Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Let's Not Confuse What Is Absolutely Basic With That Which Is Derived

John C. Wright:

Back when I was an atheist, I was not a materialist, because there seemed (to me, at least) to be insurmountable philosophical difficulties with the proposition that matter-in-motion was a complete explanation, or even an incomplete but satisfying one, for the mental life of men and animals.

Materialism is an idea, is it not? If materialism is true, at least one idea must be true, and I am aware of it. But if materialism is true, then the material brain-particles of which I am not aware, but which I hypothesize exist, are the real components of the thought, the only reality the thought has: and the thought itself, and my thoughts about the thought (such as my conclusion that it is true) have no necessary truth value.

In other words, by accepting materialism, I am accepting that the things I know directly and without reasonable doubt, without any interposing medium of sense impressions, i.e. my thoughts and my self-awareness, are an illusion or an epiphenomenon whose reality is open to question; but I am also accepting that theoretical particles that I have never seen, i.e. my brain-electrons, are the only reality whose reality I can firmly affirm.

It seems like I am giving up something I know for certain in exchange for a highly doubtful theory based on not a single fact or single bit of evidence about a group of entities whose existence I know only through deduction -- and yet deduction is a type of thinking.

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