MONISM and dualism have been formulated on
page 13, where I described monism as the belief
that the behaviour and structure of living bodies depend
only on the unaided action of matter on matter. The
meaning of this statement depends on the meaning given
to the word "matter". This has now been defined as everything that has location. With the use of this definition
the two opposed doctrines can be expressed in a form that
lends itself better to critical study.
Monism is the belief that all events are fully determined
by the action on each other of things that have location.
Dualism is the belief that some events are not fully
determined in this way. These are believed to be doubly
determinate; for they are attributed partly to the action
on each other of things that have location and partly
to the action of things that do not have location on things
The words in italics are important. In monism the
word "all" must be emphasised because the belief that
any events at all, no matter how few, are partly determined by things that lack location is inconsistent with
monism. This belief implies a different view of the nature
of reality. For it implies that a part of reality, of active
reality, lacks location. And this, the monist says, cannot
Those who reject monism as a view of the nature of
reality may, nevertheless, believe that many events are
singly determinate and due only to the action on each
other of things that have location. So the word "some"
must be emphasised in a presentation of dualism. In
agreement with the monist the dualist will attribute some
events to what he may call "mere chance". Among them
he may include the random movements of the wind and
the pebbles along the sea shore, together, perhaps, with
everything else that belongs to the untouched world of
The distinction between the words "fully" and "partly"
is equally important. No one could reasonably deny that
all material events are at least partly determined by the
interaction of material forces. I have already said in
Chapter I that some of the component causes of every
physical change must be such forces.
Suppose that the dualist chooses the production of a
poem as his example of a doubly determinate event. Though
he attributes this to the activity of a non-material mind
he cannot deny that this mind is aided by a material body.
Nor can he deny that it is also aided by material things
external to the body. Just as the poet's hands are active
in the production of the poem, so are the pen and ink
that place the words on a sheet of paper. The poet's
fingers and thumb exert a physical force on the pen as
they hold it in the writing position. The ink that flows
conforms to the laws of gravity, of viscosity, of surface
tension. During the production of the poem there is
obvious interaction between things that have location.
This is not in dispute. What is in dispute is whether this
is the only kind of interaction. Do material forces alone
determine the event or does a non-material mind provide
an additional determinant?
This question needs to be framed in more general
terms. And the terms must meet all the requirements of
a question on which a scientific enquiry can be based:
the question must belong wholly to the field of science; it
must permit of only two, mutually exclusive, answers;
it must be basic, clear and unambiguous. I think these
requirements are met by the following formulation, which
is really no more than a rewording of the first of the
questions posed in Chapter I:
Do things that lack location ever act on things that have
The answer to this question, be it well noted, will
decide between monism and dualism. But it reveals with
disconcerting clarity, the difficulty in accepting dualism.
Many who call themselves dualists will, I venture to
think, be converted to monism when they realise that
dualism implies belief in the effective action of things
that are nowhere. Yet the question, like many that
common sense would dismiss, must be faced. The question
has little bearing, if any, on religion, ethics, philosophy,
or any scheme of values. I cannot think that it matters
greatly to a theologian or a moralist whether some of the
causes of events in this world have location or not. A
religious person who is rather sophisticated is likely to
believe that the things that he calls spiritual have no
location. But if he is rather unsophisticated he is more
likely to believe, in agreement with the monist, that all
things, be they spiritual or not, do have location. In
either case his belief about this question can hardly affect
anything of importance in theology.
The question as worded above has the further quality
that it permits ot only two answers: yes or no. If the
answer is "yes", dualism is right; if the answer is "no",
monism is right.
The Question is also basic. The correct view of the
nature of reality depends on the answer. If the answer is
"yes", scientists will have to include influences without
location among the causes of observable events. The
effect of such an addition to the scope of science will be
Finally, the question is simple, clear and unambiguous.
Each of the words used in it is too familiar to require a
formal definition. And I am using each with the meaning
attached to it by the common use of language. So the
question will, I venture to think, convey the same thing
to all people.
This leads me to express the hope that the simple
clarity of the question may not be spoilt by definition
hunting. It contains nine different words. With ingenuity
it could, no doubt, be shown that each of those words
(to say nothing of the mark of interrogation at the end)
might have some alternative meanings that no one else
had thought of. Particularly a dualist who finds the
question disconcerting may be tempted to seek means for
obscuring its stark simplicity. If I repeat here my warning
against such misplaced ingenuity it is because of a very real
fear that it may be exerted to obstruct an honest search
for an answer to the question. And as I fully believe that
such a search will produce something of scientific value
I should regret that.
Having said so much I will not deny that the nature of
location, together with the wider problem of the nature of
space, may not be fully understood yet. Bearing this in
mind a philosopher who encountered our basic question
might begin by seeking a definition of location. But this
would not be with the scientist's more mundane purpose
merely of ensuring that all who hear it interpret it in the
same way. It would be his first step towards finding the
answer. In doing this he would be employing philosophical method. For with this method one seeks to discover the nature of things by a process of enquiry into the
meaning of the concepts used.
There is also scientific method. And this is the one I am
employing here. It follows the opposite course. A scientist
does not seek to solve his problems by the use of pure
abstract thought. He uses observation and experiment.
When he wants to know where a certain planet is at a
given moment he does not pause to consider what meanings may attach to the word "where". He goes to his
telescope. Only after observation and experiment have
solved his problem does he sometimes reconsider the
meaning of the concepts that underlie his work. He then
may find that the solution to his problems has brought
what the philosopher sought to begin with, deeper
understanding. In science facts come first, understanding
This explains the difference between a philosopher's
and a scientist's approach to such a question as whether
things that lack location ever act on things that have
location. The philosopher will say: "When I have thought
more deeply about location I may know the answer."
The scientist will say: "When I have found the answer
I may know more about location".
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