Uccisore wrote:Materialism. . .is not without consequence. . .I think the most important thing I want to say about materialism is that people don't have to take it for granted- when reductivist claims are made that seem to trivialize the human experience, it's completely reasonable to turn that around and say that since you refuse to believe the human experience is trivial, systems that propose such have an reductio absurdum leveled against them.
This represents a common characterization of materialism, as something that says we are only atoms and energy, thereby trivializing human existence on the macroscopic world, and making 99% of our lives mere illusions. And to be fair, materialism is often presented this way by many of its supporters. However, the characterization is wrong: materialism can function without trivializing life, and without sacrificing the way we experience it. I've used the description before of materialism as an 'addition to', rather than a 'replacement of', our experience of the world. It is the inclusion of levels of description that are often ignored, but that doesn't mean that it must abandon our previous levels of description.
Let me give an example: The experience of pain can be described as an electro-chemical and mechanical process as nerve pulses and brain-states. These can be described as being composed of atoms, which can be described as composed of electrons, and so on down to the lowest level of description of our day. But I have chosen my words carefully: I am not saying that pain actually or just is an electro-chemical and mechanical process, but that the description of pain as such a process is one possible description. On another level, pain is a feeling that I have when I am punched or heart-broken.
What has been detracted? What has been trivialized? The only change that materialism makes to the macro-experience of the world is that it describes it on a different level and requires that the levels of description agree. But that agreement should be expected anyway: if we have a puzzle that forms a picture of a cow, the pieces of the puzzle cannot be of sections of a horse.
Materialism is also disparaged for its inability to explain minds and morals. I find that the paradigm handles those fine, but I would like to point out that it doesn't have to in order to be a complete theory. Materialism is in large part a means of discovering explanations, and not just the sum of the explanations themselves. That method is not refuted if it hasn't explained something, because there is nothing wrong with not knowing something yet (or even not knowing something in principle, as long as the principle can be supported). But, as I said, minds and morals can be at least understood, if not entirely explained, by materialism
Minds: The computer is a powerful analog for the mind. I don't know how my computer works, exactly. I know that there are various parts that come together and exchange information in various ways to make a more or less coherent operating system. The same is true of my brain. I have a skeletal understanding of the systems of my brain and the way that they come together to create a coherent mental 'operating system', my conscious experiece. If I alter or excite my brain, my conscious experience is altered and excited: lobotomies impair certain brain functions; stimulation of various regions induces pleasure or pain or any number of sensations, etc. There is no reason to posit more than the brain to explain the mind.
Morals: Given our understanding of the way that humanity developed, and the mechanics of the thing they developed into, morality as we see it is expected, e.g. muder hurts the tribe, etc. Similar moral predilictions can be seen in our relatives, e.g. Capucin monkeys have a strong sense of fairness is their social dealings. Morality is about survival, as a social individual and as a species.
These are sketchy explanations, it's true, but ultimately they are unnecessary. Materialism is simply the practice of requiring that anyone can discover the same operable truth by a rational explorative process that people use to form beliefs anyway. It relies on the rigorization of that process, and the extension of it to new fields. It creates hypotheses that are practicable, i.e. it makes results that can be experience and verified, and any result that can be verified demands admission into a materialist paradigm.