Monday, 13 January 2014

Definitions of Monism and Pluralism


Monism: There is a single ultimate cause of everything in the universe; everything in the universe can be traced back to a single cause.

Pluralism: There is more-than-one cause of everything in the universe; everything in the universe cannot be traced back to a single cause.


(Note: I am a pluralist - so was the philsopher William James; so are most Mormons, including Joseph Smith.)


josh said...

How do you reconcile the view that things other than God predate creation with a common sense, plain-text reading of Genesis?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Josh - Because it *is* (pretty much, allowing for brevity) the "common sense, plain-text reading of Genesis".

What do *you* think that the c-s, p-t,roG is?

I mean, of course, the common sense as plainly understandable by an illiterate and uneducated tribesman, or a child of about eight years old - someone who has never been exposed to the categories of classical philosophy (e.g. someone like the ancient Hebrews).

josh said...

Well, if the Earth was formless *after* God created it, the part about Him creating it must have been about Him actually making the stuff, no?

How does God create light? He says "Let there be Light". That's it. It doesn't sound like He created it from any preexisting stuff?

As a child atheist, I certainly took the meaning as creation ex-nihilo, but that could juct be my cultural baggage.

Bruce Charlton said...

@josh - If you say so!

It seems to be unusual, to have a creator god in the Jewish way at all - most gods are/ were not creators.

But I think the main thing I was getting at is not the ex nihilo bit so much that when simple people (and me) visualize or imagine God creating, it is *within* a universe; it is indeed a man-like personage inside a universe, making things (whether he is transforming pre-existing stuff or having new stuff appearing from nowhere is perhaps less sure and certain).

George said...

I mean, you could argue that "let there be light" means God created the Sun (or caused it to be created). Earth, etc. Anyway, it doesn't entirely dismiss other concepts besides ex-nihilo.

Or the energy of the universe existed and God brought it into matter via His Most High power/will.

Adam G. said...

I'm pretty sure that any robust notion of free will requires a quasi-pluralism even if God created that free will. Because if the will is truly free, God created it's existence but did not and cannot have created its decisions

Jonathan C said...

So if a unitary God created the universe from nothing and then created being with free will (i.e. uncaused causes), is that monism or pluralism?

Not every cause needs to have predated creation, does it?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jonathan C - That is the usual position, and it has the very important job of ensuring that Free Will is preserved.

If people are happy with this... fine. It is subordinating philosophy to Christianity, which is good and necessary.

Metaphysically, however, it is just nonsense - a fake, a fudge.

Some people perceive this fact, and then the usual position doesn't work.

Adam G. said...

Jonathan C.,
its a form of pluralism, if you ask me. Maybe you'd call it a hybrid of pluralism and monism. Unlike Bruce C., I see it as minimally coherent. It isn't really satisfactory, but neither are the alternatives.

Peter of Carolina said...

In the beginning God... If you just take that phrase by itself, it is saying that God was all that predated creation. Christian theology teaches that God created all that exists and as John 1:3 says '... and without him was not anything made that was made.'

Bruce Charlton said...

@PoC - Well, I don't agree - mostly because I don't think humans naturally think that way.

My feeling is that Christianity makes things very hard for itself by trying to insist that adherents 'believe' (publicly profess) philosophical doctrines which are incomprehensible and appear incoherent.

I am sure that the ancient Hebrews and Christ's followers did not think like Greek Philosophers.

The central doctrines (the nature of Christ, the Trinity, free choice etc) should have plain and commonsensible surface meanings/ interpretations - after which there is of course a vast realm of the unknown and mysterious.