What is Mechanic Materialism, and What Does It Mean?

What is Mechanic Materialism, and What Does It Mean?

July 2, 2021 Off By Felso

Mechanical Materialism or Mechanical Materialism is the materialist understanding that claims that natural and social phenomena can be explained by the laws of mechanics. Especially 17th and 18th century materialism has this structure and is called by this name. In these centuries, earth and celestial mechanics were very developed and had a significant impact on materialism as well as all sciences.

Moreover, it was centuries before the English physicist Newton put forward the laws of mechanics. In the 5th century, the materialism of Leucippus and Democritus, Epicurus, and his Roman disciple Lucretius, who are known as Abdera thinkers, were also mechanics. Inspired by these, scholars such as Gassendi and Bacon also developed a mechanistic understanding. Descartes saw the universe as a huge machine, Hobbes regarded animate nature and inanimate nature as one and the same, explaining it with mechanical causes, and naturalizing even God as “the highest of natural causes”.

According to Hobbes, everything in the universe, material, spiritual, human, social, was determined by natural and therefore material causes. Spirit, will, etc. immaterial representations like these were empty and unfounded prejudices; It should have been the duty of science to save all the happenings in the universe from such designs and dreams and to connect them to necessary schemes as in mathematics. If we could know in advance how a machine that we built and operated according to mechanical laws would now function and what it would produce, then by knowing the material causes, which are the only source of universal determination, we could predict the future and give it the direction we wished beforehand, just as in a machine. This understanding was a purely ‘mechanical materialism’ understanding.

Newton’s mechanics gave a scientific direction to all these speculative mechanistic materialism understandings and gave birth to the understanding of ‘scientific mechanistic centralism’. Representatives of this new understanding are 18th century French mechanical materialists, especially Diderot, La Mettrie, Baron d’Holbach, Helvetius.

Mechanistic materialism means putting the universe on a material basis and arguing that it operates in the mechanical motion of displacement and in a necessary causality process as in machines. this limits thought, hinders the understanding of organic properties and social laws by reducing all processes and all forms of motion to mechanical motion. The assumption that mechanics and mathematics offer sufficient principles to know the universe as a whole is the chief fallacy of mechanistic materialism.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım