Dualism: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dualism denotes a state of two parts. The word's origin is the Latin duo, "two" . The term 'dualism' was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been diluted in general or common usages.


Moral dualism

Moral dualism is the belief of the great conflict (in eastern and naturalistic religions) or conflict (in western religions) between the benevolent and the malignant. Most religious systems have some form of moral dualism - in western religions, for instance, a conflict between good and evil.

Like ditheism/bitheism (see below), moral dualism does not imply the absence of monist or monotheistic principles. Moral dualism simply implies that there are two moral opposites at work, independent of any interpretation of what might be "moral" and - unlike ditheism/bitheism - independent of how these may be represented.

For example, Mazdaism (Mazdaen Zoroastrianism) is both dualistic and monotheistic (but not monist) since in that philosophy God—the Creator—is purely good, and the antithesis—which is also uncreated—is an absolute one. Zurvanism (Zurvanite Zoroastrianism), Manichaeism and Mandaeism, are representative of dualistic and monist philosophies since each has a supreme and transcendental First Principle from which the two equal-but-opposite entities then emanate. This is also true for the lesser-known Christian gnostic religions, such as Bogomils, Catharism, etc. More complex forms of monist dualism also exist, for instance in Hermeticism, where Nous "thought" - that is described to have created man - brings forth both good and evil, depending on whether it receives prompting from God or from the demons.


In theology, 'dualism' may also refer to 'bitheism', 'duotheism' or 'ditheism'. Although ditheism/bitheism imply moral dualism, they are not equivalent: ditheism/bitheism implies (at least) two gods, while moral dualism does not imply any -theism (theos = god) whatsoever.

Both 'bitheism' and 'ditheism' imply a belief in two equally powerful gods with complementary or antonymous properties. However, while bitheism implies harmony, ditheism implies rivalry and opposition, such as between Good and Evil. For example, a ditheistic system would be one in which one god is creative, the other is destructive (cf. theodicy). In a bitheistic system, one god could be male and the other female (cf. duotheism). However, bitheistic and ditheistic principles are not always so easily contrastable, for instance in a system where one god is the representative of summer and drought and the other of winter and rain/fertility (cf. the mythology of Persephone). Marcionism, an early Christian sect, held that the Old and New Testaments were the work of two opposing gods: both were First Principles, but of different religions.

In Eastern mysticism

The yin and yang symbolizes the duality in nature and all things in the Taoist religion.

Alternatively, dualism can mean the tendency of humans to perceive and understand the world as being divided into two overarching categories. However that definition is considered a tad controversial. In this sense, it is dualistic when one perceives a tree as a thing separate from everything surrounding it, or when one perceives a "self" that is distinct from the rest of the world. In traditions such as classical Hinduism, Zen Buddhism or Islamic Sufism, a key to enlightenment is "transcending" this sort of dualistic thinking, without merely substituting dualism with monism or pluralism.

The opposition and combination of the universe's two basic principles of yin and yang is a large part of Taoist religion. Some of the common associations with yang and yin, respectively, are: male and female, light and dark, active and passive, motion and stillness. The Tai-Chi in actuality has very little to do with Western dualism; instead it represents the philosophy of balance, where two opposites co-exist in harmony and are able to transmute into each other. The Taoist religion with its dualistic concept of yin and yang is related to the religions that are both dualistic and monotheistic such as Mazdaism in the sense that the underlying force of nature, the Way, or Tao, is the First Principle which manifests itself through the dual properties of the yin and yang. In the yin-yang symbol there is a dot of yin in yang and a dot of yang in yin. This symbolizes the inter-connectedness of the opposite forces as different aspects of Tao, the First Principle. Contrast is needed to create a distinguishable reality, without which we would experience nothingness. Therefore, the independent principles of yin and yang are actually dependent on one another for each other's distinguishable existence. The complementary dualistic concept in Taoism represents the reciprocal interaction throughout nature, related to a feedback loop, where opposing forces do not exchange in opposition but instead exchange reciprocally to promote stabilization similar to homeostasis. An underlying principle in Taoism states that within every independent entity lies a part of its opposite. Within sickness lies health and vice versa. This is because all opposites are manifestations of the single Tao, and are therefore not independent from one another, but rather a variation of the same unifying force throughout all of nature.

