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Monism and Nihilism

Monism and Nihilism
May 06, 2009, 07:15:57 PM
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 are essentially the same.


a. Parallelism

Spinoza was preoccupied with the central problem of the Cartesian inheritance, viz. that of accounting for the apparently systematic causal interaction between mind and body. This problem had arisen for Descartes specifically because he had believed that mind and body were discrete types of substances with irreconcilable natures. Contra Descartes, Spinoza denied that mind and body were separate substances at all, and proposed instead that they are merely separate attributes of a single substance. He suggested that, for every physical item P, there is a corresponding mental item I(P), which he identified as “the idea of P.” The human mind, for example, was nothing for Spinoza but the “idea” of the human body. These “ideas” differ from one another in “perfection,” based upon the complexity of the physical object to which each corresponds.


As you know, we have our own interpretation of parallelism in a nihilist context.

There are many monisms. What they have in common is that they attribute oneness. Where they differ is in what they attribute oneness to (the target), and how they count (the unit). Thus, strictly speaking, there is only monism relative to a target and unit, where monism for target t counted by unit u is the view that t counted by u is one.

Monisms contrast with pluralisms and nihilisms. Where the monist for target t counted by unit u holds that t counted by u is one, her pluralistic counterpart holds that t counted by u is many, and her nihilistic counterpart holds that t counted by u is none. (Dualism is a special case of pluralism: the dualist holds that t counted by u is two.)[1]

To illustrate, let the target t1 = the category of concrete object, and let the unit u1 = highest type. To be a monist for t1 counted by u1 is to hold that concrete objects fall under one highest type. The materialist, idealist, and neutral monist are all monists of this sort (substance monism). They all agree that concrete objects fall under one highest type, disagreeing only over whether the one highest type is material, mental, or something deeper.

To be a pluralist for t1 counted by u1 is to hold that concrete objects fall under more than one highest type. The Cartesian dualist is a pluralist of this sort (substance dualism). She holds that concrete objects fall under two highest types, specifically the material (with the primary attribute of extension) and the mental (with the primary attribute of thought).

To be a nihilist for t1 counted by u1 is to hold that concrete objects fall under no highest type. The bundle theorist who is an eliminativist about concrete objects would be a nihilist of this sort (substance nihilism). This sort of bundle theorist denies that there are any concrete objects, maintaining that there are just bundles of compresent properties.[2]


This is consistent with our view of nihilism: there is no inherent high level to both matter and form, but they are governed by parallel patterning laws, much like a parallelism which does not require a single origin but acts through indirect, parametric limiting forces.

Melissus, an eminent citizen of Samos and admirer of Parmenides produced a book approximately 50 years later, rendering Parmenides' doctrines in clearer prose. In the following excerpt he explains the canon of infinity and perpetuity of the One: "Since what comes into existence has a beginning, what does not come into existence has no beginning. But what exists has not come into being. [which was deducted before in the text] Therefore it has not got a beginning.

Again, what is destroyed has an end, and if something is indestructible it has no end. Therefore what exists, being indestructible, has no end. But what has neither beginning nor end is in fact infinite. Therefore what exists is infinite. If something is infinite, it is unique. For if there were two things they could not be infinite but would have limits against one another. But what exists is infinite. Therefore there is not a plurality of existents. Therefore what exists is one." (Simplicius, Commentary on the Physics, 103.13)

The above states the gist of classical monism.


This affirms the singularity of order. And then:

Monism, because it describes a belief in one substance, can be used in two distinct ways:

• To describe the view that only matter, or the physical body, exist.
• To describe the view that only mind, or spirit, exist.

The first option is called "materialism" or "physicalism"; the second option is called "idealism" (which you may remember from our discussion of Berkeley in TOK).


This is where ANUS-style parallelism comes in: the organization of matter, energy and ideas is the same. This is idealism that encompasses materialism.

