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A Review
Chapter VIII
William James'
Some Problems of Philosophy
by Doug Renselle
Doug's Pre-review Commentary
Start of Review

ISM Extremes

Dedication Introduction Note


Move to any Chapter of William James' Some Problems of Philosophy,
or to beginning of its review via this set of links
says, "You are here!")

Chapter VIII..........The One and the Many (continued)
Values and Defects


(Most quotes verbatim William James, some paraphrased.)

(Relevant to Pirsig, William James Sidis, and Quantonics Thinking Modes.)

"We might dismiss the subject with the preceding chapter were it not for the fact that further consequences follow from the rival hypotheses, and make of the alternative of monism or pluralism what I called it on page 114, the most 'pregnant' of all the dilemmas of metaphysics.

"To begin with, the attribute 'one' seems for many persons to confer a value, an ineffable illustriousness and dignity upon the world, with which the conception of it as an irreducible 'many' is believed to clash.

"Secondly, a through - and - through noetic connection of everything with absolutely everything else is in some quarters held to be indispensable to the world's rationality."

(Our links, bold, and color.)

Monism's innate antithesis of 'many.' Try thinking of irreducible as not reducible. Then recall Henri Bergson's quantum claim that 'not' is subjective. See n¤t.

Noetic unity is 'intellectual' unity, not empirical or physical unity. This is very different from quantum science's and MoQ's cowithinitness, compenetration, and co-inside-nce. See our Quantonics interpretation of Henri Louis Bergson's I-Cubed. Realize too that quantum reality is both rational and irrational; both perceptual and n¤nconceptual. Its rationality is, as Finkelstein, et al., claim, "islandic." Doug - 21Feb2002.

"Only then might we believe that all things really do belong together, instead of being connected by the bare conjunctions 'with' or 'and.' The notion that this latter pluralistic [quantum islandic] arrangement may obtain is deemed 'irrational'; and of course it does make the world partly alogical or non-rational from a purely intellectual point of view.

"Monism thus holds the oneness to be the more vital and essential element. The entire cosmos must be a consolidated unit, within which each member is determined by the whole to be just that, and from which the slightest incipiency of independence anywhere is ruled out. With Spinoza, monism likes to believe that all things follow from the essence of God as necessarily as from the nature of a triangle it follows that the angles are equal to two right angles. The whole is what yields the parts, not the parts the whole. The universe is tight [closed], monism claims, not loose; and you must take the irreducible whole of it just as it is offered, or have no part or lot in it at all."

(Our bold emphasis. Our brackets.)Classical 'versus' 'opposition' rears its ugly head here. Monism says, "Reality is only whole, definitely not plural or many." Pluralism appears not quite so rigid, but still (appropriately) denies one whole, unified reality.


Quantum science says reality is both one and many.

By contrast, quantum reality is both multiversally cohesive, and individually autonomous.

Quantum science tells us primal isoflux quanta yield quantons which evolve to larger, more complex quantons. Quantum reality is loose! You can take any part of it you wish, as long as you recognize it is in quantonic, c¤hesive interrelationships with its c¤mplements.


"The only alternative allowed by monistic writers is to confess the world's non-rationality and no philosopher can permit himself to do that. The form of monism regnant at the present day in philosophic circles is absolute idealism. For this way of thinking, the world exists no otherwise than as the object of one infinitely knowing mind. The analogy that suggests the hypothesis here is that of our own finite fields of consciousness, which at every moment envisage a much-at-once composed of parts related variously, and in which both the conjunctions and the disjunctions that appear are there only in so far as we are there as their witnesses, so that they are both 'noetically' and monistically based.

"We may well admit the sublimity of this noetic monism and of its vague vision of an underlying connection among all phenomena without exception. It shows itself also able to confer religious stability and peace, and it invokes the authority of mysticism in its favor."

(Our bold emphasis.)

c. 1900-1910.

A Sidis connection here: James tells us Josiah Royce was one of noetic monism's best proponents.

"Yet, on the other hand, like many another concept unconditionally carried out, it introduces into philosophy puzzles peculiar to itself, as follows:

"1. It does not account for our finite consciousness. If nothing exists but as the Absolute Mind knows it, how can anything exist otherwise than as that Mind knows it? That Mind knows each thing in one act of knowledge, along with every other thing. Finite minds know things without other things, and this ignorance is the source of most of their woes. We are thus not simply objects to an all-knowing subject: we are subjects on our own account and know differently from its knowing.

