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Metaphysics and Monism Essay

People are monists, dualists or pluralists depending on whether or not they believe that reality is composed of one, two or more substances. These positions may be represented as here indicated. Hindus, Buddhists and Animists are for the most part monists. They believe that reality is one and that everything that exists is a functioning part of that whole which is spirit. Western man for the most part may be called a monist also as he believes that God is dead and matter is the only substance to reality.

Bible believing Christians would be pluralists. In philosophy of mind, monism is usually contrasted with the dualist position that mind and matter are deeply different. Thus, monism is the claim that mind and matter essentially the same. However, this ‘sameness’ has come in a number of different and contradictory varieties. For example, Hobbes felt that the mental is merely and epiphenomena of the physical, thus the physical is the one real substance (Contemporary materialism is also a form of physicalistic monism (see Churchland, 1996).

In direct contrast, Berkeley postulated that the physical is just a collection of ideas (hence, idealism) and thus the mental is the only thing that really exists. Finally, there are a number of positions similar to Spinoza’s property dualism, often referred to as dual-aspect theory. Spinoza held a position in which the mental and the physical are simply two modes of a more basic substance (it should be noted that strictly speaking, Spinoza was not a property dualist as he held that the mental and the physical were two of a possible infinite number of modes of the basic substance, nevertheless he is typically labeled as one).

For Spinoza, this basic substance was God. Thus the only real thing is God, who is neither physical nor mental. Spinoza’s position is similar to that of Russell’s neutral monism, however the latter is not committed to the belief that a supreme being is the more basic substance. General Information Monism is any doctrine based on the assumption of a single underlying principle. Metaphysical monism allows that only one being or type of being exists.

A substantial metaphysical monism asserts that the variety in our phenomenal experience is due to the different states of a single all-encompassing substance, for example, Parmenides’ Plenum or Baruch Spinoza’s God or Nature. An attributive monism admits many substances but asserts that they are all of the same kind, for example, atoms or G. W. von Leibniz’s monads. Epistemological monism identifies that which is immediately present to the knowing mind with the real object known.

Either the content of the mind is equated with the object known (epistemological realism), or the object known is equated with the knowing mind (epistemological idealism). Monism as a philosophical term was first used by Christian Wolff to designate philosophies that attempted to eliminate the mind-body dichotomy. Monism (Greek monos,”single”), in philosophy, is a doctrine that ultimate reality is entirely of one substance. Monism is thus opposed to both dualism and pluralism. Three basic types of monism are recognized: materialistic monism, idealistic monism, and the mind-stuff theory.

According to the first doctrine, everything in the universe, including mental phenomena, is reduced to the one category of matter. In the second doctrine, matter is regarded as a form of manifestation of mind; and in the third doctrine, matter and mind are considered merely aspects of each other. Although monistic philosophies date from ancient Greece, the term monism is comparatively recent. It was first used by the 18th-century German philosopher Christian von Wolff to designate types of philosophical thought in which the attempt was made to eliminate the dichotomy of body and mind.

Although he was not known by the term, the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza was one of the most influential monists. He taught that both material and spiritual phenomena are attributes of one underlying substance. His doctrine strongly anticipated the mind-stuff theory. Advanced Information Although the term was first used by German philosopher Christian Wolff (1679-1754), monism is a philosophical position with a long history dating back to the pre-Socratic philosophers who appealed to a single unifying principle to explain all the diversity of observed experience.

Notable among these thinkers is Parmenides, who maintained that reality is an undifferentiated oneness, or unity, and that consequently real change or individuality of things are there? Substantival monism (“one thing”) is the view that there is only one substance and that all diversity is ultimately unreal. This view was maintained by Spinoza, who claimed that there is only one substance, or independently existing thing, and that both God and the universe are aspects of this substance. In addition to having many eminent proponents in the Western philosophical tradition, substantival monism is a tenet of Hinduism and Buddhism.

In Hinduism each element of reality is part of maya or prakriti, and in Buddhism all things ultimately comprise an interrelated network. Attributive monism (“one category”) holds that there is one kind of thing but many different individual things in this category. Materialism and idealism are different forms of attributive monism. The materialist holds that the one category of existence in which all real things are found is material, while the idealist says that this category is mental. All monisms oppose the dualistic view of the universe, which holds that both material and immaterial (mental and spiritual) realities exist.

Attributive monism disagrees with substantival monism in asserting that reality is ultimately composed of many things rather than one thing. Many leading philosophers have been attributive monists, including Bertrand Russell and Thomas Hobbes on the materialistic side, and G. W. Leibniz and George Berkeley in the idealist camp. The Christian intellectual tradition has generally held that substantival monism fails to do justice to the distinction between God and creature, and that of attributive monisms only idealism is theologically acceptable.


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