Like many philosophical terms, dualism and duality are used differently by different people and in different circumstances. I am aware of Substance dualism (mind and body being separate things entirely or of different substance), Property dualism (mind and body having separate or distinct properties or kinds of properties) and moral dualism (a distinct separation or opposition between good and evil). Duality is often used in conjunction with or as another word for any one of these concepts.

However, duality is also used to describe the separation between our subjective conscious experience and the external world which we are experiencing; that feeling that we are a separate entity from others and the world (even though many would say there is no real separation at all). I wondered if there is a name for this type of dualism or duality and, if so, what is it called?

  • dissociation is a psychological phenomenon... mind only in yoacara buddhism maybe -- which is less concerned with mind-body nama-rupa dualism. i think most analytic philosophers would just accept that the body and i is an individual thing separate from the rest of the world. a lot of continental philosophy undermines that, read foucault
    – user38026
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 14:34
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    – J D
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 15:09
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    It is called the subject/object dichotomy/duality/dualism.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 1:02
  • In psychology, this is often referred to as 'a boundary'. But the problem is that this occurs at many levels. There is no single boundary. Subjective things can be shared to a degree that in a group they seem objective, so things like cultural rules that are clearly externally derived can still feel like a part of your identity. And within your own mind, you can have parts that feel like 'you', and parts that feel like they are not really part of you because they come from outside and are accommodated or grafted on or because they are incompatible with your own experience of yourself. Commented May 5, 2020 at 4:38
  • A related term is "alienation," used by Hegel, in various ways, for the estrangement of consciousness and, more famously, by Marx for the estrangement of the worker from the products of his labor, which collectively means a separation of the human essence from the entirety of social being. Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 21:25

3 Answers 3


I don't know if this is the same as you are asking for, but in the Cartesian point of view there is a bifurcation, called cartesian bifurcation, between the res extensa e the res cogitans.

The "res extensa" is the latin for the extended thing, or the "external world". The "res cogitans" is the thinking thing, or the minds.


...that feeling that we are a separate entity from others and the world (even though many would say there is no real separation at all)...

In eastern philosophies and spirituality it's mainly called "Non-duality" also Separateness or Connection duality and Duality to Oneness. According to this idea mind and consciousness are two separated entities being the later the witness of the mind and the first the creator of ideas, thoughts including "ego" and individuality.

According to this concept what you call "subjective conscious experience" is your idea of individuality which is deceitfully created by your mind blinding you from what you really are which is timeless, space-less consciousness. The idea of yourself or "ego" not being unique but part of a whole is as old as the Upanishads. Being just one consciousness experiencing and witnessing all minds.

God, who is one only, is hidden in all beings. He is all-pervading, and is the inner self of all creatures. He presides over all actions, and all beings reside in Him. He is the witness, and He is the Pure Consciousness.--

In Buddhism the third mark of existence explains this idea of non-self (Anatta).


The subjective vs. objective aspects of Mind are not referred to by any specific duality, however the idea that they represent distinct realms of being is the most notorious duality in philosophy and is simply referred to as Dualism. On the other hand, the idea that they merely reflect two sides of a single coin is called Monism.

Reconciling these two aspects of Mind is simply known as "the hard problem". Theories such as substance dualism and property dualism are basically attempts at crystallising the hard problem.

For what it's worth, dualities are also common in mathematics.

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