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I was in a philosophy class and the teacher mentioned some philosophical ideas and asked us to raise our hands if we agreed with a certain statement. The overwhelming majority agreed with materialism as in:

"Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all things, including mental states and consciousness, are results of material interactions."

Is there any reliable source that would allow me to say that:

"Materialism has taken hold in the West as the standard philosophy of the day."

  • There is no "philosophy accepted by the majority in western societies". You are confusing two meaning of materialism : one denotes a philosophical theory/worldview, while the other denotes a social attitude. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jun 1 at 10:44
  • I am interested only in the theory/worldview and not at all in the social attitude. – Alejandro Camus Jun 1 at 10:49
  • I am just curious to know, if as in my classroom, most people think that the only thing that exists is matter and everything else is just an outcome of it. – Alejandro Camus Jun 1 at 10:50
  • Rupert sheldrake suggests the contrary; eg everyone knows someone who has "telepathic" dogs (knows when master is coming home) – a trivial example of somehing not explainable materialistically. IOW these questions get unnaturally high support because they are asked in a leading manner – Rusi-packing-up Jun 1 at 11:27
  • It seems to be accepted by a majority of analytic philosophers, according to the PhilPapers Poll, 56.5% "accept or lean toward physicalism". – Conifold Jun 1 at 18:36
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Is materialism a philosophy accepted by the majority in western societies?

If polling results are to be believed, no.

I base that on at least one good litmus test for materialism, which is whether one believes in gods or spirits of some kind--which materialism would disallow. We do have polling data on that issue, which I take from the "Demographics of atheism" Wikipedia article, and which indicates that a clear majority of people do believe in gods or spirits throughout Europe and the Americas, as well as Australia/New Zealand:

  • Europe: 51% believe in a god; 26% believe in spirit or life force (2010 poll).
  • United States: 10% were atheists
  • Mexico and South America: Percentages for atheism in single digits.
  • Australia: Only 13% are "convinced atheists"

None of these regions have a majority atheist population, so none can have a majority materialism worldview.

I was in a philosophy class and the teacher mentioned some philosophical ideas and asked us to raise our hands if we agreed with a certain statement. The overwhelming majority agreed with materialism

Keep in mind, it is possible that some of those that raised their hands misunderstood how far-reaching materialism is. It would have been interesting to ask them if they agreed with atheism, which is implied by materialism. Also keep in mind that a philosophy class is not a random cross-section of the population, but a group who have self selected to be there, and so they are likely not representative of the population of the West.

  • Yes, I was thinking that the population of my classroom might not be at all representative. Thanks for the answer. – Alejandro Camus Jun 1 at 13:35

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