• Art48
    464
    "Why posit an ultimate ground? Is not what is sufficient? Is the world too imperfect for it to exist without it depending on something else? Does being ungrounded cause vertigo? A yawning abyss one is too fearful to approach?" – Fooloso4
    From the thread “Inmost Core and Ultimate Ground”
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/14220/inmost-core-and-ultimate-ground

    Monism: the idea that only one supreme reality exists. Why posit monism?

    Science
    Science tends towards monism. There are unnumbered physical objects but they are all composed of about 92 naturally occurring elements, which at one time were thought to be composed of 3 elements (proton, neutron, electron) but are today believed to be based on the 17 entities of the Standard Model. Science is searching for a “theory of everything” which unites quantum mechanics and relativity. If found, a theory of everything might provide a monist theory of all physical objects.

    Philosophy
    From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on Plotinus
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plotinus
    A central axiom of that tradition was the connecting of explanation with reductionism or the derivation of the complex from the simple. That is, ultimate explanations of phenomena and of contingent entities can only rest in what itself requires no explanation. If what is actually sought is the explanation for something that is in one way or another complex, what grounds the explanation will be simple relative to the observed complexity. Thus, what grounds an explanation must be different from the sorts of things explained by it. According to this line of reasoning, explanantia that are themselves complex, perhaps in some way different from the sort of complexity of the explananda, will be in need of other types of explanation. In addition, a plethora of explanatory principles will themselves be in need of explanation. Taken to its logical conclusion, the explanatory path must finally lead to that which is unique and absolutely uncomplex.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    See also The One: How an Ancient Idea Holds the Future of Physics

    In The One, particle physicist Heinrich Päs presents a bold idea: fundamentally, everything in the universe is an aspect of one unified whole. The idea, called monism, has a rich three-thousand-year history: Plato believed that "all is one" before monism was rejected as irrational and suppressed as a heresy by the medieval Church. Nevertheless, monism persisted, inspiring Enlightenment science and Romantic poetry. Päs aims to show how monism could inspire physics today, how it could slice through the intellectual stagnation that has bogged down progress in modern physics and help the field achieve the grand theory of everything it has been chasing for decades.

    Blending physics, philosophy, and the history of ideas, The One is an epic, mind-expanding journey through millennia of human thought and into the nature of reality itself.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k


    The ultimate ground and what is grounded are two different things.

    Science tends towards monism.Art48

    Science does not posit an ultimate ground or one supreme reality. The terms 'ultimate' and 'supreme' are question begging.
  • Art48
    464
    Science tends towards monism. — Art48
    Science does not posit an ultimate ground or one supreme reality. The terms 'ultimate' and 'supreme' are question begging.
    Fooloso4

    There's a big difference between "tends towards" and "posits".
    You are attacking a straw man.
  • Tzeentch
    3.5k
    An interesting difference between science and philosophy is that Plato sought the Monad in the undivided, ever expanding outwards into something that encompassed all.

    Science on the other hand looks for it in the indivisible, zooming in ever further.

    They are quite literally opposites.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k


    You posited an ultimate ground in the other thread before moving your response to me here. In defense of it you raised science and monism.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    Monism: the idea that only one supreme reality exists. Why posit monism?Art48

    Because logically identities boil down to that. Lets say there were two realities. We can now group them together into the one supreme reality that exists. Monism per your definition does not exclude breaking that monad into parts, it simply observes that everything can eventually be grouped into a fundamental identity.
  • Art48
    464
    We can now group them together into the one supreme reality that exists.Philosophim
    Is there any reason using that logic we cannot group all the universe's entities together and call the grouping the one supreme entity? I think of the supreme reality as the fundamental reality upon which all things are based. For instance, everything I see on my monitor is at root a manifestation of light.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    Is there any reason using that logic we cannot group all the universe's entities together and call the grouping the one supreme entity?Art48

    That is exactly what I am stating. Identities are mental constructs that we as humans can create. There is no limit to what we can identify. As such, it a logical allowance to do so.
  • Art48
    464
    That is exactly what I am stating. Identities are mental constructs that we as humans can create. There is no limit to what we can identify. As such, it a logical allowance to do so.Philosophim
    True, but we seem to be talking about two different things. Monism, as I understand it, requires the "supreme being" to be the ultimate ground and basis of all that exists, much as water is the basis of ice.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k


    Its not a supreme being, but a supreme identity. We could call it the summation of all sub identities. Thus talking about a multiverse still boils down to the summation of all multiverses being the supreme universe.

    Monism is essentially foundationalism. You're trying to find a foundation that has no prior identity, and it is not a sub identity of anything else. Ice = water = H20 = molecules = existence. Existence is the final identity that basically describes everything that all entities can simplify down to.

