The materialism understands the idea where all that matters is given a priority in the consciousness , so that says everything to the world understand the material exists and is objective consciousness and reality.


What is materialism?

It is about that philosophical current whose central postulates orbit around the essential primacy of matter. Matter is prior to spirit , which states that the latter is a proceeding from the former, and that it is independent of the perception capacity of individuals. It is a current that comes to oppose idealism .

  • What does it consist of
  • Characteristics of materialism
  • Source
  • History
  • Who was the creator
  • Types of materialism
  • Main ideas of materialism
  • Contributions
  • Representatives
  • Plays
  • How it differs from idealism
  • Importance of materialism
  • Examples

What does it consist of

Philosophy is a minefield of contradictions and confrontations. Not for nothing, it is established that great ideas and advances in philosophical thought emerge from these It has been known that there has been, for a long time, the confrontation between the inductive and deductive method, or positivism and constructivism , or modernism and postmodernism .


For today’s lesson, we will touch on a topic that has been at the center of these great debates: materialism . It is a philosophical current whose central postulates revolve around the idea of ​​the primacy of matter over spirit. For the materialist (whatever its type), matter precedes spirit, which is considered an organized derivative of it, and is independent of all attempts at perception that the individual makes. That is, matter exists, regardless of whether or not there is someone who perceives it. He opposes idealism for reasons that we will discuss below …

Characteristics of materialism

Among which, we can nominate:

  • It is a philosophical school whose postulate stipulates that reality can always be understood by prioritizing the concept of matter.
  • It is clearly opposed to idealism, since it does not consider that reality can always exist based on the perception or conception that the individual makes of it.
  • It is declared that the matter is ” uncreated “ , and that it can be the object of study for the human being.


Being an older disputes in philosophy, its origins usually go back to Thales of Miletus or Anaximander or others, but in reality, the student can find its antecedents even much earlier. Such are the cases of ancient China and India, in Egyptian and Babylonian culture. 


It could be said that one of the main antecedents of philosophical materialism is found in Aristotle , who, from his position, spoke of a raw material that was at the base of the things that had been. Since then, going through a period of medieval obscurantism, in which all the philosophical postulates would only come to justify and support the postulates of the Church itself, during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment materialism would find a space of renewal that would coalesce with the historical conditions of the moment. Such are the examples of Francis Bacon , a harsh critic of the prevailing idealism, or the naturalistic postulates of Thomas Hobbs., or the thought of Marx and Engels in relation to the so-called historical and dialectical materialism.

Who was the creator

Usually it is said that the first materialist in known history is Democritus of Abdera . This, in turn, declares that the existence of a creative being is irrelevant, and that all natural phenomena operate under their own laws , which can also be studied by man.

Types of materialism

As a philosophical current, materialism details a fairly broad subdivision. However, we will highlight the following:

Historical materialism

It is a doctrine based on Marxism that makes a study of historical processes taking into account the material conditions of the time. In this case, aspects such as economics and politics are taken into account to understand the living conditions of the time.

Dialectical materialism

Which, on the other hand, seeks to study the internal contradictions between the material phenomena of the world, whose interaction requires different processes.

Main ideas of materialism

Some of the central ideas that we can extract would be the following:

  • It is in open contradiction with idealism .
  • It is in a fairly close relationship with the scientific method, as matter is given such priority over non-material elements such as the soul or spirit.
  • It places a lot of emphasis on production issues and the social status that an individual achieves.


The contributions of materialism can be found through the hard and soft sciences , of whom, to a certain extent, are seen as its beneficiaries. This philosophical current postulates, as is already known, the primacy of matter, giving, on the one hand, a conceptual apparatus that is widely used by researchers who are governed by the scientific method and its rigor. On the other hand, the researcher comes into contact with a reality that is always subject to the changes imposed by many variables; Among them, of course, we have the determinants of the political and social conditions of the moment, as studied by Marxism .


The most prominent authors are Frederich Engels and Karl Marx , both philosophers with great significance in contemporary Western thought.


Among some of the most important works of this philosophical current, we can find:

  • Contemporary Materialism, by Paul Janet.
  • The Marxism of the regime (1940-1960), by Álvaro Ceballos Viro.
  • Art and Materialism, by Manuel Gutierrez Nájera and Remedios Mataix.

How it differs from idealism

As has been repeated several times before, idealism and materialism have been in permanent confrontation since time immemorial. While for idealism ideas prevail over matter, materialism maintains the opposite: that matter prevails over ideas. In the same way, materialism maintains that matter is uncreated, that is, that it does not come from the ideas of a creative entity.

Importance of materialism

As a model, its importance in the disciplines of the 21st century is hardly questionable. Going through one of its aspects, this approach has become the main source of knowledge support for the most important science projects in recent centuries. This is because it gives such value to the concept of matter, allowing access to new discoveries in the order of science. On the other hand, passing through the most humanistic disciplines , the study of the forces in contradiction and the socio – political conditions of the times allowed access to a reality hitherto unknown: the problem of poverty, the precarious labor conditions and the needs of greater well-being social .


Perhaps the best example that we can detect of this philosophical movement can be traced back to the historical conditions of industrial Europe . Between the 18th and 19th centuries , the conditions of production and work on the continent were, in many cases, immensely precarious. One might think that the quality of life in those times was much lower than it is now (although other sources state that the quality of life then was, nevertheless, a little better than in times of feudalism ), Marx and Engels being one of the philosophers who dedicated themselves to denouncing the effect that the political and economic conditions (both material elements) generated in the society of the moment.

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