Joined: April 2006
|Quote (eddiep @ April 04 2007,09:43)|
|I hope it's ok to start a new topic even if you've only been a lurker for a long time. If not, sorry!|
Over on Pharyngula, Sastra posted:
|A clumsy, childlike understanding of "materialism" argues that anything which is not clearly made of matter and energy can't be accounted for. Thus, a "materialist" can't believe in abstractions, concepts, numbers, feelings, processes, thoughts, minds -- anything which can't be easily measured,weighed, and carried around in a hand. If he or she does, they're presumably contradicting themselves.|
( Pharyngula, comment 31)
I hope I don't come off as a concern troll, this is just an issue I've been interested in for a long time. I'm interested in your opinions. I've gained a lot of respect for the regulars here, and and professional or even amateur opinions on this topic are welcome.
Specifically, how do we account for those things that are not made up of matter and energy? Or does that questions contain an incorrect premise in the first place?
Consider Poincare's comment that "Science is facts; just as houses are made of stones, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house and a collection of facts is not necessarily science." His point was that it's not only ingredients that matter, but also the relationship between them
I think the same idea is how we deal with abstract concepts. Materialism- though I would prefer to call it naturalism, or realism- allows for not only matter and energy, but also relationships between entities made of matter and energy.
Digression- I should note that the "matter and energy" card is a straw man anyway- time, space, charge, spin etc. are perfectly realistic and are not matter/energy.
Anyway- once you allow relationships between "material" things then you get the semi-abstract ideas of length, duration etc.
All of our ideas, even the most abstract, are ultimately patterns of brain activity, and perfectly physical/natural as far as we can tell, so our ideas are physically instantiated. Concepts like truth, in turn, I think are about the relationship between statements and reality, which in turn is about congruence between a mental model of the world and an observation of the world, which again comes down to brain activity.
Anyway, materialism/naturalism for me is simply the idea that the real world is in fact real and not haunted by leprechauns. If you meet a real leprechaun then he gets to be part of the real world too :)