Descartes thought that the interaction took place in the pineal gland, but today we know that this is wrong. So, how do modern substance dualists answer the question of where the interaction between the mind and body take place?

Could it be that the mind is what causes the neurons to fire in the first place?

  • See some prior answered questions which are relevant: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/28876/…
    – Dcleve
    Dec 3, 2018 at 0:07
  • Depending on the take on dualism, this question may fail to make sense, since it presupposes spatial properties of either the res cogitans itself or the interaction. Both takes have the tendency of presupposing some kind of naturalist/physicalist metaphysical basis inappropriate to dualism. In the end: Why should mind or the interaction be spatial in the first place, considering that it is an explicitly physical category? Even in Kant, it is the form of outer intuition, i.e. applicable only to physical objects.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Dec 3, 2018 at 10:04
  • If the mind is what causes the neurons to fire in the first place, then it must be able to control the neurons when to fire and when not to fire. Thus, it must be able to cause the neurons to fire even if the neurons are under the effects of sedatives or anesthesia and not to fires even if the neurons are under the effects of stimulants. But these don’t seem to be the case. Moreover, how does the mind know which exact neurons, among those billions of neurons in the brain, to fire in what temporal and spatial pattern in order for the desired mental activity to occur?
    – user287279
    Dec 3, 2018 at 15:31
  • @user287279: This seems to me like overly strong requirements. Few if any philosophers claim that the mind has to be the prime factor to causally determine neuronal states. This also would be neurophysiological nonsense since mood and dispositions are evidently influenced by much more than neuronal activity, e.g. hormonal levels and bacterial equilibria (skin, digestion), which are in interplay with, but not reducible to, neuronal activity.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Dec 3, 2018 at 17:13
  • @ Philip Klöcking. “… Current evidence in neurology, neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, and cognitive neuroscience shows that all mental events are totally dependent on neural events. The former cannot occur without the latter. The neural events are both necessary and sufficient for the mental events to occur. These have been tested and verified in both clinical and laboratory settings worldwide. For a more detailed discussion of this, you can read this article.
    – user287279
    Dec 4, 2018 at 5:37

1 Answer 1


Sir John Eccles postulated that the mind to body interaction took place in synapses, and the other direction took place through mind reading the state of a multiple neuron complex, in a digital on/off code. Synapses automatically pre-load themselves to fire, and all one needs is for one vesicle to open for its enzymes to catalyze the release of the other vesicles, and the synapse firing. Synapses then take very low energy input, before they have a dramatically larger response.

Sir Roger Penrose proposed that quantum uncertainty applies within microtubes within all neural cells, and the response of these tubules is indeterminate per heisenberg uncertainty principle, hence mind can do a zero energy input to the brain.

Sir Richard Swinburne in Mind Brain, and Free Will, limits his inputs from mind to brain solely to adjusting neuron chemistry within the heisenberg limits, and further limits willing to marginal moral choices.

JP Moreland in The Soul, holds that minds are wholistic and individual, and willing directly leads to action of the brain. A wholistic/direct assumption avoids the where/how question.

  • Thank you Dcleve. Always providing great answers.
    – Noah
    Dec 3, 2018 at 1:01
  • :-) I am a dualist, and have been exploring dualism and its critics to figure out if/how to address them. Have you visited my amazon reviews?
    – Dcleve
    Dec 3, 2018 at 1:07
  • 2
    The hypothesis that quantum interactions in neuronal microtubules can account for the mind-brain interactions cannot explain many neural events, such as why the mind is affected instantly by electrical and magnetic stimulation in the dose that affects only neural transmission, which does not affect the neuronal microtubules (at least not instantly) and why there seem to be no minds (as we know them in humans and animals) in plants despite the fact that plant cells also have microtubules.
    – user287279
    Dec 3, 2018 at 4:06
  • 2
    There is a good and more detail comment about the hypothesis that quantum interactions in neuronal microtubules give rise to consciousness by Baars and Elderman (2012) here.
    – user287279
    Dec 3, 2018 at 4:07
  • 1
    I'm sorry. The link I've given above for the reference by Baars and Elderman seems to lead to the wrong page. Please click or copy and paste this url instead: esalq.usp.br/lepse/imgs/conteudo_thumb/… .
    – user287279
    Dec 3, 2018 at 15:42

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