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German Monismus, from mon- + -ismus -ism with the earliest use attributed to C. Wolff "Dogmatism..with reference to the number of fundamental principles,..becomes Dualism or Monism [Ger. Monismus]; and to this last description belong both Materialism and Spiritualism."


  • 1a : a view that there is only one kind of ultimate substance
b : the view that reality is one unitary organic whole with no independent parts


Monism is any philosophical view which holds that there is unity in a given field of inquiry, where this is not to be expected. Thus, some philosophers may hold that the universe is really just one thing, despite its many appearances and diversities; or theology may support the view that there is one God, with many manifestations in different religions.

Philosophical monism

Monism in philosophy can be defined according to three kinds:

Certain other positions are hard to pigeonhole into the above categories, see links below.

Monism, pantheism, and panentheism

Following a long and still current tradition H.P. Owen (1971: 65) claimed that

"Pantheists are ‘monists’...they believe that there is only one Being, and that all other forms of reality are either modes (or appearances) of it or identical with it."

Although almost all pantheists are monists, some pantheists may also be not-monists, but undeniably monists were the most famous pantheisms as that of Stoics, Plotinus and Spinoza. Exclusive Monists believe that the universe, the "God" of naturalistic pantheism, simply does not exist. In addition, monists can be Deists, Pandeists, Theists or Panentheists; believing in a monotheistic God that is omnipotent and all-pervading, and both transcendent and immanent. There are monist pantheists and panentheists in Zoroastrianism, Hinduism (particularly in Advaita and Vishistadvaita respectively), Judaism (monistic panentheism is especially found in Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy), in Christianity (especially among Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglicans) and in Islam (among the Sufis, especially the Bektashi).

While pantheism means all things are identical to God, panentheism means God is in all things, neither identical to, nor totally separate from all things. Such a concept, some may argue, is more compatible with God as personality while not barring a bridge between God and creation. Historical figures such as Paul Tillich have argued for such a concept within Christian theology, as well as contemporary biblical scholar Marcus Borg.

Materialistic monism

Materialistic monism (or monistic materialism) is the philosophical concept which sees the unity of matter in its universality. For the materialistic monist the cosmos is “one” and comprehensive, then a “one-all” made up of parts such as its effects. The matter is then origin and cause of all reality. The monism duality is Antimatter.