The complementary aspects of masculinity and femininity are revered by certain Neo-pagan religions as well.

Mind/Matter and Mind/Body dualism


In philosophy of mind

In philosophy of mind, dualism is any of a narrow variety of views about the relationship between mind and matter, which claims that mind and matter are two ontologically separate categories. In particular, mind-body dualism claims that neither the mind nor matter can be reduced to each other in any way, and thus is opposed to materialism in general, and reductive materialism in particular. Mind-body dualism can exist as substance dualism which claims that the mind and the body are composed of a distinct substance, and as property dualism which claims that there may not be a distinction in substance, but that mental and physical properties are still categorically distinct, and not reducible to each other. This type of dualism is sometimes referred to as "mind and body" and stands in contrast to philosophical monism, which views mind and matter as being ultimately the same kind of thing. See also Cartesian dualism, substance dualism, epiphenomenalism.

In Buddhist philosophy

During the classical era of Buddhist philosophy in India, philosophers such as Dharmakirti argue for a dualism between states of consciousness and Buddhist atoms (the basic building blocks that make up reality), according to "the standard interpretation" of Dharmakirti's Buddhist metaphysics.[1] Typically in Western philosophy, dualism is considered to be a dualism between mind (nonphysical) and brain (physical), which ultimately involves mind interacting with the physical brain, and therefore also interacting with the micro-particles (basic building blocks) that make up the brain tissue. Buddhist dualism, in Dharmakirti’s sense, is different in that it is not a dualism between the mind and brain, but rather between states of consciousness (nonphysical) and basic building blocks (according to the Buddhist atomism of Dharmakirti, Buddhist atoms are also nonphysical: they are unstructured points of energy). Like so many Buddhists from 600-1000 CE, Dharmakirti’s philosophy involved mereological nihilism, meaning that other than states of consciousness, the only things that exist are momentary quantum particles, much like the particles of quantum physics (quarks, electrons, etc.).

Soul dualism

In some cultures, people (or also other beings) are believed to have two (or more) kinds of soul. In several cases, one of these souls is associated with body functions (and is sometimes thought to disappear after death), and the other one is able to leave the body (e.g. a shaman's free-soul may be held to be able to undertake a spirit journey). The plethora of soul types may be even more complex.

Consciousness/Matter dualism

In Samkhya and Yogic philosophy

Correctly distinguishing between Self (Spirit/Consciousness Purusha) and Matter/Nature (Prakrti) is of central importance to Samkhya Philosophy. Samkhya Philosophy elaborates that although Prakriti originates from Purusha, there is a fundamental dualism between spirit and phenomena that is presented to such Selves by Matter/Nature. Such phenomena of Matter/Nature includes reflections of the intellect, the faculty that makes things personal (the I-Maker/Ahamkara), the instinctual mind (manas), the capacities to perceive sense data, the capacities to act, the principles of the elements of sense perception, and the gross elements. These arise when Prakriti is in the presence of a Purusha, and they become enmeshed and entangled when there is mis-identification between Prakriti and Purusha. False confusion between the Self and what is not the Self is considered the fundamental ignorance that perpetuates bondage in this world. Liberation is sought by becoming aware of such distinctions on a very deep level of personal knowledge, so that one may eventually use the great faculty of the mind—intellectual reflection (Buddhi/Mahat) -- without mistakenly identifying it with the Purusha, and then the effects of such entanglement will unravel and one will no longer be bound by incarnations or confused by Prakriti.[citation needed]

In Vedanta philosophy

The Vedanta philosophy is divided into Dvaita (dualistic) and Advaita (non-dualistic) monism. One proposes dualism in consciousness and matter (dvaita), while the other does not (advaita). While Dvaita philosophy recognizes the differences between Jiva and Ishvara, Advaita philosophy looks at everything as Brahman which has three fundamental attributes sat-cit-ānanda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss). Advaita vedanta insists that the experiential personal realization of unity of everything must be achieved. Until a person achieves such realization, Advaita Vedanta uses the Samkhya dualism of consciousness and matter for describing the world. Dvaita, on the other hand, rejects the notion of equating Atman with Paramatman as they are different entities. Dvaita holds that upon Mukti, one enjoys the same quantity of bliss as sat-cit-ānanda but one can never be equal to Brahman.