"2. It creates a problem of evil. Evil, for pluralism, presents only the practical problem of how to get rid of it. For monism the puzzle is theoretical: How if Perfection be the source, should there be Imperfection? If the world as known to the Absolute be perfect, why should it be known otherwise, in myriads of inferior finite editions also? The perfect edition surely was enough. How do the breakage and dispersion and ignorance get in?"

(Our bold emphasis.)

Monism assumes infinite mind.

Monism creates evil.

"3. It contradicts the character of reality as perceptually experienced. Of our world, change seems an essential ingredient. There is history. There are novelties, struggles, losses, gains. But the world of the Absolute is represented as unchanging, eternal, or 'out of time,' and is foreign to our powers either of apprehension or of appreciation. Monism usually treats the sense-world as a mirage or illusion.

"4. It is fatalistic. Possibility, as distinguished from necessity on the one hand and from impossibility on the other, is an essential category of human thinking. For monism, it is a pure illusion; for whatever is is necessary, and aught else is impossible, if the world be such a unit of fact as monists pretend.

"Our sense of 'freedom' supposes that some things at least are decided here and now, that the passing moment may contain some novelty, be an original starting-point of events, and not merely transmit a push from elsewhere. We imagine that in some respects at least the future may not be co-implicated with the past, but may be really addable to it, and indeed addable in one shape or another, so that the next turn in events can at any given moment genuinely be ambiguous, i. e., possibly this, but also possibly that."

Monism is insensate. Monism denies flux.
(Our bold emphasis.)

Monism denies possibility.

Monism denies 'free will.'

"Monism rules out this whole conception of possibles, so native to our common-sense. The future and the past are linked, she is obliged to say; there can be no genuine novelty anywhere, for to suppose that the universe has a constitution simply additive, with nothing to link things together save what the words 'plus,' 'with,' or 'and' stand for, is repugnant to our reason.

"Pluralism, on the other hand, taking perceptual experience at its face-value, is free from all these difficulties. It protests against working our ideas in a vacuum made of conceptual abstractions. Some parts of our world, it admits, cannot exist out of their wholes; but others, it says, can. To some extent the world seems genuinely additive: it may really be so. We cannot explain conceptually how genuine novelties can come; but if one did come we could experience that it came."

Monism denies novelty. Monism's tough stand here, in new quantum light appears important. Without this insistence of a holistic included-middle, monism appears utterly inutile as a philosophy. Monists' holistic included-middle is non-quantum since it denies simultaneous individual autonomy, but in a way, it is half-right.

Pluralism fixes monism's difficulties.

Quantonics offers a candidate ontology: reality is self- and co-aware. Isoflux attractors may be 'aware' of each other and latch into actual quantons.

"We do, in fact, experience perceptual novelties all the while. Our perceptual experience overlaps our conceptual reason: the that transcends the why. So the common-sense view of life, as something really dramatic, with work done, and things decided here and now, is acceptable to pluralism. 'Free will' means nothing but real novelty; so pluralism accepts the notion of free will.

"But pluralism, accepting a universe unfinished, with doors and windows open to possibilities uncontrollable in advance, gives us less religious certainty than monism, with its absolutely closed-in world. It is true that monism's religious certainty is not rationally based, but is only a faith that 'sees the All-Good in the All-Real.' In point of fact, however, monism is usually willing to exert this optimistic faith: its world is certain to be saved, yes, is saved already, unconditionally and from eternity, in spite of all the phenomenal appearances of risk."

(Our bold emphasis.)

Better that God is done, or that God has more home improvements to make? Dunno! Ask God!

Me'thinks Pirsig might say DQ is riskless, unending isoflux; however, SQ is very risky and tentative latched flux. Monism only sees and worships SQ!

"A world working out an uncertain destiny, as the phenomenal world appears to be doing, is an intolerable idea to the rationalistic mind.

"Pluralism, on the other hand, is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but melioristic, rather. The world, it thinks, may be saved, on condition that its parts shall do their best. But shipwreck in detail, or even on the whole, is among the open possibilities.

"There is thus a practical lack of balance about pluralism, which contrasts with monism's peace of mind. The one is a more moral, the other a more religious view; and different men usually let this sort of consideration determine their belief.

"So far I have sought only to show the respective implications of the rival doctrines without dogmatically deciding which is the more true. It is obvious that pluralism has three great advantages:-"

Monism's rational thought is a weakness.

Pluralism is melioristic. As agents of change, our work is never done. And events which we abhor may still and do occur.

