The Thirty Theses Of Monism

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I.—Theoretical Monism

1. Monistic Philosophy. The unitary conception of the world is based solely upon the solid ground of scientific knowledge acquired by human reason through critical experience.

2. Empiricism. This empirical knowledge is attained partly by sense observations on the external world and partly by conscious reflection on our mental internal world.

3. Revelation. In opposition to this monistic theory of knowledge is the prevailing dualistic conception of the world, that the most profound and important truths can be gained through supernatural or divine revelation. All such ideas are due either to obscure and uncritical dogmas or pious frauds.

4. Apriorism. Equally untenable is the assertion of Kantian metaphysics that some knowledge is acquired a priori independent of any experience.

5. Cosmological Monism. The world is one great whole, a cosmos, ruled by fixed laws.

6. Cosmological Dualism. The idea that there are two worlds, one material or natural and the other spiritual or supernatural, arises from ignorance, cloudy thinking, and mystical tradition.

7. Biophysics. Biology is only a part of the all-embracing physical science and living beings are under the same laws as inorganic matter.

8. Vitalism. The so-called "vital force", which is still believed by some to direct and control physical and chemical processes in the organism, is just as fictitious as a "cosmical intelligence."

9. Genesis. Organic beings and inorganic nature alike have been developed by one great process of evolution through an unbroken chain of transformations causally connected. Part of this universal process of evolution is directly perceptible; its beginning and end are unknown to us.

10. Creation. The idea that a personal creator made the world out of nothing and embodied his creative thought in the form of organisms must be abandoned. Such an anthropomorphic creator exists as little as does a "moral world order" ordained by him or a "divine providence."

11. Theory of Descent. That all existing beings are the transformed descendants of a long series of extinct organisms developed in the course of millions of years is proved by comparative anatomy, ontogeny, and paleontology. This biogenetic transformation is established whether we explain it by selection, mutation, or any other theory.

12. Archigony. When the earth's crust had cooled sufficiently, organic life came into existence through the katalysis of colloidal compounds of carbon and nitrogen in the form of structureless plasma globules (Monera) represented to-day by the Chromoceæ.

13. Plasmic Metabolism. The innumerable forms of plant and animal life arose from the ceaseless transformation of the living substance in which the most important factors are the physiological functions of variation and heredity.

14. Phytogeny. All plants and animals form a single genealogical tree rooted in the Monera.

15. Anthropogeny. The position of man in nature is now fully understood. He has all the characteristics of the vertebrates and mammals and developed out of this class in the later tertiary period.

16. Pithecoid Theory. Man is most nearly related to the tailless apes, but is not descended from any of the existing forms. On the contrary, the common ancestors of all the anthropoid apes and man are to be looked for in the earlier extinct species of old world apes (Pithecanthropus).

17. Athanism. The soul consists of the totality of cerebral functions. This soul or thought organ in man, a certain area of the cerebral cortex, acts in accordance with the same laws of psychophysics as in the other mammals. This function of course ceases at death, so it is nowadays utterly absurd to believe in "the personal immortality of the soul."

18. Indeterminism. The human will, like all other functions of the brain (sensation, imagination, ratiocination), is dependent upon the anatomy of this organ and is necessarily determined by the inherited and acquired characteristics of the individual brain. The old doctrine of "free will" is therefore seen to be untenable and must give way to the opposite doctrine of determinism.

19. God. If by this ambiguous term is understood a personal "Supreme Being", a ruler of the cosmos who, after the manner of men, thinks, loves, generates, rules, rewards, punishes, etc., such an anthropomorphic God must be relegated to the realm of the mystical fiction, no matter whether this personal God be invested with a human form or regarded as an invisible spirit or as a "gaseous vertebrate." For modern science the idea of God is tenable only so far as we recognize in this "God" the ultimate unknowable cause of things, the unconscious hypothetical "first cause of substance."

20. Law of Substance. The older chemical law of the conservation of matter (Lavoisier, 1789) and the more recent physical law of the conservation of energy (Mayer, 1842) were later (1892) by our Monism united into a single great universal law, for we recognized matter and energy (body and spirit) as inseparable attributes of substance (Spinoza).

II.—Practical Monism

21. Sociology. The culture which has raised the human race high above the other animals and given it dominion over the earth depends upon the rational cooperation of men in society with a thoroughgoing division of labor and the mutual interdependence of the laboring classes. The biological foundations of society are already perceptible among the gregarious animals (especially the primates). Their herds and groups are kept together by the social instinct (hereditary habits).

