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[mon-iz-uh m, moh-niz-uh m] /ˈmɒn ɪz əm, ˈmoʊ nɪz əm/
  1. (in metaphysics) any of various theories holding that there is only one basic substance or principle as the ground of reality, or that reality consists of a single element.
    Compare dualism (def 2), pluralism (def 1a).
  2. (in epistemology) a theory that the object and datum of cognition are identical.
    Compare pluralism (def 1b).
the reduction of all processes, structures, concepts, etc., to a single governing principle; the theoretical explanation of everything in terms of one principle.
the conception that there is one causal factor in history; the notion of a single element as primary determinant of behavior, social action, or institutional relations.
Origin of monism
From the German word Monismus, dating back to 1860-65. See mon-, -ism
Related forms
monist, noun
[muh-nis-tik, moh-] /məˈnɪs tɪk, moʊ-/ (Show IPA),
monistical, adjective
monistically, adverb
nonmonist, noun
nonmonistic, adjective
nonmonistically, adverb
unmonistic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for monistic
Historical Examples
  • To the unity of enthusiasm corresponds the unity of the world, the monistic feeling.

    mile Verhaeren Stefan Zweig
  • Milton is the least mystical, the least pantheistic, the least monistic, of all writers.

    Visions and Revisions John Cowper Powys
  • He entitles one of his little works "monistic Thought," but shows himself on its pages as a very unclear dualist.

  • The monistic congress at Hamburg in 1911 had a success which surprised its promoters.

  • Still, as a "dualistic" process it is very significant with reference to the monistic theory.

  • We all have some ear for this monistic music: it elevates and reassures.

    Pragmatism William James
  • They led him direct to monism and to an admiration of Spinoza's monistic pantheism.

    The Wonders of Life Ernst Haeckel
  • Aristotle's system may be called theistic and dualistic; Plotinus's is pantheistic and monistic.

  • Yet, this is the result which the monistic tendency of modern thought has reached.

    Nineteenth Century Questions James Freeman Clarke
  • Nevertheless, I regard the monistic theory as in the last degree improbable.

    Nineteenth Century Questions James Freeman Clarke
British Dictionary definitions for monistic


(philosophy) the doctrine that the person consists of only a single substance, or that there is no crucial difference between mental and physical events or properties Compare dualism (sense 2) See also materialism (sense 2), idealism (sense 3)
(philosophy) the doctrine that reality consists of an unchanging whole in which change is mere illusion Compare pluralism (sense 5)
the epistemological theory that the object and datum of consciousness are identical
the attempt to explain anything in terms of one principle only
Derived Forms
monist, noun, adjective
monistic, adjective
monistically, adverb
Word Origin
C19: from Greek monos single + -ism
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for monistic



"the philosophical doctrine that there is only one principle," 1862, from Modern Latin monismus, from Greek monos "alone" (see mono-). First used in German by German philosopher Baron Christian von Wolff (1679-1754).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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monistic in Culture
monism [(moh-niz-uhm, mon-iz-uhm)]

A position in metaphysics that sees only one kind of principle whereas dualism sees two. On the question of whether people's minds are distinct from their bodies, for example, a monist would hold either that mental conditions are essentially physical conditions (materialism), or that bodies depend on minds for their existence (idealism).

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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