MonoRealism is a philosophy based on the primary absolute that reality exists, and all the implications of that fact for the nature of reality, how we gain knowledge about the world, and how we should live in that world. This article summarises the philosophy of Monorealism, its development and how it relates to similar philosophies.
The Structure of Philosophy
There are many special philosophies that deal with particular areas of endeavour, such as the philosophy of science or law. All such philosophies are derivations from a more fundamental philosophy which underpins them and provides their basic assumptions and context.
It is that type of fundamental philosophy that I am mainly concerned with.
Philosophies in that sense deal with fundamentals that affect everyone, not just particular professions or activities. There are five such fundamental areas of philosophy.
At the base is metaphysics, which is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality, including Man. Does anything exist? What is its nature? Does it behave according to fixed laws, or is it capricious? Is reality all there is, or is there a supernatural realm? Such questions are the province of metaphysics. This is a more fundamental level of knowledge than science, which depends on certain metaphysical ideas such as "reality behaves according to rules", and "reality is knowable". Without metaphysics, no philosophy or knowledge is possible.
Rising from metaphysics is epistemology, the study of knowledge. Can we know anything? If so, how? How certain can we be of the knowledge we obtain? Epistemology provides the theoretical basis of the practical means of knowledge such as inductive logic and science.
Rising from those two is ethics, the study of how we should behave. Can morality be determined by reason? Can it exist without a higher power? What is morality? Does it consist of self-sacrifice of our interests and desires to those of others, the sacrifice of others to our own desires, or something else? Metaphysics and epistemology are vital, in teaching us how we can know the facts of reality, upon which our lives depend. Ethics tells us what we then should do with our lives.
Aesthetics is the philosophy of art. What is art? What is its purpose? Does it have any importance to our lives, and if so, why and how? How do you judge good vs. bad art? Do such questions mean anything?
Politics, as a branch of philosophy, is concerned with how people can and should live together in society. What is the proper relationship between individuals, groups and government? What is the proper role of a government? What type of government is moral and valid? Of all the branches of philosophy, politics has the greatest potential for good or ill, as it concerns how the use of physical force is controlled and applied in human society.
This section summarises the basic concepts, to give an overview of the philosophy. This entire site gives the details. In particular, for the primary sequential development and justification see the Philosophical Reflections series.
To summarise Monorealism in the philosophical terms noted above:
- Metaphysics: reality exists, and consciousness exists: things are what they are in the world out there, irrespective of what we think, believe or wish; and we perceive them.
- Epistemology: reason is our primary tool of knowledge: our senses give us primary information about the world, and the use of reason is how we work out what it all means.
- Ethics: rational self-interest: every person is an end in him- or herself, and our own happiness is the proper and moral goal of our life:and the way to achieve that goal is by living the life of a productive, thinking being – and all that entails.
- Aesthetics: romanticism: the purpose of art is "soul food", to illustrate, dramatise and thereby concretise the values that are proper to the life of a human being, and to show us what life can and ought to be.
- Politics: inviolate individual rights: which translates into free-enterprise capitalism, the only system which fulfils that requirement.
At the base of Monorealism is the concept of Duality: not in the "Cartesian Dualism" sense but in the sense that external reality exists, and consciousness exists, and the complementarity and tension between these two is the basis of all philosophy, all knowledge, and all human action.
It is because reality exists, and consciousness exists, that philosophy has any purpose or meaning. Without reality, there is nothing to know; without consciousness, there is no one to know it. It is reality that makes consciousness possible; and it is consciousness that gives reality meaning. Reality exists "out there", and our consciousness exists "in here", and our bodies lie between the two. Because of that, it is our senses that give us information about the world, and our reason – the only inherent tool our consciousness posseses – that lets us make sense of those senses. Without reason, our senses provide a mere play of colour, sound, smell and feeling on a blank canvas: it is reason that identifies what it all means, reason which is our fundamental tool of knowledge.
Because reality exists, and consciousness exists; because reality is all there is, and consciousness is the sine qua non of all we have: our own life is our fundamental value. And that is the nexus between what is, and what ought to be: the link between reality and value, between metaphysics and ethics. Ethics is concerned with values and virtues: with the things proper for a human being to pursue, and the means proper to achieving them. Because of Duality, our own life is our own highest value, a value inherent in the nature of existence: and that fundamental value of our life is the basis of ethics. From that value, all other values are derived. From that value, the fact that rationality is the highest virtue can be derived, and from that, all the other virtues proper to the life of a thinking being – honesty, justice, independence, integrity, productiveness, pride – are derived in turn.
From the virtue of rationality, from the fact that your life depends on your own judgment, stems the basic principle of politics: that no man may ever initiate physical force against another. And from that principle, it follows that the only moral relationship between people is one based on trade by mutual consent; and that the only valid government is one that exists solely to protect each and every individual's right to live free from physical coercion. And from that, it follows that the only valid and moral form of government is one strictly limited to maintaining a police force to protect people from criminals, military forces to protect against foreign aggression, and law courts to uphold contracts and arbitrate between people in disputes. And the only form of government that can fulfil that role, is constitutional republic in which individual rights are inviolate, in which the initiation of physical force is forbidden: a system of free-enterprise capitalism.
