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An entire article devoted to the philosophy, but only one sentence devoted to the very criticism of it. How about we remove the bias and even it out?-- (talk) 22:38, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

That would be helpful to the rest of us.-- (talk) 22:43, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

The psychologist Baruss' assertion in the "Materialism as methodology" subsection is impressively bombastic and opaque. I urge the contributor to either clarify it, without adding length, or that it be removed. To begin with, it is not intuitively obvious what an individual psychologist could say that would be so authoritatively devastating to an entire, influential philosophical tradition spanning millenia and socities--and the little quote certainly does not shed any light. Dropped like pigeon excretion from above, it smacks of excessive context removal, or a cheap advertisement for Baruss, unbefitting a Wikipedia entry. Anyway, clearly that methodology section is far too sparse. Blanche Poubelle (talk) 20:50, 13 August 2012 (UTC)

I must agree with, this is no criticism at all. Actually, the opinion of the professor is a bit of an ad populum fallacy, and it only adds up to the bias of the article, not adding relevant, well-based arguments. JMCF125 (talk) 19:28, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

Materialism and Buddhism[edit]

The core beliefs of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths. Included in them is the fact that "all things are impermanant and without self nature". This seems to preclude both God and the Soul, at least as immortal entities. From this point of view maybe Buddhism is not at odds with Materialism. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:16, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

Buddhism is not materialistic. It has a belief in things outside matter. This is evident in many books. If you would like I have some books at my house: I can read some passages.-- (talk) 02:08, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

That's rather silly! I have "books at my house" as well. Try "Buddhism Without Beliefs". If nothing else, we cannot say that Buddhism as such would support or deny various aspects of materialism. We would need to look at the various schools of Buddhism. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:01, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

Buddhism as a whole is quite the opposite of materialism. There is no evidence to support it is. If you find some, then you can have some back up to your theory. Now stop wasting your time.-- (talk) 22:30, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

Thank you.-- (talk) 22:30, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

The comment in the article about Buddhism (apparently written by a non-native English speaker) is incongruous and, if not incorrect, at least highly misleading. The author apparently understands "materialism" in the casual sense of being interested in pursuing material goods and wealth. Clearly this is opposed to Buddhist views. However, this article is about the philosophical concept of materialism, which is entirely different. The real issue here is immanence versus transcendentalism. The Judaic religions (including Christianity and Islam) are transcendental, as they require the existence of immaterial/immortal souls and the spirit realm of the creator god. Buddhism is arguably an immanent religion, without need of souls, a spirit realm, or a creator god (admittedly, certain "primitive" Buddhist sects seem to believe in supernatural beings that reflect the religion's Hindu origins, though none postulate a creator god). An immanent-ist religion is entirely compatible with the philosophical concept of materialism, and this does not prevent it from being opposed to the sociological phenomenon of materialism. So, the anonymous character who requests us to "stop wasting your time" and offers to "read some passages" from his/her books is merely confused (I hope the problem is just the language barrier, but, sadly, the arrogant tone of the comments suggests otherwise). Unfortunately, this means that the article itself is confused. I humbly request an objective expert on Buddhism to rephrase the passage in question using correct English and a correct understanding of the terms being discussed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Chreod (talkcontribs) 13:52, 1 July 2010 (UTC)


The definition is incorrect. It is written as though materialism was fact, rather than a theory.

Materialism is a philosophical outlook on the world as a whole, and is not a specific theory about the world. These notions (philosophical position vs. scientific theory) should be seperated. Scientific theories (if one uses the popperian notion of scientific theory) can be wrong and must be falsifiable. Materialism is just a basic proposition about the world which is taken as an axiom. Materialism can not be proven wrong in the same sense as specific scientific theories could be proven wrong. In fact using the scientific method already requires one to make use of the proposition of materialism, else you could not do science in the first place. In the same sense one can not prove or disproof Idealism (the opposite philosophical viewpoint, which assumes that in essence the world is in primary sense based on consciousness and material only in secondary sense), just that the materialist point of view within the progress of science and society has proven to be more fruitfull. Heusdens (talk) 13:22, 20 June 2012 (UTC) (talk) 18:56, 2 April 2009 (UTC)

This page about materialism is not very well worked out and does not really explain materialism/matter.

It should at least include:

  • Materialism is the philosophical outlook on reality that regards matter as the primary substance of the world.
  • Matter denotes all that exists outside of and independently of thought – objective reality. As a philosophical category, “matter” must be distinguished from any particular theory of matter developed by natural science and from its meaning in physics as mass (particles, fermions, etc.)
  • Matter also equates to motion/change in the sense that all material things are in constant change/motion, and all things that change/move are material. Space and time are the modes of existence of matter.

(matter as used in materialism should be explained on this page about materialism; the page about matter deals exclusively with the physical term matter; perhaps the page about matter should also include the philosophical meaning of matter, or on a seperate (disambiguated) page).

Heusdens (talk) 22:02, 11 July 2008 (UTC)

Statement by Alex[edit]

Hello all

I see that several people have some questions and no one has answered them. Their concerns are valid, but, I think, they are the result of some misunderstandings. It is very important to clarify the issue, because it as a generic problem that has stagnated philosophy for a long time, and I don’t think enough is being done to move forward. BLANSHARD call this “The revolt against reason”.

Te problem is that a lot of us assume tacitly that we perceive things through our senses, or science, objectively. From there we go using science to describe matter at the elemental level, the intricacies of space and time, the obviousness of empiricism and regarding idealism – and philosophy in general - as nonsense. Please wait, and note that we all skipped a step. Please remember that no one has been able to, successfully, move out from 19th century rationalism – idealism to any realism - materialism. Let’s solve that problem first, and then let’s talk about what fermions look like.

