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  1. #1
    philosopher wood nymph greenfairy's Avatar
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    Default Materialism/Dualism/Idealism

    What are your opinions?

    More importantly, I have discovered that philosophers don't really have a clear distinction between what is material and what is immaterial, so fundamentally they don't really know what they are talking about. Matter is to some extent only an illusion, since every "thing" is made up of atoms, which are about 90% or more empty space, and the subatomic particles are essentially energy. So matter=energy in a sense. Which is confirmed by the fact that light has both particle and wave like qualities depending on the circumstances. So really all that exists is energy and space. Is energy "material"? If so, then everything is material- but that would make explanations for all sorts of things plausible, like psychic phenomena, on the premise that everything is energy, things that many "materialists" deny. If everything that exists is energy and void, and energy is material (that is, physical), could anything exist that was immaterial? States of matter (i.e. energy) appear to be on a continuum based on the energy that the constituent molecules possess- rather than a material distinction. So is everything material, immaterial, or are these simply arbitrary distinctions based on human conceptualization?

    This is going to be the topic of my last paper for my metaphysics class.

  2. #2
    philosopher wood nymph greenfairy's Avatar
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    My Philosophy of Mind book (by Jaegwon Kim) states that Descartes claimed that the material is that which has spacial extension and exists in physical space.

    Which doesn't exactly help- because energy exists in space, but doesn't exactly have spacial extension.

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    Senior Member Pseudo's Avatar
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    Are your thoughts material? Language?

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    philosopher wood nymph greenfairy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pseudo View Post
    Are your thoughts material? Language?
    A materialist would respond that they exist as electrical impulses, which would translate to energy. Good question, one which I've been wondering. How do thoughts "exist"?

    Essentially this question is the foundation of Cartesian dualism and the critique of it.

  5. #5
    Sniffles
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    Long story short, I'm a metaphysical realist. Reality exists as it is and human conceptualizations are meant to help better understand this reality, and some approximate this reality better than others. Is reality material or immaterial? That depends on what level of reality we're speaking about, for some (lower) levels are material by nature whilst other (higher) levels are immaterial or beyond the material world. This corresponds to the hierarchy of human faculties used to understand these levels of reality, with the Intellect being the highest faculty and the only the human faculty in the metaphysical realm.

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    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    I'm basically a materialist mystic I guess.
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

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    Senior Member Pseudo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenfairy View Post
    A materialist would respond that they exist as electrical impulses, which would translate to energy. Good question, one which I've been wondering.
    Right, personsonalities are just patterns of neural connections.

    I guess I would vote for the idea of human definitions limiting out ability to differentiate.

  8. #8
    Mojibake sprinkles's Avatar
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    Yes, energy is material. On some level, matter and energy become equivalent.

    Matter doesn't speak to the form of a thing. It simply means that the thing in question is a substance or composed of substances.

    It doesn't address whether or not the object is mostly empty space - even a tea cup with gaps between every particle is still made of something.

    As far as energy goes, the word 'energy' is oversimplified. There's not a thing that is only defined as energy unto itself.

    Energy is an indirect quantity of something and there are different kinds of energy. One type of energy is the ability for a system to do work, which requires matter. e.g. one thing pushes against another thing.

    Another type of energy is radiation, which is a transfer of particles.

    Energy is not just anything you want it to be, and you haven't defined it well.

    Edit: and yes, psychic phenomena could be plausible, and would not be immaterial or supernatural.
    I emphasize 'could be plausible' - it could be made to work via some undiscovered mechanic. It's not impossible, yet nothing supports it all that much either.

    The only things that happen are the things that are able to happen.

  9. #9
    philosopher wood nymph greenfairy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprinkles View Post
    Yes, energy is material. On some level, matter and energy become equivalent.
    In that case, does anything exist which is immaterial?
    Quote Originally Posted by sprinkles View Post
    Matter doesn't speak to the form of a thing. It simply means that the thing in question is a substance or composed of substances.
    So what distinguishes a material substance from an immaterial substance? Most philosophers believe that the material possesses spacial extension, which implies form.
    Quote Originally Posted by sprinkles View Post
    It doesn't address whether or not the object is mostly empty space - even a tea cup with gaps between every particle is still made of something.
    Empty space is void, with nothing existing in the corresponding spacial location. So if something does exist, it would not constitute empty space in that place. So what then is the substance which exists? Things are composed of parts, and the smallest parts are subatomic particles, which are roughly equivalent to energy. If that is too rough an association to make, then I ask what it is if not energy.
    Quote Originally Posted by sprinkles View Post
    As far as energy goes, the word 'energy' is oversimplified. There's not a thing that is only defined as energy unto itself.
    And I would love to know more about this!
    Quote Originally Posted by sprinkles View Post
    Energy is an indirect quantity of something and there are different kinds of energy. One type of energy is the ability for a system to do work, which requires matter. e.g. one thing pushes against another thing.

    Another type of energy is radiation, which is a transfer of particles.

    Energy is not just anything you want it to be, and you haven't defined it well.
    Yes there are different types of energy, but that does not necessarily mean that they are different things. Or it could be that everything is different types of energy, and the distinctions exist only in our understanding of them. It's also true that some types have different apparent causal capacities.

    Of course I can't clearly define energy; I'm not a scientist. But I would love to find someone who can.

  10. #10
    Mojibake sprinkles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenfairy View Post
    In that case, does anything exist which is immaterial?
    Not by itself, no.

    So what distinguishes a material substance from an immaterial substance? Most philosophers believe that the material possesses spacial extension, which implies form.
    An immaterial substance is not a substance.

    Empty space is void, with nothing existing in the corresponding spacial location. So if something does exist, it would not constitute empty space in that place. So what then is the substance which exists? Things are composed of parts, and the smallest parts are subatomic particles, which are roughly equivalent to energy. If that is too rough an association to make, then I ask what it is if not energy.
    Elementary components. The things which - as far as we can tell - are made of themselves, and not made of something smaller.

    Even though the object contains space, as a unit it occupies space because it is not trivial for most other objects to utilize this 'inner space'.

    Even subatomic particles are not just energy, they have quantifiable differences that energy alone cannot explain. If something is not material, then it cannot have physical quantities, and cannot have physical differences. You don't get a hydrogen atom out of just energy - or if you did, all atoms would be hydrogen atoms.

    Yes there are different types of energy, but that does not necessarily mean that they are different things. Or it could be that everything is different types of energy, and the distinctions exist only in our understanding of them. It's also true that some types have different apparent causal capacities.

    Of course I can't clearly define energy; I'm not a scientist. But I would love to find someone who can.
    See above about the hydrogen atom - that which has no form cannot have differences.

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