22. Constitution and Laws. The rational arrangement of society and its regulation by laws can be attained by various forms of government, the chief object of which is a just Nomocracy, the establishment of a secular power based upon justice. The laws which limit the freedom of the citizen for the good of society should be based solely upon the national application of natural science, not upon venerable tradition (inherited habits).

23. Church and Creed. On the other hand, all means should be used to fight the hierarchy which cloaks the secular power with a spiritual mantle and makes use of the credulity of the ignorant masses to further its selfish aims. The confessional obligation as a particular form of superstition is especially to be attacked, since it only serves to evoke the distinction between those of other beliefs. The desirable separation of Church and State is to be accomplished in such a way that the State leaves equally free all forms of belief while restricting their practical encroachments. The spiritual power (Theocracy) must always be subordinate to the secular government (Nomocracy).

24. Papistry. The strongest hierarchy which to-day exercises spiritual domination over the greater part of the civilized world is papistry or ultramontanism. Although this mighty political organization stands in sharp contradiction with the original pure form of Christianity and wrongfully employs its insignia to obtain power, it nevertheless finds strong support even from its natural opponents, the secular princes. In the inevitable Kulturkampf against papistry it is, above all, necessary to abrogate by law its three strongest supports, the celibacy of the clergy, auricular confession, and the sale of indulgences. These three dangerous and immoral institutions of the neo-Catholic church are foreign to original Christianity. So also is the strengthening of superstitions dangerous to society through the cult of miracles (Lourdes, Marpingen) and of relics (Aix la Chapelle, Trèves) to be prevented by law.

25. Monistic Religion. If we understand by religion, not a superstitious cult and irrational creed, but the elevation of the mind through the noblest gifts of art and science, then Monism forms a "bond between religion and science" (1892). The three ideals of this rational monistic religion are truth, virtue, and beauty. In all civilized states it is the duty of the representatives of the people to see that the monistic religion is officially recognized and its equal rights with other confessions assured.

26. Monistic Ethics. The rational ethics which forms a part of this monistic religion is derived, according to our modern theory of evolution, from the social instincts of the higher animals, not from a dogmatic "categorical imperative" (Kant). Like all of the higher gregarious animals, man strives to attain the natural equilibrium between the two different obligations, the behest of egoism and the behest of altruism. The ethical principle of the "Golden Rule" has expressed this double obligation twenty-five hundred years ago in the maxim: "Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you."

27. Monistic Schools. In most civilized countries, and especially in Germany, the instruction of youth in upper and lower grades is still largely bound in fetters which the scholastic tradition of the Middle Ages has retained to the present day. Only the complete separation of Church and school can loose these fetters. The prevailing confessional or dogmatic religious instruction is to be replaced by comparative religious history and monistic ethics. The influence of the clergy of any confession is to be removed from the school. The inevitable school reform must be accomplished upon the basis of modern natural science. The greater part of education should be devoted, not to the study of the classical language and history, but to the various branches of natural science, especially anthropology and evolution.

28. Monistic Education. Since the sound development of the soul (as a function of the cerebral cortex) is closely connected with that of the rest of the organism, the monistic education of youth, free from the dogmatic teachings of the Church, must strive to upbuild soul and body equally from earliest youth. Daily gymnastics, baths and exercises, walks and tours, must develop and strengthen the organism from early youth. Observation and love of nature will be thus awakened and intensified. Through public libraries, continuation schools, and popular monistic lectures will the more advanced be provided with mental nourishment.

29. Monistic Culture. The admirable height of culture which mankind in the nineteenth century has attained, the astonishing progress of science and its practical applications in technology, industry, medicine, etc., gives grounds for expecting a still greater development of culture in the twentieth century. This desirable progress will then however be possible only if the beaten paths of the traditional dogmas and of clerical superstition be abandoned and a rational monistic knowledge of nature attain the mastery instead.

30. The Monistenbund. In order to spread the natural unitary theory of the universe to the widest circles and to realize practically the beneficent fruits of theoretical monism, it is desirable that all efforts in this direction find a common point of application through the founding of individual monist societies. In this universal monist association not only all free thinkers and all adherents of the monistic philosophy find place, but also free congregations, ethical societies, and free religious associations, etc., which recognize pure reason as the only rule of their thought and action and not belief in traditional dogma and pretended revelations.


This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.