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Materialism as a Worldview - Essay Example

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Since the ancient Greeks, the compelling search for the fundamentals of all existence has led some to espouse idealism or a belief in unchanging conceptual universals, while others have held to physical materialism. For centuries the tension between these views of the world has stimulated intense philosophical inquiry…
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Materialism as a Worldview
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Download file to see previous pages Reducing the debate simply to materialism and idealism therefore, the materialist hypothesis is that all existence is an unbroken, material continuum from its origins in ancient Greece to the mind-brain materialism of the modern times (Vitzthum, 1995). Materialism as a worldview appears to be prevalent in society today.
Materialism began in the 18th century (McConnell, 2003). The leading scientists of that time suffered cognitive dissonance between the beliefs of the many religious sects which then existed along with their own scientific discoveries (McConnell, 2003). They relieved their discomfort by agreeing among themselves that religion was unnecessary. Unfortunately, the amorality of materialism was so attractive to lesser intellectuals, who lacked the status to question the leaders. The same was true to businessmen, who could use materialism to justify exorbitant profits that it has become a defining feature of the culture (McConnell, 2003).
Materialism and its theories can be traced as far back as the poem, The Nature of Things, written in the first century B.C. by Lucretius ("Materialism: what matters," 2007) to the more recent research done by Richard Vitzthum (1996), An Affirmative History and Definition.
The doctrine of materialism was formulated as early as the 4th century B.C. by Democritus, in whose system of atomism all phenomena are explained by atoms and their motions in space (Armstrong, 1984). Other early Greek teaching, such as that of Epicurus and Stoicism, also conceived of reality as material in its nature. The theory was later renewed in the 17th century by Pierre Gassendi and Thomas Hobbes, who believed that the sphere of consciousness essentially belongs to the corporeal world, or to the senses (Armstrong, 1984).
Later, the investigations of John Locke were adapted to materialist positions by David Hartley and Joseph Priestley. They were a part of the materialist development of the 18th century strongly manifested in France, where the most extreme thought was that of Julien de La Mettrie. The culminating expression of materialist thought in this period was the Systme de la nature (1770), for which Baron d'Holbach is considered chiefly responsible (Armstrong, 1984).
In Western civilization, materialism is the oldest philosophical tradition. It reached its full classical form in the atomism of Democritus and Epicurus in the 4th century B.C. Epicurus argued that reality consisted of invisible and indivisible particles of free-falling matter called atoms randomly colliding in the void. Through materialism, everything that happens is explained in terms of the law of nature (Armstrong, 1984).
Overview of major beliefs and representative thinkers
Materialism is a simple philosophy, having two principles: 1) There is no reality except that which can be defined in terms of the physical concepts of space and time; and 2) As individuals, we have no obligations to other persons except for those obligations that we accept for our own pleasure. This second principle follows from the first (McConnell, 2003).
When people use the word "materialism" they usually have one of two definitions in mind. Philosophically speaking, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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