Is materialism a real theory? Do most atheist believe in it?

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xenoview's picture
Now your just talking word

Now your just talking word salad about the rock and self.

The five aggregates mean nothing to me.

LogicFTW's picture


There are several philosophical ideas I like coming out of some early original writing of Buddha. There is plenty I do not like. Modern Buddhism as practiced today by a majority of the followers I have several major issues with. (Caste system being one of them.) Although overall buddhism I consider to be quite a bit better than many other organized "faith" groups namely the abrahamic based religions.

I do not claim for sure that there is "no self," I just state it is a possibility, and that consciousness as most people describe it, is just an idea, one that is difficult to quantify and measure beyond what we can study and interact with of a human's physical brain that claims they have consciousness.

You most certainly will not be hearing me talking about any sort of consciousness idea that lives on after the death of the brain that supposedly maintains it. Unless it is transferred via technology into some other sort of vessel that can contain it before it is lost with brain death/decay. And I most certainly will always label myself an atheist aka, not theist.

Not every philosopher out their claims that self exists. It is always a good idea to avoid saying such sweeping absolute statements. It is fair to say many philosophers base much of their work around the concept of "self," but not all of them.

I think it is possible computer like devices will one day be able to achieve all the same abilities that a human brain can. But right now, the computer is nowhere near that. A computer can do something things extremely well, far far beyond the capabilities of any human, and so far, but what a computer can do is extremely narrow.



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Sheldon's picture
"@Sheldon: You're arguments

"@Sheldon: You're arguments are great against the usual christian debater, not against buddhist. As for the last point - can that rock exist if no conscious observer has the possibility to ever observe it, not even 10 or 100 years from now ? Ask quantum physics :)"

Nice dodge, but you claimed that consciousness and the material could not exist without one another. A rock doesn't have consciousness, and is material, so again which of those assertions are YOU claiming is incorrect?

"Even atheist believe there is a self that get anihilated at death."

Could I see the research that evidences that please? All you can definitively claim about atheists is that they don't believe in a deity or deities, unless they tell you something about what they believe of course. Many Buddhists are also atheists.

"When pressed on why do people believe there is a self in humans but not in computers, their arguments all come down to a feeling that appears from time to time due to conditions."

How are you defining self? Only you said consciousness, and now have rather deviously changed it to self. Also this was not about whether we could create a computer that is conscious of, and can react and interact with its surroundings, but about where our consciousness comes from, and it's a fact there is a causal link between evolution, the material brain and consciousness, as I explained with countless examples of empirical evidence.

dxm_dxm's picture


1) Nope, I am not using self to mean consciousness or anything of that sort. It was a different subject I was speaking about and was trying to prove there is no self to be found inside consciousness, same as there is no self to be found inside a computer software.

2) Have you did the 10 minute atheist experiment I proposed ? Lying on the couch and thinking for 10 minutes about how could such a thing as consciousness ever arise from a thing like matter ? Sure, you will say smarted brains have tried figuring that out and all failed, so why bother ? Well, the reason I suggest people to try this is because it really shows yourself how implausible such an idea really is. You can't even fanthom any sort of mechanism for such a thing to happen.

3) In order for that rock to exist, there has to be the possibility of that rock ever being perceived by a conscious observer in the future. Without this possibility, it does not exist. There is nothing there to begin with. Nothing. So how can you claim matter does not require consciousness in order to exist ? If there would be no consciousness whatsoever, would any kind of matter exist ? :)

Grinseed's picture
"In order for the rock to

"In order for the rock to exist there has to be the possibility....Without this possibility, it does not exist."

So the entire universe did not spring into existence until the first microbe made contact with it's enviroment and became conscious, somewhere out there in space, and not necessarily here on earth? None of the 14 billions of years happened until that precise moment?
If not, how does the universe know the microbe is going to exist, if like the car sensor, it lacks that third element that creates consciousness?

dxm_dxm's picture
@Grinseed :

@Grinseed :

How did the universe know that a conscious observer will appear in the future ? First of all, it does not work like that. Second, why are you asking me this like this is some theory of mine ? This is what quantum physics tells us. That's why high caliber materialist are all forced to go with the Many Worlds theory. The one which says both me and you are splitting into billions of parallel universes right in this very moment.

