Dualism, the separation of brain and mind, is not a popular viewpoint in neurobiological circles, including among biologically oriented psychiatrists. Kendler2 wrote: “Cartesian dualism is false. We need to reject definitively the belief that mind and brain reflect two fundamentally different and ultimately incommensurable kind[s] of ‘stuff.’” He expressed himself rather moderately.
Others have been more outspoken. Swaab3 stated: “We are our brains. The mind I see as a product of our brain cells. Mind is simply material, or better, brain and mind are one thing.” Kandel4 wrote: “What we call mind is a range of functions carried out by the brain.” And, Guze5 declared: “One’s feelings and thoughts are as biological as one’s blood pressure and gastric secretion are.”
Neuronal determinism, as this worldview is called, reigns supreme today. Many neuroscientists, including their psychiatric adherents, believe that by means of brain research, the code of mind and selfhood will be cracked. They consider the problem-solving power of the sciences—the natural sciences—principally boundless. To me this sounds like scientific messianism.
The appearances, however, seem to be against me: videtur quod sic. Scan technology, for instance, brought functional and morphological brain defects to light in a variety of psychiatric disorders. Most evidence suggests that these disturbances underlie the behavioral aberrations, rather than being their consequence. Functional brain changes enable us to execute those functions.
Brain damage, more often than not, leads to behavioral and experiential changes. Drugs may influence brain functions and have the potential to exert both beneficial and detrimental effects on the behavioral repertoire. Chronic biological strain damages the brain and may lead to mental disturbances. Even religiousness, the most esoteric of the mind’s ingredients, seems to be neuronally anchored.6
Mind is a brain derivative and mental disorders are essentially disorders of the brain, and their causal treatment is a matter of brain repair. So it seems. Yet, I reject this reasoning categorically. I submit that dualism, neodualism should be “in” and should remain the very foundation of psychiatry, in both its clinical and therapeutic endeavors. With the term “neodualism,” I allude to the notion that body-brain and mind, although interdependent, can each boast a considerable amount of internal autonomy.
Furthermore, I maintain that mind and brain are made of fundamentally different “stuff”; that mind “stuff” should be systematically studied in its own right, with specific methods not comparable to the ones used by neurobiologists; and that mind “stuff” cannot and will never be fully extrapolatable to brain “stuff.” As an analogy: electric currents can be generated by a generator. Generator and current are coupled, yet they are phenomena of a totally different order, to be studied with different methods. Neither can the beauty, the color, the smell of a rose be extrapolated to the soil from which it springs.