Yesterday, I posted a short attack on philosophical materialism. Today, I wish to add a wee bit concerning the reductionist tendencies of materialism.
Materialists argue that the mind is no more than the brain, that thought is no more than neurochemistry, and that the world is no more than its matter in mechanistic motion. I certainly think that the brain, neurochemistry, and mechanistic causation are worth study and that they do explain phenomena—at a certain level of inquiry. However, such inquiry is not comprehensive. To use a language analogy, imagine a man who would consider Shakespearean drama or the dialogues of Plato to be nothing but the mere assemblage of letters or of vocalized noises. Such a man would correctly note that these works consist, at a certain level, of letters in their written form and of noises in their spoken form, but they transcend the building blocks of letters and sounds. Letters and sounds might be necessary for expressing the meaning of such works, but they do not constitute the meaning as such. Similarly, the material cause cannot account for the whole of the world. I do not pretend to know the exact relationship of the soul and the body, of the mind and the brain, or of formal, final, material, and efficient causality, but I do know that we flatten, distort, and misunderstand the world by forcing all being to be considered only at the lowest level of our comprehension.