    Because we are the one's who essentially create identities, creating an identity that is supreme is not only possible, but logically inevitable.
  • bert1
    1.8k
    "Why posit an ultimate ground? Is not what is sufficient? Is the world too imperfect for it to exist without it depending on something else? Does being ungrounded cause vertigo? A yawning abyss one is too fearful to approach?" – Fooloso4Art48

    The abyss is the substance.
  • Art48
    464
    Monism is essentially foundationalism. You're trying to find a foundation that has no prior identity, and it is not a sub identity of anything else. Ice = water = H20 = molecules = existence. Existence is the final identity that basically describes everything that all entities can simplify down to.Philosophim
    Yes.

    The abyss is the substance.bert1
    Is this like the emptiness of Buddhism?
  • bert1
    1.8k
    Is this like the emptiness of Buddhism?Art48

    Not sure, that's @Wayfarer's department.

    EDIT: An abyss is a word of a general relating background that less-abyssal things stand out from. That seems to fit the idea of substance.
  • frank
    14.7k
    Monism: the idea that only one supreme reality exists. Why posit monism?Art48

    In addition to the reasons you listed, there's the issue of communication between the two halves of a duality. How does one substance impact the other if they're separated? Another reason is from mysticism: rational thought seems to require a duality, but the same rational lines of thought point to a transcendent unity.
  • Manuel
    4k
    It likely has something to do with explanations. We ideally want to find out what's basic or fundamental, and the less things we have to postulate, the better it tends to be.

    Also, there's something about elegance and simplicity to take into account. One substance or thing is better that two substances, which is better than three, and so on.

    Sometimes we can't reduce things further down. But to remain at pluralism, I don't think tells you as much.

    That's my intuition anyway.
  • frank
    14.7k
    Also, there's something about elegance and simplicity to take into account. One substance or thing is better that two substances, which is better than three, and so on.Manuel

    Plus in the realm of aesthetics, if you're viewing two things, there must be a single background against which the two appear in the foreground. It's not a logical implication, but it's a kind of psychological force leaning toward consolidation.
  • Manuel
    4k


    Yep! Quite true, it's a tendency we have in our nature and psychological makeup that makes us seek these things, which is curious.

    Why seek unification instead of being content with plurality? From a psychological perspective, it shouldn't matter much.
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    The abyss is the substance.bert1
    :fire: Yes – Democritus-Epicurus-Lucretius' void. QFT physicists hypothesize a true vacuum. For Buddhists it's śunyata and Hindus it's Brahman; for Daoists it's the nameless, eternal Dao and Spinozists conceive of it as natura naturans. My own (pandeistic) thinking has strong affinities with the metaphysical (not mathematical) concept of hyperchaos (re: Q. Meillassoux) that posits 'every manifestation of order is a contingent phase-state, so to speak, of absolute, or necessary, disorder' (i.e. speculative materialism).
  • frank
    14.7k
    Why seek unification instead of being content with plurality? From a psychological perspective, it shouldn't matter much.Manuel

    I think it's because the two imply one another. Unity basically means: the opposite of plurality. And vice versa. It's an opposition that can't be pulled apart without a breakdown in meaning.

    I guess that's one reason property dualism and neutral monism are attractive. They cover all the bases. :razz:
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.1k


    I agree that science, as a methodology, does not presuppose monism. However, the modern scientific project begins with an attempt to reduce the "truth" of all observations to a unitary form that will be describable using the mathematics of the day (mathematics that could deal with qualitative or categorical differences being largely a more recent invention). In modern terms, we could say this required the supposition that all intensive traits can be reduced to extrinsic ones, a supposition that has not been proven to date, let alone in the early modern period.

    This reduction isn't equivalent to ontological monism, but at times it gets close. That said, you could also say it has supported the growth of dualism as well, because it results in people talking about how color, taste, etc. are some sort of distinct "mental" phenomena.

    To excite in us tastes, odors, and sounds I believe that nothing is required in external bodies except shapes, numbers, and slow or rapid movements...

    Having shown that many sensations which are supposed to be qualities residing in external objects have no real existence save in us, and outside ourselves are mere names, I now say that I am inclined to believe heat to be of this character. Those materials which produce heat in us and make us feel warmth, which are known by the general name of “fire,” would then be a multitude of minute particles having certain shapes and moving with certain velocities. Galileo, The Assayer(1623)

    It's worth noting that the idea that everything is in fact "determined by" a "multitude of minute particles," pre-dates anything resembling science by centuries, showing up in ancient Egyptian thought and the earliest Greek thought. This is a type of monism, and it has been related closely enough to the sciences that the two can sometimes seem to blur together. The same can be said of "everything being describable in terms of mathematics." I think these two points are very different though.

