Dualism



Concerning Dualism In Modern Philosophical Thought

René Guénon, EDH


For the moment we would like to insist on one point only: That the quarrel of spiritualism and materialism, around which almost all the philosophical thought since Descartes revolves, is of no interest at all for pure metaphysics; this is besides an example of those one-time questions[1], to which we shall return at once. Indeed the duality of "soul-matter" has never been posed as absolutely und unsurmountably before the Cartesian conception; the Ancients, notably the Greek, did not even possess a notion of "matter" in the modern sense of the word, not more than in our time [2] (for) most of the Orientals: in Sanskrit there is no word corresponding to this notion, not even close.


The concept of this kind of duality has its sole merit to rather well represent the outer appearance of things; but - precisely because it stays with appearances it is wholly superficial, and by taking up a special point of view which is purely individual, it becomes negative of the whole of metaphysics, [especially] as soon as one wants to ascribe to it an absolute value by affirming the unsurmountability[3] of its two terms [soul and matter], an affirmation in which abides the actual duality. ...


In a very general fashion [one can say that], the distinctive character dualism is to halt at an opposition between two more or less particular terms, an opposition which without doubt really exists from a certain point of view.[This certain point of view] corresponds to the part of dualism which is real, but [the problem starts where] by declaring this opposition as unsurmountable and absolute, instead of [it being] entirely relative and dependant, it becomes impossible[4] to proceed beyond those terms, which have been posited against each other. ...



notes:


[1] meaning theories which cannot have any durable value, because a) they are replaced with other equally fragile theories, and b) they are related to the modern world's continuous desire for change, therefore their time is limited.]


[2] this was written in the 1920s or 1930s


[3] or: impossibilty of simplification


[4] intellectually forbidden



see also on Non-Duality

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