Dualism, What is Dualism?

Dualism, What is Dualism?

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

It is possible to answer the question of what is dualism as follows: The philosophical trend that asserts the existence of two opposing principles that cannot be reduced to each other in any field is called dualism.


Some realist philosophers, who argue that existence exists independently of the human mind, argued that it is the product of both matter and thought (spirit, ide). These philosophers are called dualist philosophers in the history of philosophy. Dualism is the opposite of the terms monism and pluralism.

Translated into Turkish as dualism and derived from the Latin word “duo” meaning “two”, dualism is a philosophical approach that argues that there are two different substances that cannot be reduced to each other.

These two substances are generally couples such as male-female, good-evil, spirit-body or light-dark. In this respect, it differs from the approaches of monism, which claims that all beings originate from a single substance, and pluralism, which claims that there are more than two substances.

Dualism is not about a single field or subject.

Dualism can also be called as the method developed to talk about and describe various teachings, especially in philosophy and the science of religion.

All of these teachings include the idea that there are two fundamental (usually opposite) substances. These two fundamental substances can be particularly opposing forces or entities. In this context, dualism for philosophy and dualism for religions will be discussed in the continuation of our article.

Philosophical Dualism

Basically, it is a philosophy movement that argues that reality consists of two basic substances, elements or categories that are independent of each other and one cannot be reduced to the other. This theory is not about a single field or subject.

For example, when we apply the dualist theory to the subject of existence, according to the view that emerges, existence consists of two basic substances or categories that cannot be reduced to each other. For example, body and soul constitute the existence of man. Note that neither of these elements can be reduced to the other, nor can a single explanation be given to these two elements.

The first dualist in philosophy was the Ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras. Anaxagoras clearly distinguished between matter and spirit and said that they would be separated from each other forever. This soul, which Anaxagoras calls nus (nous N.), has a material structure, but in terms of being the creator, it creates a fundamental duality that cannot be reduced to each other by being opposite the creature.

In addition, the French philosopher Descartes gathers all the facts in the universe in the duality of spirit and matter, which cannot be reduced to each other. All dualists are thinkers (idealists), because they accept that there is a spiritual structure in opposition to the material structure.

Rene Descartes is the most well-known representative of the dualism movement.

Philosophical dualism has survived to the present day. For example, British astronomer James Jeans characterizes wave physics as spiritual and particle physics as material, and argues that the former gives information and the latter gives objects. This dual historical adventure of human thought has finally reached the universal unity of dialectical materialism.

Religious Dualism

The application of dualism to the philosophy of religion is based on two Gods. Accordingly, there are two irreducible Gods. The path to this view basically arises from the problem of evil.

The problem of evil is a problem that focuses on why and how God, who is by definition absolute good, creates concretely observed evils in this world, and beyond that, why these evils exist.

The solution of the dualist theory on this issue is based on the existence of two equivalent Gods and a struggle between good and evil. In this context, dualism falls under the distinction of polytheism; but it limits itself to two Gods. (What is the Problem of Evil?)

Dualism is reflected in the religious dualism that basically asserts the separation of the divine place (the other world) and the human place (Earth) and is a reactionary view that denies the material unity of the universe.

In the religious sphere, dualism is much older, rising above the opposition of good and evil, based on the duality of the wealthy (the strong) and the poor (the weak).

the earth and sky gods of the Sumerians, the benevolent and evil gods of ancient Egypt; The dark and light principles of ancient China, India, Iran (in Chinese: Yin-Yang, in Hind: Tamus-Satva, in Iran Ahura Mazda-Angra mainyu) are all expressions of these opposite dualities.

Video Lecture: What is Dualism?
Topics on Dualism
Descartes and dualism
Evil in the Context of Dualism

Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook