Physicallism and Dualism: Definition

Table of Contents

Physicallism and dualism are two different paradigms, which have the opposite views on the essence of life, however, they complement each other.


Physicalism and Dualism are the most confronting philosophical theories that represent the views of the origin and nature of life and the surrounding world. Physicalism stands for absolutely material world, and claims that only physical characteristics of the object or phenomenon are essential, and that everything is physical in this world. Dualism regards the matters of reason and cause, mind and body, and claims that mind and soul cannot be physical. On the one hand, these two philosophical concepts are two different; however, they have common points.


To begin with it is necessary to mention, that physicalism may not be regarded as the paradigm, which is aimed to explain the essence if life. Originally, not everything may be explained and defined by the means of physical characteristics. It is stated, that the necessity to explain everything from the physical point of view has originated the dilemma, which is called Hempel’s Dilemma. This concept claims the following statement: if, for example, one explains physicalism as the universe which includes everything known by physics, one can emphasize that physics are not able to describe how the mind acts. If physicalism is defined as anything which may be described by physics in the future, one is saying nothing. (Lyons, 1998) This dilemma is rater contradictive, as it is impossible to forecast, that physics will be able to explain everything in the future. Surely, there is a strong tendency for it, however, unexpected facts and sequences will stay unexpected at least because people like wonders, and the world would become boring if everything is explained from the viewpoint of dry physics. Thus, from the dualistic point of view, everything in the world can not be explained by mere physics. First of all it is explained by the fact, that the more answers the science replies, the more are appearing.

Physicalism presupposes the division of the world into two levels: Lower and Higher, when Higher fully depends on Lower. (Chalmers, 2002) Originally, this division is supported by dualists; nevertheless, this dependence cannot be explained by the means of physics. Dualistic approach is much more relevant for explaining lower and higher worlds.


Originally, it is impossible to give strong argument on any of these two concepts; however, the proponent would respond that almost all the phenomenon may be explained from the point of view of physics. In spite of the fact, that scientists cannot clearly explain some phenomena, they approximately imagine what this explanation would look like. Even feelings and intuition are close to be explained by physical and chemical processes in the brain. (Posner, 1989) The issues of mind and body cannot be separated, as both are the integral parts of each other, and it is known that physical and non-physical substances are not able to coexist in a single system.

As for the explanation of upper and higher worlds, physicalists have taken this notion from dualists, however, the explanation of the main idea of this concept is totally physycalistic, as the link between the worlds may be explained solely in comparison with the earth life, and similarity to the food chain in the animal world.

Some would consider it a sacrilege, however, Dr. Duncan MacDougall proved that soul (absolutely non-material substance, as dualists claim), has absolutely physical parameter – weight. I am sure, that all the other characteristics will be discovered soon. Anyway, it also proves that soul exists, and it is something specific, but not ephemeral (MacDougall, 1907), and from physical point of view it proves the inability of dual division of soul and body, as soul is material object.

On the other hand, it is necessary to highlight, that there is no need to split the world cognition into dualistic and physicalistic, as the preponderance is on the physical side. Nevertheless, dualism still raises the issues of cause and effect, and these two paradigms could easily coexist for further world cognition.


It is shown, that there is no essential need to divide physicalism and dualism, as both could effectively cooperate in the sphere of world cognition and raise and explain much more questions than they raise and explain being split.


Chalmers, David J. 2002. Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lyons, William G., Modern Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge, 1998

MacDougall, Duncan M.D. Hypothesis Concerning Soul Substance Together with Experimental Evidence of the Existence of Such Substance. 1907. Web.

Melnyk, Andrew. 2003. A Physicalist Manifesto: Thoroughly Modern Materialism. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Posner, Michael I. Foundations of Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989.

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