There are several reasons for thinking that the mental and the physical are essentially separate and fundamentally different. Should we be convinced by any of them?

I'm required to give three arguments for and against this proposition and define my own. Any help with some arguments and which philosopher backs them?

  • they are the same. if you think they are different just stop eating for 2 weeks and see what happens to your thinking abilities. Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 14:35
  • Hmm. Even Descartes speculated that mind and body form a unity. I'm not sure it makes sense to say they are fundamentally different since then it would be impossible to reduce either. It would mean two independent phenomena exist and this idea doesn't work in metaphysics. You might like an article by Robert Peperrell here (esp around page 189) books.google.co.uk/…. .
    – user20253
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 11:34

2 Answers 2


These arguments may be of some use to you:

The mind is immaterial, but the brain is material. Mental processes are immaterial, but all the fundamental particles except photon, graviton, and gluon are material. The photon and graviton are not stationary but always travel at light speed, and the gluon activities are confined within the atomic nucleus, so it is impossible for them to be identical to mental processes. Therefore, the mind cannot be identical to the brain, and mental processes cannot be identical to any of the fundamental particles. The mental and the physical are essentially separate and fundamentally different.

But that is only part of the whole story. The brain – the functioning brain to be exact – is not exclusively material but is composed of non-material parts or the functional parts, such as the signal-processing part and the metabolic part, too. But only the signal-processing part contains information and has information-processing capability identical to the mind. (If you examine the mind carefully, you’ll find that it just contains information and processes information. It does nothing else.)

Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the mind is the signal-processing part of the brain. That is the mind is just “the functional part” of the brain. This is why, although it is not identical to the brain, it is totally dependent on the brain. You may call this dualism in the sense that there are not one but two parts of this universe: the physical material part and the functional non-material part.

I can’t give you the names of philosophers who back this idea, but you can read more detailed discussion here. But I hope, in this forum, it is the logic of the idea, not the name of a philosopher, that counts.


Descartes chose extensibility (or not, with ideas). Searle laid out his argument for qualia in the Chinese Room argument. Quantum mechanics and relativity both seem to distinguish between energy and the propagation of information by it.

Should we be convinced? Scientific consensus is for ontological monism, founded in property dualism (converse to substance dualism), so assuming the scientific community are our paragons, we should be convinced.

The Buddhist perspective takes the opposite tack, that rather than 'the substance' being matter, it is Mind (actually only the Mind Only school of Yogacara hold this, but it is the most philosophically sophisticated approach probably, and influencial on the largest cohort of Buddhists - Chinese & Tibetan). This tack greatly simplifies understanding the emergence of law-based complexities that are minds, but greatly complicates understanding the law-based complexities of matter. Arguably materialism or physicalism does the opposite.

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