one kind of substance is mental.   This theory is called Idealism.

Different Kinds of Physicalism.  Physicalists think that the only thing that exists is physical matter (physical objects).  A Behaviorist thinks that everything mental can be explained in terms of physical behaviors.  Identity Theorists think that everything mental can be explained in terms of the specific electro-chemical activity that happens in the brain when the “mental event” happens.  In other words, a mental state is just the brain activity that happened when a person experienced that mental state.  Functionalists think that the mental can be entirely explained in terms of the functions that are served by the activity in our brains and our physical behaviors.

Kinds of Idealism.  Idealists thing that only mental stuff, or ideas, exist.  Berkeley was an idealist who thought that the only thing that exists are our (and God’s) ideas of things.  A solipsist, however, thinks that the only thing that exists are his or her own ideas of things.

Kinds of Dualism.  It is important to note that many historical dualists thought that the mental substance was something like a soul, or something that was really just part of God.  Occasionalists think that the connection between the mental and the physical is that our physical bodies provide occasions for God (the mental substance) to act.  Leibniz thought that God had established a pre-established harmony where the mental stuff and the physical stuff were doing cooperating things at the same time because God designed them to act in this way.  Cartesian Interactionism is Descartes’ view that the mind and body interact with one another.  How this happens exactly is a little fuzzy on Descartes’ account.  Epiphenomenalism is the view that physical events cause mental events to happen.  Epiphenomenalists think that these mental events have no impact on the physical events.

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