Scientific materialism – Parte 1


philosophical materialism is the view that the real world is composed exclusively of material things (ix)

1.1. Matter inert? 

The most ancient of such views and one that still has partisans is Plato’s. According to it matter is the passive receptacle of forms (properties), which in turn are ideas: only the soul (or mind) is self-moving (3) 

Aristotle’s view, according to whom forms, far from being prior to matter and entering it from the outside, were generated by matter it self. (3)  From antiquity onwards, all materialists have held that change is essential for matter… Materialism, in short, has always been dynamicist… The thesis of the passivity of matter is typically non-materialist (3) 

Contemporary science has, if anthing, stressed the dynamism of matter as well as its unlimited capacity to generate new forms… A fortiori, all matterial systems are changeable (5) 

The kind of materialism suggested by contemporary science is dynamicist rather than staticist. It is also pluralistic in the sense that it acknwledges that a material thing can have many more properties than just those mechanics assigns it  (5) 

1.2. Matter dematerialized? 

Theory, far from being identical with its referent (a physical entity), represents or describes it (whether accurately or poorly) (6) Shortly before the emergence of the quantum theory matter could have been defined as the union of two genera: bodies (in particular particles) and fields. Since then we have learned to regard particles as quanta of fields of a kind unknown to classical physics. (for example, electrons are quanta of the electron field). And we analyze bodies into particles and the fields that hold these together. So, fields have become the basic mode of matter (7)

 By definition, an event is a change of state of some thing or material entity: there are no events in themselves but only events in some thing or other, be it body or field or any other material object (8)  In conclusion, the rumour that contemporary physics has dematerialized matter turns out to be false. Rather…. physiological psychology has materialized mind (8)

 1.3. Life immaterial? 

Vitalism, a descendant of animism, holds that life is the immaterial entity animating organisms and that the latter are designed so that they can achieve their purpose, which is the preservation of their kind. According to materialism, on the other hand, life is a property of certain material objects (8)

 A materialist conception of life has to acknowledge emergence, i.e. the fact that systems possess properties absent from their components. In particular biosystems are capable of maintaining a fairly constant internal milieu, the activities of their various parts are coordinated, they can self-repair to some extent, they can reproduce, cooperate, and compete, and they are subject to evolution (9)  Emergentist materialism encourages the search for an explanation of emergence in terms of lower level properties (9) 

1.4. Mind immaterial? 

Three ways of undermining the doctrine of the immateriality of mind. One is to show that it is conceptually defective, another is to show that it is at variance with science, and a third is to exhibit a superior alternative (11)  The most blatant conceptual defect of psychological dualism is its imprecision: it does not state clearly what mind is because it offers neither a theory nor a definition of mind. All dualism gives us is examples of mental states or events (11) 

A second fatal flaw of dualism is that it detaches mental states and events from any things that might be in such states or undergo such changes… indeed in every science states are states of meterial entities and events are changes of such states (11) A third grave defect of dualism is that it is consistent with creationism but not with evolution: indeed if mind is immaterial then it is above the vicissitudes of living matter (11 / 2) 

But the worst feature of dualism is that it blocks research, for it has a ready answer to all the problems and it refuses to look into the brain to find out about mind (12)  Psychological dualism is not a scientific theory or even a theory… it is ideology not science (12) 

1.6. Conclusions 

science may be characterized as the study of material things with the help of the scientific method and the aim of finding the laws of such things. In other words, scientific research presupposes and also enriches a materialist ontology (16)     

Chapter 2 – Materialism today 

Materialism is a family of ontologies, or extremely general doctrines about the world. What all… have in common is the thesis that everything that exist really is material- or, stated negatively, that immaterial objects such as ideas have no existence independent of material things such as brains (17) 

2.1. Exactness and consistency with contemporary science 

<exactification> it consists in replacing vagueness with precision… by using, wherever necessary, the exact and rich languages of logic and matemathics instead of ordinary language, wich is incurably fuzzy and poor (17) merit of such exactifications is taht they help to locate key concepts that should be elucidated in a second stage (19) 

Formalization then, though necessary for turning an unorganized body of vague theses into a hypothetico-deductive system, is insufficient for overhauling a philosophy (19/20) 

2.2. Defining matter 

material objects cannot be identified with massive objects, let alone solid ones, since the discovery of massless fields such as the electromagnetic and neutrino ones. And material objects cannot be defined as those wich exist independently of the subject, because an objectiv idealist will assert the autonomous existence of immaterial objects such as ideas (20) 

we take our clue from contemporary science, according to which material objects, unlike ideal ones, are changeable. (20)  a conceptual object, such as the number 3 or the Pythagorean theorem, is not supposed to be in any state, let alone to undergo changes of state (21) 

