Dualism and its Place in a Philosophical Structure for Psychiatry

Hane Maung

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It is often claimed in parts of the psychiatric literature that neuroscientific research into the biological basis of mental disorder undermines dualism in the philosophy of mind. This paper shows that such a claim does not apply to all forms of dualism. Focusing on Kenneth Kendler’s discussion of the mind–body problem in biological psychiatry, I argue that such criticism of dualism often conflates the psychological and phenomenal concepts of the mental. Moreover, it fails to acknowledge that there are different varieties of dualism, and so overlooks the important metaphysical insights of contemporary dualist philosophers. I argue that while the neuroscientific research underpinning biological psychiatry challenges the traditional dualism of René Descartes, it does not pose any problem for the more modern dualism of David Chalmers. It is possible to take seriously the scientific claims of biological psychiatry while holding that this latter form of dualism is true. This has implications for the positioning of the mind–body problem in psychiatry. While the “easy” problem of explaining psychological processes is relevant to the aims of biological psychiatry, psychiatrists need not worry about the “hard” problem of consciousness.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Early online date19 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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