Preface – this discussion originated in another thread which can be viewed here:

I should point out, that I have not deeply studied any religious texts, or for that matter, any philosophical ones, and I have no specific position whatsoever. This has no bearing on anything, but some of the arguments for and against seem to be ad hominem, so I say that just to avoid those from the beginning. If you have no interest in this subject, don’t bother posting at all.

There are several questions it seems to me, left unanswered by monism and dualism. To say dualism is dead seems to be a bit premature.


Where do abstract ideas exist?

What is our brain doing when we think abstractedly, and where in the brain does it do this?

How does monism resolve the “illusions” of free will and self?

If monism is correct, abstract ideas must exist in the physical world. Where do they exist? Some say that abstract ideas only exist when we think of them, but this poses more problems than it solves. If we take the idea that abstract thoughts only exist in conscious minds, if there are no conscious minds, or, if no conscious mind is thinking of an abstract idea at that moment in time, does the idea no longer exist? If none of us think about the number 1 or 2, and abstract ideas only exist in conscious minds, that would mean that 1 or 2, at that point, do not exist at all. Intuitively, this seems incorrect, and dare I say, a “conscious-centric” worldview, which seems to arrogantly suggest that the humble numbers 1 and 2 do not exist without us.

To look at it from another perspective, let us consider an abstract law which exists in the universe. For example, gravity. If none of us think about gravity, we must still accept gravity still exists and acts in the universe. That must mean that gravity has a place in the world without conscious minds. What about numbers?

To continue the monist problem, where does gravity exist in the physical world? Or E=mc2? If monism is correct, we ought to be able to look closer and closer and perceive gravity, or another law. We ought to be able to look close enough and say, “This is a gravity. This is an E=mc2.” This does not seem likely, even if we had the most powerful perceptive faculties imaginable. However, everything else in the material world operates in a space. Two balls, one red and one blue exist in space. We can say, “This ball is red, that one is blue. They are not the same.” The balls exist, they operate in the physical world, the same as gravity, and E=mc2, but the balls are divisible. We can break them down and find that fundamentally they are the same particle. But these particles exist in space, separate from each other. How would we break down a gravity? What would it’s constituent parts be? Everything we say materially exists operates in space and is divisible down to fundamental building blocks. Gravity exists in space but where, and what can it be broken down to? We cannot avoid the issue by saying gravity exists everywhere because that would mean we are made up of fundamental particles of gravity, yet so far we consider ourselves to be built up of minute particles. If we are just fundamental blocks of gravity, what about other physical laws?

The Ancient Greek and Indian philosophers were able to intuitively suggest that solid objects are actually made up mostly of space. This is completely counter-intuitive and if I were alive at that time and they told me I would have thought them mad. To say a solid table is mostly space seems wrong, yet they were found to be correct.

If our brains are simply sense perceiving and translation devices, how did they arrive at this conclusion? Where did this idea come from, where in the brain was this done and how? If our brains are simply sense perceiving organs that must mean there is a site in the brain which has something akin to an electron-microscope (when thinking ‘micro’ abstractedly) or a high powered telescope (when thinking ‘macro’ abstractedly, for example in pre-scientific theories about the Big Bang/creation of the universe). Where is this site in the brain, and how does it see that far? Monism MUST say that there is a device like this in the brain, if so, where is it, and how does it do this? Furthermore, if this was simply a perceiving organ, why do we have the ability to create abstract ideas as well as perceive them?

From a monist’s perspective, “free will” and “self” are illusory, because everything is determinable by the fundamental laws of the universe. A monist must therefore consider both an illusion, which would suggest all conscious minds are suffered from some kind of dementia. If our senses of selves and will are delusional, how can we trust our other senses? This seems dangerously close to slipping into solipsism, and if we can prove nothing else, as Descartes said, the one thing we do know is that we exist. If the only thing I can prove to exist is myself, yet this is an illusion, does not monism slip gently into solipsism at its most fundamental state?

The dualist stance would solve a lot of these questions, but pose more of its own.