Pirsig might disagree. He might say that pluralism balances dynamis and stasis, unlatched flux and latched flux. The Animate and the Inanimate. This balance is moral...Pirsig had it right all along...William James Sidis had it right all along...

(Our bold emphasis.)

"1. It is more 'scientific,' in that it insists that when oneness is predicated, it shall mean definitely ascertainable conjunctive forms. With these the disjunctions ascertainable among things are exactly on a par. The two are co-ordinate aspects of reality. To make the conjunctions more vital and primordial than the separations, monism has to abandon verifiable experience and proclaim a unity that is indescribable.

"2. It agrees more with the moral and dramatic expressiveness of life.

"3. It is not obliged to stand for any particular amount of plurality, for it triumphs over monism if the smallest morsel of disconnectedness is once found undeniably to exist. 'Ever not quite' is all it says to monism; while monism is obliged to prove that what pluralism asserts can in no amount whatever possibly be true - an infinitely harder task.

"The advantages of monism, in turn, are its natural affinity with a certain kind of religious faith, and the peculiar emotional value of the conception that the world is a unitary fact."

(Our bold emphasis.)

Tiny minds love pure stasis. Tiny minds fear change. Essence of SOM. Essence of dichotomy. Essence of versus. Essence of opposition. Essence of contradiction. Essence of hate. Essence of Inquisition. Essence of war!
144 "So far has our use of the pragmatic rule brought us towards understanding this dilemma. The reader will by this time feel for himself the essential practical difference which it involves. The word 'absence' seems to indicate it. The monistic principle implies that nothing that is can in any way whatever be absent from anything else that is. The pluralistic principle, on the other hand, is quite compatible with some things being absent from operations in which other things find themselves singly or collectively engaged. Which things are absent from which other things, and when, these of course are questions which a pluralistic philosophy can settle only by an exact study of details. The past, the present, and the future in perception, for example, are absent from one another, while in imagination they are present or absent as the case may be. If the time-content of the world be not one monistic block of being, if some part, at least, of the future, is added to the past without being virtually one therewith, or implicitly contained therein, then it is absent really as well as phenomenally and may be called an absolute novelty in the world's history in so far forth." (Our bold emphasis.)

Monism tells its practitioners existence is whole. Then, based on that axiom, one may decide what 'exists,' and what does not 'exist.' SOM's most fundamental dichotomy. See our SOM Connection.

Yet, pluralism is innately quantum: multiversal cohesion with individual autonomy.

Bergson's duration says, quantumly, they are both cohesive as duration and autonomous in their heterogeneity. Where monism's time is analytically homogeneous, pluralism's time is stochastically heterogeneous. (Reader, this is one of few times James discusses issues of time philosophically. This is crucial to our review of William James Sidis' The Animate and the Inanimate. He appears to say that time, like all else is flux. We agree!)
145 "Towards this issue, of the reality or unreality of the novelty that appears, the pragmatic difference between monism and pluralism seems to converge. That we ourselves may be authors of genuine novelty is the thesis of the doctrine of free-will. That genuine novelties can occur means that from the point of view of what is already given, what comes may have to be treated as a matter of chance. We are led thus to ask the question: In what manner does new being come? Is it through and through the consequence of older being or is it matter of chance so far as older being goes? which is the same thing as asking: Is it original, in the strict sense of the word?" (Our bold and color emphasis.)
146 "We connect again here with what was said at the end of Chapter III. We there agreed that being is a datum or gift and has to be begged by the philosopher; but we left the question open as to whether he must beg it all at once or beg it bit by bit or in instalments. The latter is the more consistently empiricist view, and I shall begin to defend it in the chapter that follows." (Our bold and color emphasis.)

I.e., an evolutionary empiricist's view.

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©Quantonics, Inc., 2000-2011 Rev. 5May2009  PDR Created: 7Apr2000  PDR
(10May2000 rev - Add links to chapters which James refers.)
(25Dec2000 rev - Correct comment typo on page 144.)
(10Dec2001 rev - Add top of page frame-breaker.)
(21Feb2002 rev - Upgrade and remediate pages 135 and 136 for references from Bergson TaFW topic 7. Add other links.)
(8May2002 rev - Add 'monism' link back to page 114.)
(21Jul2002 rev - Change QELR links to A-Z pages.)
(29Dec2002 rev - Repair comment column typo/case.)
(15Feb2007 rev - Adjust format, color, etc. Massive respell.)
(5May2009 rev - Make page current.)

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