The Movement Away from Dualism Towards Monism Essay

Tony Gailani The Movement Away From Dualism Towards Monism The mind–body debate has been a historically prevalent topic with two prominent schools of thought that have polarized these conversations into the dualism and monism categories. Dualism describes the mind as being a distinct entity that cannot be directly linked to the physical brain whereas monism describes the mind as completely defined by the physiological neuroscience of the brain. Whether there exists a mind as a separate entity from the physical biology of a human being has been a point of controversy for ages.

With the advent of modern science in the field of biological research, some of these questions have been addressed. With increased research into the field of neuroscience, the relationship between human cognition as it relates to the brains physical structure has been better established. It is understandable that dualism may have been the most prominent argument in the past as an explanation to the phenomenon of human cognition but recent research has supported the position of monism.

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Modern science has allowed for scientific experimentation that supports the monistic relationship of the mind and body by allowing visualization of mental cognition and neurological development through CAT scans, MRIs and other various scientific experimental techniques. The irrational component of human nature chooses to explain concepts which are beyond the comprehension of the times with explanations that cannot be held to the rigorous testing of scientific analysis. People cannot explain creation so they denote it to a distant God who is beyond our compression.

Whether an almighty creator exists is up for debate but this issue can never be proven or disproven based on scientific standards of proof. The concept of God addresses not only human curiosity about their origin but it also attempts to end an argument regarding an unexplainable phenomenon with a semi-logical explanation. Dualism follows a similar format as the religious explanation to human creation by attempting to address the argument about human cognition with the concept of a metaphysical mind that is not a physical substance that can be held to the standards of experimental nalysis. “According to Descartes, the mind is the soul. The doctrine that mental states are states of an immaterial substance that interacts with the body is called Cartesian dualism” (Schick, p. 73). The philosophers of the past created dualism as an explanation for a quality that distinguishes human beings from other animals. The wide array of neuronal activities that produce thoughts, emotions, learning and decision-making are enhanced mental functions that have only been observed amongst human beings at such advanced levels.

Through simple dissection, it appears that all animals posses a similar physiology which raises the question about how similar physiologies produce not only the similar simplicity of most animals but yet amongst them there exists the human race which is by far cognitively superior. In order to address this question, the dualism theory describes a separate component entitled as the mind that only humans posses as a distinct entity from their physiology that explains the superiority of human beings. …Descartes’ belief that thinking could not be a physical process led him to conclude that it must be a nonphysical one” (Lewis, p. 73). Dualism may have once been a rational idea that appealed to the intellectuals of the time but modern scientific research depicts a different reality. In depth analysis and imaging techniques can allow people to visualize the precise differences that distinguish the human brain. Upon deeper analysis, it is evident that the physiology of humans in comparison to other animals is not as similar as some may have once believed based on pedestrian scientific dissections and methodologies.

This denounces the concept of dualism as an entity distinct from the human brain as an obsolete school of thought. It is no longer necessary to describe a dualistic mind as a rational explanation to the advanced state of human cognition. There are massive amounts of research in the field of neuroscience that prevents intellectuals that belong to the dualism school of thought from separating human thoughts and emotions from direct brain functions.

MRI’s and CAT scans allow us to follow human mental development by visualizing neuronal growth which establishes the correlation between the formation of neuronal connections with the creation of memories and further establishes the connections between these memories that are avenues of cognition that allow for critical thinking and problem solving capabilities (Radiology Info). In addition, the thoughts and emotions of human beings can be simultaneously visualized with MRIs and CAT scans while they are performing these cognitive functions during experimental testing (Radiology Info).

The firing of neurons can be visualized in different parts of the brain in correlation to the various thoughts and emotions that comprise human cognition. Various areas of the brain have been directly linked to the different forms of a human’s cognitive abilities (Pinker 7). It is impossible to unlink the physical brain from human cognition through the explanation of a separate entity known as the mind because such an attempt would contradict current scientific evidence in the field of neuroscience. Modern science supports the monism position.

