Asaf Bartov (ijon) wrote,
Asaf Bartov

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Aristotle and Materialism

disclaimer: I am not academically trained. My approach may very well be naïve.

In Metaphysics (and probably elsewhere), Aristotle raises several powerful arguments against materialism. They are based on the problems of sameness, boundaries, and change. How do we know that Eric the Half-a-bee is a bee? And is Eric the same bee he used to be? (ahem. sorry!) You get the idea.

I am reading that Martha Nussbaum of Brown University, credited as an acclaimed authority on Aristotelian philosophy, responds to the question: "Have materialists ever come up with a good answer to Aristotle's arguments against materialism?" saying "No, I do not think they have." As a materialist-until-better-proof-comes-up, I examined this statement and I wonder:

Isn't the problem of materialism Aristotle so skillfully targets really only a problem of human perception? That is, the claim "Everything is matter" may be objectively (grant me an objective reality for the purpose of this argument, eh?) true, without any humans, nay any perceivers around at all. It may just be so. The problems of sameness and change, I think, disappear when you do not insist on understanding what a teapot is, or what sets it apart from the table it's on or from a different teapot, or another, identical teapot. If you consign the problem of the object to the realm of perception and epistemology (a field requiring minds capable of episteme), you are left with at least a potentially viable ontology, no? Granted, you may not be able to connect it to episteme at all, because we humans seem to have a hard time perceiving reality without using objects, i.e. without exercising our episteme. But I could theoretically use a machine or some other artificial means to gain knowledge of reality (as digits, measurements) while avoiding the perception of objects.

After writing this, I realize that Aristotle is attacking the materialist notion of object, which is distinct from a purely materialistic metaphysical position. So my suggestion is just my awkward verbiage sneaking around an obstacle that wasn't there. As long as I refrain from claiming objects are real, my materialism is unaffected by Aristotle's arguments. Ooh. I am enlightened.

You, however, must be bored. I apologize.

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