Worldviews: Materialism

By: Catherine Gao, Shannon Fitzgerald, Hadyn King

What is Materialism?

Materialism(also known as physicalism) is a theory in the metaphysics field of philosophy designed to answer the question "what is real"?  It is not the same as consumerism, which is the obsession with having material objects that you really don't need. Materialism states that only things made of matter are real. Intangible/abstract concepts like God, the human soul, or evil therefore do not exist. This means that it disputes dualism, the idea that people have both a physical body and and a spiritual entity. This philosophy was very popular in the 1800s, but has mostly disappeared due to advances in science and changes in public perception. It has seen a recent revival due to Einstein's theory of relativity (E=mc^2). This theory basically means that matter and energy are the same things. Under this principle, forces of energy would also be seen as real.

The song that we chose to represent materialism is Keep it Simple by Van Morrison. We chose this song because of the lyrics.

Wrote about disappointment and greed

Wrote about what we really didn't need in our lives

Make us feel alive and whole

Illusions and pipe dreams on the one hand

And straight reality is always cold

Saying something hard edged is off the wall

And it might seem too bold

The lyrics are saying that we have a lot of items in our lives that we can cut out, but we buy them because it makes us feel alive and complete. When we do not believe in God because he is not real, it leaves a hole that we need to fix or fill. In the second stanza, it is saying that we accept straight reality, which is really cold or mean, but it might be too harsh sometimes. It is better to accept the truth than to hide away in a fantasy.

Our film/media character is Piper Chapman from Orange is the New Black.

Piper Chapman: I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Christopher Hitchens. Although I do admit he could be a kind of an ass****. I cannot get behind some supreme being who weighs in on the Tony Awards while a million people get whacked with machetes. I don't believe a billion Indians are going to hell. I don't think we get cancer to learn life lessons, and I don't believe that people die young because God needs another angel. I think it's just bull****, and on some level, I think we all know that, I mean, don't you?... Look I understand that religion makes it easier to deal with all of the random s***** things that happen to us. And I wish I could get on that ride, I'm sure I would be happier. But I can't . Feeling aren't enough. I need it to be real .  

Compare and Contrast this worldview with the Christian Worldview

1. What is prime reality—the really real?

Christians would answer this as God is the ground of all being, sometimes even understood as the condition of being. It is God who gives of God’s-self to sustain creation continually in love. To this we might answer: Everything made up of matter or energy is real.

3. What is a human being?

Christians would say that we are a single unified person. Spiritual and material are not separate “parts” but two dimensions of the same person that acts in the world. Our spiritual dimension is just as real as our material dimension. It enables us to think, to make free choices, and to love. We would say that a human being a a highly communal, intelligent entity that has created many forms of communication and growth.

4. What happens to a person at death?

Christians would say that each of us is responsible for what happens to us after death. We are free to choose our actions and therefore we are responsible for our actions, and will be held accountable for them. There will be a judgment based on what we did or didn’t do to grow in our capacity to love. In so far as we have loved, we will know/see God after our death. We would say that after death, the person's body decomposes, but the person's personality ceases to exist once the chemical reactions and energy transfers in their brain stopped.

5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?

Christians would say that because we are made in the image of an all-knowing God who is revealed through all of creation, our searching for knowledge leads us to God. We can know the true nature of something by studying its effects on other material things.

A biblical passage we can assign from the first semester is the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21). This relates to materialism because there were witnesses that Jesus used only 5 loaves of barley bread and 2 fish to feed 5 thousand people. Jesus could do something inexplicable because he could create real, material items. This relates to materialism because if it was true, Jesus could do something that we cannot explain.

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