I won’t try to explain what PLATO, DESCARTES or KANT have not been able to figure, but let me put some examples, just to demonstrate there is a general essential problem with any kind of realism, and as a guide for any one who might one to find more literature.

Lets take you keyboard there for example.

The problem you need to recognize is not in the keyboard, but in what you used to know it is there. Note that the keyboard didn’t pop in your mind as soon as it was built; you need to see it or hear about it, or whatever. If you saw it, you saw a black, rectangular thing with a number of keys. Maybe you saw 2 shifts. The problem is not about the things in the world, but about how we know they are there, no matter whether they are keyboards or quarks.

  • The first problem with all this was noted by PLATO. He realized that things don not pop in our minds by themselves, they appear after a collection of perceptions: Rectangularness, number of keys, color, angles of the sides…. He called these: “IDEAS”.

The problem is that “IDEAS” by themselves do not exist. There aren’t any perfect squares, circles, straight lines, or points in space in the experienced world. What do you mean with points in space in the first place? What is a line between to points in space? What is a square? Where did all that come from? Check the famous Allegory of the cave.

For one thing, none of these “IDEAS” belong specifically to your keyboard, they are general. So, how come you can use general things to state so surely that a keyboard exists specifically?

  • The second problem is that, all these “IDEAS” have no connection with the keyboard. You can think about the keyboard whether any keyboard exists or not. The one who noted this disconnect was DESCARTES. How did he figure it? Easy, a keyboard is a keyboard even if you only think about it, or even, dream about it. Ideas stay for ever. The only thing you can be sure to exist from all this is your mind (remember: “I think therefore…”, check the meditations ). DESCARTES fully disconnected our mind from the “real” world and left us with dangling ideas. That was the beginning of this mess…

For all we know, you might be dreaming all this…. Problem: Try proving you are not.

You will say: well fine, so what? Still, this is pretty useful for me. We learn all this “IDEAS” by studying nature. Who cares if dreams also use it? I know there is no platonic connection to a sparkling idea floating in heaven, but this is enough to prove things exist. It’s not an issue. Science presents hypotheses, makes it’s great experiments, and proves or disproves whether the sum of the triangle’s angles is 180, or whether 1 + 1 = 2.

  • Well, the third problem is that we are sure about these things, but, if you really think about them, many of these “OBVIOUS IDEAS” don’t seem to come from experience or science; the origin is not clear, but we take them for granted.

It doesn’t take much to notice that, curiously, the result of 1 + 1 = 2 is not learned. There was no era where people didn’t know that, or a time where another civilization used 1 + 1 = 47. It’s not a matter of learning but about reasoning.

One more example, even illiterate people can understand that parallel lines, like the train rails, will never cross, no matter how far they go. It’s obvious, if you _think_ about it. Well, again, perfect parallel lines do not exist. Where’s the obvious in that? No one has gone to infinity and verified that parallel lines do not cross. So, why do we see that they don’t so clearly? If geometry invented that it should be able to change it, but it can’t. We can’t just come and say: From today on, parallel lines cross at 100 meters, deal with that. Why no proof is needed for the axioms of geometry?

  • So, the real problem is: Where did squreness, the number 3, parallel lines, and all those things come from, if they don’t exist in nature, they don’t belong to objects, and, at least some, we didn’t learn from experience or science?

Well, most philosophers will agree, at some degree, as unbelievable as it might sound, that our mind makes those things up, to rationalize our sensory data. At first glance it sounds ridiculous, but, at varying degrees, it’s undeniable. It was KANT who figured it out. How? Well, his reasoning was very simple: We could not have deduced many of these “IDEAS” from nature, simply because they are required to make sense of nature in the first place. So, KANT is sure that, if you go to Arcturus, 1 + 1 will still be 2, since you will take your mind there. Those concepts are fixed in our mind; they do not depend on our senses or experience and you can not get rid of them. You might ignore your reason, but that proves nothing.

Of course, this does not solve any problem. How did logic got into our brain in the first place? Why this logic and not another? Again, where is the connection between the “IDEA” and the “REAL” thing? (Check the famous critique, but note that you need comments, unless you are an old letters expert.)

  • So, we come to the dead end. If we make a lot of this up, then, of course, our reality is not objective, because our mind adds a lot of things artificially, to make sense of the world. (Think Science)

Now, for the last 100 years or so, people have presented phenomenology, linguistic analysis and so on to get to the “REAL” thing, but that’s nonsense, because we are using reason, and we just agreed that reason is impartial. So, we go back to square one, and all this was academic. Please, see the real problem:

If reason adds artifacts to understand reality, we need to see reality with no reason, to get reality as it is …… now you see the problem? We are stuck with “IDEAS”, not “REAL” things.

There’s is a great quote in de idealism page:

Writing about Descartes, Schopenhauer claimed, "… he was the first to bring to our consciousness the problem whereon all philosophy has since mainly turned, namely that of the ideal and the real. This is the question concerning what in our knowledge is objective and what subjective, and hence what eventually is to be ascribed by us to things different from us and what is to be attributed to ourselves." (Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. I, "Sketch of a History of the Doctrine of the Ideal and the Real")

So, look at your keyboard again. No, there’s no keyboard there. You are “looking” at a representation inside your head, like in a flat screen, where you only see the results of the analysis made by your mind. Please not that the question is not whether the keyboard exists or not, but what are you expecting as a keyboard outside your mind?

Do the same for fermions…. Space …. Time … etc.

-Mr Alex

ALEVP (talk) 23:41, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

Statement by McDivit[edit]

There is a classic difference between rationalism and empiricism. Materialism seems to be a refinement of rationalism, throwing out the ridiculousness of "true objects" by substituting generic "matter" instead, with a goal of representing an inflexible reality external to individual minds, in a way more plausible than classical rationalism. In this article it says "materialism stands in sharp contrast to idealism". When one goes to read about idealism, Plato is listed there as proposing "an idealist theory as a solution to the problem of universals", referring of course to Platonic Realism. If materialism is a refinement of rationalism to the extent it postures a rigid external reality, this article is contradictory by saying materialism contrasts idealism. It is also contradictory with the following phrase "Materialism has frequently been understood to designate an entire scientific, rationalistic world view".

