Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Philosophical Perspectives on the Individual - Part 3

Key Questions in Philosophy about the Self

1) Who am I?
2) Why am I here? What is my purpose/mission in life? 
3) Where do I come from and where am I going to? -> implies another question, namely:
  -> What is the nature of the world/ of reality?

Three Major Strands in Philosophy: Monism - Dualism - Pluralism


From “mono” = ‘one’
* everything is an expression of one and the same substance (i.e. spirit or mind or matter)
* the fundamental nature of the universe is therefore unity
(cf. word “uni-verse” = ‘one’ & ‘turned into’ -> ‘all turned into one’
 similar to Greek holon = ‘whole’)


From “duo” = ‘two’
* dichotomy of world into two different substances,
   i.e.: everything belongs either to one or the other of two
* this implies a fundamental separation or split
  (for example into good vs evil, mind vs matter or mind vs body; us vs them)


From “plus, pluris” = ‘more [than one]’
* world composed of many different substances   
* there is no one truth/ reality but many truths/ realities
* all truth is therefore seen as relative

Monism in Philosophy Can Be Subdivided into 3 Different Kinds

1) IDEAS  (which are an expression of the mind/spirit) are the basis for everything else
=> Idealism
a  mental image
the spoken word

2) MATTER (i.e. something that is manifest in physical reality) is the substance that underlies everything else
=> Materialism

3) Some kind of ENERGY underlies everything:
apeiron = 'the undefined infinite' = something undefinable (Anaximander);
change (Heraclitos)
some eternal, static reality  (Parmenides),
the divine syllable Om, the cosmic vibration that underlies all existence (Upanishads)

Please note: Pantheism and Panentheism are both forms of Monism!

“pan” =  ‘all’ –  “theos”  = ‘ god’
everything is a manifestation of the divine -> god is in everything

“pan” =  ‘all’ –  “theos”  = ‘ god’ – “en” = ‘inside’
everything is in god (i.e. god is all there is, and the universe & we all are all in him/her)

-> Please look at the texts that we have read this class and figure out if you can see elements of Monism, Dualism, and/or Pluralism in any of them!


  1. Positive psychologist study mindfulness, and have came the conclusion, being mindful in your everyday life makes you a happier person.

  2. I find dualism an interesting and proper perspective that describe this universe perfectly. This world and everything in it always have two sides: the positive and the negative, the bright and the dark, the ying and the yang, the start and the end. Nothing is absolute. Everything truth has some lies in it, every happiness has some sorrows, every good person has his bad sides, vice versa.

    Understand the dualism helps people to have a more thorough and comprehensive view about this world, thus, be able to give more accurate judgement and decisions.

  3. I liked this part of the course because I got to learn that the philosophy that I really love the most is not really a dualistic philosophy. The "Ying-Yang" symbol actually represents that monistic point of view of things that complement each other but are not separate from one another.

    People have always believed that the contrast between black and white represent that dualism and differentiation but it is actually the joint of the two parts the most important message. They are not separated but represent an interpretation of the world as a whole and unity which is fascinating to me.