May 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Pluralism is a term used in philosophy, meaning “doctrine of multiplicity”, often used in opposition to monism (“doctrine of unity”) and dualism (“doctrine of duality”). The term has different meanings in metaphysics and epistemology. In metaphysics, pluralism is a doctrine that many basic substances make up reality, while monism holds existence to be a single substance, often either matter (materialism) or mind (idealism), and dualism believes two substances, such as matter and mind, to be necessary. In epistemology, pluralism is the position that there is not one consistent set of truths about the world, but rather many. Often this is associated with pragmatism and conceptual and cultural relativism.


May 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Monism is a point of view within metaphysics which argues that the variety of existing things in the universe are reducible to one substance or reality and therefore that the fundamental character of the universe is unity. Contrasting with this point of view is dualism which asserts that there are two ultimately irreconcilable substances or realities (with consciousness and/or mind on the one hand and matter on the other) or pluralism which asserts any number of fundamental substances or realities more than two. Monisms may be theologically syncretic by proposing that there is one god who has many manifestations in the diverse religious traditions.

Max Velmans

May 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

Velmans, Max (1990). “CONSCIOUSNESS, BRAIN AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD” Philosophical Psychology 3,(1), 1990, 77-99.

Figure 2. A Dualist model of the causal sequence in visual perception. Light rays from a cat (as-perceived by an Experimenter) impinge on the Subject’s eye. Impulses travelling up the optic nerve produce a neural representation of the cat within S’s central nervous system. CNS activity, in turn, has a causal influence on S’s mind, resulting in a percept of a cat. It is central to this model that the percept (of a cat) in the mind of S is quite separate both from the neural representation (of a cat) in S’s brain and the cat (as-perceived by E) out-there in the world.

Figure 3. A Reductionist model of the causal sequence in visual perception. Light rays from a cat (as-perceived by an Experimenter) impinge on the subjects eye. Impulses travelling up the optic nerve produce a neural representation of the cat within S’s central nervous system. This CNS activity is subjectively experienced as a percept of a cat (in the mind of S) but neurophysiological discoveries will show this subjective experience to be nothing more than a state of or function of S’s brain.

Figure 4. A Reflexive model of the causal sequence in visual perception. Light rays from a cat (as-perceived by an Experimenter) impinge on the Subject�s eye. Impulses travelling up the central nervous system produce a neural representation of the cat within S’s central nervous system. Information within this neural representation is incorporated within an ‘experiential model’ of the cat produced by the brain in the form of a cat as-perceived by S. This is ‘projected’ by the brain to the judged location of the initiating stimulus, out-there in the world. As in the Dualist and Reductionist models the the neural representation of a cat in S’s brain is separate from the cat (as-perceived by E) out there in the world. Contrary to these models, however, S’s percept of a cat and the cat as-perceived (by S) are one and the same. Indeed what S experiences is similar to what E experiences, viz. a cat out there in the world, but viewed from S’s perspective rather than from the perspective of E.


Velmans, Max . “Reflexive Monism “, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2008.

A dualist model of perception

A reductionist model of perception

A reflexive model of perception

mind-body dualism

May 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

In philosophy of mind, dualism is the assumption that mental phenomena are, in some respects non-physical, or that the mind and body are distinct. Thus, it encompasses a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, and is contrasted with other positions, such as physicalism, in the mind–body problem.

On oppose souvent, de façon caricaturale, l’idéalisme de Platon au prétendu matérialisme d’Aristote (celui-ci défend plutôt un hylémorphisme), comme en témoigne le geste de chacun des deux philosophes dans ce détail d’une fresque du peintre Raphaël (vers 1510).

Aristotle shared Plato’s view of multiple souls, (ψυχή psychí) and further elaborated a hierarchical arrangement, corresponding to the distinctive functions of plants, animals and people: a nutritive soul of growth and metabolism, that all three share, a perceptive soul of pain, pleasure and desire, that only animals and people share, and the faculty of reason, that is unique to people only. In this view, a soul is the hylomorphic form of a viable organism, wherein each level of the hierarchy formally supervenes upon the substance of the preceding level. Thus, for Aristotle, all three souls perish when the living organism dies. For Plato however, the soul was not dependent on the physical body, he believed in metempsychosis, the migration of the soul to a new physical body.

René Descartes’s illustration of dualism. Inputs are passed on by the sensory organs to the epiphysis in the brain and from there to the immaterial spirit

Another one of Descartes’ illustrations. The fire displaces the skin, which pulls a tiny thread, which opens a pore in the ventricle (F) allowing the “animal spirit” to flow through a hollow tube, which inflates the muscle of the leg, causing the foot to withdraw.

Dualism is closely associated with the philosophy of René Descartes (1641), which holds that the mind is a nonphysical substance. Descartes clearly identified the mind with consciousness and self-awareness and distinguished this from the brain as the seat of intelligence. Hence, he was the first to formulate the mind–body problem in the form in which it exists today. Dualism is contrasted with various kinds of monism, including phenomenalism. Substance dualism is contrasted with all forms of materialism, but property dualism may be considered a form of emergent materialism or non-reductive physicalism in some sense. This article discusses the various forms of dualism and the arguments which have been made both for and against this thesis.

Four varieties of dualist causal interaction. The arrows indicate the direction of the interactions.

En philosophie, le dualisme se réfère à une vision de la relation matière-esprit fondée sur l’affirmation que les phénomènes mentaux possèdent des caractéristiques qui sortent du champ de la physique. Ces idées apparaissent pour la première fois dans la philosophie occidentale avec les écrits de Platon et Aristote, qui affirment, pour différentes raisons, que l’« intelligence » de l’homme (une faculté de l’esprit ou de l’âme) ne peut pas être assimilée ni expliquée par son corps matériel. Cependant, le premier emploi du terme dans cette acception ne date que de la première moitié du XVIIIème siècle et apparaît sous la plume de Christian Wolff (1670-1754).

La version la plus connue du dualisme a été formalisée en 1641 par René Descartes qui a soutenu que l’esprit était une substance immatérielle. Descartes fut le premier à assimiler clairement l’esprit à la conscience, et à le distinguer du cerveau, qui est selon lui le support de l’intelligence. Ainsi, il a été le premier à formuler le problème corps/esprit de la façon dont il est présenté aujourd’hui. De nos jours, le dualisme est opposé à des formes variées de monismes, parmi lesquelles le physicalisme et le phénoménisme. Le dualisme de substance s’oppose à toutes les formes de matérialisme, tandis que le dualisme de propriétés peut être considéré comme une forme de matérialisme émergentiste, et serait alors opposé à un matérialisme non-émergentiste.

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