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Difference in Views

According to the philosopher Lucretius, matter, which is made up of atoms, and the empty space, is what the whole universe is made up of. Due the empty space, atoms move about freely in the universe and when atoms collide with each other and come together, they form matter i.e. material objects. Human beings, just like the non living things such as a table or chair, are made up of atoms. When humans die or when these non living things are discarded or burnt in fire, the atoms are not destroyed. They come back into the empty space and again collide and come together to form living things which can think, speak, taste, etc, as well as non living things. Thus, it is the atoms, the matter which forms humans, their consciousness, soul, mind, and thoughts.

As materialism suggests that consciousness and ideas do not exist or even if they do, they are nothing but atoms, then why do different people have different ways of looking at things? A glass half filled with water, may seem half empty to some and half full to others. This shows that perceptions of reality differ from person to person, although we have the same electrical activities going on inside our brains are made up of the same atoms. It is these psychological processes such as our desires, beliefs, intentions, thoughts, feelings and sensory perceptions, that distinguish one person from another. This phenomenon has still not been satisfactorily explained by scientists or proponents of materialism.

If we look at modern science, it is very closely associated with the philosophy of materialism. Most scientists can be considered materialists by profession as they only study about or deal with material things, but personally they may have different beliefs and some of them may actually believe in things like human consciousness, perception, thoughts and other psychological processes.

People who have been debating on this subject, often point out the flaws of materialistic philosophy. They suggest that since atoms and particles do not have any consciousness, then how come they can come together to form human consciousness and soul? Thus, the philosophy of explaining everything in reference to material things or matter, is still highly debated and lot of questions are still left unanswered.

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The world says: “You have needs – satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don’t hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.” This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.
—  Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov 
Historical Materialism and Idealism

One of the defining features of Marxism is its methodology, or how it goes about analyzing the world. The methodology Marxism employs is Historical Materialism. At its most simple, Historical Materialism is an attempt to look at the development of societies through an investigation of material conditions. Material conditions is a term that refers to the ways that a society produces goods, as well as the technological development that makes this production possible. By looking at material conditions, Marxism is able to analyze the ways that societies attempt to provide food and other commodities for their members. 

As an example of this, Marxism looks at the development of capitalism as a shift in material conditions. Marx used Historical Materialism to examine industrialization as a massive shift in productive capabilities and technologies, controlled by a capitalist class. From this perspective, capitalist society developed around these conditions.

Marxism holds that Historical Materialism is a tool that can be applied to understand pre-capitalist society as well. Marxists look to the organization of production through a serf and peasant class, as the defining material condition of Feudalism, for example.

In short: Historical Materialism is a tool of analysis which looks to material conditions as the basis of a society, and assumes societies develop from those material conditions.

Mod D

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It is important to recognize that Marx’ Historical Materialism is, well, just that: materialism. It developed in response to the Hegelian idealist tradition. In Hegel’s philosophy of history, culture and human society develop as realizations of what he terms the Spirit. We won’t get into the nuances of Hegelian idealism here, but it’s worth bringing up as an example of an idealist philosophy of history: rather than being produced and changed by the material conditions, in Hegel, history is advanced by changes in the Spirit.

In Marx, the communist project is not an ideal to be achieved; Marx’ work did not attempt to outline an alternative, moral or ideal society towards which the workers must strive. In Marxist thought, communism is not the product of some grand realization of the Spirit. The Materialist method instead locates communism as something which emerges from the real material conditions of capitalism.

In other words, the Materialist method of social critique looks at the tensions of capitalist conditions (the wage-form, alienation, and others) and traces the birth of revolutionary fervor from those tensions. It seeks to locate a material basis for radicalism, rather than a moral or ideal basis.

Mod F

never growing up ;) 

A new survey of 53,000 children across 15 countries reveals that children tend to be happy regardless of the context of their lives. From Nepal to Norway, children between the ages of 10 and 12 say that they are largely satisfied with their lives (pdf).

“Children tend to be more optimistic in life,” Elisabeth Backe-Hansen, the Norwegian lead researcher for the Children’s World Survey, told Quartz. Though not surprising, it is reassuring.

When asked whether these children had access to nine things—good clothes, a computer, internet access, a mobile phone, their own room, books, a family car, a music player, and a TV—children in Norway on average had access to all of them but those in Ethiopia had access to only three. And yet, across the 15 countries, there was no correlation between how satisfied children were and how many material goods they lacked:

The case for South Koreans is the opposite. Korean children, despite having access to most material goods, seem to be unhappier than adults. This finding reaffirms previous surveys, which claim that the country’s highly competitive academic environment is a much bigger burden than elsewhere in the world.

There is also a noteworthy difference in the nature of of kids’ carefree attitudes in rich and poor countries. Despite being generally happy, children in developed countries were relatively less satisfied with their body, appearance, and self-confidence.

Many people believe that material development is the real meaning of human life, but we can see that no matter how much material development there is in the world it never reduces human suffering and problems. Instead, it often causes suffering and problems to increase; therefore it is not the real meaning of human life.
—  Geshe Kelsang Gyatso ~ Modern Buddhism