Actually, It is Materialism that is “Woo”

As an immaterialist, one of the funniest things that I hear is when atheistic-materialists and atheistic-naturalists claim that supernaturalism and theism are “woo woo” style beliefs (or just plain “woo” belief)–and note that “woo” is a term which the Skeptic’s Dictionary claims refers to “ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers” and it is generally used in a pejorative manner by materialists and naturalists in order to describe belief in such things as PSI, the soul, God, an afterlife, etc.–and now the reason that it is so humorous to hear materialists and naturalists use this “woo” term against their opponents is because it is actually materialist and naturalists themselves who, at the foundational level, hold to a belief that is as “woo” as any supernaturalist belief is, and is arguably even more “woo”, and this belief is the belief that matter actually exists, for while we in the West have all been conditioned to believe that belief in matter is the height of rationality, the fact is that the belief that matter exists is, upon reflection, obviously a woo-type belief, and we can see that this is the case in a number of different ways, with the first being the fact that even famous philosopher John Locke, for example, called matter a “thing which I know not what”, which meant that Locke was literally admitting that he had no idea what matter was, which makes matter the prime example of some mysterious thing that has strange occult like powers, and the fact is that progress today is just as bad, with modern philosophers and other thinkers not only unable to define what matter actually is in a comprehensive sense (see Hempel’s Dilemma for one such problem), but they have also changed what they mean by matter over the past few generations, and yet the problems of materialist “woo” do not end there, for belief in matter’s existence is also a woo-belief given that there is literally no non-question-begging evidence for the existence of matter, and no good reason to believe in matter given immaterialism’s explanatory scope and power, and there are actually good reasons, such as an appeal to simplicity–which is an appeal that materialists and naturalists, in other contexts, love to use–to deny the existence of matter, and so, as stated, not only is matter some mysterious thing with occult-like powers but belief in its existence is based on flimsy and easily-rebutted evidence; now, the point of mentioning this fact is not to necessarily support immaterialism–although a weakening of materialism will, practically-speaking, indeed provide some tacit support for immaterialism–but the point is rather to show that the materialist and naturalist has little warrant to condescendingly call supernaturalist beliefs “woo” when a woo-style belief is at the very heart of his materialist and naturalist worldview, and so as far as woo-beliefs are considered, the materialist and naturalist fair absolutely no better than the supernaturalist does.

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20 thoughts on “Actually, It is Materialism that is “Woo”

  1. I’m sure you have no idea what it means and are probably trying to misappropriate the term and equate it with Supernaturalist.
    “Subjective idealism, or empirical idealism, is the monistic metaphysical doctrine that only minds and mental contents exist. It entails and is generally identified or associated with immaterialism, the doctrine that material things do not exist.”
    Do you believe that Material things do not exist? if not, stop using the term ‘immaterialist’ to hide the term you are really meaning, one who believes in the supernatural. they are not the same thing at all.
    -KIA

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    • KIA,

      At this point, I really don’t know if you are even worth responding too. Look at the sub-heading of this blog. Yes, I am an immaterialist, which means that yes, I do not believe that material things exist. Furthermore, your ignorance on this topic is apparent as the immaterialist essentially contends that only minds (essentially spirits or souls) exist, which any materialist or naturalist would see as a species of supernaturalism. So immaterialism is a form of supernaturalism…in fact, it is arguably the “purest” form of supernaturalism given that it claims that all that exist are finite souls and one infinite soul.

      And frankly KIA, given that you likely had to look up the term on wikipedia or some other site before YOU knew what it meant, please stop projecting and thus stop claiming that I did not know what it meant. I have been an immaterialist for years, have a dozen or more books on Berkeley on my shelf, and I know exactly what I am talking about. So please, if you have no idea, then shut your trap.

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      • KIA…I was going to be nice, but the fact that you made that comment shows that you are too short for this intellectual ride, so I suggest that you do some reading on the topic, educate yourself a bit more, and then come back when you have something more substantive to say.

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      • Actually, I don’t think in the times I’ve commented and you’ve answered that you have evr been… Nice.
        You’ve always been kind of a jerk to me

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      • KIA, I have definitely been hard and direct with you, that is for sure, and that may come off as being a “jerk”. Ultimately, I do not care how I am perceived, as truth is the key. However, if my directness is causing you consternation, I can moderate it, if you would like (provided, of course, that you do likewise). And I mean this sincerely. Just let me know.

