Monism (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
The term monism comes from the Greek word meaning alone or single. While the term was originally used by German mathematician and philosopher Christian Wolff (1679754) to refer to views asserting either that everything is mental (idealism) or everything is material (materialism), monism has wider applicability today, claiming that the various things or kinds of things encountered in the world are somehow reducible to, derivable from, or explicable in terms of one thing (substantival monism) or one kind of thing (attributive monism). The substantival and attributive views are logically independent.g., Baruch Spinoza (1632677) affirmed the first while holding a plurality of attributes; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646716) held the second while countenancing a plurality of substances.
Monism must be distinguished from pluralism, which asserts that there are various things or kinds of things. Monism must also be distinguished from dualism, which claims that there are only two basic kinds of things. Often, however, the term monism is used imprecisely to refer to any fundamental dichotomy in a philosophical or religious system (e.g., good and evil, soul and body, male and female). Of particular interest in the science-theology conversation are the apparent dualisms of mind and body, and God and universe.
A primary motivation for monism is ontological simplicity world in which there is one basic thing or kind of thing makes fewer ontological claims than one asserting the existence of many things or kinds. Explanation for the monist is homogeneous and coherent; it makes no appeal to entities of a different ontological type when framing its causal stories. Moreover, the assumption of monism (particularly of physicalist variety) has been enormously fruitful. On the other hand, pluralism is motivated by the apparent multiplicity of things and kinds, and the desire to avoid purchasing simplicity at the expense of real complexity. A further advantage of monism is that, unlike pluralism, it does not need to offer an account of a relation that supposedly conjoins fundamentally disparate kinds.
In addition to materialist (physicalist) and idealist monisms, there is also neutral monism and anomalous monism. The first claims that both mental and physical phenomena are manifestations of an underlying neutral stuff. Spinoza and Bertrand Russell (1872970) are associated with this position. The second, advanced by twentieth century philosopher Donald Davidson, holds that while every mental event is token identical to some physical event, mental properties can nonetheless not be reductively identified with physical properties. Because mental properties are individuated holistically according to criteria of coherence, rationality, and consistency which, as Davidson notes, "have no echo in physical theory" (p. 231). Although all particulars are physical (physicalist monism), the incommensurability between mental and physical properties requires a property dualism.
Both substance and property dualism are of interest in the science-theology discussion. For example, most would claim that substantival and attributive monism are both incompatible with the substance dualism of divine and worldly stuff (or creator and created stuff) that theism presupposes. Others have suggested that since God can be understood immanently, a dualism of divine and worldly properties is compatible with a monistic ontological physicalism. The question for the science-theology conversation is whether God-universe or mind-body property dualism coupled with physicalist monism has the resources to avoid reductive explanation, and thus successfully to ground an ontology of the mental and the divine.
See also DUALISM; MATERIALISM; NATURALISM; PHYSICALISM, REDUCTIVE AND NONREDUCTIVE; PLURALISM
Davidson, Donald. "Mental Events." In Essays on Actions & Events. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.
Drees, Willem B. Religion, Science, and Naturalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Spinoza, Baruch. The Collected Works of Spinoza. ed. and trans. Edwin M, Curley. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984.
Van Inwagen, Peter. "Individuality." In Metaphysics. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1993.
Monism (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Introduced into philosophy by Christian Wolff (1679-1754), the notion of monism refers to ontologies maintaining that all things lead back to mind or to matter. More generally, monism describes a system in which the totality of things is reducible to a single type of entity, be it substantial, logical, physical, or moral. Variations in usage and the competing expression "philosophy of the One" mean that the term should be used judiciously. People speak of the monisms of Parmenides (515 BCE), Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), and Wilhelm Ostwald (1853-1932); of the monism of psychophysical parallelism; and even of the monism of the bridge relation that characterizes dualism.
Freud, who deliberately kept away from philosophy, never used the noun monism and seldom used the adjective monist. Yet his dualistic theory of the instincts implicitly challenges the idea of instinctual monism. Freud's treatment of this issue began with his early notion of narcissism in "Psycho-Analytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides)" (1911c ) and culminated in his positing the life and death instincts in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g). General discussion of these issues included polemics between Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung, and numerous authors have addressed the topic after 1920. According to Freud, instinctual dualism underlies psychic conflicts and forms the foundation for the psychic structures that result from them.
Narcissism, and thus the libido's cathexis of the ego (the locus of the instincts of self-preservation, according to the first topography) threatened to lead to an instinctual monism and left Freud stymied: "These are problems which we are still quite helpless and incompetent to solve" (p. 74), he wrote in "Psycho-Analytic Notes on an Autobiographical Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides)." Moreover, Freud introduced major, complex, irreducible constructs, such as the ego and narcissism, within a theory whose objects he had been at pains to reduce, in the manner of traditional science. This development posed unprecedented epistemological problems for trying to understand these theoretical entitles and brought with it another threat, structural monism. The opposition between object-libido and ego-libido and the idea that the instincts exert continual and constant pressure explained the dynamics of the newly described agencies of the psyche (Freud, 1915c). Freud described additional formsrimary and secondary narcissism, ideal ego and ego idealut maintained, as he wrote in "On Narcissism," that "a unity comparable to the ego cannot exist in the individual from the start; the ego has to be developed ..., so there must be something added to auto-erotism new psychical actionn order to bring about narcissism" (p. 77). Freud spent three years developing the theory presented in "On Narcissism: An Introduction" (1914c). Freud thus reduced the threat of monism by positing of the life and death instincts (1920g) and developing the second topography, set forth in The Ego and the Id (1923b).
Freud's delayed introduction of narcissism and the ego was in part responsible for Adler's and Jung's monist dissents. Later, Jacques Lacan's theories on the signifier (the phallus) would suggest another form of monism, a correlate of his static structuralism.
See also: Destrudo; Dualism; Id; Object, change of/choice of; Oedipus complex; Psychosomatic limit/boundary.
Freud, Sigmund. (1911c ). Psycho-analytic notes on an autobiographical account of a case of paranoia (dementia paranoides). SE, 12: 1-82.
. (1914c). On narcissism: An introduction. SE, 14: 67-102.
. (1915c). Instincts and their vicissitudes. SE, 14: 109-140.
. (1920g). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE,18:1-64.
. (1923b). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66.