Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

In philosophy, the view that the world is entirely composed of matter. Philosophers now tend to prefer the term physicalism, since physics has shown that matter itself resolves into forces and energy, and is just one amongst other physically respectable denizens of the universe. Materialism in this philosophical sense has a history stretching back to Greek atomism, and emerges in the modern period in Hobbes's Leviathan, and the works of La Mettrie. It is opposed to mind-body dualism, and bears uneasy relations to realism about universals and other abstract entitites.

In this sense materialism has nothing to do with the excessive desire for goods and wealth, which is a different meaning of the term, although the ambiguity is frequently exploited in polemics against an undifferentiated ‘materialism’. See also central state materialism, dialectical materialism, historical materialism.

Subjects: Philosophy.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.