In the idealism article it says "Confusingly, because this idea asserts that these mental entities are real, it is also called Platonic realism".

No, this is not confusing at all. Science is empirical. Since empiricism has taken over contemporarily, rationalism, or the idea that there is supreme authority, supreme truth, and of course supreme people to tell us what these are, has tried very hard to catch up.

Articles such as this on materialism serve only to muddy the water philosophically, by not properly representing the historical contrast between rationalism and empiricism. McDivitt Oct 03 2006

Add information on "mechanistic materialism"? --Daniel C. Boyer

There are links to both eliminative materialism and eliminativist materialism from this page -- are they the same thing, or subtly different? Should these two linked pages be merged? -- Karada 12:02, 27 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I can't make sense of "Eliminativist materialism". Sounds just nonsense to me. See discussion there. So I'd say: suppress that link. --FvdP 20:18, 27 Oct 2003 (UTC)

In what way does the Marxist sense of "Materialism" fit in here? I mean the idea that the material conditions is what shapes history and forms the ideas. Which is opposite to idealism which says that it is the ideas that shape history. BL 09:54, Jan 21, 2004 (UTC)

==Materialism in Society== Often seen as mankind wanting material goods which are often seen as the trappings of wealth. We want cars and to have them replaced at whim with faster and more recent models, for example. Most developed nations want to enjoy the recent developments in science and technology. As the speed of development grows people's waste and rejection of older technology leads to huge problems in waste management and diminishing finite natural resources.

To me, this is irrelevant -- we're talking about the philosophical sense of materialism here. In addition, this is badly written and POV. --Adam Conover 22:45, Mar 27, 2004 (UTC)

It's not irrelevant. I came to the Materialism page specifically to find out how the popular definition (of 'materialism' as a culture of greed), which appears to be only peripherally related to the philosophical one, came to be so popularly understood. What person originated 'materialism' in the sense of greed?

Meaning of this sentence?[edit]

The text says:

In this view, subjective thoughts and speech affect the historical process only via practice.

It is not at all clear to me what this sentence is intended to convey. Surely it doesn't mean that by practicing one's speech skills one will influence historical process, but that would be the superficial explanation. Does it just mean that thought influence history only if one talks about it? That would be a very strange thing to say. It would imply that a military strategist would have to give speeches rather than give orders in order to have an impact on whether battles would be won or lost. P0M 23:33, 16 May 2005 (UTC)

What it means is that the thoughts need to be made manifest, exposed to the outside world, before they can have any effect. Now a command is in this respect the same as giving a speech I would say, they both are manifestations of thought, and therefore could act on the will and actions of other people and thereby change the world. Heusdens (talk) 13:25, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

evolutionary materialism[edit]

I looked in vain in Materialism for any mention of materialism as applied to evolution. Am I missing something, or is someone deliberately trying to censor Wikipedia? I refer to the redirect from evolutionary materialism which user:JoshuaSchneider made.

Granted that most scientists are materialists, and many philosophers besides. But does this mean that it goes without saying that "evolution" is "unguided"? Eli Weisel and his 38 scientist friends seem to think it requires saying, especially in light of the U.S. creation-evolution controversy.

So I think Wikipedia needs a separate evolutionary materialism article, until Materialism gets a section which describes it just as well as a sidebar article. Uncle Ed 18:09, 22 November 2005 (UTC)

As shown on the Talk:Evolutionary materialism page, this is all just original research. It doesn't belong in Wikipedia. User:Ed Poor needs to do competent research before spouting in Wikipedia articles. --Joshuaschroeder 18:39, 22 November 2005 (UTC)
Since I can't seem to convince Ed Poor, and it seems to me that redirecting here might not be the most appropriate avenue, I have reinstated the article and asked for an AfD vote. --Joshuaschroeder 18:32, 23 November 2005 (UTC)

Matter and Energy, Space and Time[edit]

With respect to "the only thing that can truly be said to exist is matter", it might be a good idea to indicate that matter here is not meant in the sense of "In physics, matter is everything that is constituted of elementary fermions." (Matter). Light, for instance, is not Matter in this sense, but it is certainly material in the philosophical sense.

Pmurray 06:08, 4 July 2006 (UTC)

Light is material since it is made up of photons. It contains mass (small as it is), thus it is material. As long as a thing contains solidity it is material. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:10, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

Light is not material because it has mass (the photon has no rest mass), but because it is a) a motion in time and space b) acts on material objects (can displace electrons, ionize atoms, etc.). Light carries momentum and has energy. Heusdens (talk) 13:28, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

That is not a good definition of matter in philosophical materialism. For materialism matter is the substance that upon which all other phenomena of the world can be explained. The important difference with philosophical idealism is that for materialism matter is primary, and consciousness secondary (which means that both it arrived later - there was already a material universe and only through the process of evolution conscious beings arrived - and is less fundamental), while idealism is the worldview that sees consciousness as primary and matter as secondary. To describe what is material, one needs at least these descriptions: - The material or matter is outside and independent of consciousness - Matter is eternal (can not be created or destroyed) and infinite - Matter is in motion always and therefore requires space and time. - Space and time are the modes of existence of matter. Matter can not be defined outside of space and time, nor have space and time any meaning apart from matter and motion. - All phenomena of the world are based on transformation of matter, and since matter is an undivided whole, different forms of matter can be transformed into each other. (for example: energy can be transformed into mass and vice versa, fission and fusion of chemical elements can produce different elements, chemical reactions can transform molecules into different chemical substances, etc.)

