Dualism is the idea or theory that something (an object, an idea or the whole world) is split into two parts. These parts are separate from each other and the thing cannot be divided up into any other way. The idea or theory that something cannot be split into any parts is called monism. The idea that something can be split into many parts is called pluralism.

In Philosophy there are many kinds of dualism: In philosophy of mind, dualism is a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, which begins with the claim that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical. A generally well-known version of dualism is attributed to René Descartes (1641), which holds that the mind is a nonphysical substance. Descartes was the first to clearly identify the mind with consciousness and self-awareness and to distinguish this from the brain, which was the seat of intelligence.

Dualism is contrasted with various kinds of monism, including physicalism, a philosophical position holding that everything which exists is no more extensive than its physical properties; that is, that there are no kinds of things other than physical things. And phenomenalism (the view that physical objects do not exist as things in themselves but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli situated in time and in space).

In epistemology (the study of knowledge), dualism means that there is a barrier between a person and the world around them. This barrier splits the world into two for that person, into ‘myself’ and ‘the world’. Each person can see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world but cannot know it directly. For example somebody cannot know just by looking that things are made up of many atoms. This means that something could happen in the world that we would not know about because we could not see, hear, taste, smell or touch it.

A monist idea is that a person is just another part of the world and that there is no barrier. For example it could be said that if somebody cannot see, hear, taste, touch or smell something then it does not affect them. Dualism is also a common sense idea. For example it is a form of dualism to say that a thing is either hot or cold, good or bad, mine or somebody else’s, with no allowance for possible states in between.

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