Monism and Dualism - Vollenhoven's Analysis

The level of nuanced precision that Vollenhoven has brought to the analytical discrimination between the various forms of Monism and Dualism is simply unparalleled in the history of the Western philosophical tradition. Indeed, one could count on the fingers of one hand the number of thinkers that even approach the articulated insight that Vollenhoven has provided on this enormously confused subject.

Diversity of Monism and Dualism

To merely speak of Monism and/or Dualism is basically an empty abstraction unless you quite clearly specify what sort of Monism or Dualism a given thinker represents. There is, for example, a mythologizing form of dualism, a genetic-structural form of dualism, and a purely structural form of dualism.

Monism and/or Dualism has to do with the question of the origin or ground of all things. Is the origin of all things a primary oneness or a primary twoness? That is the question. Simply because one distinguishes between mind and matter, for example, does not make you a dualist. A thinker may well start by insisting that all things begin with a primary genus and then, through a process of cosmogonic development mind and matter become differentiated. This latter form of thinking is not dualism but rather monism. Similarly, if one begins by asserting that in the beginning there was present two eternal opposites namely mind and matter that have been brought together into some form of close harmony, then you have a dualism of eternal opposites. The various forms of these conceptions can turn out to be quite sophisticated. One of my favorites is the Dualistic Cosmogono-Cosmological Non-Mythologizing Non-Mathematical Partial Universalistic Subjectivist. As you can no doubt tell, this latter conception is a particularly nasty piece of work.

There is, then, little point in consulting the standard text books on these issues as they merely compound the confusion by identifying a given thinker as a dualist when in fact he is a monist, and vise versa. Again, to identify a monistic parallelist as a dualist, as is often done, is to misunderstand such a thinker's basic ontology.

Sources to Read

Those interested and able to read Dutch should consult Vollenhoven's syllabus on Ancient Philosophy. Tony Tol republished a revised edition not too many years ago. Prof. Runner's syllabus on Ancient Philosophy is a translation of Vollenhoven's work that runs almost two hundred pages of type-script. English readers will find a full discussion both of the above problems, and of the problems of dealing with Classical Greek thought. In this latter case those interested will probably have to prevail upon a Runner student to beg, borrow, or Xerox a copy. John Kok from Dordt College translated about 75 pages of Vollenhoven's Isagoge Philosophiae for classroom use as I recall. This latter book is a truly amazing piece of work that introduces the reader to the fundamentals of how to think in a Biblically grounded manner. As I am not clear as to the public nature of this latter material maybe we can prevail upon John to inform us as to the status of this work.. Thinknetters would be doing themselves a big favor to at least familiarize themselves with the basic categories of Vollenhoven's work on the problem of Monism and Dualism. At a minimum you will avoid a great deal of confusion.
Copyright (c) Kerry John Hollingworth, 2003.

Created: 4 September 2003. Last updated: