Academic journal article Behavior and Philosophy (Online)

A Plea for Methodological Dualism and a Multi-Explanation Framework in Psychology

Academic journal article Behavior and Philosophy (Online)

A Plea for Methodological Dualism and a Multi-Explanation Framework in Psychology

Article excerpt


Whatever our mental functioning may be, there seems to be no serious reason to believe that it is explainable by our physics and chemistry. (Putnam, 1975, p. 297)

We have been trying for a long time to solve the mind-body problem. It has stubbornly resisted our best efforts. The mystery persists. I think the time has come to admit candidly that we cannot resolve the mystery. (McGinn, 1989, p. 349)

To be brutally honest, scientists do not yet have even the remotest idea of how visual experiences-or indeed any other kinds of experiences-arise from physical events in the brain. (Palmer, 1999, p. 618)

The reason the mind-body problem does not go away, despite our being clear about the options in responding to it, is because of the constant battle between common sense, which favors the view that the mental is a basic feature of reality, and the pull to see it as an authoritative deliverance of science that this is not so.

We find ourselves constantly pulled between these two poles, unable to see our minds as nothing over and above the physical, unwilling to see the universe as containing anything not explicable in terms of its basic, apparently non-mental, constituents. (Ludwig, 2003, pp. 29-31)

Even if we accept the familiar idea that minds are somehow dependent on brains, we have no clear idea of the nature of this dependence. The mental-physical relation appears utterly mysterious. (Heil, 2003, p. 217)

The problem of consciousness is completely intractable. We will never understand consciousness in the deeply satisfying way we've come to expect from our sciences. (Dietrich & Hardcastle, 2005, p. 1, opening sentence)

These six quotations indicate that many important investigators in psychology and philosophy of science and the mind believe that we are still incapable of understanding the mind by means of the brain, and consciousness (our private conscious experiences such as will, belief, thoughts, feelings, and images) by means of neurophysiological-computational processes occurring in the brain. That is, at present we possess no explanation for the complex mind/brain problem. In saying this I make no final determination but only suggest that to date no one has succeeded in explaining conscious mental states and processes by physical and neurophysiological concepts (e.g., Bayne, 2009; Palmer, 1999; Rakover, 1990, 1997, 2007). We still have no "Mind/Brain Theory" detailing the mechanism whereby neurophysiological activity in the brain creates or acquires consciousness, akin to the accepted theories in science. These, for example, are physical theories to explain the transformations of energy (associated with potential and kinetic energy, friction and heat, magnetism and electricity, mass and energy) or how matter changes from one kind to another, such as the theory of how hydrogen and oxygen join to form water, and how water can be broken down (by electrolysis) into these gases. I agree with McCauley and Bechtel (2001) that if indeed it were possible to reduce a psychological theory to a neurophysiological theory one could forgo psychological concepts altogether, since behavior would be explained through the theories prevailing in the sciences-but this is not how matters stand at present.

In view of this situation, I propose that there is apparently much sense in developing a relatively new approach, called Methodological Dualism, which is not based on the usual attempt to reduce mental processes to neurophysiological processes. On the contrary, the present approach attempts to circumvent the ontological mind/body problem and the debate on dualism vs. monism by focusing attention on the following methodological question: Given that behavior is based on many different processes (e.g., neurophysiological, cognitive, and mental) how is it possible to provide a coherent and comprehensive explanation for such behavior? The answer proposed here is to improve the explanatory ability of a psychological theory to account for behavior and action by integrating two kinds of explanations. …

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