In philosophy of science

In philosophy of science, dualism often refers to the dichotomy between the "subject" (the observer) and the "object" (the observed). Criticism of Western science may label this kind of dualism as a flaw in the nature of science itself. In part, this has something to do with potentially complicated interactions between the subject and the object, of the sort discussed in the social construction literature.[citation needed] another dualism, in Popperian in philosophy of science refers to "hypothesis" and "refutation" (e.g. experimental refutation). This notion also carried to Popper's political philosophy.

In physics

In physics, dualism refers to mediums with properties that can be associated with the mechanics of two different phenomena. Because these two phenomena's mechanics are mutually exclusive, both are needed in order to describe the possible behaviors.

In contemporary feminist theory

A theory relating to dualism and a contemporary feminist world view is presented by Susan Bordo. Bordo contends that dualism has shaped Western culture since the time of Plato, through Augustine and René Descartes, up to the present day.

All three of these philosophers provide instructions, rules or models as to how to gain control over the body, with the ultimate aim of learning to live without it. The mind is superior to the body, and strength comes from disregarding the body's existence to reach an elevated spiritual level.

Bordo believes that the influx of various patterns of disordered eating, particularly the overwhelming rise in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, is the most telling and compelling argument that dualism is central to modern thinking. Furthermore, Western dualism is an adulterated form of historical philosophical dualism, an artificial mode of hegmonic power regulations. To cognitively and practically adopt the mode of Western dualisms is often a dangerous and oppressive way of looking at the world. For example, those who are anorexic seek to gain ultimate control, and depriving oneself of food makes one a master of one's own body, which creates a sense of purity and perfection. Again, Bordo contends that this stems from dualism, the mythological separation of the mind and body.

Ecofeminist philosopher Val Plumwood argues in Feminism and the Mastery of Nature that a logical thought process inherent in the dualistic relationship is necessary to justify exploitation and oppression of the other. The formation process of these ideologies is apparent within the five characteristics of dualisms. They are::)

(1) Backgrounding—The master denies the essentialness of and dependency on the other. (2) Radical Exclusion/ Hyperseparation—All differences between the groups are made to have positive and negative connotations. Continuities between the master and the other are denied. (3) Incorporation—The master creates the norm, and the other is seen as substandard. The other cannot be independently identified, but is dependent on the master for its specification. (4) Instrumentalism—The other is objectified and made an instrument or resource to the master. The other must set aside its own welfare to serve the master. (5) Homogenization/Stereotyping—This is necessary within each of the two groups to reinforce and naturalize the differences between the groups.

Dualism in recent religious movements

In recent years, but far after European Imperialism, the distinction between "eastern" and "western" philosophy has been less significant than in previous times. In the wake of these changes new religious and philosophical movements have drawn freely upon many of the world's religions to attract new initiates.[citation needed] Dualism is often cited within these groups, along with ideas of oneness, wholeness and theories of multiple intelligences.

In the Emin Society (printed in their archives) Dualism is presented as the Law of Two, which is said to have seven levels:

  • First level: Apparent Opposites
  • Second level: The apparent opposites are actually two ends of the same bar (or the North-South vector is split by the East-West vector) (or the law of things adjacent)
  • Third level: Pitching and Yawing, (or Basque bargaining)
  • Fourth level: Balance and Movement
  • Fifth level: Solve and Coagulate
  • Sixth level: Over and Under Compensation
  • Seventh level: Apparent movement between two poles (or hot and cold)

The Discordian religion has two competing forces that rely on each other: Order and Chaos. These two are further separated, falling into either constructive or destructive versions of Order and Chaos. This is illustrated by the Discordian Hodge Podge (also Sacred Chao), a symbol that is similar in design to the Taoist yin yang.

