Duality of being is another of those fallacies given as a gift from ancient philosophers and modern fundamentalists. It means a state of two parts.

Dualism can refer to moral dualism, conflict between good and evil. Mind-body or mind-matter dualism presents a continuation of dear old Aristotle and Plato who perceived multiple souls and all their manifestations. Then ther is Rene Descartes with his dualism of splitting mind from body. He claimed the mind represented consciousness and intelligence as separate from the body. Even the Chinese separated existence into Yin and Yang, physical and spiritual.

It doesn’t take very much thinking in scientific terms to discover these concepts are flawed. They just do not stand up to what happens around us every day. Some people have good and evil within them, creating cognitive dissonance for everyone, including the individual. Notions of separation into physical and spiritual represent further ideas  of the imagination, constructed in the human mind.

One can define spiritual being as an un-seeable, un-hearable, un-touchable being that has superhuman power over Earth and all its inhabitants and who communicates in ways that cannot be verified. A constructed devil imposes evil thoughts and events on life. There are constructs of angels, divas, and explanations for unexplainable events. These kinds of spirituality fill in the gaps of things we haven’t figured out yet. For example, how can something come from nothing? Or from where did life come?

Another kind of spirituality has relationship to our sensory organs, i.e. seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling with our heart and feeling with our gut (intuition). This spirituality has its roots in a sense of wonder of being conscious of ourselves and the environment around us; they are those simple and difficult questions children and inquiring adults have; it is the sense of concern as we see individuals, families, communities and all living things on Earth facing serious threats to health. It is the ability to see problems as they develop, to think about options to solve them, and then to take action to make improvements. It is the ability to discern events, recognizing potential problems before they develop.

Mind vs. Body? Dualist Beliefs Linked with Less Concern for Healthy...

"the more people perceive their minds and bodies to be distinct entities, the less likely they will be to engage in behaviors that protect their bodies. Bodies are ultimately viewed as a disposable vessel that helps the mind interact with the physical world.

Evidence of a bidirectional relationship further suggests that metaphysical beliefs, such as beliefs in mind-body dualism, may serve as cognitive tools for coping with threatening or harmful situations.

The fact that the simple priming procedures used in the studies had an immediate impact on health-related attitudes and behavior suggests that these procedures may eventually have profound implications for real-life problems. Interventions that reduce dualistic beliefs through priming could be one way to help promote healthier – or less self-damaging – behaviors in at-risk populations."

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I always thought Descartes posited his thesis on duality mainly to placate the church and keep that authority off his back.  He was best known in his time as a mathematician (including theorems).  His "philosophy" was develped mostly early in his career and very seldom if ever was his thoughts on duality ever digressed again.


Advances in neuroscience of the last 30 years have mainly supported hypotheses of corporeal monism and not at all any dualism involving exterior phenomena.       

That's a very interesting article. I hadn't considered the negative practical implications of mind-body dualism independent of religious claims.

In Dawkins's The God Delusion and in Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain, the authors analyze the evolutionary benefits and following implications of humans infusing agenticity into animals and even physical processes, and both are very interesting reads. (Coincidentally both discussions are in the fifth chapter of the respective books, if anyone wants to read them.) From there it's just a short step from agenticity to believing in internal souls, spirits, and so on. A brief segment in the second episode of Dawkins's TV miniseries "Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life" shows an experiment where children think they see a mouse cloned or duplicated with a machine. Although they think the duplicated mouse is in every physical way identical to the original, they still assume it doesn't have the same knowledge as the original (e.g., the duplicated mouse doesn't know the child's name since the child only whispered his or her name to the original mouse). This implies that some form of mind-body duality is even ingrained in children, certainly because of culture, but, based on Dawkins's and Shermer's arguments, likely because of genetics as well.

It's good for us to get past these erroneous applications, or "misfires," of instincts that have other evolutionary advantages. Thanks for the article.

Consider a chemical experiment. A test-tube full of chemicals is heated and gases given off are analyzed and measured. Afterwards the scientist carrying out the experiment comes to a judgment about the significance of the results. I want to comprehend the relationship between the scientist and the contents of the test-tube.

Are scientist and contents of the test-tube equally physically determined? Does that mean that, given any particular result, the scientist could not make any judgment other than the one he came up with? If so, if the judgment was a foregone conclusion, why give that judgment any credence? Isn't he as likely to have been determined to arrive at the wrong conclusion, as the right one?

When I consider this, am I free to think what I want. And how about you, in figuring out whether I'm determined or not?

I do believe the result of the experiment is determined. But I see no way to prove that the conclusion is. Or that your thoughts at this point are. Seems that the world is such that we can't prove we're determined. So we have to allow for the possibility that we aren't. Given that, we have to allow for some spooky "freedom of consciousness" stuff. But isn't that supernatural, like having a soul?

