In Western civilization, materialism is the oldest philosophical tradition. It reached its full classical form in the atomism of Democritus and Epicurus in the 4th century BCE.
Epicurus argued that reality consisted of invisible and indivisible particles of free-falling matter called atoms randomly colliding in the void. Through materialism everything that happens is explained in terms of the law of nature. Basically materialism is the idea that everything that exists is material, or physical. Many philosophers believe that something is material, if and only if it is spatial, extended in space.In Descartes’ Meditation II, his view is that everything that is extended in space exists, anything else does not. Nothing exists but matter in motion. Materialists would agree that spirits, angel, ghosts, etc, do not exist.
Materialism has been atheistic. This is a consequence of its premises. The belief that immaterial things do not exist, lead to believe that there is no God. If they were to be referenced to, they would be described strictly in the terms of nature.
Materialism is not an empirical philosophy. It rests on assumptions that are metascientific not metaphysical in the Aristotelian sense.The assumptions of materialism reached beyond empirical science, though never beyond physical reality.
Materialism can be said to conform to three theses: “(a) The identification thesis: Mind is identified as nothing more than physical states and processes of the brain and central nervous system. (b) The explanation thesis: All human and animal behavior is best and more fully explained by physicalistic interpretations “that is, through neurochemistry and neurophysiology. (c) The exclusion thesis: There are no powers or properties of the mind that no physical object or system can possess. “There are different forms of materialism. Materialists have always had a hard time explaining how materialism accounts for such phenomena as thoughts, beliefs, desires, intentions, and sensory experiences. The three most common forms are non-reductive materialism, reductive materialism, and eliminative materialism.
The most advanced form of materialism is non-reductive materialism. This type of materialism affirms that psychological properties can be exemplified even in an immaterial world. Mental states are not reducible to physical states.
The nature of a mental state is determined by its relation to environmental stimuli, other mental states, and behavioral outputs. This materialism relies on the interaction of two primary causal attributions: “(a) Physical causations and (b) environmental determinism. This position insists that the human being is, in Aristotelian terminology, the conglomeration of material and efficient causes: Mind is cause by matter or physical substance it is made of and is causally affected by the material forces that constitute the flux of environmental events. ” Basically the physical causes all metal events.And certain environmental conditions cause the organism to respond to a stimulus. There is a stimulus and then a response, which includes changes in brain states, etc, which then causes changes within an organism. Non-reductive materialists acknowledge difficulty in accounting for certain aspects of mental reality and leave open the possibility for psychical interpretations of mental events that exist and manifest apart from or are at least co-extensive with physical brain processes.
There is no such things as non-reductive materialism: It is merely a myth. The burden of proof lies on the shoulders of those materialists who wish to account for freedom within an entirely materialist framework. “” Reductive materialism states that mental states exist and each mental state is identical to a type of physical state of the brain. Mental properties and/or states are reduced to or identical to brain properties and/or states. The mind is reducible to natural processes that can be translated into the language of math and physics.
Neuronal networks are computing mechanisms that effortlessly transform multi-dimensional vectors of one kind of mathematical value into other vectors of mathematical value. It is theorized, that an array of neuronal networks transforms the values of visual space into those of motor space by means of a mathematical tensor or formula, that that translates the multi-dimensional coordinates, or vectors, or visual space, into the vectors of motor space. Most reductive materialists agree that theory of mathematical transformations is one of the most promising explanations we have of how our brains work.
Eliminative materialism states that our common sense mentalistic, understanding of ourselves, and most of the scientific psychology based upon it are false. A proper theory will be developed by advancing neuroscience, and will no longer contain common sense mentalistic categories, but will introduce a new theory of our cognitive architecture and activities. Monism is the belief in one basic ontological category. It is used to discuss the mind-body problem. Philosophers that acknowledge only the mind are idealists or mentalists and philosophers who acknowledge the body are materialists.
