What is real? This question has puzzled many what is really real or what is reality. Reality as I shall explain is one that is according to materialism and proven by science. Materialism is defined, as the metaphysical view holding that matter alone is real. This is what Hugh Elliot proves in his argument Modern Science and Materialism. By use of his argument I will answer the questions of what is real, what humans need to know, if it is possible to know what is real and how, how to distinguish real for non-real, where humans fit in, and how we can benefit from materialism.
First, what is real? Reality is only one thing, and it is all principles of matter and energy. When you reach out and touch something it is matter, when you look to the skies all around you sense this reality of matter and energy from the light in the sky to the ground beneath us. Elliot says that the universe consists of matter and energy in a state of permanent change.(Pg. 307 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot) What Elliot is saying is matter is all objects being discerned, energy consisting of motion, heat, light, sound, electricity, and etc., and permanent change is real. This permanent change means that everything when you take a look around our universe it never stands still relative to the rest of the universe, and even science has proven this with the second law of thermodynamics it states that all systems will change spontaneously to less ordered. Now this is a scary thought that we wouldnt be able to grasp reality if it always changes on its own.
This raises a serious question, how can we understand or live according to reality if it always is changing? Well, there is no need to worry about this fact of change, because we can understand how it works we our not helpless against nature. The universe will change according to Elliot and science, but the universe is not a chaotic place. It has procedures or fixed sequences that is follows it gives us humans knowledge about events so certain that we can predict the future. Elliot also states this he says that the universe it follows certain fixed sequences-usually called laws-which are so definite that even in the present state of knowledge many future events can be prophesied with certainty.(Pg. 308 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot) Yes, now we have something to follow according to reality it is these, as Elliot states, laws. But unlike the laws of the government that are sometimes hard to follow these laws of the universe our fixed sequences that cant be broken, and what a relief. I have already mentioned one of these laws, but there is still others that govern us for our good. One is the law of gravity that states that large masses will exert a pull on other masses, and this is a law for the good of mankind. For if large masses didnt attract we would lose our atmosphere to space and so too we would be blown out into space.
Yet, we have these laws that govern reality, but is it possible for us to gain the knowledge of all reality? Well, for us as humans to have knowledge we must have the facts, the ultimate facts of reality. When a mind has a small amount of real facts the reality that he constructs is less real. The more facts that we can accumulate the closer we get to true reality or what is really real. Hugh Elliot knew this he states before we can discern the deeper relationships of existence and the universe, we must know about these ultimate facts.(Pg. 308 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot) This is how is we know reality we must construct it out of facts, and as Elliot stated we must know about these ultimate facts. This is what makes Elliots argument so easy to believe because he knew where to go to get these facts he gained knowledge before he gave his argument. To make this easy how many times have you thought that for sure you knew something and then as your education grows you see the world in a new light? Therefore it is possible to know what is real, but how?
We already know that to have knowledge we need fact, but where and how do we get the facts that are consistent with reality? Hugh Elliot understood exactly where knowledge comes from he states all human knowledge is derived by observation and experiment.(Pg. 308 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot) This is the source of facts, this is truth, and this is the ground on to which knowledge is built. By following this procedure many things have been learned and proven. Sir Isaac Newton tested his observations of falling matter by using experiments to find out the facts on the laws of gravity. And because of the knowledge that became available it has changed our world for the better. We were able to use the fundamentals of this law to make and use machines. Our world went from an agricultural society to one of a booming industrial, space travel became possible, and countless lives have been saved. Although one law helped to change our understanding of the world there is much more that others have gathered. All knowledge that is based of the fore mentioned procedures have been gathered together into the various fields of science. This is where we can go to look for our answers to questions on reality. This is where Elliot argues we must go he says the first thing to be done in any search after philosophic principles is to travel over special sciences with a view to extracting from them such information relevant to our purpose.(Pg. 308 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot) this is where we get the knowledge it is here that others like us who want the truth have been going and they are also the ones increasing our knowledge through science.
But can we be sure that what many like ourselves have constructed are real? How can we distinguish it from unreal? Well, to determine what is really real we have some guidelines that we can follow, and this is what Elliot says he denies any form of existence other than existences that have some kind of palpable material characteristics or qualities.(Pg. 310 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot) This is the first guideline we can use to identify if something is real or not. Elliot is saying that we can let go of any ideas that wouldnt fit in to a world of matter and energy. No longer do we need to believe in a world of gods, spirits, or an entity called mind. When we sense something we know that it is matter out there and when we are thinking about anything that mental event is real too. Elliot continues this idea by saying every event occurring in the universe, including those events known as mental processes and all kinds of human actions or conduct, are expressible purely in terms of matter and motion.(Pg. 310 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot) The second guideline humans can follow has major implications for humans thought of the universe. Elliot states scientific materialism warmly denies that there is any such thing as a purpose in the universe.(Pg. 309 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot) What this means is that if we are going to try to figure out this vast universe we dont need to look for purpose the reality has its laws of matter and energy. The universe has its laws to which it follows, beyond those it is a universe that sole purpose is none.
This also has implications for humans as well. Where do we fit in this reality? Well, if you even pondered that question you are concluding that humans are somehow exempt or special in the universe, but according to Elliot the universe, down to its smallest parts, is regarded by primitive superstition as existing for the special benefit of man.(Pg. 309 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot) And so Elliot says it is because of the small mind that we believe that we are significant. Yes it is because we see the universe from our own eyes that we believe we are special, and this view is one of the uneducated.It is because of the knowledge of the sciences and our search for facts that we start to see that the universe is very different then we perceive. Elliot argues this when he says our education endows us with a wider out look and wider knowledge, we can come to see that the objective universe is very different from our own private subjective universe.(Pg. 309 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot) From the knowledge of science we have learned that no god ever created the universe with any purpose, and now we know that we are not significant in the cosmos. Even throughout history we somehow saw the humans species as central to the universe like the idea that the universe revolved around the earth. It took us centuries of knowledge before we even realized that the earth is just one of billions of planets out there not even a big planet at that in the universe. It does seem sad to answer our question about whether we are important or not with this the human species is, indeed, a mere incident in the universal redistribution of matter and motion; its existence has not the smallest cosmic significant.(Pg. 310 Modern Science and Materialism, Hugh Elliot).
Although it may seem like a horrible conclusion to our lives it does offer hope and benefits never before dream possible. We are now truly free, no longer do we have to fear a god who will strike us down, or have to worry what we should do in our lives. We control our lives, and we do what we want to, and no ones will do we bend except that of reality. If these are not good enough benefits, then just think how wonderful it is to know, to have gained the knowledge, that we understand reality. When we go out side we can enjoy the smell of a rose or feel the warm air on our cheek and know that it is real. We can also benefit by being able to figure out how things work but just understanding realities laws, and also that our lives our here because of these laws. So we can benefit, understand, and learn to appreciate all that knowledge of reality has taught us.
Thus, when we know think of reality we can now say we understand it. It is purposeless, always changing according to laws, and it is all matter and energy. We have come to terms that it means that the only things that are real are those that go according to those things. There are no gods, or spirits, or any nonphysical entities like mind. We also know now that our place in reality is insignificant, but that it doesnt mean that we need have no happiness because of this. We can now enjoy life in total freedom always learning and growing in this knowledge. May you take to heart what has been given you so you can enjoy your life along with those like you who today are happier because of what they now know.