Sheldon's picture
"This is what quantum physics

"This is what quantum physics tells us. "

I don't know anything about quantum physics, but it would be helpful if you offered your qualificationd in that field, and then cited peer reviewed papers in worthy scientific journals supporting your claim that consciousness survives the death of the physical human brain somehow, and that matter can't exist with consciousness to observe it.

I suspect the latest scientific thinking in this field does not encompasses your religious beliefs, and have seen too many religious apologists make precisely this kind of grandiose claims for their beliefs , but that they ultimately could demonstrate no scientif8cally validated evidence for.

As with Breezy's creationist verbiage, we can't help but notice it's being offered anonymously in an atheist chat room. Rather than in a worthy peer reviewed scientific journal. This rather dents the claim it is scientifically valid.

Sheldon's picture
1) It was I who pointed out

1) It was I who pointed out you had switched suddenly from talking about consciousness to using the word self. The context was me pointing out there is an empirically evidenced causal link between evolution, the material brain, and consciousness. You brought the complete non sequitur of "self" into it, quite obviously to obfuscate and ignore the facts that all the empirical evidence we have of every single example of consciousness requires a material brain, and in every single empirical example we have that consciousness dies with that brain. That consciousness is affected when it's host brain is damaged, and in precisely the way our current scientific understanding of it predicts it would be. You can posture all you want, you've offered nothing at all to counter all that evidence, and are now mumbling incoherently about "self".

2) Yet another tedious repetition of your argument from ignorance fallacy. Since consciousness exists, and evolution is a scientific fact, and all the evidence shows a causal physical link between functioning brains and consciousness, I don't need to prove anything. those are the OBJECTIVE facts. What have you got beyond your subjective unevidenced opinion you find the idea implausible? That is called an argument from incredulity fallacy, I doubt you will even acknowledge I have mentioned it though.

3) You claimed that a material object could not exist without consciousness, I am still waiting for you to evidence this absurd claim. So far all you have done is repeat yet another argument from ignorance fallacy. So are rocks conscious? Or are they immaterial? If rocks are too inscrutable for you, how about stars, did they exist as material phenomena before any conscious human could contemplate them?

dxm_dxm's picture
Consiousness is not just an

Consiousness is not just an idea, same as physical matter is not just an idea either. It is a real element with certain properties. There is no need to mystify consciousness. It is what it is, we all know what we are talking about when we say consciousness.

Also, it's the place that many people consider to be self, because they do not see it is impermanent. Only when something is seen as impermanent will one see it is not self. For example most people can easily see their body is not self. The body was in one way when they were a baby, is in another way right now + it will get eaten by worms and disintegrate in the future. If it were for the body to be "self", then that means the self you had when u were 5 years old died long ago and now there is another self existing.

Because of this, most people can easily see that their body is not their self. But they will think that "there is a self outside of the body" or "the self is the one observing the body and all of this" or other ideas like these. They usually go on to think that consciousness is self or that a self is somehow hiding in consciousness. But consciousness changes every moment, even faster than the body. The consciousness that appeared in this second, due to conditions, is different than the consciousness that appeared the second before, due to conditions.

In order to understand the non-existence of a self, one has to look at all that exists and see how everything is 1) conditioned, 2) impermanent and, as a conclusion of the first 2 - not self. Besides this, a proper understanding of how the aggregates work is required. Take for example the apparently super simple observation about how feelings depend upon contact that I made in a previous post. If there would be no contact, could such a thing as feeling ever exist ? Nope, therefore feelings depend on contact. By following the chain of cause and effect, one has to simply analyze the human organism in a technical way, same as one would analyze a car. There is no need for any mystification of consciousness or things like that. You just analyze it same as you would analyze a car, asking "how does this piece behave, on what is it dependent on, etc".

Only after doing all this stuff can the trickery about no-self be understood. And this can not be done in 5 minutes, same as one can not learn how an airplane works in 5 minutes. It takes a couple of months and, in terms of difficulty, is something of a technician level. It's not simple, but neither is it rocket science.

Also worth nothing that this has nothing to do with normal buddhism, neither in the west or the east. Other books were produced hundreds of years after the historical Buddha and now those are what monks learn and what is considered buddhism. Little importance is given to the suttas and the historical Buddha, especially to the 1500pag of boring technical knowledge called the "higher dhamma". So he is generally misunderstood.

CyberLN's picture
Dxm, I think that is all a

Dxm, I think that is all a load of inconsequential woo woo.