Substantial monists, such as Spinoza, maintain that everything is part of a single substance. Attributive monists, state that although there are many distinct substances, they are all attributes of one type of stuff. Science eliminates the mental altogether. It removes any problems of relatedness between mind and body by eliminating the spiritual all together. Thus, mental states are reduced to brain states, leaving only the bodily realm.
Dualism is the belief that there are two ontological categories. Dualism states that you must have both of the components in questions, rather than one or the other.Thomas Hyde coined the concept of dualism in the beginning of the eighteenth century. There is an area created between the two opposing elements, and dualists have a problem explaining this.
Descartes tried to connect the two by claiming the pineal gland is the point of contact between the bodily and spiritual realm. Parallelism contends that the mind and body interact independently of one another. Therefore there is no interaction. Epiphenomenalism states there are only a one-way casual connection from the body to the mind, but none from the mind to the body.Consciousness is just a byproduct of the body. The mind-brain problem refers to the question of whether or not human consciousness is reducible to scientific laws. Materialists who said that it was were known as identity theorists.
They thought that the mind is identical to the brain in all aspects. Other materialists known as property dualists, functionalist, or supervenience theorists challenged them. These challengers had a common belief that in some way human consciousness was irreducible to or inexplicable in terms of natural processes.They stated the idea that qualia (subjective, qualitative properties of mental states such as emotions and sensations), is unique to each individual person.
They thought that such properties of consciousness as qualia could be described in terms of physical science or represented by the laws of nature. Eliminative and reductive materialists argue that qualia, “or the private feels of one’s own experience, are no more incorrigible – no more infallibly known by the individual – that one’s experience of the external world. One’s body and brain is just as likely to misrepresent internal as external experience.
“Rene Descartes was one philosopher that dealt with the mind-body problem. Descartes thought that the mind and body are two separate things. The mind and body do not need any reference to each other. At one point Descartes cannot accept his own dualism. He said “nature teaches me by these sensations of pain, hunger, thirst, etc. , that I am very closely united to it – With this uncertainty, Descartes could not reach a final conclusion.
He is clear on the fact that he is a thinking unextended thing, and also an extended unthinking thing. He states the certain difference between mind and body.The body has parts, while the mind is not divisible into parts. Finally he came to the conclusion that the mind is different from the body, even if he previously thought otherwise. Hylomorphism is a compound word composed of the Greek terms for matter (hule) and form or shape (morphe). Aristotle introduces the soul as the form of the body, which in turn is said to be the matter of the soul.
In understanding hylomorphism, one needs to understand Aristotle’s four causes. The four causes are 1. Formal- what is it? 2. Material- what is it made out of? 3. Efficient- By what was it made? 4.
Find- the “end- for which it was made.Aristotle summarized his four causes by saying that “all things that come to be come to be by some agency and from something, and come to be something. “” Aristotle said that the soul is an essential form. He applied his notion of hylomorphism to soul-body relations. He thought that we should expect some feature of the soul and body to be common in both. Even if one and being a spoken of in several ways, what is properly so spoken of is the actuality.
Aristotle did not ask questions concerning the unity of soul and body as meaningless; he just felt that they are readily answered or unimportant.He did not insist that the soul and body are identical, or even that they are one in some weaker sense, this is something he evidently denies. He stated that we should not think that the soul survives the demise of the body. Aristotle claims that “it is not unclear that the soul or certain parts of it, if it naturally has partsis not separable from the body. “” Unless we are able to treat forms in general as capable of existing without their material bases, we should not be inclined to treat souls as an exception case.Materialism has many definitions and also many forms. Many materialists have a basic common definition of materialism, but have different view in other areas.
I think it is near impossible to reach a final definition of materialism. There are many different terms needed to understand materialism, such as monism, dualism, and qualia. One issue in materialism is the mind-body problem. Different materialists have different views on this problem. Aristotle’s hylomorphism can be connected to materialism, and the mind-body problem.