Dualism as a philosophical concept refers to the idea that what we know as our mind is not limited to just our physical brain, but a host of greater concepts that, combined, make us who we are as individuals. The Cartestian form of dualism emerged with, and was named for, Rene Descartes and his proclamation of “I think, therefore I am.” The mind is a nonphysical entity, he argued, one capable of behaving in ways that the physical body cannot. The concepts of rational thinking, feeling, and imagination are all evidence of the existence of the mind as its own being, distinct from the physical form but with both still working in tandem.
The physical world has a direct impact on the human body; the physical form is limited by the laws of physics. However, the mind also has a clear and direct impact on the body. If the mind wills the body to move, it will do so, provided it is in accordance with the rest of the physical world. However, Descartes also noted that the physical body has an impact on the mind. If harm is done to the physical body, it is the mind that produces the concept of pain and its implications. The physical nerves may be damaged to make such a signal to the mind, but it is the mind that produces the sensation of pain itself. It is this dual existence, as well as how these two distinct components differentiate from one another while simultaneously working together, that comprise the foundational concepts of Cartesian dualism.