And please note that the physical term matter means something different then the philosophical term matter, this is often the cause of confusion. What matter ´'is´' is defined by the physical sciences, and they have categorized different forms of matter, like particles, waves, radiation, fields, quanta, vacuum, etc. All of these physical entities are just descriptions of different forms of matter. Heusdens (talk) 13:12, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

changed opening sentence[edit]

I changed the opening sentence because philosophers actually seperately believe in/debate the existence of other, different types of "things" including sets, properties (i.e. universals), events, propositions, time, and space.

Materialism does not reject the existence of those other types of things, it rejects the dualist notion that there are both material and non-material substances.

This addresses the point above ("energy, space, and time") about other types of things existing.

I also think this page needs a lot of work, as it doesn't even mention many of materialism's contemporary advocates. Perhaps this page should be merged with the mind-body problem page?

Reverted. You did not read the intro carefully. Materialist say that all other "things" are derivative of matter. Besides, what is "substance" anyway? `'mikka (t) 00:04, 28 September 2006 (UTC)


The first paragraph says "... the only thing that can truly be said to exist is matter...". I'm not very familiar with the philisophy, so what about energy? That can't be said to exist? Bubba73 (talk), 22:13, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

Whoops, never mind. Later in the article it says "... extends to all scientifically observable entities such as energy, ..." Bubba73 (talk), 22:16, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

The same question popped into my head when I first read that statement. Maybe you're already a materialist and didn't know it, eh? (Demigod Ron 02:31, 27 October 2007 (UTC))

Biased and narrow view of materialism[edit]

It is simply wrong to flatly equate materialism with physicalism at the outset.

The remarks about Marx are totally inaccurate.

Materialism also includes, of course, dialectical materialism, but also the emergent materialism of Roy Wood Sellars.

For fear of persecution among other reasons, American philosophers have shied away from "materialism", preferring the less threatening term "naturalism". This was admitted by Marvin Farber, who used both terms to describe his position. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Nancy Nickies (talkcontribs) 18:23, 17 January 2007 (UTC).

Physics follows the philosophy of materialism. Everything in physics is material. Down to the sub-atomic level.-- (talk) 02:12, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

That is correct. Science is the study of the material world.-- (talk) 22:33, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

Monist ideology?[edit]

I would argue that the current scientific worldview admits the existence of two quite different things: space/time and matter/energy. This dualism suffers from the usual problem of any dualism: if reality is made of two inconmesurable things, how do they interact at all? Resolving this dualism is a very active program in fundamental science (Theories of everything, reality as "holographic", string theory etc).

Perhaps we need to make clear that when this article speaks of matter, it is using the word in a philosophical sense rather than a scientific sense.

Marx and Engels never used the term Dialectical Materialism. That was Stalin. You might want to change that.

Incorrect, it was Joseph Dietzgen that introduced the term 'dialectical materialism'. Stalin coined it 'diamat'. Heusdens (talk) 21:47, 5 September 2009 (UTC)

Referencing the views[edit]

Although a number of books are cited there is little or no referencing of the statements made here. The whole thing needs to be tightened up considerably. NBeale 14:57, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Puzzling claims[edit]

'Parapsychologist Imants Baruss suggests that "materialists tend to indiscriminately apply a 'pebbles in a box' schema to explanations of reality even though such a schema is known to be incorrect in general for physical phenomena. Thus, materialism cannot explain matter, let alone anomalous phenomena or subjective experience [4], but remains entrenched in academia apparently for largely political reasons"[5]'

Given that materialism and physicalism are almost synonymous, it is puzzling to hear that materialism is incorrect in general for physical phenomena.

'The scientist and philosopher Axel Randrup suggests that "The scientific study of cognition in the context of biological evolution (Cognition and Evolution, CE) has led to the result, that all our thoughts and cognitions, including science and philosophy, are dependent on our cognitive apparatus in its present stage of evolution. I find, that this result is in contradiction with ... the philosophy of materialist realism[6]".

Again, a how can the evolutionary study of cognition end up contradicting materialism? Surely evolution is biology , and living organisms are material? The paper seems to require the reader to adopt Randrup's ontology in order to make sense of his evidence.

Surely clearer arguments from better-known figures can be found1Z 23:12, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

I was going to post in a new section but, what is 'pebbles in a box' schema meant to mean in the article? IRWolfie- (talk) 19:17, 8 February 2011 (UTC)


1. According to Baruntss's website he teaches only one course, in altered states of consciousness. His research interests include UFO's. That makes him a parapsychlogist in my book. And what are his credentials as a philosopher?

2. I have already asked for clarification of Randrup's claim. As far as I can tell, he isassuming idealism, but his paper is written in a personal jargon and references the results of his other writings, making it hard to follow. On the whole, the easiest solution is to replace it with a something clearer.

3. Kant's Refutation of Idealism is found in Chap. 2, section III of the first critique. His refutation of materialism is found nowhere that I know of. "

A solitary page number is not much use since there are different editions in German and different translations in English. The Norman Kemp-Smith version, which unifies the A and B editions it the standard English version.
Assuming p352 is the NKS version, the passage is presumably the following:

If, however, as commonly happens, we seek to extend the concept of dualism, and take it in the transcendental sense,neither it nor the two counter-alternatives -- pneumatism ((=idealism, 1Z)) on the one hand, materialism on the other -- would have any sort of basis, since we should then have misapplied our concepts,taking the difference in the mode of representing objects, which,as regards what they are in themselves, still remain unknown to us, as a difference in the things themselves. Though the 'I',as represented through inner sense in time, and objects in space outside me, are specifically quite distinct appearances, they are not for that reason thought as being different things. Neither the transcendental object which underlies outer appearances nor that which underlies inner intuition, is in itself either matter or a thinking being, but a ground (to us unknown) of the appearances which supply to us the empirical concept of the former as well as of the latter mode of existence."

