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The Material World and the Formation of Human Society
The foundation of social reality is the material constitution of the world.
The basic structure of social life is grounded on the economic factor whose parameters are within the range of what we consider as material, i.e., concrete in the general context of what the senses can grasp and thus universally experienceable.
With this notion, we affirm a vital fundamental activity to keep society alive and functional and that is economic productivity. In other words, the material world is the principal platform of the economy of a society which in this light makes the economy the foundation of such a society.
The economy of a society conditions, regulates and controls practically all aspects of what we call social life. In fact, there can be no society without the economy that is supposed to make it close-knit, functional and vibrant. The economy is, therefore, the substructure of every institution that arises in society. Nothing is non-deductible from the economic substructure.
Until this point, we have seen how the economy creates–not destroys–society and it is the material reality that makes the economy practicable and realistic.
There is, therefore, no economy without a material grounding. As a matter of ideological configuration, the material upon which the economy stands as the begin-all and end-all of social interaction constitutes the philosophy of materialism.
The Emergence of Philosophical Materialism from the Incontrovertible Reality of the Material Environment
Philosophical materialism assumes that human consciousness is consciousness of the material environment.
What is immediately given in human reality is the material environment that we as human beings automatically confront right at the dawn of consciousness.
Consciousness is consciousness of something and that something as far as human experience is concerned is the incontrovertible reality of the material environment. It is a fact that only human beings are capable of being conscious of their consciousness but this comes much later, i.e., some periods after we have affirmed the irrefutable existence of the material environment. What therefore constitutes the most basic principle of human reality is its connection to the material environment. This is materialism taken philosophically.
Philosophical materialism isn’t metaphysically formulated because it is grounded on humanity’s direct experience of the material environment, not on certain fabricated nebulous metaphysical notion that is disconnected from material reality.
This I would venture to call, “epistemological materialism” because any statement about any aspect of this reality is empirically verifiable and justifiable and any inference concerning events occurring in this reality may be rendered valid and sound through logical analysis.
From the condition of this reality, myriad ideas rise, develop and flourish in the human mind. Simply put, material reality is the fundamental focal point of human perception and conception so that thoughts, ideas, and concepts are all impossible without it. Consciousness is possible only when there is an object of consciousness and objects of consciousness are basically located in material reality.
Materialism as the Foundation of Society through Economic Pursuit
Materialism taken in its philosophical sense cannot be a destructive antagonist of human society; it is the foundation of human society. Without realizing the fact that the economy plays the most important role in society, we won’t be able to see the most significant value of material reality and the radical import of philosophical materialism.
From the inception of humanity, it is the material reality that steered the course of social development through the economic trajectory from the most primitive stage of survival to the most complex development of social institutions whose realization has been determined by humanity’s economic pursuit. To put it logically, there is no society without economic aspiration and there is no economic aspiration without the material environment or reality, the latter being the most rudimentary condition that possibilizes all productive and meaningful undertakings of humanity in the world. This is the essence of philosophical materialism.
The Dark Side of Materialism
However, apart from its philosophical sense, materialism may take the form of a sinister configuration as a prevalent human attitude. This type of materialism is more associated with the insatiable tendency of some individual people and nations to acquire more and more material possessions at the expense of depriving others of the same. The most common term we use for this kind of materialism is greed and in most instances, it likewise operates in the economic sphere of social circumstances. This variety of materialism is characterized by manipulation, exploitation, and oppression. We have seen how it is mirrored in world history as tyrannical powers subjugate, repress, abuse and enslave weak nations to divest them of their rights and material wealth.
As a case in point, we have witnessed how a powerful North American nation utilizes its mighty military machinery to invade oil-rich countries and take over their flourishing petroleum production industries.
Israel, a strong ally of this powerful nation, has likewise operated the same pattern of oppression as it has subjugated the original inhabitants of a small piece of land called Palestine and has strategically positioned itself at the core of the Middle Eastern region to have a dominant vantage point and facilitate its North American partner in overseeing a grand economic endeavor through the formation of what is known as the Greater Israel Project. In conjunction with the consummation and realization of this project, we have also seen how the unholy alliance of this North American power and Israel has wreaked havoc, shattered, demolished, and ruined countries like Iraq, Libya, and Syria among others.
In light of this global materialist scheme, powerful nations hegemonizing weak ones to take control of the latter’s rich resources are not only destroying societies but the world in general. This is destructive materialism.
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Prof. Ruel F. Pepa is a Filipino philosopher based in Madrid, Spain. A retired academic (Associate Professor IV), he taught Philosophy and Social Sciences for more than fifteen years at Trinity University of Asia, an Anglican university in the Philippines. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia Pacific Research.