Materialism, Stances, and Open‐Mindedness

Michel Bitbol

in Images of Empiricism

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780199218844
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191711732 | DOI:

Series: Mind Association Occasional Series

 Materialism, Stances, and Open‐Mindedness

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In his book The Empirical Stance, Bas van Fraassen develops a strong and subtle attack on materialism. This chapter amplifies this criticism from a mainly neo-Kantian standpoint, and identifies by contrast some reasons why van Fraassen tends to baulk at the ultimate consequences of his contest. It first reviews van Fraassen's construal of materialism as a stance, and examines some motives many thinkers have to resist this idea. It goes on to describe the drifting conceptions of ‘matter’ according to materialists, and states two motives to be less indulgent than van Fraassen for the particulate conception of matter. The chapter then documents the first motive: loss of the basic cognitive conditions that would enable the particulate conception of matter to provide us with a coherent and unified representation. It also examines a general criterion of materiality, beyond the circular statement that matter is composed of material particles: matter must be both objective and able to manifest itself in space-time. The chapter then applies this criterion and finds difficulties on both sides of the Cartesian divide. It then states a meta-value (progressiveness, open-mindedness) that is shared by materialists to a certain extent, but shows that both empiricism and neo-Kantianism fare better with respect to this meta-value. Finally some limitations in van Fraassen's position that prevent him from offering a far enough reaching critique of materialism are presented.

Keywords: materialism; Bas van Fraasesen; neo-Kantian; empiricism; The Empirical Stance

Chapter.  17452 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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