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Difference Between Monism and Dualism



The terms “monism” and “dualism” are philosophical concepts. The discourse of Sanatana Dharma, the dominant Indian philosophy, pivots around these concepts when it comes to describing God, universe, living beings, and their inter-connections. In Western philosophy, monism is discussed in the context of atheism, where there is no God but a supernatural creator of all things. In the context of naturalism, monism accepts only those things as real that can be explained scientifically; belief in God is considered as human construct like love, hatred, etc. Monism states that all the existing things in the universe are created from a singular reality and are reducible to that reality. Accordingly, the fundamental character of the universe is unity. Dualism, on the other hand, advocates existence of two mutually irreducible substances. The terms monism and dualism are also relevant in the context of international law. This article throws light on some of the important differences between the two concepts.


The monistic philosophy holds that there is no difference between self and the supreme creator. Only ignorance creates the impression in mind that they are different, and one of the important objectives of monistic philosophy is to remove this ignorance. Dualists believe that individual self and supreme creator are different.

Oneness of Supreme Soul

Monism advocates that all living beings are created from one supreme soul; and as such, all souls ultimately unify with the supreme soul. This supreme soul consists of time, matter, and spirit. Reincarnation is part of such a process by which the souls are purified before getting unified with the supreme soul. All things visible and invisible are manifestations of this supreme soul. The idea of dualism stands at the opposite pole of monism. In monism, there is one supreme power or soul, and it is distinctly different from souls of living beings. The supreme soul is all powerful, while all living beings are powerless in front of the supreme soul. The monists do not believe that all living beings are created from the supreme soul and would ultimately get united with the supreme soul.

Power of Individual Souls

Monism believes that individual souls are as divine and powerful as the supreme soul, and serving an individual soul is as good as serving the supreme soul. Dualism refuses to accept powerfulness of individual souls. Dualists believe the supreme soul is much more divine and powerful than individual souls, and serving individual souls does not amount to serving the supreme soul.


Monism advocates that everything in the universe is an illusion or maya, as nothing is true other than the supreme soul. According to this concept, anything that is finite, temporal, and needs to be explained by attributes is unreal. Spirit is without attributes and, hence, real. This illusion binds human beings with worldly happiness and sorrows. Dualism, on the other hand, postulates that the universe and all those happenings in the universe are real and not illusion.

Creation of Individual Souls

Monism states that all individual souls are created from the supreme soul (Brahman) and ultimately merge with the supreme soul after death of the individual beings. Dualism, however, does not believe that all individual souls are created from the supreme soul but are dependent on the supreme soul for their existence. The philosophy of dualism divides reality into three parts: sentient entity, insentient entity, and God or the supreme creator. Some of these entities are eternal while others are temporal, but all are real.

International Law

In the context of international law, monism postulates that internal law and international law should be considered as a unified legal system. Some states accept the unified legal system but differentiate between international treaties and other international laws. Such states are partly monist and partly dualist. In a purely monist state, international laws need not be translated into national laws. By ratification of an international law, the law gets automatically incorporated into the internal legal system of the state. Such international law can be applied by a national judge, and citizens of the country can also invoke such law. Under dualism, distinction is made between national law and international law. For such countries, international law does not automatically incorporate into national law; rather, it has to be translated into national law. In a dualist state, a national judge cannot apply international law, nor can citizens invoke it unless it is translated into national law.


  1. Monists believe the individual self is not different from the supreme soul; dualists believe those are different.
  2. Monists believe the supreme soul and individual souls are the same, and individual souls are ultimately unified with the supreme soul; dualists do not subscribe to this view.
  3. Monists believe individual souls are equally divine and powerful as the supreme soul; dualists believe individual souls are powerless before the supreme soul.
  4. Monists believe everything in the universe except the supreme creator is illusion; dualists believe everything in the universe is real, and there is no illusion.
  5. Monists believe every soul is created from the supreme soul; dualists believe individual souls are created by some supernatural power other than the supreme soul.
  6. In the context of the legal system, monists postulate a unified internal and international legal system; dualists prefer distinction between the internal and international legal systems.

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