Although the area of neuroscience in medicine is a fairly new and rapidly advancing field, enough is currently known to reject the dualistic position. Human cognition is directly a result of the physical structure of the brain as the theory of monism asserts which discredits the position of dualism that describes a distinct mind that operates separately from the brain. “Descartes’ theory is dualistic because it claims that human beings are composed of two fundamentally different kinds of things: matter and mind.

Materialism, which claims that there is only one kind of thing in the world mater-is a monistic theory” (Lewis p73). Current prescription drugs aimed towards various psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, depression and epilepsy by changing quantities of neurotransmitters in the brain directly effect a person mental and emotional state (Pinker 2). If a separate entity such as the mind exists, there should be a disconnect between the physical structure of the brain and human cognition, if human cognition is truly controlled by a separate entity known as the mind.

In addition, the various levels of chemicals within the brain should not provide a direct causal link to a human’s mental state. Modern science shows that this is not the case. A human’s wide array of cognitive functions is a direct result of neuronal structures isolated to various parts of the brain and the quantities of neurotransmitters that control the firing of action potentials (Pinker 3). Action potentials are the electric signals of communication through the central and peripheral nervous system and the frequency at which they fire are directly linked to motor, sensory and cognitive functions (Pinker 4).

The significance of the human brain has been established by modern science. This once unknown structure is being slowly revealed and unveiled with modern research and such mysterious questions about human learning, thought and emotion that were once answered by the concept of a separate and non-physical entity known as the mind are slowing being laid to rest. Scientific evidence cannot be rejected and advancements in the field of neuroscience are producing rational explanations to human mental cognition that are scientifically testable through experimentation.

Although the brain function of human beings is far superior to any other animals, it is not based upon different defining principles. All animals such as chimpanzees and dogs operate based on the same basic cognitive functions. It is a matter of quantitative comparison between the species and not a qualitative one. Human thoughts and emotions are of similar origin and mechanism as other mammals but these similar basic cognitive functions are enhanced amongst the homo sapiens of the homo genus.

To conclude that humans are defined by a dualism of mind and brain would not provide an accurate link between humans and other animals. It is not the addition of a “mind” to a human’s physiology that enhances their cognitive function because similar neuronal arrangements exist across all cerebral life forms. Human beings perform the same cognitive tasks but to a greater extent which allows for their cognitive superiority that is only a result of quantitative complexities and not a qualitative distinction.

Although the dualistic approach was a sufficient explanation that addressed the historical curiosity about a human’s ability to learn, think and feel, the current model of human cognition based on scientific research provides a different theoretical explanation. “Perhaps our philosophical quandary arises from the assumption that organized processes in human brains are qualitatively different from organized process in other nervous systems or in even simpler forms of matter. Perhaps the difference is only quantitative; perhaps we are actually not as unique as we have assumed” (Thatcher 304).

Human beings posses the same basic cognition areas with similar neuronal wirings as other closely related mammals but it is the complexity of these connections and the quantitative differences, not qualitative, that distinguish a human’s cognitive abilities. Therefore, that assertion that a distinct entity only present within human beings known as the mind which is not in the form of a physical substance as an explanation for human cognition is invalid. The same basic mechanisms across the evolutionary tree that are present in animals, with a higher degree of similarity in species more closely related o humans, are also the same basis to human cognition. The advent of modern technology and scientific advancements in the fields of biological sciences have allowed for indepth insight into human cognition. Thoughts, emotions, memories and decision-making are better-understood cognitive functions amongst the scientific community. Previous attempts to explain human cognition through a distinct entity that is not of the physical form denoted as the mind have been invalidated by scientific research.

The use of medical imaging equipment and other various scientific methodologies have allowed for increased understanding of the human brain through visualizations, analysis and further comparisons across the evolutionary tree. The dualistic explanation of human cognition is no longer valid. Science has shown that the monism model is closer to the truth. All processes amongst humans are directly linked to our physiology and as research in the field of neuroscience grows, this is becoming increasingly more evident. Works cited


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