Monism, Pluralism, Dualism?

I’d like to return to the question of keeping space open for the harmonious coexistence of a kind of monism, a kind of pluralism, and a kind of dualism at different levels of interpretation in the development pursued here.

At the level of the whole field of potential attributions of agency and responsibility, I’d like to foster the normative monism or monism of expression that I have attributed to Brandom. This seems to have the resources to translate any given empirical, factual content into the expressive terms of a transcendental normative evaluation. Here, everything that is expressible in any way whatsoever becomes expressible in ethical terms. The meaning of the monism in question has to do mainly with a kind of completeness of coverage in overcoming the subject-object dichotomy, not a lack of differentiation. Also, the complete field will include many overlapping attributions, so we should not expect it to have a univocal interpretation. So, in these ways, this monism is not incompatible with a pluralism after all.

At the level of detailed actual processes of evaluation of what is right and true, “monism” — or, more properly, unity of apperception — is only a guiding end that must be applied to a constantly moving target, so a unity that is momentarily achieved may partially unravel again. (See Error.) Also, there may be more than one sound interpretation of the “same” content under evaluation, and multiple explanations may yield complementary insight. The aimed-at “monism” here has to do mainly with a kind of coherence subject to all these caveats, so it is even more pluralistic.

At the level of an adequate account of the many aspects of subjectivity and experience, I want to be careful to preserve a broadly Kantian distinction between empirical and transcendental elements, while modeling their relation on the broadly Aristotelian relation of “first nature” to second nature. In Kant’s own presentation, the empirical/transcendental distinction has a dualistic appearance, but the first-nature/second-nature distinction I want to map it to involves a kind of emergence of second nature from first nature, rather than a dualism.

Previously, I resorted to programming language metaphors of compilation and “lifting” — and a distinction between operational and expressive equivalence — to help describe the relations between first and second nature in a way that would resolve the tension between my monistic claim and the distinction I want to maintain. (See Bookkeeping; Layers.) I’m still pondering the implications of such a metaphorical application of concepts from a formal domain to things that are after all not formal. While I still find that interesting, I think the above sketch might be sufficient to assuage concerns of overall consistency without it.