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Classical Materialism, Nonclassical Materialism, and Supernaturalism

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posted on Jan, 2 2006 @ 12:59 PM
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This thread's about metaphysics. In philosophy, metaphysics is the study of the nature of reality. When atheists and theists bonk on each other, each is assuming one of the metaphysical positions named in the thread title. Atheists are assuming classical materialism, while theists are assuming supernaturalism. There's a third position, though, that seldom gets proper consideration. I'll come back to that shortly.

Classical materialism, supernaturalism, and nonclassical materalism are my own terms, so I'll define them before going on.

Classical materialism is the belief that all of reality is material, and that the nature of material reality is what common sense and ordinary perception would suggest.

A classical materalist's philosophical view of material reality hews closely to Newtonian physics. When the materialist dons his scientist hat, he recognizes that Newtonian physics is obsolete, but in philosophy the implications of this fact have not been absorbed. The classical materialist views material reality as:

1. Solid, and composed of discrete bits.
2. Precisely contained in space-time, with no action possible between two events separated too far in space for light to bridge the gap in the time between them.
3. Deterministic in its processes.
4. Devoid of weird stuff like ESP, UFOs, psychic phenomena of any kind, miraculous occurrences, and the presence of God.
5. Entirely understandable by the rational mind.

Supernaturalism is the belief that material reality is intersected and impacted in some way by a non-material reality of some kind that transcends the limits of natural law. A theist considers God a supernatural reality, but there are other versions of supernaturalism besides monotheistic religion.

The main thing to understand about supernaturalists is that they have a view of material reality similar to that of the classical materialist, but believe that not all reality is material. Essentially, supernaturalism is classical materialism with a supernatural addition. The argument between these two schools of belief comes down to whether or not anything supernatural exists.

Nonclassical materialism agrees with classical materialism that reality is material, but insists that the nature of material reality is radically different from what common sense and ordinary perception would suggest. A nonclassical materialist's view of the material world incorporates relativity, quantum mechanics, and chaos. A classical materialist accepts these theories as science, of course, but has not incorporated them into his philosophical views; a nonclassical materialist has. Accordingly, a nonclassical materialist sees matter as:

1. Mostly empty space, composed of probability waves and indeterminate particles.
2. Leaving open the possibility of action outside the limits imposed by the speed of light, and even without energy.
3. Largely indeterminate in its processes.
4. Quite possibly containing "weird stuff," which is really no weirder than material reality in general.
5. Subject to mathematical understanding, but requiring some non-rational growth of consciousness before it can be comprehended intuitively.

This is the position I take, and I find it cuts across the disagreement between atheists and theists. They're both wrong, in my view, the atheist because he closes his mind to the validity of spiritual experience, and the theist because he takes too narrow a view of such experiences and their meaning.




posted on Jan, 2 2006 @ 02:55 PM
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Excellent!


Am I understanding correctly, then, that your position, the one between atheist and theist, is what you are referring to as 'nonclassical materialism?'

Just wanted to be clear.

Awesome post--my thoughts run very similar to what you are saying. Essentially there is a position between the two traditionally called 'religion' and science,' right?



posted on Jan, 2 2006 @ 05:31 PM
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Originally posted by queenannie38
Excellent!


Am I understanding correctly, then, that your position, the one between atheist and theist, is what you are referring to as 'nonclassical materialism?'

Just wanted to be clear.

Awesome post--my thoughts run very similar to what you are saying. Essentially there is a position between the two traditionally called 'religion' and science,' right?


Thanks, Annie!

I guess you could say it was between the two, though I hadn't thought of that myself. The idea of the "supernatural" is pretty recent, really. The ancient and medieval philosophers had no such concept. It was all one world, full of many wonders. And the world shown us by the new physics is full of wonders, too. It's only the Newtonian world that's a dead clockwork, and only if that's the world we're faced with, is there any need for something outside it to allow for God.



posted on Jan, 2 2006 @ 06:36 PM
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I have been coming to the realization of 'duality' as being not so much existence but rather perspective. Hence my new avatar for this new year. The yin yang is a symbol of reality, and applicable universally, IMO--although many will surely object. It is illustrative of the whole, as a juxtaposition of two 'realities' which are really only one.