In a nutshell, the nature of reality is Duality: the existence of external reality and of our own consciousness. This Duality implies a trinity that must lie as the root and foundation of any valid philosophy: the existence of reality, the existence of consciousness, and the value of our own life. And the glue uniting this trinity is reason: reason which gives consciousness its understanding of reality; reason which enables us to know how to maintain our life and happiness in the real world in which we exist. All else follows from these.
How it Began
I have always recognised that reality exists and that reason is efficacious for discovering its nature. However, I accepted the general view that there is no nexus between reality and ethics: that what is, does not imply anything about what ought to be. (In retrospect, the link – the fundamental value of one's own life – is so obvious, and implicit in everything I did, that I'm disgusted I couldn't see it!)
I had a very low opinion of philosophy, basically "Philosophy! Who needs it?". The philosophy I had read was, basically, silly: attempts to prove the ridiculous or disprove the obvious, out of touch with the real world, arguments with holes big enough to drive the proverbial truck through. Even philosophers who said some sensible things, like Hume, elsewhere spun off into invalid nonsense.
Rather ironically, I was lent Ayn Rand's Philosophy: Who Needs It, by people who saw in my attitude to reality a kindred spirit. It was amazing. It was the first time I had read something written from a different viewpoint from mine, which rather than being obviously invalid, was clearly tightly reasoned and so right. I did not agree with everything it said, nor was I convinced by all her reasoning: but it was the most challenging and compelling book I had ever read.
How it Evolved
I acquired more Rand non-fiction books and continued to be impressed. Rand had seen a link between reality and ethics that made sense: the value of one's own life. At the time, I was not completely convinced that she had proved her point: but it was the closest approach I'd ever seen, and it was fascinating.
During this period, I was at a Mensa function when someone opined that everyone in the room had their own opinions and believed different things, but they were all right. What really got me was not so much the statement, but the nodding heads: all his other listeners nodding sagely at this obvious "truth". "Enough is enough", I thought, "this has got to stop".
So I began writing Philosophical Reflections, a series starting from the nature of reality and working up from there. I had a dual purpose in this: to promote a philosophy of reality and reason, and to work out in my own head the ideas I'd read in Rand on ethics. That is, I found her ideas challenging and they "felt" right: but I wasn't convinced they were true. To do that, I had to derive them myself from first principles. So that is what I set out to do. The result was MonoRealism.
The MonoRealism Name
"MonoRealism" is named in recognition of the fact that there is one reality: not different realities for each person, not a subjective piece of putty controlled by people's wishes and beliefs, but one reality for everyone – one hard, external reality which is what it is, irrespective of our wants, our beliefs or even our existence.
MonoRealism is named in contrast to "monotheism", as a recognition that the world is not some shadow realm inferior to an invisible supernatural realm, ruled by an ineffable God: but that reality, the external world, is all there is, and all we have, and all we need.
Finally, the term MonoRealism encompasses the unity of reality – that both reality and philosophy are unified wholes – that reality, and consciousness, and reason, and life, are all related, all aspects of what reality is.
The MonoRealism symbol sums up the essence of the philosophy:
- Its basic form of a square within a circle is the mandala, an ancient symbol. As explained to me by an ancient Tibetan monk deep in the Himalayas (OK, OK, so it was the owner of Thanka Corner in a windy alleyway in the ancient city of Kathmandu), this symbol basically equates to "Life, the Universe, and Everything".
- The square also represents the four foundations of MonoRealism: Reality – existence – the basis of all; Reality and Consciousness, the Duality which is the nature of existence; Life as that which produces consciousness from reality and which is their purpose, meaning and end; and Reason as the link between all these, between mind and reality, between the value of life and our achievement of life and happiness in reality: the link which is the origin and essence of a rational consciousness, and that which makes the life of Man possible.
- The circle also represents the unity of reality: both in the sense that there is only one reality, and in the sense that the four foundations in the square are inextricably and mutually linked.
- The dollar sign represents free trade, the only moral relationship between people, and as a wider symbol of our philosophical battle:
"It stands – as the money of a free country – for achievement, for success, for ability, for man's creative power ... the only country in history where wealth was not acquired by looting, but by production, not by force, but by trade, the only country whose money was the symbol of man's right to his own mind, to his work, to his life, to his happiness, to himself. If this is evil, by the present standards of the world, if this is the reason for damning us, then we � we, the dollar chasers and makers – accept it and choose to be damned by that world. We choose to wear the sign of the dollar on our foreheads, proudly, as our badge of nobility – the badge we are willing to live for and, if need be, to die." - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
MonoRealism & Objectivism
Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. As noted above, the development of MonoRealism owes a lot to Objectivism. Indeed, Rand once said that the only philosophical debt she recognised was to Aristotle. The only philosophical debt I recognise is to her.
Since a discussion of Objectivism is likely to be of interest only to Objectivists, the links between it and MonoRealism are discussed in a separate article on Objectivism.
Suffice it to say here, that almost all the Objectivists I have met have been reasonable, rational, happy people with a good sense of humour, who know how to enjoy their lives: and I have invariably had a pleasant time in their company.
"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."�(Ayn Rand, epilogue to Atlas Shrugged)
© 1996 Robin Craig