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The Theory of Dualism by Philosopher René Descartes

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Dualism is the theory introduced by philosopher René Descartes in which “the mind and body are both separate from each other; performing separate functions, and yet are intertwined. For example, some body functions are the cause of the mind and vice versa, and yet the mind and body themselves are two separate parts of a human being” (Gazzaniga, 2018).

Some problems arose from dualism, one of which being known as the interaction problem. The mind is known to be in a non-physical state, which is the root cause of the interaction problem. The interaction problem is the question of how a non-physical substance such as the mind can cause a physical action of the body. When using the act of getting a paper cut to explain the interaction problem it works in the way that; you get a paper cut, causing a feeling of pain which leads you to withdraw your hand from the paper and cover the cut to stop bleeding. The question that arises from the interaction problem is, how does the mindful feeling of pain lead to the withdrawing and covering of your hand?

In this example, the interaction problem is merely the concept of how the intangible mind can cause an interaction between a feeling of pain and a physical bodily movement of withdrawing your hand. The interaction problem is not an issue for modern-day Psychology because nowadays dualism has been widely rejected by psychologists. Instead modern-day psychology focuses on the idea of monism. Monism is the idea that the mind is simply an activity that is produced by the brain and therefore, the mind can’t exist separately from the brain. By using the theory of monism to explain the mind and body, the interaction problem no longer becomes an issue. This is because the interaction problem stems from the idea that the mind and body act separately, and that the mind can cause the body to carry out a physical action.

The question of “how the mind can cause a physical effect on the body’’ does not exist in monism since the mind is just a product of the brain activity. Therefore, when looking at the same example of a paper cut; the mind senses the pain but seeing as the mind is a product of the brain, it is the brain that relays the information to the body to withdraw your hand from the paper. It can be concluded that the interaction problem does not affect modern-day psychology because monism is studied instead of dualism.

Reference List:

  1. 1. Gazzaniga, M. S. (2018). Psychological science (Sixth ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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