Once we can 'overcome' the concept of duality, we can understand and then experience Unity. Unity with God and with one another. That is how we can overcome its circumstance, which is our prison, our mortality. That is also the idea fundamental to understanding the cross and the nature of Christ--man and God, natural and supernatural, death and life, hell and heaven, evil and good, dark and light, material and spiritual, science and (true) religion.

To identify with only one is to exist only halfway--and it is not a progression from any one of those to the other, but rather a reconciliation of both into a unified awareness that is the goal of all of humanity--the goal for us which has been provided as accomplished, in due time, by God.

To see only one side of the mountain is not the same as seeing the view from on top of the mountain!

Supernatural is a word I have never particularly liked or understood --especially in regard to God. It is used a lot by the RCC and I think it puts an unnecessary and deceptive barrier where there will one day not be any wall at all.

I am definitely a 'nonclassical materialist!' And I am one to never say I am any certain thing.

Thank you for your insight!



posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 12:49 AM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward
Essentially, supernaturalism is classical materialism with a supernatural addition. The argument between these two schools of belief comes down to whether or not anything supernatural exists.


I disagree with the wording used there. Supernaturalists claim that the supernatural encompasses the material, for the most part. Always have to leave room for the New Age supernaturalist.



Nonclassical materialism:

1. Mostly empty space, composed of probability waves and indeterminate particles.
2. Leaving open the possibility of action outside the limits imposed by the speed of light, and even without energy.
3. Largely indeterminate in its processes.
4. Quite possibly containing "weird stuff," which is really no weirder than material reality in general.
5. Subject to mathematical understanding, but requiring some non-rational growth of consciousness before it can be comprehended intuitively.

This is the position I take, and I find it cuts across the disagreement between atheists and theists. They're both wrong, in my view, the atheist because he closes his mind to the validity of spiritual experience, and the theist because he takes too narrow a view of such experiences and their meaning.


This is the old "having your cake and eating too" stance. You'd first have to prove that there is a supernatural existence in order to validate such a claim as "nonclassical materialism", which you can't. Atheists abide by a scientic analysis when looking at god-concepts/supernaturalism. Encorporating scientific analysis, no matter how advanced, is what an atheist does at a basic level. If they're not, then they're not an atheist.

It sounds to me as though you fall into some New Age group. No gods but there is some supernatural magic out there that you can't prove, etc, etc? Is that correct? I'm not attacking you, just trying to understand your view-point since you presented it well enough.



[edit on 1/3/2006 by Obscure]



posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 04:47 AM
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double post, sorry.

[edit on 1/3/2006 by Obscure]



posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 09:41 AM
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Originally posted by Obscure
I disagree with the wording used there. Supernaturalists claim that the supernatural encompasses the material, for the most part.


No, that's not true. A supernaturalist may claim (and many do) that the supernatural creates or is the source of the material world, but that's not the same thing. My point was that supernaturalists view the nature of material reality in the same way as a classical materialist would.



Always have to leave room for the New Age supernaturalist.


Some New Agers are supernaturalists, some are nonclassical materialists. None believe that the supernatural "encompasses" the material world; either they believe that the supernatural creates or is the source of the material world, or they don't believe in the supernatural.



You'd first have to prove that there is a supernatural existence in order to validate such a claim as "nonclassical materialism"


Since I don't believe in the supernatural, why should I have to prove it?

Anyway, every statement I made about the nature of material reality derives from 20th century physics. It's already been proven far more rigorously than I have the means to do.



It sounds to me as though you fall into some New Age group.


I am in a class by myself. You'll have to deal with my ideas as I express them, not try to incorporate responses you would make to other people.



posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 10:33 AM
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the atheist because he closes his mind to the validity of spiritual experience,



Since I don't believe in the supernatural, why should I have to prove it?


Supernatural meaning outside the laws of nature. The "spiritual experience" would be such unless your definition has meaning.


