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Materialism

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Metaphyscs- What is Really Real!

What is Reality?

Do mind and matter exist?

Are we just lumps of matter?

Next: Is everything mind?

Do I really create my universe?

What's in a Name?

 

Last modified on: 27-Sep-98.
Copyright 1998 ,,
All Rights Reserved.

    "There was a faith-healer of Deal
Who said, Although pain isn’t real,
If I sit on a pin
And it punctures my skin,
I dislike what I fancy I feel."
- Anon.

There is no mind!

Materialists say that mind is really matter. Our thoughts are, according to them, electrical or chemical things occurring in the brain. Our thoughts are just as material as objects in our world. So when I think of a 'cat' then this thought is just some chemical and electrical event  in my brain. That is, a material thing.

Experience tells us that chemicals can change the way we think. Ever been drunk? Ever seen someone drunk? Clearly chemicals can affect the mind. And medicines can help people with depression or schizophrenia, or at least they change their thinking processes. So experience tells us that what we call physical things - alcohol and drugs - can affect our thinking (which is supposed to be non-material.) There are, therefore, powerful reasons to think that our mental processes are merely chemical events in our brains.

Of course, there are problems with this idea. Suppose I am looking at a 'cat' and a scientist has electrodes in my brain and recording my brain events as I look at the cat. When I am seeing this  image of the cat, the scientist is recording chemical and electrical events in my brain.

How can a pinch of brain chemicals look like a cat?

However, the image I am experiencing and the chemical and electrical events in my brain appear quite different (a pinch of brain chemicals never looks like a cat! Nor does a sine wave!) So how can we say images and brain events are the same? (Of course, we cannot.)

Although the scientist might set up a tv and watch the image, he, too, because he or she is human,  is watching, not the light and the meters measuring the electricity and chemicals, but an image of these in his or her own brain! (Whether it is possible for scientists to monitor and understand thought or not, is not considered here. It is, however,  almost certain that it cannot be done. If it cannot be done, however, it strengthens the belief that thoughts aren't brain events.)

Because of these and other problems, some scientists try to save materialism by denying that we really have images and that our experience of images is just, well, a mistake on our parts. When I have the image of a cat, I am mistaken! However, whether we really see an image or whether we imagine we do, then in both cases we are still having the experience of experiencing an image (a mental event.) So this theory  that we don't have images is really a cop out! (The psychologist Watson and his followers, for example, denied mental events.) Their experiments that show our behavioural responses to images is different from our behavioural responses to the real object, show that the image and the object are different, not that we don't have images (otherwise, what were they studying!)

If this and similar arguments are correct, then materialism doesn't make sense. And it is therefore not true that everything is matter.

This type of materialism is also morally repugnant. If I have the thought of taking my granny some flowers, or whether I have the thought of murdering her, then both thoughts are just chemical-electrical events in the brain. The lump of chemical and electricity which occurs when I think of murder cannot be more moral than the lump when I think of taking flowers! One pinch of salt can't be more moral than any other pinch! It would, to follow this reasoning,  be no worse to do murder, than to give flowers!

I believe this moral question is a powerful argument against materialism (Even though it appears only to be a protest!)

So if we do not have mind and matter, and we do not have all matter, then there is only one thing left!

Mind is all there is!


Last modified on: 27-Sep-98.
Copyright 1998 ,

All Rights Reserved.

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