Neutral Substance Monism -- Any Modeling Potential? The purpose of this thread is to ask what potential, if any, monism has for helping to model the nature of the universe, and for filling in certain gaps which we have no satisfactory answers for. Monism is the belief that the basis of all existence is either one essence, or one type of entity which might exist in aspects or multiples. The two most influential types of monism have been substance monism and neutral monism. Traditionally advocates of substance monism have taken one of two sides declaring all existence is material/physical or that all existence is mental (as in all in our minds and/or all in the mind of God). Here's a quick general run down of types of monism. Neutral monism was the last incarnation of monism to gain popularity. Championed by William James and Bertrand Russell, it seems to have taken the form it did to accommodate their empirical commitment, and to avoid the material-mind controversy typical of substance monism. The excellent (though long) article found here is recent and gives insight into the various strategies neutral monists employed to include and avoid specific philosophical traps. (Chalmers fans may find it interesting the author, Leopold Stubenberg, acknowledges Chalmers’ assistance with his article.) The neutral monists were opposed to declaring any sort of substance as the basis of the monism, instead cleverly stating their position this way: A basic entity is neutral just in case it is intrinsically neither mental nor physical.. With this strategy, no claims need be made regarding what the basis of the monism is. While that might have been a good starting place for discussion, eventually and naturally it leads one to ponder just what the neutral stuff might be. Quoting from the Stubenberg article: “The materialist Quine, for example, has proposed to construe physical objects as ‘classes of quadruples of numbers.’ . . . One version of neutral monism finds the neutral basis in the domain of abstract objects: mind and matter are viewed as information structures. Recently Chalmers has explored this idea in his (Chalmers 1996). But the abstractness of his scheme is limited by the concession that the information states that make up the world might have to be grounded in protophenomenal properties. . . . Sayre, on the other hand, makes no such concession. He holds a pure information view according to which both mind and matter are, ultimately, mathematical structures.” The strength of the neutral approach for an empiricist was it allowed one to evaluate sense data in both its physical and mental aspects. As Russell explains, “Accordingly the sensation that we have when we see a patch of colour simply is that patch of colour, an actual constituent of the physical world, and part of what physics is concerned with…But it does not follow that the patch of colour is not also psychical.” On the other hand, acknowledging that doesn’t say anything about what the basis of his monism is. In the end that lack of a suitable model for the neutral stuff undermined interest in neutral monism. If neutral and substance monism are logically at odds, then why attempt any fusion between them? One possible reason is to refocus on substance monism, insist that the neutral “stuff” is neither material nor mental, and then see if we can imagine what the neutral substance is and if it can help explain aspects of existence. Assumptions I’ll be a little nostalgic and use the well-worn term esse to name the most basic substance of existence (“esse” here stands for the foundational or ground state substance that is the essence of all existence). For this contemplation, assume that there really is one substance that composes everything, and that the reason esse (in the ground state) cannot be observed is because it is too subtle, and too finely dispersed. With that in mind we might start with a few logic points about characteristics esse must have if it is monistic: Esse cannot have been created. If it were created, there must have been a time when it didn’t exist, and that gives us a duality of exist and not exist (duality and monism are mutually exclusive). Esse cannot NOT exist. For similar reasons as above. Esse can only exist, have always existed, and will always exist. Esse must reside in an infinite continuum. If there were any boundary, even a zillion zillion light years away, then we again have duality. Esse must be absolutely homogeneous. For the same reason. Even if there were only an infinitesimally minute bubble of nothingness, then it creates the duality of esse and not-esse. Everything that we know to exist must be a form of esse. If there is only one absolute substance, then the different things we see, from physicalness to consciousness, must be esse in some form. A few more ideas follow from the above: Since there can be no spatial breach, the forms esse take (like a planet or ourselves) are understood to not only be composed of and within the primordial continuum of esse, but also wholly connected to (or one with) it. To avoid any sort of duality, esse must be seen as true absoluteness in the sense there is nothing more basic or greater than it; there is nothing before or beyond it; there can be no discontinuance of it; there is nothing that is not a manifestation of it; and there is no appearance or behavior which is not 100% (i.e., absolutely) determined by its potentials and limitations. Theoretical Value Substance monism seems to give us the means for eliminating some long standing philosophical problems, such as the first cause, infinite regress, and the silly “something from nothing” dilemma. For example, if we assume that some potential of esse has brought about creation, then to answer first cause we’d reason that there must be conditions present in the infinite eternal esse continuum which can result in our finite temporal universe. Are there clues in creation which might tell us anything about such conditions in the esse continuum? Logic suggests any traits which are universally present throughout creation are the best candidates for exhibiting the nature of the ground state, as well as the conditions which prevail in the esse continuum. One of the most ubiquitous trait in the universe is vibration, along with what could be considered oscillatory “effects” like symmetry and polarity (polarity’s relationship to oscillation can be explained as phases of oscillation which become relatively constant). An individual atom may oscillate a trillion times per second, and EM oscillates as it fills space with various vibrating frequencies of radiation. The body of a human being may contain a million trillion frenetically vibrating atoms, while the senses and brain are stimulated by, respond to, and function using oscillatory information. Also universally ubiquitous are two powerful forces that have shaped creation: concentration and dispersion. The universe began with the momentous dispersion of the Big Bang, and just before that our universe was somehow concentrated into a miniscule speck smaller than an atom. The universe remains in the grip of that two-phased dynamic, and overall it appears to be one of the most predominating and necessary dynamics of physical existence. Still concentrated from this proposed dynamic is the mass of our universe whose absence would obviously leave a flimsy creation. Yet if matter weren’t diverging, the universe would be static (and a bit cramped to say the least); and if energy were not able to diverge from matter, the universe would be dark, cold, and incapable of supporting life. What clues might vibration and concentration/dispersion give us about esse and the continuum in which it resides? Logically, for a universe to form within it, the esse continuum must contain areas that are compressing and decompressing. Concentration gives us a major clue about the nature of esse itself when considered together with the vibration observed in the universe. Because the oscillation rate decreases as EM stretches out, clearly concentration accentuates oscillation. We might therefore suppose that in the ground state, esse is vibrant (i.e., sort of super-finely effervescent). Since vibrancy is as quick and fine as esse can possibly get, compression causes it to “wave” at phase points. Instead of how we normally think of EM as oscillating faster the more energy it has, this model has EM oscillating faster the more compact it is. What if it is the degree of concentration that’s causing the oscillation rate? And if so, concentration is also what creates potential energy. In other words, potential energy is the “desire” of esse to return to it’s preconcentration relaxed state. Continuing a little more with the model, the overall idea is that esse’s vibrancy plus concentration offers a substance basis for the relationship between energy and mass observed in our universe. So since the Big Bang, the universe’s mass has been dispersing because that’s the natural reaction of esse after it’s concentrated; EM are “waves” of relaxation taking place at the point in the esse continuum where our universe is located; atoms are concentrated esse vibrating so fast they “differentiate” into counterbalanced phases (electron-proton), and that counterbalanced aspect is what stabilizes atoms . . . I could surmise more, but I’m sure individuals more expert than me could do a better job. My point has been to suggest that substance monism may have potential as a modeling concept. Instead of referring to existence only by measurements of behaviors and variables, we have “something” at the root of it all that allows or causes measurement and variation. What’s your opinion?