And finally, the soundbite version:

Monism is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry, where this is not to be expected. Thus, some philosophers may hold that the Universe is really just one thing, despite its many appearances and diversities; or theology may support the view that there is one God, with many manifestations in different religions.


It seems to me metal is inherently monist, or believes that the organization of matter and ideas is based in context, not the things-in-themselves. In simpler terms, the cause of all things is the interreaction of forces that produces the pattern of the world.

In the monist view, there may actually be stages of life which are determined not by that which acts but by the context which created it. Humans hate this viewpoint because it implies they did not create and do not regulate their own consciousness.

In other words, a chair is not inherent (dualism: another pure world exists where the form of chair is defined) but it is the simplest design to adapt to our context, in this case the interaction between gravity and the human form.

However, it is the best viewpoint for epic surveys of history across thousands of years... patterns develop in the herd, and come to fruition in ways where we are just the actors doing what history has made convenient to us.

While we may believe
our world - our reality
to be that is - is but one
manifestation of the essence

Other planes lie beyond the reach
of normal sense and common roads
But they are no less real
than what we see or touch or feel

Monism is the most ancient philosophy of transcendentalists, and one that returns as science, exhausted with separating meaning from form, finds its answers crumble in its hands. (Science could accept monism, but this challenges Rationalism -- a future topic).

Re: Monism and Nihilism
May 15, 2009, 09:34:43 AM
Monism is like a parent philosophy to integralism and Tradition, a kind of reverent appreciation for the world as a whole order independent of its actors. Brainy. Religious.

Re: Monism and Nihilism
June 28, 2009, 08:38:30 AM
I'm noticing with a wry smile how some of the most content-laden posts here are getting bypassed because people are afraid to discuss them, or something. Either that or they're too complete for us.

To me, deconstruction has always been a valuable tool, but a means and not an end. For low self-confidence people, it's an end... because that way they can claim everything in the world is chaotic, that it cannot be predicted, and that we must rely on witchcraft. This leaves them conveniently alone to do whatever they do to cope with life, which is usually if not venal, counterproductive.

Monism is the opposite side of deconstruction. Deconstructive; hypothesize; test; re-integrate into an idea of the whole, or syncretize. I think most people in a modern time are afraid of this part.

Re: Monism and Nihilism
March 13, 2011, 07:35:54 PM
From Christendom we inherited spiritual equality in life in the non-material half of dualism. Rationalism materialized this concept for us with the Enlightenment, which gave us the default equality of mankind, manifest.

The result is the liberal-libertarian natural right to be an island unto oneself even though, in contradiction, it requires a surrounding society of which one is but a part to make this ideal possible. It follows that to the extent that someone acts as an uncommitted solitary atom - the extent of their commitment to this ideal instead - is the measure of a social parasite.

Aristotle: Should we not assume that just as the eye, hand, the foot, and in general each part of the body clearly has its own proper function, so man too has some function over and above the function of his parts?

To the extent a collection of cells composing an organ or appendage no longer functions on behalf of the body, the body is that much disabled and less likely to survive. Our present foundation may be robust against hostiles from without but it is almost certainly designed to terminate itself, leaving those hostiles that are as yet unvanquished as the only surviving systems in our decidedly illiberal, pre- and post-rational future.


Re: Monism and Nihilism
March 14, 2011, 10:53:20 AM
Science could accept monism, but this challenges Rationalism -- a future topic
In what sense, exactly, is this the case and how do you propose alleviating this, specifically?

Re: Monism and Nihilism
March 14, 2011, 04:18:46 PM
What hath Yahweh wrought?

Tomislav Sunic writes in Ch. IV of his Homo Americanus: Child of the Postmodern Age book:

As was to be expected under the influence of the Enlightenment and the progressive secularization of America, the legacy of Biblical Puritanism lost its original theological God-fearing message and adopted, at the turn of the 20th century, a secular neo-liberal form of the human rights gospel.

respek mah ekwality