1st Edition

The History and Philosophy of Materialism

Edited By Charles T. Wolfe, John Symons Copyright 2025
    488 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Materialism - the view that facts are dependent upon or reducible to physical processes - is one of the most long-standing and controversial of all philosophical theories. Originating in antiquity, its proponents include Epicurus, Hobbes, Diderot, Darwin and Marx, whilst its impact on modern physics and consciousness debates reverberates strongly today. It is also an important yet generally overlooked feature of Indian, Chinese and Islamic thought.

    This major collection, the first of its kind, explores the fascinating philosophical history of materialism, from the ancient world to the twenty-first century. Comprising thirty-one chapters by an international team of contributors, the volume is divided into six clear parts:

    • Ancient, Non-Western and Medieval Philosophy
    • Renaissance and Early Modern Philosophy
    • Enlightenment Materialisms
    • Nineteenth-Century Philosophy
    • Twentieth-Century Philosophy
    • Contemporary Philosophy: Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics and Critique.

    Within these sections key topics are covered, including materialism in classical Greece, India and China, and Aztec metaphysics; Renaissance materialism and anti-materialism; materialism and Islamic philosophy; materialism in the French and German Enlightenment; atheism and materialism; nineteenth-century materialist controversies and debates in physics; Marxism and materialism; physicalism; and the new materialism.

    The History and Philosophy of Materialism is ideal for those studying and researching the history of this vital philosophical movement, especially those with an interest in the history and philosophy of science, ancient and early modern philosophy and the Enlightenment. It will also be valuable reading for those in related disciplines such as History, Sociology and Religion.

    Introduction: The History and Philosophy of Materialism Charles T. Wolfe and John Symons

    Part 1: Ancient, Non-Western and Medieval Philosophy

    1. Aristotle and Materialism Sophia Connell

    2. A complex matter: Epicurus’ materialism Francesca Masi and Francesco Verde

    3. Materialism, Monism and Emergent Properties in the Latin Middle Ages Aurélien Robert

    4. Materialism in Medieval Islamic thought Mali Alinejad Zanjani

    5. Conquest-Era Nahua Metaphysics: An Indigenous Materialism? James Maffie

    6. Materialism in India Piotr Balcerowicz

    7. Materialism in Chinese thought Shu-an Han

    Part 2: Renaissance and Early Modern Philosophy

    8. Cosmological Materialism in the Renaissance Pietro Daniel Omodeo

    9. Epicurean Materialism revisited: Gassendi on the Human Soul Delphine Bellis

    10. Margaret Cavendish’s Materialism: Giving up the Ghost in the Machine Marcy Lascano

    11. Malebranche: A Materialist Malgré Lui? Colin Chamberlain

    12. Locke and his critics on the possibility of material minds Stewart Duncan

    13. Early modern critiques of materialism and atheism: Cudworth, Clarke and Berkeley Kenneth Pearce

    Part 3: Enlightenment Materialisms

    14. Anthony Collins on Texture and Structural Materialism Adam Harmer

    15. From Active Matter and Movement to ‘Sensibilité’ and Social Harmony: D’Holbach’s enchanted materialism Ruggero Sciuto

    16. Materialism in the German enlightenment, ca. 1690-1790 Falk Wunderlich

    17. Is Materialism Atheistic? Charles Wolfe, Eleonora Alfano and John Symons

    Part 4: Nineteenth-Century Philosophy

    18. Materialism between science and metaphysics: Controversies in Germany (1840s-1870s) Paolo Pecere

    19. The specter of materialism haunts France and French spiritualism. Victor Cousin’s attempt at exorcism Delphine Antoine-Mahut

    20. Darwinism, Positivism, Materialism, Relativism: Science and Philosophy in the 1860s Trevor Pearce

    21. When matter ceased to matter. The disappearance of the philosophical problem of matter from physics in the late nineteenth century Marij van Strien

    Part 5: Twentieth-Century Philosophy

    22. History of Materialism and Intelligent Materialism Charles T. Wolfe

    23. Materialism and Dialectics: Reassessing the Soviet tradition from Lenin to Ilyenkov Sascha Freyberg and Giorgi Kobakhidze

    24. Russian Marxism and the Materialist Interpretation of Spinoza Justin Steinberg

    25. Althusser’s Materialisms: Dialectical, Historical, and Aleatory William Lewis

    26. Freudo-Marxist Materialism Cat Moir Wolfe

    27. Neurath’s Physicalism John Symons

    Part 6: Contemporary Philosophy: Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics and Critique

    28. Our Mind-Body Problem Tom Polger

    29. The Materialist Sixties Daniel Stoljar

    30. From Materialism To Physicalism: An Opinionated Sketch Andrew Melnyk

    31. Matter: A Feminist Reading Emanuela Bianchi.



    Charles T. Wolfe is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Université de Toulouse-2 Jean Jaurès, France.

    John Symons is Professor of Philosophy and Courtesy Professor of Computer Science at The University of Kansas, USA and Director of the Center for Cyber Social Research.