OBJECTIVE: To clarify monist, dualist, and pluralist philosophy that could help psychiatrists to explain how mental and physical states relate in general.
METHOD: Varieties of monism and dualism are summarised and the problems that they entail for psychiatry are briefly described. Pluralism in the mind-body debate is reviewed in relation to the concept of a person, and mathematical representations are formulated to capture the relation between mind, body and person.
RESULTS: Monism, dualism and a conjunctive approach to mind and body are rejected in favour of a non-conjunctive pluralism that locates logical primacy at a person. Accordingly, mind and brain are extricates among a plurality of extricates of a person. This conceptualisation accounts for both the intimacy between mental and physical states in some instances and the distance in others.
CONCLUSION: The patient, rather than a mind or a body, has been logically and historically at the centre of psychiatric practice. This suggests psychiatry has its own epistemology that is logically primary in relation to its contributory subjects (biology, psychology, sociology, etc).