“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Materialism and Imagination

Art is now the last safe harbor for the expression of spiritual longing in our increasingly materialistic civilization. The supposedly self-evident discoveries of scientific investigation into the nature of the physical universe have convinced most who know of them that everything which exists is a giant machine governed by measurable, generally deterministic laws. Even our age-old religious traditions have become materialistic, mistaking the letter of their books for the life and spirit of the world. The intelligent liberal, no less imbued with the religious impulse constituting the core of their being than any other human of lesser education, turns to art and self-expression instead of religious community to fulfill their basic biological need for transcendence. For a person of this form of consciousness, the only possible relationship with the spiritual world that remains possible comes through the power of imagination. But it would be a failure of imagination to resort to explaining such a power as an epiphenomenal side effect of skull-bound brain activity. The human spirit does not receive an already created world, but enacts one through participation in the angelic poetry (otherwise known as the Logos) undergirding the phenomenal reality of the evolving cosmos. If art be our only remaining way out of hell and into a renewed, now consciously-willed paradise on earth, then let us all begin sharing the wisdom lying dormant in our hearts. Let us bring forth a world of beauty and goodness, the only true world there ever was or will be but for our failure to imagine it.







3 responses to “Materialism and Imagination”

  1. Materialism and Imagination « homophilosophicus Avatar

    […] Matthew Segall is quite correct in his conclusion that modernity, at least as far as modernity identifies Western Civilisation, has adopted materialism as the default philosophical setting. Yet, with respect, there are a number of problems and lancunæ with his construct of materialism and imagination as two alternative and distinct modi cognitivi. Prior to any critique of this brief article it should be made clear that this author is not a cognitive psychologist and as a result shall endeavour to remain within his competency as far as possible. As a liberal Christian theologian there are a number of areas with which I find considerable commonality with the natural scientists, philosophical materialists and Atheism, but my religious profession directs that I must recognise that there remain real differences between these philosophies and my own. Having digested a considerable amount of Segall’s work I can see that he and I have the vast similarities of opinion alongside areas of difference. The objective of this critique is to attempt to make the first tentative steps towards an harmonisation between the two of us, with the hope that he will be kind enough to reciprocate. Using his article ‘Materialism and Imagination‘ this response of the same name shall attempt a deconstruction of his notions of materialism and the imaginative with a view to a fuller analysis of these complex conceptions, and try to establish a common vocabulary by which these apparently opposed ideas can function within the schema of a more holistic understanding of reality. […]

  2. homophilosophicus Avatar

    Thanks for this Matthew. I hope that you will be willing to dialogue with me concerning our areas of mutual interest. For the moment I have made a brief critique of this present entry and the hope a stimulating friendly discussion.

    Jason Michael

  3. Belief in a Personal God « Footnotes to Plato Avatar

    […] in the Christian tradition. Yesterday, he posted a critical response to one of my short essays on materialism and imagination that I will also respond to […]

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