No, that's not true. A supernaturalist may claim (and many do) that the supernatural creates or is the source of the material world, but that's not the same thing. My point was that supernaturalists view the nature of material reality in the same way as a classical materialist would


Exactly. They posit it as outside, encompassing, of the material reality, insofar as they claim it creates, or is the source of material reality.



[edit on 1/3/2006 by Obscure]



posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 03:48 PM
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Originally posted by Obscure
Supernatural meaning outside the laws of nature.


Yes, that's exactly what I don't believe in. But there are many things which a classical materialist (or a supernaturalist) would regard as "outside the laws of nature," that in current scientific views aren't necessarily.

I think the best way to address this is to start simply. Let me ask you this question. Do you agree or disagree that most natural processes are indeterminate, that is, that their outcome cannot be exactly predicted given knowledge of initial conditions, but only as a probability distribution? Note that I am not referring here to any failure or imperfection of our measuring capability; no matter how good our ability to measure becomes, natural processes will remain indeterminate. Agree or disagree?

I'll go from there depending on your answer.



The "spiritual experience" would be such unless your definition has meaning.


I think you left a word out, but I'm not sure whether you meant to say "unless your definition has NO meaning," or "unless your definition has A DIFFERENT meaning." I'm also not clear whether you're referring to my definition of supernatural or of spiritual.

Regardless, I don't see anything supernatural about spiritual experiences. Transcendent, yes, but what it transcends is our concept of the self, not the laws of nature.


Exactly. They posit it [the supernatural] as outside, encompassing, of the material reality, insofar as they claim it creates, or is the source of material reality.


That still makes it a separate entity from the material world, though, something added to the material world and giving rise to the spiritual and/or psychic. I see the spiritual and psychic as being part of, or an emergent property of, the material world, just as mind is, and do not require an add-on to account for it.

We live in a very wild, strange place. For a time, the success of Newton's laws of motion suggested otherwise, but that scientific theory, elegant and impressive though it be, is obsolete and has been replaced. A materialism grounded in the new physics as classical materialism is in the old, can accommodate the spiritual without resorting to a supernatural realm.

Edit: I just saw a possible confusion above. When I say that the supernatural is "added to" the material world, I don't mean to suggest that supernaturalists believe the material world came first. I mean only that their concept of the supernatural is added to their concept of the material world (which is the same as a classical materialist's) to account for the spiritual and/or psychic. Of course, many of them do believe that the supernatural came first and is more important.

[edit on 3-1-2006 by Two Steps Forward]



posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 05:21 PM
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I guess we're arguing defintions here. I see 'spiritual' and the immediate inference in my mind is supernatural. Not too fond of the word.

Transcendent knowledge is a different matter. That is necessary as we have a limit to our knowledge. Heh, I don't think it's a stretch to say such a thing. Though, i'm not sure where that diffentiates you from an atheist.



posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 05:42 PM
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Originally posted by Obscure
I guess we're arguing defintions here. I see 'spiritual' and the immediate inference in my mind is supernatural. Not too fond of the word.


Spirituality is a set of practices. Meditation is spiritual. Prayer is spiritual. Rituals are often spiritual. The word also refers to a type of experience, in which the boundaries of the self are blurred, one way or another. Most everything that can be said about it is metaphor, because our languages were designed for other purposes.

The supernatural is an idea about the meaning of those practices and experiences. Those who believe that idea might "define" spiritual in supernaturalist terms, e.g. as visions from God, presence of God, etc., God being understood in the standard-brand monotheistic Judeo-Christian sense. Ancient astronomers "defined" the sun as the fiery body that circles the earth every day, as well. We now know that the sun does not circle the earth but vice-versa, yet the sun is still there.



Transcendent knowledge is a different matter. That is necessary as we have a limit to our knowledge. Heh, I don't think it's a stretch to say such a thing. Though, i'm not sure where that diffentiates you from an atheist.


