Dualist Theories of Consciousness

Dualist theories explain consciousness by separating it from physical reality, where physical knowledge or explanation of a phenomenon, such as an orgasm, does not explain how we experience it.

Consciousness is the ability to recognize oneself as part of reality. But do we really know how this capacity is produced or generated? Do we have a soul? Or is consciousness a physical property that arises from the functioning of our neurons? Scientists and philosophers have been studying consciousness for hundreds of years, coming up with different theories, but we can recognize that we are really far from knowing how it works.

There are different theories of consciousness. Whereas materialism holds that properties of consciousness depend on physical properties. All dualistic theories hold that at least some aspects of consciousness go beyond the realm of the physical, but differ in which. In this article, we will explain dualistic theories of consciousness and his different proposals to explain this concept.

    What is dualism?

    Metaphysical theories of consciousness provide answers to the mind-body problem: what is the relationship between mind and body? Or rather… What is the relationship between mental properties and physical properties?

    I think, then I exist. Descartes clearly identified the mind with consciousness and the ability to think, and distinguished it from the body as an entity without the ability to think. As such, he was the first to pose the mind-body problem as it exists today. Dualism it contrasts with monism, which sees the mind as a single reality or entity unified with the rest of realitywithout any division.

    Therefore, discussions of dualism begin by assuming the reality of the physical world and then examine why the mind cannot be treated simply as part of that world.

    Dualism denies that consciousness depends on physical properties. The strength of these arguments comes from the lack of connection between physical and phenomenal truths (in philosophy, phenomenon is how things appear to our senses), i.e. knowledge of physical reality is insufficient to understand our experience. .

    For example, we can explain the type of experience we have while eating, in terms of neural activity and physiological process, but that doesn’t give us an idea of ​​what a person experiences when they eat something ‘she likes. The reason is that the physical explanation forgets what we were trying to explain in the first place. That is, how one feels when one likes to eat.

      History of dualism

      Dualism is a theory that has existed since antiquity. Aristotle, Plato and Indian philosophy already posed this division between physical reality and subjective reality. And they considered the spirit and the body as distinct entities of different nature, suggesting the existence of different types of souls.

      Aristotle shared Plato’s vision of multiple souls, which correspond to the different functions that distinguish plants, animals and people. He distinguishes in his treatise “De Anima” three types of soul:

      The vegetative soul performs life-sustaining functions: sensory and movement control. All living things have them.

      The sensitive soul: Only humans and other animals can perceive pain, pleasure and desire, giving them a better chance of surviving. From which also derive the faculties of imagination and memory.

      The rational soul: the sensitive and vegetative souls would be in charge of carrying out the functions which are beyond rationality. The rational functions consist in the knowledge of the truth itself. Humans would be the only ones who can reason.

      According to this theory, souls are linked and each level needs the previous one. For Plato, however, the soul does not depend on the body and believed in reincarnation, the migration of the soul to another body, in order to be perfected.

      Thanks to René Descartes in the 17th century, the mind-body duality received more attention. Cartesian dualism has been considered the traditional mind-body theory, which argues that man is made up of two distinct entities: the mind, as an immaterial entity with the ability to think, and the body, as a material entity, without the ability to think. Therefore. the mind can exist outside the body and the body cannot think.

      The body will follow mechanical laws, unlike the mind. So, in the human being, two parallel realities arise: one in relation to what is happening in his body, and another in relation to what is happening in his mind.

      Descartes also added to his interpretation the pineal gland, the physical part that would allow the influence of the mind on the body, so that if some influence of the body on the mind is recognized, it is the mind that controls everything.

      This unidirectionality, the control of the mind over the body and not the other way around, is one of the most important characteristics of Cartesian dualism.

      On the other hand, to practically fill in the gaps of Cartesian dualism in the body-mind explanation, another theoretical current has been strengthened: monism. Monism does not believe in the mind-body divide and views the mind as a unified reality or entity from which everything about human behavior can be explained.

        Dualist theories of consciousness

        All dualistic theories hold that at least some aspects of consciousness remain outside the realm of the physical, but they differ in what they are. Let’s look at a classification of the main ones.

        1. Dualism of substances

        Substance dualism, also called Cartesian dualism, holds, as we have seen, that there are physical and mental substances. This philosophy it establishes that the mind can exist outside the body, and that the body cannot think. Although material dualism is largely obsolete today, it has some contemporary proponents.

        2. Dualism of properties

        In its different versions, it has a higher current level of support. All of these theories state that although the world is composed of a single type of substance, of a physical type, There are two types of properties: physical properties and mental properties..

        Property dualism holds that mental properties can be explained by the same things that explain physical properties. For these explanations, they use certain parts of reality such as organisms, brains, states or neural processes.

        There are four types of dual property theories:

        2.1. The fundamental dualism of properties

        For the dualism of fundamental properties, our mental experience is an aspect which, like the physical, belongs to reality. Therefore, they can have properties and be governed by laws such as physics.

        2.2. The dualism of emergent properties

        Emergent property dualism considers conscious properties they arise from, but are not limited to, neurological facts.

        2.3. The dualism of monistic properties

        Monistic property dualism suggests that conscious mental properties, such as physical properties, they are separate entities, but dependent and derived from a more basic level of reality, which in itself is neither mental nor physical; it does not consider these properties as the ultimate and fundamental like other theories of properties.

        2.4. Panpsychism

        Panpsychism could be considered a fourth type of property dualism in the sense that it considers that all constituents of reality have psychic propertiesother than their physical properties.

          3. Dualism scientific

          Now, most scientists reject dualism and prefer a monistic explanation of realitywhere consciousness is not separate from the physical and is generated by the brain itself and its billions of neural networks.

          However, a new study published in Neuroscience of Consciousness suggests a new interpretation. According to Professor John Joe McFadden of the University of Surrey, electromagnetic energy in the brain is responsible for brain matter creating our ability to be conscious and think.

          McFadden proposes that the rich electromagnetic field is the basis of consciousness, while neurons produce the physical response. This research would be a scientific form of dualism which instead of being based on the difference between body and spirit or matter and soul, would propose a difference between matter and energy. Dualism is upon us!

          Bibliographic references

          • Almog, J. (2001). What am I? Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
          • Hasker, W. (2015). Emerging self. Cornell University Press.

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