Michael E. Hyland (1994) Methodological Complementarity and the Mind-body Problem. Psycoloquy: 5(16) Metapsychology (4)

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PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 5(16): Methodological Complementarity and the Mind-body Problem

Book review of Rakover on Metapsychology

Michael E. Hyland
Department of Psychology
University of Plymouth
Plymouth PL4 8AA

Irving Kirsch
Department of Psychology, U-20
University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT 06269-1020

p02165@prime-a.plymouth.ac.uk irvingk@uconnvm.bitnet


"Methodological complementarity" is a pragmatic response to the current insolubility of the mind-body problem and should be considered alongside Rakover's mind-body skepticism.


behavior, causality, experimentation, explanation, introspection, mind-body problem, observation, philosophy, psychology, reductionism, science, theory.
1. Rakover (1990, 1993) correctly asserts that the mind-body problem has not been solved and may not be solved. Nevertheless, some assumptions about the relation between mind and body are necessary for grounding psychophysiological research and theory. Rather than try to solve the problem or adjudicate between different mind-body positions, we have proposed a theoretical framework for integrating theories about minds and theories about bodies which we call "methodological complementarity" (Hyland, 1985; Hyland & Kirsch, 1988; Kirsch & Hyland, 1987; Kirsch & Hyland, 1989). Methodological complementarity differs from other forms of complementarity in that it makes no assumptions about the ontological status of minds and bodies. As such, it is not inconsistent with Rakover's mind-body skepticism. Indeed, methodological complementarity is consistent with most mind-body positions described by Rakover.

2. Methodological complementarity was developed to deal with a particular problem, namely, the theoretical representation of psychosomatic phenomena. Psychosomatic phenomena are commonly interpreted as demonstrating that mind states can cause physical illness, thus appearing to imply the validity of interactionist dualism. However, such phenomena raise the question of how a mind state can affect a physical state without apparent causal connection, and it is the absence of this connection that has led to the nearly universal rejection of interactionist dualism. Methodological complementarity was developed as a set of linguistic restrictions and prescriptions for theories explaining such phenomena without solving the mind-body problem (which may never be satisfactorily solved). It provides a heuristic framework for psychosomatic theories. Statements indicating a mental cause of a physical effect are to be replaced by statements indicating that the physical effect was caused by the physiological substrate of a mental state.

3. Methodological complementarity suggests that mind and body descriptions are complementary accounts of a process whose ontology is uncertain. Each of these two complementary types of description provide information that may not be reducible to the other, so both are needed for a full account of psychosomatic phenomena. To avoid linguistic inconsistency, the word "cause" is not used for mind-body relations. Instead, mind states are identified with brain states, and it is these identity relations that allow the construction of causal models, including both physiological and mentalistic variables. The ontological reason for the assumed identity relations between mind and body states is not specified, however, because the position is consistent with most of the mind-body positions listed by Rakover (pp. 223-224), namely, logical behaviorism, identity theory, functionalism, double aspect theory, materialism, and parallelism -- but not eliminative materialism or interactionist dualist theories (i.e., epiphenomenalism and interactionism). Methodological complementarity is not a philosophical position. Rather, it is a metatheoretical proposal about the way different types of theoretical description can be integrated without contravening their respective assumptions.


Hyland, M.E., (1985). Do Person Variables Exist in Different Ways? American Psychologist; 40: 1003-1010.

Hyland, M.E., & Kirsch, I. (1988). Methodological Complementarity: With and Without Reductionism. Journal of Mind and Behavior; 9: 5-12.

Kirsch, I., & Hyland, M.E. (1987). How Thoughts Affect the Body: A Metatheoretical Framework. Journal of Mind and Behavior; 8: 417-434.

Kirsch, I., & Hyland, M.E. (1989). Causal Isomorphism and Complementarity: Setting the Record Straight. Journal of Mind and Behavior, 10, 197-203

Rakover, S.S. (1990). Metapsychology: Missing Links in Behavior, Mind, and Science. New York: Paragon/Solomon.

Rakover, S.S. (1993). Precis of Metapsychology: Missing Links in Behavior, Mind, and Science. PSYCOLOQUY 4(55) metapsychology.1.rakover.

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