• intrapersona
    558
    In the western world majority of people I meet think materialism is intuitively true, probably because the absence of self-awareness during sleep seems to confirm to them that self-awareness is synonymous with their big ol lump of flesh called the brain.

    But how is materialism incomplete in explaining this to be true, why is there room for other theories? Is it only because "we can never know anything for certain" or is there actually some room for probable alternatives here?
  • Wayfarer
    8.8k
    Materialism is the default in a secular age, because it is presented as being an account of what really exists when superstitious ideas such as religious mythologies and beliefs about the after-life have been stripped away. As Buddhist Studies scholar David Loy says, 'The main problem with our usual understanding of secularity is that it is taken-for- granted, so we are not aware that it is a worldview. It is an ideology that pretends to be the everyday world we live in. Many assume that it is simply the way the world really is, once superstitious beliefs about it have been removed. 1'

    From there, it is then said that the 'burden of proof' is on any of those who challenge this supposedly scientific consensus, and that the only acceptable kinds of proof for such claims, are those which meet the standards of proof found in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

    But then, as secular culture generally pre-supposes a materialist or naturalistic view as normative, research proposals into what are generally categorised as 'PSI' or paranormal psychology are regarded with great suspicion, as the acknowledgement that there might even be something to study, amounts to what is called a 'pseudo-scientific view of life'.

    There are numerous such cases that have received publicity over the last several decades, such as the controversial research into 'children with past-life memories' undertaken by Prof Ian Stevenson (deceased), University of Virginia 2; almost all the research associated with Rupert Sheldrake, who is routinely castigated for being a charlatan or pseudo-scientist by so-called sceptics; sociology researcher Darryl Bem who produced a study purporting to show pre-cognition; and research into near death experiences by Dutch cardiologist Pim Von Lommel.

    As to how materialism is deficient as an explanation for human experience - obviously, if there really are children who recall previous lives, to mention but one example, then current science has no account of a medium which could account for that. But more prosaically, I think that the very notion that all of human abilities, tendencies, talents and skills are encoded physically, seems quite under threat by emerging models such as epi-genetic inheritance. My belief is that there must be something very like Sheldrake's morphological fields - there might be 'biological fields' which transmit memories or the imprints left by experience to future generations. That may turn out to be something that can be naturalised in the long run, but I don't see how it could be explained in materialist terms.
  • intrapersona
    558
    From there, it is then said that the 'burden of proof' is on any of those who challenge this supposedly scientific consensus, and that the only acceptable kinds of proof for such claims, are those which meet the standards of proof found in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.Wayfarer

    That is a nice clarifying description of how materialism exists in the modern world, at least in most societies at any rate. I agree with what science has done here by creating a standing ground upon which they reject everything that isn't verifiable upon "their terms and conditions". I like it because it works, so far that I can see and that is why I am double checking here to see whether this is a valid approach. What I would like to know though is how materialism is incomplete in explaining the notion of annihilation at death to be true. is there room for other theories? Is it only because "we can never know anything for certain" or is there actually some room for probable alternatives here? I know logic fails at times to explain many aspects of existence and I wonder if that is not the case with understanding the notion of death.

    I think that the very notion that all of human abilities, tendencies, talents and skills are encoded physically, seems quite under threat by emerging models such as epi-genetic inheritance. My belief is that there must be something very like Sheldrake's morphological fields - there might be 'biological fields' which transmit memories or the imprints left by experience to future generations. That may turn out to be something that can be naturalised in the long run, but I don't see how it could be explained in materialist terms.Wayfarer

    After some research it seems that DNA changes occurred in the sperm cells of rats after aversive stimuli but not where else. The experience of the father rat doesn't change the dna coding in the offspring but only how that dna coding is read and used by the offspring. Which is still a form of encoding because you have to use code to read the code (epigenetic tags). I like sheldrake's idea, but "fields" might not be the only source of "alternative interaction" with the our everyday physical world we know of. Another possibility that would allow you to explain it in materialist terms would be that of connected dimensions to ours. When I say connected, I mean every atom would be connected like a puppet is on strings to higher dimensional space of which we have no way of currently measuring (apart from anecdotally through the subjective experience of various psychoactive substances). This would thereby allow information exchange by ordering the atoms arrangements from the movement of objects (or even possibly entities) in higher dimensional spaces.
  • Wayfarer
    8.8k
    What I would like to know though is how materialism is incomplete in explaining the notion of annihilation at death to be true. is there room for other theories? Is it only because "we can never know anything for certain" or is there actually some room for probable alternatives here? I know logic fails at times to explain many aspects of existence and I wonder if that is not the case with understanding the notion of death.intrapersona

    I think a large part of the answer is historical. Part of the charter of scientific societies, such as the Royal Society, which is (I think) the oldest scientific organisation, is to exclude from consideration matters which were generally considered to be in the province of religion. As 'the fate of souls' was most assuredly felt to be a religious matter, such questions were naturally regarded as being out of scope for scientific analysis. Add to that, the tendency of Enlightenment thinkers to reject religious authorities and to try confine themselves to scientific reason. The whole question of what, if anything, happens after death was relegated to the domain of folklore and mythology.

