MONISM (Gk. Oyes, m on os, single). A phil osophical term, in its broadest sense designating all systems of philosophy which define the sum total of reality as unitary, either in or in substance. It is thus opposed dualism and pluralism.
In this broad sense, as indicating merely the final unity of all reality, monism represents the ideal of nearly every system of philosophy. and indeed by some thinkers it is considered to be the only legitimate philosophical ideal. In the history of philosophy the first conscious effort to attain a monistic system appears in the teach ings of the Eleatic's. Among the Ionians there had been philosophers who derived all phe nomena from a single primal element, but the Eleatics were the earliest to assert the immutable unity of all that is real. They did not, however, definitely fix the nature of the unitary being. That nature might he of two sorts—material or spiritual. The ancient Atomists advanced the doctrine of a material being, while Anaxagoras and Plato. although in neither case attaining a pure monism, clearly pointed the way of modern idealism.
The first thoroughgoing monism, in a more ex act and restricted sense, appears in the philos ophy of Spinoza, after scholastic controversies had crystallized the conception of substance and at tribute. Spinoza taught that both material and ideal phenomena are attributes of one underlying substance which forms the monistic reality. Ilis
doctrine is thus analogous to the 'mind-stuff' theory (q.v.), which teaches that matter and mind are diverse aspeits of one reality, and is generally identified as the modern 'scientific monism.' But materialism, if it asserts that mind may be identified with matter, is also monistic; while idealism. denying the reality of matter, represents the opposing, complementary form of the doctrine. Idealistic monism is itself of two types, however. On the tune hand. there is that type which identifies the monistic reality with some one psychical element—as in Sehopen hailer, who finds the essence of all things in blind will; and on the other, there is that type which unifies in a world-consciousness all the diversities of phenomena. Similar to this latter is the Hegelian monism which expresses the unification in logieril terminology, as the reconciliation of opposites in a higher synthesis.
The term monism is relatively recent, having been first used by Christian Wolf (1679-1754) to designate types of thought which endeavored to do away with the dualism of body and mind. For a considerable period, it was used with ex plicit reference to relations involved in the epistemological problem (see liNowt.EDGE, THE ORY or), but in contemporary thought it has been extended to the senses indicated.