Suppose you think we're all determined, and I don't. I guess that makes me a dualist. Can either of us prove the other wrong? And if we could would that prove we were really free in some way to consider options?

Sam Harris contends in his book Free Will that we don't have free will at all; it's really no more than an illusion. While I strongly dislike this idea and I have a very strong "sensation" that I have free will, I'm leaning toward a viewpoint much like his. I don't understand how we can have free will unless we have some non-physical side to us, like a soul. Sam Harris even claims that even if we do have souls, free will still doesn't exist.

His book is short and  interesting. It's definitely worth reading.

@Matt Skaggs, I had problems with not having free will, too. Having access to information, being able to compare and contrast options, I believed I made choices freely, without any intervention from the past memories or fallacious ideas. 

Reading Harris' book, I realized there were many tugs at my decision making that I was not aware of. Remembering my father beating my mother when I was in a crib, and later mental and physical abuses, or my mother acquiescing to his demands, impacts the way I see male, female, and me in relation to other men and women. I did't realize I chose an abusive man for a husband, not because I like abusive males, they are familiar to me. I thought I was in control of my decision making capacity, only to find I repeatd what I had seen. 

Realizing past memories, conscious or unconscious, influence my decisions, I have tools to do reality checks and protect myself from my own faulty notions. 

People who suffer from mental disabilities directly linked to physical trauma to the brain are best prove that duality of being is a simulacrum, a man made construct to avoid confronting the reality that our consciousness is tied to our 'physical platform'. When a person looses a non-essential part of their brain, his personality changes, depending on what part was removed. This alone shows there is a direct connection, a dependance of our consciousness upon the brain that brings it forth.

Of course we have lots of people who don't want that to be true, for they refrain from rationalizing that their existence is limited. I think those people are being childish and worse still, don't realize the implications of a possible eternal existence. I would be very upset just imagining what it would be like to never cease existing, to have all the value in my experiences diminish into nothing over an infinity of time. The fact that we are limited existences should not be a reason for being frightened or upset, but should make us rejoice. Our limited existence gives the actions taken in the time we have available meaningful. And that is what being a human being is all about... To experience life in a meaningful and enjoyable way, while leaving our mark for those who have yet to come.

Dominic, I am non-plussed when consciousness is identified with the soul. To me, awareness of being conscious and having thoughts I can use to drive my behavior is as real as the socks I'm wearing. It's not supernatural at all. It's everyday reality. If you identify that with an eternal soul does that mean that you don't feel able to express your thoughts in action, that you see consciousness as a spiritual entity other people claim, that you're not aware of?

I don't believe in the supernatural. Our consciousness is an expression of reality through the existence of our complex brains. Consciousness is an emergent process, dependent on the material 'machine' that allows it to happen. This is why I believe artificial intelligence is possible, even if it will certainly be very different from what we expect an intelligence to be, (due to a very different physical platform). In a way our consciousness could almost be compared to software. It is there, but only can run as long as the hardware supports it.

Dominik, I'm relieved.

I don't believe in the supernatural. Our consciousness is an expression of reality through the existence of our complex brains. Consciousness is an emergent process, dependent on the material 'machine' that allows it to happen.

But the issue of dualism remains. In this emergent process of consciousness, can we weigh two logical options in mind, or are we not really weighing them at all, just on the final step of a determined process? To me, it certainly feels as if I could chose either way, as if consciousness is, to some extent at least, not entirely physically determined? Can that supposed choice be proved to be determined, or is physical determinism of logical choices just an assumption?

Note: dualism is relative: if physics expanded to encompass what we now think of mind then we'd be monists. I see dualism as simply holding additional beliefs beyond today's physics because today's physics doesn't encompass emergent processes. Is that OK?

I would like to link a long essay of Sam Harris explaining the reasons why there is little case for the issue of how much choice we have in our conscious processes. He is far more adept at explaining the issue. He is a neuro scientist and philosopher who has studied and ran tests on this issues.


From my own perspective: We are far to inclined by nature to believe that we have choice, as such would make sense as a positive transitional trait within the constraints of evolution. However our consciousness rises within our mind whatever we want it to or not. We do not choose what thoughts arise in our heads, and therefore I see little reason to believe we have actual choice in the actions we take. But as I said, Sam Harris explains this far more eloquently. If this is not the issue at hand and I am misreading something dramatically, please let me know :)

 These kinds of spirituality fill in the gaps of things we haven’t figured out yet. For example, how can something come from nothing? Or from where did life come?

I wonder why is it assumed that nothing had to be the original state? Why can't it be that there was always 'something'? 


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