    As well as that, belief in anything like re-birth or the 'pre-existence of souls', was anathematised (declared heretical) very early in the Christian era. That has manifested as a cultural taboo on the idea of reincarnation in Western culture. So for those reasons, among others, philosophical materialism generally shuns any such ideas.

    So, I don't know where that leads to, though. I tend to favour, overall, the Buddhist attitude, although I can't think of an easy way to summarise it.

    I mean every atom would be connected like a puppet is on strings to higher dimensional space of which we have no way of currently measuring (apart from anecdotally through the subjective experience of various psychoactive substances). This would thereby allow information exchange by ordering the atoms arrangements from the movement of objects (or even possibly entities) in higher dimensional spaces.intrapersona

    Well - sure! But if that is so, then it's out of scope for what is now understood as 'materialism'. Although it might be argued that materialism is morphing into something else altogether, via some of the far-out ideas that are percolating through modern culture about multiverses and many worlds. (There was a book published a couple of years back Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse , Mary-Jane Rubenstein http://a.co/5boLaCU ).
  • Rich
    3.2k
    In the western world majority of people I meet think materialism is intuitively true, probably because the absence of self-awareness during sleep seems to confirm to them that self-awareness is synonymous with their big ol lump of flesh called the brain.

    But how is materialism incomplete in explaining this to be true, why is there room for other theories? Is it only because "we can never know anything for certain" or is there actually some room for probable alternatives here?
    intrapersona

    It may be that the majority of people that you meet may be materialists, but it does appear that most people are quite religious believing in a spiritual, non-material God. Of course, that is not here nor there, since majority beliefs are inconsequential when attempting to understand the nature of the universe.

    Insofar as materialism is concerned, it is rather incomplete since there does not appear to be any evidence anywhere to support such a conclusion, unless one proposes that invisible forces of nature, quanta, light, and dark matter, time, emotions, ideas, qualia, etc. are material. Of course, one can propose such a notion but then materialism simply becomes the philosophical equivalent of Hinduism, in that everything is simply welcomed ugnder the umbrella of Hinduism or materialism as you would have it. It's a way of keeping ideas alive.
  • intrapersona
    558
    it is rather incomplete since there does not appear to be any evidence anywhere to support such a conclusion, unless one proposes that invisible forces of nature, quanta, light, and dark matter, time, emotions, ideas, qualia, etc. are materialRich

    That's more in the direction I am wanting to go here with this thread. Why is there incomplete evidence in support of materialism? Can one not have subjective states as an emergent property of matter? Are you saying that the hard problem negates the validity of materialism in its proposition on full annihilation at death? Also, I would have thought light, quanta, fields, dark matter, time would still be considered part of the physical universe and therefore form part of physicalism/materialism.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Yes, of course one can always make everything that is non-material into material, and everything that is purely subjective, personal, and unmeasurable into emergent and call it materialism (that is precisely what Hindus do, i.e. everything is Hindu), but at some point it is worth considering the possibility that not all things are material, and indeed there may be immaterial and material. Such a new line of inquiry can be quite exciting and illuminating. No reason to get stuck along one path especially when other paths are begging to be traveled.
  • intrapersona
    558
    Yes, of course one can always make everything that is non-material into material, and everything that is purely subjective, personal, and unmeasurable into emergent and call it Hinduism (that is precisely what Hindus do, i.e. everything is Hindu), but atn done point it is worth considering the possibility that not all things are material, and indeed there may be immaterial and material. Such a new line of inquiry can be quite exciting and illuminating. No reason to get stuck along one path especially when other paths are begging to be traveled.Rich

    Yes all possibilities aside, I am interested in understanding how physicalism fails in providing an accurate reflection of death. Does the fact that we don't understand consciousness grant us reason to infer beyond annihilation at death?

  • Rich
    3.2k
    Yes all possibilities aside, I am interested in understanding how physicalism fails in providing an accurate reflection of death. Does the fact that we don't understand consciousness grant us reason to infer beyond annihilation at death?intrapersona

    This is a very specific line of inquiry which is more siritual in nature.

    That consciousness is not understood does not necessarily infer anything beyond death, however it leaves open the possibility that the life/birth cycle may be more than what physicalism admits to. How much more? Well, it is simply a lifelong quest. Jung, late in his life, said he doesn't think there is more after death, he knows there is more. I am not there yet, though I do find hints and clues that Memory (consciousness) persists and does not vanish.
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