..which should be filed under "skepticism about any kind of metaphysics" rather than "skepticism about materialism".

4.Is there a reason why this statment need a citation,

"Others use materialism and physicalism interchangeably.[citation needed]"

but this does not?

"In practice it is frequently assimilated to one variety of physicalism or another".

5. "However, most physical scientists take the view that the concept of matter has merely changed, rather than being eliminated.[citation needed]"

See matter and physics intitially. The idea that matter has been disproved is not deemed worthy of mention.

1Z 15:05, 11 February 2007 (UTC)

Well the matter article is completely unrefed and hardly definitive. There is a serious definitional problem about what "matter" means in materialism, given that, under the definition that people undertood for most of the 20th C it is now unquestionably false that "the only thing that exits is matter". It's not that "the concept of matter has been eliminated" but the idea that "matter is the only thing that exists" is untenable unless there is a definition of "matter" which is not simple "the stuff that exists" in which case materialism is vacuuous. Also I cannot undestand why you think that "They cannot all be false, that would be absurd.." (a) Materialism, Idealism and Dualism are all false because they try to shoe-horn the multifaceted nature of reality into over-simlistic schemes (b) Kant certainly thought that they were false, and argued for the necessity of what he called "Transcendental Idealism" [1] and against normal idealism[2] —The preceding unsigned comment was added by NBeale (talkcontribs) 22:25, 13 February 2007 (UTC).

There is a serious definitional problem about what "matter" means in materialism, given that, under the definition that people undertood for most of the 20th C it is now unquestionably false that "the only thing that exits is matter".

Bravo! I was hoping someone would point that out. What exactly does the word matter mean for materialists? --Phatius McBluff 04:34, 2 April 2007 (UTC)

The relationship between materialism and physicalism[edit]

This materialism article says: "Materialism is that form of physicalism which holds that the only thing that can truly be said to exist is matter." However, the physicalism article says: "Physicalism is also called 'materialism', but the term 'physicalism' is preferable because it has evolved with the physical sciences to incorporate far more sophisticated notions of physicality than matter." After reading these two passages, I don't know whether physicalism are equivalent views, different views, or variants of the same view, or if one is a variant of the other. Judging from the first passage, I'm guessing materialism can be considered a form of physicalism. However, the second passage leads me to suspect that people often use the two terms interchangeably. Could someone clear this up? --Phatius McBluff 04:34, 2 April 2007 (UTC)

I'm placing this on both the materialism and physicalism talk pages. Wikipedia articles on philosophy should conform to terminology used in the philosophy field. The term 'materialism' was first used prior to knowledge of subatomic particles. The modern western philosophers were either idealist (believing that only minds/spirits exist), materialist (believing that only matter exists), or dualist (believing that both exist). The term materialist is used to refer to someone who does not believe in the existence of spirits. Here it has been distorted to be defined as a position on physics rather than philosophy. The fact that the meaning of the word 'matter' has changed as a result of the discovery of subatomic particles etc. does not mean that the philosophical term 'materialism' should be redefined. Are there any philosophers who identify themselves as materialist and argue that quarks do not exist? If not then I suggest that the materialism and physicalism articles be revised to reflect that they are essentially synonyms (i.e. possibly merged). Some sources that appear to indicate that materialism and physicalism are synonymous: "Physicalism is sometimes known as materialism."- "the word Materialism is here used to indicate a particular philosophical position, rather than a hedonistic lifestyle. A less well-knwon but more precise term is Physicalism."- (talk) 02:18, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

a broader definition of materialism[edit]

A materialism that holds that "everything that exists is fundamentally reducible to matter alone" is a definition too narrow to accomodate the wider issues. For example, electromagnetic waves, fire, plasma, neutrinos, gravitational fields and energy in all their forms are essentially matter in its many and protean forms - but the issue is wider than this. Specifically, what is the relation between matter, space and time?

That space and time are NOT reducible to matter was commonly taken as axiomatic in 19th century materialism - but this viewpoint has been lost entirely, Marxists included, in the rush to embrace the paradox-generating nonsense engendered by Einstein's relativity theories. Rather, the relation of matter space and time is prepositional i.e. matter is IN space which in turn is IN time. Hence the newest evidence shows quite otherwise to popular pro-Einstein prejudices. The US Patent #7,135,700 shows how faster than light signaling can be achieved - and refers to another patent that demonstrates likewise. Proof for the concept, which ensured acceptance of the patent, is provided in the paper...

Alois Mair, Alipasha Vaziri, Gregor Weihs & Anton Zeilinger, “Entanglement of the Orbital Angular Momentum States of Photons”, Nature 412 (19th July 2001) pp. 313-316

The experiment that demonstrated that the orbital angular momentum of light also demonstrates the reality of faster than light interactions - hence it disproves special relativity. Only when materialists abandon theories that lead to logical paradoxes will materialist philosophy ever regain its scientific aspirations. So lead on McBluff!

Mlofts 05:16, 17 July 2007 (UTC)M. Lofts

Mlofts, I corrected that spelling error you wanted me to look for.

I've heard of these studies. I'm not as quick as you to hammer the nail in the coffin of Einstein's relativity theories with their "paradox-generating nonsense"; however, I agree that once we have something — anything — accelerated to a speed faster than light's, Einstein's framework starts to fall apart.

I'm not entirely sure of your point with regard to "a broader definition of materialism", however. I'm guessing your point is that we need to include space and time in any definition of materialism — rather than just assume, along with those who follow relativity theory, that space and time are bound up with matter's movements. I totally agree. In my opinion, a "materialist" worldview is any worldview reducible to matter + space + time (or matter + space-time).

