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Materialism

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Materialism is a dominant philosophy in the atheistic worldview stipulating that the universe is made up of only matter. There is no other substance in space-time reality, there is only the external world empirically derived. Everything from psychological to mental states or thoughts within the mind, to causes and effects and actions or activities of human beings, they are completely physical and material at the fundamental level. This can be characterized as a belief in eternal matter instead of an eternal God posited by theism, that is, impersonal matter is all there ever was and is.

The prominent evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin candidly stated the following about materialism in the philosophy of science as well as the general attitude of the materialist view:

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfil many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.[1]

Contents

Types of Materialism

Reductive Materialism

There are two types of reductive materialism, they are the identity theory and functionalism. Each attempt to describe the mind or mental states in non-mental terms. The materialist philosophy underpinning neuroscience carries over into a general philosophy of science regarding the mind-brain (mind-body) problem so that materialism informs both the science and neuroscience of identity theorists.

Identity theory

It is the identity theory that posits thoughts and mental states are merely products of neurophysiology. Everything the identity theorist believes is determined solely by neurons firing in the brain. This is true regarding any type of mental thought, like if you think planes can fly, or if you think that there is a Disneyland in Florida. Where in the brain neurons are active at the very moment a person processes the mental thoughts is a formed identity. Identity theorists are committed to the fact that as science, specifically neuroscience progresses it will only reveal stronger connections within the relationship of mental states and the brain, which is essentially what they have been arguing philosophically for many years.

The identities are understood through analogy and other constructive tools within language and they are thought of as metaphysically necessary (See: Metaphysics) according to identity theorists.[2]

Evolution

Materialism posits a material explanation for all phenomena. In the context of evolutionism, materialism seeks to find a physical and naturalistic explanation for the the existence of the universe in its current state.

Materialism is always at least subconsciously present in evolutionism, being in fact the very heart of naturalistic evolutionism. Mankind has had a bent toward this philosophy ever since the Garden, but it was only with the popularization of the evolutionary model of origins that it has been widely perceived as a legitimate viewpoint.

Implications

Materialism offers no real hope. Malcolm Forbes said "He who dies with the most toys wins," but found that "He who dies with the most toys" still dies. Other materialists seek to live for the day: "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die" is about the best a materialist can do.[Reference needed] A man's life is not the sum of his possessions. Even with throwing his body into the equation, materialism still doesn't add up.

References

  1. Lewontin, Richard. Billions and Billions of Demons, New York Review (9 January 1997): p 31.
  2. John W. Carroll and Ned Markosian, An Introduction to Metaphysics (Cambridge University Press 2010), pg. 146. It states: "It is important to keep in mind something that is extraordinary about IT identifications/reductions of the mental to the neurophysiological. They are taken to be necessarily true, i.e., true in all possible worlds."

See Also

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