Sheldon's picture
Thu, 10/25/2018 - 12:36

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 12:36
dxm_dxm "... thinking for 10 minutes about how could such a thing as consciousness ever arise from a thing like matte...I suggest people to try this is because it really shows yourself how implausible such an idea really is."

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 12:01
dxm_dxm "There is no need to mystify consciousness."

Oh dear....

xenoview's picture

What objective evidence do you have that your 5 year old self died?

Do you believe in an afterlife?

dxm_dxm's picture
What objective evidence do

What objective evidence do you have there existed a self in the first place ?

xenoview's picture

Your just being rude answering a question with a question.
Neither one of us has any objective evidence for a self.
I would guess that our brain is as closest as we get to a self.
Do you believe in an afterlife?

dxm_dxm's picture
1)The one who claims there is

1)The one who claims there is a self is the one that should attempt to provide evidence. Same as the person believing in giant unicorns has to provide evidence for this. You can not ask others to prove that there are not giant unicorns.

2) Yes of course I believe in rebirth. This is usually the point that is attacked the most by materialist, because they can not see how such a thing could happen when looking at the problem from an extreme angle. But, as I have shown with the browser and code example and quantum physics recent discoveries about consciousness and matter - the angle one is looking from matters a lot in such cases. Materialism is like looking at a building from the sol level, standing 1 meter away from it, solipsism is like looking at it from the airplane. Neither of these angles give a proper picture of the building, with all it's elements and functionalities.

Similarly, the angle of looking at the relationship between matter and consciousness is very important. Materialist are looking from the ground level, the neuron level, upwards. They then say "matter does influence consciousness, therefore consciousness is dependent upon matter, conditionality goes only in 1 direction. Solipsism/idealism is looking from the airplane, with the mind as a starting point and matter being a product of it. They notice mind does influence matter and conclude that matter is entirely dependent upon mind, therefore it is a product of it. Neither of these angles are good and understanding rebirth can not be done by looking from these extreme angles.

xenoview's picture
Rebirth is you being born

Rebirth is you being born,living,dying, and born again. I understand it, still undecided if it's true. I use to believe in it when I was a pagan.

Sapporo's picture
So, is materialism a real

So, is materialism a real theory, or is there no spoon?

Randomhero1982's picture
There's definitely a spoon,

There's definitely a spoon, and it's been heated up with a lighter....

Some right crack pots lately!

Cognostic's picture
Materialism is not a theory

Materialism is not a theory and it is not philosophy, it is a belief or tenet about a theory or philosophy. It is what a theory or philosophy is built upon. A materialistic world view dictates that all we can know is that which is observable, objectionable, empirical, repeatable, and predictable. A theory is a model that explains a body of facts. Materialism is a boundary that tells us what we are going to use for facts. Woo Woo claims lacing substance and evidence are not facts and will not be allowed into a theory of reality where materialism is the basic and most logical assumption. We know things because of their materialistic existence and observable qualities.

Cognostic's picture
Dxm_dxm @ "A theory is an

Dxm_dxm @ "A theory is an explanation behind a claim"
You are making an equivocation error. This is a logical fallacy. You are attempting to use the word theory in two different ways. Commonly the word theory can be a substitute for the word "idea." HOWEVER, when the word is used scientifically it is the highest level of scientific evidence. It is never an explanation behind a claim, conferrable with evidence. NEVER. A THEORY is the explanation of a massive body of facts and evidence. It is a scientific model that explains all the known facts or as close to "ALL" as we can get. It is not a guess, it is not an idea, it is not a position or opinion. It is capable of putting a man on the moon, curing a disease, creating computers and cell phones, and certainly bringing understanding to the world around us. Materialism is not a theory. (See previous post.) You are talking apples and oranges. Now that we have THEORY and MATERIALISM out of the way, we can move on to the idea that Consciousness comes from a brain.

xenoview's picture


Are you a theravada Buddhist?

dxm_dxm's picture
yup :D

yup :D

Cognostic's picture
dxm_dxm @ Consciousness comes

dxm_dxm @ Consciousness comes from matter.
Consciousness is an emergent property of the brain just as voice is an emergent property of your vocal chords, sight an emergent property of the eyes or taste an emergent property of the tongue. If you think there is something spiritual or non-corporal about consciousness, you are in for the shock of your life.

