Materialism

  • J. J. C. Smart
Chapter
Part of the Controversies in Philosophy book series (COIPHIL)

Abstract

First of all let me try to explain what I mean by ‘materialism’. I shall then go on to try to defend the doctrine.1 By ‘materialism’ I mean the theory that there is nothing in the world over and above those entities which are postulated by physics (or, of course, those entities which will be postulated by future and more adequate physical theories). Thus I do not hold materialism to be wedded to the billiard-ball physics of the nineteenth century. The less visualisable particles of modern physics count as matter. Note that energy counts as matter for my purposes: indeed in modern physics energy and matter are not sharply distinguishable. Nor do I hold that materialism implies determinism. If physics is indeterministic on the micro-level, so must be the materialist’s theory. I regard materialism as compatible with a wide range of conceptions of the nature of matter and energy. For example, if matter and energy consist of regions of special curvature of an absolute space-time, with ‘worm holes’ and what not,2 this is still compatible with materialism: we can still argue that in the last resort the world is made up entirely of the ultimate entities of physics, namely space-time points.

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1970

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  • J. J. C. Smart

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