If you had to choose between Dualism, Physicalism, and Hylomorphism, which one do you think is more likely to be accurate and why? I think Dualism is the most plausible, but that might be because I am Christian?

How can I find out the strongest arguments for the dualist position?

  • I'm sorry I did not mean to offend anyone. I appreciate your help and feedback.
    – Cristiana
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 2:36
  • @Cristiana, I don't think anyone is likely to be offended; I think tkruse is just pointing out that "best" isn't really an objective thing, so it's not necessarily suited to giving clean answers to.
    – Paul Ross
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 9:43
  • @Cristiana I agree with Paul: Your question is no way offensive. - I made some edits in your question to counter the criticism that the question invites opinion-based answers. - The original theme deals with the fundamental task to formulate an anthropology from a philosophical point of view - a permanent issue.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 10:22
  • I think the question can be "fixed" to suit this site. "which one do you think is more likely to be accurate" seems to ask for opinion and use a fairly ambiguous property "accuracy" that lacks definition here. A different way to ask would be: "What observations can better be explained by ..." or "what do surveys reveal about the belief in those theories"?
    – tkruse
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 1:47

3 Answers 3


You ask for a suitable philosophical framework for anthropology.

Because you name already three approaches, you may take them as starting point for a top-down reasoning: What are the basic assumptions of each approach, which technical terms does it use, what are its main conclusions?

How can I see this more objectively?

You may go into the oppposite direction, bottom-up: Which questions do you want the anthropology to answer? Make a short and precise list of questions. And then ask each of the three approaches about its answers.

The three approaches are not ends in themselves. They are tools to answer questions. Your concrete questions about the human person are the starting point.

  • I have a paper due tomorrow that I need to argue why I believe Dualism is the best view. I have to choose 3 premisses in favor of dualism and choose the weakest one to argue against it. So far I have nothing! If someone can help me I will be extremely grateful.
    – Cristiana
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 21:49
  • @Cristiana I consider dualism in anthropology the approach to split the human person into mind and body. The classical proponent of this splitting is Descartes. In my opinion the strongest argument against Descartes’ dualism: Descartes cannot explain how mind and body interact. In particular, how do conscious mental decisions trigger bodily actions? The question is open until today. It is an important project of research in neuroscience.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 22:12
  • thank you! Can I use gravity as one of the premises is something that we can see either?
    – Cristiana
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 22:37
  • Please explain some more your reference to gravity? How do you want to use gravity as a premise?
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 22:55
  • This is what I have so far "Dualism better explains the interaction between the soul and the body. The soul operates through the mind. Without this interaction, humans could not feel emotion, reason, or have consciences. We do not know how the interaction happens, but we do not need to know; just like we cannot see gravity, we can experience it. Gravity also explains how the nonmaterial thing affects material things. Without this interaction between the soul/mind and body, all humans would be the same, the soul is what gives us our identity." Again, I have no idea what I am doing; I need help.
    – Cristiana
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 22:59

Dualism has the most emotionally satisfying answers to human experience of consciousness and qualia of perception, even if those answers are not actually useful in practice.

Dualism offers an alluded alternative to the "determinism vs. random" dichotomy by placing the mind outside the physical universe where nothing would seem impossible. It saves us from regarding ourselves as mindless zombies without moral responsibility, as allegedly physicalism would have it.

Dualism also greatly helps with faith in objective morality that is known to us a priori, existing in the same place as our minds, in the divine.

Dualism also plays nicely with reports of the supernatural, like family members mysteriously sensing the death of a close one in faraway lands, or people curing their cancers through prayers, or people remembering prior lifetimes and speaking in tongues they never learned.

In terms of accuracy however, physicalism is the best because it actually explains a lot of observable things, like:

  • Correlation between brain activity and mind activity
  • Twin studies
  • Limitations of the mind and perceptions
  • Split brain experiments
  • Effects of brain trauma in the mind
  • Effect of alcohol, drugs and medical treatment on the mind
  • Differences of personality between people as hereditary trait
  • Effects of genetic defects in capabilities of the mind
  • Difference in absolute intelligence in the same person during childhood, adult life, old age
  • Similarities between human species and animal species, without hard border down to simplest life forms
  • Evolution of mind in biological evolution
  • The need to sleep
  • Successes of artificial intelligence

But physicalism is difficult to unify with Christian faith, early proponents risked being burned alive for suggesting it.

  • Your "determinism vs. random" dichotomy is wrong. A correct dichotomy would be "intentional vs. random" as they are both excluded from determinism. Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 3:59
  • That's what I said. Those foolish physicalists got their dichotomy all wrong, and Dualism sets the record straight.
    – tkruse
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 4:19
  • I don't believe your claim that early proponents of physicalism risked being burned alive. Can you site any historical examples? I'll also note, that the Christian sect with a history of burning people alive--Catholicism--wasn't dualist. Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 17:44
  • Dualism isn't "the most emotionally satisfying answer". Saying that is rhetoric, not rational argument. There are plenty of physicalists who find their own answer emotionally satisfying. Dualism is the answer that explains the important observed differences between mental objects and physical objects. These differences are something that physicalism cannot answer except with promises that some day in the future, they are sure an answer will be found. By contrast, none of your evidence for physicalism is hard to answer for a dualist. Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 17:53

Dualism is the religious way of thinking, as it assumes another level of existence separate from the physical world. The problem with dualism is that we cannot really know, measure or analyze the spiritual side. We have no verified objective facts about it, only fiction or subjective experience.

Physicalism is a very limited way of thinking. Physicalism does not recognize concepts like information or knowledge. Physicalism sticks to the claim that they are physical matter or energy, even though they have no measurable physical properties.

Hylomorphism seems to be the most accurate. Hylomorphism acknowledges that objects have both physical (matter, energy) and non-physical (form, shape, order) properties. Physical properties can be measured to get objective data. Non-physical properties can only be subjectively experienced, interpreted and evaluated.

Mind can be seen as the non-physical property of a physical brain. Its ability to process (experience, interpret and evaluate) non-physical information.

  • Dualism is not "the religious way of thinking". The first dualist (Descartes) may have been a Catholic, but dualism has never been a part of Catholic theology. Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 17:46
  • Dualism assumes the existence of a spiritual level, a soul. It doesn't say anything about any gods, but it is still based on subjective faith alone, as there is no objective data available of the spiritual side. Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 3:12
  • No, dualism does not assume the existence of a spiritual level or a soul, and a belief in such things does not require dualism (ask any knowledgeable Catholic). Dualism is the position that the mind and the body are distinct ontological categories. Furthermore, there certainly is objective data to support this position, primarily the fact that mind has properties that make no sense applied to matter, and matter has properties that make no sense applied to mind. What there isn't any evidence of is that mind can be accounted for as a purely physical existence. Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 3:48
  • I don't see the mind and the body as separate ontological categories. I see the mind as a property of a living brain. Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 12:06
  • Then you aren't a dualist. Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 13:52

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