Dualism in modern and contemporary philosophy

The American philosopher Arthur Oncken Lovejoy in his *The Revolt Against Dualism (1960) develops a critique of the modern new realism, reproposing a form of dualism based on a "fork of human experience."

Political dualism

In politics, dualism refers to the separation between the legislature and executive power, which keeps a balance between the two, ensuring government doesn't go against the will of the people's representatives. Dualism implies administrators, such as ministers, cannot be members of the body that keeps check on them.

See also


  1. ^ Georges B.J. Dreyfus, Recognizing Reality, SUNY Press 1996 (ISBN 978-0791430989)

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

DUALISM (from rare Lat. dualis, containing two, from duo), a philosophical term applied to all theories which attempt to explain facts by reference to two coexistent principles. The term plays an important part in metaphysical, ethical and theological speculation.

Table of contents


Metaphysical dualism postulates the eternal coexistence of mind and matter, as opposed to monism both idealistic and materialistic. Two forms of this dualism are held. On the one hand it is said that mind and matter are absolutely heterogeneous, and, therefore, that any causal relation between them is ex hypothesi impossible. On the other hand is a hypothetical dualism, according to which it is held that mind cannot bridge over the chasm so far as to know matter in itself, though it is compelled by its own laws of cause and effect to postulate matter as the origin, if not the motive cause, of its sensations. It follows that, for the thinking mind, matter is a necessary hypothesis. Hence the theory is a kind of monism, inasmuch as it confessedly does not assert the existence of matter save as an intellectual postulate for the thinking mind. Matter, in other words, must be assumed to exist, though mind cannot know it in itself. From this question there emerges a second and more difficult problem. Consciousness, it is held, is of two main kinds, sensation and reason. Sensation alone is insufficient to explain all our intellectual phenomena; all sensation is momentary and individual (cf. Empiricism). How then are we to account for memory and the principles of necessity, similarity, universality? It is argued that there must be in the mind an enduring, primary faculty whereby we retain, compare and group the presentations of sense. This faculty is a priori, transcendental, and entirely separate from all the data of experience and sense-perception. Here then we have a dualism within experience. The mind is not to be regarded as a sensitized film which automatically records the impressions of the senses. It contains within itself this modifying critical faculty which reacts upon and arranges the sense-given presentations.

In Ethics and Theology

In the domain of morals, dualism postulates the separate existence of Good and Evil, as principles of existence. In theology the appearance of dualism is sporadic and has not the fundamental, determining importance which it has in metaphysics. It is a result rather than a starting-point. The old Zoroastrianism, and those Christian sects (e.g. Manichaeism) which were influenced by it, postulate two contending deities Ormuzd and Ahriman (Good and Evil), which war against one another in influencing the conduct of men. So, in Christianity, the existence of Satan as an evil influence, antagonistic to God, involves a kind of dualism. But generally speaking this dualism is permissive, inasmuch as it is always held that God will triumph over Satan in His own time. So in Zoroastrianism the dualism is not ultimate, for Ahriman and Ormuzd are represented as the twin sons of Zervana Akarana, i.e. limitless time, wherein both will be finally absorbed. The postulate of an Evil Being arises from the difficulty, at all times acutely felt by a certain type of mind, of reconciling the existence of evil with the divine attributes of perfect goodness, full knowledge and infinite power. John Stuart Mill (Essay on Religion) preferred to disbelieve in the omnipotence of God rather than forgo the belief in His goodness. It follows from such a view that Satan is not the creation of God, but rather a power coeval in origin, over whose activity God has no absolute control.


