X-Message-Number: 25328
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 00:58:47 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Materialists versus Naturalists
References: <>

  Richard wrote:

>People who believe in the
>existence of objective information and patterns cannot be
>considered materialists, but rather, must be considered

If you look up "materialism" in the *Oxford Companion to Philosophy*, it 
starts out that it is "[b]asically the view that everything is made of 
matter." After this, there is a long discussion in which it is clear that a 
number of different views on things are held by people who all are lumped 
under the term "materialists." It says, for instance: "Materialists 
strictly speaking say that only matter exists." Some, however, will also 
allow a "moderate realism in connection with" "abstract things like 
numbers, properties, classes or truths (and perhaps falsehoods), values or 
some selection of these." These are treated as "substantive entities, 
though not material nor properly speaking spiritual either." For me there 
are substantive entities that are not material, such as bodies of 
information and mathematical concepts, but these are, as the book says, not 
properly speaking spiritual either. To be other than a strict materialist 
(which I have to confess applies to me, based on this reference) doesn't 
mean I am a "spiritualist." Instead it appears that my views are a form of 
naturalism, of which it says: "In general the view that everything is 
natural, i.e. that everything there is belongs to the world of nature, and 
so can be studied by the methods appropriate for studying that world, and 
the apparent exceptions can be somehow explained away." So I reject what is 
usually understood as the supernatural or paranormal, and am not a 
spiritualist, but would not identify with being as strict a materialist as 
it is clear some are. I will also say that I think certain scientific 
theories support the view that atoms aren't as "real" as some would have 
it. According to the many-worlds formulation of quantum mechanics, as I've 
noted before, there really are no such things as particles, except as 
virtual effects of waves. If this view is correct, then it would seem we 
have to regard these waves, which are processes according to our usual 
intuition, as having more or at least as much substantial "reality" as the 
particles they, in a manner of speaking, give rise to.

Mike Perry

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