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Philosopher Ed Feser Distinguishes Matter From Materialism

Feser, of Pasadena College, California, asks us to consider what materialists are really saying

Edward Feser explains the problem by starting with what the materialist is not saying:

The matter to which he would reduce everything is not the matter of common sense, not the hard earth of daily experience. It is instead a highly abstract theoretical construct which – just like Descartes’ res cogitans – is not and indeed cannot be known directly via perception (nor, unlike the res cogitans, by introspection either). Moreover, it is a conception the materialist has inherited from Cartesian dualism itself. And it is that conception of matter, rather than the Cartesian’s commitment to a non-empirical res cogitans, that has made it so difficult for Cartesians and materialists alike to account for how conscious awareness relates to the physical world …

The sober, boring truth – enshrined in Aristotelian philosophy and common sense alike – is that some kinds of purely material substances (namely non-human animals) are conscious, and others (like rocks and dirt) are not. The latter really do possess qualities like color as common sense conceives of it, but that does not entail panpsychism, because (contra Descartes, Berkeley, and company) those qualities are not entirely mind-dependent. Not all matter is reducible to one, lowest-common-denominator type, and none of it is reducible to the purely mathematical description afforded by physics. That description is merely an abstraction from concrete physical reality. It captures part of that reality, to be sure, but not the whole of it.

To think otherwise is somewhat like thinking that “the average person” of the statistician really exists, but that the various individual people we meet from day to day do not. The reality is that those individuals do exist, and that the notion of “the average person,” while it captures important aspects of reality and is therefore useful for certain purposes, is a mere abstraction that does not correspond to any concrete entity. And in the same way, the concrete physical objects of everyday experience also really do exist, whereas the mathematical description afforded by physics, despite its undeniable predictive and technological utility, does not capture the entirety of concrete reality. To pretend otherwise is, we can agree with Berkeley, a kind of make-believe.

Edward Feser, “Make-believe matter” at Edward Feser Blogspot (September 5, 2021)

And that is what materialism amounts to now.

See also: The science “advances” disproving the mind are ever more elusive A friendly interview with an important neuroscientist makes that starkly clear. So many establishment figures do not appear to want to notice the obvious point: Materialism is failing. Popular but failing.


You may also wish to read: Yes, there really is a war on math in our schools. Pundits differ as to the causes but here are some facts parents should know.


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Philosopher Ed Feser Distinguishes Matter From Materialism