Non-Dualism in Context - Introduction
The title of this series of classes is 'Non-Dualism in Context', and we should begin by saying what we mean by this, as 'non-dualism' is a piece of terminology widely used in different ways by different people. Non-Dualism is usually defined in contrast with the philosophical position of dualism, where reality is conceived in terms of opposed or distinct types of being. For example: Spirit/Matter (Christianity), Mind/Matter (Cartesianism), Form/Substance (Platonism), Universal/Particular (Hegelianism), etc. The difficulty with many of these systems is defining the nature, difference and relationship between these modes of being, as well as their association to being itself, which is seen as dual, or bifurcated in its constitution. This project gives rise to a number of conceptual problems, which are reconciled by the positing of some kind of monistic, unitary or non-dual position. This conceptual pattern repeats itself in human thought again and again in many different cultural and historical contexts. It will be the purpose of this series of talks to examine these particular instantiations in their historical aspect, that is to say "in context", to discover the common, and divergent, facets of a common idea.
Non-Dualism is often thought of as an Eastern philosophical idea. However, the Western philosophical tradition also contains the concept. Therefore, while this series will not limit itself to a Western setting, our focus will often be on this domain. We will attempt to trace the thread of non-dualism as a conceptual strategy as it works its way through the great dialog of the human philosophical project. We will be concerned to delineate both similarities and differences in approach and we will be interested in surveying our terrain to maintain a close analytical reading of specific representative texts from a critical perspective.