Monistic idealism

Monistic idealism

Monistic Idealism is a metaphysical theory which states that consciousness, not matter, is the ground of all being. It is a monistic theory because it holds that there is only one type of thing in the universe, and a form of idealism because it holds that one thing to be consciousness.[1]

Monistic Idealism is a variety of the theory of Pantheism which asserts that the term god is equivalent to the entirety of existence.

Idealism is opposed philosophy to that of “material realism,” which holds that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon. Idealism asserts that consciousness is the fundamental entity of the universe.

Both of these are monistic ideals. Monism is opposed to dualism which asserts that consciousness and the physical world are mutually exclusive.

Monistic idealism rejects any notion of consciousness being an emergent phenomenon. Instead, consciousness creates matter; it is the fundamental wellspring from which reality is created.


Noted Proponents

There are many prominent philosophers who have world views that are some form of monistic idealism. They mainly differ by what the non-material entity is.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer's most influential work, The World as Will and Representation, claimed that the world is fundamentally what we recognize in ourselves as our will. On a larger scale, the concept of will is ultimately defined as energy, which is judged to be central to scientific explanations of what drives the universe. [2]

Schopenhauer's metaphysical analysis of will, his views on human motivation and desire, and his aphoristic writing style influenced many well-known thinkers including Friedrich Nietzsche,[3] Richard Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein,[4] Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Gustav Jung, Leo Tolstoy, and Jorge Luis Borges.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Hegel asserted that in order for the thinking subject (human reason or consciousness) to be able to know its object (the world) at all, there must be in some sense an identity of thought and being. Otherwise, the subject would never have access to the object and we would have no certainty about any of our knowledge of the world. To account for the differences between thought and being, however, as well as the richness and diversity of each, the unity of thought and being cannot be expressed as the abstract identity "A=A". Absolute idealism is his attempt to demonstrate this unity using a new "speculative" philosophical method, which requires new concepts and rules of logic. According to Hegel, the absolute ground of being is essentially a dynamic, historical process of necessity that unfolds by itself in the form of increasingly complex forms of being and of consciousness, ultimately giving rise to all the diversity in the world and in the concepts with which we think and make sense of the world.

Amit Goswami

In the words of physicist Amit Goswami [5][6][7][8] :

The current worldview has it that everything is made of matter, and everything can be reduced to the elementary particles of matter, the basic constituents — building blocks — of matter. And cause arises from the interactions of these basic building blocks or elementary particles; elementary particles make atoms, atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, and cells make brain. But all the way, the ultimate cause is always the interactions between the elementary particles. This is the belief — all cause moves from the elementary particles. This is what we call "upward causation." So in this view, what human beings — you and I think of as our free will does not really exist. It is only an epiphenomenon or secondary phenomenon, secondary to the causal power of matter. And any causal power that we seem to be able to exert on matter is just an illusion. This is the current paradigm.
Now, the opposite view is that everything starts with consciousness. That is, consciousness is the ground of all being. In this view, consciousness imposes "downward causation." In other words, our free will is real. When we act in the world we really are acting with causal power. This view does not deny that matter also has causal potency — it does not deny that there is causal power from elementary particles upward, so there is upward causation — but in addition it insists that there is also downward causation. It shows up in our creativity and acts of free will, or when we make moral decisions. In those occasions we are actually witnessing downward causation by consciousness.

Noted Opponents

Philosophers such as Daniel Dennett reject the idea that that free will and realism are incompatible.[9]


There are several varieties of Monistic Idealism, many of which are the basis of religious practices. It is unclear if there is a clear difference between Monistic Idealism and Spiritual Naturalism.

In India this concept is central to Vedanta philosophy and is similar to Jainism.[10] It is also common in Hindu philosophies and Consciousness-Only schools of Buddhism.

Some New Age writers such as Deepak Chopra support this philosophy.


In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that all physical reality has a mental aspect. Panpsychism can be understood as a form of idealism in that the fundamental constituents of reality are mental. However it can also be interpreted as a form of dualism — either property dualism or substance dualism. It is therefore unclear if Panpsychism is Monist idealist Pantheism or Dualist Pantheism.


