In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter or energy; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance, and reality is identical with the actually occurring states of energy and matter.

To many philosophers, ‘materialism’ is synonymous with ‘physicalism‘. However, materialists have historically held that everything is made of matter, but physics has shown that gravity, for example, is not made of matter in the traditional sense of “‘an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure, and motion do actually subsist’… So it is tempting to use ‘physicalism’ to distance oneself from what seems a historically important but no longer scientifically relevant thesis of materialism, and related to this, to emphasize a connection to physics and the physical sciences.”[1] Therefore much of the generally philosophical discussion below on materialism may be relevant to physicalism.

Also related to materialism are the ideas of methodological naturalism (i.e. “let’s at least do science as though physicalism is true”) and metaphysical naturalism (i.e. “the physical world is all that exists”).

Contrasting philosophies include idealism, other forms of monism, dualism, and pluralism.

Defining matter

The nature and definition of matter – like other key concepts in science and philosophy – have occasioned much debate.[12] Is there a single kind of matter (hyle) which everything is made of, or multiple kinds? Is matter a continuous substance capable of expressing multiple forms (hylomorphism),[13] or a number of discrete, unchanging constituents (atomism)?[14] Does it have intrinsic properties (substance theory),[15][16] or is it lacking them (prima materia)?

One challenge to the traditional concept of matter as tangible “stuff” came with the rise of field physics in the 19th century. Relativity shows that matter and energy (including the spatially distributed energy of fields) are interchangeable. This enables the ontological view that energy is prima materia and matter is one of its forms. On the other hand, the Standard Model of Particle physics uses quantum field theory to describe all interactions. On this view it could be said that fields are prima materia and the energy is a property of the field.

See Also:

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3 Responses to Materialism/Physicalism

  1. RBM says:

    I had an occasion to have to look this up recently:According to metaphysical realism, the world is as it is independentlyof how humans take it to be. The objects the world contains, togetherwith their properties and the relations they enter into, fix theworld's nature and these objects exist independently of our ability todiscover they do. Unless this is so, metaphysical realists argue, noneof our beliefs about our world could be objectively true since truebeliefs tell us how things are and beliefs are objective when true orfalse independently of what anyone might think. – Standford,eduI called it a 'pig with lipstick' realism.I didn't go through your 'contrasting' links as I've researched this and have found shortcomings in all when it comes to TC's Big Picture.\”On this view it could be said that fields are prima materia and the energy is a property of the field.\”This is what I would loosely call a threshold step to a new level of understanding.

  2. PlatoHagel says:

    In my mind when I thought of the relationship \”of the question you had about a scientist with regard to materialism.\” This was with respect to an individual and the idea that there was no ability for freewill. A person without conscience. It seemed to me to be the idea that such a ability would be absent when held just to the materialistic view?Then I extended this to the idea of the synapse as a AI solution to how materialistic this could have seemed, and thus, the absence of this ability of freewill in a machine?I am always having trouble with this AI notion and the idea that with the increase of computability and such, a quantum prescience then what resource could such a machine hope to garner in its evolution if it cannot access the higher levels of the thinking mind from a humanistic and exploratory point of view? So in a sense, the AI notion is wanting in face of what is presented in terms of the exploration of that consciousness.This is what thought came to mind in regard t what higher level of awareness that we as explorers are capable of while seeing synoptic solutions as redundant pathways, and not new exploratory adventures.

  3. PlatoHagel says:

    Creating the Perfect Human Being or Maybe…..To apply AI notion i an analogical way to the idea of the capacity and capability of the human being with regard to higher levels of awareness, then what do you think you can create physically?

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