Immaterial vs Imaginary: can we tell the difference?
I was chatting with an atheist friend of mine yesterday and he posed a couple of very thought provoking questions. I thought they were very good, so I decided to share them on this blog and stimulate some discussion.
One of his questions was in relation to comprehending the ‘immaterial’. He asked, ‘how can you tell the difference between the imaginary and the immaterial?’
Now, at one level everything that is imaginary is also immaterial (otherwise it wouldn’t be imaginary). But the imaginary can’t be the sum total of the immaterial, for there are ‘real’ things things like consciousness, love, justice, memory, which are immaterial – we would never suggest that they are imaginary.
Yet this raises the broader problem for the materialist, who propose that all of ‘reality’ are the result of material interactions. I’ve touched on this topic in previous posts on this blog, particularly with respect to Sam Harris, Deepak Chopra and Michelle Tepper. The presence of the immaterial creates enormous challenges to the atheist materialist who proposes that humans are simply matter and DNA. Indeed the presence of the immaterial e.g. love, consciousness, memories, creates formidable difficulties for the ‘hard’ materialist (the materialist may propose that the immaterial is the result of material processes – although this at first glance appears somewhat contradictory. Yet no satisfactory process has been established to outline as how this actually happens).
So once the immaterial is acknowledged, the question is then rightly raised – how can we tell the difference between the immaterial and the imaginary? Are my memories fabricated? Have they recorded history correctly? Is love an illusion? And this also raises the ultimate question concerning the immaterial, ‘is there an immaterial god, or is this just imaginary?’
So it’s over to you. What tests, measures, principles or experiments could we use to discern the immaterial from the imaginary?
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