Dual-Aspect Monism or Idealism? Follow-Up, part 2

Gerald R. Baron has kindly responded to my recent article on his series on dual aspect monism, a philosophy that he is advocating. Since our ongoing conversation has attracted the interest of some other Medium readers, I thought that I would publish it and my response as an article rather than in the private boxes.

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Baron wrote:

Thanks Graham, I am honoured that you would give a thoughtful response to my series. There is a seemingly continual dance in the dual monistic accounts between idealism and what Polkinghorne calls critical realism. Atmanspacher comes down quite definitively on the side that rejects idealism alone. Certainly dual aspect monism and neutral monism is a form of idealism compared to physicalism given the seriousness and even in some cases the priority given to mind. But, it also takes seriously the “facticity” of matter. I think the crux of the issue is found in this where you quote me and then respond:

“Even if particles in their pre-observation form are merely perturbations of energy in a quantum field, that does not make them less real”. (Me) Agreed, but the more relevant question is whether this makes them less material. I would say yes.

I would point to David Bohm and the distinction he draws between energy and active information. Energy is most certainly measurable, empirical, tangible, experienceable, etc. It belongs to the world of physical matter because as Einstein showed, matter and energy are interchangeable in certain conditions. The quantum field is also very real in the understanding of scientists. Recall that Hawking, Susskind, Weinberg (and Ethan Siegel) treat the quantum vacuum as the “something” from which all matter and energy emerged. I would suggest a critical realist perspective on these things would say they are “real” and not merely mental. We may only know them through our mental processes, of course, but that does not eliminate their extra-mental existence. Active information, Bohm said, was not energy, suggesting it could not be measured, or maybe even empirically determined or tested. Atmanspacher brings this issue into his scheme of the deep structure of meaning. So, I would continue to hold to the absolute reality of both mind and matter as creations of a creator God.

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Here is my response:

Hi Gerald.

I agree with you that the crux of the issue here is in that quote, how seriously one takes the facticity of matter.

Appealing to words like measurable, empirical, tangible, experienceable don’t help resolve the issue, however; as idealists would say, these are all part of the illusion. The quantum field may be ‘real’, but that doesn’t mean that it is not an emanation/manifestation from the consciousness of ‘God’. The quantum vacuum may be ‘real’, but why call it the ‘something’ rather than the ‘somethought’ from which all matter and energy emerged. Calling it ‘something’ merely reveals a predilection in the physicalist direction.

All this reminds me of the famous dispute between Samuel Johnson and Bishop Berkeley. What exactly did Johnson think he was proving when he kicked the stone? He presumably thought that he was demonstrating the facticity of matter. Perhaps he was merely revealing how trapped he was in the illusion, however.

Your final sentence shows how little difference there is between our two positions. You would “continue to hold to the absolute reality of both mind and matter as creations of a creator God”. But so would idealists. And so would I, although we might have a conception of ‘God’ different from yours.

For me ‘God’ is the Unus Mundus, the Oneness (creative principle, pure consciousness) from which everything in existence emanates, what the neo-Platonist Plotinus called simply ‘The One’. Other terms might be the En Sof of Kabbalism, and the Pleroma of the Gnostics. In my interpretation of Hinduism, this is called Brahma, sometimes described as the ‘creator God’. Whether that is just humans anthropomorphising is an open question.

I note that you haven’t addressed my principal complaint, that your quotes from the world of mysticism could just as easily support idealism as dual aspect monism/critical realism.

Gerald R. Baron

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I am a singer/songwriter interested in spirituality, politics, psychology, science, and their interrelationships. grahampemberton.com spiritualityinpolitics.com

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Graham Pemberton

Graham Pemberton

I am a singer/songwriter interested in spirituality, politics, psychology, science, and their interrelationships. grahampemberton.com spiritualityinpolitics.com