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October 15, 2010

I’ve been looking into the differences between materialism and idealism, but no matter what arguments are presented for both sides of this metaphysical argument, I can’t help but wonder if it’s all just semantics. After all, if everything is ultimately reducible to matter, then what would be the point of distinguishing matter from idea? Or alternatively, if everything is ultimately reducible to idea, then why even talk about matter, as it is from that perspective merely the manifestation of idea in corrupted form. The idealist contend that matter is the product of idea, while the materialist asserts that idea is the result of chemical reactions within matter, but to support either view, we must also consider that by changing the role of either matter or idea (even in relation to each other), we must also change the definition of them (as the definition of something is dependent upon its corresponding purpose). As both of these conflicting views are both possible, to assert either one as being subservient to the other will turn this dilemma into a meaninglessly sophistic battle of semantics.

For these reasons, I must assert my belief that both matter and idea of equally complex manifestations of energy, with matter taking the form of physical energy, and idea taking the form of spiritual energy. Both spiritual and physical energy are reducible to pure energy; while pure energy has no form in-and-of-itself (being infinite in nature), it can take on form by interacting with the physical and / or spiritual world (both of which are different ways of looking at the same thing), and depending on the nature of those interactions, produces either material, idea, or a blend of the two. This belief, although I originated the specific details of it, can best be classified as a Neutral Monism, or more specifically, the Double-aspect theory.

Interestingly enough, I also believe the soul to be the most powerful example of a form of energy that is simultaneously composed of both physical energy and spiritual energy.

As you should know, both idealism and materialism are philosophies that deal with the nature of reality; the question of the nature of the source from which this complex world emanates has occupied the minds of philosophers for several thousand years. What I take issue with is the distinction between metaphysics and epistemology: Most philosophers consider metaphysics a waste of time, as epistemology is more immediately “useful.” It’s a solid argument, except for one big problem: Epistemology is dependent upon the predominating metaphysical perspectives, as the truth can only be interpreted according to the reality in which it resides. As such, there is no truth in this world other than what “truth” the decided metaphysical reality permits; this makes any conception of “truth” an inherently fragile and biased one.

I’m not saying we should prioritize metaphysics over epistemology; rather, I’m saying that we need to understand and account for the bias caused by the metaphysical alignment (that is, the axioms) upon which our epistemologically-derived “knowledge” is based. By accounting for the influence that metaphysics has on the interpretation of knowledge (and thus of epistemology, we can better understand what knowledge we have acquired, how to make use of it, and perhaps even avoid being “deceived” by it!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ronnie permalink
    October 15, 2010 10:37 pm

    A solid grasp of our underlying metaphysics is indeed an important tool for understanding knowledge today. Many of the most difficult problems at the edges of science center around issues like what the meaning of ‘is’ is. Many scientists today have abandoned the word, instead stating that the laws that have been discovered up to date are our best current _model_ of the situation.

    It could be that the ‘actual’ nature of thought and matter could be irrelevant to us, as we are unlikely to ever be able to perceive it at our current stage of evolution, leaving models that work well for certain purposes as the best workable statement of ‘truth’ that we can attain for now.

    Interesting to me, in the light of your belief that mental and physical energies are both expressions of the same energy, is the idea that the physical world exists to create and elaborate the mental one, while the mental world depends upon and ultimately changes the physical.

    I think that this idea derives in part from a common idea in modern society that the universe creates lifeforms in an attempt to slow the process of entropy by as much as possible. This is interesting to me in light of the information-theoretic definition of entropy as the unpredictability of a signal.

    This seems to indicate that many of the bewildering aspects of our own minds may result from an evolved attempt to slow entropy. Perhaps sentience wouldn’t be possible without as much chaos as we live with.

    Sorry for going on and on, I hope these were useful comments.

    • Ronnie permalink
      October 15, 2010 10:44 pm

      In addendum to my previous comment, I would like to point out that some thinkers, such as Dr. Timothy Leary, believe that some of us actually will be able to perceive more of the truth, using parts of the brain the prefigure future evolution. This is stated as part of his highly thought-provoking 8 circuit model of consciousness, which I learned about from my favorite author, Robert Anton Wilson.

      • October 15, 2010 11:00 pm

        Yes, I am very much interested In Timothy Leary’s 8 circuit model of consciousness, even using it (indirectly, via the linked word “unlocked”) in my post “No Excuses”. I think that despite his drug experimentation and controversial beliefs, that science has missed out by not taking Timothy Leary’s research more seriously. Either that or I’m a bit too idealistic for my own good!

      • Ronnie permalink
        October 15, 2010 11:04 pm

        I’d say BECAUSE of his drug experiments, in part! He showed that LSD was a safe, effective treatment method if handed carefully, and he never had a patient how had a bad ‘trip’ under his care. Those experiments were very important, and would have led to a new scientific field I believe if they had not been squelched. Then again, I am a big defender of some non-mainstream scientists, like Reich. They burned his books!!! I still can’t believe it….

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