DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC098-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved March 03, 2024, from

1. Materialism

Materialism is the general theory that the ultimate constituents of reality are material or physical bodies, elements or processes. It is a form of monism in that it holds that everything in existence is reducible to what is material or physical in nature. It is opposed to dualistic theories which claim that body and mind are distinct, and directly antithetical to a philosophical idealism that denies the existence of matter. It is hostile to abstract objects, if these are viewed as more than just a manner of speaking (see Abstract objects). An implication of materialism is that the diverse qualitative experiences we have are ultimately reducible to quantitative changes in objects or in our physiological functioning. All the properties of things, including persons, are reducible to properties of matter. Although the terms referring to psychic states such as intention, belief, desire and consciousness itself have a different sense and use than terms referring to material events, a consistent materialist would deny that mentalistic terms have reference to anything other than physical events or physiological changes in our brains. The enormous advances in the sciences have contributed storehouses of empirical data that are often used to support materialism. Many philosophers have been attracted to materialism both because of its reductive simplicity and its association with scientific knowledge.

Citing this article:
Stack, George J.. Materialism. Materialism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC098-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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