Dualism is also used in a special theological sense to describe a doctrine of the Nestorian heresy. According to this doctrine the personality of Christ is twofold; the divine Logos dwells as a distinct personality in the man Jesus Christ, the union of the two natures being analogous to the relation between the believer and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

History of the Doctrine

The earliest European thinkers (see Ionian School Of Philosophy) endeavoured to reduce all the facts of the universe to a single material origin, such as Fire, Water, Air. It is only gradually that there appears any recognition of a spiritual principle exercising a modifying or causal influence over inert matter. Anaxagoras was the first to postulate the existence of Reason (vows) as the source of change and progress. Yet even he did not conceive this Reason as incorporeal; it was in reality only the most highly rarefied form of matter in existence. In Plato for the first time we find a truly dualistic conception of the universe. Asserting that Ideas alone really exist, he yet found it necessary to postulate a second principle of not-being, the groundwork of sensuous existence and of imperfection and evil. Herein he identified metaphysics and ethics, combining the good with the truly existent and evil with the non-existent. Aristotle rebels against this conception and substitutes the idea of irpc'e rn an and development. Nevertheless he does not escape from the dualism of Form and Matter, vas and The scholastic philosophers naturally held dualistic views resulting from their extreme devotion to formalism. This blind dualism found its natural consequence in the revolt of the Renaissance thinkers, Bruno and Paracelsus, who asserted the unity of mind and matter in all existence and were the precursors of the more intelligent monism of Leibnitz and the scientific metaphysics of his successors. The birth of modern physical science on the other hand in the investigations of Bacon and Descartes obscured the metaphysical issue by the predominance of the mechanical principles of natural philosophy. They attempted to explain the fundamental problems of existence by the unaided evidence of the new natural science. Thus Descartes maintained the absolute dualism of the res cogitans and the res extensa. Spinoza realized the flaw in the division and preferred to postulate behind mind and matter a single substance (unica substantia) while Leibnitz explained the universe as a harmony of spiritual or semispiritual principles. Kant practically abandons the problem. He never really establishes a relation between pure reason and things-in-themselves (Dinge an sick), but rather seeks refuge in a dualism within consciousness, the transcendental and the empirical. Since Kant there are, therefore, two streams of dualism, dealing, one with the radical problem of the relation between mind and matter, the other with the relation between the pure rational and the empirical elements within consciousness. To the first problem there is one obvious and conclusive answer, namely that matter in itself is inherently unthinkable and comes within the vision of the mind only as an intellectual presentation. It follows that philosophy is in a sense both dualist and monist; it is a cosmic dualism inasmuch as it admits the possible existence of matter as a hypothesis, though it denies the possibility of any true knowledge of it, and is hence in regard of the only possible knowledge an idealistic monism. It is a self-destructive dualism, a confessedly one-sided monism, agnostic as to the fundamental problem. To the second problem there are two main answers, that of Associationism which denies to the mind any a priori existence and asserts that sensation is the only source of knowledge, and that which admits the existence of both transcendental and empirical knowledge.

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Simple English

Dualism is the idea or theory that something (an object, an idea or the whole world) is split into two parts. These parts are separate from each other and the thing cannot be divided up into any other way. The idea or theory that something cannot be split into any parts is called monism. The idea that something can be split into many parts is called pluralism.

In Philosophy there are many kins of dualism.

  • In the Philosophy of mind dualism means that the mind and the body are two very different things. Nothing that is part of the body can be part of the mind and nothing that is part of the mind can be part of the body. People like this sort of dualism because they think that the mind is too important or too strange to be part of the body. Another idea is that the mind and body are the same thing or that mind is just another word for the brain (See also, Rene Descartes)
  • In Epistemology, dualism means that there is a barrier between a person and the world around them. This barrier splits the world into two for that person, into 'myself' and 'the world'. Each person can see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world but cannot know it directly. For example somebody cannot know just by looking that things are made up of many atoms. This means that something could happen in the world that we would not know about because we could not see, hear, taste, smell or touch it. A non-dualist idea is that a person is just another part of the world and that there is no barrier. For example it could be said that if somebody cannot see, hear, taste, touch or smell something then it does not affect them.

Dualism is also a Common sense idea. For example it is a form of dualism to say that a thing is either hot or cold, good or bad, mine or somebody else's, with no allowance for possible states in between.


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