    The "fundamental bits," argument is so old, and has been so robust in the face of evidence that suggests its displacement that, as I've mentioned elsewhere on the forum, I think we have good reason to believe that it might be rooted in human biology. That is, the same arguments for doubting the "true" existence of color can be directed quite well against the corpuscular model. And in any event, this isn't something that is essential for the sciences, although it does seem essential to popular conceptions of science.

    The idea that the world can be described by mathematics, that it can be rationally understood at all, does seem more essential to science. If the world isn't rational, or if we cannot understand this rationality, then what good is science (and why is it so pragmatically useful)? Acceptance of the validity of induction and some elements of mathematics/logic seem to be a prerequisite for science. This can be interpreted as an argument for monism if you accept the premise that whatever is rational has to essentially be a single type of thing.

    The argument would be "there are not multiple types of rationality, multiple, discrete logical necessities, and thus the intelligible aspect of the world must be, at some level, a unified type. The unintelligible aspects of the world, if such things can coherently exist, don't enter into the question because how can one know the unknowable?" That does seem like it could qualify as monism.


    Eugene Wigner gets at this indirectly in the opening of his famous paper "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences."

    There is a story about two friends, who were classmates in high school, talking about their jobs. One of them became a statistician and was working on population trends. He showed a reprint to his former classmate. The reprint started, as usual, with the Gaussian distribution and the statistician explained to his former classmate the meaning of the symbols for the actual population, for the average population, and so on. His classmate was a bit incredulous and was not quite sure whether the statistician was pulling his leg. "How can you know that?" was his query. "And what is this symbol here?" "Oh," said the statistician, "this is pi." "What is that?" "The ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter." "Well, now you are pushing your joke too far," said the classmate, "surely the population has nothing to do with the circumference of the circle."

    Naturally, we are inclined to smile about the simplicity of the classmate’s approach. Nevertheless, when I heard this story, I had to admit to an eerie feeling because, surely, the reaction of the classmate betrayed only plain common sense. I was even more confused when, not many days later, someone came to me and expressed his bewilderment [The remark to be quoted was made by F. Werner when he was a student in Princeton.] with the fact that we make a rather narrow selection when choosing the data on which we test our theories. "How do we know that, if we made a theory which focuses its attention on phenomena we disregard and disregards some of the phenomena now commanding our attention, that we could not build another theory which has little in common with the present one but which, nevertheless, explains just as many phenomena as the present theory?" It has to be admitted that we have no definite evidence that there is no such theory.
  • Manuel
    4k

    That's true. But I suppose you can also add eliminitavism and idealism too. They can argue that those views cover everything.

    But it's a matter of emphasis on some aspect of the world, rather than substance, with the exception of eliminitavism.

    The psychological factor you mention is susbtantive.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Is this like the emptiness of Buddhism?Art48

    Again, the key in such discussions is to refrain from objectification or reification: there is no ultimate thing, substance, entity, or anything of the kind that can be conceptually described and grasped (something especially emphasized in Buddhism). That is the realisation that underlies the 'way of unknowing' that has analogies in all the contemplative traditions East and West. It is also why entering into it requires more than verbal analysis, it requires access to other planes of understanding that are innaccessible to philosophy and science (and not the popularised 'macmindfulness' of talk show hosts and wellness gurus, either.)

    Śūnyatā, translated as 'emptiness', has often been depicted in Western culture as a 'monstrous void' or 'the complete absence of anything' but I'm sure that is also is a consequence of attempting to conceptually represent a realisation that is outside the framework of conventional discourse (one of translator Thomas Cleary's books on Chinese Buddhism is called 'Entry into the Inconceivable'.) But those kinds of insights are firewalled off from Western philosophy by being categorised along with religions, even though they are very different to the prophetic religion of the Biblical traditions. (I think they're descended more from shamanism.)

    It's worth noting that the idea that everything is in fact "determined by" a "multitude of minute particles," pre-dates anything resembling science by centuries, showing up in ancient Egyptian thought and the earliest Greek thought.Count Timothy von Icarus

    The original impetus behind the idea of the atom was to solve the problem of the relation between the One and the Many. Atomism proposed that all matter is composed of indestructible units, eternal and unchanging. These atoms are constantly in motion, colliding and combining to form larger structures such as molecules and compounds. By positing the existence of these fundamental particles, atomism provided a way to explain the diversity and complexity of the world while maintaining its unity and coherence. This was the foundation of the legendary prose-poem of Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, which was re-discovered by the French philosophes of the Enlightenment. Regardless of whether it really does describe the ultimate facts of existence, it has obviously been an extraordinarily fruitful paradigm for the advancement of science. But as is well known, the idea of the atom itself has now been absorbed into the more ethereal concepts of fields and waves, besides which there is also quite a strong tendency towards an idealist metaphysics in modern physics due to the 'observer problem'.