Max Tegmark asserts "Consciousness is another state of matter." Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge

"“I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness,” The brain creates consciousness. IT IS A THING according to Tegmark, and this "THEORY" has facts and evidence supporting it. It is also beginning to catch on quickly.

Currently there are many things we do not know about consciousness...

How does consciousness arise from chemical interactions leading to electric impulses?

Why is there consciousness instead of something else?

How does physiology constrain and define this so-called emergent property?

These questions are easy to answer.... "We don't yet know. We don't yet know. We don't yet know."

With that said, scientists are studying the phenomena and until they have found the answers, YOU DON'T GET TO ASSERT SILLY CONCLUSIONS., It's just that simple.

I have given you specific information on how consciousness is directly related to materialism. Belief is another issue all together. Unlike the theists among us, atheists tend to be logical and rational. We typically do not regard "Belief" as an all or nothing proposition. Is consciousness a material manifestation of the brain. Well Tegmark has more initials behind his name than I do and an entire research facility behind him. He has published more books and articles in his field and given more lectures and seminars on this topic. He has managed to convince a whole lot of physicists that he THEORY has merit. Would I come on here and say it is the only reliable fact. NO! I understand the things we do not know and I evaluate the things that I am told to the best of my ability. That's why TEGMARK is given a whole lot more credibility for his assertions than you will be given for yours. If I have to choose between what Tegmark is asserting and some Woo Woo without evidence, facts, empirical measurements, and an ability to be repeated, I'm going to go with the materialistic view.

Edited for Citations

dxm_dxm's picture
1) In this case, if you put

1) In this case, if you put such high value on the flawed argument of authority, then how are your different that christians that believe whatever his priest say. And what do you do when one priest says one thing, another priest says another ? You judge by who has more letters in front of his name ? Also, how much worth you put on these guys opinions when it comes to politics ? Do you vote how they tell you to vote, same as priest from my eastern european country do with their followers, because of their authority and letters in front of their name?

2) If consciousness is an emerging property of matter, why doesn't it emerge from all matter, or at least from matter that makes up a computer ?

3) Another problem is omission of obvious facts that we know to be true about the world that contradict it - such as neuroplasticity. Sure, matter does influence consciousness, only an idiot would deny that, but consciousness also influences matter. How can one claim to be a scientifically minded person, honest, objective and open to all information that is available, when he pretends not to know about well known things such as neuroplasticity ?

4) Can sound influence the vocal cords ? Nope, because sound is just an emerging property of vocal cords, with a dependency that goes only towards one direction. Things work differently when it comes to the mind, that dependency goes in two-ways.

5) This theory isn't new, it's old. And it's not rising as a star, it pretty much got burried the moment it appeared. The only reason this got any kind of attention was because this is so far the only attempt at comming up with an explanation for the fundamental thesis of materialism. This was the best materialism could give so far in hundreds of years of attempts by inteligent man....

PS: You can probably make a better case about matter being an emerging property of consciousness than the other way around. This is a good occasion to notice the importance the angle of looking at the problem can play. As I have claimed before, both materialism and solipsism are looking at the problem from an extreme angle.

Nyarlathotep's picture


dxm_dxm's picture
@Sheldon :

@Sheldon :

1) But that's precisely how Buddha predicted it too. You are listing arguments that, to quote Buddha, "no wise man in the world would disagree with". What you are presenting is the piece of truth on which materialism is built. Similarly, solipsist present you their pieces of truth on which their view is based, and no wise man in the world would disagree with those pieces of truths either.

The part where materialism and solipsism go wrong is where they take these pieces of truth and go to the extreme with them. And then they end up contradicted by reality and by what is known to be true in the world. Buddha refuted both these philosophies and called his one "the middle way". Because of this, you can not attack buddhism with arguments such as the ones presented in this point 1, because buddhism of course agrees with them and agrees with the piece of truth that materialism does posses.

Buddhism is simply a different view regarding the relationship between consciousness and matter. It is looking at the problem from a different angle. Sometimes, the angle from which one is looking can have a tremendous importance. Materialism and Solipsism are not looking from the proper angle, they are looking from an extreme. On buddhist forums I usually get the postmodernist type attacking it with anti-materialist arguments, and I have use the very arguments you listed in this point 1 to make my point.

