Materialism is the basis of metaphysics – not because it is (entirely) true but because it is the first sort of metaphysics that a human being can know. But since everyone is embarrassed to be taken for an intellectual infant, human beings tend either to think materialism is true or that they need to refute it in the sense of coming to see it as entirely false and even evil. The middle between these two extremes is to accept that all our thoughts are based on an intellectual infancy, and that the first things we know are at the same time a.) the source of all our later thoughts and b.) the place from which we can make the most mistakes. The closer we are to home, the more we know about what’s around us, but (by definition) it is also the place from which we can take the greatest possible number of wrong turns if we want to journey from home. We cannot “refute” materialism if we mean by this that we want to remove it from the basis of our thought; not necessarily as a doctrine, but at least as an objection with a tremendous deal of force.
The force of materialism is from seeing matter as what remains though change; but the insufficiency of materialism is that it can’t explain the first thing we know about change: that it is from this to that. The reality of change requires the reality of this and that: i.e. of something that is individual and distinct. But what remains from this to that isn’t this individual or distinct – this is, in fact, one of the few things that is required in order for it to be matter. Irrespective whether one is thinking of Democratian or Daltonian atoms or Prime matter or Gell-Mann’s quarks, matter can’t be determined to this or that individual that it comes to be. This is not to deny some determination to (some of) these things, but only to deny that they can’t be what is individual and distinct in the change.We need some reality other than matter.
We are forced into a reality other than matter in a way similar to how we are forced to admit points in geometry. Points are partless and therefore unimaginable, and one shouldn’t admit such things without a very good reason. But unless we admit the reality of the partless in geometry, everything else we are trying to explain dissolves with them: squares become tinker-toy posts joined by circles, which is to say that they cease to be squares at all.
Very well, so the term of change is some reality distinct from matter, irrespective of what theory of matter we are dealing with. Now it’s easy enough to close your eyes and imagine points as the terms of a line being drawn from one point to another, but all this is a metaphor for what a term is, and not the term itself. The various changes in the world don’t terminate in points, nor is their change a line from here to there. The metaphor of the line requires at least this, that the term is a source of order for the change. It is the term that determines what will count as before and after in a change, what will be a principle and an end point, and all such things belong to order. And so we have to admit some real distinction between matter and the source of order.