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Metaphysical Alternatives

Reality, this incredible existence we find ourselves in, and a part of, could be explained in different ways.  These different explanations are different ways of answering the so-called ultimate questions of the meaning of existence.  There are innumerable such possible metaphysical paradigms, or ways of thinking about or understanding the nature of Reality.  And of course each person thinks that their chosen paradigm is the right one.  But even the most treasured explanations have many shortcomings and internal contradictions.  So why should one be preferred over the others?  Why be a Christian rather than a Sceptic, or vice-versa?  It would be impossible to review all possible metaphysical alternatives.  But for the sake of simplicity, six primary ones can be selected, as a sort of sequence from less to more all-encompassing: Materialism, Dualism, Holism, Monism, Emanationism, and Dramaturgism

Agnosticism - sort of an openminded non-commital approach to Materialism and Dualism (not really a metaphysical alternative)

Materialism (including conventional, soft Scepticism) is the opinion that only the physical is real, and the denial of all supra-physical or spiritual dimensions of existence

Dualism believes that both physical and spiritual are real and distinct

Holism, a compromise between the two, asserts that both spirit and matter are real and interdependent

Monism claims that only the one Absolute Reality behind all phenomena (physical or spiritual) is real

Emanationism teaches a chain of creation from an original source (A creates B, B creates C, etc), so that all phenomena are real, and constitute a specific sequence of manifestation from spiritual to material (the "Great Chain of Being")

Dramaturgism adds to Emanationism a dynamic temporal dimension by envisaging the cosmos or creation as a process of unfolding, usually proceeding from an original descent or Fall, through the present imperfect state to an eventual spiritual Redemption or transformation

Thus, although all the paradigms are valid in that each gives a particular vision or understanding of reality the later paradigms (in this list) are more all-embracing and comprehensive than the preceding ones, and can thus be considered a further advance towards an overall rep-resentation of Reality

So Materialism recognises at least the external reality, and is thus better than Hard Scepticism which denies all understanding; Dualism (or Religion) adds to that a psychic and spiritual dimension; Holism defines the interrelationship between the two; Pluralism indicates the multiplicity of existence; Monism (or Mysticism) points the consciousness to that Absolute which is the common unity behind that multiplicity, and equally beyond spirit and matter; Emanationism shows how all these different realities - and many more as well - tie together, with their origin in the One Absolute; and Dramaturgism presents a dynamic sequence of events, the unfolding of phenomenal reality.

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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 7 April 1999; last modified 20 August, 2004, by WF.