A dualist world which consisted of thought/matter, and our consciousness as some sort of window between the two solves the problems of where these abstract thoughts exist which seem problematic from a monist standpoint, as they would exist in some sort of universal other place where the abstract ideas which shape our world formally exist in their entirety and can be seen in their pure forms. The problem for dualists to solve is how we are able to see this other world, where in our material brains does this window exist? As a kind of point of singularity? Where precisely could a dualist point to and say, “This is the material site of our window?” A dualist must resolve this point if they are able to say where the point of interaction between the two worlds exists.

A dualist can also site a “will” or “self” at this point of consciousness, and resolve the monist problems with free will and self, but dualism still has to resolve the problem of where this point exists materially, as everything else we can prove to exist has a “place” in the material world.

Tags: consciousness, dualism, free, matter, monism, self, thought, will

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Reply by archaeopteryx 43 seconds ago

Anon, you're confusing the forces with the concepts defining them - the forces exist everywhere, the concepts exist in the minds of Man and possibly other sentient beings throughout the universe.

Reply by Anon 2 seconds ago

Yes that is true, but still doesn't resolve the problem of where the pure concepts exist, if no-one is there to see them? The effects of these concepts exist, we can perceive the effects, but everything that we can perceive having an effect, has a place. Where do the pure concepts exist?
If a tree falls in a wood blah blah blah. We both agreed earlier that the sonic particles of sound would still exist without a perceiving mind present. Where do the pure concepts exist?

Anon, you're confusing the forces with the concepts defining them - the forces exist everywhere, the concepts exist in the minds of Man and possibly other sentient beings throughout the universe.

Yes, I repeated my comment, because you rephrased, then repeated your question, the very thing that Heather found so irritating.

The concepts don't exist, except in the minds of sentient beings capable of conceiving them - the phenomena which the concepts describe, exist in their appropriate places. By this, I mean that if a tree fell in space, of course it would make no sound, but within an atmosphere, it would produce sound waves, regardless of whether or not there was a listener. The falling tree existed, until it finished falling, then it was no longer a falling tree. The sound waves existed, and they will continue to spread further and further from their source until, bit by bit, they are absorbed by objects they encounter, but these are phenomena that are described by concepts, not the concepts themselves.

The concepts do not exist except in the minds of sentient beings capable of observing phenomena and describing them with said concepts.

Now, by all means, rephrase your question and repeat it again, then we can both continue wasting our time.

(from archaeopteryx)

So, if I understand you correctly, your position is this:

The effects of pure concepts exist in the material. The concepts themselves in a pure form do not exist anywhere.

A conscious mind evolves. Now the concept in it's pure form exists in the mind of the consciousness, through it's perception of the effects of said concept on the world. If consciousness then dies, the pure form now no longer exists anywhere, but it's effect would still act in the material world.

How could something have an effect but not exist in a pure form. Matter presumably exists in a pure form somewhere, perhaps physics will discover it. But thought cannot have a pure form? Why?

Reply by archaeopteryx 37 seconds ago

I have no idea what your definition of "pure" is, which leaves pure concepts, and pure form without definition.

Reply by Anon 1 second ago 

So the problem is semantics? For matter, the pure form would be the kind of particles we are currently searching for. A particle which could comprise all matter, by itself or with another indivisible particle.

You've studied no religious or philosophical texts - and it seems very clear that you likely haven't studied any texts.  All of this has already been clearly distilled for you but you just return to the same questions and seem to think that repeating them is creating a case for your dogma.  You are going to get little other than ad homs until you either read a few books or actually study the answers people provide you.

Which books would you specifically recommend?


For starters, just about anything related to science and/or philosophy - anything that would actually give you a foundation for an idea rather than trying to start a discussion by spewing ignorance.  To understand exactly where 'ideas' exist (which really shouldn't be that hard, but you seem unable to absorb new ideas) I would recommend Dennet - Consciousness Explained, and V.S. Ramachandran - The Tell-Tale Brain.

I'll look them up.

I'm not overly familiar with the concept of dualism, and I don't want to create a counter- argument to something that is not definitive of your thought. 

My understanding of this dualism idea, is the concept that the mind/personality/awareness of a person could be in some way separate from the grey squishy matter that constitutes the human brain in its physical sense.  That both exist and are wrapped up together, but that the "mind" can somehow exist separately from the "matter".

Is that right?


Blog Posts

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