Dualism and its relation to Forecasting Futures (Cogito ergo sum updated)

During our Forecasting Futures lecture we were introduced to the philosophical concept of Cartesian Dualism. Before digging deeper in the meaning of the phrase and its philosophical origins, we can get a general idea by reflecting on the term “dualism”: it suggest that there are two parts, elements or aspects which are opposed or contrasting. In Philosophy it refers to the belief that there are two distinct realities: material (physical) and immaterial (spiritual). In Philosophy of mind, the theory of dualism suggests mind and body are two separate entities. Ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle disputed upon the nature of soul and body and whether they are bound or not.

Later, in the 17th century, René Descartes (Latinized: Renatus Cartesius) particularly focused on the concept of dualism in his philosophical studies, forming the “Cartesian Dualism” theory, also called “Substance Dualism”. He believed there are “two kinds of substance: matter, of which the essential property is that it is spatially extended; and mind, of which the essential property is that it thinks” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2011). From his theory follows the famous quote “cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am).

Our tutor then asked us two research the following two words: ontology and epistemology. These are two key theories in metaphysics, the branch of philosophy dealing with principles of things. These can be very abstract concepts such as being, knowing, identity, time and space. Ontology covers the nature of being whereas epistemology is concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge and aims to distinguish between justified belief and opinion (Oxford online dictionary, no date). It therefore also poses challenging questions such as “How much do we or can we know?”

The philosophy of Dualism can be applied to future forecasting when we look at trends: whenever we have an innovation we will also have a disruption which opposes the new trend. Moreover Dualism also plays a role when looking at how new thinkers are giving more importance to the values and goals of specific brands and businesses rather than the actual product or service they might deliver. Thus we can observe a shift from the “res cogitans”(the non-physical substance) to the “res extensa” (the extended, physical thing).

A current example for the shift from valuing the non-physical more than the physical, is the uptrending idea of a healthy lifestyle. Wellness has become the new luxury with exclusive gyms, high-end nutritionist and expensive detox programs being the new Gucci bags. The new pride is health, thus a value not a material product.

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