Let’s talk Materialism, a view that I’m quite frequently told is narrow-minded and limiting. Materialism as I’ve come to understand it is a philosophical disposition that holds that matter is the most fundamental substance of nature or reality. In essence; all naturally occurring things, have natural explanations… This reduction of “reality” to a material nature apparently offends those who prefer more theatrical “rationalizations” of all things. Ok, I’m being a bit mean; but allow me to elaborate…..
The Material Problem With Materialism
Materialism like most worldviews is not without its blind spots, and its blind spot, in this case, is bigger than those of its counterparts and, excuse the pun “More Real”, as I shall now explain. The nail in its coffin comes with the fundamental issue of reality itself, or more accurately with our perception of reality. There is a well-known saying that goes, “The Map is not the territory”; consider common experience for a moment, as you, the only avid reader of this blog goes through this riveting and compelling read. You’re currently reading my words from a computer screen, but all the presuppositions you’ve already drawn exist entirely in your mind. The screen itself, if you really think about it, also exists only in your mind. The sensory information is taken from your eyes, but the image much like my words on the screen is formed in your mind, its all an illusion. What you see, is not the screen, it’s actually just a representation of the screen and not a very good one at that, it’s not even the screen as it is… It’s the screen as it was from the time the light took to reach your eyes, and form in your mind. I said mind about 20 times there to adequately blow yours! But I’ll have another go at it, just in case it is not sufficiently blown.
Materialism’s Kryptonite as with many things is also its greatest strength! And that comes to us in the form of a magical concept called “Evidence”. The funny thing is that we don’t actually have a very good grip on reality, this is absolutely comical… Even Evidence gives us materialists very little to hold our worldview as strongly as we often do. Evidence is defined as a body of facts that indicate to us whether or not we can hold a certain belief as reasonably true. Even under situations with the most compelling evidence, you are still required to make the best guestimate as to how closely your evidence describes “The Map”. This leaves us with a gaping hole with respects to our comprehension about what’s really real! Especially where evidence is required, as it is only used when making judgments about things that we cannot directly observe. So the position put to materialists, and quite reasonably so, is: “Who is to say what’s really real?”
Materialism vs Common Experience
The conflict here seems to arise with the extent to which we apply materialistic views in common experience. Most feel that reducing mental connections to the world around us robs these experiences of their essence. At first glance, they always label this as limiting, narrow-minded or disconnected which I find extremely amusing. Many hate the idea of being reduced to mere bodies, or akin to animals which I get quite often. There is a notion that having some kind of spiritual connection to an afterlife or the universe somehow gives it more meaning. People love to describe these things as being outside of space and time (reality), and therefore cannot be explained or understood. But consider this for a moment, how can something be said to exist without the most basic properties of having a place in time and location in space, and what often baffles is that people begin to prescribe very specific properties to these immaterial things like i.e they give it names, and sons and some other colorful characteristics.
There is No Spoon
For materialists this connection already exists and requires no further embellishment because we are in the universe, we part of it, and intricately bound to all its processes… In contrast placing oneself outside of the material world through concepts like transcendent souls, spirit or gods that place us above nature at least conceptually makes us disconnected from the very thing we trying to identify with. Most do this without any consideration for the gaping hole in our understanding of reality. We assert these claims with absolute conviction, often in the gross absence of evidence or in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence. Suspending our critical faculties in this manner puts very attainable and sometimes crucial knowledge outside of our reach. This makes certain branches of Immaterialism more limiting than it so readily accuses materialism to be. There can no greater meaning than have a connection with nature that is grounded in the most accurate approximation of reality available to us. The inherent uncertainty in this proposition, in my opinion, makes it that much more important endeavor to find ever more accurate ways of describing the world around us.