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Philosophy, Science, and the Mind-Body Problem. Responding to Cartesian Dualism

Cartesian dualism led to the mind-body problem—how can a nonphysical mind operate in a physical world? Let us look at some of the attempts to solve this problem that came in response to Descartes.


Some philosophers came to think of the mental as synchronized with the physical to give an illusion of interaction. They became known as occasionalists. French priest and philosopher Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715) agreed with Descartes that reality consists of mind and body. He attempted to dissolve the mind-body problem by suggesting there is no interaction between mind and body. It only seems so because God makes psychological events occur in parallel to the events of the body. His view became known as occasionalism because God makes bodily events the occasions for psychological events. This view is also known as a form of psychophysical parallelism.


The dominating solution to dualism was monism—accounts of reality based on one type of substance. Some monists claimed that the physical was really mental, and they became known as idealists. Other monists claimed that the mental was really material, and they became known as materialists. Let us turn now to the idealist responses to Descartes.

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

A. Hedman, Consciousness from a Broad Perspective, Studies in Neuroscience, Consciousness and Spirituality 6, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-52975-2_3

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