  1. ^ Dieke, Ikenna. 1992. 'Toward a Monistic Idealism: The Thematics of Alice Walker's the Temple of My Familiar'. African American Review, Vol. 26, No. 3: 507-514.
  2. ^ Well known interview called " Bryan Magee talks to Frederick Copleston on Schopenhauer"
  3. ^ Addressed in: Cate, Curtis. Friedrich Nietzsche. Chapter 7.
  4. ^ Albert Einstein in Mein Glaubensbekenntnis (August 1932): "I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer's words: 'Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants,[Der Mensch kann wohl tun, was er will, aber er kann nicht wollen, was er will]' accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper." Schopenhauer's clearer, actual words were: "You can do what you will, but in any given moment of your life you can will only one definite thing and absolutely nothing other than that one thing." [Du kannst tun was du willst: aber du kannst in jedem gegebenen Augenblick deines Lebens nur ein Bestimmtes wollen und schlechterdings nichts anderes als dieses eine.] On the Freedom of the Will, Ch. II.
  5. ^ Goswami, Amit. 2001. 'Physics within Nondual Consciousness'. Philosophy East and West, Vol. 51, No. 4: 535-544.
  6. ^ Goswami, Amit, with R.E. Reed and M. Goswami. 1993. The Self-Aware Universe: How consciousness creates the material world. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam Books.
  7. ^ Goswami, Amit. 2001. 'Physics within Nondual Consciousness'. Philosophy East and West, Vol. 51, No. 4: 535-544.
  8. ^ Hamilton, Craig. 1997. "Scientific Proof of the Existence of God : An interview with Amit Goswami". What Is Elightenment? magazine (Spring-Summer 1997) [1]
  9. ^ TED Lecture, Dan Dennett on our consciousness, Feb 2003
  10. ^ Bossche F.V.D. 1997. 'Jain Arguments Against Vedanta Monistic Idealism: A translation of the Parabrahmotthpanasthala of Bhuvanasundara Sri'. Journal of Indian Philosophy. Vol 25, No. 4:337-374.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • monistic idealism — noun : a system of philosophical idealism emphasizing the primacy of the One (as the Absolute or Nature) rather than of the many contrasted with pluralistic idealism; compare hegelianism, spinozism …   Useful english dictionary

  • Idealism — The 20th century British scientist Sir James Jeans wrote that the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine This article is about the philosophical notion of idealism. For other uses, see Idealism… …   Wikipedia

  • idealism — Synonyms and related words: Berkeleianism, Geistesgeschichte, Hegelian idea, Hegelianism, Kantian idea, Kantianism, Neoplatonism, Platonic form, Platonic idea, Platonism, absolute idealism, animatism, animism, archetype, aspiration, autism,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • idealism — /uy dee euh liz euhm/, n. 1. the cherishing or pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc. 2. the practice of idealizing. 3. something idealized; an ideal representation. 4. Fine Arts. treatment of subject matter in a work of art… …   Universalium

  • Idealism (italian) and after — Italian idealism and after Gentile, Croce and others Giacomo Rinaldi INTRODUCTION The history of twentieth century Italian philosophy is strongly influenced both by the peculiar character of its evolution in the preceding century and by… …   History of philosophy

  • Absolute idealism — Part of a series on …   Wikipedia

  • Objective idealism — is an idealistic metaphysics that postulates that there is in an important sense only one perceiver, and that this perceiver is one with that which is perceived. One important advocate of such a metaphysics, Josiah Royce, wrote that he was… …   Wikipedia

  • Subjective idealism — George Berkeley is credited with the development of subjective idealism. Subjective idealism is a metaphysical theory which holds that only perceptions, ideas, and minds exist. The simplest and most common version of subjective idealism combines… …   Wikipedia

  • pluralistic idealism — noun : a system of philosophical idealism emphasizing the multiplicity of selves and their individual experiences contrasted with monistic idealism; compare leibnizianism, personalism …   Useful english dictionary

  • Monism — is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry. Accordingly, some philosophers may hold that the universe is one rather than dualistic or pluralistic. Monisms may be theologically syncretic by proposing that …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.