Issues for Interactionist Dualism

Issues for Interactionist Dualism

Interactionist Dualism Overview

  • Interactionist Dualism posits that the mind and body are separate entities but can have mutual effects on each other.
  • This theory emphasises the non-physical nature of the mind and the physical nature of the body.
  • Coined by Rene Descartes, interactionist dualism has influenced significant discussions concerning the metaphysics of mind.

Issues with Interactionist Dualism

The Problem of Interaction

  • Interactionist Dualism faces what is referred to as the problem of interaction.
  • The question raised is how something non-physical (mind) can interact or influence a physical entity (body).

Laws of Physics

  • Conservation laws in physics suggest that energy remains constant and is not created or destroyed.
  • When the mind influences the body, one can argue it violates the law of conservation of energy because energy would appear to be introduced from nowhere.

The Problem of Other Minds

  • Considering only our own minds are directly available to us, if the mind is fundamentally different from physical things, then we can only infer the existence of other minds by analogy.
  • The problem of other minds becomes more severe and doubting the existence of other minds becomes a possibility.


  • Given these problems, it’s questioned whether Interactionist Dualism is empirically untestable and hence, unfalsifiable.
  • Some may argue this lack of empirical foundation makes it less of a valid hypothesis about mind-body relations.

Theoretical Parity

  • In comparison to other theories, Interactionist Dualism requires the acceptance of two completely separate substance types (mind and body).
  • It’s argued that explanations which simplify or unify (like Physicalism or Behaviourism) should be preferred, a concept known as theoretical parity or Occam’s razor.

Cartesian Circularity

  • Descartes introduced the concept of clear and distinct perception as evidence of the mind’s existence.
  • However, he then uses the distinction between mind and body to clarify his concept of clear and distinct perception, a problem known as Cartesian Circularity.