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1/05/2018 9:45 am  #1

An atheist, and (unsurprisingly) a hard materialist

I'd hope I'm a little more sophisticated than the New Atheists :D

I resent the recent attempts to water down atheism in all their forms. Atheism is a claim about external reality, not you. Atheism as "a lack of belief in God" is, amongst other things, an ignorant confusion of ontology and epistemology. The term 'atheism' is thus being artificially limited to a theological context in virtue of appending 'God' to what is otherwise a very general notion valid in any context involving (finite) minds: "a lack of belief (in x)".

I'm far more sympathetic to Divine Simplicity (and hence Classical Theism) than I am to Neotheistic/theistic personalist views of God as just another substance (even if monotypic, indeed lacking congeners). For, even if only by coincidence, my own metaphysics somewhat mirrors what I perceive to be the Classical Theistic approach to giving primacy to ontological simplicity (at least at the most fundamental level) in one's account of reality.


1/05/2018 8:32 pm  #2

Re: An atheist, and (unsurprisingly) a hard materialist

Hello and welcome !

I dig you already. You sound like a hard materialist friend of mine, with whom I have tremendously good discussions and debates.

Though he'd tell me that he believes in a "kind of God", like a Spinozian view of the Substance you'd call for.

As long as you search Truth, we'll get on well !

... Er, I mean.

*takes a horribly high pitched voice* I mean, these classical theists, they just believe things without evidence. lol, so bigoted, it's so true that we know that we can't know ultimate reality, because science and bad philosophy, lol. Truth matters because I feel good.

or the

lol, I don't need evidence or thought about God. I feel God existing. And it feels good. That's all it counts.

These guys just piss me off.

God (or, in your case, Matter? ^^') bless,


1/05/2018 9:25 pm  #3

Re: An atheist, and (unsurprisingly) a hard materialist

FrenchySkepticalCatholic wrote:

Hello and welcome !

I dig you already. You sound like a hard materialist friend of mine, with whom I have tremendously good discussions and debates.

I'm always up for a dialogue, whether via a thread or by PM

     Thread Starter

1/12/2018 7:02 pm  #4

Re: An atheist, and (unsurprisingly) a hard materialist

Hi, just a question you could perhaps develop here, because it would be a clarification of your intro.

You said, in the "Do we really have a natural explanation of consciousness/qualia?" thread, that

surroundx wrote:

There is no unified materialist conception of matter.

Would you thus develop on what you mean when you say you're a materialist ?

Thanks !

God bless,



1/13/2018 2:24 am  #5

Re: An atheist, and (unsurprisingly) a hard materialist

FrenchySkepticalCatholic wrote:

Would you thus develop on what you mean when you say you're a materialist ?

I wrote a relatively long post. Feel free to skip to the very last paragraph

It seems to me that there are three basic questions to ask about matter:

1. Does it exist?
2. What is its nature? (If yes to 1)
3. Is it all that exists?

Technically, only the third question is directly relevant here. But it seems to me that actually the second question is very important too. Since it concerns the nature of material existence, and thus raises the possibility of aspects of reality that cannot be accounted for on a strictly materialist account of reality. Which would then lead one to answer 'no' to the third question. Thus the second question is logically prior to the third, since any 'no' answer to the third question that is not predicated upon the insufficiency of materialist accounts of reality would be merely ad hoc.

The origins of the universe

I often encounter Christian characterizations of atheism as "since you don't believe in God, you must believe that the universe simply popped into existence out of nothing by nothing". Well if one defines the "universe" as all of time, space and matter, and also denies the existence of anything "beyond" those three (since not all atheists are materialists), then certainly if the universe popped into existence there were no possible prior conditions for its existence.

Such a scenario seems to me to be inconsistent with reality, since I cannot see any relevant asymmetry between absolute beginnings and annihilation. If one is possible, then so is the other. And we don't witness things being annihilated. And since there cannot have been any prior conditions of the universe's absolute beginning one cannot posit some kind of irregularity or intrinsic improbability of the universe popping into existence to create an asymmetry with annihilation. Or, as Dr. William Lane Craig points out, some kind of penchant for universes popping into existence rather than mundane objects. And thus that also applies to annihilation.

Let me be clear here. I do not believe that the universe popped into existence, or that it could be annihilated (viz. I'm an eternalist). But in my own work on materialism, I've come to see the crucial distinction between composites and what are often called "material simples"; the latter being conceptually more broad than atomistic conceptions of the fundamental atoms. Primarily because, as physics has supposedly discovered, entities at the smallest ontic levels do not act like the objects of our ordinary experience.

We all accept the notion of contingency, whether or not we accept the notion of necessity as anything more than tautological. I delineate two types of contingency: broad contingency and strict contingency. Examples would be metaphysical possibility and composition, respectively. Composites are strictly contingent upon either more fundamental composites, or material simples. Acceptance of material simples leads to a smaller ontology, and is not explanatorily insufficient as far as we know, so I accept their existence. One might therefore construe composites as "unnatural" and post-existence accidents.

That might satiate the need to explain why our experience is not one of ontic ephemerality if it were likely. However, it seems to me that the notion of quantity renders such a view very unlikely. So far we've been talking about different kinds of objects popping into existence. A universe here, an aardvark there, a spoon somewhere. But any limitation where only material simples pop into existence, clearly cannot also be used to argue that only single material simples can pop into existence at a time. Thus since composites simply are ontic conjunctions of material simples, composites could also pop into existence. Which again runs counter to our ordinary experience.

Absolute beginnings and annihilation are extrapolated concepts that have no known instances. If material simples exist, they could only ever be annihilated since they cannot be reduced to ontically more fundamental units. And there is no good reason to think that annihilation is metaphysically possible. Partly for the reasons given in the above paragraph. So eternalism is to me the best position to take. Since the simpler hypothesis of absolute beginning/annihilation is incompatible with our experience, and it denies the causal principle (which I accept). 

Locomotion and the definition of 'material'

Contra Parmenides, change or motion is undeniable. And moreover, we have experience of different kinds or (sub)species of motion through accidentally-ordered causal series. In terms of essentially-ordered causal series it might turn out that all kinds of change or motion find their metaphysical grounding in a single more fundamental reality. Or that all kinds of motion find their origins in a single kind (viz. a quasi-reductive account). I take the latter to be possible, while the former seems problematic to say the least.

Whatever explanation one develops for the potentiality and actuality for locomotion, one needs to invoke the finitude of material bodies. I cannot be at every place at once, or in most cases even two places at once. However, modern discoveries in physics, according to this Christian, show that there are material objects that exist but do not exist anywhere definite. They exist only probabilistically within a finite region of space. So one's definition of the material preferably is more fundamental than this. Something alone the lines of possessing causal efficacy, but that insufficiently differentiates it from concrete immaterial entities. It seems to me that the most obvious definition of 'material' is something like "possessing all qualifications" or "not being unqualified in any manner". Angels are spatially unqualified, whereas material objects are spatially qualified, even if only probabilistically.

     Thread Starter

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