Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Dualism (as opposed to monism) places two different substances at the origin of existence.

explanatory context

Dualism goes back to Greek philosophy and can be found in ancient (Middle Eastern) religions. One such dualist view is to see the world as the outcome of the competing forces of good and evil.


Déscartes expounded the best known modern version of dualism when arguing that people comprised of two distinct substances, the material (the body) and the spiritual (the soul).

analytical review

According to Robinson (2011) in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy::

This entry concerns dualism in the philosophy of mind. The term ‘dualism’ has a variety of uses in the history of thought. In general, the idea is that, for some particular domain, there are two fundamental kinds or categories of things or principles. In theology, for example a ‘dualist’ is someone who believes that Good and Evil—or God and the Devil—are independent and more or less equal forces in the world. Dualism contrasts with monism, which is the theory that there is only one fundamental kind, category of thing or principle; and, rather less commonly, with pluralism, which is the view that there are many kinds or categories. In the philosophy of mind, dualism is the theory that the mental and the physical—or mind and body or mind and brain—are, in some sense, radically different kinds of thing. Because common sense tells us that there are physical bodies, and because there is intellectual pressure towards producing a unified view of the world, one could say that materialist monism is the ‘default option’. Discussion about dualism, therefore, tends to start from the assumption of the reality of the physical world, and then to consider arguments for why the mind cannot be treated as simply part of that world.

The McGraw-Hill (2004) Sociological Theory site Glossary defines dualism as:

The idea that structure (and culture) and agency can be distinguished for analytic purposes, although they are intertwined in social life.

associated issues


related areas

See also

Kantian dualism


McGraw-Hill, 2004, Sociological Theory: Glossary , available at, accessed 14 May 2013, page not available 17 December 2016.

Robinson, H, 2011, 'Dualism' in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, first published 19 August 2003; substantive revision 3 November 2011, available at, accessed 21 January 2013, still available 3 June 2019 although revision 29 February 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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