Tag Archives: Daniel

Three Basic Theories in the Philosophy of Mind

“Imagine that you are standing in your kitchen, feeling a bit hungry, wishing you had something sweet yet nutritious. You see a bowl of fruit, spy a red, round, delectable-looking apple; perhaps you catch a brief scent of the apple and the orange next to it. After a moment’s reflection, you think that the apple will serve your purposes nicely and reach to pick it up. This simple scene, which occurs in countless variations at countless times, incorporates much that is at the heart of philosophy of mind.” (Crumley, Jack S.: Problems in Mind: Readings in Contemporary Philosophy of Mind. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 2000, page 1)

The nature of mind, consciousness, subjective experience and mental content is what philosophy of mind is all about.

The three commonly mentioned theories regarding the nature of the mind are dualism, property dualism and physicalism.

René Descartes

Substance dualism is the view that consciousness can’t be reduced to purely physical substance, but is dependant on non-material substance. Therefore, the mind and the body are not seen as identical. This theory is often closely associated with the 17th century philosopher René Descartes. He posits that we can be completely sure of our own existence and that we shouldn’t doubt it. Put simply – cogito ergo sum – I think, therefore I am. On the other hand, our senses are fallible and we shouldn’t trust them with such ease. We can doubt them. If we accept that things are indentical if and only if they share the same attributes, then we can conclude that the body isn’t identical with the mind. Why? Because we can’t doubt our mind existing, but we can doubt the existence of our bodies. Obviously, they don’t share the same attributes, so they can’t be identical. Another thing Descartes pointed out was that matter can’t think and that the mental doesn’t have extension in space. Dualism is criticzed because it doens’t account for the interaction between the non-physical substance and the body. It is not clear how something absolutely non-physical affects something absolutely physical.

Property Dualism

Another form of dualism is property dualism, the view that there is only one substance, commonly physical, but two kinds of properties relating to that substance. Those properties are usually seen as mental and physical properties. They are distinct and can’t be reduced or identified as one another. Property dualism can be seen as middle ground between dualism and physicalism, since it posits that only one substance exists and that humans don’t have a transcendent part. Such a view is also supported in physicalism. The difference is that property dualists still recognize mental properties as irreducible to matter, which is a view more oriented towards dualism. Property dualism is often criticized for not adequately explaining the connection between mental and physical properties and for lack of research.


Physicalism is the view that only physical substance exists and its properties. The brain is the source of feelings, thoughts, intention – consciousness in general. Such view is very common among modern scientists and philosophers. They believe that science will eventually explain away all problems regarding the nature of the mind. Physicalism is often attacked for being reductive and for ignoring problems, rather than solving them.


What is your view on consciousness? Is it dependant on the brain or is it partially or completely non-physical?

Feel free to leave a comment, so we can discuss! 🙂

Naturalistic Pantheism

The spiral is used as a symbol of naturalistic pantheism because it often appears in nature

Naturalistic pantheism is a philosophical viewpoint and/or spiritual path which identifies the Universe with god. The word “god”, however, is used as a metaphor for the beauty of nature or for nature itself, pointing out that it’s worthy of reverence. It’s not used to denote a real, transcendent being, such as the christian God.

Therefore, naturalistic pantheism was described as “sexed-up atheism” by famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, which is fairly accurate. So what differentiates it from pure atheism then? And why would someone choose it instead? The main difference is that naturalistic pantheism has an object of worship. Nature is seen as something sacred and awe inspiring by itself, without the need for a supernatural world. Just like atheists, naturalistic pantheists respect the scientific method, critical thinking, logic and philosophy and often dislike ideas such as pseudoscience, esotericism and alternative medicine. This can be seen as an advantage of naturalistic pantheism: it offers the comfort, community and answers that were usually attributed to religion, but at the same time – it stays true to science.

Baruch Spinoza

The idea of pantheism is common to various philosophical traditions, spiritual paths and religions, such as Hinduism, Daoism and some Pagan traditions, but we generally consider Baruch Spinoza, a 17th century Jewish/Dutch rationalist philosopher, to be its patron saint. In his magnum opus „Ethics“, he equates nature with god: “Deus sive Natura” (“God or Nature”). God is understood as a being of infinitely many attributes, so everything is god and god is everything. Although Spinoza’s pantheism seems to be more idealistic, proposing the existence of an infinite being, he was labeled an atheist and he was ostracized from the Jewish society. Regardless, his ideas survived and we remember him today as a great fighter for reason.

The Four Horsemen

Modern developments in pantheism tend to be more on the naturalistic, atheist side. This “second Enlightenment” happening today, called New Atheism, seems to draw more and more people to atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, free thinking and – of course – naturalistic pantheism. Its „Four Horsemen“ are Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens (R.I.P. – 15.12.2011.), Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. They are all very active advocates of atheism, rigorously criticizing all forms of religion and religious practice. However, some would argue that atheists need something that inspires them and gives them direction and passion, something usually attributed to religion. Atheists usually answer that their passion lies in science, nature and doing good deeds. Therefore, atheists can be close to naturalistic pantheism without even knowing or acknowledging it. In that case, naturalistic pantheism would provide a great background for fostering such ideas, a large community of like-minded thinkers and feelings of inspiration and wonder simmilar to those commonly found in spirituality and religion.


What are your thoughts on atheism and naturalistic pantheism? Do you think the term “pantheism” is justified?

Thank you for reading this post! 🙂