Philosophers have had much trouble naming what we think is real. Some believe that only matter is real and can be studied, and thus we have various forms of materialism. Some claim there are non-material entities and that these are just as real as material entities. Of course, there are many views that attempt to fuse these into a coherent schema. What I’ve been trying to do on this blog is develop my own naming convention for reality, borrowing heavily from many others. My animaterialist ramblings are an attempt to include Soul in my own view of reality. One would think, upon first glance, that Soul would be a non-material entity, and that my view would fall into a dualist framework. That is undoubtedly caused by the fact that the word, Soul, carries a lot of historical baggage, as does the word “matter.” Soul is usually said to be an invisible inhabitant of the body. That is not the way I view Soul at all.
I have probably contradicted myself many times in my writings. This is due to the evolution of my thought. I am always learning new things and this occasionally changes my views. This is an issue for all thinkers.
My understanding of Soul is evolving. I believe it is due to my evolving view of matter, which none of us really understands very well at all. Matter is one of the most enigmatic puzzles in all the universe. We are accustomed to thinking of matter as Descartes viewed it,
So, extension in length, breadth, and depth, constitutes the nature of bodily substance; and thought constitutes the nature of thinking substance. And everything else attributable to body presupposes extension, and is only a mode of extended (The Principles of Human Knowledge”. Principles of Philosophy I. p. 53).
That’s it. According to Descartes, matter is only extension: length, breadth, and depth. Nothing else. I don’t believe this is all there is to matter. I also don’t believe that mind and consciousness are separate from matter. I don’t use Soul in the usual Jungian sense of anima or animus (he distinguished between psyche and soul in his writings). In my opinion, what we know as Soul is the same as Matter. Reality is indistinguishable, whether we call it Matter or Soul. Our human experience is of this universe and it is, what I call, animaterial. It includes all things in our experience, including consciousness, unconsciousness, dreams, God, archetypes, as well as what we empirically know. Our experience, both conscious and unconscious, is of one reality: animatter. Yes, this is a monistic view.
Recently, I’ve found a common thread in the work of philosopher, Galen Strawson. In his paper, Realistic Monism, Dr. Strawson frames similar claims as what he calls “real physicalism.”
Full recognition of the reality of experience, then, is the obligatory starting point for any remotely realistic version of physicalism. This is because it is the obligatory starting point for any remotely realistic (indeed any non-self-defeating) theory of what there is. It is the obligatory starting point for any theory that can legitimately claim to be ‘naturalistic’ because experience is itself the fundamental given natural fact; it is a very old point that there is nothing more certain than the existence of experience (Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism).
In regard to what he means by “physicalism”, he seems to be returning to the ancient Greek view of physis:
I take physicalism to be the view that every real, concrete phenomenon in the universe is … physical. It is a view about the actual universe, and I am going to assume that it is true. For the purposes of this paper I will equate ‘concrete’ with ‘spatio-temporally (or at least temporally) located’, and I will use ‘phenomenon’ as a completely general word for any sort of existent. Plainly all mental goings on are concrete phenomena (ibid.).
He distinguishes his brand of physicalism from the sort that believes everything can be explained by physics, which he calls, physicSalism:
It follows that real physicalism can have nothing to do with physicSalism, the view — the faith — that the nature or essence of all concrete reality can in principle be fully captured in the terms of physics (ibid.).
Of this, animaterialism is in agreement. I’m not sure yet how Dr. Strawson would feel about experiences that we usually attribute to Soul, such as our dreams, but I think we are on the right track here. Animaterialism would say that our experiences of the archetypes, which we also call the Gods, would be physical, in the Strawsonian sense of real physicalism. To avoid the confusion of the definition of physicalism, I prefer to use the word, animaterialism.
The naming of reality has always been, more or less, a subjective issue, due to personal preference, I suppose. I’m certain there will be more names cropping up in the future for our evolving views of reality.
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