Neutral Monism in Wittgenstein

26 May

In the paper I posted on this site about Spinozistic substance monism, the case was argued that only one substance/material that makes up the universe exists. This one material makes up everything that exists everywhere. Spinoza did not however mention the mental and physical monism that exists. Wittgenstein does this in the Tractatus. In Spinoza’s monism, he still states that mental and physical parts exist within that substance and are represented as attributes of the substance. If you say that physical and mental monism exists you are saying that the physical world around us (the earth, the objects) are made of a variation of the substance and the mental thoughts and sensations are a different variation of the same substance. Wittgenstein and others in his same time period thought that this was not true. This includes that sensations/perceptions/thoughts and body versus mind are all of the same exact kind of substance, therefore there is no division between them. The fact that a mental and physical monism do not exist is neutral  monism. This type of monism states that all of the things around us are neutral things all made of the exact same kind of substance/material. Specific things are only differentiated from other things because of how they relate with other things; the differentiated things do not differ from each other any more or any less. Being in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, neutral monism supports solipsism because this form of monism does not state what this substance/material is, therefore it could be any self/soul that perceives the physical world. If monism has a mental form and a physical form, solipsism is much harder to prove. I disagree with neutral monism and endorse Spinoza’s form of monism. I will explain my opinions later.

Wittgenstein, Berkeley, and Hume provide justifications for eliminating certain things in this material/substance monism. First, justifications are made to allow matter to be eliminated from neutral monism because of its lack of neutrality. Berkeley mainly was he who justified this elimination but Mach’s view was a big justification

” the world consists only of our sensations”

Think about that. Are sensations coherent with today’s definition of matter? No (this view of Mach is a big contributor to solipsism). We perceive things around us, and the only perceivable living entity that we can for sure know about is ourselves and our perceptions. Therefore, Wittgenstein and others say that perceptions/sensations are the only components of the universe. This allows Berkeley to eliminate the presence of matter because of its lack of neutrality and because it is not for sure known to exist because our perceptions cannot confirm it.

Hume also helps confirm an elimination when he questioned the entity of the self. It is known that the soul is an entity because of our perceptions and those perceptions create the world around us (according to Mach and Wittgenstein, I disagree with this). The self is also an entity that lacks neutrality and poses problems in philosophy. Hume uses Mach’s propositions like Berkeley did for the elimination of matter. Mach states a big idea that helps cut to the chase to eliminate the self:

” The I is not an object”

If ‘I’ is not an object, then what is it? The ‘I’ is not an object because it exists in relation to the soul that perceives and senses. The ‘I’ is basically the self. If the self is not an object and not just a component of the soul, it is not neutral. In solipsism, only the soul exists and perceives/senses things, creating the only known world. In solipsism’s case, the soul is the only substance and its perceptions creates the known world. The soul is a large entity according to solipsism and governs everything we see and do. Where does the entity of the self come into place? It doesn’t. If it would be put into existence with the soul in the solipsist state, it would be a useless entity that would hold no water for proof of a reason for existence. It would also cause a lot of problems for philosophers. Therefore, Hume and Mach state that the self cannot exist because of how neutral this monism is.

Wittgenstein himself helps eliminate the presence of inner and outer worlds in neutral monism also using Mach’s statements.

“There is no rift between the psychical and physical, no inside and outside, no “sensation” to which an external “thing” different from sensation, corresponds…….”

When Wittgenstein talks about the distinction of inner and outer worlds, by inner he means sensations, perceptions, and thoughts. By outer worlds, he means the physical world we perceive and try to understand. In solipsism, the perceptions are the only world that can possibly exist. Solipsism is obviously governing Wittgenstein’s thoughts when he eliminates outer and inner worlds and when he advocates neutral monism. Matter is able to be eliminated because of how sensations/perceptions from the substance of the self are what make up the world around us. If there is a psychical and physical world in any sense, no distinction between both of them is possible or necessary because of how both worlds are of the same substance and in the same world. This prevents any possible distinction of inner and outer worlds.

Wittgenstein also helps eliminate the possibility of private objects. Private objects are objects/ sense-impressions that belong to a certain thing/being. A private object example might be if one person gets horrific hallucinations that he cant tell from reality. Because he is the only person who has this, this schizophrenia may be a private object because of how it belongs to him because he is the only one who has it.  Wittgenstein states that the existence of a private object is not possible because of solipsism and the neutrality of things in this form of monism. In solipsism, all things are from the same thing, perceived by one soul (that one knows of). If there is a possibility in the perceived world by the soul, it is possible in all relations of things perceived. If one relation of things or state of affairs has this object/sense-impression, the sense-impression does not belong to the relation of things/state of affairs because of how possible this sense=impression is upon the entire existence that is perceived. A private object in existence is not neutral and would cause philosophical problems to be solved. In a solipsist existence, a private object like this is impossible which gives Wittgenstein some of his justification for this elimination.

Wittgenstein does not eliminate the possible existence of other minds, but he does condone the fact that their presence cannot be known in neutral monism and solipsism.

Since Descartes, the distinction between mind and body existed and cause(s)(d) many philosophical problems. Mind and body are the two things that can possibly be differentiated between each other. Neutral monism defeats this problem because of how the soul is the only substance/material that makes up the universe. In this case, soul includes the relations/states of affairs of mind and body.

It is also stated in neutral monism that appearances of things in the world are the reality at that state of time. If appearances were different from the reality in any state of time, neutral monism could not be the case  and solipsism’s theories would fall apart on the spot.

Through all of the things that have been eliminated in the world to neutralize everything to make a better monism theory and to fit solipsism, hopefully you are able to get a mental picture of what this neutral monist solipsist world is thought to be. Go back to my paper on this website on Spinozistic substance monism where I explain Spinoza’s thoughts about substance, mode and attribute and compare that Godly substance monism with this solipsist neutral monism. In Spinoza’s monism, God is the only substance and it is more complicated because more than just your own perceptions matter to metaphysical existence. In this neutral monism mentioned above, all of the things above are eliminated by philosophers to fit solipsism and neutrality of things. This involves your own soul as the only substance, where only your perceptions are stated to cohere with reality. Nothing beyond your perceptions and sensations can be understood. Comment below which monism you think is correct

Which one is correct in your opinion?

A) Spinozistic Godly substance monism


B) Solipsist neutral monism.

I vote A.

I’d like to propose these things to disprove neutral monism because of what is beyond our own soul’s perceptions. I feel that saying that your own perceptions are all you can know and they are all that can be comprehended is a cop-out in logic and philosophy. Don’t we have logic and philosophy and its fields to explain the world around us beyond our perceptions? What good is philosophy if we cant understand anything beyond our own minds? Also, God is the substance that the universe is made up of and governed by. The soul is  a small tiny being that is a part of the creatum God made. Those who believe in neutral monism do themselves injustices because if we live here, we have the right to find out the realities beyond what we see and understand every day. I crave to understand things I don’t every day. If I was a neutral monist (and probably a solipsist), I would not care to know things outside my own perception unless they had a big relation to my own perceptions.

Post your thoughts below about whether you think monism is neutral like Wittgenstein’s or Godly like Spinoza’s

Go back up on this page to read over Wittgenstein’s justifications for neutral monism and what neutral monism is.

Go to to read about Spinoza’s substance monism. Please vote which monism you think is true.


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