Monism and Dualism

In essence, and through our coverage of a wide range of topics and issues, what we are aiming to do in a very basic and fundamental sense is to either create a theory or to rectify a theory. In turn, the basic aim of a theory is to describe and explain man’s relationship with the broader reality in which man finds himself in as parsimoniously (or as thoroughly) as possible. As one scholar argued, a theory amounts to “a simplification of reality constructed within our minds” which is “useful for ordering experience and facilitating discourse.” And in terms of the basic building blocks and basic characteristics of a theory, Albert Einstein wrote: 

“Theories are evolved, and are expressed in short compass as statements of a large number of individual observations in the form of empirical laws, from which the general laws can be ascertained by comparison. Regarded in this way, the development of a science bears some resemblance to the compilation of a classified catalogue. It is, as it were, a purely empirical enterprise.” 

But Einstein added: “But this point of view by no means embraces the whole of the actual process; for it slurs over the important part played by intuition and deductive thought in the development of an exact science.” Hence, there is more to theory-building and thus more to our explanation of man’s place in the broader reality which he finds himself in than mere data arrangement, data collection, and the jumping from one case study to another or the testing of one hypothesis after another. Einstein wrote:

“As soon as a science has emerged from its initial stages, theoretical advances are no longer achieved merely by a process of arrangement. Guided by empirical data, the investigator rather develops a system of thought which, in general, is built up logically from a small number of fundamental assumptions, the so-called axioms. We call such a system of thought a theory. The theory finds the justification for its existence in the fact that it correlates a large number of single observations, and it is just here that the ‘truth’ of the theory lies.” 

Moreover, theories and their proponents always compete with one another, and both the theories and the proponents of the theories always seek to replace one another. In our specific case, the theory or system of thought we seek to build or to rectify through the arrangement and collection of data and experience over the course of time is ‘monism’ – namely, a theory which went through a decline during the ‘epistemic regime’ of Anglo-American ‘analytical philosophy’ over the course of the last couple of centuries and in turn put ‘dualism’ at the forefront of academic and intellectual life in the Western world. The “truth” at the heart of monism is the essence. And while monism and the proponents of monism perceive man and his broader reality as having some sort of connection between one another, dualism and the proponents of dualism perceive the broader reality of man as something that is just out there, and as a result, the common belief or idea from a dualist perspective or standpoint is that there is no meaningful connection between man and his broader reality.

But are we at a turning point? In other words, has the ‘balance of power’ shifted between the monism of traditional cultures and philosophies on one hand and the dualism of Anglo-American analytical philosophy on the other hand? Arguably, we are at a turning point, but patience – along with the collection and arrangement of even more data and experience over the course of time – would perhaps help our cause rather than hurt it. Nor should there be an urge to jump to conclusions on either side of the debate and discussion. But in either case, and regardless of the outcome, the basic epistemological and ontological foundations of Anglo-American theory of physical and social reality has gone through a number of changes and transformations for reasons and causes outside of our narrow debate and discussion.

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