Monism is the idea that “All is One.” Dualism is the idea that the world consists of clearly separate objects. These ideas may seem abstract, and irrelevant to your life. However, they are central to many religious, political, and philosophical systems. Therefore, it’s important to understand why both are wrong, how they are harmful, why they are attractive, and a better alternative.
Monism and dualism are, at root, ideas about boundaries, objects, and connections. Are all things One, without boundaries? Or many separated objects? Is everything totally connected? Or is every object a clearly distinct individual?
I will begin by answering “no!” to all those questions. Realizing that the everyday world doesn’t work in either a monist or a dualist way undercuts the intuitions that make these ideas seem reasonable.
Then I will look at first monism, and then dualism, in detail. Finally, I’ll describe participation, the complete stance I recommend as a third alternative. The rest of this page summarizes these three stances.