However, this just brings us back to a point I made earlier on this talk page: what is "matter"? No modern "materialist" would deny that light exists as an entity in its own right, so light must be "matter" (and it arguably is, as you pointed out, Mlofts). But to simply redefine "matter" as "conventional matter + energy" solves nothing, since a materialist would only redefine matter that way to accommodate something else (energy) that occurs in what he takes to be the "material" world: this brings us no closer to a meaningful definition of matter.

Perhaps my point would be clearer if I made it in another way. Imagine a world where fairies and ghosts are real and interact with people all the time, so much so that science recognizes their existence. In such a world, fairies and ghosts would be no less "natural" to the world than anything else — and, hence, "materialists" in that world would doubtlessly call fairies and ghosts "material".

So what is "matter"? Is it just whatever is currently acknowledged to exist by science? Such a definition would make "materialism" meaningless. --Phatius McBluff 16:13, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

Dear Phatius McBluff,

Your prompt intelligent response is much appreciated. I will reply to the points paragraph by paragraph.

In the case of Einstein, the mere existence of logical paradoxes renders any theory, including Einstein's relativity, useless for practical science - by which of course I do not include the theory's ability to 'satisfy' some subjective feeling among its scientific and other believers. There is a pressing need to emphasize this in view of the energy crisis coupled to global warming. For example, if we had better sources of energy we would not have to worry about excess CO2 or nuclear pollution; instead, Einstein's theorizing gives so many physicists a smug feeling of satisfaction that all the fundamental problems are somehow already solved. Given galactic recession observable in all directions, I must also ask - what does it mean to say that something is traveling slower or faster than light? In other words, relative to what? Our galaxy? Distant galaxies? We can already see galaxies whose mutual velocities exceed that of light - each one receding at 60% the speed of light relative to us on earth but in opposite directions.

The need for a broader definition of materialism follows from the above. While you agree that materialism can reduce to space + time + matter, the official definition at Wikipedia has everything reduced to matter - space and time implicitly reduced to some type of matter, rather than being independent from it. Now I would, merely following convention, allow for both answers to comprise the broadened definition of materialism - but this is not so with the Wikipedia definition, which implies only the 'reduction to matter alone' explanation. Further, this issue is not some brand new one that I am introducing but rather existed even in the debates following the Greek materialist philosophers.

According to Einstein's theories the universe is finite in space and time - essentially trivializing space and time and by implication the universe. This notion fits in not only with Spinoza's definition of 'substance' (embracing matter, space and time as one fundamental 'stuff'), but with the original materialism of Democritus which, like Einstein's, is deterministic in conception. On a narrow materialist definition, determinism and Democritean materialism are essentially the prototypes of traditional (pre-Marxian) materialism but here even ancient Greek and early Christian commentators saw deeper implications than are normally seen by the philosophers of MODERNITY.

I refer specifically to the Recognitions of Clement, part of early Christian literature termed the 'Pseudoclementines'. This large text, which includes a philosophical commentary biased of course to Christianity, classifies only Epicurus as authentic materialism. Rather, Democritus is classed as a type of Pyrrhonian scepticism - put in more modern terms, Democritus' teaching boils down to a form of Humean agnosticism. Now agnosticism is but a disguised form of idealism - the latter doctrine formally opposed to materialism, leading to difficulties in defining the distinction between materialism and its formal opposite, idealism.

This invokes your other point about the definition of 'matter'. In the philosophical sense that I would use, matter is everything physical except space and time - unless one invokes Einstein's befuddling fantasies which muddle everything together in the interest of subjugating our minds to logical paradoxes. I note too the commentaries about the definition of 'physicalism' - the idea that every entity has a physical property. Since, as you state for argument's sake, one could imagine a universe in which fairies and ghosts could be detectable via scientific means. In that case, fairies and ghosts become part of the material world and would be no less material than the bodies of you or I.

However, the doctrine of physicalism brings out the interesting notion that material bodies e.g. a brain, can also have a non-physical product i.e. mind. That matter can think is implicit in materialism - though often forgotten - but this 'ideal' ability is found most pronouncedly in organized forms of matter. This is not to deny that any matter, even inananimate matter, may contain some 'mind-potential' in a very rudimentary undetectable form - i.e. the doctrine of hylozoism. Where materialism and idealism would disagree in this issue though would be whether a mind can exist disembodied from matter i.e. can somebody's mind think and function without that person's brain?

These issues have to be considered, since otherwise, as you point out, the definitions of 'matter' and 'materialism' can quickly be rendered entirely meaningless.

Yours faithfully,

Mlofts 07:00, 21 July 2007 (UTC)M. Lofts 21/7/07

David Chalmers[edit]

How did Chalmers get included in this sentence from the text?

Many current and recent philosophers — e.g Dennett, Quine, Davidson, Searle, Chalmers, Fodor and Kim — operate within a broadly physicalist or materialist framework, producing rival accounts of how best to accommodate mind — functionalism, anomolous monism, identity theory and so on.

Much of his major work, The Conscious Mind, is spent on refuting materialism. He calls his own theory 'Naturalistic Dualism'. The wiki page on Chalmers also stated:

He argues that there is an explanatory gap between these two systems [brain biology and mental experience], and criticizes physical explanations of mental experience, making him a dualist in an era that some have seen as being dominated by monist views.

Since he's operating OUTSIDE a materialist framework, I'm deleting Chalmers from that sentence. Leafhopper 11:36, 24 August 2007 (UTC)

Searle - I deleted Searle's name from that list for similar reasons.

apparent minor factual error[edit]

Article states, "Famous principles like "nothing can come from nothing" and "nothing can touch body but body" first appeared in the works of Lucretius."

However, Epicurus states in his letter to Herodotus, paragraph 6, "nothing comes into being out of what is non-existent". According to one source, their birth and death dates are as follows: Epicurus (341–270 B.C.) Lucretius (99–55 B.C., Epicurean poet)

So the edit could be that Lucretius was the first to popularize the principle, or it should be rightly attributed to Epicurus himself.ScottWerd 21:16, 11 September 2007 (UTC)


Hi philosophy peoples. The intro is fuzzy in its emphases. Heres a possibly better one.

