Following my two posts on the subject (I and II), our study reached monism as a critic of dualism.
Originally mono, one, monism believes that we are made of one dimension, either the body (or matter) or the spirit. For monism questions the explanation offered in the dualism spectrum. To a certain extent, dualism is more metaphysical than logical or scientific. In both forms of monism, empiricism is the basic foundation.
So, what are we, and what is the universe, according to monism?
The materialistic monism:
As commonly known, materialism on a larger scale is the matter as foundation. It can cover for example economy as a basis for a political system like Marx’ historical materialism. As much as it can be the physico-chemical analysis of all that exists. Democritus found that any matter is made of atoms. So materialism takes matter as the only explanation.
For decades, medical science considered humans (or any living being) are the result of their genetic heritage, their DNA. Now we know that there is more to that with epigenetics. Western medicine is still somehow biochemical in its diagnostic and prognostic. It all relies on chemical, hormonal and metabolic reactions. Same goes for neuroscience; it studies what is referred to as the mind as a secretion of the brain.
Without digging deeper in materialistic monism, one can observe that its analysis is brutally realistic, all in a causal reaction, which helped science in general to evolve. Scientific empiricism and invention of tools go hand in hand: tools let science became more accurate and precise and science helped tools to be scientific and smart, better known as technology (techné = tools; logy= logos= reason and science).
The more enigmatic is the immaterialist monism.
The immaterialist monism:
Georges Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, “was one of the great philosophers of the early modern period. He was a brilliant critic of his predecessors, particularly Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke. He was a talented metaphysician famous for defending idealism, that is, the view that reality consists exclusively of minds and their ideas. Berkeley’s system, while it strikes many as counter-intuitive, is strong and flexible enough to counter most objections. His most-studied works, the Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (Principles, for short) and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (Dialogues), are beautifully written and dense with the sort of arguments that delight contemporary philosophers. He was also a wide-ranging thinker with interests in religion (which were fundamental to his philosophical motivations), the psychology of vision, mathematics, physics, morals, economics, and medicine. Although many of Berkeley’s first readers greeted him with incomprehension, he influenced both Hume and Kant” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
As an early empiricist himself, Berkeley’s theory was about the spirit/the mind and not the matter. In a counter-intuitive objection to his contemporary philosophers and peers, he believed that matter in itself is unknown. We know what exists through our perception. Had we perceived things differently, we would’ve had a different knowledge. To Berkeley we are a mind. Not that he denies the existence of outside matter nor our own body, but all our knowledge of them is perception based and subjective.
The influence of Berkeley nowadays, to a certain extent, would be epigenetics or how we perceive and interact with the outside phenomenons. To extrapolate a bit, the yogic philosophy is more about energy, perception, chakras and meditation.
In conclusion, what is the mind body connection? Does the mind control the body or is it the other way around? Let’s say that one won’t work without the other; they are both in a complete fusion. This is where psychosomatic explanation comes into hand: if my mind is not ok, my body will react; also, if I am sick, my mind won’t be alert. The importance of this very old dilemma of the mind vs. the body is not only for the sake of knowledge but for ethical treatment. It’s not about who is right and who is wrong; it is about perception, perspective and action.