NORMAL DUALISTIC SITUATION: We normally think of mind and body as different kinds of things. The mind is spiritual and the body is material. Seems simple enough.

PROBLEMS: However, if mind and body are two radically different kinds of things, then this presents a problem. In one guise we call it “The Mind-Body Problem.” How do two utterly different things, one substance and the other spirit, effect each other? A mental decision that we make is a purely mental or spiritual activity. If I decide to eat something sweet, and a moment later I grab a fork and eat half a chocolate cake, then how did that purely mental (non-material, non-physically extended mental event) “cause” my arm to grab the fork, and dig into the cake? The problem is that a decision in my mind or soul doesn’t have anything to “bang up against” in my nervous system or arm. The electrons in my nervous system, which tell my arm’s muscles to move and grab the fork, are material, while my mind or soul, and the “thought,” are non-material. My immaterial mind can’t connect–in any possible way–with my material nervous system and muscles.

Thus it seems that the mind and body are incompatible.

But we do feel–and we do believe–that our minds and bodies interact. How do they interact?

SOLUTIONS: DEMOCRATS vs. REPUBLICANS:  Mind and body are two high level abstractions that are connected by a deeper reality. Here’s an analogy: Mind vs. Body may be like Democrats vs. Republicans. On the surface it seems as if they are incompatible. But there’s a more fundamental reality. The Democrats and the Republicans both tap into a realm of common fundamental values. For example, the value of human life, the value of personal freedom, and the desire to live a good life. It’s similar with mind vs. body. With the advent of electromagnetic theory in the mid-19th century, and General Relativity in 1905, and the quantum mechanics in the 1920’s, Alfred North Whitehead realized that mind and body were connected at a more fundamental level. It became widely known that the supporting basis of matter is energy. But Whitehead doesn’t say that energy connects mind and body. He goes a step further. His speculative claim was that there is something even more primary than energy: at the fundamental level, reality is not spiritual, or energetic, or material stuff. Then what is it? Reality is ultimately a series of spatiotemporal events, or Actual Entities. At the sub-sub quantum level, reality is a flowing process of these spatiotemporal events, each a sort of primitive experiential entity which exists for a fraction of a second, and passes its experience onto the next Actual Entity. Nature is alive! It’s the fundamental level where what we call “matter” and “mind” and “soul” are actually one kind of entity. The spiritual and the material are really different aspects of the one fundamental reality of Actual Entities.

Thus, spirituality (and materiality) are happening right here, right now. But the material realm and the spiritual realm are the same thing. There’s only one reality. Welcome to it!

One comment on “Spirituality/Materialism/Dualism

  1. Interesting post Alimen. I have always assumed there is more to reality than meets the eye. But without realizing it, this has been a dualistic view where the world is divided into the visible and invisible realms…Now I question this assumption, this way of looking at things. It seems the tendency to see things dualistically- the mental tendency to divide reality into two parts- such as spiritual and material, or soul and body- is deeply ingrained and often unquestioned. Thank you for this mind-opening post.

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