I imagine a Christian might say the same thing. And some have. Put it this way. I have some very unorthodox ideas about the nature of deity, but I also have an altar to the Mother Goddess set up in my bedroom and perform devotions to Her on a daily basis. I don't believe She exists independently of my own mind. Her humaniform qualities come from me, from my psychic interaction with the Cosmos that is Her real self, and of which I am a part. I am well aware of that. Yet the Cosmos is certainly real, and I am able to interact with it, and that interaction becomes Her.

Does that make me an atheist? I'm not sure the question has meaning.



posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 09:47 PM
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I've tried to express the same thing repeatedly in debates with atheists, but never thought to incorporate physics into metaphysics in the way that you have here.

The fact is that the more we learn about the nature of reality-- of space, time, causality-- the more apparent it becomes that it cannot, at least according to our current understanding, be rigidly defined. Quantum mechanics and chaos theory introduce far too many variables and unknowns. There's almost certainly, and definitely feasibly, far more to the universe than we know, or possibly even suspect.

That certainly doesn't imply that any of the theistic explanations for the nature of the universe are necessarily true, but it does counter the atheistic objection that there could not be any sort of beings or forces or what-have-you that transcend the laws of physics, since the "laws of physics," as we had come to understand them, are regularly transcended in ways that we're only beginning to recognize, much less explain.




posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 10:58 PM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward

I imagine a Christian might say the same thing. And some have. Put it this way. I have some very unorthodox ideas about the nature of deity, but I also have an altar to the Mother Goddess set up in my bedroom and perform devotions to Her on a daily basis. I don't believe She exists independently of my own mind. Her humaniform qualities come from me, from my psychic interaction with the Cosmos that is Her real self, and of which I am a part. I am well aware of that. Yet the Cosmos is certainly real, and I am able to interact with it, and that interaction becomes Her.

Does that make me an atheist? I'm not sure the question has meaning.


As long as you recognize that this is all imagined inside of your head, as you pretty much said in that last paragraph, and has no bearing on the material reality in which we all exist - thus you don't have to prove your claim because it only applies to your imagination, not the material realm. Once you try to link this "deity" to the material realm in some way, then you are indeed saddled with the burden of proof in regards to the supernatural.

Alas, you don't need me to tell you what you should and should not conjur up for a belief system. I want to say more but i'm liable to violate the terms and conditions of this forum.

-Adios


[edit on 1/3/2006 by Obscure]



posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 11:51 PM
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Originally posted by ObscureAs long as you recognize that this is all imagined inside of your head, as you pretty much said in that last paragraph, and has no bearing on the material reality in which we all exist


I didn't say that. It isn't "all imagined inside my head," and it has a huge impact on the material reality in which we all exist.

All I said was that the Goddess' humaniform qualities came from me, from my interaction with the Cosmos. At the same time, we have to recognize that I am myself part of the Cosmos, which accordingly carries my humanity as part of its nature. The Goddess most certainly does exist, and exists outside my head, but She would not exist in the form She does except for Her human devotees. If we were not human, She would take a different form. And that goes for all other deities, too, of course.

The power of the Goddess, though, comes not from me, or not mainly from me, but from all-that-is, in which Her true being resides. By relating to Her as a personality, I tap a measure of that power, while also entering into a personal relationship with all-that-is, through Her. So it has an impact both internally on me, and externally on my surroundings.

This is where nonclassical materialism comes in. In the context of classical materialism, based in Newton's physics, it is meaningful to speak of something as "all inside your head," since what is inside your head can have no impact on what is outside it. In the context of nonclassical materialism, based in 20th-century physics, the boundaries aren't so fixed, and things aren't so cut and dried. What's inside your head can impact what's outside.



Once you try to link this "deity" to the material realm in some way, then you are indeed saddled with the burden of proof in regards to the supernatural.


No, not the supernatural. There's nothing supernatural involved here, just aspects of nature which you haven't incorporated into your philosophy yet.

But I recognize that I have a burden of proof in this regard. My earlier question regarding indeterminacy was a way of approaching this very subject. Would you mind answering it?

[edit on 3-1-2006 by Two Steps Forward]




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