Phenomenology vs Scientific Materialism


Author: Elias Utbult

What is more fundamental/real our experience or the material world?

Most modern people see the world fundamentally as a place of matter that we exist within as material beings, as one species or life form among many on a rock hurling through space. This model makes our experience a secondary phenomena of the physical world which exist more primally i.e. is more ”real” or true. The worldview proclaims that the gold standard of truth is that which we can establish through the scientific method and is defined within a world of energy and matter, cause and effect, quarks and quantum fields. Is this really a rational assumption to make and can it cause problems for us as experiencing subjects?

Weʼve previously discussed the possibility that the world we experience could actually be a simulation or a dream. The position from which we are asking that question must be something more fundamental than the physical world itself, that is the position of an experiencing and acting subject. A first person or a ”phenomenological” view is the view that what is experienced is ”more real” than what is theoretically ”out there” that we can explain with models and modes of thinking such as a material world, a simulation or a dream. Is this view of the world preferable or not to a modern scientific material worldview? Why or why not?

A way to ask this question with a specific example is: What is more real/fundamental: The experience of pain, love and meaning or the chemicals that produce those feelings in our brains?

And possible problems resulting in the worldview of Scientific Materialism is an alienation from the world as experiencing subjects as well as a rational nihilism examples of statements of that viewpoint might be:

  • “Why do anything when it isnʼt going to matter in a thousand years anyways?”
  • “The fact of our existence is completely arbitrary and just by chance so we donʼt matter at all”
  • “Weʼre just an insignificant species on a big rock hurling through space, we donʼt matter in the big scheme of things”

Hereʼs an article on the topic from the perspective of a Orthodox Christian:  Most of the Time the Earth is Flat

A few follow up questions might be:

Are there perceivable problems with a phenomenological worldview if seen as most fundamental, if so what are those?

What do those that have a religious belief system think about this topic in relationship to their beliefs? Is there a problem of reductionism in discussing religion within a phenomenological framework – that is to propose that premodern people described the world without differentiating between objects and projected affect as an arena for action and religion an expression of that worldview – or is it a necessary shift for modern people in order to accept religious truths as anything but primitive versions of modern science?

In a phenomenological worldview emotional experience is re-integrated into the world as a fundamental (or even the most fundamental) element of it, can this therefore be a solution to nihilism resulting from a materialistic worldview or are there other better solutions that can come without any foreseeable tradeoffs?

This relating to a pragmatic truth definition: Can we truly ”know” anything or can we just believe things that are more or less beneficial for us as experiencing and acting subjects?

The more abstract version of this question might be: What is most fundamental our understanding of the world or our experience of it? Experience referring both to emotional and perceptual experience.


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