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Monism is a philosophical or theological view in which it is held that the world can be explained, ultimately, in terms of a single fundamental constituent, or the view that all things can be derived from one such fundamental principle.

Where the world appears to be multivarious, monism would assert that the varieties are not fundamentally real, but only apparently so, being simply various forms, or appearances of the one basic principle. In this regards, monism is to be distinguished from pluralism which holds that there are in fact (in reality) a multitude of different substances or kinds.

All forms of monisms attribute a basic "oneness" to the universe. They differ in regards to what they attribute "oneness" and in whether the one fundamental substance has a multitude of particular instances (as in atomism).

Types of Monism

  • Mentalistic Monism -is the idea that all that exists is the mind, that at the very basic reality of the Universe is either made by the mental, or is an illusion created by the mind.
  • Materialistic Monism -is the idea that all that exists is the material (materialism), and that the mental can be reduced to the material (as in Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan).
  • Neutral Monism -is the idea that the Universe is composed of a substance that is neither mental or material, and that this unknown substance can manifest as both.
  • Reflexive Monism -is the idea that the substance which the Universe is composed of can manifest both as the material and as conscious experience (like us Humans), which can both view the Universe and themselves.
  • Substantial Monism -is the idea that there is only one substance of the Universe and all diversity is ultimately unreal.
  • Attributive Monism -is the idea that there is one type of thing with many individual things under that one thing.
  • Absolute Monism -is the idea that there is ultimately only one reality and one being (like in Hinduism).

Monism in Philosophy/Religions

  • In Pre-Socratic philosophy, the Universe was usually described as being made of one underlying substance, though there were differences of opinions as to what that underlying substance really was. Thales -water; Anaximander -apeiron (or 'the undefined infinite); Anaximenes -air; Heraclitus -fire; Parmenides -One (that is an unmoving, perfect sphere).
  • In Hinduism, all of this material Universe is simply maya (illusion), and that underlying reality is Brahman, or the Universal Soul, and that the meaning of life is to reach moksha, where one will then be freed from the material and unite with Brahman, either through identity or purpose.

See also