What is property dualism?

In this blog we will briefly discuss what property dualism is.

What is property dualism?

Property dualism is a philosophical doctrine that mental properties are distinct from or independent from and irreducible to physical properties even if the physical properties are the same- for example, every human being has a brain- the mental properties of each human being will be different. 

Property dualism refers to a category of philosophical positions which hold that though the world is composed of only one kind of substance which is the physical kind, there  are two kinds of properties within this physical substance.

The two properties include physical properties and mental properties and that mental or non-physical properties such as thoughts, memories, intelligence einstein in certain physical properties such as the brain. 

Property dualism is opposed to Substance dualism which is another philosophical position that there exists two fundamental kinds of substances: physical matter and non physical substance such as the mind or consciousness. 

However, on the other hand, property dualism holds that there is only one fundamental kind of thing in the world—material or physical substance and within this material substance are the two different kinds of properties that are mentioned above. 

When we consider how property dualist or property dualism philosophers look at the world, they might claim that a material or physical substance like a brain can have both physical properties in terms of weight and mass as well as mental properties such as intelligence, feelings, thoughts, memories. Property dualists believe that these two inherent properties are entirely separate and different. 

Within property dualism philosophers, some refer to mental properties in terms of all kinds of mental properties from intelligence, to cognition etc whereas others believe that mental properties include only conscious or “phenomenal” properties like feeling pain or the experience of joy etc.

Property dualists believe that these phenomenal properties are what causes problems of consciousness in terms of how we conceptualise the existence of consciousness in the physical world. 

Property dualism holds the position that the brain is the only thing that matters when it comes to life ; however, this philosophical position holds that the brain has two different kinds of properties. 

What is the difference between Property dualism vs Substance dualism

Substance dualism which is another philosophical position that there exists two fundamental kinds of substances: physical matter and non physical substance such as the mind or consciousness. 

Substance dualists talk in terms of ‘things’, Here. the mind in this case becomes an immaterial substance over and above any immaterial states. 

However, on the other hand, property dualism holds that there is only one fundamental kind of thing in the world—material or physical substance and within this material substance are the two different kinds of properties that are mentioned above. 

Property dualism claims that the universe is composed of two very distinct properties- mental and physical. Most of the universe is filled with physical properties however, property dualists argue that mental properties cannot be reduced by any physical properties. 

What is qualia in Property Dualism?

Property dualists believe that there is something known as qualia or the qualia which is associated with having painful experiences that cannot be reduced or explained by the physical components of the brain. 

It is an irreducibly mental construct that is related to non-physical properties and it involves the internal and subjective components of sensory perceptions, arising from one’s interaction with the external world around us. 

Qualia is an internal experience that is wholly involved with mental qualities of the physical substance and it is also subjective meaning that the mental qualities of one person will be different or unique to each person.

Qualia is a subjective experience and because it is subjective it refers to the ways things seem to the person who has experienced it, as opposed to the ways things really are in the objective sense. 

For instance, two people could be observing the same object but their experience would be subjective. For one of them, the object could have a different colour than the one reported by the other, even though it is the same object. Some philosophers may argue that qualia are in your mind and that would explain the subjective and individual experience.

What are the advantages of property dualism as a philosophical position?

There have been a number of advantages that property dualism has, according to property dualists, over substance dualism. Some of them are:

It is believed to be more scientific, based on science, and less religiously motivated than substance dualism because it does not include immaterial mental substances.

Another advantage is that by posting only one kind of substance- the material substance- that makes up the world, it avoids the problem of mental causation since there need not be communication between two kinds of substances. 

Finally another advantage it has is that by maintaining the existence of distinct mental properties, it is able to support the existence of the reality of the mind and how different it is from the physical world. 

What are the kinds of property dualism?

Property dualism can be divided into two kinds.

Supervienience view of property dualism

The supervenience view of property dualism maintains that there are two kinds of properties in material substance- mental and physical properties; however, mental properties are believed to be dependent on the physical properties. 

This dependent relationship between mental and physical properties is in terms of the relation of supervenience where one property supervenes on another property. So here, for example,  property A, supervenes on another property, B. 

This means that there can only be changes in A if there is a change in B however, B can change without a change in A. This view is also known as non-reductive physicalism, and is often considered to be a form of property dualism, since it holds that there are two kinds of properties. 

So the idea is mental properties are dependent on physical properties in the sense that if you duplicate all the physical properties of the world, you will automatically duplicate the mental properties as well automatically however the opposite of this cannot be. 

Downward causation view of property dualism

The second kind of property dualism holds that there are two kinds of properties, physical and mental, and that mental properties are something over and above physical properties. 

Here, mental properties have independent causal powers, and it is the mental properties that are responsible for effects in the physical world. 

In this view, the mental property of having the desire to buy a shoe is what actually causes you to get up and get ready, go to the store, and buy the shoe. 

This belief is opposite to the idea that it is the material property of your brain such as the firing of neurons that causes one to buy the shoes.

Another understanding of this downward causation view of property dualism is that there is a denial of supervenience. 

Here, the understanding is that mental properties to be genuinely independent of physical properties, for example, the idea that it is people to be in different mental states, e.g., one might be in pain and the other not, while having the same brain states. One person can experience grief after experiencing loss while the other may not experience grief.

Conclusion

FAQ related to Property dualism

Is Descartes a property dualist?

Descartes was a substance dualist. He believed that there exists two fundamental kinds of substances: physical matter and non physical substance such as the mind or consciousness. substance dualists believe that mind and body can affect one another. 

Is Plato a dualist?

Plato is essentially a dualist since his writings do demonstrate a separation and demarcation between the spirit and the flesh, between the body and the mind.

What do property Dualists believe in?

Property dualists hold on to Property dualism which is a philosophical doctrine that mental properties are distinct from or independent from and irreducible to physical properties even if the physical properties are the same- for example, every hu

What is the difference between substance dualism and property dualism?

Substance dualism which is another philosophical position that there exists two fundamental kinds of substances: physical matter and non physical substance such as the mind or consciousness. substance dualists believe that mind and body can affect one another. 

However, on the other hand, property dualism holds that there is only one fundamental kind of thing in the world—material or physical substance and within this material substance are the two different kinds of properties that are mentioned above. 

What is the relation between mind and body according to substance dualism?

Substance dualism which is another philosophical position that there exists two fundamental kinds of substances: physical matter and non physical substance such as the mind or consciousness. 

Substance dualists talk in terms of ‘things’, Here. the mind in this case becomes an immaterial substance over and above any immaterial states. 

According to substance dualists, the mind or the soul is composed of a non-physical substance, while the body is considered a physical substance. So here, substance dualists believe that mind and body can affect one another. 

Is the mind a material?

The mind is considered by most philosophical positions as an immaterial entity since there is no place where we can locate it. However, some schools of thought have associated the mind with the brain; however since the mind cannot be measured, it is usually considered immaterial. 

What is non-dualistic thinking?

Non-dualistic thinking refers to ‘not two’ or ‘one undivided without a second’ where non-dualists believe that there is a mature state of consciousness- only one state where the duality of the I-others is transcended and awareness is centerless and without duality or dichotomy.

References

Property dualism. Wikipedia. 18th March 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property_dualism

Vintiadis, E. Property Dualism. Retrieved on 18th march 2022. https://press.rebus.community/intro-to-phil-of-mind/chapter/property-dualism/

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