Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Materialism and Idealism

Materialism and Idealism are the two contrary doctrines in philosophy. According to the materialistic view, the world is entirely mind-independent, composed only of physical objects and physical interactions. In epistemology, idealism is opposed to realism, the view that mind-independent physical objects exist that can be known through the senses. However, the distinction and relation between materialism and idealism is given below:-

Idealism: Idealism, in philosophy, a theory of reality and of knowledge that attributes to consciousness, or the immaterial mind, a primary role in the constitution of the world. More narrowly, within metaphysics, idealism is the view that all physical objects are mind-dependent and can have no existence apart from a mind that is conscious of them.

Materialism: Materialism is the philosophical position that states anything in material or state of matter. The word comes from Greek word "Materia" that means matter. Materialists particularly deny that human self is a spiritual or in any way non-material entity. They interpret beliefs, thoughts, desires, sensations and other mental states as properties of Material system.

According to Oxford Dictionary, "Materialism is the theory or the belief that only material things exist.” Materialism is a tendency to be more interested in material possession, physical comforts etc. than in spiritual values.

Materialism is a philosophical doctrine consists in affirming that the entire universe including life and mind can be explained by matter-in the only self -existent and ultimate reality. And all things and beings mere derived from matter. Prof. Tyndoll says "Matter contains the promise and potency of al forms of existence, even life and mind". Life is a complex physiochemical force and mind is a function of matter.

Irish philosopher George Berkeley is considered as the founder of idealism, the philosophical view that all physical objects are dependent on the mind for their existence. According to Berkeley's early 18th century writings, an object, such as a table exist only if a mind is perceiving it. Hence, objects are ideas. The observer does not conjure external objects into existence, however; the true ideas of them are caused in the human mind directly by God. Eighteenth century German philosopher Immanuel Kant greatly refined idealism through his critical inquiry into what he believed to be the limits of possible knowledge. Kant held that all that can be known of things is the way in which they appear in themselves. He also held that the fundamental principles of all science are essentially grounded in the constitution of the mind rather than being derived from the external world.

Nineteenth century German philosopher G.W.F Hegel disagreed with Kant's theory concerning the inescapable human ignorance of what things are in themselves, instead arguing for the ultimate intelligibility of all existence. Hegel also maintained that the highest achievements of the human spirit (culture, science, religion, and the state) are not the result of naturally determined processes in the mind, but are conceived and sustained by the dialectical of free, reflective intellect.

After a survey of the historical development of idealism in the West, there formed a general idea of the idealistic metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. Three important forms of idealism are generally recognized:

01. Subjective idealism.
02. Transcendental idealism.
03. Objective/ absolute idealism.

Coming to the modern period Descartes declared that only the existence of self is beyond any doubt. This certainly drawn from the proposition "I think, therefore, I exist".

On the other hand Materialism, in philosophy, doctrine that all existence is resolvable into matter or into an attribute or effect of matter. According to this doctrine, matter is the ultimate reality, and the phenomenon of consciousness is explained by physiochemical changes in the nervous system. Materialism is thus the antithesis of idealism, in which the supremacy of mind is affirmed and matter is characterized as an aspect or objectification of mind.

Our knowledge of matter, its properties and the changes that it undergoes, is much greater than our knowledge of mind. Not only this, we are immediately confronted with matter and it is much easier to know its dimensions. The physical sciences reveal that the world of objects constituted of matter as an interconnected system. So far as observation goes, we have perceived most material things existing without mind. In addition to these reasons, there are the facts furnished by physiology and its allied branches, which substantiate the materialist view of reality. A very clear, strong and convincing case for the priority of matter to mind, dependence of manual on the material, is presented by science. Materialism asserts that consciousness is only a property, a product or an effect of matter. It seems impossible invalidate the arguments for materialism from the standpoint of physical sciences.

Materialism is allied to realism, naturalism and evolutionism. Whatever we perceive through our senses cannot be considered as unreal. The world of matter is the real world. As naturalism, it believes in the case of natural laws in the process of development both in the case of Nature as well as human society. Thus, materialism does not accept the existence of a supernatural agency for guiding and regulating the destiny of the world. Materialism does not believe in the concept of creation because existence of God as the creator is denied. The natural world has evolved from earlier stages. Life has also evolved not of matter.

To sun up we can say that Idealists are self centered to some extent and the Materialists are objective by nature. Both of them are extremists in their concerned philosophy. However, the controversy between materialism and idealism makes them complementary to each nether. Therefore, the distinction between these two philosophies may remain in the future, as it was in the past. There is no solution of this problem so far.

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