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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Faith in Materialism

Paul Campos has written an interesting essay in the Rocky Mountain News. Here is the central point:

Materialism, as a philososphical doctrine, has the great advantage that it reduces the catalog of things that actually exist to those which can be investigated by science. It has the great disadvantage that it requires treating as illusions morality, art, free will, and much else that most people call 'reality.' That, of course, does not make it false. It does, however, make it literally incredible to anyone who hasn't made the leap of faith materialism requires.
I have a few materialist friends and readers. I wonder if any would care to comment on or refute Campos's statement.


Blogger Ghost Dansing said...

Well, Materialism is sometimes allied with the methodological principle of reductionism, according to which the objects or phenomena individuated at one level of description, if they are genuine, must be explicable in terms of the objects or phenomena at some other level of description -- typically, a more general level than the reduced one.

Non-reductive materialism, on the other hand explicitly rejects this notion, however, taking the material constitution of all particulars to be consistent with the existence of real objects, properties, or phenomena not explicable in the terms canonically used for the basic material constituents.

Materialism has also frequently been understood to designate an entire scientific, "rationalistic" world view, particularly by religious thinkers opposed to it and also by Marxists. It typically contrasts with dualism, phenomenalism, idealism, and vitalism.

For Marxism, materialism is central to the "materialist conception of history", which centers on the empirical world of actual human activity (practice, including labor) and institutions created, reproduced, or destroyed by that activity.

Marx's immensely rich and varied politico-theoretical preoccupations were initially influenced by his contact with Hegelian philosophy. Hegel proposed a form of idealism in which the progress of freedom is the guiding theme of human history.

Marx, "stood Hegel on his head," in his own view of his role, by turning the idealistic dialectic into a materialistic one, in proposing that material circumstances shape ideas, instead of the other way around.

Dialectic materialism considers the evolution of matter. Matter evolves by means of its own immutable (a-historical) laws; in society and in the economy this can be seen in the continual dialectics between the development of the productive forces and the production relationships.

Marx illustrated his ideas most prominently by the development of capitalism from feudalism and by the prediction of the development of socialism from capitalism.

Marxism requires capitalism to have exhausted its mechanisms of growth before attaining socialism.

While dialectical materialism has been traditionally associated almost exclusively with Marxism, some claim that the philosophy is applicable to a non-Marxist worldview as well.

There is nothing in either the concept of dialectic as elaborated by Hegel or in materialism itself which requires Marxism. However, Marxism can be seen as a product of its theoretical application.

In essence, materialism answers the fundamental question of philosophy by *asserting* the primacy of the material world: in short, matter precedes thought.

The philosphy decides that which is presented ambiguously by fiat. Insofar as it does this, it requires a leap of faith, because the foundational principle can never itself be demonstrated within the context and application of its own methodology.

And if you believe in Materialism, then you might end up being a Marxist or Capitalist, or something altogether else.

11/29/2005 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous tsykoduk said...

I assume that the 'freinds' comment was aimed in my direction :).

I don't see my self as a materialist. I have a very vibrant spiritual belief structure.

However, I feel that belief and faith is a personal thing, that totally depends on a persons world view. Faith cannot be debated, as it is predicated on personal knowledge that is outside of experience.

Things that are material, that are real, can be debated. We can all agree that grass is green, the sky is blue and when you smash two atoms together at certain speeds and trajectories you will get certain results. These are facts. They can be tested, reproduced, and tested again.

The FSM is not a fact. One cannot 'test' for God. Belief in God is a personal choice that one makes, based on one's belief (and more then likely, upbringing). If we dissect the word Supernatural, we get 'beyond or greater then nature'. Nature is the world of facts, Super nature is the world of mysticism and myth. I tend to work and live in the natural world. :)

11/29/2005 10:33:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

Actually Tsycho you are not one of the people I was thinking about. Although I am unsurprised that you decided to comment :)

11/30/2005 04:37:00 AM  
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