Published April 2015
1 minute read

Anti-materialism

The typical anti-materialist argument presents itself, broadly speaking, as follows. The essence of man lies in his mind, and so, any progress that mankind can achieve can only happen by looking inward and challenging yourself, by overcoming yourself. A person living in a material culture looks outward, at things around him, not inward at his own soul. By placing all our attention on our material creations we thus leave no time to focus it on ourselves, becoming mere peripherals of the material world rather than beings possessing a free will, beings in command of their spiritual future.

There is certainly some truth to this view, plainly evident by the way technology and consumer society moulds our culture today, but I don’t think there needs to be a dichotomy between the material and the spiritual. Rather, the case is that the spiritual either inhabits the material or it does not. In other words, we can realize our spiritual pursuits in material form, creating objects infused with the highest pursuits of the mind, or we can create objects driven by base desires, saturated by a consumerist ethos.

It would not be controversial to say that we are influenced and shaped by our environment. It’s not a matter of debate that our art and our ads play a role in forming our behavior and moulding our culture. It seems to me that instead of shunning the material, the anti-materialist should rather embrace it and use its power to exert influence over the mind. By infusing material products with a deliberate ethos, the spirit of the creator, we can create a world that in turn reflects that ethos back onto us. If the consumerist culture today seems hollow it is not because material pursuits are hollow by their nature, but rather, it is because the material itself is devoid of a meaningful philosophy. And here we come full circle. To create something meaningful we must first take the time to develop our minds and our spirits, we must have a conscious philosophy, a conscious direction, a deliberate ethos, for no spirit can take shape through our work when it does not yet exist.

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Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

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