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Materialism

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As the word itself signifies, Materialism is a philosophical system which regards matter as the only reality in the world, which undertakes to explain every event in the universe as resulting from the conditions and activity of matter, and which thus denies the existence of God and the soul. It is diametrically opposed to Spiritualism and Idealism, which, in so far as they are one-sided and exclusive, declare that everything in the world is spiritual, and that the world and even matter itself are mere conceptions or ideas in the thinking subject. Materialism is older than Spiritualism, if we regard the development of philosophy as beginning in Greece. The ancient Indian philosophy, however, is idealistic; according to it there is only one real being, Brahma; everything else is appearance, Maja. In Greece the first attempts at philosophy were more or less materialistic; they assumed the existence of a single primordial matter — water, earth, fire, air — or of the four elements from which the world was held to have developed. Materialism was methodically developed by the Atomists. The first and also the most important systematic Materialist was Democritus, the "laughing philosopher". He taught that out of nothing comes nothing; that everything is the result of combination and division of parts (atoms); that these atoms, separated by empty spaces, are infinitely numerous and varied. Even to man he extended his cosmological Materialism, and was thus the founder of Materialism in the narrow sense, that is the denial of the soul. The soul is a complex of very fine, smooth, round, and fiery atoms: these are highly mobile and penetrate the whole body, to which they impart life. Empedocles was not a thorough-going Materialist, although be regarded the four elements with love and hatred as the formative principles of the universe, and refused to recognize a spiritual Creator of the world. Aristotle reproaches the Ionian philosophers in general with attempting to explain the evolution of the world without the Nous (intelligence); he regarded Protagoras, who first introduced a spiritual principle, as a sober man among the inebriated.

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