The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
Inquire about purchasing the book | Table of Contents | Annotated Bibliography | Class on Nature of Mind

These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"


There is an obvious alternative to dualism: monism. According to monism, body and mind (matter and thought) are made of the same substance: “idealists” think that everything is mental, “materialists” think that everything is material. So monism mainly divides into idealism and materialism.

But the "one" substance that everything is made of can also be something else than matter or mind.

The Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (17th century), for example, believed that only one substance exists, which is both infinite and eternal, and that “the” substance is conscious and it has extension. This substance is expressed in an infinite series of “modes”. Humans only perceive two of those modes because we are equipped with only two attributes of that substance, hence we see a world of minds and bodies. When we perceive modes through the attribute of thought, we perceive ideas, and we perceive them through the attribute of extension, we perceive objects. God is all that exists (he is what is), there is nothing that is not God.

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was also a monist of sort, because he believed that everything in the universe is made of spacetime events which are neither mental nor physical. His “neutral monism” reprises ideas from the Austrian physicist Ernst Mach and from the US psychologist William James (“Does ‘Consciousness’Exist?”, 1904): there is a fundamental constitutent of the universe which is neither mental nor physical but yields both the mental and the physical that we observe.


Back to the beginning of the chapter "Mind and Matter" | Back to the index of all chapters