Materialism and Idealism are the two major strands in philosophy.

Materialsim says that the meaning of the world can only be sought in the world. It emphasizes the experience of being human and alive. The materialist emphases that the ideal of beauty changes from age to age, and that it is constructed socially from the interplay of a wealth of interacting social and historical factors. This interplay is called over-determination

--Savre 01:50, 29 September 2007 (UTC)

Article title[edit]

I probably more often hear 'materialism' used to mean economic materialism. Perhaps this should be moved to philosophical materialism or materialism (philosophy)? This title could then be a disambiguation page. Richard001 (talk) 01:09, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

No. Materialism is a philosophical view that holds that the only thing that exist is matter. I don't think it should be moved. Masterpiece2000 (talk) 09:47, 24 March 2008 (UTC)
Okay, so how about providing a reason why it shouldn't be moved, rather than a definition of what philosophical materialism is? Richard001 (talk) 22:30, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Richard001. I was looking for information on materialism in the common sense of the term and instead got this esoteric philosophical debate. I don't see why the common use of the term gets relegated to a disciplinary economic page and the philosophers get to usurp the entire article. I think Richard001's proposal of a disambiguation page was reasonable. (talk) 19:40, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

Regarding Sources[edit]

The neutrality of the sources on this is particularly shaky, on both sides. Half this argument seems to be debating itself!

What about Space and Time?[edit]

If matter is all that exists, then space and time, which are immaterial, can't exist. But if space and time don't exist, matter can't exist. There's nothing about the materialist view of space and time in this article. Surely materialists have something to say on the matter. (Oh, the pun...) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:50, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

In Our Time[edit]

The BBC programme In Our Time presented by Melvyn Bragg has an episode which may be about this subject (if not moving this note to the appropriate talk page earns cookies). You can add it to "External links" by pasting {{In Our Time|Materialism|b009ydlj}}. Rich Farmbrough, 03:17, 16 September 2010 (UTC).

Matter vs Antimatter[edit]

Is it really necessary, and indeed accurate, to imply that anti-matter is distinct from what is commonly percieved as matter? Philosophically the distinction is entirely irrelevant, and physically the use of the term anti-matter in this manner compounds the popular notion of some ethereality of anti-matter. -- (talk) 12:10, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

Will look for this, as well. Added a CN to "the fact that contemporary physics does not have a single notion of matter; rather physics has two different and contradictory theories of matter" because, apart from finding it humorous to apply the term "fact" to physics containing "two notions" as a means of contradicting materialism, it is also incorrect, but I wasn't sure how to cite a source for deleting text from an article. GR and QM are not contradictory theories. The results and models for behavior are different, but they apply to completely different situations. Neutrinos at, near, (or now above) the speed of light has no bearing on a beach ball traveling at 2 m/sec. Neither claim to explain what matter "is" philosophically; they are only observations about matter in two different forms behaving in two different ways.HarrisonNapper (talk) 18:10, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

Changed "rejection to" to "rejection of" in title of section.[edit]

"Scientific rejection to materialism" is not correct English. The form should be "rejection of". Unless the author meant "objection to..."? Hundovir (talk) 11:02, 19 April 2011 (UTC)


Materialism does not qualify as a theory. It's not falsifiable. Logan Tanner (talk) 21:10, 30 May 2011 (UTC)

Promissory materialism[edit]

I believe it was Karl Popper who invented the concept and phrase of promissory materialism, not Polkinghorne as stated in the article. You'll find plenty of references to this if you search on 'promissory materialism Popper'. --Brian Josephson (talk) 11:54, 6 February 2012 (UTC)

Proposed merger from physicalism[edit]

The two topics materialism and physicalism seem to be the same thing. The conventional thing to do is to merge the two articles and mention both terms at the top, and cover, what, if anything very much is different. In the case the more frequently accessed article is at Materialism, so I propose to merge it here.Planetscared (talk) 20:57, 17 May 2012 (UTC)

I disagree. Materialism makes metaphysical commitments that physicalism does not. For a poignant example, see George Berkeley, who considered himself a physicalist despite his being most famous for his immaterialism. --Pfhorrest (talk) 05:06, 18 May 2012 (UTC)
That doesn't prevent the merger at all. They are usually considered to be the same thing, or essentially the same thing, however there can be expected to be minor disagreements about whether someone or something is one or the other. I don't think that the vast majority of people consider them to be separate topics, and I certainly don't see how an imaterialist's views can change the general prevailing view. But it might be worth mentioning in the combined article, if you can reference it.Planetscared (talk) 19:27, 19 May 2012 (UTC)
However they have separate pages in other wikis. Do you think they should also merge?Ali Pirhayati (talk) 00:53, 31 May 2012 (UTC)
I don't care what they do, all I know is we have two articles on essentially the same topic.Planetscared (talk) 23:34, 3 June 2012 (UTC)
I disagree on that too strongly. Heusdens (talk) 13:12, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
A merger would not be appropriate. Physicalism might be regarded as a species of materialism. But in the twentieth century, debates about physicalism have focused upon certain specific arguments about the logic of statements about mental states. By contrast materialism is an altogether more general point of view associated with a variety of different kinds of philosophical argument. Materialism has been used for many centuries (one might describe Hobbes as a materialist), whereas physicalism is a phenomenon dating from the 1960s. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:37, 22 July 2012 (UTC)
By this reasoning, the article on pragmatism should be merged into the article on empiricism because pragmatism is a kind of empiricism. Instead, the empiricism article contains a brief section on pragmatism and links to the main article for pragmatism per se. I would strongly recommend not merging physicalism with materialism precisely because physicalism exists in distinction to other kinds of materialism, such as what I've long referred to as 'naive materialism', which is out-dated and the source of much confusion in philosophy (both amateur and professional). The name itself, 'physicalism', was coined to distinguish it from all the other kinds of simpler materialism that physicalism is not. I don't know if it's appropriate to post this link, and apologies if it is not, but here is my reasoning for preferring the distinct use of the word 'physicalism' over 'materialism': (This video is focused on using the word in debates, but the reasoning is also relevant to the physicalism article, IMHO.) (talk) 14:56, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Possible copyright problem[edit]

