Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Apology and fair warning, this is going to get heady and philosophical.

The philosopher Spinoza said that the chief problem with Western Philosophy is dualism. That is the categories we make that are mutually exclusive with each other and they have cause a lot of problems for us in the West. Mind/Body, Self/Other, the individual/society, etc. etc. Taking mind and body for example, they look like completely distinct and separate things. Mind is a non-extended something and body is matter that exists physically in the universe. We think they are related somehow, but there is a problem figuring out how this non-extended something interacts with the body since typical though usually is that somehow our mind directs the body. It is a problem, at least for philosophers who worry about these sorts of things.

There are lots of kinds of body, or let's use the word matter. We don't have a problem figuring out how they interact with each other because they are all extended in space and have mass. It is easy to see how a car interacts with the telephone pole. Even though are different kinds of matter, it is not a mutually exclusive dualism between car and telephone pole.

This statement of Spinoza's woke me up philosophically. What i happened to be studying at the time was the great philosophers who all had their personal tome. Hume's "A Treatise of Human Nature," Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason," Hegel's "The Phenomenolgy of Spirit," etc. etc. So, i of course wanted to have my own, mine was going to be "The Codex of Energetic Monism." OK, not sure exactly but energetic monism was the crux of the thing. The idea was and i still believe this, that there is really only one kind of stuff ultimately and it is energy. Matter is just energy in a slower state of vibration and we can see this with all the energy that is locked up in any atom. This is not super important for where we are going, just pointing out where my head space was.

The difference with my theory, and i am sure it is not just mine, there really are not any original thoughts out there, was it did not try to solve the mind/matter problem by just making everything either one or the other. People have tried to solve that problem by saying that things are either just all thought, or just body (chemical reactions n the brain = thoughts, brain states = mind states.) I don't like those kinds of explanations. In the beginning we were beings, undifferentiated and then someone came along and started to classify. We have these thoughts that seem to exist outside of space, and we have these bodies that seem to exist in space, they are two different kinds of stuff. Saying we are either body or mind forgets that we made that distinction in the first place. I was looking for that state that happened before we made the split, which is an illusion, it is a useful illusion but an illusion just the same.

Now, mind/body is only one of the dualisms that affect our lives. Subject/Object, Practical/Spiritual, Local/Global, etc. They are all illusions. You do not have to be bound by the term. When i am learning a practical martial art, it is also very spiritual for me, really the practical and the spiritual are the same. When i am helping a group of five students, i am helping the world. You are not separate from me, and you also are. We don't have to worry about it. Separating self and other, body and thought usually leads to denigrating one side of that equation which leads to one half of the thing. For a long time we have thought of the thought as pure and the body as banal, and thus arise all sorts of issues with female body image, feeling guilty about sex, etc.

If we can bring down these dualisms it would solve a great deal of our problems and ultimately i feel like they are at the root of a lot of our problems that plague us today and throughout history.

I welcome your thoughts. This is something i have thought a lot about and really makes up the core of most of my beliefs. Have an amazing day, and see your fellow humans as your self too.