The doctrine of materialism is one of the most controversial in the history of ideas. For much of its history it has been aligned with toleration and enlightened thinking, but it has also aroused strong, often violent, passions amongst both its opponents and proponents. This book explores the development of materialism in an engaging and thought-provoking way and defends the form it takes in the twenty-first century.
Opening with an account of the ideas of some of the most important thinkers in the materialist tradition, including Epicurus, Lucretius, Hobbes, Hume, Darwin and Marx, the authors discuss materialism’s origins, as an early form of naturalistic explanation and as an intellectual outlook about life and the world in general. They explain how materialism’s beginnings as an imaginative vision of the true nature of things faced a major challenge from the physics it did so much to facilitate, which now portrays the microscopic world in a way incompatible with traditional materialism. Brown and Ladyman explain how out of this challenge materialism developed into the new doctrine of physicalism.
Drawing on a wide range of colourful examples, the authors argue that although materialism does not have all the answers, its humanism and commitment to naturalistic explanation and the scientific method is our best philosophical hope in the ideological maelstrom of the modern world.
Table of Contents
A Preliminary Disambiguation
Part 1: An Outline of the History of Materialism
1. The Heart of Materialism
2. Materialist Thought in the Ancient World
3. The Triumphs of Materialism: The Mechanical Philosophy, The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment
4. Materialism in the Nineteenth Century
Part 2: The Evolution of Materialism into Physicalism
5. The Challenges to Materialism from post-Newtonian Physics
6. Physicalist Responses to the Problems of Materialism
7. The Heart of Physicalist Materialism
8. Physicalist Materialism in the Twenty-First Century.
Robin Gordon Brown is a Research Associate in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bristol, UK.
James Ladyman is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bristol, UK. He is the author of Understanding Philosophy of Science (2002) and editor (with Alexander Bird) of Arguing About Science (2012), both published by Routledge.
"Highly recommended for those interested in materialism as a perennial current in the history of philosophy and for those wondering how contemporary physicalism and naturalism connect with older materialist philosophies and politics." - William Lewis, Skidmore College, USA
"Brown and Ladyman offer a clear exposition of philosophical materialism much needed in these muddle-headed times. Particularly refreshing is their stress on the essential incompleteness of the explanations it provides, which distinguish it as a scientific worldview from its more strictly 'philosophical' rivals." - Thomas Uebel, University of Manchester, UK