Monday 9 March 2020

Monism ("oneness") teaching and theory is (in practice) always Dualism

I've written recently about 'oneness'- distinguishing it from what I believe to be the correct understanding of Christianity.

But I should clarify that the teaching of oneness as an ideal always entails duality in practice: monism is always really dualism.

And this has been the case since the very earliest, pre-Socratic philosophers and Plato and the Neo-Platonists; Hinduism and Buddhism, and the Platonic-influenced but mainstream versions of Christianity... Some of these claim variously to be monisms, but all actually are dualisms.

This can be seen in the attitude to change and changelessness. All assert that ultimate reality is changeless, outside of time, unified and perfect.

But all are forced to account for the fact that the world as we know it is changeable - characterised by with disease, decay and death - and im-perfect.

This is regarded as an illusion (maya), a temporary misunderstanding and/or misinterpretation (eg. due to sin, perhaps due to a 'fall') - nonetheless, this claim only kicks the can; because if all is truly one-ness and perfect - where/ why/ how, then, does illusion come-from?

Sooner or later, some kind of dualism of reality must be introduced; and always is introduced.

Total reality is - in effect - divided into two abstract categories; one true real-reality and the other erroneous mere-appearance. The key assumed fact - needed to complete the basic picture - concerns the source of that error. 


The only alternative to dualism (or the ultimate two-ness of reality) is not oneness (which simply does-not-work), but pluralism: more-than-twoness. I am a pluralist, and my ultimate category is Beings, which are living/ conscious, eternal, many, and remain them-selves - through whatever transformations they undergo. Other pluralisms are possible (e.g. pluralism seems to be the spontaneous assumption of children and hunter-gatherers; and is proposed theoretically by William James and Mormon theology), but the assumption has never been popular among philosophers; and is regarded as a mere mistake in reasoning by the vast majority. Regardless, I believe it to be true!  


Epimetheus said...

Do you think modern secular Leftism is monist? "Reality is only what I 'think' it is. There's nothing whatsoever beyond my perception in this moment."

Joseph A. said...

You leave out the iconic approach to metaphysics, which is incidentally the Christian tradition. God made (makes) the cosmos to reflect in its changing multiplicity his eternal perfection (as images, footsteps, echoes). The forms, archetypes, or divine ideas show up as, provide the blueprint for, and inform the beings that exist. Call it dualism or two world metaphysics or whatever, but there is the source of being -- and then there are beings that manifest that source. Dualism, I think, is more appropriate for a metaphysics where there are two constituent forces/ingredients of the universe. Call it monism if you want -- but there is a significant (in my opinion, all important) difference between calling the world of sights and sounds nothing (illusion) and calling it becoming. The latter is a middle way, so to speak, that recognizes that the changing world does exist in some way, though it falls short of total intelligibility (and total being). That such becoming is a created mirror of being -- intentionally made and wonderful as a divine work -- is the Christian cherry on the Hellenic sundae. What a delicious ontological treat!

Space Monkey said...

It wasn't too long ago that I suggested Joseph Farrell's doctoral thesis, titled God, History and Dialectic (still not finished unfortunately) where he delves very deeply into this particular subject. Dualism forces an imaginary conflict of opposites where the observer is caught between the eventual and final choice of Good vs Evil. As Dr Farrell points out, this is a particularly Western European concept and we are seeing its excruciating dualities still being worked out to this day.
My own lose thoughts on the matter currently prefer the following view. We constantly only see the Universe as death and decay because this is what we have collectively chosen to focus on and what our society has been shaped to see. The material is the decay stage of the Universe in my point of view and therefor everything that will ever come from its manifestation is death and decay up to and including the Heat Death of the Universe.
Thankfully, our scientists are wrong on the Heat Death of the Universe as they have imagined a closed system and focus all of their attention on the "ass-end" of creation which is for better or worst, our physical reality. All we have to do is turn around and see the cheer beauty and bounty of the continual creation of our Universe where we are but the crashing observational wave of this interconnected system. Dualities are only foreboding because they imply a winner and loser and only because we assume a closed system. All that to mean that God is supposed to have created the Universe in one perfect moment and has been fairly absent since then except for when he decided to pop in for a minute to save us for our communal sins. In an open system, we find ourselves in a continual creation or to put another way, experiencing God's grace becomes all the more rewarding as curious little scientific papers come out of spontaneously generated atoms in plasma experiments. I tend to want to think as Dr Farrell points to putting things in the context of a Trinity principle specifically to remove the arbitrary conflict of dualism. Where we have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we can also have Creation, Being and Decay. All form one, all work in concert and you cannot remove one from the other, just like the Christian Trinity.

Bruce Charlton said...

@E - "Do you think modern secular Leftism is monist?"

No, I don't think it has a coherent metaphysics. Leftism is merely 'against': opposed to God, the Good and creation. Its opposition does not have to be, and is not, coherent.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Joseph - I am talking about the underlying assumptions. In practice, because ordinary people tend to be pluralist spontaneously, there is often an elaboration of the dualism into a multiplicity. Or, people simply develop incompatible beliefs, and those they most deeply adhere to may well conflict with their fundamental supposed assumptions.

This *was* OK through hundreds of years, but under the continual ideological onslaught of secualr Leftism, these incoherences have been revealed as weaknesses, and wedged open.

Modern Christians faith has been eroded by the inability to back up cherished beliefs by metaphysics. The prime examples relate to free will and the problem of suffering - where standar monist/dualist metaphysics fails to do the necessary job.

Some share of blame for this comes from the wrong (broadly Platonic - supposedly monist/ actually dualist) metaphysics that Christianity adopted from pagan philosophy at a very early point in its history. But the error was invisible until some alternative began to be sketched out by the Mormons, then William James - however the significance of this monist problem is still generally denied.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

You might say that, once you take away everything that is “right,” they support whatever is “left” indiscriminately. Coherence doesn’t enter into the picture.