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Dualism and Monism: Of Body and Mind Essay

In philosophy, dualism refers to views about the relationship between mind and matter, claiming that mind and matter are two epistemologically separate categories. Proponents of dualism claimed that neither the mind nor matter can be reduced to each other in any way. Here, dualism rejected the materialist conception of history, especially the Hegelian concept of dialectics. There are two general classifications of dualism: substance dualism and property dualism. Substance dualism claimed that the body and mind are composed of distinct substances. Property dualism claimed that there is no distinction in substance between mind and body.

The physical and mental attributes, however, are categorically distinct. In Buddhism, dualism refers to a category of consciousness. The body is the primary instrument of consciousness development. The mind is the full realization of enlightenment – the basis of knowledge and self-fulfillment. In orthodox Christian theology, dualism is subsumed under the soul/body classification. The body is distinct from the mind both in substance and consciousness. The physical attributes of an individual is subsumed under the notion of a general Divine consciousness, which governs every aspect of both mind and body.

Monism claimed that there is a general unity within a field of inquiry. Some philosophers particularly Descartes, Hobbes, and Hegel argued that the unity of inquiry is in the rubric of Divine providence, which the individual may understand through the philosophical meditation. In relation to mind and body, monism asserted that the consciousness of the body is subsumed under the consciousness of the mind. The reality of the latter is generally, the unity and focus of the former. Hence, regardless of the condition of the body, the mind (through philosophical meditation) progresses to a state of self-enlightenment.

Unlike dualism, monism argued the preeminence of the mind over all physical attributes, for it is the only manifestation of a greater preternatural unity. In orthodox Christian theology, monism considered a dangerous doctrine. Christian theology maintained the separateness of the Creator from the creature. The creature is not considered as an offspring of the Creator or the process of Divine imagination. The Creator transcends both the creature and reality itself, for its reality is different from the epistemological conception of reality.

In monism, the differences between body and mind are as follows: 1) the body is the manifestation of physical reality – objective reality as perceived by the senses; 2) the consciousness of the mind is superior both in degree and comprehension than the consciousness of the body; 3) the mind is the sole individual realization of a given unity; 4) the relationship between mind and body is only ontological in nature (categorical); 5) their relationship is only arbitrary – measured by the general lifetime of the body.

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