    //I should add that the pole of the dialectic in ancient Greek thought opposite to that of the atomists, was represented in the Parmenides and the teaching that nature is One, and that only the One is an object of proper knowledge, as the world of phenomena is constantly changing and passing away and so can only ever be the object of opinion.//
  • Art48
    464
    Again, the key in such discussions is to refrain from objectification or reification: there is no ultimate thing, substance, entity, or anything of the kind that can be conceptually described and grasped (something especially emphasized in Buddhism)Wayfarer

    Statement 1: there is no ultimate thing, substance, entity that can be conceptually described and grasped

    Statement 2: the ultimate thing, substance, entity cannot be conceptually described and grasped

    I’m thinking about the difference between the two statements. Statement 2 can be understood in an obvious way in that a) ultimate reality cannot be described because it is utterly other than anything with which we are acquainted, and b) qualia in general cannot be grasped conceptually. The Mary’s Room thought experiment illustrates b). So, statement 2 allows that ultimate reality may be experienced but the experience may transcend words (i.e., be ineffable). And statement 2 points out that merely thinking about an experience is not the same as having the experience. (Only a bat really knows what it’s like to be a bat.)

    Statement 1, I think, can be understood much as above, but it is also open to a very different understanding that would rule out experience of ultimate reality, that would say ultimate reality IS NOT (it does not exist; it does not occupy a state “above” existence, per Pseudo-Dionysius), or say it possibly IS but is in no way accessible to a human being.

    Comment?
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Buddhism generally doesn't accept the existence of any ultimate substance (in the philosophical sense of 'substance'). But interpreting that is quite a subtle matter. Buddhism also rejects nihilism, the belief that nothing is real. The thrust of Buddhist teaching is not in positing or believing in some putative ultimate, but insight into the cause of dukkha (suffering) through the operation of the chain of dependent origination. Buddhism is very much a path of disciplined insight and discernment of this principle in operation, with the goal of the cessation of grasping or clinging, by which one is bound to repeated rebirth. That's pretty much the textbook description. But it's very easily misconstrued as a nihilistic philosophy, which is how it was always portrayed by its Brahmin antagonists, and also by the early European interpreters of it (see The Cult of Nothingness.) That comes from the understandable (but nevertheless mistaken) view of 'cessation' (nirodha) as simply meaning non-being or non-existence. Grasping the 'right view' is quite a subtle matter and the first step in the 'eightfold path'. (Some of the recent Buddhologists, such as Jay Garfield, do a much better job of interpretation. Garfield compares the suspension of judgement that is deployed by Buddhist meditation with the 'epoche' of the original sceptics, and the possible connections between Buddhism and Pyrrhonism has received a lot of attention.)

    Pseudo-Dionysius is much nearer in spirit to the Platonic tradition and one of the principal sources for Christian Platonism. There's an intriguing connection in the philosophy of the early medieval monk, John Scotus Eriugena, who translated Pseudo-Dionysius into Latin (much to the astonishment of his peers). Have a read of the SEP entry on him on the 'five modes of being and non-being'. My heuristic for this, is that premodern philosophy retains a sense of levels of reality, which has generally been abandoned by modern philosophy. When you read the ancient and medieval description of the divine intellect as 'beyond being', I take that to mean 'beyond the vicissitudes of coming-to-be and passing-away' - an expression that is found in both the Western and Buddhist sacred literature. This is related to the ancient iconography cosmological philosophy of the Great Chain of Being, which has generally fallen out of favour since the scientific revolution, I think due to its association with Aristotelian and Ptolmaic cosmology. But I think it's within that general philosophical framework, incorporating the neoPlatonic principle of levels of being, that the idea of 'the One' is meaningful. I don't know if there's anything corresponding to that in today's scientific cosmology (hence why I mentioined Heinrich Pas' book on Monism above.)
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    Nicely written piece of distilled information.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    The argument would be "there are not multiple types of rationality, multiple, discrete logical necessities, and thus the intelligible aspect of the world must be, at some level, a unified type. The unintelligible aspects of the world, if such things can coherently exist, don't enter into the question because how can one know the unknowable?" That does seem like it could qualify as monism.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I think you could plausibly trace the lineage of an argument of that kind from traditional philosophy (not saying I know how it would be done, but something along the lines of every discrete thing being derived from the One). The other issues you bring up - the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics, and Galileo's dualism - are also very interesting topics in their own right.
  • Art48
    464
    When you read the ancient and medieval description of the divine intellect as 'beyond being', I take that to mean 'beyond the vicissitudes of coming-to-be and passing-away' - an expression that is found in both the Western and Buddhist sacred literature.Wayfarer
    Thanks for your informative response. I've seen "beyond being," i.e., beyond existence, taken to mean that the source and foundation of all existence must itself be, in some sense, independent of existence, beyond existence, vaguely similar to the idea that the messenger must be independent of the message.
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