monism

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

monism

Monism is the view that there is only one reality. This one reality can be viewed as god. The rest of “reality” then becomes an  illusion. This is one interpretation of the Hindu doctrine of maya. (However, another interpretation sees maya as the creative power of God, and says that the world has a relative reality: no existence in itself, but existence only in relation to Brahman. This second interpretation has some affinities with Dooyeweerd’s view of created reality as meaning).

Monism may also be the interpretation of reality in terms of one of its aspects. This is the source of the many -isms and absolutizations. Dooyeweerd indicates that in each case these monisms have a hidden dialectic.

Monism is one of the categories used by Vollenhoven in his problem-historical method of the history of philosophy. It is difficult to know where Vollenhoven’s own thought fits on this grid. Is he monistic or dualistic? Klapwijk says [in “Calvin on Non-Christian Philosophy”] that Vollenhoven initially saw Kuyper as dualistic, and Woltjer as more the monistic side of thinking. In contrast to Kuyper, Geesink and Woltjer’s basic assumption was that “man totally is and ought to be image of God.” But Klapwijk says that in his last few years, Vollenhoven made remarks “on more than one occasion that he sides with Gregory of Nazianzus and Woltjer.”

I prefer to see this in terms of nondualism. But Vollenhoven did not have such a category. But in referring to his own views as “monistic,” Vollenhoven may have moved much closer to Dooyeweerd’s ideas than has been acknowledged.

Contrary to common beliefs about his philosophy, Vollenhoven does not see the difference between God and creation as a dualism, but only as a duality. See “Historische achtergrond en toekomst” MVCW (Dec 1970) 2-3.

Interestingly, Bavinck says,

Only, then, when the unity of all creation is not sought in the things themselves, but transcendently (not in a spatial but in a qualitative, essential sense) in a divine being, in his wisdom and power, in his will and counsel, can the world as a whole, and in it every creature, fully attain its rights. A person alone can be the root of unity in difference, of difference in unity. He alone can combine in a system a multiplicity of ideas into unity, and he alone can realize them by his will ad extra. Theism is the only true monism. [Revelation and Nature, p. 136]

Steen refers to Dooyeweerd as “a monism with higher and lower contrasts” (pp. 56,57). Steen says that Dooyeweerd is to be classified as a “semi-mystic” like Kuyper (p. 229). And he says that Dooyeweerd has an ontology that is “a cosmogono-cosmological monism, with the theme of priority, involving semi-contradictory contrasts” (p. 43).

Steen uses the term ‘monism’ because Vollenhoven does not have a category for nondualism. I believe that a more accurate description is “nondualism” or advaita.

I would emphasize that Dooyeweerd should not be considered in any way a monist in the Eleatic sense. Such a monism is a clear absolutization of the temporal. Dooyeweerd opposed any Eleatic view. And Bavinck’s remark on Christian theism being the only true monism must also not be understood in this sense. That is why I use the term ‘nondualism.’ Dooyeweerd did not deny the reality of the temporal world. He did, however deny that it had any existence apart from its supratemporal root.

Revised Dec 27/04