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MATERIALISM (from Lat. materia, matter)

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 878 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MATERIALISM (from Lat. materia, matter), in philosophy, the theory which regards all the facts of the universe as explainable in terms of matter and motion, and in particular explains all psychical processes by physical and chemical changes in the nervous system. It is thus opposed both to natural realism and to idealism. For the natural realist stands upon the common-sense position that minds and material objects have equally effective existence; while the idealist explains matter by mind and denies that mind can be explained by matter. The various forms into which materialism may be classified correspond to the various causes which induce men to taae up materialistic views. Naive materialism is due to a cause which still, perhaps, has no small power, the natural difficulty which persons who have had no philosophic training experience in observing and appreciating the importance of the immaterial facts of consciousness. The pre-Socratics may be classed as naive materialists in this sense; though, as at that early period the contrast between matter and spirit had not been fully realized and matter was credited with properties that belong to life, it is usual to apply the term hylozoism (q.v.) to the earliest stage of Greek metaphysical theory. It is not difficult to discern the influence of naive materialism in contemporary thinking. We see it in Huxley, and still more in Haeckel, whose materialism (which he chooses to term " monism ") is evidently conditioned by ignorance of the history and present position of speculation. Cosmological materialism is that form of the doctrine in which the dominant motive is the formation of a comprehensive world-scheme: Hobbes to the present time, and English materialism is more important perhaps than that of any other country. But, from the national distrust of system, it has not been elaborated into a consistent metaphysic, but is rather traceable as a tendency harmonizing with the spirit of natural science. Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Mill and Herbert Spencer are not systematic materialists, but show tendencies towards materialism. See METAPHYSICS; and Lange's History of Materialism.
End of Article: MATERIALISM (from Lat. materia, matter)
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