Materialism reduces organism to mechanism

Materialism is the ideology that matter is all that exists. Mechanism is a material system that works according to material laws, with certain causes producing certain effects. Organism refers to conscious beings who respond to stimuli by their own volition.

Materialism treats organisms as if they were simply insentient material particles interacting according to impersonal mechanical laws. 

However, mechanisms differ from organisms biologically, experientially and philosophically. 

Biologically: Mechanisms go through just three broad phases in their existence: creation, deterioration and destruction. In contrast, organisms go through six broad phases: birth, growth, maintenance, reproduction, deterioration and destruction. 

Experientially: Organisms experience a gamut of emotions such as pain, pleasure, fear, hope and anticipation. In contrast, mechanisms experience nothing. A robot may clean a house, just as the owner of the house might. But the robot won’t experience any joy in seeing the cleaned house, as might the owner. Even if the robot says, “The house looks so good,” it does so only because it has been programmed like that. If its programming were changed, it might say, “This house stinks” even when it is perfectly clean. 

Philosophically: Why this difference between mechanisms and organisms? Because organisms have an inner source of consciousness that is the locus of experience and the energizer for bodily transformation through six phases. That source of consciousness is the spiritual essence, the soul. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (13.27) asserts that existence comprises not just matter but also spirit. Matter is insentient; no matter how sophisticated be its organization, as in a robot, it can’t experience anything.  

Such reflection can help us recognize that the picture of reality offered by materialism is distressingly depleted. Thereby, we can get the impetus to break free from the cage of materialism. And if we are guided by Gita wisdom, we can fly free into the vast sky of spirituality, realizing and relishing our joyous spiritual essence. 


Think it over:

  • How do mechanisms and organisms differ biologically?
  • How do mechanisms and organisms differ experientially?
  • How do mechanisms and organisms differ philosophically?



13.27 O chief of the Bharatas, know that whatever you see in existence, both the moving and the nonmoving, is only a combination of the field of activities and the knower of the field.

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