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  2. Ehhh… some theistic beliefs are more “woo” than others. For instance, I don’t find the belief in a deist god to be woo at all. I don’t think there’s any way to prove or disprove a deist god, and if one exists or not, either way it probably wouldn’t make any difference to us, so I see the idea as rather moot. But it’s not woo. On the other hand, I’ve been reading Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner and oh my, there is so much woo in there.

    Personally, I don’t see immaterialism as supernaturalism, if I’m understanding you right when you say that you think only minds exist. You could think of minds as spirits or souls, sure, but I don’t think of them that way. I fully grant that I have absolutely no way to prove that any sort of objective material reality exists outside of my mind. I know full well that sense data can be, and often is, deceptive, and that whole dreaming thing throws a wrench in the works, for figuring out what, if anything, is real. But assuming that my sense data reflects some sort of objective reality seems to me to be the most pragmatic way to look at things. I could be wrong, but I haven’t really got anything else to go on. Hell, sometimes I know I’m wrong. Even if you grant that there is an objective, material reality, I know that when I dream it feels just as real as when I am awake, and I still take that objective reality assumption with me while I’m dreaming. It’s only now and then when I become lucid in a dream that I realize maybe that assumption was wrong.

    But, even people who believe in woo type things typically make that same base assumption that their sense data reflects some sort of objective reality. So, I don’t think it’s really a fair comparison to say that materialism is woo in the same sense that crystal magic and homeopathy are.

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    • Alex,

      One mistake that many naturalists and materialists make–and it is most often due to a lack of familiarity with immaterialism, rather than from any willful ignorance–is that they believe that the immaterialist denies an objective reality external to human minds, but that is false, for the reality that we perceive on immaterialism is objective to our minds because it is dependent completely on the infinite mind, thus being subjective to that mind but objective to our minds. The main difference between materialism and immaterialism concerns what objects are actually made of: the materialist says objects are made of this weird, unknowable, unobservable, unevidenced stuff called matter, whereas the immaterialist says that objects are just bundles of ideas projected into our mind by another mind (think of virtual reality or the matrix). The immaterialist, who holds to the existence of thinking things and their thoughts (something which no one can coherently deny), and posits no additional entities such matter, is thus not increasing his ontology like the materialist by adding this ‘woo’ stuff called matter.

      Now, if you are interested, take a look at AC Grayling’s (an atheist, not a Christian) long paper on immaterialism. It is well worth the read:

      http://www.acgrayling.com/berkeleys-argument-for-immaterialism

      http://www.acgrayling.com/berkeleys-argument-for-immaterialism-page-2

      Hope that helps.

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    • And Alex, I will add that it is fair to say that materialism is ‘woo’ given the definition of woo. For the idea of matter is indeed mysterious, and materialists given it this occult like power of causing things and creating life even if they have no idea how it does so, and there is also no evidence for this matter stuff. By all accounts, at the core of materialism is a ‘woo’ belief.

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      • I think we may have different ideas of what constitutes ‘woo’. Things I think of as woo include homeopathy, alien abduction, magic (whether part of a religion or not), and the idea that vaccines cause autism. What these things have in common is a dogmatic approach on the part of the supporters which ignores or explains away contrary evidence instead of taking a critical look at the evidence and modifying or scrapping the ideas to account for this new information.

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      • Alex,

        I definitely do not disagreed, but I am just saying that by the definition of “woo”, belief in matter technically fits that definition. Again, my point, more than anything, is that the materialist and naturalist have little right to call supernaturalism “woo”, as they do. Now if you don’t consider certain supernatural beliefs as “woo”, then I agree that we should not count materialism as woo either. However, again, if the materialist does try to claim that supernaturalism is “woo”, then the supernaturalist can turn around and claim the same for the materialist. That, ultimately, is my point.

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      • Alex,

        What I am saying is that belief in matter itself is a “woo” style belief. Matter (not objects, but actual matter) is a mysterious and ill-defined thing that no one really knows about and which has these strange occult causal powers that no one has seen. Furthermore, we have no direct evidence of the existence of matter (just of objects that materialists infer are composed of matter) and so belief in matter is an entirely unevidenced belief. Thus, belief in matter matches, as per the Skeptic’s Dictionary, the definition of a woo belief.

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      • So, basically what you are saying is, if the definition of woo is such that it describes ALL supernatural beliefs, then materialism is also woo?

        I think it would help to see an example of the sort of attempt at explaining materialism that you find to be occult-like, mysterious, and ill-defined.

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