2) C'mon. A respectable debater like you, my clone from an atheist forum instead of a buddhist one (possibly created in that billion splitting into parallel universes that happened a couple of posts ago) going as low with the argumentation ? This point nr.2 right here is called the point where every atheist leaves a conversation on a buddhist forum. I've talked with many atheist there over the years, all inevitably get angry and leave when I bring up this point. So from this point on, I am expecting you to leave any moment.

So your argument here is that since we had evolution, and since consciousness is more and more present in advanced creatures, then this proved it somehow evolved from matter. The more complex the assembly of matter is, the "more consciousness" you seem to have. And yet, a primitive aseembly of matter such as an insect has consciousness, yet your computer that can probably beat you at chess titans if set high enough does not. A computer more complex in whatever way shape or form you can think of - complex materials, complex design, even complex software on top to make sure you give it every chance you can for it to develop consciousness - how can it be that such a complex assembly of matter does not poses consciousness ?

What you truly need to have in order to have a proper theory is a mechanism through which such a thing as consciousness can originate from matter. It appears that simply having matter assembled in more complex ways is not the way to do it. It appears that this is not the mechanism that is behind it. So you need to come up with something. Until you come up with something, you can not really say that materialism is a true theory. And you certainly can not say it's something based on science and supported by evidence, since you don't even have a theory. All you can say is that, based on the information you currently have, it appears to you as a very intuitive idea. You simply have to concede that your beliefs are based on intuition. And that's the least thing a materialist, proudly claiming to have science and logic on his side, would ever want to do. That's why all materialist I've met on buddhist forums leave the debate at this point.

And funny enough, this is how I actually ended up here today. I had an atheist run away in just 2 posts because I mentioned this problem with intuition. I then thought I should go to a better place to debate an atheist where hopefully people don't run away.

3) Of course stars existed before humans could contemplate them, because there was A POSSIBILITY for humans to contemplate them in the future. If there would be no possibility for any conscious observer to ever observe them, then they would not exist. This is what recent experiments (like 20 years recent) have shown. And I have been using this for years to refute solipsistic ideas of postmodernist that seem to be pretty numerous on buddhist forums.

Rather than trying to fight strawman solipsism with the piece of truth that materialism does posses, one can also try looking at the problem from another angle. Let me give you an angle: Consider how this webpage is actually just a bunch of 30 files of written code. It looks like a website only when processed by a browser. Humans work just like that too. There is no light out there, no color, just information that, if processed by a browser such as a human, ends up looking like it does.

But, the relationship between this browser and the code is different. Code can only exist if there is a possibility for him to, sometime in the future, be perceived by a browser. There is nothing out there otherwise. Without the browser, the code can not exist. This presents a totally different relationship between browser and code that materialism proposes, that's why it got refuted by quantum physics and you're now forced to believe in that embarassing Many Worlds theory.

But from this point, many other questions arise regarding the relationship between browser and code. For example, the internal logic of the browser, it's internal rules and it's logical inferrences based on information that it has available - these have the power to write or change code. This is the case of the placebo effect, faith healings, etc. where internal logic of an organism is all that it takes. All you need to do is trick this internal logic rather than bother with the code. Placebo is part of our everyday lives and no philosophy can pretend not to see it and notice what it has to say about how the world works. It is a fact, a reality, part of our everyday lives that by itself refutes materialism.

toto974's picture
What are the insects with

What are the insects with counsciousness? How do you infer counsciousness in a bee for exemple with classic tests? Where are you articles with these informations?

Sheldon's picture
I assume you accept that the

I assume you accept that the material universe exists, so what objective evidence can you demonstrate for anything else that is not part of the material universe?

Nyarlathotep's picture
dxm_dxm - Materialism claims

dxm_dxm - Materialism claims consciousness comes from matter. But it does not provide a mechanism or some form of explanation for this

Crackpot Index - 10 points for arguing that while a current well-established theory predicts phenomena correctly, it doesn't explain "why" they occur, or fails to provide a "mechanism".

dxm_dxm's picture
1) It doesn't predict

1) It doesn't predict phenomena correctly - certainly not neuropasticity, placebo effect, quantum physics discoveries, etc.

2) That argument can be used in some cases, but not in this one. You DO have to present some kind of explanation for your claims, especially claims as big as consciousness originating from matter. You need to 1) propose and 2) prove with evidence that this happens because of complexity of that assembly of matter or some other reason. You can't hide behind lack of evidence with appearlto authority of the High Priest and appeal to how popular a theory is in your corner of the world.


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