Philosophical Case For Material Monism Argumentative Essay Samples

Type of paper: Argumentative Essay

Topic: Reality, Material, Ethics, Truth, Basis, Philosophy, World, Water

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/11/28

John Doe (student name goes here)

American Public University (school name here)
Philosophy (Course name goes here)
In this short response, the argument of material monism will be defended. One of the oldest philosophical problems concerns the nature of reality. What is reality? The first philosophers who thought about this problem rejected mythological stories to account for what makes up reality as we know it. For example, stories of creation were rejected in favor of the argument that could substantiate a claim about the ontological nature of reality itself. The earliest philosophical approaches to reality were constructed according to what has been called monism. Monism is the idea that reality itself must be made up of one thing that grounds its existence. While common sense suggests that reality is made up of many things, nevertheless, there must be something, the argument goes, that accounts for everything. One way to think about a monist approach to reality is to take a piece of paper. Cut the paper into smaller pieces. The first two pieces are easy enough, but at some point, it is impossible to cut the paper further. One would need microscopic scissors to cut the paper to its smallest individual unit. But if one were to reach this unit that makes up the paper itself, one would have reached the point at which the paper relies on its existence. In other words, if reality is like lego blocks, what is the essential block that makes up everything that we know, see, touch, and feel?
In the tradition of philosophy, monist philosophers, typically material monists, have posited that the essential nature of reality must be a material thing. They argued that the essential building blocks that make up the world must be something of a material nature. Thales argued that it was water, for example. He said that water must be the essential nature of reality. While we may scoff at his conclusion, we must remember that his reasoning makes sense. He ascertained that everything flows from water, and water seems to dissolve other materials into itself. So, Thales, we must conclude was on the right track. If we return to the example of the piece of paper, we can see that someone like Democritus would agree with us that the smallest unit, albeit not water or air, or something like that, must be some indivisible unit. Democritus called it the atom, which we today know is what makes up material reality. The atom is indeed the basic building blocks of material things. Although, we know today, that the atom is divisible, for the dividing the atom is what causes the release of nuclear energy. But the basic monist point remains the same: that reality itself hinges upon one singular unit that holds everything together.
The other version of monism is of the immaterial kind. These monists posit that reality hinges upon an immaterial thing. For example, someone like Pythagoras posited that reality must be made up of numbers. Hence, we can see the strongest parts of the monist argument: that one singular thing must be the basis of everything. Material Monism is a stronger argument than immaterial monism because we can subsume immaterial things under the umbrella of brain activities. Numbers do not exist in an immaterial state. Numbers, like ideas, and so forth, are abstract. They are formed on the basis of thinking, and thinking itself is related to brain activity. And the brain itself, a material thing, lies on the basis of material reality. While Democritus was wrong that the atom is the most basic element of reality, what makes monism still a favorable philosophical argument is that it still makes sense to think of everything we know to exist to rest on a singular material foundation. Perhaps physicists have not been able to locate that which serves as the ontological key to unlocking the secrets of material reality, but just because the source has not been found, does not mean that the monist position is an incorrect one.

Devil’s Advocate: Case Against Monism

The problem with monism is obvious. It tries to reduce everything to one basic unit, which goes against a better argument that suggests that there may be more than one thing that forms the basis of all reality. Why cannot there be both an immaterial and a material substance that forms the basis of reality. As we know, this kind of thinking does create a dualism, for example, between mind and body, or material and immaterial, but a monist argument is too simplistic to account for our extremely complex reality that we find ourselves puzzled to comprehend. The monist simply says that if reality is peeled back, layer by layer, eventually, we can find the central piece of the puzzle. But the monist thinks that reality must be layered in such a way. Isn’t it also possible to conceive of reality more like an onion, that even though it has layers, there is no central layer that makes the onion what it is. Or even if we imagine the monist argument to be similar to something like the Russian matryoshka doll, at one point we must conclude that the idea that reality must begin somewhere is absurd. Why can there not be an infinity of dolls all the way down? The monist tries to be philosophical, but at the end of the day they fall into the same trap as those who try to posit a mythological view of the world. The monist, then, is like the belief that the earth stands on the back of a giant tortoise, and the monist, in his silliness, wants to find out where the tortoise rests its feet. The essential problem with monism, both of its material and immaterial variety, is that it falsely assumes that reality must have a center or a basis. The truth is that the conditions for reality do not need such a basis.

Bonus Question: On Why We Should Always Tell the Truth

I believe that everyone ought to tell the truth, even if telling the truth may hurt you or someone else. The facts about the world that convince me that this belief is true is that when I consider the opposite scenario, that everyone ought to lie, it brings me back to the conclusion that truth telling is a much better state of affairs than a world where everyone lies. If everyone lied, then there would be no basis for society at all. If I lent money to someone who said they would pay me back in full in one week, I would have no basis to trust them. While, I know that even in a world where everyone is supposed to tell the truth, people would still try to lie, but at least the basis for society would be truth telling, rather than deception. Even if telling the truth is harmful, one must tell the truth. It does not mean that people will always tell the truth, it merely means that everyone should be accountable to the same law. Otherwise, we would have chaos and insurrection.

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