Traditionally, the word Metaphysics comes to us from Ancient Greece, where it was a combination of two words – Meta, meaning over and beyond – and Physics. Thus, the combination means over and beyond physics. In the definition found in most dictionaries, metaphysics is referred to as a branch of philosophy that deals with first cause and the nature of being.
Metaphysics seeks to answer two basic questions:
- Ultimately, what is there?
- What is it like?
In token of the philosophy of mind, I personally had more than just the above two basic questions. Could answers perhaps be found in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s poem “Gingo Biloba“? → Goethe used “Gingo” instead of “Ginkgo” (as in “Ginkgo Biloba“) in the first version to avoid the hard sound of the letter “k”.
“Doubt grows with knowledge.”
– J. W. von Goethe
Monism, Dualism And All That
In simple terms,
- monism is the belief that ultimately the mind and the brain are the same thing as there is only one source and any differences observed are a matter of perception,
- whereas dualists believe that the mind and the brain are separate. More specific: Everything is interconnected and cannot be separated from each other, but is not necessarily the same.
Naturally, both approaches have theoretical and philosophical implications. Dualism is the most popular theory of mind in that most non-philosophers and theists hold on to this view. To make the day though, let me draw our attention further to non-duality (not monism!) which is the belief that the appearance of duality is an illusion as singularity also contains, embraces duality.
On the left: The taijitu representing the taiji (“great pole” or “supreme ultimate”) philosophy combines both its monist (wuji) and its dualist (yin and yang) aspects.
On the right: In the monad philosophy, the circled dot was used by the Pythagoreans and later Greeks to represent the first metaphysical being, the monad or the absolute from which anything and all else originates and therefore remains in oneness.
In the philosophy of mind, double-aspect theory is the view that the mental and the physical are two aspects of, or perspectives on, the same substance. It is also called dual-aspect monism.
The theory’s relationship to neutral monism is ill-defined, but one proffered distinction says that whereas neutral monism allows the context of a given group of neutral elements to determine whether the group is mental, physical, both, or neither, double-aspect theory requires the mental and the physical to be inseparable and mutually irreducible (though distinct).
The diagram above contrasts dual-aspect theory being akin to neutral monism with physicalism and idealism, as well as Cartesian dualism.
“There are only very few undoubted natural and physical laws and orders. Everything else we believe to know, we have made up or been told in one way or another.”
“There are two kinds of truths: An absolute truth and a relative truth. One of the highest absolute truths is our ability to recognize relativity and consider it absolute.”
“Simply all there is solely lies in your very own perception.”
– Eric Roth
Gnostic Dualism vs Nonduality
This principle embodies the truth that the ALL *) is SPIRIT which in itself is unknowable and undefinable but which may be considered and thought of as a universal, infinite living MIND.
*) The substantial reality underlying all the outward – the universe – forms and reflects mental manifestations and appearances which we know under the terms of the “Material Universe”, the “Phenomena of Life”, “Matter”, or “Energy” and in short, all that is apparent to our material senses.
All Clear To You Now?
As for me, I do see some similarities in both monism and dualism (or rather uncertainties among all those great philosophers and thinkers who as all human beings have no choice but to remain theorists when it comes to metaphysical matters) but it’s not at all clear to me.
“I know that I know nothing.”
However, I have come to this vague conclusion: I might not be a monist but a non-dualist after all. I really have been thinking about this and have come to now tend to share Heraclitus’ view of Panta Rhei (“everything flows”) or why not just submit to adopting this one of the Socratic paradoxes:
I know that I know nothing