This article has been revised as part of a large-scale clean-up project of multiple article copyright infringement. (See the investigation subpage) Earlier text must not be restored, unless it can be verified to be free of infringement. For legal reasons, Wikipedia cannot accept copyrighted text or images borrowed from other web sites or printed material; such additions must be deleted. Contributors may use sources as a source of information, but not as a source of sentences or phrases. Accordingly, the material may be rewritten, but only if it does not infringe on the copyright of the original or plagiarize from that source. Please see our guideline on non-free text for how to properly implement limited quotations of copyrighted text. Wikipedia takes copyright violations very seriously. IRWolfie- (talk) 11:11, 20 June 2012 (UTC)


Regarding the Polanyi material removed today just because the contributor was a sockpuppet, here is the original Polanyi article so maybe folks can take stuff from it Michael Polanyi, Transcendence And Self-Transcendence. Just because someone is a sockpuppet does not mean all their contributions are automatically doomed, and must be removed, surely? but then again... Peter morrell 16:36, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

  • You only need to look up one section on this very talk page to see the actual reason for removing the contribution of a known prolific copyright violator. Uncle G (talk) 18:52, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Oh really? so, where did GreenUniverse even edit here or on the article, plz show me! I don't see his name anyplace. Regardless, even if you can do that, the point still remains valid: just because someone is labelled a sockpuppet doesn't automatically mean all their edits are crap. Does it? thankyou Peter morrell 19:14, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Did you try looking? The history tab is quite good for these things. A sock's edits should be removed in principle, and copyvio adds further concern. If you have access to the sources and use them as the basis for your own wording, you're welcome to cover the same points with new text. Of course the text is then your responsibility, not that of a banned sockmaster. . . dave souza, talk 20:05, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
The ends don't justify the means, confirmed sock puppet edits can be removed without regard to crappiness.—Machine Elf 1735 20:11, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Thanks Dave but I totally disagree. No way should edits that are useful and valid with good cites be removed "on principle" WHOEVER made them, so I think your so-called 'principle' is a fiction, a human construct. Too much that goes on here on wiki is irritating crap created by drive-by deletionists just out on an ego trip - period. There are no "principles" out there except the ones we humans create. If an edit is good it should be left. It stands or falls on its own merits not on who made it. Anyway, Dave, where are Greenuniverse's edits, I can't see any here. thankyou... Machine Elf no your wrong, completely wrong. On principle even, wrong! (: Peter morrell 20:15, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Peter, are you trolling? Can't you even click on a link? If you're convinced it's good content, you're free to adopt it, but take care not to add copyright violations. . . dave souza, talk 20:22, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Me trolling? No. Yes, I know that edit, Dave, and both the articles from 1968 and 1970 he refers to are freely available online and the point he makes is correct: that is what Polanyi said and thought! So where is the problem with his edit, and why delete that edit JUST because he is a sockpuppet!? On principle! what principle? precisely my point. It sucks, as you americanos say. And so it does. As I said it was simply a totally unnecessary drive-by deletion. thankyou Peter morrell 04:58, 19 July 2012 (UTC)

Unclear, possible POV problem[edit]

"However, Heisenberg's religiosity negates any scientific value in his attempts of philosophizing."

Good catch. I removed it, not only because it's POV, but because the citation didn't support it. Still-24-45-42-125 (talk) 11:07, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Could someone please add a link to Panpsychism at the end of the page? It is an important rival to materialism. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:12, 11 September 2013 (UTC)

Target audience[edit]

As a layman on these subjects, i thought i'd read this wiki to gain some degree of understanding, but this page is quite unintelligable if one isn't already versed on the subject. I had to read at least 6 other pages to be able to understand a third of what is written here. As much as i appreciate a thourough handling of a subject, i'm quite sure an audience needn't understand quantum field theory in order to grasp the concept of materialism. Is this meant for academia or should it be made understandable for a broader audience? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:04, 10 February 2015 (UTC)

Religion section is beyond bad[edit]

Someone should just rewrite the religion section. It is just awful. I don't think I am the right person to do it but I do think it needs done. I honestly do not even understand why it is in the article. Why does it try to link atheism with materialism? I hear this argument all the time from theists and they are not somehow connected. Most of the physicists and philosophers that work on quantum physics and related subjects are atheists and, just as the article says, many have rejected materialism.

Next, it seems to separate Mormonism from Christianity. Mormons are just as Christian as Catholics. I feel like there is a strong Western/Christian bias in this section.

I think the section should be entirely rewritten or deleted. (talk) 05:54, 20 August 2016 (UTC)

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In comparision with the "idealism" article[edit]

The article "Materialism" is less lengthy, has less content and has a big section of "criticism", meanwhile the article "idealism" is more lengthy and has no "criticism" section.

Does that mean the writers of these articles have a bias against materialism, or is it just an accident ? Михаил Александрович Шолохов (talk) 14:32, 15 August 2017 (UTC)

"Scientific" Objections[edit]

Just because someone is a renowned physicist does not make their objection scientific. The quote from Max Planck is pseudo-scientific, and in my opinion should be moved or deleted. [3]

m00n (talk) 04:18, 15 November 2017 (UTC)

  1. ^ Critique pp 439-442
  2. ^ ibid. pp244-7, 345-52
  3. ^ Materialism: Scientific Objections