On the Debate Over Dualism

On the Debate Over Dualism

Posted on:Jun 01 2010
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It has become fashionable among philosophers to eschew almost any form of dualism. Descartes, in this regard, has been discredited. Some theologians, like Arthur Peacocke, claim that the only legitimate dualism is that which exists between God and everything else. But I find the wholesale rejection of dualism suspect.

One of the dangers in philosophy is the discovery of a ready-made “language handle”. Such handles (like “dualism”) provide a kind of short-hand for complex concepts. There is a danger in convenience language. It becomes too general, too mentally ergonomic.

Theologian who recognizes that primitive notions of dualism need redress (that it is difficult to separate spirit, body, and identity) are making useful advances in our understanding. But the theologian who rejects almost any form of dualism undermines bedrock elements of orthodox theology.

In popular theological/philosophical circles, one must be careful about embracing any form of dualism. Such theories are liable to wholesale rejection. But I think we need to be more careful. Our criticism of dualism deserves more nuance.

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