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An introduction to materialism  - 1 / 3

A short definition

Materialism is a movement of thought about the nature of being which considers that there is no other substance but matter and that though and self-consciousness are secondary products of matter or illusions. Materialism rejects the existence of soul, of the next world and of God, being opposed to spiritualism and idealism.
The materialist philosophy is closely related to the development of science whose results improve its capacities to evolve and to structure itself in the course of centuries. Therefore, materialism covers several forms that go from atomism of the Greek philosophers to modern science. Its various trends are characterized by the way in which they conceive spirit, self-consciousness or mental entity.

Ancient Philosophy

Atomism The atomist philosophers thought that universe and matter are only made up of atoms, indivisible particles, assembled by chance and in a purely mechanical way. The founders of this theory was the Greek philosopher Leucippus and his disciple Democritus (around 460 - 370 BC). For them, the formation of world and life are explained by positions, movements, collisions and associations of these atoms that are the only reality. Soul is a kind of fire made up of atoms suspended in the air and that disintegrates at the time of death.

This theory based on the atoms was resumed one century later by Epicurus (341-270 BC) which made of it a monist and materialist description of reality, without finality or reference to a divine intervention. With the "clinamen" (spontaneous deviation of the atoms in their trajectory), form of mechanical freedom, he introduced a share of non-determinism to leave free will to man. The famous disciple of Epicurus, the Roman Lucretius (90-52 BC), largely developed the theory nuclear physicist in his poem "On the Nature of Things" (De Rerum Natura).

Plato (428-347 BC) called "battle of the Giants" the battle of the ideas between the "Materialists" for which reality is only matter (coma) and the "Friends of the forms" for which exists an incorporeal reality, i.e. a world of ideas, superior, incorruptible, that nobody can see. He described these first in a pejorative way and qualified them of the "terribles". Plato presented them as only attached to what they can see, touch or feel, i.e. sensualists. These criticisms were undoubtedly directed against Protagoras (485-410 BC), against the Cyrenaic school of philosophy or perhaps against the atomism of Leucippus and Democritus.

Stoicism, characterized by its naturalism, can be considered like a form of materialism, because only exists the matter, definite like substance able to act or on which one can act. Matter is animated by a corporeal principle called "soul", "reason" or "cause". World is directed by a necessity, "all that happens had to happen, all that has to happen will happen". Morals, banishing the passion that exhausts the soul, have to be in harmony with nature and directed towards present whereas past and future are incorporeal.

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