Definition 1. An object x is a material object (or entity) if, and only if, for every reference frame y, if Sy (x) is a state space for x, then Sy (x) contains at least two elements. Otherwise x is an immaterial object (or nonentity) (22) 

Definition 2. Matter is (identical with) the set of all material objects… Note that this is a set and thus a concept not an entity… Hence if we want to keep within materialism we cannot say that matter exists (except conceptually of course). We shall assume instead that individual material objects, and only they , exist. (22) 

2.3. The central postulate of materialism 

Definition 3. An object x is real if, and only if, either (a) there is at least another object y whose states are (ore would be) different in the absence of x, or (b) every component of x modifies the states of some other components of x (23) Definition 4. Reality is the set of real objects…. since “reality” has been defined as a set, it is itself unreal, for set are incapable of influencing anything…. we are not defining “reality” as existence independent of the subject of knowledge, and this for two reasons. First because human creations do not come into being apart from us… Second because subjects too are supposed to be real. (23)

 Postulate 1. An object is real (or exists really) if, and only if, it is material. (23)  In particular the properties, relations, and changes in either, of material objects are real only in a derivate manner: strictly speaking they are abstractions… Likewise events are not real: what is real is the entire changing thing (24) 

2.4. System 

may be characterized as a complex object whose components are interrelated, as a consequence of which the system behaves in some respects as a unit or whole. Every system can be analyzed into its components (or set of parts), environment (or set of objects other than the components and realted to these), and structure (or set of relations, in particular connections and actions, among the components and these and environmental items) (24)  is a system is composed of material (real) objects, then it is real itself (25) 

Theorem 1. A system is real (material) if, and only if, it is composed exclusively of real (material) parts (25) Postulate 2. Every real (material) object is either a system or a component of a system.

(25) The epistemological consequence is obvious: look for relations, in particular links (or coupling or connections) among things (25) 

2.5. Emergence 

Materialism is a kind of substance monism: it asserts that there is only one kind of substance, namely matter… But materialism need not be property monistic, i.e. need not assert that all material objects have a single property, such as spatial extension, or enery, or the ability to join with other things. Materialism need not even assert that all the properties of material objects are of the same kind, e.g. physical. In particular, Postulate 1 and the accompanying deinitions make room for property pluralism as well as the emergence hypothesis and conjectures about the level structure of reality (26) 

Definition 5. Let x be a system with A-composition… and let P be a property of x. Then

  1. P is a A-resultant (or resultant to level A) if, and only if, P is possessed by every A-component of x;
  2. otherwise, i.e. if P is possessed by no A-component of x, then P is A-emergent (or emergent relative to level A) (27)

Emergence does become mysterious only when it is characterized epistemologically, namely as whatever property of a system cannot be explained from the components and their relations. But such characterization is incorrect, for one must then be able to state both the thesis of the explainability and that of the essential irrationality of emergence (27) 

Postulate 3. Every system possesses at least one emergent property (28)


4 comentarios to “Scientific materialism – Parte 1”

  1. Fernando G. Toledo Says:

    Guys, I know an excelent traslation of this text, included in Crisis y reconstrucción de la filosofía. Do you want it?

    It’s a joke, but it’s true.

  2. Fernando G. Toledo Says:

    He protagonizado una pequeña discusión, en la que no me he lucido demasiado por cuanto he estado respondiendo en medio de un exceso de trabajo, en el que he salido como defensor de la teoría de la emergencia. Si quieren seguir el debate, participar, corregirme y/o simplemente echar un vistazo, pueden ver los últimos comentarios a la fecha en este texto:

    P.D.: Una vez más, gracias por la publicación de estos artículos.

  3. Fernando G. Toledo Says:

    Bueno, el exceso de trabajo se nota también en la redacción un poco turulata del comentario precedente. Disculpas.

  4. grupobunge Says:

    Fernando: realmente hice un esfuerzo por participar en el debate pero son tantos los post y es tan caótico el desarrollo que me ha resultado imposible siquiera meter un bocadillo. Prometo tomarme el tiempo necesario para leerlo con más detenimiento.. por el momento te diría que es tarea de los creyentes presentar pruebas a favor de la existencia de Dios, no de los ateos. Es como si dijese que descubrí un nuevo tipo de materia a la que denomino “qualium” pero no ofresco ninguna evidencia- o indicador empírico- de su existencia, salvo que tengo un conocimiento intuitivo de la misma o que es incognoscible para el resto de los mortales. Sería ilusorio pensar que un científico se va a tomar el trabajo de refutarme.
    Algo similar sucede con las religiónes: hasta ahora ningún creyente se animó a plantear hipótesis exactas y contrastables, lo que hace imposible su confirmación o refutación



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