Bad Materialism

In various threads there have been various discussions about what materialism is, and isn’t, and various definitions have been proposed and cited.  In this thread I want to ask a different question, addressed specifically to those who regard “materialism” as a bad thing.  William, for instance, has said that “materialism” was “disproven” in the 18th century, yet laments

the spread of an 18th century myth in our public school system and in our culture at large.

So here is my question: if you are against something called “materialism” and see it as a bad thing (for whatever reason), what is your definition of the “materialism” you are against?

467 thoughts on “Bad Materialism

  1. Neil, I know almost nothing about Gibson, and while I’ve given him a couple of tries and intend to do so again some time, I find his writings obscure. But based on the link keiths posted I don’t see how one can both advocate for “top-down” processing and be a Gibsonian. Do you think the wiki author(s) have gotten Gibson wrong?

  2. walto: But based on the link keiths posted I don’t see how one can both advocate for “top-down” processing and be a Gibsonian.

    I have no idea whether Gibson advocated “top down” or “bottom up” processing. I suspect that if you had asked him, he would have said that his theory of perception was not about any kind of processing, and that processing was what he explicitly opposed.

    I don’t consider myself a Gibsonian. I do think Gibson’s account of vision makes more sense than Marr’s theory of vision.

    When I say that my own view is top down, I am not talking about my view of perception. Rather, I am talking about my view of cognition and learning as a whole, of which perception is only part. I don’t see how perception can be looked at, except in the context of a complete cognitive system.

  3. keiths:

    No, [by the “optic array”] he [Gibson] meant the pattern of light arriving at a particular observation point.

    Neil:

    This is wrong. “Particular observation point” is too narrow, which is why I used “area”. Gibson is clear that it takes action on our part (such as moving the eye and head) to get the information we want. It isn’t just something that happens to you because you happen to be at a particular observation point.

    Don’t confuse “optic array” with “optic flow”.

    The optic array is the pattern of light arriving at an observation point. It is the changes in the optic array that constitute optic flow, with those changes being brought about by the motion of the observer and of objects in the environment.

    It all lines up with Gibson’s view of perception as an active process.

  4. Neil,

    Going by what the psychological community means by “bottom-up processing”, Gibson’s theory is a theory of bottom-up processing.

    Going by what “bottom-up processing” means in Neilspeak, who knows?

    Sometimes I think you should call yourself “The Heretical Lexicographer” instead of “The Heretical Philosopher”.

  5. keiths: The optic array is the pattern of light arriving at an observation point. It is the changes in the optic array that constitute optic flow, with those changes being brought about by the motion of the observer and of objects in the environment.

    Unlike you, I do not claim any ability at ESP that would enable me to read the minds of the dead. I expect WJM will be happy with your support.

    When you take what can only be a subjective opinion, and express it with a air of authority and certainty, you surely leave the impression of a strong Dunning-Kruger effect.

    Honestly I don’t see the point. Let’s suppose that you are right about what Gibson meant. Then so what?

    I never liked his use of “optic array” anyway. It seemed too much like a repeat of the mistakes of traditional empiricism. I see his wife’s work on perceptual learning as more relevant.

  6. Neil, Alan has clarified that the wine cellar is not a general “flame pit” but is intended (at least temporarily) for the keiths/walto bickering only.

    You’ll have to get your own place. 🙂

  7. Neil:

    Unlike you, I do not claim any ability at ESP that would enable me to read the minds of the dead.

    Come on, Neil. To figure out what Gibson thought, we can read what he wrote and we can read what other people have written about what he wrote.

    The consensus is that Gibson’s theory is bottom-up, not top-down. Take a look at what comes up when you Google:

    Gibson bottom up

    Gibson top down

    How many references can you cite in support of the idea that direct perception is top-down? Do you think the entire psychological community is mistaken about Gibson’s beliefs?

  8. keiths: The consensus is that Gibson’s theory is bottom-up, not top-down.

    Well, so what?

    You have made a series of comments on this, and I fail to see that there is any point other than your apparent psychological need to have the last word on anything.

    I never disagreed with your earlier statement about the consensus. I only stated that my own position was different.

    So now, after a bunch of posts you are able to assert that you were right all along (which was never actually challenged). At the same time, it remains that my own view is position is top-down and that perception is direct.

    Since you seem to want to win something, I’ll agree. You win the award for utterly pointless posting.

  9. Neil,

    What are you complaining about?

    You challenged me on several points, so I responded. It’s called “discussion”.

    One of your claims was that I was purporting to read the dead Gibson’s mind:

    Unlike you, I do not claim any ability at ESP that would enable me to read the minds of the dead. I expect WJM will be happy with your support.

    I responded by showing that my claims about Gibson’s beliefs were well-founded.

    So again, what are you complaining about? If you don’t want me to respond to your challenges, why make them in the first place?

  10. If you reject the view that the material world is comprised of nothing more than colorless, odorless, soundless, tasteless particles in motion, governed entirely by efficient causes and devoid of any inherent teleology or final causality – you just might be a bad materialist.

  11. You might be a bad materialist if you believe you are just a very, very small part of a big, big machine, that the influence you have is miniscule, and you have accepted the realization of your insignificance.

  12. Mung: You might be a bad materialist of you haven’t read New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics

    I haven’t read it, but I’ve read some of the speculative materialism/speculative realism stuff that’s coming out of contemporary Continental philosophy. It’s quite fascinating, but especially if you have enough background in Hegel and Heidegger to see what the criticisms are.

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